Category Archives: SEO

What businesses must know about websites in 2017

The internet has changed the world dramatically in innumerable ways. People communicate instantly across the world, run businesses from their cellphones and make careers out of filming themselves for passionate fans. It’s changed how businesses market themselves, consider their products and interact with customers. Furthermore, everything has become faster. Businesses can face enormous PR disasters that dominate the news for days, before people move on to newer blunders. More than anything, businesses must know what it means to exist online. To that extent, businesses must know what it means to run a website. It’s both more complicated and less complicated than many might think, according to designers and website experts. Let’s examine what it means to have a website in the internet age.

Purpose

As with all projects, the first question any business leader must be able to answer concerns purpose: what will putting money, time and resources into this yield that’ll benefit the business? As Entrepreneur highlights, the point of a website is broaden the business’ reach.

“You should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.”

Naturally, people found and invested in businesses before the internet. But the point isn’t whether those interactions were possible, but rather how much the internet has changed the landscape. A business can, of course, opt to have no internet presence, but that only means being overshadowed by competitors who’ve chosen the broad, far-reaching and constant marketing an internet presence provides. If business leaders would opt for billboards to market their business, it makes no sense to refuse a platform that will reach more people and can provide more information, leading to higher chance of customer conversion.

Design

One of the most important aspects of a website is how well it’s designed. Summarising website research, Forbes’ Drew Hendricks noted visitors to a site will often point to bad design, not bad content, as a reason for being turned off a company.

“Design elements are exponentially more powerful than content, in terms of mistrust. When asked to describe why they mistrusted a website, 94 percent of comments were directly related to web design elements, while only 6 percent referenced specific content. While the study was directed towards health sites, it seems practical that the same basic principles would carry over to other industries.”

Ideally, a website should be simple enough for anyone to use, but complex enough to answer any question. It’s essential that our sites host a number of important features: search functions to help visitors navigate, contact details including email and phone numbers, Google Map locations and so on. Many businesses also recognise the importance of establishing themselves as thought leaders in the industry. As Risdall notes:

“Thought leaders … take content to the next level by serving as their industry spokespersons, taking a stand on issues or giving away a little of their intellectual property to establish their usefulness. Instead of just sharing content around products and services, thought leaders share expertise around the broader challenges they face in their industries.”

In terms of online content, this also provides individual business sites with original material, not merely static pages or adverts. This means it will “rank” better (i.e. land up as one of the earliest hits after a person uses a search engine) when people search for terms related to a business. As Skyword points out:

“If you aren’t constantly pinging search engines with new content, there’s nothing to entice the spiders to crawl your site and rank your webpages higher than those of your competitors. Publishing and updating content to your site frequently means that search engines will more readily find your pages, potentially resulting in higher rankings and increased viewership.”

Security

One of the most important aspects of using the internet is security. This is why it’s important to really consider who will be doing the business’ domain hosting. Naturally, there are a range of well known companies that offer domain hosting services – and even additional services, such as domain email hosting – but it is imperative to put security first. In terms of registering the domain, it’s also important that business leaders recognise the various laws and requirements involved, such as registering their name on a public database. Entrepreneur has a very useful guide for securing a domain name, which has proved helpful to countless people.

For example, they advise putting in geographical or keywords in the name. They also suggest focusing on obtaining a “.com” above everything else.

“When you register your domain name, you’ll be bombarded with offers to purchase other versions like .net and .co. For most small businesses, that’s not needed. Investing in other extensions becomes important when patenting something or protecting a trademark… If you think a competitor might want the .net version of your domain name, for example, consider taking it first.”

Using a website might differ slightly from other forms of marketing, but it is essential for the modern business. A business simply doesn’t really exist if they don’t have an online presence. And a website, which businesses themselves control, helps to establish their brand on the wild domain of the internet.  

A beginner’s guide to VPS hosting for business

Creating a business today often involves having an existing presence in both the physical and digital spaces. This means we’re not just dealing with papers, but data too. We conduct meetings face-to-face but can also use the likes of Skype and Facetime, communicating with anyone around the world in real-time. Our concerns should therefore extend in this direction, too. We must take into account that we’re no longer merely protecting the tangible assets within a business – we also have a responsibility to data that can be stored, moved and utilised in a digital way.

