All posts by Stephen Sandmann

The life of a consultant

How to get social media marketing right. Image courtesy of Freepix.

It’s been quite a month, my first month as a digital marketing consultant. It has been a refreshing challenge and it couldn’t be more rewarding – you’re doing it for yourself, not for somebody else’s company. Focus and dedication are more important than ever. Bravery and a positive mind are critical. It’s been fun. I’ve met more top marketers in a short amount of time than ever before.

I’m steaming ahead, building up my client base. I’ve signed up a handful of bluechip clients, exciting brands that are keen to do innovative digital marketing. The future looks bright. Thank you all for helping make it happen – it’s truly appreciated.  Here’s to many decades of digital marketing that is effective and creative, to adventure and to challenges.

I’ll be going under the “Sandmann Digital” name, fully branding my ‘operation’ soon, not only because I’m proud of my heritage but also I wouldn’t be here without my family.


I’m running my own consultancy now

It is an exciting time for me. I’ve taken the plunge at running my own business going forward.  To quote a friend, “I’ve spun out my own consultancy (but with none of the silly agency overhead).” My consultancy will go by ‘Sandmann Digital’ going forward.

For those that don’t know me, here’s my short bio:

I have extensive Search Marketing experience, which includes over a dozen brands such as DStv and Vodacom, as well as SMEs and NGOs. I have and continue to work with SA’s top digital marketers, which have helped get where I am today. I’ve performed SEO while employed at Ogilvy, Quirk (Mirum) and Vodacom.

I enjoy being innovative and mingling with creatives. Regarding SEO, my one idea, McDonald’s OK Google voice search campaign won a Silver Assegai in 2015 and a Silver Pixel in 2016 (and nominated in a personal capacity), which was arguably a world-first for a 3rd party brand. Recently, I’ve innovated with applying emojis to organic search, for a large brand.  Vodafone Brand All Hands 2017 Awards – Runner up for Best Innovation (Google Shopping Ads) out of 21 markets.

In terms of Paid Search Marketing, my work helped secure a Runner up for Best Innovation (Google Shopping Ads) award at Vodafone Brand All Hands 2017 Awards, out of 21 markets.

I enjoy working on digital-led marketing, paid search marketing, social media marketing, and app store optimisation as well.

This quote from Inc. Magazine sums up where I am right now, “Shake off the fear of the unknown, dispel your self-limiting belief that hugely successful people are more talented than you. They’re just a bit more obsessed.” Inc. Magazine. I now have the time to be more obsessed with the work I love.

Feel free to get in touch:



Digital marketing innovation – SA has what it takes

(c) eireen -

(c) eireen –

The concept of innovation drives me. I love taking calculated risks. I enjoy doing the associated R&D. Most of all I like to watch it unfold as a campaign.

A friend and ex-colleague of mine, Rob Stokes (digital marketing pioneer, founder and non-executive chair at Quirk/Mirum Africa and Red & Yellow School) and I discussed this topic. Rob had this to share, “with artificially intelligent machines poised to take most jobs, the ability to think creatively will become the most important skill of the future as it is uniquely human.”

I believe South African digital marketers produce innovative digital marketing all the time but often and unintendedly fail to get the global recognition they may deserve.

Is it all about winning awards? I believe not. I think digital marketers should just love what they do and in the process to push boundaries. Winning awards is a bonus.

Innovation requires nurturing and working with like-minded people

I have and continue to work with SA’s top digital marketers. To all those starting their careers in digital marketing – make sure you always work hard, no idea is silly, ask questions, learn from constructive criticism, and don’t give up on the hope of landing that job opportunity to work with SA’s best.

The war of innovation

A factor to sometimes consider in the ‘war for innovation’ is that locally we are often technologically hindered from creating innovative campaigns because the tech takes a while to be rolled out in SA, compared to the US and Europe (e.g. Google Home). However, this doesn’t stop us from trying to squeeze everything we have out of the available technology. We must push ourselves every day and not use, “well, we’re in SA and we can’t do cool stuff like in the US or Europe.”

“OK Google, who won a Grand Prix Lion at Cannes?”

Burger King’s recent OK Google (Google Home) campaign just won a Grand Prix Lion at Cannes. It is fantastic to see that digital-lead campaigns, powered by Google tech are getting recognised on a global level.

