Editor’s note: This week, we kick off a brief series in which Content Architect Caroline Bogart breaks down some fundamental knowledge on search engine optimization. First up: the basics.

Not long ago, I was asked to lead a series of short internal training sessions on search engine optimization (SEO) for AKHIA. At first, it seemed like a tall order—there’s a lot to cover when it comes to SEO.

But it’s simple to understand the basics. With some deep breaths, careful planning and some fancy whiteboard drawings, I had the AKHIA team up to speed on the fundamentals of SEO. Now it’s your turn.

What is search engine optimization (SEO)? SEO can be defined as the strategies and tactics used to obtain a high ranking placement in search engine results and increase the number of visitors to your website. The bread and butter of SEO is using keywords that your audience is typing into search engines and making sure those keywords are on the appropriate pages of your website. So what does all that really mean? There are three fundamental parts of SEO: on-page, off-site and technical. For our purposes, we’ll focus on the first two:

  • On-page SEO is inserting keywords into the text-based content of a page. You can add keywords to headings, body content, calls to action, image captions, navigation items, and more, but just make sure the keywords aren’t used so much that the content becomes hard to read and understand.
  • Off-site SEO is about getting other websites or web properties to link back to your website. You can do this by creating great content that others want to link to from their website and share on social media.

Now that you know what SEO is, how do you know what people are looking for online? That’s a loaded question! But to start, there are three types of search queries people perform, and these queries can help uncover the user’s intent. Understanding user intent makes it possible to create content that answers their questions and provide information that’s relevant to a search query. Using my recent house hunting adventures as an example, here’s how I might search online:

  • Navigational search query: I type into Google, “Howard Hanna” because I’ve heard of that real estate company. I know I want to talk to them but I either don’t know their URL or I know it but I’m too lazy to type it in myself. I’ll let Google do the leg work.
  • Informational search query: It might be early in my house hunt and I don’t know where to start. I Google, “how to buy a house” and I’m met with search results that offer tips and all kinds of home buying information.
  • Transactional search query: I’ve learned from my informational search that I should get pre-approved for a mortgage. I Google, “pre-approval application” and the results lead me to bank and mortgage lender websites where I can fill out a pre-approval request form.

Why should marketing and PR professionals care about SEO? We’re already masters at writing and distributing articles and press releases. These can have even more value if keywords are used appropriately in the content and if links to the website are included. In addition, generating article ideas can be hard. If the content we create can address the different search queries people are performing, we’ll have a better chance of giving our audience the information they want, right when they need it.

Caroline Bogart is Content Architect at AKHIA. Follow her on Twitter @CarolineBogart