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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

The Launch Of Instagram TV

Giving a run to other institutions for their money, Instagram today has launched IGTV, a new application that will allow users to upload videos on its Instagram facility.

Jandre de Beer

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_igtv

Commencing with one minute long videos, speaking at the launch today, Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom, announced that users can now upload up-to an hour long video. This application will allow famous videos from celebrities. However, with IGTV, one does not necessarily need to be a big-name or famous, since creative individuals and groups can upload videos.

For now, everyone who enjoys the clutter free, easy to navigate Instagram, will be able to upload an hour-long video, except the smaller and new accounts that will enjoy this application after the expansion of the facility. This application will be globally available on Android and IOS and will allow viewers to browse through many longer videos, as well as visit the browse tabloids or suggest followed videos.

Furthermore, viewers will have the choice to watch ‘old’ videos and also get notifications on recent uploads. IGTV will also allow creators and inventors to develop Instagram Channels with various videos that other viewers can subscribe to, drive traffic of viewers to particular videos, granting the inventors the capability of uploading clear links of the video.

Related: The Insta-Evolution: 5 Years of Selfies, Hashtags and #TBTs

Systrom confirmed that there will be no advertisements on IGTV for the meanwhile. He added that this is still a great platform to put up advertisements at a later stage, as creators or inventors put in more time into videos for IGTV. This translates into an opportunity to make money. Instagram will not pay creators for the IGTV videos at this stage. IGTV has so much potential since creators will be from the over 1 billion current Instagram subscribers. At the same time, this could be big business, since the number of subscribers may rise.

Expectations are there to add to the monetisation option, and these include the potential of Instagram getting profits close to $5.5 billion in 2018, as compared to Facebook, which is just above $202 billion.

Moving up from just filtering and sharing photos, today Instagram has advanced from mobile networks, screens, and cameras, of which neither the longer videos could be supported. This has opened a new mobile TV for teens and families.

Additionally, Instagram can become the dependable place to view something on that small screen via creators’ and publisher video content curation, as opposed to YouTube, which always has a wider breadth of content.

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Online Marketing

5 Steps In Adwords Competitor Analysis: A Practical Case Study

In the second part of this article, we’ll be getting practical. What steps to take and what to do in each step.

Steven Slotow

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adwords

In PART ONE of this article on the importance of competitor analysis in an Adwords campaign, we demonstrated to you the value that can be uncovered by performing a proper analysis of what your foe is up to on Adwords and how they can actually help you do better.

In the second part of this article, we’ll be getting practical. What steps to take and what to do in each step.

Pens sharpened? Batteries charged? Lets go!

As a case study of a local Adwords campaign, we’ll be taking a look at one of the main spenders on PPC in South Africa, booking.com, and see what information can be gathered about their competition in paid search results.

Step 1. Find out who your client’s true competitors in paid search are

First of all, let’s get on the same page, by stating that your organic and paid search competition is not the same thing. If you know who you share the SERPs with, it doesn’t mean that you’ll share the paid ads section with the same set of companies.

Booking.com knows what we’re talking about.

Here’s the organic part of the SERP for ‘book a hotel’. Booking.com shares it with Trivago, hotels.com and Agoda.

serp

They could have thought: Okay, so these are my competitors, I know what they’re up to, I’ll look into their strategies and I’ll be fine in both organic and paid search. But wait, what is happening there at the top of the SERPs? Who is this dark horse?

hotel-booking-serp

It’s Expedia! In organic search it stands further down from booking.com than the rest of the domains from the first page, yet in paid results Booking and Expedia are the closest rivals.

Related: 16-Step Blueprint to Master Your Digital Marketing

But that is just one keyword. There are many other keywords for which the companies want to advertise in Google, so to know whether you’re actually competing with them, you need to evaluate your competition level.

It’s a simple process of comparing the number of keywords you have in common versus the number that are unique with that competitor.

paid-keywords

By estimating this value, you can distinguish your true competitors from big generic brands, niche competition and temporary distractions in the paid search.