To this end, we should consider how we’ve set up our offices so that they can make use of the digital world effectively. In a world where someone can run an entire business from their smartphone and order groceries without leaving the couch, we need to be more on the ball than ever when it comes to working with digital tools.

Digital workspace

Working in a central location, according to set times, was designed to create a productive environment. Everyone is there, able to collaborate, feed each other information and hopefully produce the highest quality product they can, in the shortest time possible. However, today’s digital workspace shows up a lot of the problems we sometimes didn’t realise we had.

As Forbes notes, tying people to a physical time and space can actually be counter-productive.

“There’s objective evidence to show that greater flexibility for your workforce leads to higher levels of productivity, and digital environments provide that flexibility. Your workers can log on during the hours they feel most productive, engage with others at their leisure (thanks to new systems of communication that allow for delayed responses), and address items when they feel it’s most appropriate.”

If we have questions, we can either leave an email or instant message someone. Even before the many methods of communication available to us today, phonecalls were still a possibility.

A digital workspace also allows for more, not less, accountability. We can track work times, current tasks and a range of other aspects relevant to oversight. We no longer have to only rely on an employee’s word – we have evidence at our fingertips, using management tools.

The world also moves faster than ever before. Today we’re no longer restricted to clients only in our town, city or country. We can run projects, deals and other operations for anyone all over the world. As individuals, we can even freelance for whomever will have us, thanks to internet connectivity.

Of course, as with all things we create, there are dangers. This is where we need to consider the importance of cyber security and VPS hosting.

What is cyber security?  

Just as we have security for office spaces, such as alarms and door locks, so we require security for our digital spaces.. As What Is defines it: “Cybersecurity is the body of technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access.”

Part of cyber security involves considering how to secure the networks and applications we work on. This is why VPS hosting has become incredibly important.

What is VPS hosting?

VPS stands for “virtual private server”. Often when we use online tools, we end up sharing part of a server to access these online tools (for example, people who use the free WordPress site are sharing part of the overall server while running their blog. Their data must be stored somewhere and it’s not only on their computer.) But, for businesses, this can be a mistake, since we need fast, immediate access to tools and services. If the shared server goes down, everyone loses out. A VPS can help. As Techopedia defines it:

“The concept of a virtual private server can be better explained as a virtual machine that caters to the individual needs of a user just as a separate physical computer that is dedicated to a particular user. The virtual dedicated server provides the same functionality and privacy as that of a normal physical computer.”

A VPS can connect shared web hosting services with dedicated hosting services. Because these servers can have their own copy of the OS (operating system), “VPS provides the user with super-user privileges in the operating system.” We have complete freedom when it comes to VPS, thus minimising the dangers of outside interference.

Of course, many wonder how to setup VPS hosting but there are plenty of companies who install and manage it for us. The question we should be asking is what is VPS hosting used for.

Mainly, businesses use them to run websites. They don’t have to rely on the functionality of other servers, maintained by outsiders – this can ruin customer experience, since we are at the mercy of other people if our site has server problems. If we have our own server, we are responsible, making it more likely the problem will be resolved sooner.

As Make Use Of notes: “Provided you don’t overload your VPS, your website will perform much better [than if it was run on an external server]. Plus, once your website grows, you can easily upgrade your VPS to a more powerful one in a matter of minutes – no migration required.”

VPS then is not only about security, but functionality too. Though we are responsible for keeping the data secure, it still means we are not relying on outsiders to do the heavy lifting – indeed, because it is our responsibility, there is a higher chance we will be more aggressive in instituting proper security protocols.

Main secrets for businesses to exist online successfully

The modern business must exist online. Businesses that don’t do so are doomed to obscurity and invisibility. Even on the African continent, the widespread adoption of smart mobile devices means more people are using the internet on a daily basis. But existing online is one part of a major marketing move requiring its own focus. Let’s consider some important aspects to having a digital presence in today’s world.

Why existing online matters

As indicated, the idea of the internet only being accessible to rich countries is undermined by facts. HTXT summarised a recent report about African internet usage, which showed: “Global active internet usage grew 10% in 2016, adding 332 million more users, while Africa saw 42.7 million more active users being added.”

Mobile devices are, of course, the most frequently used. What this indicates is that if we run a business, even in Africa, we need to care about existing online – there are literally billions who will have access to our sites. They will be searching for information and the websites we control should be the first place they land (not our opposition or social media complaints).

