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.


Boxed in – the great email tragedy

By Charles Ash, Senior Front-End Developer at G&G Digital

In the current great creative explosion of our time, I’m all for freedom, bucking the system and doing the unconventional. When it comes to the really big things though, one quickly realises that unbridled freedom can be a major bugbear in getting even the simplest things done.

Heck, I’m even losing my faith in humanity ever agreeing on the big, really important things, like achieving consensus on matters of the environment, objective morality and global justice, when we can’t even all agree to drive on the same side of the road.

World Wide Web or Wild Wild West?
If you’re in the web development world, you’ll have an even greater appreciation for the global adherence to standards. Not too long ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the WWW in your favourite URL stood for Wild Wild West. The browser market was dominated by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and standards and methods of rendering data on your screen differed wildly from browser to browser.

The greatest villain in this technological sham was Microsoft with their divergence from any semblance of technological sanity. The result was the birth of the Firefox browser and the Mozilla Foundation which sought to bring technological consistency and sanity to the world’s browser market.

Almost immediately, Firefox started eating away at the Internet Explorer fiefdom and Microsoft was brought to heel through market loss and other players (including Google Chrome) taking a more co-operative, rational approach to the enforcement and adherence to web standards.

The email challenge
The email market now finds itself at the same nexus the browser market found itself in 10 years ago. The market is fractured and wildly inconsistent. With the rendering of HTML in email clients varying so wildly, it’s enough to bring even the most accomplished web developers to their knees.

You see, while the world races ahead technologically, the market for email clients and the rendering of HTML emails has remained obstinately stuck in the past. Even the lowly animated GIF and transparent PNG enjoy very spotty support (at best) in email clients.

That jaw-dropping design your creative team produced for the next award-winning mailer? You may want to rethink those background images, paddings, margins and CSS3 effects. Unless you’re planning on emailing a link for people to see your creative wizardry in their browser.

The case for simplicity
So how does one distill sanity and send out functional, viewable mailers that don’t bring the design team to tears; alienate the client and don’t cause your developers to want to immigrate to Antarctica? You can start by taking a back-to-basics approach.

Uppermost in your mind is that most of your end users will likely be viewing your emails on their mobile phones, so it makes sense to target this particular segment first and scale up your design to cater for users who may be accessing your emails in Outlook, Apple Mail, Thunderbird and heaven-forbid, Lotus Notes or Groupwise.

Only one click away
Until the technology underpinning the rendering of email gets dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, we need to shed the notion that the HTML email must be as creatively expressive as the website you’re trying to lead the end user to.

This isn’t 1999, where only a select group of people had access to the web and so it made sense that the email touch point be as flashy as the website you hoped to lead them to. Don’t lose sight of the fact that almost every recipient of your email in the world today, is just one click away from the website you’re trying to lead them to.

Be realistic. Save time. Save tears. There’s wisdom in simplicity.

Digital and TV, sitting in a tree

By Kathryn McConnachie, Head of Copy & Content at G&G Digital

When it comes to powerful marketing combinations, digital and TV go together like peanut butter and syrup. Sushi and wasabi. Thick-framed eyewear and creatives. It’s the yin to TV’s yang, or the Kim to TV’s Kanye. Here’s why:

Digital is growing
While digital has historically been considered the elite playground of the higher LSMs, the data is starting to suggest otherwise. Facebook, for example, is consistently seeing digital engagement across the spectrum in South Africa. This is hardly surprising considering that 19-20 million South Africans are now online thanks to increased smartphone penetration and lower data costs.

TV is no longer the dominant screen

A large percentage of mobile phone usage is happening at home – while users are in front of the TV. Watching TV as an activity has evolved to become less of a passive experience and more about active engagement. And this engagement is happening online, in social spaces where audiences can feel connected. This is particularly during live screenings, major events and (especially for South Africans) weeknight soapies and popular dramas.

People are curious
If a viewer wants to know more about a character, they’ll Google it. If they missed something in the show plot, they’ll Google it. If they’re intrigued by an ad or product, they’ll Google it. In fact, a significant 27% of ‘second screeners’ look up product information online after seeing a TV ad.

This means that if you’re doing TV but not looking after your digital presence – and more specifically, your search presence – you’re missing out on a major opportunity to get closer to consumers and potentially close the loop in the path to purchase or conversion.

Measurable impact
Adding a digital layer to a traditional campaign can provide a new level of insight into the impact of your marketing effects. Going well beyond reach and impressions, proper digital monitoring and measurement can tell you sentiment, track user behaviour and correlate awareness with sales.