Jokes aside, Booking and Expedia share a relatively similar online presence and are, of course, familiar with each other’s PPC strategy. That said, if you’re not a huge domain and know your usual competitors, it is even more frustrating to miss an audacious market newcomer or an organic outsider trying to cut the line and get to the top of the SERPs with an aggressive PPC campaign. So, the analysis of your true competition should be performed regularly. For the agencies that we support, we usually revise the competitors list once every quarter.

Step 2. Estimate your competition PPC budgets

Now that you know who you are rubbing elbows with in paid search, try figuring out how much they spend on PPC. There’s no way to know exactly what their budgets are (except for corporate espionage, but we don’t recommend that), but you can still make use of an estimation.

For that, you need to know how many keywords they target in paid search, what their cost-per-click values are, as well as their estimated search volumes. That is practically impossible to reveal manually, but the competitor analysis tool in SEMrush for example provides you with an estimation of the company’s PPC budget based on the data from their keyword database. Similar tools should be found in whatever quality software you’ve opted for.

Here’s the info we could gather about Booking.com by solely analysing the keywords for which it was showing up in paid search and the CPC values of those keywords.

booking-com

Though it is a rough estimation, this info is helpful in planning your PPC campaigns in a way that meets with market trends.

Step 3. Find out your competitor’s unique keywords

What’s even better about competitor analysis is that it will help you save time by not needing to do the tough jobs yourself by letting you (legally) steal the best ideas from your competition and dwell on them. Remember, if you’re doing it to them, they’re probably doing it to you as well! All’s fair in love, war and paid advertising!

What’s the practical value of this? Well, your competitor’s unique keywords can be your missed opportunity.

keywords-match

By comparing the keywords that Booking and Expedia are bidding on, we see that there are a lot of keywords related to means of travelling and travelling companies in Expedia’s portfolio, but they are missing in the Booking.com set. It is obviously just another tactic for such a big brand, but for a smaller company, this comparison list could be a golden goose of new ideas.

Related: Beginners Guide To Digital Marketing In South Africa

Step 4. Research your competitor’s ads and banners

If you have ever been online, you know that the SERPs are crowded. The served results in both organic and paid search have to constantly overcome the viewer’s lack of attention, so the message in your ads should be short, clear, and actionable.

Your competitor’s copy can be a  great source of information.

competitor-adverts-and-banner

Comparing your ads to your competitor’s allows you to see the context and the standards of messaging in your niche and adjust your voice to or diversify from the usual tone.

Also, sometimes you need to develop multiple ad copies with similar content. Whenever creativity abandons you, you can look into your competitor’s copy and borrow a few ideas from them.

Step 5. Check your competitor’s target URLs

Imagine running an online retail business. Summer sales are coming, and you want to promote your goods with an AdWords campaign. Apart from the keywords that you want to bid on and creating appealing ad copy, you also need to think about the page which your ads are going to take your leads to.

Is it common in your client’s niche to have a specific landing page for a promo like this? Or is it enough to have banners on the home page? Take a look at your client’s competitor’s target pages and find out.

seasonal-sale

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The Value Of Competitor Analysis On A South African Adwords Campaign

If you have doubts about the efficiency of an AdWords campaign being run in South Africa, here are some stats about the South African market to convince you.

Steven Slotow

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south-african-adwords-campaign

Running a successful AdWords campaign can sometimes be like trying to understand the maths that Elon Musk is using to put a human being on Mars: you’re pretty sure it will work, but trying to figure how and why burns too many brain cells.

Well, help is at hand! In this TWO PART article, we’re going to demonstrate to you the value of performing a competitor analysis on an Adwords campaign, and show you just how and what you should be looking for.