How to make this happen

In order to drive people to our sites, we need to select a number of aspects. One of the first is to get the right domain. While people won’t check on the domain owner, usually, there are other aspects to consider.  

To choose the right domain, we should align it with our brand. Sometimes, our name will be so broad, it might already be taken. We can check the domain owner and attempt to purchase it from them, but we should rather opt to choose alternatives. Search engine optimisers who work to promote businesses online suggest choosing as close as possible to the brand itself.

Consistency is also key. We must maintain the same colours, themes, styles, logos and so on from the physical world into the digital. This continuity is important to convey to potential clients we are a serious business.

Another issue when it comes to maintaining a website is that we need new content, making it more visible to Google searches. Google is able to indicate how relevant content is as well as duplicates – so we need fresh, unique copy. This tells Google – and therefore its users – that the site is receiving attention, is worth seeing and remains relevant to what the business focuses on.

Tips to stay ahead in today’s world

Businesses must be faster and yet more accurate than ever before. With rolling news that never stops, constant sources of information and a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips, all businesses should be rethinking how they operate. There’s no point in business people ignoring progress, even if it has resulted in them feeling overwhelmed. If we don’t keep up, we’ll either be left behind or swept aside by those able to ride the currents.

We should therefore consider the various ways we can use tech to help us stay ahead.

Use Social Media

One often overlooked area businesses must consider is social media. Though each platform is different, each caters to particular needs and audiences. For example, Twitter is ideal for short, instant messages that many will read quickly. Tweets are easily shareable and, recently, can contain various forms of media: videos, static and moving images.

Facebook allows for longer posts and tends to mean a more engaged experience, as clients write directly on our pages and accounts. With other tools, like Facebook Live, we can also create relevant, longer content.

Aside from marketing, social media can act as a source of business, industry and market news. Considering how quickly information is distributed, this can help us stay on top of what’s happening in our field and those related to us.

Be ready to upgrade

All sorts of equipment can quickly become outdated. For example, computers stop receiving software support. This means they can no longer run the latest versions of important software clients might use. We must be willing to upgrade where necessary, meaning we should have money put aside specifically to upgrade the tools we use everyday.

Upskill staff

Be sure to carve out time for staff to improve themselves. This keeps them abreast of information and where the market is going. They improve their own skills, meaning they become more valuable in general and specifically for us. We’re therefore investing. In this way, we have staff who are constantly keeping their heads above the water.

(Picture credit: unsplash / Pexels)

The perils of social media for 2016

Few could’ve predicted that social media would prove to be as important as it has become. Popular people on various social media platforms sometimes have a wider audience and reach than even some papers or news networks. Indeed, YouTube’s most watched channel is run by a man who’s now a millionaire for playing video games. People lose their jobs just as quickly as they make them, because of what they do on social media. We cannot downplay just how important Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other networks have become.

What is social media?

By now, most of us know what social media is. We’re probably subscribed to several, each one focusing on particular forms of media and communication. One of the best definitions comes from Webtrends from About.com. As they state: “Social media are web-based communication tools that enable people to interact with each other by both sharing and consuming information.”

Twitter is a short-message social media platform, ideal for staying up to date with news, sites or businesses. Facebook is designed to be more personal, ideal for families and friends, especially those who live far apart. LinkedIn is designed to enhance our careers, letting us meet and associate in related circles and allowing future recruiters to know who we are.

Almost all such services are free.

How do they benefit businesses?

As we noted, the main focus for social media is the ability to send, share, consume and create information. Twitter is ideal for linking to other sites, Facebook allows for large scale live video recording and so on. Businesses must view these as additional tools to help their marketing, if not the business itself.

But not all social media is created the same. As one marketer’s guide highlights: “If you want to create a successful social strategy, you need to familiarize yourself with how each network runs, the kinds of audiences you can reach and how your business can best use each platform.”

What’s important here is to consider social media as expanding on the platforms for your marketing strategy. These days most marketing courses will have at least some focus on social media. The problem is the platforms themselves are so new, rules are always changing and no one has clear, absolute guidelines.

What we are recognising however is that fewer customers tolerate advertisements in their faces. They don’t want to be bombarded with marketing. We therefore need to be smart about what kind of marketing we practice, how best to serve our clients but to do so without annoying an audience.

These are the skills we must develop in the age of social media.