South African’s pioneered “OK Google” digital marketing

I’m a search marketer by trade and I’ve always been intrigued by Google’s various technologies. I have first-hand experience with this type of digital marketing. I spearheaded an innovative OK Google campaign way back in 2015 for McDonald’s South Africa together with leading digital marketers at Mirum (formally Quirk), who made it possible. At the time, we pushed the very edge of what could be done with Google’s “OK Google” voice technology, long before Google Home devices existed. We were arguably the first in the world to launch an “OK Google” voice-activated campaign, merely a few days before Nestle UK launched their “OK Google” Kit Kat campaign.

I’ve been wanting to create a Google Home campaign ever since Google Home was launched in the US. Unfortunately, Google Home is not fully supported by Google in SA yet, which I understand. These things take time to roll out globally.

Search marketing with a youthful touch

How does one break through competitors’ advertising clutter in a youthful way? I’ve been fortunate enough to help drive another innovation in Search Marketing once more – to harness emojis for a leading telco’s youth marketing campaign. By combining and harnessing two local digital trends in a cutting-edge way. Google Search and the use of emojis by the youth segment are more popular than ever.

First, I noticed that Google had just reintroduced the availability of emojis in their organic search results (not ads). I asked myself, “how can this be taken advantage of in a useful way?”

Second, I developed an idea in the form of a competition entry mechanic. Website URLs on marketing material don’t engage consumers like they used to. I believe consumers have become somewhat blind to them. URLs aren’t the strong call-to-action messages they used to be – consumers are just too used to seeing them, almost everywhere these days.

Third, the idea was finalised. People can simply tap a series of emojis into their cellphones’ Google Search bar, just like they would do in a WhatsApp message to a friend.

A competition entry page would then present itself in the Google Search results. This is being promoted online and offline. The data doesn’t lie, people are embracing this never-been-done-before marketing message.

The pressure is on – we need to innovate to stay relevant

I’m optimistic about the South African digital marketing industry. The increasing growth of local digital marketing output and its growing prominence will collectively guarantee that digital marketers need to innovate to stay relevant.

My article first appeared in

How to get social media right – part 3

Social media campaigns need to be carefully aligned with traditional advertising, from messaging to timing executions. All digital marketing disciplines need to be in harmony with social media too.

Africa is the mobile advertising world's sleeping giant

Facebook ad targeting

Get your ad targeting right. Use Facebook’s clever targeting abilities such as custom audiences – once a user visits your site, you can show them your ads on Facebook. Once you have a custom audience, you can expand your ads’ reach with automated lookalike audiences, thereby targeting people with similar variables as those of your custom audience. 

Social media optimisation

Social media optimisation can mean different things to different marketers. Some think it is about getting the most out of your social media and others believe it is the optimisation of the relationship between your social media and your website or blog.

Website Google search listings that aren’t adverts are impacted by the quality of said websites’ content. Content that resonates with its intended audience will be shared often on social media. So, indirectly social media impacts SEO or search engine optimisation.

Blog vs website vs social media

A brand’s blog generated awareness and consideration, while its website is mostly about performance – sales are driven, while social media augments both the website and the blog with brand and performance social ads and social content.

Learnings from social campaigns

One can learn a lot from social media campaigns; what messaging works and the detailed breakdown of your customers. This, in turn, can help you craft blog content that resonates more with your customers.

Breaking news’ impact on Twitter and Google Search

Social media and Google search are more connected than most think. Data reveals that when news breaks, people usually turn to Twitter or Facebook first, followed by Google search.

I believe Twitter is great for live news but as breaking news unfolds, people turn to Google search to find in-depth articles on the subject. One way Google strives to be a real-time source of news is to provide a stream of live tweets in its search results.

It all comes together

One should not treat social media in isolation – it must work closely with Google Search Marketing, the website, blog and traditional advertising to get the most out of it.

How to get social media right – part 2

Social media, especially Facebook, is an excellent source of highly-engaged website visitors. I’ve studied one of SA’s top 5 online content contributor’s website, over its lifespan at the time, and visitors via Facebook drove high levels of engagement, followed by visitors via Twitter.

This is exactly what you want; people engaging with your website or blog content, whether it is to sign up for a newsletter, buy a product via a website.

