Youth of UAE embraces the world of social media

Facebook recently reached the momentous landmark of having 500 million users. When you consider there are close to 7 billion on planet earth this means that 7% of the world’s population is on Facebook.

In certain countries such as the United States, the UK much of Europe and Japan almost everyone between the age of 15 and 29 has a Facebook account. However in these countries the internet has existed for a several years and young people are now growing up with the technology.

But this does not show the full Facebook picture. There are lots of countries where the internet is a much more recent phenomenon and it is changing the way young people in particular interact and share information.

For example the UAE perhaps does not have the world’s fastest most reliable internet service but the Facebook penetration is very high. It could be argued that because the population is much smaller in comparison to the US and the UK it is not a fair statistic.

On the other hand, it could be argued that the high Facebook penetration shows just how much of an influence the social networking site has. If people have access to the internet, depending on their age and other demographics, they will almost certainly have a Facebook account.

The UAE has become an important region of financial investment and infrastructure growth. It is now home to the world’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa. Dubai is a city which has emerged from the desert as a leading centre for a wide variety of businesses and industries.

facebook marketingIn Europe and America nearly all businesses now have websites and the standard is always climbing. Businesses are now putting a lot of effort and money into web marketing and SEO because they understand that in such competitive markets and advantage or opportunities must be exploited to the fullest.

The car manufacturing giant, Ford revolutionised personal travel by implementing mass manufacturing to produce the Model T which really opened up the car market to a much wider group of people.

In 2010 Ford again revolutionised the industry by launching its new Explorer model only on Facebook. More and more businesses are looking to social media for marketing opportunities as it offers businesses the chance to interact with customers and to gain valuable insight into products and services.

Middle East Netizens are on the Rise

Web design UAEOver the last couple of decades the Internet has become a huge worldwide phenomenon.  Latest global figures show that the number of internet users (also known as ‘Netizens’) now stands on the verge of exceeding 2 billion!

Of that total a whopping 64 million of them are in the Middle East, accounting for a staggering growth rate of 1825% over the past decade.  Amazingly this growth rate is 15x that of what was seen in North America over the same period.

As more and more people are gaining access to the Internet, it is the perfect opportunity for companies to move their business to the Web.

At the start of the Internet age Europeans and North Americans were by far the largest users. However, this is gradually changing as other continents embrace the World Wide Web. In recent years there has been a big increase in Internet users in regions such as Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Since 2000, the number of users in Africa and the Middle East has increased by around 1,800%. Meanwhile, Asia has gathered 704 million users – over 300 million more than any other region, encompassing about 42% of worldwide users. This can be attributed to large population in Asia; a staggering 3.8 billion of the 6.7 billion people on earth (that is 56%) live in Asia.

Another change is that Europe has overtaken North America as the second biggest user of the Internet. In terms of percentage of their population Asia is still quite far behind, with North America having the highest figure. Only 18.5% of Asians use the Internet, while half of Europeans do and three quarters of North Americans do. In the Middle East, 30% of people use the Internet today, however, this reach is rapidly increasing and as it does the importance of businesses being well presented online becomes ever more apparent.

Computers and the Internet are modern inventions which therefore effortlessly fit into modern life of Europeans and North Americans. Many Africans and Middle Easterners have very different lifestyles and this is reflected in the figures. Asia is a mixture of old and new, but modernising all the time, thus the increase in Internet users. As developing nations like Asia, Africa, and the Middle become more technologically advanced this trend is likely to continue.

Businesses and organizations in the Middle East that want to capitalize on everything the Internet has to offer should look no further than the web design and development firm, MintTwist. Originally based out of London, MintTwist has successfully created websites and marketing strategies for a wide variety of companies over the past eleven years. They are now entering into the foreign marketplace with the opening of Mint Twist Dubai. The growth of business and Internet seen within Dubai and the Middle East could not be better supported and facilitated than by the experts at Mint Twist.

The browser war continues

For those working in the web design industry, browser choice is often a topic filled with debate. For anyone who surfs the net browser choicer can also be a very personal matter and recent data suggests that browser choice is increasingly diversified.

In the beginning there was Netscape Navigator. However by 2002 the browser had all but disappeared. This was primarily down to the growth in Internet Explorer, and the dwindling development efforts by the Netscape Corporation.

