The West

Tweets and tweaks keyword to success
Mike Haydon. Picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

You could call it a cheese toast moment.

Mike Haydon, then a lawyer at Perth firm Robertson Hayles, was sitting with a group of friends at Sizzler in Innaloo when a bet was made after an order went wrong.

"I bet them I could rank my website 'world cheese toast champions' as number one for that topic on Google," Mr Haydon said, describing the 2006 dinner.

"A couple of weeks later it was there . . . the next time they bought me lunch."

Fast-forward eight years and Mr Haydon is no longer a lawyer. He runs his own successful business from home - which, coincidently, comes up as number one on a Google search - and has more Twitter followers than Samantha Jade, Mitchell Johnson and Julie Bishop.

But it is not his celebrity status or outlandish comments that pushed him past these Perthonalities on Twitter. Rather, it is his business that has helped him get there.

Mr Haydon runs SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) Perth or, for the layman, the manipulation of Google to push a website to the top of the search list.

"I get a lot of blank looks when I explain it at parties," he said.

"They're usually really surprised to find out someone has manipulated Google so that a website appears where it is . . . but it's quite easy."

Surveys regularly find the number one position on a Google search gets about a third of all traffic, with a visit to the second page of a search virtually non-existent. It is no surprise then that the SEO market is booming.

Mr Haydon has two arms to his business.

One sees an existing business website tweaked to help push it higher in Google searches. The other is slightly more complicated - Mr Haydon builds a website in a particular market, gets it to the top and offers to sell it to a business in that area.

He works by himself, allowing him to look after his two-year-old son, and only employs staff through online freelancer sites.

But the million-dollar question remains - how does he do it?

"Well, that's the secret," he said. "Although, I had it summed up to me perfectly the other day - I dance with Google.

"Essentially there's stuff you do on the website to optimise it so that Google says, well, this is related to this topic. Things like metrics around exact proportions around keywords, but a lot of it is trial and error . . . and that's what we do all day. It's really boring."

It may be boring, but Mr Haydon's skills have seen him become a genuine Twitter celebrity.

After almost six years on the social media platform he now has more than 111,000 followers. He said he used the platform to build credibility for his business as a one-man show. But highlighting how well-researched and methodical Mr Haydon is, even the number of tweets he sends each day is manipulated.

"There's been some metrics done on that and they say that any more than 20 a day and it starts to get too much for people," he said.

Although Mr Haydon is competing for the SEO market with a growing number of Perth providers, he said he was happy with his current arrangement.

But will he have any more cheese toast moments?

"Actually, it would be interesting to see if the 'world cheese toast champions' website is still there, or still number one for that Google search."

For the record, it is.

The West Australian

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