Understanding the Power of SEO with Square Vanilla

October 19, 2023 | Blog, Education, Work Life

Square Vanilla has been helping MumAbroad with its Google ranking, a complex and challenging task, for several years. In today’s competitive digital landscape, it is crucial for small businesses to have a strong online presence that engages with local customers. That’s where Square Vanilla comes in.

Square Vanilla founder Katie Thomas spoke to MumAbroad about the many challenges that SEO can present for entrepreneurs building their online business and is currently offering the MumAbroad community and its advertisers discounted rates for website audits (see prices at the end of this blog).


The team at Square Vanilla understands the power of local search engine optimisation and how it can help your business thrive. By optimising your website and online listings, your business stands out in local search results, driving growth and visibility.

Square Vanilla’s local SEO strategies are designed to target specific geographical areas and demographics, allowing you to connect with potential customers in your neighbourhood. They focus on optimising your website’s content, improving its loading speed, and ensuring that it is mobile-friendly. This not only improves your search engine rankings but also enhances the user experience, leading to higher conversion rates.

The team can also optimise your online listings on platforms such as Google My Business and online directories. This ensures accurate and consistent information across all platforms, boosting your credibility and making it easier for customers to find and contact you. With their comprehensive approach to SEO, Square Vanilla provides small businesses with the tools they need to succeed in a crowded digital marketplace. Their goal is not just to increase traffic to your website but to drive qualified leads and conversions that ultimately lead to revenue growth.

Moreover, they understand the power of data in making informed business decisions, so not only will they analyse your analytics, but also send you a questionnaire to complete before carrying out an audit. Why not read more about SEO and see where your business may be missing out, and how you could improve your local and national SEO ability.

Firstly, what exactly is SEO?

SEO is the art and science of getting your site to rank higher in search engines.

SEO, or search engine optimisation, is the practice of optimising a website to improve its visibility and ranking in search engine results pages. It involves various techniques and strategies that aim to make a website more relevant and authoritative in the eyes of search engines like Google. The goal of SEO is to drive organic traffic to a website, which can ultimately lead to increased visibility, higher conversion rates, and greater business success. This includes optimising the website’s content, meta tags, keywords, and backlinks, among other factors. 

By implementing effective SEO strategies, businesses can improve their online presence and stay ahead of their competitors in the digital landscape.

The higher your page ranks, the more likely it is that people will find it when they search for relevant keywords. Once you do that, you can start earning some SERP (search engine result page) real estate to put your ads in front of potential customers if you so choose.

When done right, SEO can be a powerful tool for driving traffic and sales to your site — which means more money in your pocket. But there’s a lot that goes into effective SEO strategies, so it’s not always easy for small businesses to know where to start.

Our key takeaway is effective keyterm research, and we don’t mean going after those terms with the highest number of searches. Smaller businesses have smaller sites, less content, and fewer backlinks, so we always advise going after the lower competitive key terms with less search volume. However, although this may seem counterintuitive, these terms are often more phrases, meaning those further along their sales cycles know exactly what they are looking for, and are more likely to convert rather than bounce off to another site to seek answers.

This important part drives the page’s content, the focus for blog posts, social media posts and much more. It is time intensive, but if done right can provide a 6-month content plan for you and your website.

Understanding the Power of SEO

What do you think the most common misconceptions about SEO are?

The most common misconception about SEO is that it’s a black box. There are so many factors that go into an effective SEO strategy, it’s hard to know where to start.

I also think that people get overwhelmed by all the different things they hear about how to do SEO. There are hundreds of tactics and strategies out there, but it’s important for companies to focus on what matters most for their business and audience.

If you’re having trouble figuring out which strategies are worth your time, here are some helpful tips:

  • Don’t waste time on tactics that don’t matter for your business (like social media).
  • Figure out what keywords matter most for your business and focus on those first.

One misconception is that SEO is a one-time task that can be completed and then forgotten about. In reality, SEO is an ongoing process that requires regular monitoring, analysis, and adjustments to stay current with search engine algorithms and user behaviour. 

Another misconception is that SEO is all about keyword stuffing and manipulating search engines. While keywords are important, modern SEO focuses on providing valuable content and a positive user experience. Additionally, some people may think that SEO guarantees instant results or top rankings in search engine results pages. SEO takes time and effort to achieve meaningful results, and rankings can vary depending on various factors such as competition and search engine algorithms. 

