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Black hat strategies that can damage your website

Every business owner is looking to get their business noticed on the search engine results page (SERP). There are various SEO tactics that can be used to get a higher ranking for your brand on Google. However, some strategies – called ‘Black Hat’ strategies – manipulate SEO rules which can be considered unethical, and even cause your brand to lose its traffic.

It is important to stay aware of the types of black hat strategies that are used, to ensure that your business can actively avoid being punished by Google.

Keyword stuffing
Some websites have repeated keywords within their content to hack the search engine into thinking that its content is relevant. The actual content itself has little meaning and loads the website with relevant keywords. This can create a poor user experience from the poor quality of content, and cause Google to drop your website’s ranking.

Hidden text and links
Alternative ways to stuff keywords into website content also include changing the colour of the font to be the same as the background, adding text behind images, intentionally positioning text off-screen, setting the font size to be zero or hiding links by adding them to a small character – such as a hyphen or a full stop – so that website viewers cannot see the text and links, but search engine bots can still read it.

Link schemes
Buying or selling websites that rank high on Google’s algorithm already, using excessive link exchanges or using automated programs that create links to your website are all black hat methods intended to manipulate site rankings and make your website look more popular. Good link building strategies should focus on deliberate, selective growth that is planned and carried out with care, as opposed to churning out a large volume of links solely for quantity purposes. Ensure that the links have meaning, and are placed there to add value to your content.

Cloaking
Intentionally providing different content to search engines and website users is called cloaking. While the cloaked website may appear in a search about one topic, the actual content of the website may be about something else entirely. The purpose of the deception is usually to drive traffic and generate advertising revenue from this increased traffic.

Black hat SEO methods should be avoided to prevent your website from being banned from Google and other search engine websites. These measures can be extremely damaging to your rankings and website traffic. Instead, consider focusing on improving content quality, accessibility and relevance which can bring up your website’s rankings organically without risk of permanent bans by Google.

Posted on 26 August '20 by , under web. No Comments.

Avoiding mortgage default

As individuals struggle with cash flow through the coronavirus, the Australian Bankers Association records that repayments on almost 500,000 mortgages have been deferred for six months. While repayments can be delayed, they cannot be avoided altogether.

Lenders can send you a default notice the day your repayment is overdue. However, they could also wait until your repayment is overdue by 90 or more days. When you receive a default notice, you are given 30 days to repay the amounts you have missed in addition to the regular repayment on your loan. Individuals who are struggling with their home loan repayments can avoid mortgage default by considering the following.

Contact your lender
Lenders are generally willing to work with you through financial hardship. Don’t be afraid to contact your lender to discuss your situation and find out what options are available for you. Lenders are often willing to negotiate short-term variations to repayment schedules that both parties can agree to. However, make sure that you do not agree to unrealistic repayment conditions that cannot be met.

Many Australian banks are offering a six-month deferral on mortgage repayments (including interest) for customers who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. If this is you, contact your bank to see if this is an option.

Apply for a hardship variation
Mortgage holders may be able to change the terms of their loan or temporarily pause or reduce their repayments under a hardship variation. A hardship variation can still be requested after you receive a mortgage default. To apply for one, contact your lender’s “hardship officer” and tell them that you wish to change your loan repayments due to financial hardship. This will usually require you to explain why you are struggling to make payments and to estimate how long your financial problems will continue to determine how much you can afford to repay.

After submitting a hardship variation request, your lender must contact you within 21 days with the outcome of your request. They may ask you for more details regarding your request; in this case, they must contact you again within 21 days from when you provide the additional information.

Consider selling your home
Selling your home is a tough decision, but in some cases this may be the better option if your circumstances are unlikely to improve. If you get to the point where your lender takes possession of your home and sells it, it’s likely that you won’t make as much as if you sold it yourself. When you sell your house on your own terms, chances are you will get a better price and avoid having to pay the legal fees passed on by your lender. Inform your lender if you decide to sell your home; they may ask for proof, such as a copy of the contract with your real estate agent or property advertisements.

Renting out your home until you can afford to make repayments again may also be an option if you are able to live somewhere else during this period.

Posted on 26 August '20 by , under money. No Comments.

Optimising budget for digital marketing campaigns

Maximising returns on investments is the primary goal for every business owner who invests in a marketing campaign for their brand. Learning how to properly test and troubleshoot your budget according to your business needs can help you save a failing campaign from costing you money.

