Startup MGZN

3 things startups should bear in mind when establishing a digital presence

As a startup, when you are trying to establish your presence and grab your share of the market, time is of essence. Amidst such rush, many startups often tend to ignore a basic fact: the importance of having a proper presence online.

Generally, it is a tendency among business owners to hire a web design and development agency, narrate a brief overview of their requirements, and be done with it. While this does help you get online in no time, it can have an adverse effect on your startup’s brand later on.

So, what are some of the major considerations that you can bear in mind when creating an online presence for your business? More importantly, how can you save money in the process and avoid overspending on mobile or web design and development?

Stay tuned and read on, because this article will answer the above questions.

The Website

Do not let any random idea undervalue the importance of having a proper website for your business. Even if most of your sales happen offline and your target clientele is not online all the time, you still need at least a basic website for your business.

With that said, there are various ways to build a website. Here are some things that you should try to follow:

First, by all means, avoid the free or cheap “build websites in ten minutes” page builders. While you can have a functional (and often good-looking) website within minutes, the bargain is just not worth the trouble. Issues can arise later on in terms of SEO (as you will not have absolute control over your site’s code), or even scalability (such website builders only offer a limited level of customization abilities). Hire a proper web developer or agency for this task.

Second, make sure you have your business address and contact details mentioned properly on your site. Nowadays, most people tend to Google for solutions online and then locate a business that offers the required solution. To make your business discoverable, your website must mention such info. A good idea is to place your registered address (or PO Box) in the website’s footer on all pages, and have a properly labelled “Contact” page with contact details.

But What About Mobile?

It is common knowledge by now that the importance of mobile devices cannot be overlooked. With virtually every other user nowadays using a smartphone or tablet to access the internet, how do you prepare your web presence to cope with it?

The concept is simple. First, you need a responsive website. Irrespective of the screen size of the device, your website should look flawless and scale accordingly.

At this point, UX considerations are something you need to discuss with your web designer/developer. How important is the menu? Should you show the most vital menu entries on top, or should it all be a slideout menu? What about the social sharing buttons? Whatever you do, do not omit them. Furthermore, your social sharing buttons should be smartly adjusted — WhatsApp and Viber (for example) sharing buttons should be predominantly visible on mobile devices, whereas these can be given a backseat on desktop version of your site.

Having a mobile application for your site is a great idea. But you must first decide whether you need a native app or a hybrid one (the latter is essentially pulling data from your website and showcasing it in the form of an app). It costs much more to get a native app developed, albeit the maintenance and overhead costs are subsequently lesser. If your startup is into eCommerce, make sure your mobile app integrates seamlessly with the payment gateway (in other words, it does not make back and forth calls to your desktop site).

SEO and Social Media

Search Engine Optimization and social media campaigns are an often-talked-about entity, but rarely fully tapped.

In terms of SEO, any good web design agency or freelancer should go out of the way to add metadata and other relevant tags to help search engines access your site. At this stage, make sure you talk to your developers and ask for Open Graph metadata to be added properly. Confused? Well, OG data is what social media sites deal with when showing your content — say, someone shares a link from your site on Facebook, OG data is what FB will use to pull an image preview and short summary of the link.

If incorrectly added, Open Graph data can cause problems when your website’s links are shared on social media. Thankfully, even if you are not a developer yourself, you can easily check the status of OG data on your site using Facebook’s free tool. Head over here, enter your site’s URL, and check the results. See any errors? Bring it up with the developers!

Next, be sure to implement local SEO on your site if your business is location-specific. Most businesses tend to be location-specific — say you are a startup that offers a mobile wallet to people in Bahrain. While your product can possibly be used by folks outside Bahrain, your primary audience is still in Bahrain. Local SEO means Google and other search engines can show previews about your business when someone searches for “xyz near me”, with xyz being the service or product in question. Once again, your web design agency or developers should be able to accomplish this easily (note that certain search engines, such as Google, tend to take a few days to index your site — there is no authentic way to speed it up).

To Sum it Up

Lastly, some other key areas where you can avoid overspending when establishing a web presence for your startup:

  1. An SSL certificate has become very essential nowadays, with more and more browsers preferring SSL sites. However, avoid overspending on such certificates. Instead, ask your developer to opt for free SSL certificate, such as one from Let’s Encrypt. These certificates are equally accepted and globally recognized, and can save you a lot of money in the long run. (Note that certain banks and payment gateways might insist on a paid SSL certificate of their choice).
  2. Register your domain name in the name of your business (or your name). Your design/development agency should only be added as a “technical contact”. Further, a domain name is something that you will not change anytime soon — go for two or more years’ registration to get a bulk discount.
  3. Frame a proper content and social media marketing strategy for your website. However, if you are hiring an agency to establish your entire web presence, certain tasks should be done pro bono. For instance, if a given company is designing your logo, building your site, developing a mobile app and setting up your SEO and social media channels, content strategy formulation should either be heavily discounted or on the house. The reasoning here is not to save the extra buck or deprive them of their money — no sane agency or person can frame a social media strategy without first setting up a basic content publishing strategy for the website (if you have no content, what will you share on social media anyway?). In other words, if you are being billed separately for the two (content strategy plus social media promotion), you are paying twice for the same service. Note that here “content strategy” does not refer to actual content, but a set of policies about when, how and what type of content should you be publishing to get maximum results.

That sums it all up, folks! Establishing a successful web presence for a startup may seem like a daunting task at first. But with the right efforts, it can be accomplished easily and can yield amazing results for the growth and promotion of your business.

Sufyan bin Uzayr

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the Director of Parakozm, a Manama-based design and development company specializing in web, mobile and UI/UX design as well as software, Android/iOS and web development. Sufyan is also an experienced web developer and a published author, having written multiple books on various subjects. He is associated with various publications in editorial/writing capacity. Sufyan can be reached at sufyan@parakozm.com