How to get social media marketing right. Image courtesy of Freepix.

Brand vs Performance Social Media

So, a social media post must be visually appealing, but is that all? A social media post must also be clear in its intention.

Engaging with your customers properly will result in generating revenue and building online brand awareness or consideration. Split these concepts into separate campaigns.

There must be a clear split between which social campaigns are ‘brand’ and which campaigns are about revenue or ‘performance’, each with their own objectives. However, they need to be aligned with one another to optimally complete the purchase funnel for a brand to achieve its overall goal of driving revenue.

You don’t want mixed messages; the brand social media will fulfil the awareness and consideration phase of the purchase funnel, while the performance social media will close the deal to sell more products or services. Your performance campaign will be less effective if the brand campaign doesn’t generate sufficient awareness and consideration.

Brand campaigns should be about reach, video views and website visits, with a call-to-action such as “learn more”. Performance campaigns should be about Cost Per Acquisition for app installs, online shopping or leads, with a CTA of “shop now”.

That’s it for part two, look out for part 3 soon.

How to get social media right – Part 1

How to get social media marketing right. Image courtesy of Freepix.

To paraphrase David Sable (Global CEO of Y&R agency), social media is nothing new, we’ve been socialising around office water coolers for decades.

So, simply put, normal social interaction norms should apply in a different format online as they do offline. Sticking with the water cooler metaphor – if you start a new job you would not try sell your Tupperware goods from your side business at your first opportunity. You would act normal, be friendly, chat about everyday things, add value to a conversation. Then maybe once you’re well acquainted with your colleagues you’ll hint at selling your Tupperware. It’s the same for social media.

An imaginative, original and relevant creative idea, as well as artwork, are crucial to successful interaction. A strong creative concept is vital. Get the artwork spot on or fail. 30% of the brain’s cortex is dedicated to sight vs 8% for touch and 3% for hearing. Facebook posts should be short, visual and created with the right audience in mind.

Stand out from the vast amount of social chatter, including your competitors, and grab attention. To do this you also need the help of ads. If you don’t spend enough on ads your reach and engagement will be minimal.

Digital marketing trends for 2017 (part3)

Digital Marketing

In part three of my exploration of digital marketing in 2017 (part one and part two), I delve into subjects I haven’t covered yet such as apps, B2B and tracking ROI digital marketing trends, and acquired more insight into other trends. I caught up with Lana Strydom (EHOD – Digital, Content and Social Marketing at Vodacom South Africa), Jeanine Ferreira (Senior Portfolio Manager: Digital Marketing at Vodacom South Africa), Justin Spratt (Head of Business, Sub-Saharan Africa at Uber), Michel Holworthy (Senior Specialist: Online Marketing at Vodacom South Africa and Terence Gomes Rei (Specialist: Digital Marketing at Vodacom South Africa).

How will Digital Marketing ROI Be Measured?

We live in challenging times from a macro-economic perspective, so it’s no surprise that companies are scrutinising marketing ROI more than ever before while digital marketing – which is no different – will be stepped up in 2017.

Here’s an example; Google’s research revealed that about 92% of product-related Google searches on cellphones lead to a product being purchased, and this does makes sense. This subsequent purchase may take place in-store. However, this sale may not have been attributed to the product-related Search Marketing efforts which should have been the case. Digital marketing spend must accurately reflect its offline effect on consumer buyer behaviour.

Jeanine Ferreira believes that 2017 will be the year of attribution: “Attribution modelling will become more sophisticated and more companies will start working on online-to-offline attribution. Google and Facebook are working hard to implement this in South Africa through satellite and beacon technology.”

Can traditional marketing boost digital marketing’s effectiveness?

There is definite symbiosis at play. Traditional marketing such as TV and radio ads play an important role in helping to generate online buzz and often act as an overall catalyst for marketing success. Digital marketers would see this impact in the form of a sudden increase in the number of related Google searches and website visits.

Jeanine shares her thoughts: “TV, and especially radio, will contribute to digital’s success and vice versa. Combining these different marketing channels will add another dimension to marketing in 2017. This, combined with a more robust understanding and implementation of data brings us closer to customized marketing – probably the only reason why consumers will not install ad-blockers on their devices.”