It’s important to have realistic expectations and understand that SEO is a long-term strategy for improving visibility and driving organic traffic to a website.

What is the best way to optimise a website for local search?

There are just a few ways you can optimise your website for local small business SEO. 

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

A crucial factor in today’s digital landscape is mobile friendliness. A large percentage of users will be searching on their mobile devices, so make sure that your website is user-friendly on all screen sizes, offering a seamless experience for mobile users. Even if some people do use desktop computers to search, they’ll still see the mobile version of your site if they do so from their phones.

Add a Google My Business listing.

Add a Google My Business listing to your site and verify it with a phone call or email to Google. This will allow you to add information about your business, like address, phone number, hours of operation etc., which will show up in search results when users click through from the map results.

Optimise for local keywords.

Search engines use keywords to determine what content on a website relates to certain topics. Optimising for local keywords helps search engines understand what kind of content you have on your site, which in turn helps them rank it higher in the SERPs (search engine result pages).

Understanding the Power of SEO for Small Business

Can you explain some of the changes that SEO has undergone during the last, say, 5 years?

1. The shift towards mobile-first indexing and optimisation

The Rise of Mobile SEO: With the increasing use of smartphones and tablets, mobile optimisation has become a crucial aspect of SEO. Websites that are not mobile-friendly may face lower rankings in search engine results.

2. The importance of user experience and page speed in SEO rankings.

Search engines now consider user experience as an important ranking factor. Factors like page load speed, mobile-friendliness, and overall website usability impact search engine rankings.

3. The rise of voice search and the need for optimised content for voice queries

The popularity of voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant has led to an increase in voice searches. SEO strategies need to adapt to this trend by optimising content for conversational queries and long-tail keywords.

4. The increasing role of artificial intelligence and machine learning in search algorithms

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are playing an increasingly important role in search algorithms. These technologies enable search engines to better understand user intent and deliver more relevant and personalized search results. By analysing vast amounts of data, AI algorithms can learn patterns and trends, allowing search engines to provide more accurate and useful information to users. This has led to improvements in search engine optimisation strategies, as businesses now need to focus on creating high-quality content that aligns with user intent rather than simply targeting specific keywords. Furthermore, AI-powered voice assistants have become more prevalent, enabling users to conduct searches using natural language queries. Overall, the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning into search algorithms has revolutionized the way we find information online, making the process faster, more efficient, and more tailored to individual needs.

5. The emphasis on quality content and relevant, authoritative backlinks

In recent years, search engines have placed a greater emphasis on high-quality, relevant content. Thin or duplicate content is penalised, while informative and engaging content is rewarded with higher rankings.

6. The decline of keyword stuffing and the focus on natural language and semantic search

In recent years, there has been a significant shift in the world of search engine optimisation (SEO) from keyword stuffing to a focus on natural language and semantic search. Keyword stuffing, the practice of cramming as many keywords as possible into a webpage to manipulate search rankings, is now widely recognised as ineffective and even detrimental to a website’s visibility. Instead, search engines have become smarter at understanding user intent and delivering more relevant results. This has led to the rise of natural language and semantic search, which aims to understand the meaning behind a user’s query rather than just matching keywords. As a result, websites that prioritise high-quality content that serves the needs of users are more likely to rank well in search engine results pages. This shift has not only improved the overall user experience but also encouraged website owners and content creators to focus on creating valuable, informative content that resonates with their target audience.

7. The impact of social media signals on SEO rankings

Social media signals have emerged as an important factor in determining SEO rankings. When a website receives likes, shares, and comments on social media platforms, search engines consider these signals as indications of the website’s relevance and popularity. The more engagement a website receives on social media, the higher its chances of ranking well in search engine results pages. Social media signals also contribute to increasing organic traffic to a website, as they can lead to more visibility and exposure. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to actively engage with their audience on social media platforms to improve their SEO rankings and drive more traffic to their websites.

8. The growing significance of local SEO and the importance of optimising for local searches

Local businesses have seen a shift towards local SEO strategies to target customers within their geographic area. Optimizing for local search includes creating Google My Business profiles, getting reviews, and ensuring consistent NAP (name, address, phone number) information across directories.

