Beginner’s guide to SEO

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Beginner’s guide to SEO
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Search engine optimisation is still a great way to boost visitors to your website – if you avoid the traps. We help you get started.

In the first in our series on building and improving your business’s online presence, we explained the basics of what you need know about web design and hosting. In this second instalment, we look at search engine optimisation (SEO), the practice of making particular web pages show up at or near the top of search results.

Given its potential business benefits, it’s not difficult to see why, historically, SEO was associated with all sorts of sneaky tricks – such as putting irrelevant but frequently-searched words on a page with the same background and foreground colours so they were read by search engines' spiders even though they were invisible to human visitors.

However, Google – still the overwhelming leader in search, and therefore the one every site owner is concerned about – has become smarter over the years at detecting such ‘black hat’ practices. And the search giant has introduced big penalties to offending websites’ ‘page rankings’, which affect where their pages appear in search results.

Still, there are still plenty of things you can do to improve your site’s search results.

To outsource or not to outsource?

If SEO is important to your business, you should engage a specialist, according to frontend designer and developer Hope Stewart. But she warns that most people who have registered a domain name will be approached by a lot of unscrupulous people offering SEO service (not to mention domain renewal scams), so she suggests they only use SEO specialists that have been personally recommended.

Design agency Artful owner Nick Sibbing goes even further: “People should be deeply sceptical about SEO [services].

“I’m deeply sceptical about ongoing payment SEO plans... I think most of them are just a scam” on a par with selling underwater Queensland real estate, said Sibbing, who has been running Artful for nearly 20 years and also serves as a Small Business Victoria workshop leader.

Small businesses can generally take care of SEO themselves, he said, although Artful does offer “Google tune-ups” for businesses that don’t have the time or resources to put into it.

Finance company Hodgestone Finance realised its site was in need of SEO and decided to outsource, choosing digital marketing agency Supple to do the work. “They knew their field,” said processing officer Alex Treherne, and they quickly came to terms with the finance market.

The changes Supple made significantly increased the number of leads coming from the site, he said. The company subsequently had Supple redesign its site, which led to a further improvement. Importantly, the conversion rate from leads to customers was good, making the whole exercise cost-effective, said Treherne.

If you plan to engage an SEO provider, see our guide, Five questions to ask an SEO provider, although as Sibbing says, it is very feasible for small businesses to it in-house.


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