Work the web

Setting up and maintaining an effective business website is crucial in a global online economy. Vincent Matinde explains how to make your online presence count

The online community is surging globally. Products and services are marching strongly to the online space where new and potential customers are waiting. By 2017 mobile penetration in Africa will hit 1.1 billion subscriptions. With this, connectivity becomes available to the masses. It is crucial to have your brand online as a company or business website and your website must be up to date and effective.

1 Make it simple
Simple designs attract visitors to your site. Not everyone who visits your site will be a designer or an IT expert and simplicity makes it easy for people to get around. Complicated websites and navigations make it hard for people to glean information. Usually, complicated websites have information hidden in sub-locations that might turn off visitors who want information quickly. Design is important – simplicity is even more crucial when your content is significant.

2 Speed it up
Your website is in competition with similar websites offering the same products and services. If you can get information to potential clients faster than your competition it will positively boost your business. This is why your site needs to load faster. Unless deemed necessary, avoid flash sites, heavy images and distant hosting for your site.  Website visitors do not have much patience. When your website takes more than a minute to load, you can be sure that you will be losing potential visits.

3 Remember the brand
For the business website, make your company logo and colours consistent with your business colours and logo. This will build the confidence of your offline customers when they start to interact with your online brand. People should not doubt it’s the company’s website when they log in. Remember, there are fraudsters who might open similar websites to yours and deceive your customers. From the word go, customers should know that this really is your site.

4 Update regularly
For customers there is nothing as frustrating as getting the same old information on a company’s website. It does not matter what you are selling, fresh content will always bring in new clients to your website. Post pictures, customers’ views, start a blog on the company website. Whatever you do, keep fresh content coming. Don’t slow it down! Fresh content helps you in many ways. To start with, it raises your profile in a Google search. It is almost free marketing for your business website. When people search for the product or service you are offering, the Google search engine will always look for fresh and relevant content. You want to be on the first page of that search.

5 Initiate social media
Social media is the new Holy Grail of online marketing. It is an easy way to spread a message from your website. Research by Jana reveals that, increasingly, people rely on social media to get information about products and services. In Kenya, over 40 per cent of shoppers use social media to research products, and approximately 22 per cent of shoppers use company websites.

6 Go mobile
Jana Research have also revealed that in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa the rate of mobile research for products stands at an average of 60 per cent. The mobile phone is a powerful tool in Africa. If your site is mobile-friendly, you will get more clicks. If your mobile site is e-commerce and mobile-friendly, even better. There are many tools to convert your site into a mobile interface. The GoMo Google project (www.howtogomo.com) offers different products to convert your site.