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Why Have a Website at All?
The current Internet statistics boggle the mind of those of use not blessed with an advanced degree in mathematics.  It is a medium that is growing at exponential proportions with an average of 40% of the world’s population having an Internet connection.  The number of Internet users grew by a billion people between 2010 and 2014.   What is driving this exponential growth? The advent of the smart phone has had a profound effect.  As at the time of writing this in November 2015, over two billion smart phone have been sold this year alone. The ease of Internet access and the fact that the cost of data is decreasing adds impetus to this remarkable trend.  We are approaching three and a quarter billion Internet users worldwide.
South African is ranked 24th in the world with regard to the number of Internet users.  We have seen growth of 14% in the last year which represents an additional three million users.  Currently there are almost 25 million Internet users which represents 46.88% of the country’s population.  The website provides interesting reading, and shows live counters for a number of interesting statistics.
As a business owner can you afford not to reach 25 million potential clients in South African?  I often find myself consulting the web for operating hours, directions and contact details.  I have all the information literally in my hand.  Who of us hasn’t seen the ‘zombie’ teenagers walking while they text or browse the net, and had to dive out of their way in shopping centres?  For those of us with children, who hasn’t seen them roll their eyes while explaining to us how to use the computer or cellphone?  These are the tech savvy clients of tomorrow.  To ignore this market is to risk becoming obsolete.  Who would have thought that Kodak would have made a US$ 2.35 billion loss in 2011 and had to declare bankruptcy in February 2012?  They failed to acknowledge the digital age and continued doing things the way they had always done since they were founded in 1888.  When Kodak emerged from bankruptcy in September 2013, their main business segments were digital printing, graphics and entertainment and commercial films.  Embracing modern technology and trends has returned Kodak to profitability.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
So how do you reach these 25 million potential clients? Creating a professional website is only the start.  We are approaching a billion registered websites worldwide.  No one would consider dropping beautifully made advertising leaflets from the nearest skyscraper as an effective marketing strategy.  Dropping a website into the deluge of information on the Internet is tantamount to the same thing.  Potential clients need to be able to find your site when they search for information on the web.  This is why Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has become extremely necessary.  This means that your site must be registered with the search engines, and contain information that they would consider relevant.  In order to get on the first page of a search, you have two choices, either pay Google for an advertising slot or employ SEO.
How important are the likes of Google you may ask. Google processes over 50 000 search requests every second.  The verb to ‘google’ has been added to the Oxford English dictionary, which speaks volumes.
Here are some interesting Google facts that I Googled:
Google intends to scan all known existing 129 million unique books before 2020.
Every day, 16% of the searches that occur are ones that Google has never seen before.
Google earns US$20 billion a year from advertising, more than the primetime revenues of CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX combined.
Google is the world's most visited website beating Facebook.
Google’s original name was Backrub which was based on the system of finding and ranking pages on back links
Google got its existing name by accident. The founders misspelled "googol", which refers to the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes.
On August 16, 2013, Google went down for 5 minutes and in that time, the global Internet traffic dropped by 40%.
A single Google search requires more computing power than it took to send Apollo 11 to the Moon.
The total size of Google Earth's database is over 20 Petabytes which is over a 20 million Gigabytes.
Google takes over 200 factors into account to deliver the best results for any query in a fraction of a second.
The whole basis of SEO is to satisfy as many of Google’s search requirements as possible.  This is done by using ‘key words’ which match potential searches that you would want your website selected for.  Google sends out ‘web robots’ (bots) which search and gather website data.   These bots flag potential sites and seek to identify sites that are invalid or don’t match the key words they are registered for.  There are ways to trick these bots and bypass the work required for SEO, but there are serious risks involved for sites that are identified as fraudulent.
The best way to think about SEO is creating a product that someone else would recommend.  The ‘someone else’ in this case is Google, Bing and a few other search engines.  As the techniques and algorithms of the search engines change, your site must be adjusted to take into account the new requirements.  A site that is regularly updated is going to be recommended before a site that remains static.  A site with original content will feature higher than one that simply copies content from other sites.  The actual factors that search engines take into account when displaying search requests are not published, but tools exist to monitor how content, optimization and structural changes affect your website’s rankings.
An up-to-date optimised website that is correctly registered with the search engines, will be an investment of time and money.  This investment has almost become a necessary as many other forms of advertising are being replaced by digital alternatives.  Coupled with social media the Internet is one of the best advertising platforms available today.
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