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Great Websites in a Box

You don’t need R40 million to create a winning website.

Michael Wissekerke

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Build-Website

With all the broohaha surrounding the development costs for South Arica’s most expensive website, I thought it would be appropriate to put together a quick guide for those of you looking to engage a vendor to build your website or modify your existing site, as well as some tips for those of you who are already using WordPress as your chosen web site platform.

Let’s begin with things you should be considering when engaging with a potential vendor, starting with the most important point: Credibility.

Credibility

Choosing a vendor is like shopping online, except instead of looking for a SSL certification or a guarantee of some description, you should look out for:

  • Seals of accreditation
  • Membership to recognised organisations
  • Links out to verifiable publications and or other media outlets
  • References and LinkedIn profiles
  • I always look at a member of a company’s Linkedin profile. If you can see a direct connection between the person and their stated clients, it almost always validates the claim that they have serviced those clients.

Request for proposal

If time is not an issue for you, it’s always a good idea to formulise the piece of work that needs to be done via a Request for Proposal styled process.

When in doubt ask

As simple as this may sound, asking a vendor to provide you with information that you require is an easy way to verify their claims. Sometimes vendors might be afraid to list clients or references. This is especially true within the SEO space where, in some rare cases, sites that have been linked to SEOs (as tin foil hat as this might sound) have been penalised for being associated with the site.

WordPress

I use WordPress. A lot. In fact, it’s probably been my platform of choice for some years now, after having played around with the majority of other open source content management systems.

The reasons that I work off WordPress are simple:

  • It’s open source – which doesn’t only mean that it’s free
  • It’s simple to install on your server
  • Easy for users and website owners to get around the installation
  • Is search engine friendly straight out of the box
  • Infinitely configurable with the plethora of plugins available.

Over the years I have also picked up a number of shortcuts and DIY-styled security improvements around the platform that can help you secure your site, as well as make it quicker. Below are a handful of top tips and tricks I’ve emassed.

Security

Websites are vulnerable to being attacked and no-one is immune; even the likes of Google, Facebook and Apple. Of course ‘the highest branches catch the most breeze, and they would naturally be a target, but you’d be surprised how many script kiddies (unsophisticated hacking programmes) are out there and will take down your site just for fun. Make sure you have proper security in place.

Some of the things you can get your development department to do are:

  • Secure the “wp-admin” folder as well as the “wp-config.php” file – via the .htaccess file
  • Make sure you have secure password for your database connection.
  • If possible use SSH (Secure SHell) to transfer files between servers and configure it so that the servers only accept connections from your IP address.
  • Regularly update the core: Periodically the core of WordPress is updated, it’s always a good idea to have the latest version of the software running on your site. This is also true for any plugins you might have installed on the site

Search Engine Optimisation

As already stated, WordPress does a great job straight out of the box on the SEO front, however there are a couple things you can do make it that much better:

  • Ensure that your ‘permalink’ structures are setup so that the URLs that WordPress generate are clean and search engine friendly
  • You are able to manipulate the titles and other meta tags on individual pages or posts
  • You are able to control the search engines robots / or crawlers via the ‘noindex’ or ‘nofollow’ directives.

Web analytics

As already covered in my previous article, it’s essential that your web analytics account is already primed and ready to accept the best possible data. With that in mind, you can now configure the actual site to deliver more data via things such as:

  • onClick event tracking
  • custom variables
  • cross domain tracking to carry sessions from one site to another.

Speed

Speed is something that a webmaster or owner should be striving for – not having a very quick site that is great for user experience is increasingly being seen as a quality signal by search engines. And let’s face it: Your customers probably spend a lot of time online.

A slow site will just annoy them. They’ll leave and not come back. There are many ways to ensure your site is speedy. Chat to your webmaster and make sure they’re ticking all the boxes, including:

  • Avoiding code bloat. If building a theme from scratch, try to reuse code as much as possible.
  • Minify your javascript and CSS. Fancy is not always better.
  • Cache the site. Having a caching system for the site means that instead of the site having to go to the database every time for a page’s information, it goes to a locally stored copy of the page.
  • Make use of CDN or Content Distribution Network.

Hosting

Finding a suitable host can be tricky, especially when even large hosting companies have troubles with their data centres. It really comes down to what level of service and support you’re willing to pay for. If price point is your sole drive in this regard, chances are your site will be slow. If there’s one thing you can’t really afford to skimp on, it’s hosting.

Some of the things to look out for are:

  • Decent support
  • Guaranteed uptime of 99.9%
  • Backup services
  • Scalability (can they grow with your business needs?)

If you have any questions please drop them in the comments below.

