A Technical Approach to Improving Business in Africa

Published on 1st May 2007

Do you experience low traffic to your website despite the fact that it is very expensive, dynamic, has creative graphics and flashy pages? Are you puzzled by your rival company’s website that is too basic, uses plain text  but gets high hits? Your sales tumble while your rivals’ soar to great heights, driving you out of business.Unfortunately, this is the case with most businesses in Africa, whose websites, as dynamic as they look, don’t do much to support the businesses for which they are intended. Worse still, they are either never ranked or rank lowly on numerous search engines on the World Wide Web.

Just having a nice looking web design is never enough to take care of business. For starters, try searching for any of your products on Google.com (a search engine). Is any of your products available? If yes, where is it ranked? First page, second or third? If you can't find it in any of the pages, try using specific key words attributed to your company. Are the results any better? Can we conclude that search engines are not compatible with African Websites? NO. If you did not find what you were searching for  in any of the search results pages or if your product was ranked low, it  means one thing: your website is not optimised for search engines (SE) hence not properly indexed by the SEs.

Search engines work by sending out a spider (a program that automatically fetches Web pages based on the search query) to fetch as many documents on the internet as possible. By using an indexer, web pages are submitted and indexed based  on usefulness and relevance to the query submitted. Each search engine uses a mathematical formula to ensure that meaningful and relevant results are displayed for each query.As many results as possible from all websites that the SE finds relevant to the query are displayed on the results page.

If pages on your site are displayed along with others on the first page, it means that you are ranked better than all sites that are below you in that particular list.

The importance of having a Website rank well in search engine results  cannot be over-emphasized. If your website is ranked among the top 10 in the results submitted it means that  chances of someone visiting your site are greatly increased. If not, your site cannot sell.

You can make your website and content rank better through Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A lot can be done to optimize your Website for search engines ranging from the design perspective to the actual content. Understanding how the two work would go a long way in ensuring that your website is search engine friendly.

Firstly, on the design point of view, insist on ( for simplicity purposes) a computer language that can be accessed through all major search engines. The basic coding that most well ranked websites use is HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language).

Secondly, avoid using any language that the spiders cannot understand. Since web spiders read what is intended for humans, what they cannot see or understand will also not be seen by human readers.  

Thirdly , your site could be very flashy, graphical, and dynamic based on a flash a program designed to display graphical animation well on the browser, for example, computer games and other graphical presentations. It is unlikely that the web crawlers will index such pages because they only read texts but ignore ALL graphics. If you need to use graphics, be sure to add title and description meta tags that will guide web crawlers to see text describing the graphics.

Fourthly, keep in mind that a website has two primary areas: the Header and the Body. The information that you place in these areas has a huge impact on how a page will be indexed and what may appear in the search engine results page. Web crawlers will read content on your site just like we read: left to right and top to bottom. Content on the top of a page will mean much more to web crawlers than content at the bottom of the page. So it is crucial to ensure that the most important words or phrases on specific tags are to the left of the page and are tagged correctly to avoid being missed by the web crawlers.

Putting specific measures to carefully optimize your site is just but part of what you will need to work on to build more traffic to your site. But it pays since what counts is how search engines see your effort. To get a sneak preview on how your site fares with spiders, go to http://www.gritechnologies.com/tools/spider.go where you will be prompted to type in your URL (website address) to see whether your site is search engine friendly or not. The results you get on this page will give you an idea of where to begin.

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