Objectives
The first step to budget optimisation is being clear with the goals you are trying to achieve through this campaign. These can include generating qualified leads, driving content downloads or building awareness of your brand. Understanding your objectives can help you decide what aspect of your campaign needs more finances.

Testing
Deciding how to set a maximum and minimum spend per day on your campaign can be challenging. A two to four week testing period can help in narrowing down the range that works best to deliver the results set in your objective phase. A common strategy is to start with a mix of ad formats including sponsored content, text and message advertisements. This testing method can help in identifying the types of ads and content that provides optimal results for your brand.

Adapting your budget
Budgeting for marketing campaigns may present a range of issues even after the testing phase. It should be noted that constantly changing and adapting parts of your campaign to run smoothly is a part of digital marketing. It may help to start with a daily budget that is higher at the start of the campaign, and use these insights to then optimise your campaign and lower daily limits if required.

If your campaign is exhausting its budget too quickly, consider lowering your daily limit. If your campaign is not spending its budget, then you may need to automate your bidding option or set more competitive bids. Automated bidding aims to deliver the most results while spending your daily budget in full. This can also help to provide fast results, which can be useful if your marketing content is time-sensitive. However, this will also lead to faster spending of your budget.

Posted on 26 August '20 by , under business. No Comments.

What to consider when consolidating your super

The ATO reported that 45% of working Australians were not aware that they had multiple super accounts in 2016. Having multiple super accounts is particularly common for individuals who have had more than one job. If this is you, it is important to identify and manage your super accounts because having more than one can be costly as a result of account fees from multiple funds.To combat this, you may want to consolidate your super, which moves all your super into one account. Not only does this save on fees, but it also makes your super easier to manage and keep track of.

Before consolidating your super, it is important to do the following:

Research your funds’ policy
Compare your active super accounts so you can make the right choice about which one you should close. Things to assess include:

  • Exit fees
  • Insurance policies
  • Investment options
  • Ongoing service fees
  • Performance of the funds

Check employer contributions
Changing funds may affect how much your employer contributes, as some employers contribute more to certain funds. Check your current accounts to see if changing funds will affect this. Once you have selected a super fund, regardless of whether you choose a new super fund or one of your existing ones, provide your employer with the details they need to pay super into your selected account.

Gather the relevant information
When consolidating your super, you will need to have the following details ready:

  • Your tax file number.
  • Proof of identity. This could include your driver’s license, birth certificate or passport.
  • Your fund’s superannuation product identification number (SPIN).
  • Your fund’s unique superannuation identifier (USI).
  • Details of your previous fund.

Posted on 26 August '20 by , under super. No Comments.

Extending relief with JobKeeper 2.1 changes

The Government has introduced additional changes to JobKeeper to help more businesses qualify for the relief payments.

One of the key changes was moving the relevant date of employment for an eligible employee from 1 March to 1 July 2020, to extend employee eligibility. This allows those who were full time employees on or before 1 July 2020 and employees who became long-term casual workers between 1 March to 1 July 2020 to be eligible for JobKeeper. This will increase the amount of employees that are eligible under the current JobKeeper Scheme, and will also expand the eligibility criteria under JobKeeper 2.1.

Businesses originally needed to show that they have met the decline in turnover test in the June, September and December 2020 quarters to receive JobKeeper payments. To qualify for the first phase of the JobKeeper Extension (28 September 2020 to 3 January 2021) businesses need to show that they have had a decline in turnover only for the September 2020 quarter, in comparison to the previous year.

To qualify for the second phase of JobKeeper Extension (4 January 2021 to 28 March 2021) businesses need to show that they had a decline in turnover for the December 2020 quarter only to be eligible for payments.

This change can be particularly useful to businesses that may not have met the decline in turnover test in the June or September quarter, but suffer significantly in the December quarter.

The improved accessibility to JobKeeper payments comes from the impacts of economic downfalls in Victoria. It is predicted that more than 80 percent of these payments will flow towards assisting Victorian businesses and employees.

Posted on 26 August '20 by , under tax. No Comments.

Making safer workspaces

As employees return to office spaces, there is a growing concern as to how employees can protect themselves at work. It is crucial that employers carefully plan their work spaces to minimise the risk of COVID transmissions. Consider the following essential ways you can adapt your workspace to protect your employees and customers during these risky times.