Internet explorer is a bit like Ghenkis Khan and the Mongol Empire. Perhaps not the most obvious comparison, but give me a chance. So, Internet Explorer was launched in 1995 and by 2003 had a market share of close to 95%. Between the year 1206 and 1280 the Mongol Empire grew to stretch from Korea to Moscow.

The rapid expansion of the Mongol Empire is much like Internet Explorers rapid growth in popularity. The development of Internet Explorer was also fairly rapid and progressive. The Mongols were also progressive and introduced new technology and new thinking into a medieval Eurasia.

However like all Empires, over time cracks begin to appear. For the Mongols, their days of power were numbered and to make matters worse the epic trade routes that were built up now helped spread the Black Death which decimated both Mongol and other populations.

browser warsIn 2010 Internet Explorer had a market share of 60% which is a long way of its 2003 peak of 95%. This begs the question, what happened? The answer is quite straightforward. Mozilla happened.

Mozilla created the web browser Firefox and it really came into its own with its 3.5 and 3.6 versions and now their latest version, Firefox 4 is available to download. The browser is currently competing with Internet Explorer for top spot, but right now it has a market share of about 30%.

Internet explorer was never going to maintain a market share of 95%. Competition from Mozilla, Google’s Chrome and Safari ensured this. In my own experience having started with Internet Explorer, then on to Google Chrome, I am now using Firefox 4 and have found it to be an excellent web browser.

In my field of SEO and web marketing I believe Firefox offers me the best web browsing experience. It is well designed, easy to use and highly customable. The amount and variety Firefox Add-ons available is exceptional and definitely provides me with very important data and information.

Greg Jacobs

Content Manager
MintTwist

Online shopping continues to flourish in the UAE

Web marketing DubaiIt was recently announced by MasterCard that online shopping is a growing trend in Dubai. According to the company, the percentage of people who use the internet to carry out their shopping grew from 29 per cent in 2009 to 42 per cent in 2010.

The MasterCard study showed that the most influential group are those between the age of 25 and 44 and within that group, those between 35 and 44 will use online shopping more frequently. There are a number of explanations for this but perhaps the most obvious and logical is that those aged 35 and above will have more disposable income.

Furthermore, the study also showed that online shopping is becoming increasingly popular for women in Dubai and the wider UAE. The data suggests that 7 per cent more women are using the internet for shopping compared to last year.

The market research carried out by MasterCard involved 8,500 consumers in the region. This has provided rich data which has generated some useful information. For example it showed that the leading categories in the UAE in 2010 included airline tickets, hotel bookings, home appliances and electronic products, clothing, restaurants and home food delivery.

As the online market continues to flourish in the UAE, the key to maximising its effectiveness is to ensure that there is strong internet penetration. After a slightly slow start the UAE now has approximately 75% of its population online which is a very healthy figure.

So what does this mean for web design in Dubai and other parts of the UAE? It suggests that as the internet becomes even more popular in the region the more demand there will be for web design, web marketing and SEO from business community.

As a relatively young online market, the UAE provides excellent opportunities for businesses as the level of competition is still quite young and relatively small. If for example you want to dominate a keyword in Google.ae it is important to invest in SEO and web marketing now rather than wait a couple of years only to find that a competitor has pulled out a massive lead.

Dubai economy grows by 2.2%

The UAE has become an important financial location in recent years having attracted billions in investment from businesses around the world. Dubai is a key location within the UAE and projects such as the Burj Al Arab and the Burj Khalifa along with a host of other modern architecture projects are synonymous of the city and its ambition.

Sadly though this does not mean that Dubai is free from global economic forces and so in 2009 the GDP contracted by 2.4 per cent. This was due to a plunge in the property and construction market which was, and still is, crucial to this Arab emirate.

However property and construction is not all that Dubai has to offer. International trade and tourism play a big part in Dubai’s economy. It is thanks to this that the Dubai Statistics Centre can state that they expect GDP for the whole year to increase by about 2.2 per cent, having increased by 2.4 per cent so far.

Dubai metro

The other key economic sector for Dubai is tourism. In fact with limited oil reserves it could be argued that tourism is the future for the country and therefore the priority. Judging by some of the construction projects you would assume that Dubai’s leadership is acutely aware of this.

