I agree about search engine optimization being easy to learn and apply yet it can be a very time consuming . My advice is have fun and enjoy the whole process of SEO. At first it may be difficult since we need to find effective SEO tactics and then get used to it.
My SEO when it comes to off site quality:
1. Comment posting - it is too risky to comment on blogs with irrelevant niche. So I make an effort to create a list of blogs with niche relevant to my website. "Dofollow" blog sites is extremely beneficial but that does not mean "nofollow" sites can't help us. Aside from healthy links, related blogs can produce traffic to our website especially that our comments are exposed to the right audience.
2. Article marketing - though article directories were hit hard by the algorithm, high authority directories can be a great source of traffic. I learned that the links we create in these directories have no weight at all yet if we can provide quality articles that these directories' visitors would find valuable, then we can direct them to our websites.
3. Social bookmarking - There are a lot of high ranking social bookmarking sites in existence that allows the creation of profile pages as well as backlinks. Digg.com, diigo.com, enexpress.net, etc. allows us to submit links as well as post content. Again, make sure the content you provide is valuable to the readers.