What is SEO and why your business needs it?

If you’re an online business in South Africa, there’s no getting around the need for a comprehensive SEO strategy.

More than 95% of South African internet users use Google as their go-to source for information.

That is a lot of people, and having a sound SEO strategy is the first step to making sure more and more of those people will find you online.

What is SEO?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. It is a part of digital marketing and refers to the practice of making your site or content more visible across the internet. Improving your content’s ability to rank higher on the search engine page results (SERP) for relevant searches will attract organic traffic and help you grow your business.

searc engine result page

Whenever you search for something on the internet, say through a search engine like Google or Bing, the results get ranked according to how relevant they are to your query. Search engines do this by using bots that crawl and index all the content on the internet. Algorithms then rank this content based on how well it matches your search intent. So, in a sense, you could say SEO is the art of convincing a search engine that you are what the user is hoping to find.

The best part about SEO is that you can start implementing it for your site for free. But, paying an expert for an extra edge over your competition might well be worth it for you. And the increased websites visits, sales, and reputation could entirely change your site’s or business potential.

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How long does it take for SEO to show results?

By its nature, SEO is a medium to long term effort. Usually, it takes between three and six months before the first measurable increase in traffic, leads and sales can be seen.

SEO fundamentals

A strong understanding of SEO will help you stand out in a South African online space that is increasingly competitive.

1. Content

The first element you should focus on to build an effective SEO strategy is quality content. Your goal should be to ensure your information is relevant to the end-user.

If you provide low-quality content, users will quickly leave your page in search of better content. That will signal to Google that your content isn’t relevant for the search query and hinder your ability to rank for that query in future. On the other hand, if you have rich, insightful content Google will quickly recognize this and make sure your content is at the top of the results for similar searches.

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2. Keywords

Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into search engines to find what they are looking for. They are also called "search queries" and they signify the search intent - the goal a user has when typing a query into a search engine.

Your content must include and be about certain keywords if you wish to rank for them.

Your keyword research and selection will impact the quality of visitors you get to your site, the level of competition you face when ranking, and how well Google thinks you match the search intent for a query.

There are many keyword research tools out there, but Ahrefs, Moz, and, Semrush are among the highly rated options to use.

html code editor

3. HTML

Part of the on-site SEO, your sites HTML is the next fundamental you should prioritise. Without the proper information architecture, tags, headers, descriptions and hierarchy you could never hope to outrank optimised sites.

Depending on how much content you have on your site, fixing issues with your HTML might be one of the more manageable tasks you tackle when optimising your SEO. If anything, correcting HTML issues is more laborious than complex.

You will have to edit several of the following entries below to get your HTML up to a good standard:

  • title tags
  • URL slugs
  • meta descriptions
  • subheadings (H1 - H6)
  • image alt texts
  • schema markup
  • links and anchor text tags

4. Site speed and responsiveness

More than 75% of all internet traffic in South Africa comes from mobile devices (tweet this), according to Statista.

Make sure your website works well on devices of all sizes. User experience is one of the major ranking factors on search engines.Is your web page mobile-friendly?

Three Africans watching the mobile phone screen.

Similarly, if your website loads slowly, you will lose your users in the process.

53% of mobile sites are abandoned if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load.

That also negatively impacts ranking on search engines. You can check your page speed with Google's PageSpeed Insights.

5. Backlinks

Having a lot of links pointing to your website will put you in good standing with Google and signal your status as an authority. To build a lot of backlinks, you will need to have excellent information other sites would benefit from presenting to their visitors. And that is most easily done with top-quality content.

SEO is an investment

The time and effort required to build a sound SEO strategy are off-putting to most people, but the returns are always well worth the investment.

Ranking highest on the SERPs for a query can get you clicks from over 25% of users.

SEO allows you to create sustainable leads at much lower rates than pay-per-click advertising campaigns. If you want to keep your cost-per-lead down without sacrificing your companies ability to generate new business, SEO is the way to go.

If you’re not familiar with SEO, the fundamentals we’ve covered above will help you get accustomed to being mindful of SEO for your site. These topics are broad and are just the beginning of everything you need to understand about SEO.

For medium to large businesses, we recommend working with a professional digital marketing agency. The benefits of a quality service far outweigh any reward you could draw from diverting internal resources to this, and the service will all but pay for itself. Check the prices of SEO in South Africa.

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Having an SEO strategy in place allows your site to do the hard work of bringing business so you can focus on closing deals. That slight advantage could prove pivotal at a time when most South African companies are uncertain about the future.