Digital marketing – 2013 perspective is still a bit relevant today

I wrote this article in 2013. A lot of what is discussed can be seen as fundamental components of digital marketing, which are less likely to change much anytime soon. As corny as it sounds, let’s still try push boundaries each day in the office.

Digital marketing from a 2013 perspective

Digital marketing from a South African perspective
I believe that an effective digital presence is crucial for any brand to truly succeed in today’s digital world and South Africa is no exception. You need to understand the dynamic and evolving digital marketing practices in a South African context.

Digital marketing revolves around the end-user, people who browse the Internet. This means that digital marketing is focused on the user-experience of the consumers who browse the Internet.

Digital marketing is composed of various specialised disciplines: Search Engine Marketing, Display Marketing, Web Development, Mobile Marketing, and Social Media Marketing.

The current South African digital landscape

Fourteen million South African’s or more than 30% of South Africa’s population* is now connected to the Internet. This accounts for 39% of South African adults*. A fascinating truth is that using the Internet is more popular than reading newspapers in South Africa, because 17% of South Africans read a newspaper daily while 22% use the Internet daily**.

Google it

Search Engine Marketing consists of Search Engine Optimisation or SEO and Paid Search.

In reality SEO refers to the new and popular “Google” verb, namely, to “Google” something or someone on the Internet. It is therefore important to have a noteworthy presence in this digital space. Most browsers do not type in a website’s address or URL but instead they Google it. What is the point of having a brilliant website if no one can find it?

The entries with a white background, in the middle of the page and below the beige “box” are known as “organic” search results. Organic/Natural Search Results are largely seen as more credible than paid search adverts by browsers. The general digital marketing industry consensus is that these organic search results are far more credible than paid for ads, because they are generally perceived as more relevant and are not seen as manipulating the search results.There are two types of possible entries on a Search Result Pages (SERP). There are the paid for adverts (Adwords) in beige “boxes” at the top, and as a vertical list on the right side of the page. These ads can also include images now.

A digital agency should focus most of their efforts on the Google Search Engine, because, in short, is the most visited website in South Africa***. Therefore the vast majority of all Internet or online searches in South Africa are done through SEO is critical for your website to be accessed by more of your target market because most Internet browsers only look at the first few search results on the first page. Google search is the primary entryway to the Internet for consumers, so it makes sense that your brand is very visible in this digital landscape. That is why SEO is crucial for your brand’s long-term online visibility or presence.

While SEO focuses on the long-term visibility of a website in search results, Google’s Adwords ads are ideal for short-term campaigns. Adwords ads can, however complement your long-term online search visibility efforts as well. The most prominent form of Paid Search Marketing is Adwords. By using Adwords to promote your website you will widen your figurative “net” for you to gain prospective customers via the Internet. A well-executed Adwords campaign can be quickly tailored to meet the exact and changing requirements of the above-the-line campaign you are running for your brand. Through Google’s peerless grasp on the demographics of Internet users, you can target the consumers who would be interested in your brand.

Pictures can say a thousand words

Display or banner advertising is the oldest form of digital advertising in South Africa. Display advertising has progressed like every other digital marketing discipline. Google’s Display Network is the largest ‘broker’ or network for placing display adverts on third party websites. Your Google Display Network ads can be videos, interactive, text, or images.

Like Adwords, you can also target consumers who would most likely be interested in your brand. Many in the digital marketing industry believe that display ads are very useful for generating online brand awareness.

Do people really like your brand’s website?

No matter how successful your brand is your website should be user-friendly. Browsers of your website must find it an enjoyable experience. This user-friendly or usability factor coincides with your website’s need to also be Google-friendly. Google wishes to provide browsers with the best possible user-experience through their search result pages.

Lastly, your website should be mobile-device-friendly as well. This is because the majority of consumers access websites via their mobile phones or mobile devices as well as on their PCs. Some consumers access websites only via their mobile phones. I suggest that your brand should have a website with a responsive design. This means it is a desktop website that simply adjusts its appearance for compatibility on mobile devices. A responsive website negates the need for a mobile or mobi site, thereby halving the site maintenance.

Going mobile

South African’s are using their mobile phones and mobile devices to connect to the Internet like never before. Twenty percent of all South African Internet users connect to the Internet via their mobile phones only***. You can target consumers with Google Adwords ads or Display Network ads on their mobile devices, while they browse the Internet. Harnessing this mobile platform has become an integral component of today’s digital marketing.