What does this mean for web design in Dubai? Well, web design Dubai is in fact a young part of the economy but as the number of businesses and organisations increase so will the demand for top quality and professional web design. Be it internet projects or intranet projects, big business or small business, all will require web solutions.

The infrastructure in the UAE region has improved significantly and will continue to improve. Projects such as the Dubai Metro have had an excellent response from commuters. Other digital projects such as Dubai’s e-government site are an example of the kind of integration between government, businesses, public services and people which will all contribute to the continued success of Dubai.

UAE competes in the World Summit Award

World Summit AwardSince the internet was developed digital content has come a long way. If you look at web pages of the mid to late 1990’s you will find that they are much more simplistic, both in terms of appearance and functionality.

Fast forward to 2011 and the internet, some might argue, has become the eighth wonder of the world. The difference between the internet in 1996 and 2011 is integration. Today the internet forms an integral part of our lives and even forms part of our identity.

For half a billion people at least, there is a site which allows you to share with the world your life and everything about it. Yes the Facebook generation is here, they are here to stay and content is king. The Facebook generation has grown up with the modern glossy internet which has evolved to become incredibly technical and capable with lots of potential.

However, content is not universal. Different people in different countries will interpret content differently. Different languages are spoken in different countries and the way people will read will be vary across regions and countries. Therefore the design of a website and the content within are the two most important factors for success.

Showcasing digital content gives web designers and developers from around the world the opportunity to raise their profile. Events such as the World Summit Awards allow web design Dubai to compete and showcase its work amongst the best.

The WSA competition sets out to determine the world’s best and most innovative e-content and ICT technology. Winning this competition gives tremendous international recognition which is why web designers and developers from around the world are so keen to win this prestigious prize.

Web design UAE is pushing hard to meet the deadline of March 17th.After last year’s competition there was a lot of interest following the success of the ‘Hesabi –My Math’ project. It was judged to be a great product for children because it makes learning more enjoyable and more like a game which maintains children’s attention levels.

Innovations and success such as this has paved the way for technology in the region. The web design and development market along with web marketing and SEO is progressing at a rapid pace in the UAE as is the demand for such services.

The Next Big Search Engine?

Bing is a rising contender in online searchFor a long time Google has been the undisputed heavyweight in search.  Ever since it was first launched more than ten years ago, it has won over fans with its simple interface and focus of returning the most relevant results in the quickest time.  Google has definitely helped the Internet’s association with the fast, almost instant, availability of information.

When Google first launched, there were a number of competitors vying for the lion’s share of online search – Yahoo, AOL, MSN, Ask, Alta Vista, Lycos and many more.  Google seemed to arrive and blow everyone else out of the water and show no signs of slowing.  It’s now almost impossible to imagine using the Internet without Google – it ranks as the number one website for many countries according to Alexa.  Its market share of search is as much as 85% globally and it continues to provide new services such as Maps, Places, Gmail and Docs.  Google has now even become immortalised in the English language with the verb ‘to google’.

What happened to the other search engines then?  Yahoo continues to be a key player in the US especially.  However, its usage seems to be slowly losing ground to competitors.  Microsoft’s newly re-launched search service, Bing, is expected to leapfrog Yahoo in the next 12 months to be the second largest search engine.  Check below to see a table showing the top search engines in the US for December 2010 (according to comScore):

Search Engine Statistics for America

As you can see, Google totally dominates the US search market. But what about globally? Based on Net Market Share data for 2010, we can see that Google performs even better worldwide than in the US:

Global Search Engine Statistics

Google has an unprecedented market share – no other search engine even comes close! Interestingly, you can see that Chinese search engine Baidu ranks at number three. This is an amazing achievement considering the narrow demographic it caters to (bearing in mind Baidu is largely only used in China whilst Google is global).

What next for the online search industry? Well, it is hard to imagine any other search engine being able to dislodge Google’s strong hold but let’s look at some hypothetical contenders:

1. Bing

Yes, Bing! Although probably not going to beat Google, many people forecast it to become the second most used search engine soon. Coupled with the merger with Yahoo and it is easy to see how Bing will become more of a competitor for Google.