9. The rise of featured snippets and the need to optimise content for snippet-friendly formats

Implementing structured data markup using schemas such as JSON-LD or Microdata can help search engines understand the context of your content better. This can result in rich snippets being displayed in search results, improving visibility and click-through rates.

10. The shift towards personalised search results based on user behaviour and preferences

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift towards personalised search results based on user behaviour and preferences. This trend reflects the growing understanding that everyone’s online experience is unique and should be tailored to their specific needs and interests. By analysing user data such as search history, location, and previous interactions, search engines can deliver more relevant and personalised results to users. This not only improves the overall user experience but also increases the likelihood of finding the information or products that users are looking for. Personalised search results have become an essential part of modern online navigation, helping users save time and find exactly what they need with ease. As technology continues to advance, we can expect this trend to further evolve and enhance the way we interact with online content.

11. SSL Encryption and Website Security: 

SSL encryption is an essential component of website security, and it also has significant implications for SEO. When a website has SSL encryption, it means that the data transmitted between the user’s browser and the website’s server is encrypted and secure. This not only protects sensitive information such as credit card details or login credentials but also helps to establish trust with users. In terms of SEO, search engines like Google prioritize websites with SSL encryption in their search results because they want to ensure that users are directed to safe and trustworthy websites. Therefore, having SSL encryption not only improves website security but also boosts SEO rankings, leading to increased visibility and traffic for your website. So, investing in SSL encryption is not only a smart move for protecting your website and users’ data but can also have a positive impact on your SEO efforts.

Understanding the Power of SEO | SEO for Small Business

What are the current SEO trends and practices?

SEO trends and practices are constantly evolving to keep up with the ever-changing digital landscape. In 2023, some key SEO trends and practices include the importance of mobile optimisation, voice search optimisation, and user experience. With most internet users accessing websites through mobile devices, it is crucial for websites to be fully optimised for mobile viewing. This includes responsive design, fast loading speeds, and easy navigation. Voice search optimisation is also gaining prominence as more people are using voice assistants like Siri or Alexa to search for information. Websites that optimise their content for voice search queries will have an advantage in reaching their target audience. Lastly, user experience plays a vital role in SEO rankings. Search engines prioritise websites that provide a seamless and enjoyable user experience, including fast load times, relevant content, and intuitive navigation. By incorporating these trends and practices into their SEO strategies, businesses can stay ahead of the competition and improve their online visibility.

First-hand experience is the new “E” in E-EAT, standing for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. When it comes to conveying information or providing insights on a specific topic, nothing beats the value of personal experience. By sharing their own experiences, individuals can offer unique perspectives and authentic narratives that resonate with readers. Whether it’s a travel destination, a product review, or a life lesson learned, first-hand experiences add depth and credibility to any content. They allow readers to connect on a more personal level and gain valuable insights from someone who has been there and done that. So next time you’re looking for information or advice on a particular subject, don’t underestimate the power of first-hand experience – it could be the key to unlocking the most valuable and relatable content.

Audience-targeted, not traffic-targeted content

The focus has shifted from simply generating high amounts of traffic to creating audience-targeted content. While attracting many visitors to a website may seem desirable, it is more important to engage with the right audience. By tailoring content to specific target audiences, companies can effectively deliver their message and build meaningful connections with their customers. This approach allows businesses to understand their audience’s needs and preferences, resulting in higher conversion rates and customer satisfaction. By prioritising audience-targeted content, companies can ensure that they are delivering value and relevance to the people who matter most to their business.

There has been an increased emphasis on author authority in recent years, particularly in the realm of online content. With the rise of fake news and misinformation, it has become more important than ever to establish the credibility and expertise of authors. This is especially true for topics that require a high level of expertise or have serious implications, such as medical or scientific information. Search engines and social media platforms are placing more importance on author authority when ranking content, giving priority to reputable sources and verified experts. This shift aims to provide users with reliable and trustworthy information, while also promoting transparency and accountability in the digital landscape. As a result, authors are being encouraged to build their authority through credentials, experience, and consistent quality content, ensuring that their work is recognised as valuable and reliable by both search algorithms and readers alike.

