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Mobile Design and SEO Best Practices: Essential Tips

The growth in the Mobile Industry over the last decade has made it paramount for all businesses to have Mobile Sites in order to reach this growing new target market.

Current local (South Africa) trends show that:

  • There are ten million mobile Internet users in SA (Five million PC Internet users in SA)
  • One in six Google searches in SA originates off a mobile device.
  • In South Africa about 40 percent of mobile phone users have WAP-enabled phones.
  • The top Mobile Applications currently in South Africa are: Mxit – with 15 million+ users – and Facebook.
  • Mobile search and eCommerce will be a large area of growth in 2010.

In short, this indicates an importance for businesses to target mobile searchers and users of mobile applications.

Some of the best Mobile Site examples I can give include BBC, the Goal mobi site, and College Humour (N/B: “these examples obviously look better on your mobile phone – feel free to suggest your favourite mobile sites below“).

However, when creating a Mobile Site it is also imperative to build and optimise the Mobile Sites so it is user-friendly and accessible on the Mobile Web.

Mobile Design and SEO Best Practices
When designing a Mobile Site one aspect to consider is that one must understand that mobile searchers/users are different from PC searchers/users. In order to cater for Mobile users designers must:

  • Provide an elegant experience by considering whether individuals possess a smart phone (for example an iPhone with fully featured web browsing) or a standard mobile phone (with stripped site features).
  • Consider that phones are not used like PC’s – users are usually on the go therefore the site should be more goal oriented – Relevancy and Simplicity is key.
  • Mobile designs are to conform to the new W3C standards in order to create mobile-friendly style sheets (CSS).
  • Mobile Sites must be small, lightweight and fast-loading site – (< 20kb / page).
  • Consider User Agent Detection –  this is another form of transcoding which takes into consideration the type of mobile phone an individual uses to search and provides more uniform browsing experience for various device types.

Once the Mobile Site has been built, Mobile SEO steps can now come into play. These include:

1.    Validating the page with the .Mobi Validator or the W3C Validator
2.    Following ‘traditional’ on-site  SEO Best Practices such as:

  • Major keywords in the title tagging
  • H1′s and body text
  • Rich keyword Meta Titles and Descriptions
  • Keyword-rich anchor text for internal links

3.    Mobile Search results tend to reflect ‘Local Search results’ – your site must be optimized for local type searches. Also submit your business info to local directories making sure your site is verified and included in sites like Google’s Local Business Center.
4.    Get the Mobile Site spidered and indexed – submit to major search engines:

In short, the above Mobile Design and SEO factors are to be strongly considered when building a Mobile Site. These aspects help provide a solid Mobile Site foundation for your Mobile Campaign or Strategy. For further Mobile Campaign or Strategy enquiries, visit our Virtuosa website.

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Watch out Facebook and Twitter, Google Buzz has arrived

Its official there is a new big dog in the social media space. Just a week after Google launched Buzz, the social media service is already rattling the cage of top dogs Facebook and Twitter. It seems as if Google has finally made a successful foray into the social media world. Despite initial privacy flaws Google Buzz has proven to be an absolute success.

Google Buzz has surprised many experts who thought Google would never make it in the social media world. In the past Google suffered embarrassing setbacks with their attempts at creating a rival to Facebook and Twitter. Google Friend Connect and Orkut never really left the ground but Google Buzz shot into outer space.

The growth of the newest challenger to the social media crown has been phenomenal. According to statistics released by Google, just after the launch on the 9th of February 2010, there have been over 9 million posts and comments in about 56 hours, amounting to around 160,000 posts and comments per hour.

Google Buzz

Google Buzz also generated big shock waves in mobile phone market. Google revealed that over 200 mobile check-ins per minute, nearly 300,000 mobile check-ins per day. The key to this success is the fact that Google Buzz is embedded into Gmail.

Gmail has millions of users around the world and by putting the Google buzz tab just under the inbox tab; Google applied a very innovative idea. When a user logs into their Gmail account they are greeted by a Google Buzz tab. The system is almost similar to Twitter the greatest difference is its integration to Gmail.

Many Gmail users find the system very convenient, when they open their e-mail account, they can quickly read the newest mail and won’t have to leave the account to create a social media post. Twitter, Flicker, Picasa and Google Reader can also be connected to the system. You can share pictures but this will be saved at Picasa. The most convenient aspect of Google buzz is that you don’t have to set it up if you have a Gmail account.