It can tell you, to a large extent, what type of action your TV campaign inspired. Whether viewers Googled the backing track of your ad or immediately went to purchase your product online. It’s an invaluable tool to evaluate the success of your above-the-line marketing.

Adding depth
If you invest in TV media, you should ensure you get optimal value from the extra exposure for meaningful brand interactions. If a TV ad piqued the interest of a viewer enough to have them type your brand’s name into Google, make sure that when they find you, they like what they see. Also make sure your digital platforms are optimised for conversions – whether e-commerce or building a consumer database, close that loop.

Better together
To get the most out of digital to support a TV campaign, its essential to ensure the campaign is aligned from the outset. This means digital cannot be seen as an afterthought – it should form an integral part of the original conception and ideation phase.

Establish your conversion objectives upfront and gear your TV collateral to drive people to your digital platforms. Research shows that when TV and digital are used together for a campaign, there is an 18+ point increase across all brand markers.

The bottom line? Don’t waste the opportunity.

Awards baby, awards

We experienced the sweet taste of success in 2015,
And we’re hungry for more.

So in 2016, let’s do the work that matters.

Let’s take on the campaigns that make your competitors think: ‘Damn, wish we’d thought of that.’

Let’s create unforgettable experiences.

Let’s create out-of-this-world content.
The content that makes people stop mid-scroll on Facebook.
The articles that make you stop, think and ask: ‘Hey, did you see this?’
The videos that you just have to share. Immediately. With everyone.

Brave ideas need to be backed by even braver clients.
So let’s push each other to think bigger. Think smarter.

Let’s solve problems.
Let’s make an impact.
Let’s win some awards.
Let’s make 2016 the year we break through.

Let’s do this.

Digital marketing trends for SA in 2016

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

Even though the year’s skidding past at breakneck speed, it’s important to stay in touch with sweeping trends – they might just force you to rethink how to speak to your desired audience. Here are four key trends that will shape the approach to digital marketing in 2016.

1. Eschewing product-focused content

The ‘infomercial’ approach to branded content on social media and digital channels isn’t working for anyone. You cannot claim to be successfully mastering storytelling if your story is: “Our product is the best thing on the planet and is 10% more amazing than everything else. Everyone who bought it lived happily ever after. The end.”

Think about the way Dove went from generic soap ads to transforming their brand narrative through the ‘Real Beauty’ campaign.

To broaden your perspective on branded content, think of your brand as a person – consider what their interests would be and draw your content pillars from that. Compelling storytelling involves removing the product blinkers and looking at the broader context within which your brand exists.

Consider your scope of content as a series of concentric circles. The bigger the circle, the broader the appeal and the greater the potential objective value of the content.


2. Paid content distribution

As content marketing becomes the new normal for brands, the reality is setting in that publishing content and having it discovered online are two very different things.

Even the best content needs to be backed by spend to spark engagement and broaden reach. As a result, in 2016 brands will begin to see content distribution strategy as being just as important as content production itself.

Facebook has emerged unequivocally as the most successful paid content distribution platform for brands and publishers alike. With the right targeting strategy and the right content crafting, Facebook is the most effective way to put your content in front of the right people at the right time. And it doesn’t hurt that a quarter of all global web traffic is currently channelled through the platform.

That said, brands will also be experimenting with new opportunities for native advertising as publishers explore new mutually beneficial models.

3. Engagement analytics and ROI

As brands invest in creating higher quality content, they’ll also demand a higher standard of analytics to prove ROI. Looking beyond vanity metrics such as impressions and reach, brands will want to measure value by deeper metrics such as time spent on site (and specific articles), comments and, all-important, sharability.

In line with this, it will also be increasingly important to analyse the quality of referral traffic driven by paid content distribution platforms. All of these insights must be fed back into the content production and optimisation process in a constant feedback loop to ensure optimal ROI.

4. Influencer relationships and content co-creation

As content takes centre stage, it will become increasingly important for brands wanting to win at content marketing to partner with the professionals. This means working with video production experts when video is required, photographers for amazing imagery and professional writers and journalists for compelling articles.

(Hopefully) gone will be the days of influencer endorsement simply for a once-off fee. Audiences see straight through the one-dimensional ‘endorsements’ and influencers and brands alike lose credibility because of them. Brands will need to be thinking in terms of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships based shared values and the desire to create quality content.