1. What is SEO?
  2. Where Did SEO Come From?
  3. How Does SEO Work?
  4. Why Is SEO Important?
  5. How To Get Started With A Successful SEO Strategy
  6. SEO Basics: The Bottom Line

Before you can journey into the world of SEO (search engine optimisation), you need to have a comprehensive knowledge of the basics. SEO is, after all, the foundation upon which success can be built, and without it, campaigns (no matter how great) are doomed to fail.

Here at Starbright, we understand just how important it is to have a deep understanding of the fundamentals. With that in mind, this post will break down the SEO basics in a simple and easy-to-understand manner. 

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimisation, and it essentially refers to the practice of increasing the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s natural or unpaid (organic) results.

Where Did SEO Come From?

Forbes states that the first time that the term SEO was used was in 1997. In 1998, Danny Sullivan, the founder of Search Engine Watch, popularised the term’ search engine optimisation’ and applied it to his client’s websites to help them achieve top-ranking positions.

Since then, SEO has snowballed and is now seen as a vital part of any digital marketing strategy. No matter how small or large your business is, having an understanding of SEO basics is essential if you want to reach potential customers online.

How Does SEO Work?

In order for SEO to give a website or web page a boost in the SERPs (search engine result pages), there are certain things that need to be done. Here are the five main areas that need to be tackled: 

Content Writing

Content is king when it comes to SEO. What do we mean by this? Well, content is the fuel that powers your SEO engine. Content should always be of high quality and relevant to what people are searching for. 

But how do you know what content will satisfy the people’s needs? This is where keyword research and search intent enter.

Keyword research helps you to identify the terms and phrases users are typing into search engines. Keyword research tools such as Ahrefs, Semrush, and Ubersuggest can help you identify what kind of keywords will be the most effective for your business.

Search intent is more about understanding why people are searching for certain terms. Understanding the search intent helps you to create content that satisfies the needs of users and keeps them engaged. 

Here is an infographic that shows the different search intents and how each of them can be used in SEO:

A colourful infographic discussing the 4 different search intents

On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to the techniques used to ensure that your content is properly indexed by search engines and ranked appropriately in SERPs. The main elements of on-page optimisation include: 

Meta tags

These are snippets of code that provide search engines with information about the content. It is important to ensure that meta tags such as titles, descriptions and headings are properly optimised. This will help your content to rank well in SERPs.

Image optimisation

Optimising images for SEO can be a great way to get more visibility within search engines, but it’s important to ensure that the images are properly optimised as well. This includes reducing the file size of images and adding tagging for better indexing. 

Internal linking

Internal links help search engines understand how pages on your website are related, so it is essential to ensure that they are used effectively. 


It is important to make sure that your website is accessible for all users, including those who are using assistive technology such as screen readers. This will ensure that everyone can access and interact with your content easily. 

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO involves techniques used to increase the visibility of a website in SERPs. This includes link building and social media promotion, which help to increase the authority of a website. 

What Is Link Building?

For us to explain link building, you first need to picture the web as a network of connected websites. The more links from other websites pointing towards your website, the higher it will rank in SERPs. This is because search engines see these links as an indication that your website is relevant and trustworthy. 

To build links, you need to create content that other websites want to link back to. For example, say you want Business Insider to link back to your website, you would create a piece of content about global tech or finance trends, and then contact Business Insider’s editors to let them know about it. 

What Is Social Media Promotion?

Social media promotion is another important part of off-page SEO. Have you ever scrolled through social media and seen a video promoting digital marketing services? Or a LinkedIn post about the latest SEO trends? That’s social media promotion. 

The main goal of social media promotion is to increase brand awareness, reach more customers and potential customers, drive referrals and engagement, and increase website traffic. 

To start with social media promotion, you need to identify the right platform for your business. This mainly depends on the type of content that best resonates with your target audience. 

Some platforms work better for certain industries than others. For example, Twitter is known as an excellent platform for brands in the tech industry, whereas Instagram is often used by lifestyle and fashion businesses. 

Technical SEO 

Technical SEO, put in less techy terms, is the application of technical elements to ensure that search engine crawlers can easily find and understand pages on a website. These technical elements include setting up:

  • A sitemap
  • Structured data
  • Robots.txt 

If you’re interested in learning more about technical SEO, read our blog post, “What Is Technical SEO.” In the blog, we delve deep into the technical side of SEO, covering things such as sitemaps, structured data, and robots.txt. You’ll also find a technical SEO checklist that you can use to guide you through this process.