Key Features

  • Simple interface
  • No set up required
  • Social media integration
  • E-mail integration

Initially there were major privacy concerns. The system had an auto follow function where a user automatically followed people he regularly sent e-mails to. According to Ben Parr Co-Editor of Mashable “the auto follow function can let people figure out your email habits.” Google has changed this to an auto suggested model. This allows you to control who you follow. Another concern is that your inbox can be flooded by Buzz spam.

There are clear indications that Google Buzz is already taking some market share from Twitter and Facebook. People are spending more time on their Gmail accounts than before and this is surely taking some time from Twitter and Facebook. The Buzz threatens Twitter and Facebook’s ad revenue. Advertisers are certain to be impressed with the reach that Google Buzz has.

The future of Google Buzz will depend on how it is going to react to upgrades by the two social media giants. Some predict there is going to be a major dog fight between the three networks. If this fight gets very intense Google buzz will be the last network standing. Google has immense resources and will be able to match any upgrade. Google has been salivating for some time now at the prospect of properly sinking its teeth into the social media world. It has shown great determination at penetrating the social media realm overcoming numerous setbacks. Like a hungry dog biting into a bone it won’t let go of its new grip on social media.

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Google Wave is cutting edge but is it safe?

Google Wave is very innovative and at the lead of cutting edge social media technology. It was launched in late September 2009. Many people might say that it is technically superior to its closest competitors, Twitter, Facebook, and Flicker but it has been slow in gaining significant market share. Basically Google wave is an online tool for real time communication and collaboration.  ICT Practitioner, Aleshia Thompson says the only difference  of Google wave from other social media is that when the user is typing on their computer the receiver at the other end can see it word for word immediately-as they type in real time.

The Wave has many exciting uses. It can be used for organizing events, group projects, photo sharing, meeting notes, brainstorming and interactive games. People can work together even if they are geographically far apart.  They can edit each other’s work in real time on one document using different computers in different locations.  The wave can connect different social media platforms. An update on Wave can also simultaneously appear on Twitter and Facebook. One can also video chat on Wave. The most distinctive feature about wave is the translation tool. If you send a message in English but your contact prefers French it will appear in French one their computer. Your contacts French response will appear in English on your computer.

The Google is very versatile and its featured extensions are:

However this state of the art system has its flaws.  Most new users have cited the fact that you are only able to use this new technology if you’ve received an invitation; this means Google Wave is not yet used by the mainstream users. Speed and security has also been mentioned as some of the biggest draw backs to the system. Many users say Wave is sometimes slow, and that they don’t have anybody to chat with because their contacts don’t have invites yet. Many speculators believe that the reason why Google wave has been slow to gain market share is because of the invitations.

The security fear far outweighs the two above.  Toronto SEO expert Allan Pollet said “One thing that greatly concerns me is the fact that these waves are an ongoing conversation, it is disturbing because they are conversations, which is recorded in fine detail.” “Every edit, correction, deletion, addition, mistyping is saved and can be played back by everyone who shares in the wave. “My concern is also with the fact that there is no obvious delete button. Yes you can un-follow a wave but when you do it is still live on other people’s computers.”

One can easily see why Google named this innovative product “Wave” because it is quite literally the next wave in communications. No more waiting, the future is here with Google Wave. Many companies small or big are likely to ride the Google Wave once it becomes mainstream.  Safety issues aside, the general public is likely going to find the interconnectivity of Wave too hard to resist.  Other social media platforms are going to have to become very creative to compete with “Wave” in the future.


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Will growth in South African Internet usage improve user experience?

According to the Internet Access in South Africa 2010 study, conducted by World Wide Worx and jointly sponsored by Cisco, the number of South African Internet users passed the 5-million mark for the first time, breaking through the 10% mark in Internet penetration for the country. The study shows that the South African Internet user base grew by 15% last year, from 4.6-million to 5.3-million, and is expected to grow at a similar rate in 2010. Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, says that the growth will continue in 2010 and that the 6 million mark will be reached by the end of the year.

While the number of Internet users were stagnant between 2002 and 2007, the contributing factors to this growth are the landing of a SEACOM last year, grants of Electronic Communications Network Service licenses to over 400 organisations and also a continued uptake of broadband connectivity by small and medium enterprises.

Reshaad Sha, Senior Manager for Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, comments that South African consumers and businesses are demanding access to online applications and services that can only be experienced via high speed connectivity, such as fibre-optic networks. He says the year ahead will see the proliferation of high speed connectivity materialising more widely than ever before.