Apps need to provide more value

Most brands want their own apps but is there a proper value proposition for these apps to exist?

Terence shares his perspective: “As the South African market steadily moves towards being mobile-focused, the competition for downloads is on. According to a study conducted by research giant, Nielson, the average smartphone user has 27 apps on their phone and if you want your app to be one of them, then you best be creating value for the end-user.

Undoubtedly, 2017 will see increased innovation in apps through the likes of AI, virtual reality, IoT and wearable technology which provides users with tools they may not even be aware that they need or want just yet. But it’s not enough to have an app that only has cool gimmicks. If it’s not helping the end-user in some way, then it is likely to sit on their phone inactive until one day they realise that they do not use it and inevitably delete it. Go innovative but keep it relevant.”

Content marketing’s prominence will grow

I touched on this slightly in my last article but Lana Strydom gives us deep insight into the subject: “The concept of brand as publisher has been prevalent for the last few years, but we’re now seeing some serious movement in this space. Content marketing plays a significant role at the top and middle of the conversion funnel, driving awareness and engagement while often providing information and education around complex products and services. Data-driven content that enhances the customer experience along the various stages of brand engagement is going to drive a significant change in approach to content production.

“Measurement and attribution models which show the contribution of content marketing to brand and commercial objectives are going to draw significant focus. In line with demand from major brands, we’ve seen some specialised content marketing agencies develop, often straddling hybrid publisher-agency roles.”

What about B2B digital marketing in 2017?

This type of digital marketing is not often in the limelight but it’s intriguing nonetheless. B2B marketers will continue to win with LinkedIn this year. Online content’s importance will continue to expand for B2B marketers.

Justin Spratt has fascinating ideas about where B2B digital marketing will go in 2017: “I think email will see a continued rebirth, specifically in the B2B space. Business buyers increasingly procure through a consumer lens so much of the B2C ideas will extend to this category. This means social signalling, backed by emails with direct calls to action, will work – a simple mechanic but very hard to get right. But get it right, and suddenly that tight marketing budget looks abundant.”

Michel Holworthy said: “B2B content marketers believe that content marketing is one of the most effective lead-generation channels today. Lead generation and website traffic are some of the top goals and metrics in content marketing in 2017.  Most B2B companies are more concerned about getting more potential clients and find tremendous value in personalised touchpoints.”

That’s it for digital marketing trends for 2017. Let’s conquer digital marketing this year knowing that it is full of exciting opportunities and challenges too. Be resilient, be a risk-taker and most of all, be curious!


Image: Designed by Freepik

Digital marketing trends for 2017 (part 2)

Here’s part two of my trends articles on digital marketing. Thanks to all the contributors for their insightful thoughts.
In part two of my exploration of digital marketing, I decided to find out where other marketers see digital marketing fit into brands’ marketing mixes in 2017. I caught up with: Mzamo Masito, Managing Executive: Brand Marketing & Communications at Vodacom South Africa; Fran Luckin, Chief Creative Officer of Grey Africa; Justin Spratt, Head of Business, Sub-Saharan Africa at Uber; and Tanya Hibbert, Marketing Manager at Vodacom South Africa.
(c) Leung Cho Pan -

(c) Leung Cho Pan –

How will digital marketing fit into the 2017 marketing mix?

Digital marketing’s influence on consumers is more prominent than ever, of which all marketers need to take advantage.

Mzamo Masito had this to say: “Digital marketing continues to be relevant for brands that want to build ‘brand love’ while increasing shareholder value. Great benefits of digital marketing are that the consumer has power, and our role is to connect people to live a better today and build a better tomorrow.”

Fran Luckin is another expert who believes in the growing importance of digital marketing: “Is it not time to drop the word ‘digital’ from ‘digital marketing’? Digital connectivity is so pervasive that marketing can’t happen without it anymore. ‘Digital’ isn’t a ‘medium’ in the sense of it being a ‘channel’. It’s a medium like water or air. It’s everywhere and most – if not all – of our lives take place in it.”

Tanya Hibbert thinks that marketers need to embrace innovation in the form of digital marketing: “Twitter changed the world with just 140 characters. Embrace innovation – what you pilot could be the next big thing.”

Clearly we must forget our old notions of what a marketing mix should look like. Digital marketers and traditional marketers need to work more closely together for overall success in 2017.

