Kenyans are increasingly turning to the web for the answers to their questions; new products and services; and even the next career opportunity.
But one of the characteristics of web users is that they can be fickle and they often have short attention spans.
Therefore, if a business is not one of the first top five searches to show up in a search engine query, then chances are that the potential audience or customers won’t see it at all.
So how does a brand make sure that it makes it to the coveted top list of search engine results?
“And getting to the top isn’t automatic. You need to strategise and ensure that your business website meets certain standards that will compel search engines to rank it highly,” says Rehema Abdul, an online marketing specialist.
These strategies are also known as search engine optimisation (SEO). They are tactics employed to boost traffic towards certain websites by making sure that they rank highly in the search engine results.
Any business that wants to draw customers online should ideally master search engine optimisation. However, this is easier said than done. In fact, SEO is becoming so crucial to modern businesses that companies are willing to pay millions to experts who will help them appear on the first page of Google or Bing, says Joseph Prince, SEO expert at Domains Africa Technologies.
But with the proper SEO techniques, even small and medium enterprises can master this art and improve their rankings on search engine results.
To successfully optimise a business website and ensure that it becomes noticeable to potential customers, companies need to get into the mind of the buyer and identify certain key words or phrases that they are likely to use when searching online for products or services offered by the company.
For instance, a middle-class Kenyan in a fairly paying job is likely to do an online car search by typing ‘cost-effective cars’ or ‘cars with less fuel consumption’ in Google or any other search engine.
A car company targeting this market segment has to thus ensure that key words contained in the above phrases feature prominently in all information provided in its website.
Prince notes that the second stage in the optimisation process is to ensure that the identified key words are ‘geo-tagged’ or linked to a particular location.
An online search of cost-effective cars will yield results from websites of companies all over the world.
But the use of ‘cost-effective cars in Kenya’ narrows search engine results to companies found in Kenya only.
“Therefore, if you are targeting the local market, Kenya has to feature prominently as you describe the different types of cars sold by the company in your website.”
By doing this, Prince states that search engines will automatically provide a higher rank for the website as it will contain relevant information that users are looking for.
For maximum effect, he adds that key words should be strategically placed in the title of a website story, first paragraph, as well as picture captions.
To offer an enjoyable online experience for their users, search engine companies usually prioritise websites with user friendly features such as high loading speed and compatibility to mobile phones.
As loading speeds are usually affected by heavy images and videos, web developers should be conversant with software that can effectively compress such pictures whilst retaining their quality.
Since search engine companies seek to provide their users with high quality results, they tend to place websites with authentic and high quality content at the top of their results pages. Websites should also be easy to navigate whilst providing avenues through which potential customers or visitors can contact the company.
Due to their strict policy on high quality content, search engine companies have deployed online software that keep ‘bogus’ sites (such as pages with duplicate content, fake news, keyword stuffing and cloaking features) away from top ranking results. Owners of such websites can also be penalised.
Ms Abdul notes that ranking high on search engine sites is a selection of the few.
“So being there boosts confidence in a company and helps it to get opportunities and new markets from all over the world.”