2. Baidu

Baidu is arguably the most significant contender to Google. Whilst it may only reign supreme in China, China’s population is expected to grow and its economy recently dislodged Japan as the world’s second largest – arguably whoever can crack the Chinese Internet market is in for a good future. What will be key though is if Baidu can branch out to other geographies. Interestingly, its ranking in other neighbouring areas is less significant. According to Alexa it is the 7th most popular in Hong Kong whilst only being 9th in South Korea and 15th in Taiwan. Baidu’s growth overseas will be the most important factor in determining whether it will be a genuine competitor to Google or not.

3. YouTube

Yes, I know it is not technically a search engine but you do search on it! Interestingly, YouTube recently become the second largest search engine in terms of monthly searches performed. This represents a huge shift in the way people are searching for information. As broadband becomes the norm and advertisers continue to embrace online media, media-rich content is becoming standard. YouTube (which Google owns) highlights two things about the Internet. Firstly, Internet users enjoy communicating and secondly, text is no longer enough. Neither is animated gifs. For SEOs, web marketers and anyone associated with the web world – ignoring the power of YouTube and multi-media search may prove to be a mistake.

4. Facebook

Last but not least, a small website you might not have heard of yet. Facebook’s growth has been unparalleled – adding hundreds of thousands of users daily. At the moment, Facebook is still very much centred around users and people. You can’t search for information in the same way but more and more information is getting uploaded to Facebook pages for people to ‘like’. Additionally, Facebook gives companies and individuals the ability to speak directly to visitors in a way that is not often afforded to them on websites and traditional media.

So there we have it! Google is probably going to continue to be the undisputed search behemoth but there are numerous contenders vying for second place. What will be most interesting is to see how traditional search engine alternatives develop. As Facebook gears up to launch its new communication platform (including emails), does this signify Facebook’s intent to become the new Google? We will have to wait and see! What are your predictions for the online search industry?

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MintTwist are a leading agency for web design in London. We are also a leading company for SEO and web marketing in London. Colin is part of the web marketing team and you can contact him here: colin@minttwist.com.

Google To Display Tweets in Search Results

Google has signed a deal with Twitter and will begin displaying tweets in Google search results. The announcement is generating mixes reactions among SEO professionals and site owners.

Google made the very brief announcement in their official blog about the Twitter Deal as part of their goal to “create the most comprehensive, relevant and fast search in the world.” While it will be interesting to see what they do with Twitter tweets, I seriously doubt if this will bring them closer to reaching their goal.

For those not familiar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging site that might be better described as a micro-messaging site. It is based on a cell phone text messaging model and limits the length of a message to 140 characters. Messages are called “tweets.” Links can be included to tweets, but the length of the URL is part of the 140 character limit. Online URL shortening tools are commonly used to add very brief URLs that are then redirected to the final destination page. In order to receive someone’s tweets, the user must sign up for a Twitter account and then voluntarily sign up to “follow” another Twitter user’s tweets.

Twitter can be effectively used to drive traffic to a web site if enough targeted users can be persuaded to sign up as followers. The main problem with Twitter is that the overwhelming majority of tweets are useless dribble. While it is an ideal medium for celebrities and politicians to get their message out, do we really need to know that one of them is eating a ham sandwich or about to leave to go grocery shopping?

At this point, we do not know how Google will display tweets in their search results. They may cluster them together like they currently tend to do with YouTube videos. The problem is that they may just clutter up search results and push web site pages further down in rank positions.

Do not expect to be able to use Twitter to build links to your site. All outbound links from the major social media sites are blocked in one fashion or another so that they do not pass any link value. In the case of Twitter, all links are nullified with a “nofollow” attribute. That effectively eliminates any link value that might otherwise be passed. It may be safe to assume that Google will do something similar with tweets that show up in their search results.

The real question is, “How will Google determine which tweets make it into their search results?” This could be based upon some Twitter internal ranking criteria, similar to the way that YouTube videos are ranked. It could be based upon the number of followers that forward a particular tweet to their followers. The most logical assumption is that keyword phrases in the tweets will be part of the ranking algorithm.

Advice: Start including targeted keywords and links to destination pages in your tweets.