As a digital marketer of any kind, you’ve probably had a crack at running and managing an AdWords campaign. Let me guess:

  • Predicting the results and outcomes was impossible;
  • You outsourced to an agency this one time. It cost you a fortune and they kept asking questions you couldn’t possibly have answers to;
  • Setting the budget was more complicated than understanding the nature and purpose of Snapchat;
  • And speaking of budget…it’s NEVER enough and always runs out too quickly.

Nobody is arguing with the fact that AdWords is one of the most complicated digital marketing efforts that you can undertake on behalf of a client or yourself. However, if done right, it could also be one of the most rewarding, effective and business-altering activities you could do.

Related: How to Use Pay Per Click Using Google Adwords

If you have doubts about the efficiency of an AdWords campaign being run in South Africa, here are some stats about the South African market to convince you:

South African PPC market in numbers

In 2017 the total spending on Google ads in South Africa across all industries reached $30 million. The market’s thriving!

google-ads-spend

And these websites were the most generous spenders on Google ads. If only your budgets could compete, right?

top-advertisers-in-google

However, these were the industry’s spendaholics.

Generally, businesses are way more careful with their PPC budgets: only 3.8% of all the companies spend more than R50 000 monthly, and the majority of 34.1% is just indulging their curiosity with somewhere around 1000 bucks a month.

percent-of-advertisers

And if you worry about your ad copy, take a look at the most popular phrases and CTAs used in South African ads:

top-phrases-in-adverts

Related: Implementing 2 Advanced Google AdWords Strategies

So, how do you enter that market AND, at the same time, save your money?

Well, that’s like eating an elephant — get help and do it in pieces.

If you thought that running and managing an AdWords campaign was complicated, try getting advice from the pros on best practices to net best results. Just like deciphering that Musk math again.

  • Split test your copy
  • Use different ad extensions… or all of them
  • Try out different calls to action
  • Manage and track your budget daily
  • Get your targeting on point

But also don’t forget about the foundation of any marketing campaign, digital or not: research your competition.

As wholesalers of digital marketing services to South African digital agencies, by far one of the most important and most advised best practices we suggest to the agencies that we support when running an AdWords digital marketing campaign is to ensure that they practice comprehensive and thorough competitor analysis.

What is competitor analysis for your Adwords campaign and how do you streamline it?

adwords-competitor-analysisRunning a competitor analysis during an AdWords campaign is like having a video camera in your competitions training session. It’ll help you pull back the curtain, see what they’re up to and adjust your efforts accordingly to ensure optimum results from your AdWords campaigns.

In our experience, many companies do not perform PPC competitive research, or don’t do it as often as they should. However, not having the full picture about your PPC competition is risky and can result in running ineffective campaigns. That means wasting your or your client’s budget without netting tangible results or missing the opportunities available to your client by underinvesting.

But recognising the difference that competitor analysis can make in your AdWords campaigns is only the first step. The next step is to find the right tool to help you perform your competitor analysis on a regular basis. The stats and data provided in this article were pulled by our team using SEMrush. It’s a software that we have found invaluable in helping us to provide white label, wholesale digital marketing services to the South African and international digital agencies that we support.

That being said, there are a wealth of similarly effective and powerful digital marketing tracking tools on the market worth investigating. We encourage you to get out there and see what works best for you.

Related: 16-Step Blueprint to Master Your Digital Marketing in 2016

The data that you should drill out of your competitor analysis

On all the levels of digital marketing, there’s a constant rivalry between best practice and revolutionary ideas. The question of whether to follow a well-trodden path or to do things differently in an effort to distinguish the brand you’re working on is always on the table. Or desktop in the case of digital marketing.

However, to make an informed decision you need to know the niche you are playing in as well as its main players. These questions will help you gather that information:

  • Who is your true competitor in paid search?
  • How much do they spend on PPC?
  • What are their most profitable keywords?
  • What do their ads and banners look like?
  • What URLs should your ads target?

Now you know WHAT to ask. But what do you do with the answers and how do you use them to improve your own Adwords performance.

In PART TWO of this blog, we’ll be diving into just that. CLICK HERE TO READ ON!

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