Justin Spratt shares some interesting thoughts: “2017 is the year in which enlightened marketers will stop having conversations that include ‘digital marketing’. The marketing war has already been won. Take a bow, Internet.

He continues: “I’ve used the word ‘Internet’, instead of ‘digital’ because it’s more informative. While the word ‘digital’ is commonly used, it is amorphous enough to have little specific meaning. The Internet talks to the disruptive technology that’s driving changes – not only in marketing, but in the very way in which we live and interact. It is the mechanism that needs to be understood to win. I haven’t used ‘the web’ because this is just one execution of digital and the Internet.”

Will digital marketing replace traditional marketing?

I don’t think so, but I believe there will be an infusion of digital marketing and traditional marketing elements like never before, such as more widespread execution of digital-lead marketing campaigns.

Spratt expands on this in vivid detail: “This doesn’t mean it replaced above the line, below the line, brand marketing or direct marketing. No, it has been suffused into all marketing through subliminal cultural osmosis. So called ‘television commercials’ are now born digital and flighted with higher frequency on the Internet than through broadcast mediums.

“Below the line isn’t really effective these days without a digital activation funnelling customer data into databases in The Cloud for future marketing. Perhaps out-of-home is the last vestige of traditional advertising where big, beautiful print-designed banners can be both visceral and effective – and while digital is coming through tracking and timed-displays, it doesn’t come close yet.

“So, where does this leave digital this year and into the future? I believe the demarcation between digital will fade with more rapidity this year. And it must, for marketers to be successful. Siloed marketing is dysfunctional and costly, and mostly renders ‘tick-the-box’ campaigns. Digital is not a channel, it is part of every channel, so to separate it is to fail at marketing.”

Where will creative ideas come from in 2017?

The Internet is a powerful tool that impacts today’s creative process, which I touched on in my previous article.

Spratt makes a few strong statements on the matter: “Whether people like it or not, every creative idea now has its genesis fuelled by the Internet. It has been a foregone conclusion to many people, for many years. Google and Facebook have built their businesses, now accounting for up to 95% of all digital media money and potentially supplanting over 10% of all advertising budgets this year.

“Naysayers will argue that these are only ‘digital media companies’. Wrong. Google harvests intent to buy, and Facebook fosters and promotes intent through social signalling. The goal of marketers is to promote intent, either indirectly through brand or through direct messaging and placements designed to ignite that ‘first moment of truth’. And furthermore, above-the-line agencies continue to suck up the social media budgets, thereby protecting egos. All of this is not to say other forms of marketing do not work – they do – it’s just that Google and Facebook have shone a light on a much more expeditious path to marketing-led revenue by using the Internet.”

Is 2017 is a watershed moment for the whole industry?

I’ve experienced the dynamic agency life for a few years and it may be in for a shakeup this year.

According to Justin Spratt: “I believe that digital elements will continue to give life to a barely-breathing industry whose procurement wounds are close to mortal. But of course, this puts pressure on everyone, and digital needs to shoulder its responsibility for toils of its new empire.

In many ways, 2017 will be a watershed moment for the entire industry. There is likely no more runway for many embattled small- and medium-sized agencies, so I expect to see consolidation driving talent back into the bigger agencies or driving the talent to contract themselves back to agencies.

I think contracted talent phenomenon has a lot of runway; it solves the need for agencies to manage capacity – often a margin killer – while still using the very best talent. It gives power back to the talent who’ve taken the brunt of the pain with longer hours, no-increases, no-bonuses and increasingly risk-averse, pedestrian work. The only downside is for the brand, ensuring lock-in and exclusivity that was promised to said brand in previous years. The building internal agencies – except for the most very talented brand marketers – is a fad and will die (again) as the pendulum loses momentum.”

So, it’s clear that we are in for quite a year. I believe that the marketers who best adapt to these trends will come out on top. I think that if something doesn’t offer challenges then it isn’t worth pursuing. So, with that logic in mind, clearly digital marketing’s dynamic nature will guarantee quite a winding ride in 2017.

Look out for part three in which I delve into more digital marketing trends, such as more digital platform and B2B developments.


