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Search engine strategies: a model to improve website visibility for SMME websites
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The Internet has become the fastest growing technology the world has ever seen. It also has the ability to permanently change the face of business, including e-business. The Internet has become an important tool required to gain potential competitiveness in the global information environment. Companies could improve their levels of functionality and customer satisfaction by adopting e-commerce, which ultimately could improve their long-term profitability. Those companies who do end up adopting the use of the Internet, often fail to gain the advantage of providing a visible website. Research has also shown that even though the web provides numerous opportunities, the majority of SMMEs (small, medium and micro enterprises) are often ill equipped to exploit the web’s commercial potential. It was determined in this research project through the analysis of 300 websites, that only 6.3% of SMMEs in the Western Cape Province of South Africa appears within the top 30 results of six search engines, when searching for services/products. This lack of ability to produce a visible website is believed to be due to the lack of education and training, financial support and availability of time prevalent in SMMEs. For this reason a model was developed to facilitate the improvement of SMME website visibility. To develop the visibility model, this research project was conducted to identify potential elements which could provide a possible increase in website visibility. A criteria list of these elements was used to evaluate a sample of websites, to determine to what extent they made use of these potential elements. An evaluation was then conducted with 144 different SMME websites by searching for nine individual keywords within four search engines (Google, MSN, Yahoo, Ananzi), and using the first four results of every keyword from every search engine for analysis. Elements gathered through academic literature were then listed according to the usage of these elements in the top-ranking websites when searching for predetermined keywords. Further qualitative research was conducted to triangulate the data gathered from the literature and the quantitative research. The evaluative results provided the researcher with possible elements / designing techniques to formulate a model to develop a visible website that is not only supported by arrant research, but also through real current applications. The research concluded that, as time progresses and technology improves, new ways to improve website visibility will evolve. Furthermore, that there is no quick method for businesses to produce a visible website as there are many aspects that should be considered when developing “visible” websites.