SEO analysis of top 100 Websites gives clues about South Africa’s state of digital economy

eNitiate | SEO analysis of top 100 Business Websites | 10 Jun 2020

This is the third eNsight in a series on the benefits of coronavirus to Africa’s digital economies.

In this eNsight, I expand on the subject of search engine optimisation (SEO), which I highlighted in the first eNsight in this series as one of the key focus areas for businesses on the continent that are gearing up to follow their consumers online, in this era of physical distancing that has lead to a spike in online transactions. 

To bring the subject to life, I share results of the SEO analysis of top 100 Websites in South Africa, which I conducted with the objective of establishing the state of readiness of the country’s businesses to operate in the digital economy. 

But why does SEO deserve the special focus? Let us explore.

Table of Contents

Search engine optimization is critical for online business

Covid-19 induced physical distancing has led to Internet surges across the globe.

South Africa experienced a 15% spike in Internet usage in March. 

You can find comparative Internet surge stats of the top 5 African countries (by number of monthly active Facebook users) – South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco – in the second eNsight in this series. 

Experts predict that the increase in online consumption is not going to be reversed even after Covid-19 vaccine has been found.

Online competition will be a double-edged sword for South African businesses

Digitisation will effectively open markets to South African businesses beyond the geographic borders. 

The obvious sectors that stand to benefit include the higher education institutions that are already revered by the African academia. 

Unisa provides a perfect example, with an estimated 30,000 African students who are not from South Africa, and who are part of this distancing learning university’s annual student population. 

In the same vein, online businesses that are not based in South Africa will now be able to access the local market more easily.

Without sounding oblivious to current intra-trade challenges and rapid digital technology developments taking place in the likes of East Africa, South Africa’s online business still has a big potential on the continent, given its already well-established economic backbone. 

Given the points raised in this section, and as the 5 SEO facts below clearly show, any business whose Website is not optimised for search is facing a challenging future.

The 5 facts about SEO you need to know

Elements of SEO

In the Search Engine Optimisation Map below, you can see how involved this subject is. 

eNitiate | SEO Map | 4 Jun 2020
Figure 1 | Source: eNitiate

A closer look at the SEO Map left me with a distinct impression that many of South Africa’s web development companies are great with Website design skills, but lack the depth of SEO skills.

Yet, SEO has a direct impact on the ability of many of the country’s business Websites to rank favourably in search engines, therefore the ability to attract organic traffic.

Indirectly, I am going to use the results of the SEO analysis of the top 100 business Websites across 20 sectors to assess the level of SEO skills in Mzansi.

I invite you to check out a series of eNsights on the SEO review of the eNitiate Website that I published two months ago, which I believe is worth a read. 

The chosen unit of measure for the SEO analysis of the top 100 Websites

Globally, more than half of Website traffic comes from mobile phones.

It is not different in South Africa, where there are twice as many mobile phones as desktops.

Why does it matter that mobile devices contribute a larger share to Web traffic?

The reason is because mobile phones also contribute to a higher bounce rate, mainly due to 2 facts

  1. There is still a fair amount of Websites that are not mobile friendly in this day and age, which contributes to poor mobile user experience.
  2. Mobile visitors in South Africa are more sensitive to cost of data and thus spend less time on websites than desktop visitors.  
Given the two reasons above, I shall be using Website load speeds as the single unit of measure for analysing the performance of selected 100 business Websites in this eNsight. 

Page speed is a critical factor when it comes to ranking your website higher on Google’s search engine results. If your website isn’t on par with the top 10 organic pages, you won’t rank on the first page. And the vast majority of search engine users simply won’t click to the second page.

Neil Patel | How to Score a Perfect 100% on Google PageSpeed Insights Tweet

The online platform I used for measuring load speeds of the 100 business Websites is called GTmetrix – the SEO tool that has been used for testing of over 580,000,000 Web pages at the time of publishing this eNsight.

Notes on the selection of the top 100 Websites

I selected the top 100 Websites of well-known organisations and brands in South Africa, across 20 sectors. 

While I did not consider the size of the businesses behind the Websites, this factor is implied.

The selected 100 Websites are of both local and multinational businesses. In the case of the latter, I selected only the businesses the have local domains.

In addition, I selected a widespread of Websites – from commercial to government businesses, and from food to education sectors.

Overall findings of SEO analysis of top 100 Websites in South Africa

First, let me give an overview of average load speeds (also known as load times), which GTmetrix calls “fully loaded times”. 

Average load times

Below are two comparative load times – the one on the left column is the average of the 100 Websites that are part of this analysis, and the one on the right column is the GTmetrix average based on 580 million Web pages.

0
Seconds

Average Full Website Load Speed of the Selected Top 100 Business Websites

0
Seconds

Industry Average of Full Website Load Speed, Based on 580,000,000 Web Pages

At almost 12 seconds for loading of full Website, the average speed for top 100 Websites is above GTmetrix’s industry average of 7.4 seconds. 

The rest of this eNsight will be used to unpack the load speeds across the 100 Websites and 20 sectors.

