How your brand can navigate a world of mistrust, misinformation and multiple mindsets

By Desireé Gullan, Co-founder and Executive Creative Director of G&G Digital

We live in contradictory and conflicted times, with ongoing debates around diversity, inclusion, gender equality, identity and hot-potato culture. What’s more, consumers no longer trust brands without serious consideration.

As marketing professionals, you may be wondering how all of this will impact your brands and bottom line, what the next major platform will be, content trend, device or viral sensation. Here’s G&G’s thoughts on what influences will shape the future and how we can source solutions through digital innovation.

  1. A digital world without borders
    Our world is essentially borderless, enabling us to communicate digitally with others from around the globe through in seconds. This isn’t just a collection of platforms, it’s the ultimate representation of globalisation.South African marketing professionals need to be mindful how much our local target audiences are influenced by global trends and we need to remain relevant. What’s more, we need to be even more strategic in our channel selection and targeting to reduce waste and ensure effective reach.
  2. An audience that is always-on
    People’s FOMO is seeing them being more involved, interactive and co-creating at all times of the day and night. They expect brands to communicate directly with them in an honest and authentic manner––and to take responsibility to have the right values and drive cultural change.Brands can no longer just be about making a sale. Marketing professionals have to interrogate what real value their brands are adding beyond just their features and benefits and make sure they are leaving the smallest environmental impact and the greatest positive impact on the community.
  3. I’ll share if you share
    Consumers have a heightened awareness of digital surveillance and data capture while understanding the value of their personal data to corporations and digital channels. Their behaviour goes from just “accepting cookies” to wanting something in return.
    Marketing professionals should carefully consider the type of data you truly require in order to understand your audience and to ensure you ask for the bare minimum from them to engage. Ensure your tone is conversational, humorous and most importantly, honest.
  4. Difficult but necessary conversations
    Whether #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo or #MindYourBusiness, many important conversations are taking place and shaping our culture, right now. Never assume your brand can simply join the conversation and get easy exposure along the way. Many brands have been called out attempting this.Brands wanting to be part of a movement must approach with sensitivity and authenticity. Examine your brand values, messaging and communication to make sure it genuinely belongs and can add value to the conversation.
  5. Be locally legit
    Social media allows us to travel without actually travelling and gives us access to various cultures, trends and mingling with communities. That said, people still identify with subcultures based on where they live, work and play.Hyper-localised targeting is the new benchmark for successful audience reach. What’s more, your brand can still remain global in outlook, but local in culture, by celebrating its origins and sharing local cultural nuances with your audiences.

Though 2019 and beyond may seem daunting, it’s an exciting time for brands and their marketing partners as we’re forced to introspect our values, remain focused and authentic and make a positive impact on the world around you. The options of finding new ways to reach your audiences with deep insights, smart strategy and breakthrough creative solutions has never been more exciting.


“OK Google”, what’s next for SEO in 2019?

We don’t surf the internet like we used to because technology continues to evolve and drive our behaviour. Thanks to Google, search engine optimisation (SEO) is also changing.

As Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” If you want different SEO results, you have to think “human”, add value, and seek out leading SEO tactics. If you’re new to SEO, fear not. These SEO fundamentals can get you started on how to boost your rankings.

7 game-changing SEO trends to watch in 2019:

  1. Mobile optimisation
    Online searches are increasingly conducted on mobile phones. In response, Google has intensified their customer-first approach with the rollout of their mobile-first index in 2018. Google rankings now heavily depend on a quality user experience (UX) on mobile devices. Make sure you have a mobile-friendly version of your website as it will soon take priority over desktop versions for indexing and ranking. See how mobile friendly your website is with Google’s mobile friendly test. 
  2. Voice search optimisation
    The shift to mobile as the primary search device continues to drive the demand for voice search functionality. It is estimated that 50% of searches will be spoken queries by 2020. “OK Google, what does that mean for SEO?” For starters, a more human approach to content creation and keywords. Users will search it like they say it, which means keywords will have to become more conversational, often phrased as questions, not statements.
  3. User intent optimisation
    User intent and voice search optimisation goes hand in hand as users can now clearly express their intent through verbalised voice search queries. Whether typed or spoken, user intent optimisation calls on you, the marketer, to think “human” when creating content and analysing the potential user intent behind keywords. Consider your own interests and content preferences, how you would phrase a search query, and what calls to action you are most likely to act on.
  4. Video optimisation
    Video will continue to dominate and is estimated to represent 82% of all internet traffic by 2021. Video quality is becoming increasingly important, as is video optimisation through engaging titles, keywords, descriptions, transcripts and thumbnails. As the second largest search engine, a YouTube presence is essential in getting your brand front and centre.
  5. Structured data markup
    Structured data markup is a way of formatting HTML, an extra layer of coding if you will, to tell search engines how to interpret your website content. With Google taking AI to the next level, structured data will become vital for AI to effectively process content within context, and deliver rich results. It can be implemented for an array of page elements from organisations, people, products and services, to events, places, addresses and reviews.
  6. Featured snippets
    Snippets refer to the short summary of information that appear with search engine results. But not all summaries are made equal – some are more relevant, answering user queries directly, and are therefore featured at the top of Google’s organic results. Featured snippets can greatly increase brand exposure and click-through-rates. Getting featured requires strategically crafted content that answers one or multiple queries directly.
  7. Blockchain for SEO
    Bitcoin might have taken a dive but blockchain technology is alive and well with near-endless use-cases, including making the internet more secure and refining online marketing. Although blockchain SEO is still a developing field, it may soon be integrated into websites to authenticate clicks, reduce advertising fraud, verify product integrity, and build trust.

