Back in the days, to get into the search engines you only had to submit a site to them and it'd show up in the results (or you could just get listed in the Yahoo directory). Nowadays, doing that doesn't warrant anything and you have to work hard to be visible from the search engines.
Is it only the search engine algorithms that have affected the amount of energy one needs to invest in a website, or there are other factors at work? Let's see.
Who needs quality?
The search engines have spent years on fine-tuning their algorithms to provide the most relevant results to their users. Often, they worked reactively to those, who have found exploits, to close the gaps in the algorithms and continue working efficiently. The search engines need to provide quality results to keep the people using them to be able to show them advertising to earn money.
Becides the search engines, people need good websites as well. They not only need to find a working website, but they need to find and use what they need on your website. Of course, a usable and human-friendly website will be more efficient with its visitors and more successful as well.
Thus, site owners, who want to succed in online business, need more people-friendly websites, after all, so their potential clients could use their sites to buy from them.
So, it is not only the search engines that need good websites, but the visitors and the site owners, too. What's the problem then?
With barriers to enter the Internet business being so low, everyone tries to make money online. And while the focus is purely on making money, a thought about the potential customers and their success rarely comes to mind. That's why most Web start-ups fail - they are not useful for the people and are thus ignored and forgotten.
Quite often, site owners are busy with building their online business and pay little attention to what happens around them. However, the best thing they'd do is to consider everything before building their websites. Often, just thinking, whether they could provide the value to their customers, could save their time and energy.
Unfortunately, it takes time and persistence (or a simple focus on the value) to know that website usability and accessibility can not only make a website more human-friendly, but can also bring more profit to the site owner.
How to create a great website?
To create a website, to be efficiently used by the people and to be crawled easily by the search engines, several factors need to be considered, such as SEO, copywriting, usability, web design and accessibility. An important thing is to focus on the customers and the value, while keeping basic search engine friendliness principles in mind (such as more text, clean URLs, more links, etc)
If you are new to the Web, then you absolutely to learn some basic SEO/web design/usability facts to know your way around. You'll need to get a professional to consult or develop a website for you and you'll need the basic knowledge to estimate the quality of their past and present projects.
Hopefully, (s)he'll either know SEO/usability/accessibility or know someone that can do that for you. In essense, you need to make sure that your website is good in all its aspects to keep it well balanced and successful.
If you know your way around website building, a friendly consultation may be in order. However, if you are not a web designer/developer yourself, you'd still need to hire one to create a website for you.
When on the Web, building a so-so website is not equal to success. You need to have such a website so the people would forget they are using a website, do what they came for, pay you for your quality service and leave happily. After all, it is all about the value and the pleasure you and your customers receive, when they use your website.