Michael Wissekerke runs a results orientated search marketing company, Conversionomics.net, where he tries to make “the web a better place” through better user experiences and a more holistic approach to search and conversion rate optimisation. Having cut his teeth as an SEO and online marketer in the hyper competitive industry of online gaming, Michael (a self-confessed web geek) recently returned from Australia where he was the in-house search and analytics manager for multinational pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ashwin Chotoo

    Mar 19, 2013 at 14:07

    I have been using wordpress for a while and i am very happy with it, i am struggling with Permalinks and SEO a bit though and although wordpress is impressive, you have to know how to use the system. I am still looking for somebody to help with advanced WordPress training but seems nobody seems to do training in Johannesburg

    • Michael Wissekerke

      Mar 20, 2013 at 16:54

      HI Ashwin thanks for the reply! 🙂

      i think the most important thing about an organic campaign is actually formulating a battle plane before hand.

      what i mean is if you’re able to plan your content in conjunction with your information architecture it’s makes building the site that much more easier – because retrofitting a site can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare.

      on the training front i actually don’t know of anyone that specialises in wordpress training personally. i wish i could point you in the right direction and be more of assistance on that front.

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Online Marketing

Everything You Need To Know About Instagram’s New Shopping Features

The app is giving influencers and brands new channels on which consumers can discover them.

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instagram-shop

Influencers and brands have two new ways to sell products to users scrolling and tapping through their Instagram feeds. After a summer of testing shopping buttons that drive purchases via Stories, the Facebook-owned app has launched them for businesses in 46 countries.

It’s also begun rolling out a personalised shopping section in the Explore tab, which Instagram redesigned earlier this year to feature AI-powered channels categorising content based on topic (e.g. travel, art, decor).

The shopping tab will be a place for users who know they want to browse and potentially buy, with Instagram’s algorithm serving up brands the user already follows or would likely be into, based on past activity on the app. Meanwhile, the shopping bag stickers in Stories will give users a chance to not just admire their favourite influencers’ outfits, but actually click through and learn more about promoted items.

Since Instagram began testing the feature in June, more than 90 million users per month have tapped to reveal tags in shopping posts, according to a Sept. 17 Instagram blog post. The app already allows brands to purchase ads in the form of Stories.

More than 400 million accounts watch Stories daily, and one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from businesses, Instagram also reports.

Instagram has been testing shopping in feeds for nearly two years.

Related: Creating Power Digital Campaigns

Back in November 2016, the company explained on its Business blog that online shopping often involves research and deliberation, rather than impulse purchases, which is what led Instagram to build out shopping posts that would provide consumers with information about products without having to leave the app until they’d made a purchase decision.

Salesforce has forecasted that the referral traffic Instagram drives to retailer websites will increase by 51 percent between the 2017 and 2018 holiday seasons, according to Adweek.

Speaking of leaving the app, Instagram is rumored to be developing a standalone shopping app, according to The Verge, but the company declined to comment on these reports to both The Verge and Entrepreneur.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Social Media Marketing For Start-ups: Essential Tips

There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

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Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing, when you’re short on funds, can seem like an intimidating prospect. If you and your team aren’t already knowledgeable about digital marketing strategy, you may think it’s impossible for you to manage marketing campaigns yourself. With a bit of determination and a great deal of studying, however, your startup will be able to successfully launch, direct, and refine your own digital marketing strategies.

What things can you do to help your start-up get more press, attract more customers, and get more brand awareness? There are plenty of ways to get the leads your start-up needs, but only a few tactics you’ll need in your arsenal to get the job done at a limited cost to your burgeoning business.

Get to know your niche

Many young companies adopt random acts of internet marketing. They’ll throw a few hundred dollars into promoting Facebook posts without necessarily understanding how to communicate to their audience.

Before you dive into advertising and promotion platforms, you should spend some time to define – and to get to know – your niche.

To help define your target market, use questions like:

  • Who are your existing customers?
    • How would you group them?
  • Who does your product or service help?
    • Does your product help business owners, stay-at-home parents, college students, or someone else?
  • Who are you looking to reach out to?
    • That is, are you looking to refine your target market or expand it?

Once you’ve answered a few questions like the ones listed above, you should be able to get a better idea of who you’re marketing to. With an understanding of who you’re communicating with, you should be able to craft a tailored message about your brand.

Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing

Choose social media platforms wisely

Many start-ups try to master as many social media platforms right at the start. Instead of dividing your attention between Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you should identify one or two social media platforms that will help you market your product or service. This is why defining your target market at the beginning is so very important.

You must first decide who your message is intended for before writing, editing, and positioning that message. After you’ve got your target market down, you’ll be able to pinpoint which social media platforms can serve you best.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea of which social media platforms are best suited for your needs:

Twitter

  • Best for blog links
  • Frequent posts: 1-4 posts every few hours is the most effective
  • The community is open to businesses promotion

Facebook

  • Best for communicating to existing customers
  • Daily posts: 1 post every 2 days is the most effective
  • Users respond best to images, videos, and clips

Reddit

  • Strictly promotional posts are undesirable
  • Building readership and/or a following is slow
  • Better suited for long-term growth strategy

Do your social media research

Start conducting some preliminary research about social media platforms. Build a profile of each, listing their pros and cons. Try investigating other social media platforms such as GitHub, Stack Overflow, and Quora. While these aren’t platforms as large as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, they could have a far greater impact on your start-up.