Until we can determine how Google will select a few choice tweets from the millions of useless tweets generated each day, it would be wise to make sure that each tweet that you send includes targeted keywords and a link to the appropriate page in your web site. It might also be a good idea to make sure that your most important targeted keyword phrases are included in the description in your Twitter account.

Microsoft announced similar deals with both Twitter and FaceBook for Microsoft’s Bing search engine, so it appears that a trend may be emerging.

Bing Offers Link Building Tips

MSN’’s Bing search engine team published a list of issues related to obtaining inbound links that could either help or hurt your web site’s rankings. As most serious web site owners know, building good, industry-related inbound links is important to help a web site rank well in organic search results.

There aren’t any new revelations in the article entitled, Link Building for Smart Webmasters, but the article does do a good job of reinforcing good and bad link building techniques. Bing did reveal that they do have a team of people who actually look at a web site when their spiders report suspicious inbound link building methods.

Bing makes it clear that they are “less concerned about the link building techniques used than about the intentions behind the effort.” That basically means that if you are doing link building to assist users with finding relevant information, they look upon this favorably. However, if you are building links merely to raise search engine rankings, you may find your web site headed in the wrong direction in Bing’s search results.

The following summarizes Bing’s tips, along with our interpretation of how to best utilize these techniques.

What Bing Says You Should Be Doing To Build Links

  • Provide high quality content to attract links from related sites. If you focus on writing the best informational content on the web, others will link to your web pages. Become an expert voice for your industry.
  • Develop your business brand and be consistent about that brand in your content. A site should focus on a specific theme and be consistent with the information that is publish on the site site. Stick to a topic and do not become a generalist.
  • Publish expert articles to online article directories. The publishing of articles to article directories such as eZineArticles.com, GoArticles.com and others has been a long-standing method to build links. The idea is to publish a unique article to these free article directories. The article becomes freely syndicated. Other sites will pick up and publish these articles and are supposed to provide a link back to your web site. Keep the articles focused on the the same theme as your web site. Do not simply publish existing articles from your web site, because that is asking for trouble with duplicate content.
  • Participate in relevant blogs and forums and refer back to your site’s content when applicable. That is basically an encouragement to refer to your articles often in industry-related blogs and forums. A technique that works well is to look for a problem presented in a blog or forum that needs to be solved. Publish the solutions on your site and then link to it from the blog or forum.
  • Launch a blog or a forum on your site. This may work well with some sites, but interactive blogs and forums can be time-consuming and require dedicated attention.
  • Use social media networks to link to your site. While this can drive traffic, most social media networks block link inheritance factors by using the “nofollow” attribute on all outbound links. Bing focuses on building the industry connections that may stimulate others to link to your web site from their sites.

What Bing Says You Should Not Be Doing To Build Links

  • Do not build too many links too quickly. That could trigger a review from Bing’s staff. This means that it is not a good idea to purchase thousands of links from web directories.
  • Do not build too many inbound links from unrelated sites. This follows Google’s preference for natural linking and emphasizes that the old SEO cliche, “a link is a link”, no longer holds true. There is a quality factor with links that plays an important role in determining the inherited value of a link. Focus on building links from industry-related web sites.
  • Do not use hidden links on your pages. Hidden links and hidden content have both created penalty situations for many years.
  • Do not link out to known spam sites. Inheritance is a two-way street. When you link to a site that has been banned or heavily penalized by the search engines, your site can be penalized, as well. Google has long preached the same issue. Be careful who you link to.

The Bing article is worth reading and may provide you with one of two good ideas for improving your link building.

Review of Caphyon Web Ranking System for SEO

Advanced Web Ranking is a search engine ranking software application that helps check the position of a website in search engines rankings. The web ranking systems allows users to pick region specific search engines making managing international sites easier than ever before.  To begin users need to enter a list of keywords or phrases they  wish to track.  Caphyon offers various built in keyword research tools to help users with keyword choices.  Entering keywords proved to be an easy task, from there users enter the URLs of the sites that you wish to track.  After keywords and the URLs are entered for a specific project all that is left is to run the report.  Every time a keyword report is run Caphyon will compare the new page rank with the results from previous page ranks.  MintTwist found the “top sites’ and “overview” tabs especially useful due to the fact that they are useful when tracking a large amounts of keywords and for measuring overall success of a project.  Reports are easily exported to different formats including HTML, PDF, EXCEL and CSV complete with logos, headers and footers.  Users can schedule project updates to run whenever they want as many times as they want.  MintTwist is able to manage multiple large international projects with ease using advanced web ranking software.  Advanced web ranking system provides accurate ranking even when there is a large amount of keywords in the project.  Advanced web ranking system is able to run on multiple platforms which has made it easy for MintTwist to access the ranking system interface when meeting with customers outside of our home office.  Another useful tool offered by Caphyon web ranking system was the local search ability.  It allows users to make their own search engine in a way to find results in your interface using google maps and Yahoo local search.

