10 May, 2021

What is SEO: A Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimisation

what is SEO

Online marketing is an effective way to reach your audience and build brand awareness today. As of 2019, 4.13 billion people are using the Internet, thanks to more accessible computers and the advent of smartphones that make it more convenient for everyone to go online. With billions of potential customers or subscribers, the Internet is where you want to be if you’re going to gain more exposure and generate more sales.

However, merely having a website is not enough to create a substantial presence online. With millions of sites in existence these days and hundreds more being made daily, you have to be ingenious and creative to pique your target audience’s interest. Otherwise, you might find yourself buried under stiff online competition.

For this reason, brands and businesses utilise SEO or search engine optimisation.

A Closer Look at SEO

So, what is SEO? SEO is a set of strategies, techniques, and tactics designed to increase a website’s visitors by ranking high on a search engine’s search result page. With high search rankings, sites can attract as many visitors and generate the highest traffic possible.

These days, most Internet users have a shorter attention span. They don’t waste their time clicking through numerous search result pages to find what they need. Often, they would settle for websites on the first or second pages of Google. If your target audience has to click through many search result pages to find you, you’re less likely to obtain a significant amount of traffic. This could hurt your chances of making more sales or conversions.

SEO makes your website more search engine-friendly and gives you more online visibility. When you are more visible online, you’re more likely to obtain high search rankings. When you have excellent search rankings, you can enjoy the following benefits:

1. More web and mobile traffic

Statistics showed that 81% of consumers conduct online research before buying anything. More and more shoppers are also purchasing goods and services using their mobile devices. Through SEO, you can position yourself where prospects looking for products/services similar to yours can easily see you. With more web and mobile traffic coming in, you have more chances of making sales and conversions.

2. Transform undecided audience into leads

Search engine optimisation allows you to influence the sales process. Using high-quality content that contains relevant keywords and phrases enables you to guide your prospects throughout their journey. You can engage them and direct them towards your desired conversion goal. Through sound and effective SEO strategies, you can convert undecided prospects into paying customers or subscribers.

3. Build better brand awareness

There’s a reason why being number one on Google is the most coveted position amongst businesses and marketers. The first spot on the first page of Google has a 31% click-through rate (CTR). This means 31% of users who viewed the first page of Google will click on the topmost link.

As discussed earlier, SEO helps you obtain better search rankings and gives you more online visibility. The more visible and searchable you are online, the more people will know about your brand. Apart from this, it also helps you establish yourself as an expert in your field or niche. Since Google awards the top search rankings to those considered authorities in their respective fields, obtaining good search rankings gives you more credibility over your competitors who are ranked lower.

4. Provide visitors with better user experience

SEO is more than just giving you more online visibility. It also enables you to provide web visitors with better user experience.

SEO promotes better navigation, quality web design, and faster page loading times, amongst other things. By implementing these strategies, you’re offering your web visitors a valuable online space that can help fulfil their needs. This encourages them to return and keep coming back to either peruse your content, sign up for your services, or make multiple purchases. 

How Quick Is It to Get Good SEO Ranking? 

Aside from the question “What is SEO?” one of the most common queries business owners have about SEO is “How fast can their website get a good ranking on Google?” The truth is there’s no specific answer to this question. It’s because you need to consider too many factors, including the level of competition in your niche/industry, your budget, and the skills of your SEO team. 

However, Ahrefs conducted a recent study to determine how quickly a website can rank on Google. Although the researchers were unable to get a definite answer, data revealed that it took a maximum of 12 months for 95% of newly published pages to be included in the Top 10 of Google search result pages. Some webpages were also able to get the top search rankings within two to six months.  

How Easy Is It to Get a Good Search Ranking? 

When it comes to getting a good search ranking, there’s no such thing as “being lucky.” There is no magic formula in SEO that will get you on top of search result pages overnight. If you want your website to land on the first page of Google and be included in the Top 10 search results, you will need to work hard. Thorough knowledge of SEO is also required to ensure the best possible results. 

Another essential matter to consider is maintenance. SEO is an on-going process. It is not a one-time thing wherein you optimise your site once and call it a day. Because Google regularly updates its search algorithm to provide users with more accurate and relevant results, it’s crucial to make the necessary adjustments to your site to ensure compliance with Google’s web policies and excellent search rankings.  

How Much Time Does SEO Need? 

Again, there is no specific answer to this question. How much work you need to put on your site’s SEO depends on your particular needs and goals. For instance, if your business is in a highly competitive niche, and you want to rank high for hundreds of keywords, you will need to put in more work and spend more hours on SEO. On the other hand, if you have fewer competitors and just want to rank locally, you’re less likely to require an extensive optimisation campaign. 

