Being introduced to search engine optimization in grad school and then using it in real life are two very different things! Hopefully this post sheds some light on the subject and helps you in your blogging + business efforts.
Search Engine Optimization or "SEO" is the process of getting traffic from free or organic listings on search engines. Web pages and other content like videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what a particular search engine identifies as most relevant to users. Major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing have these results. When used as an internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for and more. Optimizing a website may involve website editing including content, HTML and related coding. However, SEO may not be appropriate for every website. As a marketing tactic, SEO may deliver adequate ROI, but it is important to keep in mind that because SEO is organic, there is no guarantee of continued referrals.
Moz provides a free SEO beginners guide that gives some great tips for implementing SEO. The best tip for SEO success in my opinion, is to create high quality content. Content Marketing, which was discussed in this post is a great way to get high rankings for your website. This presentation also provides some insight on SEO implementation. And finally, here is an infographic from seoinfographic.org.
Another great source for learning SEO is through lynda.com. They have video + exercises so that you can practice what you've learned. A key thing to remember as you get started is to title your content by the keywords people are using to search, include your post title within the first paragraph of your content, and link your images as well to make sure they are indexed as well. With practice, you'll get the hang of it in no time. Good luck!