The ABCs of SEO

Dan Petrović

Search Engine Optimisation lies at the heart of online marketing and how websites can increase their visibility.  Dan Petrović, Director of Dejan Research in Brisbane, Australia, spoke to Prue Goredema of the ONLINE EDUCA News Service about the importance of sound search skills in education, the workings of a phrase research style that’s making waves and of his own search for online enlightenment.

In a nutshell, what is Dejan Research?

Based at Brisbane Technology Park in Australia, we’re an Internet marketing firm, specialising in search engine optimisation (SEO).  We provide organisations with the tools and technology they need to improve the position of their website in organic search results, thus resulting in more traffic to their websites.   We’ve worked with a diverse range of clients, including PayPal, Virgin Australia and Amnesty International, and we also offer our SEO services to educational institutions.

SEO may be a household word amongst online marketers, but perhaps some educators might be uninitiated on the finer points of what you do.  What do students, teachers, parents and other users need to know about the value of SEO in the educational setting?

Too much good information is hidden away in dark, inaccessible corners of the web. Search engine optimisation allows users to find more great information online. Suppose you’re a student looking for information on where you can take a particular course.  Google will likely be your first stop. How many people have the time and patience to scan beyond the first or second page of their search results? That’s why anyone operating a website with an audience will want that information to be found, and doing so entails streamlining the structure and content of a website so that it can improve its ranking in the search results.

How does this optimisation work?

The first step in SEO is to understand your audience and their intentions. What keywords are they using to search? What pages are they reading on your website? What do they link to most? Knowing this allows you to adjust your content and website’s structure to be more user-friendly and accessible. Some of our campaigns involve series of very complex activities, and some cases are easily fixed by a simple technical solution. We educate people on how to get their information to the public, and we also develop software to help them in the process.

Of the many tools you have developed at Dejan Research, which one would be of most value to educators? 

Our phrase potential calculator is easy to use and has proved very popular with users since its release in beta late last year. Using data pooled from rankings, traffic volume and click-through rates, it shows you the search terms or keywords you ought to focus on in your website’s content, something that you would want to consider whether you are advertising a course, preparing a content management system, designing a lesson plan or conducting research, for example.

Why should individual users care?

The students and scholars of today need to be able to search for trustworthy information efficiently. At a time when anyone and his or her dog can publish material online, search engines need to keep up with the algorithmic changes wrought by this unprecedented volume of information in order to gauge the trustworthiness of resources that appear in the search results.  The way that academic information has been ordered thus far – sheltered in specialised journals with discipline-specific ways of referencing sources – hasn’t quite kept up with the real-time flow of information we see today. So identifying and validating decent sources is every scholar’s concern. Tools such as Google Scholar have proved useful; however, invalid resources still infiltrate their results.  SEO skills are essential not only for webmasters, but for scholars striving for excellence as they wade through the mountains of information on the Internet.

Are universities equipping students with the tools they need in the workplace? 

Whilst I’m focused on hands-on research and service delivery day-to-day, I give an annual guest lecture at my alma mater, Griffith University, so I have managed to keep my finger on the pulse.  I have seen that although there has been a traditional ‘disconnect’ between what students are learning at university and the reality in industry, things are changing now.  Educators are increasingly taking on the role of facilitator – giving students structure and validating those students who already have a hunger to learn.  Self-paced learning that takes into account an individual’s learning style is possible as never before, and a flexible climate in the institution of learning enables this. Independent thinking is what drives innovation.  I see this daily at Brisbane Technology Park.

Are innovation hubs big business Down Under?

We may be Down Under, but we’re up ahead in terms of ICT innovations! Brisbane Technology Park has certainly evolved since it was founded two decades ago.  There are over 100 companies plying their trade in ICT research and development, so I’m inspired and invigorated working around people who are defining the shape of things to come.

Speaking of the future, ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2012 is reaching beyond tomorrow. As you are no doubt aware, Moore’s Law stipulates that computing power doubles every 18-24 months, and with this exponential increase, it is anybody’s guess where technology will take us twenty, fifty or hundred years down the line.  What do you think the world will be like, technology-wise, when we reach beyond tomorrow?

With quantum computing having stepped out of the realm of science fiction, we can look forward to a future where hardware is less clunky, interfaces are even more user-friendly and users can access reliable data with ease. Research into the creation of 4D crystals is in its infancy, but with imagination, you can start to ponder where technology will take us once we’re breaching the known laws of physics. But speculation can take you down the wrong path. Fifty years ago, science fiction writers envisaged a world of flying cars and robots, but never did they foresee the information revolution. Travelling vast interstellar distances at the speed of light, the characters read books and newspapers and retrieved information from now virtually obsolete tape recorders. So you should prophesise with caution and simply put your best foot forward as you reach beyond tomorrow.


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