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What is search engine optimisation (SEO)?

More than 4.5 billion people worldwide were using the internet at the start of 2020 and most of those who were looking for a product or service used a search engine to do so. For the majority of web users, search engines such as Google and Bing are still the principal sources used to find a website. Google is not just the most popular but also the most visited website in the world. For this reason, applying a search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy to your business is crucial to increasing your standing within search engine results relevant to your market.

What does SEO mean?

Google defines SEO as “the process of making your site better for search engines”. In a nutshell, it is a way of improving the visibility of your website on search engines, by optimising the quality and the relevance of the content with the ultimate objective of increasing qualitative and quantitative traffic to your website. This involves some work called technical SEO, on-page and off-page optimisation:

  • Technical SEO: is about improving the site speed, structured data, sitemaps, robot txt file, hreflang and more.
  • On-page SEO: refers to the elements you can optimise on your website, such as keywords, title tags, meta descriptions, headings, content, images, internal linking and more.
  • Off-page SEO: refers to the factors you can optimise off your website, such as backlinks, reviews, social media and more.

Basic SEO terminology

Some common SEO terms can be confusing at times. Here is a sample list of the more common terms and their definitions:

Organic traffic: This refers to any traffic originated from users that access your website as a result of natural (“organic”), unpaid search result. Essentially, organic is SEO traffic.

Crawler: A crawler is an automated software that discovers pages on the World Wide Web. Google’s crawler is called Googlebot. You could imagine it like a robot automated with the task of crawling the web looking for, analysing, and listing webpages.

Keyword: A keyword is any word or phrase that a user uses to search with in a search engine.

SERP: This is an acronym referring to search engine result pages.

Why is SEO important for your business?

  • SEO drives traffic to your website and establishes visibility, brand awareness and trust to the clients.
  • SEO helps you gain market share - in fact, ranking high on a search engine increases the probability of being discovered by potential visitors.
  • SEO generates leads and increases online sales. It can also lead to an increase in offline sales because it encourages local users to visit your physical store after a search.
  • SEO is measureable! Thanks to analytical tools, you can measure and analyse the performance of your website, including KPIs such as keyword ranking, organic traffic, visitors, conversions and much more, which can assist you in reaching business goals.

How does SEO work?

Search engines are updated and changing constantly. Therefore, SEO techniques also need to adapt.

The ultimate goal of search engines is to provide the best results, in terms of quality and relevance, for the user’s queries. In order to reach this objective, they use an algorithmic methodology to determine which sites to crawl, how often, and how many pages to fetch from each site. This process is divided into three steps:

  1. Crawling: First, the bots (crawlers) scan and analyse a website’s content.
  2. Indexing: The discovered content (HTML code, pdf files, images etc..) is then stored on a search engine’s servers.
  3. Ranking: Finally, search engines return results based on a user’s query and place them in order of relevancy criteria.

In each of the above stages, an SEO expert can optimise some technical aspects, which will help search engines to find, index and rank your content in a higher position.

SEO – where to start:

  1. Test if your site is already present in search engines: If you have a website, the first thing to do is to check if your webpages are already indexed and how many of them are appearing in search results. This can be verified by typing the following in Google “” – replace the words ‘domain’ with your website, as in the example below:

  2. Sign up to Google Search Console: Google Search Console is a free tool from Google that allows website owners or administrators to measure and analyse what to improve in the search results and to submit content.
  3. Sitemap: The main objective of SEO is to help Google find your content. The first thing to do is to submit the XML sitemap of your site to Google Search Console. In this way, Google will crawl any new or changed pages on your site easily.
  4. Robot txt file: The robot txt file prevents search engines from crawling your pages. This file should include all of the web pages of the website that are not useful to be found by users in a search engine's results or pages that contain non-sensitive information. For sensitive information, you should use proper authorisation methods.
  5. Keyword research: This involves the process of understanding how your target audience is searching for a product, service or information, relevant to your business, on search engines. Once the keyword research is done, you may create useful content around and using the keywords you have selected.
  6. Content:Create interesting, relevant and informational content, including the keywords that your target audience would use to find your website.
  7. Page title tag: For each web page, you should create a unique, brief and descriptive title tag including the targeted keyword, which effectively communicates the topic of the page content to users and search engines.
  8. Meta description: Use unique meta descriptions, including the targeted keywords and outline all of the relevant information that sum up the content page.
  9. Headings: Web pages need to be organised in a hierarchical topic structure, like in a newspaper, by using headings, which help users to scan each content page.
  10. Images: Optimise and describe your images using ‘alt tag’ descriptions. Adding alternative text to images helps search engine crawlers to index the images. It also allows visually impaired visitors, who are using screen readers, to read and understand the images.
  11. Links: Use relevant links that are pointing to internal as well as external pages.
  12. User experience and design: Make sure the page is user-friendly. Optimise the website to ensure it is available for all of types of devices such as mobile, desktop and tablet.
  13. Local SEO: Promote your website locally through Google My Business. This free tool will help you reach customers on Google Maps, web searches and also show any reviews.

Which SEO tool is recommended?

Nowadays, SEO is one of the pillars of any digital marketing strategy. For this reason, many SEO tools have been developed to help digital marketers to research, collect, measure and analyse data, identify critical success factors and identify areas of improvements and optimisation.

Below, you can find a list of the most indispensable SEO tools:

  • Google Analytics is one of the best tools for measuring SEO and is available for free. It provides a lot of insights about SEO traffic users such as, number of visits, number of pages seen per visit, average session duration, bounce percentage rate, location demographics and much more.
  • Google Search Console is a free tool that helps you monitor the SEO health of your website, fix technical errors, check performances and submit sitemaps.
  • Screaming Frog is a website crawler that audits the SEO of your website. You can crawl up to 500 URLs for free.
  • Keyword Planner is another free tool and helps you discover keywords related to your industry, products and services.
  • Google My Business offers you the possibility to develop your local SEO presence and connect with customers through Google Search and Google Map.
  • SEMrush offers different features related to SEO, such as the keyword research tools.

Are you looking for SEO experts?

The Deloitte Digital SEO team can help you reach your business objectives by increasing organic traffic to your website, gaining a higher ranking position on search engines, creating brand awareness and credibility as well as increasing sales and leads.

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