The only constant in SEO is change, but with change comes new opportunities to outplay the heavy wallets. Build your SEO strategy with the future in mind, whether that be AI, machine learning or blockchain technology. G&G Digital’s SEO services are geared to enrich the usability and overall user experience of your website with spot on keywords, relevant value-added content, and a firm grip on current SEO best-practices.

Look out for breakthrough insights from G&G’s SEO experts.

SEO in practice: How to boost your SEO rankings

Once you have a thorough understanding of the SEO fundamentals, you can put each element into practice and track your efforts with ongoing reviews of your analytics. Keep in mind that your SEO methods must keep up with changing user search habits and evolving ranking factors in search engine algorithms.

A good starting point is to consider the user-friendliness of your website, as usability and SEO rankings go hand in hand. Search engines not only rate the relevance of your keywords but evaluate the time users spend on your website, the number of pages viewed, the extent of interaction with your content, and repeat visits.

G&G Digital’s SEO services are geared to enrich the usability and overall user experience of your website with spot-on keywords, relevant value-add content, and overall compliance with SEO best-practices.

Here are 10 ways to boost your website usability and SEO ranking:

  1. Produce original high-quality content: Value-add content crafted around user needs is the most powerful driver of website rankings. By keeping content fresh and relevant, you can increase the amount of time users spend on your website and the likelihood of your site being bookmarked, which search engines use as an indicator of quality content.
  2. Optimise your site for mobile: Mobile is the number one go-to search device. Google rewards mobile-friendly websites with higher rankings, so be sure to offer a seamless mobile user experience. Keep in mind changing search trends, that mobile users behave differently and that mobile landing pages may require tailored strategies.
  3. Perfect your keyword selection and usage: Carefully consider the keywords you want your website to rank for, based on the search words or phrases (long-tail keywords) your target audience is most likely to use. Avoid overusing keywords and always write for the user by ensuring that keywords read naturally wherever they are used.
  4. Improve readability with layout and formatting: Improve the overall readability of your website by breaking page content into easily digestible sections. Relook the layout and formatting of each page and incorporate well-structured header tags, subheadings, read-friendly fonts and colours, short paragraphs, line spacing and bulleted lists.
  5. Improve your page load speed: Users have little patience for slow websites, which is why search engines place a high value on fast page loads. You can increase your website’s load speed with clean, minimal coding, optimised image and video sizes, a caching plugin, and by reducing the number of redirects and unnecessary plugins.
  6.  Maximise every tag and meta descriptor: Search engines rely on tags and meta descriptors to read and index website content. Look at every tag and descriptor as an opportunity to reiterate your keywords and signal relevance. Be sure to write proper alt text (alternative text) to describe your images and videos as these cannot be read by search engines.
  7. Enrich your site with multimedia: Offer your content in diverse and compelling ways, i.e. through infographics, videos, animations, slideshows or podcasts. Search engines take into account the effort that goes into creating multimedia, particularly interactive content, and considers it an indicator of high-quality content.
  8. Put social sharing to work: Every Facebook share, tweet, Pinterest pin and other social media shares can drive your website up in ranking. Make it easy for users to share your content with clearly visible social sharing buttons. You can boost social sharing through social media influencers or by running campaigns designed to drive social shares.
  9. Include credible external links: Increase the value of your own content by including links to well-respected and highly ranked sites. By associating your site with other thought-leaders in the field, you can affirm your site’s credibility to search engines. Remember to use descriptive anchor text to describe each link, as opposed to vague “click here” links.
  10. Keep links and contact info up to date: Search engines associate broken links and outdated contact information with old and irrelevant websites. Make use of online tools to scan your site for broken links and become a site trusted by search engines by keeping your contact info up to date and interactive, i.e. via a “Contact us” link or convenient contact form.