My article first appeared on

Digital marketing trends for 2017 (part1)

(c) rawpixel -

(c) rawpixel – – courtesy of
I especially enjoyed writing this piece on Digital marketing trends for 2017.
I’m more or less a self-taught digital marketer (formally only studied marketing). It’s my curiosity, risk-taking nature and creativity that got me to where I am today. It is this curiosity that led me to ask the question, ‘What should we look out for in 2017 when it comes to digital marketing?’ I share my thoughts on trends and I caught up with many digital marketing experts, like SA‘s digital marketing pioneer Rob Stokes, founder and non-executive chair at Quirk/Mirum Africa and Red & Yellow School to get his thoughts on the year ahead.

What does it take to be a digital marketer in 2017?

To stay ahead in 2017, digital marketers need to be tenacious, risk-takers and hungry for knowledge. Speaking of knowledge, education, training and mentorship will accelerate this year. Simply put, demand will continue to outstrip supply – there is a substantial digital marketing skills shortage in SA now. Educational institutes like Red & Yellow School will play a significant role in fixing this.

Digital marketing in 2017 carries tremendous opportunity for students looking for a career path, as well as marketers of all types. Digital agencies will continue to seek out top talent which blue chip clients demand. Companies are also on the lookout for digital marketing talent to collaborate effectively with their agency counterparts.

According to Stokes, a digital marketer needs to possess a few personal qualities to achieve success, and but above all, genuine curiosity. “Everyone loves to talk this game, but precious few people are actually able to live it. It’s a rare character trait which more humans should strive for if they want to compete in the 21st century. Once you are curious, then you need the ability to apply what you’ve learnt through this hunger for knowledge into value-adding creative thinking, innovation and problem solving.

“The role of the marketer is to know their customer, develop products and services that meet their needs and then build a programme of communications to express the organisation’s purposes.

“I feel that currently the innovation part of this mandate has been pushed aside in favour of extra communication. In my opinion, this is not an effective strategy in the long term.”

Where are we heading in 2017?

Remarkable digital marketing must combine data-driven creative ideas with the relevant, innovative application of technology. Let’s give consumers ‘intuitive brand experiences’ to communicate effectively with them.

Online consumer behaviour can guide the ideation process. Internationally, advertising agencies are taking advantage of crowdsourcing and AI for creative ideas and executions. A new digital creative model has emerged and SA will follow suit. Personalised online content can now be scaled like never before.

We must step up our understanding and ability to harness Google’s and Facebook’s algorithms (the mechanics of how they work) to effectively get our messages across to consumers this year. There is a good chance that Snapchat will become a viable marketing platform, especially with its promising, just-launched ad tech platform in mind.

Stokes shares interesting insights: “Mobile phone sales are now predominately smartphones. This means that on the digital side of the marketing mix, industry professionals now have a market that is – for most of our current planning intents and purposes – using smartphones. This is significant because a smartphone is not just a phone; it’s a connected computer in your pocket that knows who you are, where you are and can communicate with you directly and in an incredibly rich way.

“The opportunities are endless, but they are also different. Porting a tactic from another channel to mobile is unlikely to be a super effective strategy. It’s an incredibly exciting time, but we have to be whip smart to make the most of it.”

What will digital marketing budgets look like in 2017?

Brands’ 2017 marketing budget allocations will compensate more for the year-on-year increase in consumer smartphone usage, as well as an increase in their usage of other digital technologies. I see digital marketing budgets increasing in 2017.

Stokes is optimistic about the likelihood of digital marketing budgets increasing in 2017: “I say yes, purely on the basis that for sound economic reasons, they should. The time consumers are spending on digital channels as a proportion of the time they spend on other channels is far greater than the corresponding marketing budget apportionment. This makes no sense because marketing spend should at least roughly follow consumers’ attention. The gap is still large because most marketers are risk-averse (ironically, given their definitional mandate to innovate) so logically it needs to close even if budget still lags reality for a while.”

I’ll end with one caveat. When it comes to the world of digital marketing, always expect the unexpected coupled with lots of curveballs. I believe it’s best to keep an eye out for shifts in trends and be ready to adapt your craft.