How can this affect our experience online?
The recent reduction in broadband costs is having a huge affect on the use of internet in South Africa and will continue to do so during 2010. Cost reductions make high speed connectivity more affordable, not only to businesses but also the normal man on the street. Therefore, I would expect to see a huge growth trend in the overall Internet usage for South Africa in 2010.

More affordable connectivity will allow an increasing number of users to go online and the demand will affect connectivity from homes, the office and mobile devices.

Let’s face it, Internet costs in South Africa have not been the cheapest and you still get people who are afraid of spending hours online, afraid of the cost, therefore limiting the time they spend online.

That picture is going to change dramatically and should cause an influx of many “inexperienced” consumers who will be flocking to social networks or have the need to establish themselves online as first time users. At home, many folks will acquire a connection for the first time or they may be changing from a dialup to broadband or even from a small broadband package to one with larger upload and download speeds. Whatever the scenario, it simply means that more families will start spending time online and more people will be exposed to the Internet. This is laying the foundation for many of the younger generations to come.

There will also be small companies who will swop their dialup’s for better connectivity and their staff will increase their time spent online, moving away from just connecting to check mail or reading the odd news article to spending hours browsing and researching. These smaller companies will also look at getting themselves some kind of online presence (if they don’t have one) or will seek to improve their current site. Bigger companies who are Internet savvy will similarly upgrade their broadband connectivity while at the same time invest in improving the upload/download capacity of the server where their sites are hosted.

I don’t expect marketing strategies to change much from what we’ve seen in 2009. The increase of numbers in the market space as well as the improved speed of broadband will certainly make companies realise the potential and they will try to take advantage of it by either improving their own stable or by renewing/continuing their marketing efforts.

I do foresee that an increasing number of individuals and corporates will look at their own websites, knowing that previous limitations regarding high quality visuals or video streaming won’t be there any longer and they will start to look at implementing improved interactivity to their sites.

I see this as a little chain of events. Cheaper rates and improved broadband speeds will increase the demand in connectivity while at the same time improve the quality of websites and web applications online which in turn will also provide online marketing and design agencies the opportunity to improve the quality of sites and services.

So am I saying that cheaper, faster internet connections will bring better experience online? I guess I am. It may not happen overnight, but by the end of 2010 we could see some improvement in general which will just set the trend for 2011. Only time will tell.

How can this affect our behaviour?
One thing about human nature is that we either get used to something and accept it for what it is, or we get dissatisfied and look for something better. When we discover that we can get a better solution for a fraction of the cost we are currently paying, or a faster broadband service for the same price, we jump at the chance. We will invest time and money to explore it, play with it and make it our own. This happens to individuals who operate independantly as well as individuals who make decisions for large corporates. Whether we are accessing the Internet from our homes, the office or our mobiles, we will always want something better, faster and cheaper to power us into whatever we do online.

In conclusion, I completely agree with Mr. Reshaad Sha from Cisco. In 2010, South African consumers and businesses will demand a higher level of access to online applications and services as well as better experiences via high speed connectivity. This is putting the responsibility on Service Providers and Design/Marketing Agencies alike to make it all happen. Let’s hope they all respond in kind.

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Recognition for the Virtuosa monthly newsletter

It was with great delight that one of the Virtuosa team members (Luis de Aveiro) stumbled upon an article on the Designrfix website featuring our very own monthly newsletter – Newsletter Design: 50+ Great Examples. Our newsletter is truly a labour of love and we are very proud to see it getting recognition in the industry as well as inspiring others.

click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletter

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Christmas Party with a Difference

On Friday the 11th of December, Virtuosa had their Christmas party and needless to say it was one that touched more than just the Virtuosa team member lives.

The day started with the team separated into groups and by participating in a game similar to the Amazing race – each group had different tasks to complete. While we were trying to figure out the clues running from one destination to another, each group had to collect a reward from one of the stopping points. One group had to collect and carry garden tools while the others had to pick up rolls of grass and trees for planting: it was clear from then on that we were not on our way to a party venue at all.

As the teams arrived at the final destination, we were surprised to be greeted by the school children at Witkoppen School – a “less fortunate” school within the community of Fourways, Johannesburg. The challenge for the day were to plant the grass and trees for the kids at this school and the Virtuosa team got straight to work as you can see below.