But to give you an idea of how much work you need to put in daily or monthly to achieve the search ranking you’re targeting, here’s a list of essential SEO tasks and the amount of time you need to accomplish each of them. 

Initial onsite SEO setup

To ensure a good foundation for your campaign, you will need to lay some SEO groundwork. This means you’ll need to perform several tasks, including: 

  • Site audit
  • Site redesign
  • Creating or updating your sitemap
  • Improving navigation
  • Meta tag creation and/or optimisation
  • Checking for bad codes and 404 errors
  • Improving site security
  • Enhancing page loading times
  • Optimisation for mobile devices 

Depending on the size of your website and the number of improvements you need to make, you’ll need to allocate a certain amount of time on your campaign’s initial setup. However, it would take longer if you need to build a new site from the ground up. 

On-page optimisation and monitoring

As mentioned earlier, SEO is an on-going effort. Therefore, once your initial setup has been completed, you will need to monitor your site’s performance to ensure that everything works well under the hood.  For instance, you will need to check your site for crawl errors at least once a week. You should also update your sitemap regularly, especially when there are significant changes to your site. 

Depending on the size of your site and how severe the problems that could arise are, you might need to spend some time with on-page optimisation and monitoring. 

Content creation

Your web content is the backbone of your SEO campaign. Without it, Google’s search bots won’t be able to crawl and index your site accurately. 

When it comes to content creation, the amount of time you need to set aside for this task depends on your writing goals and schedule. For instance, if your target is to post one piece of content once a week, you’ll only need a few hours a week to work on content development. On the other hand, if you want to post every day and cover various content formats, this particular SEO task could quickly become a full-time job. Whatever the case may be, you should allocate a lot of time on content creation. 

Off-page optimisation or link building

Similar to onsite optimisation, off-page or offsite optimisation involves many different tasks. How much time you need to spend on each of them will depend on the goals you want to achieve. If you’re just building the occasional links or syndicating content on a few publishing/social media sites, you only need to spend a couple of hours a week on link building. However, if you want to build a significant social media presence and target new publishers that will share your content, you will need to put in more effort. 

Local optimisation and other strategies

Besides link building and optimising your site’s on-page elements for search engines, some strategies can also help you obtain an excellent search ranking. For instance, local SEO is an excellent strategy if you want to build a regional presence and attract more local customers. If you want to obtain substantial results from your local SEO efforts.

Data analysis

SEO also involves monitoring and analysing key metrics to verify if your SEO strategies are effective. This will help you determine the improvements you require to obtain better results. Data monitoring and analysis should also be done either do this task daily, weekly, or monthly.  

How Technical is SEO and Can You Do It Yourself? 

SEO can be a tough nut to crack, especially if this is your first foray into the field. Sure, you can optimise your site on your own. However, you must equip yourself with the proper knowledge to obtain substantial results. You will need to do a lot of research and familiarise yourself with the various techniques and strategies to achieve your goals. 

Also, SEO requires a lot of practice. There are no shortcuts that guarantee overnight success. Before you can see a remarkable improvement in your site’s search rankings, a series of trial and error is required. 

SEO can be quite technical. In fact, there is an aspect of SEO that is called “technical SEO.” It involves responsive web design, site security, and other matters that require technical expertise and a fair amount of programming knowledge. Not only is it time-consuming, but technical SEO can also ruin your site if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. 

For this reason, it certainly helps to seek professional help. While you can give SEO a shot, you certainly don’t want to put your website’s safety and security at risk with your inexperience and limited knowledge. Also, optimising your site on your own can put you at risk of receiving a penalty from Google, which can reduce your search ranking and affect the amount of web traffic you’re receiving.  

How Much Does SEO Cost? 

Judging from the amount of knowledge you require and the time you need to spend on optimising your website for major search engines, seeking professional SEO services is indeed a smart and practical move. This is highly advisable for business owners who already have a lot on their plate and have no time left for SEO. 

If you’re considering signing up for SEO services, you’re probably wondering how much it will cost your business. But before we discuss the average SEO cost in the UK, first you should understand the pricing models SEO agencies and freelancers use. This will help you determine how much you’re willing to invest in SEO. 

1. Hourly rate

Common amongst freelancers and small to medium-sized SEO firms, hourly rates allow for greater flexibility when financing a project. This pricing model is suitable for small businesses with a limited marketing budget. 

2. Fixed retainer

Having a fixed retainer means you need to pay a fixed amount of money in exchange for SEO services rendered over a specific period. This pricing model is often used in SEO packages, which can go from around £500 a month for smaller projects, and from £1k to over £10k per month for more extensive campaigns. 

