What is SEO? Why it matters, and How to use it

Bubble chart showing broad overview of types of SEO

SEO stands for search engine optimization: how to design your website & content in a way that receives positive attention from search engines. Ranking highly on search engine results pages (SERPs) is one of the best ways to boost organic traffic. There are a wide variety of search engines, but Google is the one most blogging content creators are concerned with.

What types of SEO exist?

There are 3 broad categories of SEO:

  1. On-page
  2. Off-page
  3. Technical

We’re going to be focusing on the first two types, and very briefly mentioning technical SEO.

On-page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the way your content is organized & presented on your webpages. Everything from the word count, keyword density, and the use of unique images helps Google decide if your pages have high-quality content.

Technical SEO is also what’s on the page, but more related to coding, like optimizing your HTML source code, schema, meta tags, alt tags, and header tags. If you’re using a web design service like WordPress or Squarespace, the HTML source code will be pretty well optimized for you. 

Check the related links at the end of this post for more great technical SEO resources.

What type of content is best for your page?

Writer’s block can stop any great creator in their tracks.

Luckily, there are well-established best SEO practices to offer guidance on what our audience wants to learn about and how we can provide that for them.

Using keyword research tools like Wordstream or Ahrefs can give you an idea of the specific language people are using in search engines: keywords.

Keyword tools should give you a ranking for specific keywords corresponding to the total volume of searches over a time period, weighed against how saturated a given search index is for that keyword, or its competitiveness.

First several results of Wordstream keyword research for "spaghetti"
Market is ripe for spaghetti-related content.

High-volume, low-competition keywords are ideal. These keywords are related to niches a lot of people are interested in, and might be lacking in high quality and authoritative content. Use these target keywords in the introduction of your post, and then sprinkle a few semantically related keywords throughout the body.

Semantically related means belonging to the same category of thing, or related to the same purpose.


Someone wants to learn how to cook spaghetti, so they’re likely to search for “how to cook spaghetti.” As they read and learn more about the topic, they’re also likely to search for things related to cooking spaghetti, like “types of pasta,” or “best tomato sauce.”

None of those searches actually share any words with each other at all, but they’re all obviously related. Anticipating your audience’s thought process and offering in-depth content geared toward their needs will make your site a one-stop shop.

First several Wordstream results of keyword research for "how to cook spaghetti"
Might be worth it to make a post about spaghetti squash.

Unique Images

Google shows a preference for web pages that have unique images, instead of recycled stock photography. These can be screenshots or photos you take yourself, or even graphics you create using a design tool like Canva or Adobe Illustrator.

Example of unique image created using Canva
I am not a graphic designer.

Off-page SEO

Off-page SEO is the behind-the-scenes process of getting your work in front of the people who care about it, away from your own website. This offsite work is vital for high rankings on SERPs.

Off-page SEO techniques and tools

  • Backlinks are links back to your website from authoritative and relevant pages in your content niche. These can be made spontaneously by the owner of the site if they trust your content and believe their audience will find value in it. Backlinks are one of the most important factors for Google’s ranking algorithm.
  • Social media marketing involves sharing & promoting your website content on social media platforms to reach a wider audience. Becoming active on sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook is a solid way to increase organic traffic.
  • Guest blogging is posting your own content on someone’s website to get in front of their audience. Your post will include a link back to your own website, which will give you a relevant and authoritative backlink. Find some creators in your niche whose work you like, then get in touch and say you’d like to make a guest post for them.
  • Linked/unlinked brand mentions are simple to understand, but involve both tech and professional savvy to navigate. As your content becomes more popular, other sites will begin to notice, and start mentioning you in their own posts. Some of these mentions will actually link back to your site, and some will just be plain text. Finding these unlinked mentions and reaching out to the site owner to turn them into links will be a huge boost for organic traffic. Check out this in-depth guide for more details.

Related links

What Is Schema Markup & Why It’s Important for SEO

The Ultimate Guide to SEO Meta Tags

What is an alt tag, and how does it impact SEO?

How To Use Header Tags: SEO Best Practices

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