Answering questions on Quora and interacting with other users on GitHub, for example, could help you build genuine business and customer relationships.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Concentrate on mastering a few channels

Ultimately, it’s important to concentrate on one or two social media platforms based on your target market and your goals. Attempting to have a significant presence on all of them will prove expensive, time-consuming, and, at worst, counterproductive.

Focusing on one platform will allow you to track your marketing efforts with greater precision, revise your marketing strategy more easily, and help you speak more directly to your target audience.

Digital marketing, while best left to a team of experienced marketers, content creators, and creative designers can be done by your team.

Start-ups tight on cash don’t need to fret, they only need to do a bit of market research and direct their energy accordingly. After narrowing down your audience and performing some preliminary research on social media platforms, you can start working on your social media marketing strategy.

Master a few channels rather than trying to dominate all of the social media space. Keep conducting research as you start your marketing campaigns. Each community naturally changes so you’ll want to keep up-to-date. Leverage your research and dedication to get the most out of your startup marketing.

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How To Create The Best Small Business Website: 5 Easy And Effective Steps

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Ethan Dunwill

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small-business-website

It doesn’t matter how big or small your business is. If you don’t have online presence, it will become difficult to obtain the results you expect. Your target audience is using the internet nowadays for almost anything. So, if you want to attract more customers and build your brand reputation, you need to build a website. This is how you will be able to expand your business in an easy and not so expensive way.

On the other hand, you don’t have to be a savvy web developer to create a basic website and let the others know about you. Web development and design software have evolved a lot and now you can use several website builders to develop a functional site. You will have plenty of templates to choose from to increase your business’ visibility.

Check the steps below and get ready to create a successful small business website.

Easy and Effective Steps to Create a Website for Your Business

1. What is the purpose of your website?

It doesn’t matter if you develop a simple or a more complex website. Before you start working on anything related to your website, you should start with saying what your company does. Your customers need to understand from the first minute they access your homepage what is your mission and vision. They don’t have too much time to invest when they enter on a website. So, you can make their journey smoother by telling them from the beginning about you. In case you are not so talented at writing, you can use writing companies like RewardedEssays or SupremeDissertations to give you a hand.

Related: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Building A Website For Your Business

2. Choose a domain name and a web host

Even though many think they shouldn’t focus too much on it, the domain name is an important feature of your website. You will use the URL to promote your business to existing and future clients. So, this means that your domain name should be explicit and talk about your business to anyone who wants to find more about you. A domain name should be short, clear, without acronyms or numbers. What is more, you shouldn’t forget to check if your domain name isn’t already taken by someone else.

Apart from a domain name, your website will also need a server where all your data is stored. When you own a small business, creating your own web host will represent a serious financial effort. So, it would be more cost-wise to choose an external host.

As your business grows, you can choose a different host, or you can ask several providers to work on a personalised solution.

3. Build your website’s pages

website-pages-build

You will need more than a homepage to create a good website. If you want your customers to understand that you are a professional in what you do, you will create several pages dedicated to different elements of your business. For example, you can include a catalog with your products or a blog.

Natalie Andersen, CEO of GetGoodGrade mentions that “It is obligatory that apart from the homepage, a website should have at least a page with the products’ catalog and a Contact Us page.”

Below you can find a list with the minimum number of pages a professional website should have:

  • Homepage – here you will include details about your business, making sure that you also talk about your mission and vision.
  • List of products and services – your customers need to know what are the products and services you offer. This will help them decide whether you can answer their questions and provide a solution to their problems.
  • About Us – “About Us page is the place where you talk about your story. Your target audience wants to know more about yourself. This is how you will create a connection with your customers and let them know more about you”, says James Daily, Head of content department at FlashEssay.
  • Contact Us – it should include your address, email, phone number and working hours. You can also include the links for your social media profiles.

Furthermore, if you want to achieve an international presence, you can also use the translation services offered by IsAccurate. Thus, you will be able to address your message to a wider group of people and expand your business on new markets.

Related: How To Secure Your SME Website

4. Test if your website works properly

Christopher K. Mercer, CEO of Citatior recommends that “before you launch a website, you should first test whether it works. You cannot tell your future customers about your website without knowing for sure that it will work without problems once you launch it”. Therefore, you should click on each page and check whether it has any errors. You still have time to fix something if necessary.

Once you have launched your website and something goes wrong, it will become more difficult to do any change. Plus, always remember that the first impression matters. So, you need to be perfect in the eyes of your customers.

5. Maintain your website

After you launched your website, this doesn’t mean that your work is done. You will need to keep your customers engaged and curious about your business. Therefore, updating the products’ catalog constantly or producing content for your blog will keep your audience informed about what you can offer and the latest trends in the industry. Plus, you should also check if your website is up to date with the latest add-ons. If you don’t know how to produce new content for your website or you feel that you are not talented enough, you can collaborate with HotEssayService or RatedByStudents for professional writing services.

It shouldn’t be complicated to create a website for your small business. As long as you keep a clear structure and create a story around your business, you don’t have anything to worry about. It is very important to understand that a website is very important for your business visibility. Thus, you should put all your efforts into it.

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