Physical distancing
One of the most essential recommendations employers should follow is making sure that there is at least 4 square metres of space per person. Consider making adjustments to the layout of your office space to allow workers to maintain a 1.5 metre distance from each other. These may include wall / floor markings and signage to keep workers aware of the distancing measures. It can be helpful to review tasks and events that require closer interaction, and map alternative ways to complete these tasks while still allowing social distancing to take place.

Close contact work
If the nature of the work your employees have to engage in requires close contact, then extra care needs to be taken to make sure that you minimise putting your employees at risk. Consider minimising the number of people within an area at any given time, and marking off certain areas of the workspace for essential employees only. Steps like staggering start and end times for shifts, encouraging employees to form teams with workers that need to work together, and moving each group to a different area of the office where they still have separate access to facilities can help minimise risk of COVID.

Sanitation facilities
It is important to train all employees on the hygiene practices that will be in place at your office space. Consider signage in washrooms on handwashing protocols, providing well-stocked bathroom facilities and providing hand sanitiser in appropriate locations such as entries and exits. Regularly empty waste bins and encourage ventilation by opening windows and adjusting air-conditioning units to stop them from recirculating the same air.

Cleaning the office space
It is recommended that workspaces be cleaned at least once a day, and commonly used spaces are disinfected as regularly as possible. If your business is more customer-oriented, it may be useful to clean and disinfect more frequently. Surfaces that are constantly touched, like door handles, phones, EFTPOS machines, toilets and buttons should be disinfected as frequently as possible. Consider encouraging workers to disinfect their regularly used items like glasses and phones.

Personal protective equipment
Consider providing employees with PPE like masks, gloves and eye protection equipment to foster safer work conditions. It can be useful to consult with employees about the types of PPE they prefer, to ensure that their areas of concern are being addressed. If employees work in close proximity to each other or with customers where interaction time is longer, it can be useful to install screens or sneeze guards to shield workers from droplets. However, employers must remember that these screens also need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

Posted on 20 August '20 by , under people. No Comments.

Creating a business contingency plan

When business is going well, it can be easy to procrastinate planning for the bad times. However, preparing for disaster before it strikes by having a contingency plan can be the key to business survival.

A contingency plan can help businesses prepare for possible circumstances such as natural disasters, employee theft, negative publicity or staff injuries. Having a plan for these contingencies can help your business react faster to unexpected events to prevent ongoing damages, recover from disruptive events, and resume regular business operations as quickly and easily as possible. When writing a contingency plan, consider incorporating the following tactics:

Identify the risks
Think about the key risks that your business could face. This could involve researching your business market, competitors, economy trends, security threats or employment issues. It is a good idea to work with members of different departments in your business in order to foresee potential risks in all sectors.

Prioritise
Once you have identified potential risks, prioritise the ones that are most likely to affect your business. This will ensure that the most relevant issues are addressed first to provide you with a plan if they occur. One way to do this is by creating a risk assessment to identify the most pressing risks.

Create a plan
After identifying the key risks to your business, you can start drafting a contingency plan to mitigate their effects. This should include a clear guideline that outlines what to do when a contingency occurs and how to continue operating the business. The plan should also clarify employee responsibilities, key contact details, timelines of when tasks should be done, restoration processes, and existing resources that can be drawn upon to prevent damage, such as insurance coverage.

Resource assessment
Consider the resources you may need in order to resolve a contingency. This could include extra staff, insurance, PPE, or technical support. In order for the resolution process of a contingency to go smoothly, it is important that you have enough equipment and support so that you don’t have added stress and time going towards finding extra resources.

Share the plan
Once you have written a contingency plan, ensure that they are accessible to your employees and stakeholders. Be receptive to any feedback your employees or stakeholders may have about your plan as there may be room for improvement. It is also important to review your plan over time to ensure that it stays up to date.

Posted on 20 August '20 by , under business. No Comments.

What is an SMSF auditor and what do they do?

Self-managed super fund (SMSF) trustees are required to appoint an ATO-approved SMSF auditor no later than 45 days before lodging their SMSF annual return. An SMSF auditor is a professional who assesses your fund’s compliance with superannuation law and examines your fund’s financial statements.

SMSF auditor eligible requirements
Your SMSF auditor must be:

  • Independent. SMSF auditors cannot audit a fund that they hold financial interest in, or have a close personal or business relationship with the SMSF members or trustees.
  • Registered with ASIC (Australian Securities & Investments Commission) and holds an SMSF auditor number for you to provide on your annual return.

What will your SMSF auditor do?
An SMSF auditor provides you with an independent opinion on the existing assets in your SMSF and whether or not your fund complies with the rules outlined in the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993.

