There’s no denying that Africa is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It’s a continent filled with a diverse mix of cultures, customs, architecture, and culinary delights. As you might expect, it’s a fantastic place for entrepreneurs to launch and grow businesses.
As with other parts of the world, the Internet helps businesses in Africa to enjoy increased custom and improved brand visibility, plus business websites are relatively straightforward to set up and operate.
However, it’s worth remembering that African-based businesses should tweak how they operate and promote their websites – especially if they want to sell to a global audience.
With the above in mind, take a look at the following 15 ways you can boost your online growth, whether you’re an African business or have an presence on the continent:
1. Offer Content In Local Languages
Harvard University estimates there are around 2,000 different languages spoken in Africa, 75 of which have 1+ million speakers. As you can appreciate, some people don’t speak English, so translating your content into local languages makes sense.
The languages you consider will depend on your target demographic. For example, Arabic is a good idea for much of northern Africa, whereas Zulu and Afrikaans are excellent choices for South Africa.
Consider getting your content professionally translated, rather than relying on something like the automatic translation option in Google Chrome, and create different language versions of all pages on your site.
Remember to keep canonicalization in mind, so you can inform search engines which translations are the most important for each page.
2. Focus On Regional Keyword Research
You likely already know the importance of keyword research when creating content on your website. Relevant keywords will help your pages rank higher in search engine results pages – meaning you’ll receive more visitors to your site through organic searches.
However, it makes sense to focus your keyword research on regional terms, such as “Harare shipping services” or “outsourced IT services in Heliopolis.”
If you’re unsure of the best regional keywords to target, read up on long-tail keywords and use online tools like Google’s Keyword Planning Tool to guide you.
3. Ensure All Content Is Mobile-Friendly
The GSM Association states that around 46% of the sub-Saharan population had a mobile phone in 2021, which they say is set to rise to 50% by 2025.
With so many people using smartphones in their daily lives across Africa, ensuring all website content gets mobile-optimised makes sense.
Thankfully, many themes for content management systems like WordPress and e-commerce platforms like OpenCart come with responsive designs as standard. That means pages will automatically adapt to desktop or mobile screens.
4. Host Your Website Locally
Whether your business is in Lagos or Lusaka, you must ensure your website gets hosted in your country of business. Websites located on hosts (servers) far from you can take longer to load than those in nearby towns or cities.
Africa has a plentiful supply of web hosts that offer features such as 100% uptime and low latency, so you shouldn’t have any issues finding a suitable web host for your website.
5. Use A Content Delivery Network
Your website will almost certainly get seen by people in other parts of the world. As mentioned above, websites located far away from you geographically can take a long time to load compared to local or regional ones.
One way to make your website content load quickly from any area of the world is by serving it from a CDN (content delivery network) like Amazon AWS.
CDNs essentially mirror your local content onto servers in various geographical locations, and they can be beneficial for serving static content like images and information pages.
6. Submit Your Site To African Search Engines
While it’s true that getting your website indexed by search engines like Google and Bing is an essential part of SEO (search engine optimisation), you should remember other local and regional search engines and directories. Examples include:
- Ananzi (South Africa);
- GhanaWeb (Ghana);
- Egypt Business Directory (Egypt).
Because of their niche audiences, African search engines and directories contain fewer web links, meaning less competition for your business, so it’s effectively a win-win outcome for your organisation.
7. Get Backlinks From Top African Websites
Another vital way to make your African business website more prominent on the Internet is through an ongoing backlink campaign. Backlinks are where you ask website owners to provide a relevant link to a page on your site from their content.
It’s worth researching the top African websites and compiling a list of ones relevant to your industry or niche market. That way, you can ask if they will provide a backlink to your site.
You can approach such a topic in many ways, such as asking site owners to review your products or services or even providing them financial compensation for the link.
8. Be Consistent With Your Contact Details
Your business likely has various options for customers to contact you, such as a telephone number, fax number, email address, retail location, and even a mobile number for WhatsApp calls and messages.
It would be best to remain consistent with those contact details, using them to help you promote your brand across various websites, search engines, directories, and social media platforms.
That way, people searching for your contact details online won’t get confused by conflicting contact numbers or email addresses, for instance.
9. Optimise Your Page Loading Speed
When a potential customer visits your website, you have just a few seconds to convince them to stay there and visit different areas of it, such as product pages.
One reason for high bounce rates (people leaving a web page or site quickly after visiting) is page loading delays. You can avoid that problem by ensuring your site’s content loads fast.
Using a CDN, as mentioned in point five, is one way to achieve that goal, but there are other ideas to consider:
- Reducing image sizes;
- Reducing the HTML code used on your pages;
- Installing a caching solution on your web server.
10. Use Local TLDs (Top-Level Domains)
It’s no secret that .com domains are popular for businesses targeting an international audience. While that might be something you’re considering, you should remember your local audiences, as they likely provide the bulk of your turnover.
You might not realise it, but Africa has a broad range of localised TLDs (top-level domains). For example, Egypt has .eg, Cameroon has .com, and Zimbabwe has the .zw TLD. Consider registering your brand name with the appropriate country-level TLD.
11. Secure Your Site With Strong TLS Encryption
Internet security is often at the forefront of people’s minds whenever they go online. Consumers want to be sure any information they transmit over the Internet is secure and isn’t likely to get stolen by nefarious third parties.
Installing a TLS certificate on your website gives visitors the confidence that they need to browse and even buy products from your online home without any data theft.
12. Pay Attention To The UX (User Experience)
Your website design should focus on the UX or user experience rather than solely making it search engine-friendly. Visitors to your site should find it easy to navigate your content and easily find the information they need.
You must remember that some of your visitors, especially those in rural areas, might use slow 3G mobile data connections to go online. That’s why your content and how it gets ordered should make sense and be quick to navigate.
13. Create Mobile Apps For Your Website
What is the point of creating a mobile app for your business website, you might ask yourself? The truth is that mobile apps can serve multiple functions for your brand.
For example, it can load an offline version of your content – which is helpful for people with limited Internet connectivity. It can offer other features, such as product demonstration videos and similar helpful content.
14. Optimise Your Content For Voice Searches
Convenience is an essential prerequisite of any modern website. Consumers want to take the path of least resistance to find what they need online, and they want the websites they visit to help them quickly and with the least amount of input possible.
That’s why more people conduct voice searches on the Internet, such as using IoT devices like Alexa. You can help your site rank better for voice-based searches by:
- Using structured data (HTML “schema markup”);
- Writing your content in a conversational way;
- Create an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section on your website.
15. Create Local Landing Pages
Last, but not least, look at creating landing pages tailored for local markets. For example, create content for each major town and city you service and write unique copy for those pages.
When people search for phrases like “car repair workshops in Nairobi”, your website can prominently feature in relevant search engine results pages. Ensure you research the competition for each keyword or phrase and adjust your landing page content accordingly.