G&G Digital bags New Gen Awards for innovation

Founded in 2012, the New Generation Social and Digital Media Awards are the largest celebrated digital media awards in South Africa. With a strong focus on results and insight-based success, it is a celebration of creative ingenuity and the innovative use of social and digital media to promote brands in groundbreaking ways.

But what’s in an award? The traditional advertising industry has long been criticised for being overly focused on awards when measurability and client business growth should be front and centre. Enter digital marketing – where most initiatives are measurable. To keep the industry on its toes and in step with international trends, the New Generation Awards continually evolves to include new industry technology, platforms and trends to identify true excellence.

With partners Reckitt Benckiser and Zenith Media, G&G Digital has won awards for the superior use of technical innovation and innovative gamification. “Creativity is dreaming up new things but innovation is about executing them well”, says Desiree Gullan, Executive Creative Director at G&G Digital. “The annual event is an invaluable opportunity to self-reflect, learn from our peers and fuel our inspiration. The real reward, though, is igniting our motivation to create breakthrough work that builds brands and adds value to our clients”.

SEO fundamentals: The building blocks to online success

Google processes over 3.5 billion searches per day – each query guiding users to one of the 1.8 billion websites that can be redefined as ‘the competition’. In this ever-expanding space, online visibility is vital to success. And by visibility, we mean getting your website ranked on the first page of Google’s search results because 90% of people don’t search beyond that.

Search engines offer two types of search results: organic and paid. Organic search results are web page listings that are most relevant to the user’s search query. To drive your website up the ranks and secure more visitors, you need a robust Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy. This involves the use of SEO tactics to improve the visibility of your website.

Typical tactics include:

  • improving the speed of your site
  • encouraging greater visitor engagement
  • improving the quality of your content
  • focusing on topics instead of keywords
  • adding your site to local business listings
  • crafting compelling titles and descriptions
  • building backlinks to your site
  • guest posting on other sites to get your name out.

Here are five SEO fundamentals to start your journey up the ranks:

  1. Domain and page authority score: This is determined by your domain name relevance, content quality and relevance, internal links between pages, mobile-friendliness, loading time and content promotion on social media.
  2. On-site optimisation: Make it easy for search engines to find and index your content with a well-structured and smooth functioning website, clean and minimal coding, target keywords, and the optimal use of titles, tags and meta tags.
  3. Content marketing: SEO cannot exist without the articles, videos, infographics and podcasts you create. Consistently publish value-add content and expand your target keywords to build your brand and secure repeat site visits.
  4. Link building: Create content on external websites to build your brand, establish your credibility as a thought-leader and develop opportunities for viewers to link back to your site.
  5. Measurement and analysis: SEO results are meaningless without interpretation. Make use of tools like Google Analytics to track your site’s progress and make constructive changes to your strategy.

SEO is as much about search engines as it is about the people who use them. G&G’s SEO services are engineered to strengthen your website’s potential to hit that #1 spot by enhancing your website functionality and user experience, crafting relevant value-add content, and ensuring overall compliance with SEO best-practices.

NEXT: The basics in practice: How to improve SEO rankings, what search engines look for and common mistakes to avoid.

Search trends driving brands to adapt or die

Consumers google just about anything. From bra sizes, to the right type of dog, to personal hygiene questions and financial decisions. Search has become the new oracle. In fact, some questions you wouldn’t feel comfortable to ask a doctor about, we have no issue googling. Even if “Dr Google” wrongly diagnoses you with a brain tumour, the art of searching and self-research has grown tremendously.

Emerging search trends show consumer behaviours on a more granular level. Brands who understand this will have an advantage.

Meet the new breed of consumers
Today’s consumer expects information, relevant to their needs right here, right now. With an abundance of information at their fingertips, they demand answers as quick as possible with as little effort as possible even if they’re not sure what it is they are searching for. As a result, there are three types of consumers that brands need to speak to all at once, or one at a time.

  1. The curious consumer – Is research obsessed, with a mobile in hand at every decision. Mobile penetration has empowered them to make informed decisions about any purchase.
  2. The demanding consumer – Expects their digital experience to be relevant and personalised, even when they don’t know what they are talking about. They demand an effortlessly tailored experience.
  3. The impatient consumer – Wants to make a researched decision faster than ever. Mobile is driving this behaviour with 75% of consumers turning to their mobiles to address their immediate needs like lunch, at 12:55 pm.