When preparing for an audit, an SMSF auditor will issue a Terms of Engagement Letter to the trustee(s) of the fund, which includes the roles and responsibilities for parties involved in the audit as well as the range of the audit. In the case that your SMSF auditor’s primary contact is your accountant, your accountant will be issued a separate Terms of Engagement Letter.

By clearly outlining each parties’ capabilities, a Terms of Engagement Letter helps you, your accountant and your auditor to avoid any misunderstandings and also protects audit evidence provided by your auditor from unintended alterations. In turn, SMSF auditors who fail to follow standards or take shortcuts can be sued or imposed penalties by the Court.

The Terms of Engagement Letter also acts as a contract to keep parties accountable during compliance breaches and prevents cases of ‘opinion shopping’ where trustees look to other auditors for unqualified opinions. Trustees may end up being audited by the ATO in the event that they breach the Terms of Engagement Letter and ‘opinion shop’, as it comprises auditor independence.

Posted on 19 August '20 by , under super. No Comments.

CGT rollover when transferring assets in a divorce

Transferring the ownership of assets from one party to another may attract CGT. However, in the event that a change in ownership occurs due to the breakdown of a relationship, you may be eligible for a rollover of the asset.

A rollover allows taxpayers to defer or disregard a capital gain or loss that would normally arise on a CGT event. Specifically, a same asset rollover can occur when an individual transfers assets to their ex-spouse, as the transferee already has an involvement with the asset. The spouse who receives the asset will make the capital gain or loss when they dispose of the asset in future. They will also receive the cost base of the asset (the cost of the asset at the time of its initial purchase), as well as expenses incurred when acquiring, holding and disposing of the asset.

The rollover applies to CGT events that occur as a result of:

  • An order of a court or a court order made by consent under the Family Law Act 1975 (foreign laws with similar logistics may also apply).
  • A court order under a state, territory, or foreign law relating to the breakdown of a relationship.
  • A binding financial agreement, or a corresponding written agreement.

Separating couples transferring assets in accordance with a binding financial agreement will not require court intervention, however, for rollover to apply, the following must be true at the time of transfer:

  • the involved spouses are separated,
  • there is no reasonable expectation of cohabitation resuming,
  • the transfer of assets occurred for reasons directly related to the breakdown of the relationship. For example, the transfer may not be directly connected to the separation if the spouses already agreed to the transfer before the breakdown of their relationship.

Couples with informal or private agreements related to the transfer of assets will not be eligible for a rollover, and CGT will apply to these ownership transfers. The parties cannot choose whether or not the rollover applies to their situation.

Posted on 19 August '20 by , under tax. No Comments.

How to make your website accessible

The key goal for all business websites is to attract as many visitors as possible. However, not many business owners remember to cater their website to those with special needs and disabilities. To make sure your website is accessible for everyone on the internet, here are a few tips to consider.

Be mindful of your colour choices

Colour is often viewed as a major contributor to making a website visually appealing. However, not all people have the privilege to distinguish between colours, or may find it difficult to read texts over certain colours. It is therefore important to be mindful of the colours you choose to use on your website as well as the contrast levels between your text and background colours. For example, red-green colour deficiency is most common among individuals experiencing colour blindness so it is best to avoid using such colours on your website altogether. Using visual cues such as asterisks and question marks can also be helpful in separating content otherwise divided by colour.

Ensure your website is keyboard and mobile-friendly

Not all of your website’s visitors are going to be on a computer, so it is important to make sure your website is both keyboard and mobile friendly. Keyboard-only navigation means that all of the content, links and pages on your website can be accessed without a mouse, often using the ‘tab’ key. It is also important to accommodate mobile users and make sure your website can shrink down to the vertical, zooming and pinching format while also retaining its functionality.

Include alternative text for images

Visitors may prefer to read text over viewing images on your website due to a number of reasons, such as slow internet connection, image-blocking browsers or users who are sight-impaired. To satisfy such audiences, consider providing descriptive alternative texts in place of images to convey the same message to those who cannot see them. Alternative text is especially important in cases where your image acts as a page link or is integral to the content on your website.

Make sure your content is structured

A clean and uniform structure is integral to making your website accessible and this can be achieved by using headings to correctly organise your content. Headings can be used to help visitors easily navigate between your content, but it is also important to make sure your headings are visually uniform to prevent confusion between different content pages on your website.

Posted on 12 August '20 by , under web. No Comments.