Looks like I am going to have to express a contrary opinion here.
Search engines wouldn't know good content from rubbish, a trait shared no less by humans unfortunately.
On the other hand other websites may provide LINKS to your site if
your content is perceived to be worthy, and it is the links which
matter, as well as relevant incoming anchor text.
I believe that at a conference of seos several years ago it was
acknowledged that only Inktomi amongst the major search engines paid any attention to metatags, and I am not sure if they still do.
However the meta "description" is what often appears on search results so do pay some attention to that.
No cheating as per poster above, but do use your keywords in title,
one or more of the top level headings as well as liberally in the
body. Avoid text images since these cannot be parsed by search
engines currently. Try to get some links from related sites but don't
waste your time doing the rounds of guestbooks.
Submit your site to Open Directory and hope for the best.
If you have time hang around the discussions over at