Be the best – get 80% of searches in your sector
Mobile searches for “best” and “reviews” have grown by 80% in the past two years. And that’s not just for big decisions. No decision is too small for curious consumers, they use search throughout the decision-making journey.

This is an opportunity for marketers to influence across categories.

Search just got personal
Search trends also indicate that consumers are using search as their own personal advisory. More and more people are including qualifiers like “me” and “I” in their searches. Over the past two years, mobile searches with “for me” have grown by over 60%. Questions one would ask a friend or co-worker, they now ask search.

This behaviour is clear in search data across categories. From personal hygiene questions like “how should I wash my hair” to financial decisions like “what kind of credit card should I get”. Some go as far as making lifestyle decisions with search, like “should I go vegan”.

What does this mean for the savvy marketer?
Marketers who understand these search trends, their intent and the qualifying statements for the information they want, have a big opportunity to steal consumer attention. If someone searches “what should I have for lunch”, a restaurant in their location would want to have their menu and lunchtime specials in the search results.

Mobile searches relating to “best shoe for me” have increased by 120% in two years. Running shoe brands like Nike or Asics would want to help runners find the perfect shoe. Pet food brands like Pedigree could help a searcher find the right dog for them by suggesting quizzes or creating content around dog breeds.

Just as the answers one could find on search are endless, the possibilities for brands to assist consumers in finding their answers are endless.

A case for marketing automation
Taking the first step to delivering a timely, relevant and personal digital experience is integrating marketing automation into your digital strategy. Marketing automation allows you to add dynamic and personalised content based on an individual’s specific user profile, nurture them through the sales funnel and convert them to actual paying customers.

Once set up strategically and correctly, it captures prospects’ interests sending relevant information when they set off a trigger or based on their individual history. Marketing automation also provides granular level insights and data on targeted consumers which will help marketers develop the personal, relevant and timely content consumers are looking for.

The opportunities are endless. Savvy marketers now know that consumers want answers, ideas and inspiration in real time. Those who deliver, will see exponential growth. Those who don’t. Well. Let’s not even go there.

Seven things that will differentiate brands on social media

In the ongoing journey to surprise and delight their social media communities, brands should step out of their comfort zone and try new things.

This is a round-up of digital strategies that will set your brand apart on social media.

Facebook offers a response assistant to help improve the response times on your Facebook page and to let followers know their message has been received. There are currently three automated response options:

  • Messenger Greetings – welcome people when they initiate a private conversation.
  • Instant Replies – automated responses to followers when they message your page.
  • Away Messages – let people know they’ve contacted you outside business hours.

Research shows that people spend more time using social messaging – Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger – than social media. Facebook Messenger alone has over a billion monthly active users, sending more than 60 billion chat messages a day.

In April 2016 Facebook Messenger launched the chatbot functionality, and within six months the number of bots built on this platform tripled – and shows no signs of stopping. South African brands are keen to get in on the action, and chatbots are set to explode onto the social scene within the next 12 months. They’re a great way to collect data from your customers, such as location, age, gender and product preferences. Companies that offer online shopping can use chatbots to double-up as sales assistants, providing answers about product, price and shipping, and at the same time up- and cross-sell similar products.

While bots can respond day or night, finding the balance of efficient and personal will be the big challenge in successfully implementing this technology. Investing in real machine learning and AI will enable companies to create chatbots that learn-as-they-go, improving the experience with every conversation.

Engagement is a tricky deliverable and not necessarily a useful one. Most engagements consist of likes or reactions. The greatest benefit of this “lazy” engagement is sentiment analysis. It assists brands in judging which content elicits positive reactions – love, haha, wow – and which leads to anger and sadness. This adds a layer of sentiment insight beyond comments.

Remember to take note of negative feedback – posts that are hidden, reported as spam, and page unlikes. These actions lower your post’s relevancy score, which Facebook uses to determine valuable or useless content.

Six second videos
Brands have 1.7 seconds to grab a person’s fleeting attention. Whether how-to, product information or company launch – tell a story in six seconds. It’s challenging, but possible and effective.

User-generated content (UGC)
If you’re running competitions to get users to tag your brand to get user-generated content, be aware that you are creating an expectation that fans will be rewarded. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

If budget is an issue, however, engage with followers who engage the most. Send them a message asking if you could feature their content on your brand’s profile (tagging them in the caption). And if the same person consistently creates relevant content, a little gift of gratitude will go a long way to cementing loyalty.

Instagram Stories
This format offers so many opportunities – from 15-second vox pop clips or demos, to polls. Add a GIF and tag other accounts – it grabs attention and spreads the word. It doesn’t have to be scripted. In fact, this is the perfect way to showcase your authentic brand.