This article of mine first appeared in

SEO – Search Experience Optimisation

Digital marketing innovation with Google Voice Search

©Marcel de Grijs via 123RF

SEO – Search Experience Optimisation

So what is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)? SEO is the art of creating an unrivalled website experience that consumers love to explore, as well as providing users with what they are looking for, while simultaneously reaching the brand’s goals. I believe that SEO is an evolving digital art; a means of developing a website, improving its usability, optimising its content and spreading the word on the Internet. When I refer to optimising, it means to create content that offers clarity to the user in a South African and global context.

Google is the Gateway to the Internet

An easy way to understand how Google and SEO work is via a simile: Google is like an extremely vast library, where the books are replaced with websites; when a South African user searches for something on their search engine, Google’s librarian or algorithm will select a range of websites for which it thinks you would find applicable. Google is the entry point to the Internet for many people. SEO revolves around getting your website not only selected by Google’s algorithm via the appropriate words or phrases, but also to feature very prominently in this selection or search results page.
SEO from a South African point of view requires research and testing, not to mention a lot of patience to achieve the desired goals of the brand. When kick-starting an SEO strategy, we ask ourselves: “Does the brand want to drive sales or raise its online awareness? Are the brand’s products or services associated with relevant search words or phrases? Do the brand’s values shine through their website content?”
When it comes to SEO, you will often read or hear about ‘keywords’ or ‘key phrases’. Keywords and key phrases are the words or phrases for which you want consumers to find your brand’s website via search engines – your brand would like to be synonymous with these words or phrases. SEO is often misunderstood; good SEO is not about jamming the copy or text on your website full of keywords. Rather, a well-executed SEO strategy revolves around clear website architecture, a well-researched keyword and content strategy and tweaking the website copy, making sure it’s relevant, original and of high quality.

What Can SEO do for your South African Brand?

A high visibility in Google’s search results equates to an increase in brand recognition to a large degree. A high ranking website is most likely seen as a sign of authority and credibility in your brand’s South African marketplace.

Google searches are driven by a goal; South African users use a search engine to find information about a product or service they either want or need. Well-executed SEO will drive relevant traffic to your website, which should significantly increase your website’s conversion rate (the rate at which South African users take a desired action). Such a desired action could be completing a Contact Us form, making a purchase or requesting a quote.

Google provides brands with access to each stage of the consumer’s buying cycle. In brief, consumers will search out information at each stage of the buying cycle. So, by targeting different keywords associated with each stage of the buying cycle, you can effectively access these consumers.

The Mechanics of a Search Engine in South Africa is Google South Africa‘s local search engine which most South African’s use. Google selects the best possible websites to appear in their result pages for their South African users’ queries. To quote Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google: “We believed we could build a better search. We had a simple idea, that not all pages are created equal. Some are more important.”
Your content must match what your target market wants or needs; in other words, your content strategy should be centred on relevance to the South African user and the brand. When your audience is searching via Google for the service or product your brand offers, don’t let a competing brand take that potential lead; effectively executed SEO will significantly reduce the chances of this happening.

Digital-lead Marketing

Brands spend a great deal of money on above-the-line or traditional advertising that often displays the brand’s website address/URL, or just promotes the website, this could be a TV ad, billboard or print ad, which displays a link to the brand’s website. In today’s digital world, I feel brands should be spending more on digital advertising, especially SEO. While the above-the-line advertising can and does help drive organic traffic, the website must be streamlined for the highest potential ROI.

Google allows consumers to ‘pull’ marketing messages, which are usually ‘pushed’ onto consumers via traditional advertising. The marketing message that consumers ‘pull’ from Google should be the same as and effectively synchronised with the above-the-line advertising campaign. Your brand’s content strategy should provide relevant, timely content, which would be indexed by Google and appear in its organic search results.

Track A Tangible ROI

Like any other form of marketing, calculating your brand’s return on investment is crucial. Digital marketing, SEO included, requires a different approach to traditional marketing. Brian Sheehan, the author of ‘Basic Marketing: Online Marketing’, had this to say about digital marketing: “While the traditional purchase funnel is about delivering the right message at the right time, the online purchase funnel is focused on measuring the right data and continually improving numerical results. The online funnel is all about measurement.”

Your digital agency should provide you with in-depth reports on a monthly or ad hoc basis. These track the progress of your brand reaching its relevant goals. An example of a goal could be simply to drive more organic traffic to your website through high organic search ranks.

This is an excerpt from an article I for Ogilvy.