Satisfying, helpful content is the key to engaging and retaining an audience. Whether it’s a captivating article, an informative video, or a useful tutorial, content that satisfies the needs and interests of the audience can leave a lasting impression. By providing valuable information, addressing common pain points, or offering practical solutions, satisfying content not only meets the expectations of the audience but also establishes trust and credibility. It goes beyond just entertaining or filling a void – it provides genuine value that can make a positive impact on the lives of individuals. From inspiring stories to practical tips and advice, satisfying, helpful content has the power to educate, inspire, and empower its audience

One key aspect of our approach is improving your website’s loading speed. Research has shown that users are more likely to abandon a website if it takes too long to load. By optimising various elements such as image sizes and code, we can significantly enhance your website’s loading speed, ensuring that visitors have a smooth and seamless experience.

A.I. content and content writing software have revolutionised the way we create and manage written content. With the advancements in artificial intelligence, these tools can generate high-quality, engaging content that is tailored to specific audiences and topics. Content writing software uses algorithms and machine learning to analyse data and produce well-written articles, blog posts, and social media updates. This technology has become particularly useful for businesses looking to streamline their content creation process and improve their online presence. By utilizing A.I. content and writing software, companies can save time, reduce costs, and ensure that their content is optimized for search engines and user engagement. While there are concerns about the potential impact on human writers, these tools should be seen as a complement rather than a replacement for human creativity and expertise in crafting compelling content.

Product page SEO is a crucial aspect of e-commerce optimisation. By implementing effective SEO strategies on product pages, businesses can improve their visibility in search engine results and attract more organic traffic. It involves optimizing product titles, descriptions, meta tags, and URLs with relevant keywords to ensure that search engines can easily understand and index the content. Additionally, incorporating high-quality images and videos, providing detailed product information, and encouraging customer reviews can also enhance the overall SEO performance of product pages. Ultimately, investing time and effort into product page SEO can lead to increased online visibility, higher conversion rates, and ultimately, improved sales for businesses in the competitive world of e-commerce.

Image SEO is an essential aspect of optimising your website for search engines and improving your overall online visibility. With the increasing importance of visual content in digital marketing, it is crucial to ensure that your images are fully optimized for search engines. This includes using relevant keywords in image file names, alt tags, and captions, as well as optimising image sizes and formats for faster loading times. Additionally, implementing structured data markup can help search engines understand the context and relevance of your images, further boosting their visibility in search results. By revitalizing your image SEO strategy, you can attract more organic traffic to your website and enhance the user experience by providing visually appealing and relevant content.

What is the role of the User Experience (UX) in SEO?

User experience (UX) is an important component of search engine optimization (SEO). A well-designed and executed user experience can increase click-through rates (CTRs) and lead conversion rates, which can result in higher site traffic and better SEO.

What is the best way of creating high-quality and engaging content that also ranks well?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to create engaging and high-quality content depends on the specific goals and objectives of your brand or organization. However, some tips to consider include using effective writing techniques, creating engaging visuals, and incorporating social media platforms into your content marketing strategy.

What are the best keyword research strategies (without giving too much away!)?

Use the right keywords for your website and content to improve your online presence and find the right customers.

– Use a keyword analysis tool to find the best keywords for your business and target your audience.

– Optimise your website for search engines with targeted keyword placement and content creation.

–  Choose key terms carefully to ensure a mix of high and low competition depending on the depth of your website page that you are optimising.

What is the role of social media in SEO and how can it be leveraged effectively?

Social media can be an effective tool for SEO because it allows businesses to build relationships with their customers and potential customers. Additionally, social media platforms allow businesses to share content that is relevant to their audience, which can help boost traffic to their website.

How do you track and measure your SEO efforts?

Tracking and measuring SEO efforts is essential for understanding the effectiveness of your strategies and making data-driven decisions. There are several tools and techniques that can help you monitor and analyse your SEO performance. One common method is to use Google Analytics, which allows you to track website traffic, user behaviour, and keyword rankings. Additionally, there are various SEO-specific tools available that provide in-depth insights into factors such as backlinks, keyword research, and competitor analysis. By regularly monitoring these metrics, you can gauge the success of your SEO efforts, identify areas for improvement, and adjust/optimize your website’s visibility and ranking on search engine results pages. It’s important to remember that tracking SEO is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and adaptation to keep up with ever-changing algorithms and market trends.