Facebook Live
Here scripts can be of value. Facebook recommends Live video should be between 10 minutes and four hours in length. You can post the video to your brand page later and promote to a targeted audience. This is ideal for webinars, interviews and Q&A sessions.

Instagram Stories vs Facebook Live?
Use Instagram stories to demonstrate a yoga position and Facebook Live to share a full yoga workout, followed by instructor Q and A.

These are easy elements to incorporate in your social media strategies, they will breakthrough, add value to your community and ensure your success.

Marketing automation: The new age of marketing

Marketing automation is an essential channel for businesses focussed on growth. It can unlock significant new revenue with a high return on investment (ROI) for businesses of all sizes. Here’s how it can impact your bottom line.

Marketing automation is driven by value. It shows care for your customers, sending them information they’re interested in, when they’re interested. And it nurtures customers through the sales pipeline, thereby adding value to your bottom line.

Current state of play
Studies show that by 2020, 85% of people will manage their relationships with brands without talking to a human. Yet, consumers demand authentic relationships, personalised information and advice when and where they need it. What’s more, these critical touchpoints, or micro-moments, are multiplying at a dizzying rate across different channels and devices thanks to the rise in mobile penetration.

How do brands, specifically small brands with limited resources, keep up? The answer is automation.

The new age
Marketing automation is intelligent and dynamic software that connects multiple touchpoints and marketing channels including social media, email marketing and content marketing to nurture prospective customers for the short- and long-term.

Once set up strategically and correctly, marketing automation captures prospects’ interests sending relevant information when they set off a trigger or based on their individual history.

Crucial data captured
Marketing automation makes it possible to gain insights into your campaign effectiveness. It provides crucial analytics, campaign management tools and powerful reporting to ascertain overall success and take learnings for future campaigns.

The granular reporting means you can develop optimal marketing patterns, test different variables, measure campaign effectiveness, monitor your leads’ behaviours and prove ROI. This is crucial data empowers you to determine how each campaign impacts the bottom line, win more sales and grow revenue.

Automation and personalisation
Is there room for automation and creativity in the same space? Absolutely.

Marketing automation allows you to add dynamic and personalised content based on an individual’s specific user profile.

Case studies prove that personalisation improves user experience and ultimately increases customer retention, increasing profits between 25% and 95%.

Nurturing customers post-sale is another great way to maximise cross-sells and upsells. Marketing automation allows brands to continue sending personalised messages to customers and monitor their behaviour, cementing customer loyalty, increasing revenue opportunities and gaining referrals.

Giving SME’s the edge
SME’s often face industry giants with more resources and bigger budgets. Marketing automation empowers you to optimise resources by doing more with less to gain market share from competitors.

Make an impact in 6 seconds

Due to the power of online video to ignite emotions, build trust and engage with consumers, more marketing professionals are including video in their communication matrix.

That said, it’s the really smart marketing professionals who are using a combination of video formats to amplify results.

6 seconds or less

Short-form, six second video ads, also known as bumper ads, are the new new. For good reason. They capture attention in a world where mobile is creating a new battleground for delivering innovative brand experiences. Thanks to increasing mobile penetration, short-form video is crucial to gain consumer attention.

It is important to note how much a brand can actually say in six seconds and how effective they are for recall and awareness. They are a cost-effective way to reach your target audience and ensure your message remains top of mind.

Mix it up
Brands of the future are using a combination of short-form ads and long-form video to tell a brand story. The result is greater brand awareness and powerful engagement.

There are three ways of using a combination of short and long-form video to improve reach and frequency, reinforce your message and reduce overall campaign costs.

Tease and intrigue
Create content that builds curiosity, seduces and leaves the user with a lasting message or metaphor. Plant the seed in a bumper ad and reveal the story in a longer video on YouTube and TV.

Studies have shown that nine out of 10 bumper ads lift recall of the overall campaign. If you’re launching a product, tease the consumer with what’s to come. Then ensure your longer form content speaks to the same story line.

Amplify the message
Short-form ads drive incremental reach. Long-form video supports with key messaging and value proposition. Combine the two and improve overall ad recall. What’s more, viewers exposed to bumper ads in addition to longer-form ads show a higher rate of ad recall than just long-form ads.

Reinforce and drive action
Short-form ads are an effective, punchy reminder of long-form ads as a campaign draws to a close. They can inspire viewers to take action before it’s too late, increasing the impact of the campaign. Viewers have a higher recall of the longer story with remarketed short-form ads.

Brief: Produce video that delivers your campaign message and drives action. Challenge accepted.