Virtuosa team hard at workGo teamMelt Du Plooy hard at work

With a sense of giving back to the community, the whole team took up the challenge with enthusiasm. Virtuosa also volunteered to paint one of the classroom walls with the Witkoppen School logo & motif  (images below).

Witkoppen School painting by Virtuosa

As a team, we are proud to be giving back something to the community and to have the opportunity to do something different for our year end party. What better way to build team moral and spent the whole day together as a team. It was totally AWESOME (describing my feelings in layman’s terms) to spend time with the children of Witkoppen School as they appreciated our presence and gift.

Virtuosa Team at LunchVirtuosa "support" teamPlanting treesThe children at Witkoppen SchoolPierre and Grant play soccer with the kidsBryce paints the wall

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Dion Chang -2010 Threshold

Dion Chang, Trends Analyst ended of a very interesting morning with his 10 things for 2010.

  • Peak experience
    We all have high point  and low points in live. 2008/2009 will be remembered for the financial crisis the world experienced. Brands need to adapt to this changing consumer mindset.
  • Shift in value system
    2009 very demanding year that govern a change in our lives which led to a questioning of value system on a very personal level.
  • New world order
    Consumers are taking back the power, taking more responsibility over their purchase decisions
  • Shift of power
    Move away from power-hungry, greed-based leadership model towards a more ethical and responsible style of leadership
  • The female century
    Along with shift of power also a shift from left brain, logical thinking towards a more right brained, intuitive approach
  • Social media
    Boundaries such as a race, geography and culture become less important and shared interest matters more
  • Tribes
    No longer able to box people in set categories and think that they will react the way you want them to – throwing traditional marketing on its head
  • Pick and mix society
    People have freedom to pick and choose products, gadgets, lifestyles etc which has led to multi-coloured spectrum of individuality
  • Ambient awareness
    Information overload leads to the development of filter/alerts to help us cope with this
  • Empathetic economy
    Civil society demands more ethical traits as we reach a fork in the road concerning our economy

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Dr Alan Knott-Craig on the Telecommunication Environment in 2010

The 2nd last speaker at The Annual was Dr Alan Knot-Craig former Vodacom CEO that discussed issues and possible predictions in relations to the Telecommunication Environment in 2010:

  • Mobile operators will reduce some of their tariffs by some 20%. The opportunity will be lower input costs for business and consumers but challenge on the other hand to incentives private investors to continue investing in infrastructure.
  • Television broadcast to mobile phones may become reality and impact current pay TV
  • Broadband speeds should increase by 50%
  • Lower margins will squeeze out competitors
  • Vodacom as a brand may disappear and Vodafone will enter the arena

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Glen Lomas – The World Cup, Streakers and Marketers

Glen Lomas – CEO, DDB South Africa had a refreshingly different outlook from some of the previous speakers at The Annual. Some of his advise for marketers that are still debating what to do and say around the World Cup:

  • Don’t lose your head
    Wonderful to get excited but keep your head especially when it comes to budgets in this economy
  • Event fans, not football fans
    Most people watch it as a spectacle, not necessary because they are football fans
  • Don’t force football relevance
    If the fit isn’t natural don’t force it – most common error
  • Leave a legacy post 2010
    If you just state how excited about the World Cupyou are in your marketing, what are people going to be left with after this? Time is limited and your window of opportunity is small. Be impactful, brief, to the point, know that the attention span of people are limited, use it wisely.
  • Own some real estate
    Not everybody is going to the game, use things like rural fan parks, cinemas, radio with relevant sponsorship
  • Capture the mood
    People want to have fun, raise the spirits
  • Be real, bare your soul
    Nothing worse than to be fake, do one activity that shows your real brand value
  • Take everyone you know – not just your clients

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Matthew Buckland, The future of Media: Now and Beyond

Matthew Buckland – General Manager Publishing & Social Media, 24.com had some intersting facts to share not just about 2010 but also the years beyond.

  • Media is undergoing a foreign change – technology is shifting power away from the editors, publishers, mass media
  • Media is experience competitors from their own readers – citizen journalist
  • Media experiencing competitors from non media companies like National Arts Festival, publishing via blog & website
  • Idea – All companies on the web is essentially media companies
  • Everyon’s a reporter – virally passed along
  • Mass media increasingly not the major influence on society it once was
  • Rise of individuals and entrepreneurs – open source
  • Mobile entering the mainstream
  • Most online publishers expect their mobile sites to surpass their traditional sites in the near future


  • Focus on developing filters and aggregators to deal with information overload
  • “Switch off” holidays will be required

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