Local SEO

For our South African market, local SEO can be particularly beneficial for small businesses. Local SEO focuses on optimising your website to increase visibility in organic search results when people near you search for a particular term or keyword related to your business. 

For example, if you are a restaurant in Johannesburg and someone searches for the ‘best restaurant in Johannesburg’, then the aim is for your website to appear in the search engine results. 

The aim isn’t just for your website to appear in the search results but also for it to be at the top of the list

Take a look at this image right here:

best restaurant results in Google's local search

The Marble Restaurant is at the top of the list, meaning they are likely to get more clicks and visitors than any other restaurant in that city. 

How can you achieve this?

You must make sure your website is optimised for local SEO – this includes things like:

  • Optimise title tags and meta descriptions with local keywords
  • Add a physical address to your contact page
  • Make sure your business’s name, address, and phone number are consistent across all online channels 
  • Add a local schema to your website
  • Optimise images with local keywords
  • Set up local listings (Google My Business)

These are the five main areas that need to be tackled when you want to achieve successful SEO rankings. 

Why Is SEO Important?

We don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the landscape in which businesses do marketing and advertise their products has changed drastically over the past few years. Marketing tools and the way a business creates a marketing strategy shifted away from traditional means (i.e. newspaper ads, radio ads, TV ads) and towards digital marketing tools such as SEO, social media, and Google ads. 

What makes SEO the front-runner when compared to social media and Google ads is that it’s a cost-efficient way to drive organic traffic to your website. Instead of paying CPC (cost per click) and hiring social media influencers to promote your products, you can use SEO techniques and strategies that are proven to work. 

So, back to our question; “Why is SEO important?” - 

SEO is important because it is a great way to get people to notice your brand online. As well as to get noticed by the search engines. If you want people to find you when they search for a product or service that’s related to yours, then SEO is indispensable

How To Get Started With A Successful SEO Strategy

An SEO strategy is also one of the basic elements that helps you achieve search engine optimisation results. Like any other strategy, it involves setting goals and objectives, researching keywords, analysing the competition, creating content, and optimising your website for better visibility. 

If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to SEO, pay a visit to a digital marketing agency like Starbright or follow the steps below.

Steps To Create An SEO Strategy

Set Goals

Goals are like the backbone of any strategy, in this case, SEO. Some common goals for a restaurant, for example, would be to get more reservations.

Research Keywords & Analyse Your Competitors

Before you dive into optimising your website, it’s important to understand which keywords are suitable for your business. 

Open up Ahrefs or any other platform of your choosing and start doing some research. Popular keywords for a restaurant would be “Best Restaurants in [your town]”, and so on. 

Once you’ve identified the relevant keywords, it’s time to analyse your competitors to see who is already ranking for those terms and what strategies they are using. 

Create Quality Content 

Your content needs to focus on the topics that are relevant to your industry and target audience. A restaurant’s content might include mouthwatering recipes, reviews by professional critics, and so on. 

Also, it’s essential to optimise your content for SEO purposes. This means including the keywords you’ve researched in the text, as well as making sure that images have relevant alt tags and URLs that contain these words, too.

Optimise Your Website

To optimise a website, you’ll need to check and fix any technical SEO issues. This includes making sure that your website is responsive, loading quickly, and has no broken links

You’ll also want to add descriptive title tags, meta descriptions, and structured data such as Schema markup for a better user experience. 

Once you have everything in place, it’s time to get your website indexed. This can be done with Google Search Console

Build Links & Promote Your Content

In this step, you’ll need to reach out to other websites and ask them to link to your content. This can be done by submitting guest posts, offering interviews, or writing reviews about their products and services. 

You’ll also want to get crazy on your social media platforms and promote as much as you can. This could include creating interesting content, engaging conversations with followers, and using influencer marketing to reach a wider audience. 

Track & Measure Your Results

It’s essential to track and measure your results on a regular basis. This can be done by setting up a tracking tool and monitoring your progress over time. 

An excellent tracking tool is Google Analytics. Not only can you track your website’s performance, but you also get to know more about your visitors. You’ll be able to see where they come from, what kind of device they’re using, and which page on your site they visited the most. 

SEO Basics: The Bottom Line

As we have seen, SEO is not an easy task, but it’s not impossible either. With an understanding of the basic SEO principles and the implementation of the steps mentioned above, you’re well on your way to having an optimised website.

If you want an SEO specialist to handle this instead - reach out to your nearest digital marketing agency, and they will be able to provide you with professional seo services in Pretoria