When first using Caphyon’s ranking system users must be patient because the possibilities of the software can be overwhelming at times.  MintTwist users had to take some time to read the user manual and play around with the software for while in order to gain a full understanding of the possibilities.

The one complaint that we had with the software was it was not entirely easy to figure out how to effectively see how our competition was doing, but after some time spent reading the user’s manual we figured out the process.

The Link manager is also a very useful tool for anyone looking to build link campaigns.  Link Manger does exactly what it suggest in that it enables users of all abilities to efficiently and effectively organize their link campaigns to their specific needs.  Features of Link Manger include, but are not limited to: Finds links relative to the users site, keeps track of link partners, finds broken links that can negatively affect your page rank, monitor competitors, track your back links, and produce highly customized reports.  Link manager automatically eliminates manual searches to reduce the bandwidth burdens of other programs.

Overall Caphyon’s web ranking system has been an essential to MintTwist’s success and we highly recommend Caphyon over all other web ranking systems.  The level of competence and possibilities make it a dream to work with.

4 Key SEO Tips For Website Redesigning!

by Kabir Bedi

The world wide web is constantly changing and to make sure your business keeps pace, it is important to be up to date with the latest trends and technologies. And this is why companies decide to redesign their website. Of course, there are other reasons too like re-branding the business, updating the website to reflect the present status of the company in the market, deleting old pages and uploading new information, better marketing fluff and so on.

However, search engine considerations are the most forgotten part in the website redesigning process. Website owners are so involved with creating a new look and feel for the website that they often fail to evaluate the SEO implications of their actions. They realize it only when the website is done and ready and there are fluctuations in the rankings of the website. But that is only when precious revenue is lost in terms of traffic, leads and sales.

Here are 4 SEO tips that you should adhere to while redesigning your website.

Strengthen the Information Architecture

Usability should be the key concern while designing the information architecture of the website. However, you should also consider including some SEO objectives for the usability process. Search engine optimization should not come after the website has been launched. Rather, it should be a key consideration throughout the design and development of the project.

Draft a set of relevant keywords that encompasses the essence of your company and business. Then make sure your website has pages that are devoted to those keywords so that search engine have relevant content when their crawlers come to index your website.

Make sure you add new pages to your website, especially if you are deleting certain pages. This is because you don’t want the search engines to think that your website is shrinking. Rather you should tell them that its growing. The deleted pages would obviously take with them their search engine credibility so you would need something to compensate the loss.

Don’t Change the URLs

When you change the URLs of your web pages, the new URLs would be treated as completely new pages by the search engines. All the search engine credibility of the previous pages would be lost along with the URLs.

Therefore, focus on creating search engine friendly web pages with search engine friendly URLs and light code with WordPress and other such CMS platforms. Make sure all the pages of your website are able to rank well in the search results and not just your homepage.

Update the Website Content

Search engine crawlers are always on the look out for new and fresh content. And there is no better opportunity than the redesigning process to upload new content on your website. Unlike blogs, it is not possible to change the contents of the website, especially on the homepage etc. on regular basis. So, make sure you upload useful and updated content on such pages. Ideally, focus on constructing more content on the homepage of the website followed by lesser supporting content on the internal pages.

Launch the website Carefully

don’t forget to run down the last minute check list before launching the new redesigned website. The search engine ranking of your website depends on a variety of factors including the website structure, the design and layout and the content. It is not just about the number of links pointing to your website that decides the ranking but how popular the website actually is among the users.

MintTwist Web Design understands the importance of  SEO in web marketing, MintTwist work with clients to significantly increase the number of targeted sales leads achieved by clients.