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Search Engine Optimisation: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Search engine optimisation or SEO, as it is popularly known, is a marketing process that businesses, both large and small, undertake to increase visibility, drive organic traffic, and boost sales.

SEO has been around since internet search came into existence and has evolved significantly over the last few years. Because it is dependent on the algorithm, its workings and its constantly evolving nature, SEO often becomes a long-standing pillar of any organisation's marketing strategy.

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Search Engine Optimisation: Explained

Search Engine Optimisation for Small Businesses


Why should small businesses use search engine optimisation?

For small businesses with limited resources, SEO can be a powerful marketing strategy. With an upfront cost and a relatively low on-going marketing spend, businesses can aim to leverage SEO principles for a long period of time compared to paid ads that enjoy a shorter shelf-life.

Besides cost effectiveness, SEO is an integral part of any small business’ marketing strategy because it creates a steady stream of qualified inbound leads. A qualified SEO strategy and its consequent implementation allows any business owner to focus on running the business while a steady stream of sales pipeline is generated to help boost revenue.

When should businesses start investing in SEO? 

SEO is not a quick-fix marketing tactic. Neither is it a band-aid solution to an inherently flawed marketing plan. Keeping this in mind is essential because seeing tangible results from SEO takes time.


When business owners understand this, they understand and realize that the sooner they start investing in SEO, the better it is for their business.

Before we delve deeper into ROI on SEO and other business specific metrics, let’s discuss SEO essentials – understanding the basics, keyword research, on-page SEO, technical SEO and other elements that form a crucial part of the overall strategy.

Click on the links below to skip to the relevant section.


Keyword Research

What is keyword research in a SEO strategy?

Keyword research is the foundation of SEO. It involves identifying the words and phrases potential customers use when searching for products or services. By targeting the right keywords, small businesses can attract a more relevant audience and increase conversion rates.

The keyword research process is incomplete without understanding and incorporating buyer intent. Intent is the purpose behind a search query. And it is important to consider because the content your business creates as a part of its SEO strategy should accommodate intent within it.

For example, if a customer wants more information about your product, your SEO strategy might call for informational content pages rather than bottom of the funnel content – like explaining a successful case study. An example of keyword that might satisfy an informational search query would be:

What do customers say about <insert product name> ?

How do I select the right keywords for a successful SEO strategy?  

Start by creating a bank of keywords that you can target to improve your rankings on. The simplest place to start is by brainstorming seed keywords relevant to your business. Use tools to expand this list and analyse metrics such as search volume and keyword difficulty.

If you are in a highly competitive business industry, focus on including more long tail keywords. These are simply phrases that are more specific to the benefits your business provides to prospective customers. Long tail keywords are also less competitive and cater to niche audiences or those buyers who are ready to make a purchase.

Popular tools to conduct keyword research:

There is no one correct way to conduct keyword research.

That said, several paid and free tools exist in the market that can help you in doing some research for your keywords. Some popular tools are:

  • Google Keyword Planner: Ideal for discovering new keywords and getting search volume data.

  • SEMrush: Offers insights into competitor keywords and domain analytics.

  • Ahrefs: Known for its extensive keyword database and competitive analysis features.


On-Page SEO

What is On-page SEO?

Every page within a website includes various elements like content, structure, and encompasses intangibles metrics like user experience.

On-page SEO then, specifically refers to the practice of optimizing individual web pages within a website to improve its search engine rankings and drive organic traffic.

A well-structured webpage enhances user experience and search engine crawlers' efficiency. Ensuring that your website has a logical URL structure, fast loading speeds, and is mobile-friendly will help crawlers access it easily and then index it favourably.   

Additionally, Google has now clarified that mobile-first indexing supercedes desktop indexing, as mobile searches now account for over 50% of global web traffic. Which means, businesses now have to focus on making their websites efficient on mobile devices too.

Elements of on-page SEO to consider while implementing your SEO strategy

A webpage can have any number of elements on it. Text, photos, and videos are some of the simpler examples and how these elements are setup; impact how the page gets crawled, indexed, and ranked.

For text, ensure that you create high quality content. This is where keyword research can help you create content that is informative, engaging, and that provides value to your audience. Use keywords naturally within the content, headings, and subheadings.

Other elements to consider:

  • Title Tags: Title tags are HTML elements used to specify the title of a web page.

  • Headings: Using structured headings (H1, H2, etc.) to organize content.