3. Project cost model

In a project cost model, your campaign’s scope is first defined before the SEO agency identifies the required work elements or tasks, which have a fixed cost. In most cases, day or hourly rates are applied in this pricing structure, plus additional operational expenses including but not limited to software and staff costs. The project cost model is common amongst medium-sized and large SEO firms. 


Here are the standard costs of SEO services in the UK today: 

1. Freelancer SEO

Freelancers usually charge anywhere from £35 per hour to £350 per month. Freelancer SEO is suitable for small businesses with a minimal budget and/or has low competition. 

2. Small SEO Firms

Small SEO agencies usually have an asking rate of £50 per hour or offer retainer packages ranging from £500 to £2000 per month. They often provide specialist SEO services and rarely utilise other marketing channels, such as social media and email marketing. 

3. Medium-sized SEO Firms

Mid-sized SEO companies provide a multi-channel approach when it comes to their search marketing services. Similar to some small SEO firms, they usually offer their services on a monthly retainer basis that start at around £2000. Some of them also utilise the project cost pricing model plus additional costs. 

4. Large SEO Firms

Larger SEO companies provide services starting at £10,000 a month or on a project cost basis (including extra costs). Blue Chip companies and other medium-sized to large businesses that belong in very competitive niche/industries often enlist the services of large SEO firms. 

What Do You Need to Do to Get Ranked? 

Now that you know the answer to the question “What is SEO?” the next thing you need to do is take action. As discussed earlier, there are numerous steps you need to take to improve the search ranking of your website. If you have decided to take a DIY approach to optimising your site, here are some tips you should consider: 

1. Perform keyword research

Any digital marketing campaign, particularly SEO, should always start with keyword research. Keyword research will help you identify the search terms your prospects are using to find products or services similar to yours. Once you have identified the search terms you should target, you should incorporate them into your web content, URL structure, title tags, and meta descriptions amongst other places. 

2. Optimise your content for SEO

Whether you have existing content on your site or you’re creating one from scratch, always ensure that it includes the keywords you’re trying to rank for. However, while it’s essential to add the necessary keywords to your content, make sure you don’t overdo it. Always remember the golden rule of writing SEO-friendly content: Write for humans, optimise for search engines. 

3. Make sure that your web design is responsive

Having a responsive web design means your site can easily adapt its layout to match the screen size of various devices. Since many people are doing online searches on mobile devices these days, it’s vital to make your site more mobile-friendly to achieve better search ranking. 

4. Boost your site’s security

Besides mobile-friendliness, site security is a crucial Google ranking factor. For this reason, you should improve your site’s security and switch to HTTPS. This is particularly important if you’re selling products online or requiring your prospects to give you their personal details before using your site. 

5. Ensure that each webpage has a meta description

Webpages with meta descriptions get 6% more clicks than those without them. Therefore, each of your pages should have a meta description to improve your click-through rate. You can perform a site audit to identify pages without them. 

6. Build external and internal links

When many websites link to yours, it tells Google that you’re a trusted authority in your niche or industry. This will help convince the search giant and the other search engines to give you a better search ranking. For this reason, you should obtain quality backlinks to boost your search ranking. 

On the same token, you should also build internal links. This will help encourage your web visitors to explore your site further. At the same time, it makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site. 

7. Keep track of your progress

As we have mentioned earlier, SEO is not a one-time deal. It’s vital to keep track of your website’s performance, so you’ll know if there are errors your need to fix or adjustments you need to make. Make sure to connect your site to Google Analytics and monitor key performance indicators, such as: 

  • Organic traffic – the traffic you obtain through search result pages without the use of paid ads.
  • Bounce rate – the percentage of visitors who left your site without viewing other pages or taking further actions.
  • Conversion rate – the percentage of visitors who took your desired conversion action, such as joining your mailing list or buying a product.
  • Click-through rate – the percentage of online users who visit your site/webpages through search result pages. 

For Better Results, Seek Professional Help

Search engine optimisation may seem simple and straightforward. However, for someone with no prior experience, it can be filled with numerous pitfalls and challenges. Any SEO professional will tell you that it takes time and effort to rank well on search engines. If you’re already busy running your business, you might neglect one for the other. 

For this reason, it helps to hire SEO professionals, like us here at Springhill Marketing. With us, you can save time and effort. Working with us is cost-effective, too, since it allows you to accomplish more in less time. More importantly, it gives you more positive results, which is something you cannot quickly obtain when optimising your website on your own. 

If you’re looking for SEO experts you can count on, look no further. Our team can provide you with award-winning SEO services that can help you make the most of the opportunities Google can offer. Get in touch with us today and we’ll create a bespoke solution just for you.

Drive Your Business Towards The Best Results.

Talk to us about how we can help.

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