One takeaway as a small business owner is that the more you pay attention to what is happening (or not happening!) on your website, the more you get to know your business and what users do and don’t like about your site pages. It enables you to fine-tune everything you offer, in a way that captures a variety of audience types. For example, are you allowing for screen readers, those that don’t like to read, but prefer to watch or listen to something? Are you providing main landing pages that then drill down to more and more information on lower-valued pages so your users can read as much information as they choose to?

How can you recover from a ranking drop and how long does it take?

A ranking drop can happen for several reasons, but it can usually be remedied relatively quickly with some strategic changes to your website or marketing campaigns. Sometimes a lower ranking can cause a website’s traffic and conversion rates to decrease, so it’s important to monitor both metrics closely and make necessary adjustments as necessary.

Recovering from a ranking drop can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but with the right strategies, it is possible to regain lost ground. First and foremost, it is crucial to identify the cause of the drop in rankings. This could be due to algorithm updates, technical issues, or poor website performance. Once the root cause has been identified, steps can be taken to address these issues. This may involve optimizing website content, improving site speed and performance, fixing broken links, and implementing SEO best practices. 

It is important to note that recovering from a ranking drop can take time and patience. The timeline for recovery will vary depending on the severity of the drop and the efforts put into remedying the issues. 

In some cases, it may take weeks or even months to see significant improvements in rankings. However, by staying proactive and consistently working towards improving website quality and visibility, it is possible to recover from a ranking drop and regain lost organic traffic.

What did you have to do to become an SEO expert?

Becoming an SEO expert requires a combination of knowledge, experience, and dedication. It starts with a strong foundation in digital marketing and understanding the principles of search engine optimisation. This includes learning about keyword research, on-page optimisation, link building, and analytics. To gain practical experience, it is important to work on real projects and stay up to date with the latest trends and algorithm updates. Building a network within the industry and continuously learning from other experts is also crucial. Additionally, becoming an SEO expert requires a passion for problem-solving and a willingness to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of search engines. It takes time and effort to become an SEO expert, but the rewards are worth it as you help businesses improve their online visibility and drive organic traffic to their websites.

Keep learning! SEO is an ever-changing landscape. Although a lot of the tasks are best practice and have not changed so much over the years, Google changes their requirements with ever-changing algorithms. Although some find this frustrating and most give up trying, Google is simply teaching us what to focus on to be found and engaged with by our users. I read blogs, undertake small courses when needed and just aim to keep abreast of all the changes in the industry.

Having been working in SEO for nearly 20 years, the basic requirements for on-page and off-page SEO are generally the same, the focus does change, and indeed, for local SEO there are certain elements that are the main focus for a business rather than the larger e-commerce, content-driven businesses.

What kind of clients do you generally deal with?

I love working with small to medium businesses, why? Because those are the ones that normally cannot afford the large agency fees, or indeed understand and implement their suggestions. I like to work with those who want to also learn as they go, meaning over time they take on more of the SEO tasks themselves, reducing their spend, and increasing their knowledge and their ranking abilities.

What do you love most about what you do?

Teaching businesses what the correct SEO practices are, scaling them to the smaller business mentality as well as seeing them rank well for the key terms that users search for with the higher conversion rates.

What kind of price point does an SEO audit start at?

My audits start at 300 euros and go up in smaller increments depending on how large the website is. I can offer a report that is easy to follow for the business owner to implement themselves, or they can pay for me to implement the findings on their behalf.

How do people find out more about what you do?

They can visit my website www.squarevanilla.com and read about SEO and also see what some of my past clients have to say about my services. If anyone has any questions about what they are currently doing, struggling with or indeed want to have an audit to get back on track, they can email me katie@squarevanilla.com 


Square Vanilla prices for SEO for the MumAbroad community:

Audit for websites up to 10 pages:
250€ + IVA for MumAbroad advertisers
375€ + IVA for the MumAbroad community

Including detailed on-page and off-page audit and key-term research for the main 5 pages.
Results provided.
Implementation on request

Audit for up to 15 pages:
400€ + IVA for MumAbroad advertisers
440€ + IVA for the MumAbroad community

Including a detailed on-page and off-page audit and key term research for the main 7 pages.
Results provided.
Implementation on request

Sites over 15 pages are priced on request.

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