  • URL Structure: Ensuring URLs are clear, concise, and descriptive.

  • Internal Linking: Connecting related content within the site.

  • Image Optimization: Using descriptive alt text and optimizing image sizes.

  • Mobile Friendliness: Ensuring the site is responsive on all devices.

To ensure that your website isn’t caught out by black hat SEO practices, always ensure that every element on the webpage is optimized sufficiently and aids in the overall strategy of helping your website rank higher.


Technical SEO

What is technical SEO and why is it important?

Technical SEO is the process of improving the back-end infrastructure of a website to enhance its crawlability and indexability by search engines.

A quick introduction to common technical SEO elements:


  • Crawling and Indexing: This is the process by which a search engine discovers and catalogs your pages.

  • Site Structure: Every website should be organised with a clear hierarchy and logical URL paths to improve navigation and indexing.

  • XML Sitemaps: Creating sitemaps helps search engines find and index your content more effectively.

  • Robots.txt File: This file controls which pages on your website can be crawled.

  • Page Speed: This is a measure of how quickly your website loads. Optimise images, use caching, and minimise code to enhance load times.

  • Mobile Optimization: Ensure your site is responsive and works well on all devices.

  • Structured Data: Use schema markup to provide search engines with additional information about your content.

  • Canonical Tags: Prevent duplicate content issues by specifying the preferred version of a page.

  • Broken Links and Errors: Regularly check for and fix broken links or 404 errors.

Common technical issues to fix

Some of the more common errors are 404 errors and broken links. Tools like Google Search Console can help identify and fix technical issues.

Off-Page SEO

What is Off-Page SEO?

Off-page SEO refers to activities that small businesses can undertake that either supplement or complement their on-page and technical SEO activities. While there are various strategies that a business can implement, some of the more common ones are:

  • Social Media Marketing: Creating a robust social media presence on a relevant platform that allows the business to create an additional touchpoint for its customers. Also, using this platform to reinforce SEO-centric principles that leverage keywords and content to drive engagement, boost sales and revenue.

  • Online Reviews: By encouraging clients to leave reviews, businesses can build on trust, reliability and authority – all markers that the search algorithm looks upon favourably.

  • Influencer Collaborations: Partner with influencers to expand your reach and credibility.

  • Content Marketing: Content marketing is an umbrella term used to describe content that a business can create to achieve their business objectives. Examples include: e-books created as lead magnets.

  • Local SEO: Optimise your Google My Business listing and build local citations.

  • Link Building: Acquire backlinks from reputable sites through guest blogging, partnerships, and outreach.

Although off-page SEO activities can expand a marketing budget significantly, they help a business increase visibility and ranking by building authority, increasing referral traffic, enhancing brand awareness, improving credibility, and boosting rankings.

Measuring and Analysing SEO Performance

Why should a business measure and analyse its SEO performance?

The effectiveness of a SEO campaign is determined based on its performance and how close it comes to achieving business objectives. Reporting can be done on a monthly or quarterly basis and is dependent on how often the business leader might want a fresh insight into the campaign’s performance.

While reporting is only one half of the process, its crucial for all relevant stakeholders to understand the metrics that are included in the reports.


Key Metrics to Track in a SEO Campaign

Based on the business and campaign objectives, there are several metrics that might be worth tracking.

  • Organic Traffic: The number of visitors coming from search engines.

  • Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page.

  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of visitors who complete a desired action (e.g., making a purchase).

Tools for Monitoring Metrics in a SEO Campaign

  • Google Analytics: Provides comprehensive data on website traffic and user behaviour.

  • Google Search Console: Offers insights into your website’s search performance and identifies technical issues.

  • Third-Party SEO Tools: Tools like Moz and Ahrefs provide advanced analytics and competitive insights.

Once a strategy is implemented, it is also worthwhile for businesses to conduct regular SEO audits to identify areas for improvement. Use data collected from tools to adjust and improve performance continually. SEO is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring and adaptation.

Including search engine optimisation in the marketing mix is the first step to building a strong online presence for any business. It is a strategy that forms the basis of any and all content marketing that a company or small business undertakes.

SEO for any business is a part of the long term marketing strategy and business owners should be prepared to look at it so. While there are no guarantees that SEO will bring your website up on the first page of a search engine, there are various methods by which you can improve your rankings and thus the ultimate performance of your business.

If you are thinking about implementing a SEO campaign for your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to Vox 360 for a chat.


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