What is SEO? A starting point for learning how to optimize your content

SEO is a crucial part of digital communication.

It can help (or hurt) who finds and reads the content you put on your website.

It is a dynamic field with lots of technical terms, but here is a relatively simple explanation to get you started.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization.

It is the process of implementing techniques on your website so that your content ranks higher on the pages of search engine results.

According to SEMRush, SEO is the “art and science of persuading search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, to recommend your content to their users as the best solution to their problem.”

There is a large emphasis on Google because over 70% of online search results come from the Google Search Engine.

The goal of using SEO techniques is to increase the quantity and quality of the traffic coming to your website via organic search engine results, as opposed to paid search engine results.

How does it work?

When you enter a series of terms into a search engine bar, that search engine’s algorithm takes over and provides a prioritized list of results based on what the algorithm thinks is most valuable to you.

The results at the top of the page are the most valuable for companies and marketers because 75% of users never scroll past the first page of the search results.

Search engines are constantly changing their algorithms, so SEO techniques are also changing to try and make content more effective for search engines to crawl through and index the website pages.

So if you optimize your content, you can achieve a higher ranking on search engine results without having to pay for the advertising space.

How do I optimize my content?

Even though the search algorithms frequently change, there are some best practices that most SEO experts consistently stick with:


These are the words used when a user enters a query into the search engine and it also describes the content on your page or post.

It is the link between what the user is looking for and the content that resides on your page.

If you use overly generic keywords, your page will likely be lost in the massive amounts of content on that topic. If your keywords are too specific, you may miss out on those that are not using that overly-specific text.



Make your content original and unique.

The word length should probably be between 500 to 3000 words, with the optimum length being 2330 words.

Provide new content to keep your site “fresh” because search engines like to look/crawl for new, valuable content.


HTML tags are used to organize content for readers and search engines.

Your keyword should be included in the title of the page, or the Title Tag.

You should add a Meta Tag description for each page. This is the snippet of text that appears underneath the title on a search engine result.

The content on your page should be organized using Header Tags that range from H1 to H6, with H1 being the most important heading tag and H6 being the least.

Your images should have an Alt Tag, or Alternative Text, so that the search engine understands what’s in the image.


Link building helps because it tells the search engines that your site is a quality resource worthy of citation.

The more inbound links you have coming in, the more authority your page is seen to have in the eyes of the algorithm.

Links can come from inside your website, but the most important and valuable are backlinks, or those coming from another domain.


What are some good resources?

There is an abundance of resources that can help you learn more about SEO.

It can be confusing and because it’s an ever-changing field, you may run across content that has become outdated.

The most important thing is to find a resource that has been updated recently and is written in a manner that works for you.

Here are a few beginner guides that work for me, so maybe they’ll work for you too.

Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

SEMRush’s Beginners Guide to SEO

Wordstream’s Beginners Guide to SEO


This post may contain affiliate links. Click here for my disclaimer.

Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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