Website design and development go hand-in-hand with SEO but the writer believes many South African brands do not seem to get the mix right when it comes to their websites.
Collectively in May 2014, there were 30,725,707 overall unique browsers glued to their respective mobile (33.1%) and desktop (66.9%) screens, while browsing their favourite websites for an average of 7 minutes per website visited.* For the uninitiated: unique browsers are the number of mobile and desktop device interactions with websites and mobi sites by individual users. So, is every South African brand making the most of this captive audience? Are they harnessing their target audience effectively? The answer to these questions is a resounding "no" and many brands can up their game substantially to take advantage of these insights.
Websites, the user experience and SEO
Website design and development go hand-in-hand with SEO and I've often found that many South African brands do not seem to get the mix right when it comes to their websites.
Sometimes, it is not enough to simply optimise an existing website. If the website is out-dated and not user-friendly, it may be time to start over. Remember that if users don't like your website then Google, amongst other search engines, may not think favourably about it either. Since the release of Google's latest Panda 4.0 algorithm, Google has kept their promise of improving their means to marginalise 'poor quality' websites on their search result pages. Google has therefore raised the bar on what they think users would like to experience through their search results. User engagement is one such factor that Google regards highly when ranking websites. A website's usability and level of user-engagement are symbiotic and are critical for not only SEO, but also for your website to serve its true purpose of effectively generating more business for your brand.
South Africans love mobile search
Yes, we all know that 'mobile' is big in South Africa but the question should be: "How does this mobile trend affect my brand?" This year I have noticed an exceptional growth in mobile visits to our clients' websites each month.
Google’s mobile and desktop search engines.
There has been a 200% year-on-year increase on average in Google search volumes via smartphones, with an average 20% year-on-year growth in Google search volumes via tablets in South Africa across the telecommunications, automotive and IT industries.** This continues to be an upward trend, as users' lifestyles and their mobile devices continue to fuse together.
This reiterates the importance of mobile SEO, and serving consumers your brand's marketing messages appropriately through the mediums that they are using. If a user Googles something your brand offers from their phone, it is not only important to be at the top of the search results page but it is also vital for you to provide users with a fantastic user-experience. This is important to get right because 23.17% of South African Internet users use their mobile devices to purchase goods online.*
Responsive websites - what's the big deal?
In most cases, the best approach to website development is to create a responsive website. A responsive website is a desktop website that adjusts its appearance for smaller mobile device screens, such as smartphones and tablets.
A responsive website is the ideal choice from an SEO perspective, not only because Google recommends it, but also because it offers users the best possible user-experience. Another advantage for brands is that it's not necessary to maintain both a desktop and mobi site. From a usability point of view, it is not ideal to have to 'pinch' and zoom into a website's page with your smartphone to be able to read its text.
The Internet, in all its forms is expanding rapidly. It's important to ensure that all of your digital properties are optimised to achieve maximum visibility and the best engagement with your customers. In today's modern world, experience is the ultimate branding exercise, and as marketers we need to ensure that the user experience is flawless.
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