Summary findings

Positive results:

  • Load times of 3 in 10 Websites in the top 100 are faster than the industry average of 7.4 seconds.
  • Of the 5 Websites with the fastest load times, 2 are in the FMCG sector.
  • Only one Website – H&M South Africa – loads within 3 seconds.

Negative results:

  • Load times of 7 in 10 Websites in the top 100 are slower than the industry average of 7.4 seconds.
  • Load times of 23 Websites are twice or more than the industry average.
  • Of the 5 worse performing Websites, two are soccer clubs and one is a rugby club.

Identified issues:

GTmetrix highlighted the following 3 main issues related to the Websites with the slow load times:

Word of advice

The first two issues above that cause slow Website load speeds are low-hanging fruit. 

Webmasters in businesses that are serious about improving their websites’ search rankings must implement effective solutions that will eliminate the two issues quickly and cost-effectively.

The third issue – that of compressing codin on the website – needs more specialised technical skills and it takes time to optimise.

As an example, we have been working on compressing eNitiate website’s code since April 2020, and this process is not complete yet. 

If businesses cannot find required expert SEO technical skills locally, they must search for them across the continent.

There are many developer platforms that can be used for the search, and one of the most reputed and home-grown platforms is Andela

Detailed results of SEO analysis of top 100 Websites in South Africa

For ease of reading, I have  divided the results of the SEO analysis of the top 100 Websites into three segments:

  1. Sector averages;
  2. Load times of all the 100 Websites, in descending order; and
  3. Load times of the 100 Websites, grouped into each of the 20 sectors.
    I included this last segment as an addition, only for purposes of category-based competitor comparisons by readers who may want to perform this exercise. 
    Thus, this segment does not have findings, as these are shared in the first two segments in this section.

The results of the 3 segments are presented using drop-downs of respective load time breakdowns and associated key findings.

Results: Website Load Time Averages By Sector

Curious if the sector that or organisation or brand falls in is in the 20 that I present in this eNisght? Tap on the drop-down below to find out.

If you reading this eNsight on your mobile device, I recommend that you go through the 20 Sectors Load Times table below in landscape position for enhanced experience.

  • Average Website load times in 18 of the 20 sectors are worse than the industry average of 7.4 seconds, the latter which is already more than twice the recommended 3 seconds maximum.
  • Two sectors that lead the worst performers are Soccer Clubs and Automotive Brands.
    Given that all automotive brands that were chosen for this analysis are well-established multinational brands, I found the related poor performances rather interesting, as I would expect that fast Website loading speed is part of their global standards.
    Am I giving these brands too much credit?
  • Only two sectors are performing better than the industry average, and these are FMCG companies and short-term insurance companies.  

Results: Top 100 Websites | Ordered By Slowest to Fastest Load Times

Curious if the Website of your organisation or brand  is in the top 100 selection? Tap on the drop-down below to find out.

If you reading this eNsight on your mobile device, I recommend that you go through the Top 100 Websites Load Times table below in landscape position for enhanced experience.

  • 69 of the top 100 Websites' load times are above the industry average of 7.4 seconds. 
  • 5 of the Websites with the worst load times are Supersport United and Orlando Pirates (soccer clubs), The Lions (rugby club), Unisa (distancing learning public university), and SAA (state owned airline)
  • I was surprised by poor performance of Unisa and SAA - the two entities that can ill-afford slow Websites. 
  • The 5 best performing Websites are SAB and Premier Foods (FMCG), Heineken (liquor brand), MTN (mobile operator), and H&M (fashion retail). 

Results: Top 100 Websites | Grouped Into Their Sectors

This segment is for additional analysis for competitor comparisons only.

The segment consist of the 100 Websites, broken down into 5  per each of the 20 sectors that are part of this SEO analysis.

If you reading this eNsight on your mobile device, I recommend that you go through the Top 100 Websites table below in landscape position for enhanced experience.

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Optio, neque qui velit. Magni dolorum quidem ipsam eligendi, totam, facilis laudantium cum accusamus ullam voluptatibus commodi numquam, error, est. Ea, consequatur.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Optio, neque qui velit. Magni dolorum quidem ipsam eligendi, totam, facilis laudantium cum accusamus ullam voluptatibus commodi numquam, error, est. Ea, consequatur.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit. Optio, neque qui velit. Magni dolorum quidem ipsam eligendi, totam, facilis laudantium cum accusamus ullam voluptatibus commodi numquam, error, est. Ea, consequatur.

My key takeout

Extrapolating from the results of SEO analysis of the top 100 Websites in this eNsight, there is an indication that businesses in South Africa need to evaluate performance of their digital platforms, in order to compete effectively in the digital economy.

It appears that, for many of the businesses, there is a glaring need to improve SEO of their Websites, as one of the initial steps.  

Closing thoughts

There is more to the Website than just a digital address and digital display of brands and products.

This owned media, over which companies have full control; versus shared, paid and earned media; can be effective in attracting organic traffic if it is optimised for search.

The SEO map that I shared in this eNsight offers a guide to ensuring that the optimisation exercise is implemented successfully.

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