Digital Applications or Apps for mobile devices are an important mobile digital marketing tool. Engaging consumers on their mobile devices has never been more important. An exciting mobile development is augmented reality, which is applied through ‘AR’ Apps.

Sharing your social life

Social Media is part of the very fabric of modern living; this includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Mxit, Google+, Pinterest, blogs and many more social media platforms.

Whether you use Social Media Marketing for online brand awareness, reputation management, advertising campaigns for launching products or all of the above; there is a great opportunity for your brand to benefit from Social Media Marketing. Facebook, for example is a brilliant digital ‘demand generator’ via word-of-mouth. Many people view Facebook as a digital PR medium only; but Facebook users tolerate adverts because they browse Facebook to be distracted; as a form of escapism. Social media metrics should be focused around relevant interactions with your brand to achieve your goals.

Digital synergy

Digital marketing is evolving at a rapid rate. The above digital disciplines are the major components that make up contemporary digital marketing. Your brand should strive to be at the forefront of this exciting digital world.

Statistics courtesy of:
*University of Witwatersrand, Echo and Word Wide Worx.
**University of Witwatersrand.

My article first appeared in 

Biz Takeouts Radio Interview: Digital agency trends, SEO and innovation in 2016

On Thursday, 3 March 2016, Biz Takeouts Marketing and Media Radio show host Warren Harding (@bizwazza) chatted to Stephen Sandmann (@stephensandmann), strategy and development specialist at Quirk to look at his take on all things digital, SEO and trends that you should know about for 2016.
[Biz Takeouts Podcast] 164: Digital agency trends, SEO and innovation in 2016

We spoke to Stephen about digital agency trends to look out for in 2016, search strategy, development and SEO trends. We also looked at innovative digital marketing solutions via search, new tech and other media that marketers should currently be looking at.

Lastly, we look at the importance of creativity in digital today and the role of mobile in Africa.

Click here to listen to my interview (scroll down the page to ‘Episode 164: Digital agency trends, SEO and innovation in 2016′ and click play). This article and radio interview of myself appeared on

Digital marketing innovation with Google Voice Search

Our craft, as digital marketers, must evolve with the times. I’m referring to today’s ‘No Interface trend’. Trend Watching, the trend experts, have summed it up well: “people want to feed their growing addictions to digital info and live in the present moment; consumers want new, more natural forms of interaction with technology. Speech, gesture, touch, and sight: truly intuitive technologies are set to transform your customer interactions forever.”

When people think of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), they usually think of the traditional type of SEO, based on desktop and mobile Google search. As an SEO strategist, I’ve always been striving to apply this digital marketing discipline in new, innovative ways. Part of me has always wanted to be a creative.

Just Google it

Google recently got the digital marketer inside me intrigued with their “OK Google” advertising campaign, which the 72andSunny advertising agency produced for Google and rolled out in New York. Google integrated voice search calls-to-action beautifully into outdoor media, even on bowling balls. This campaign was rolled out roughly six months ago, to promote its “OK Google” voice search app. So, the advertising world had yet to catch on to this technology and such a campaign concept.

Digital marketing innovation with Google Voice Search

©Marcel de Grijs via 123RF

Google Now on Tap

It was recently announced that the revamped Google Now called Google Now on Tap, will become incredibly intuitive and take the No Interface trend to new heights. Google’s future Android M will play host to Google Now on Tap. Watch Google’s video here and be amazed.

According to PC Advisor, the new Nexus will make use of Android M. They also state that major Android brands should also utilise Android M in late 2015/early 2016.

A South African perspective

I’m currently involved in such a campaign. The above-mentioned voice search idea worked well for me because it brought together three key parts:

    • • a mobile-centric, high-income target market (campaign-specific);
    • • consumers use Google to answer questions that needed asking; and lastly,
    • an innovative, creative concept required to break through clutter.

That being said, with innovation, always comes new challenges. There were inherent risks involved; for instance, there was no local voice search-related data to support the concept’s plausibility. The voice search technology had to be tested extensively to see if it, in fact, could be used within the campaign.

The overall technical aspect of the voice search technology of the campaign was developed and tested from scratch, with no previous campaign to benchmark directly against. We did not partner with Google for this campaign, but they kindly allowed us to make use of their voice search technology.

Try it out for yourself, and ask the below question via voice search to reveal a specific, local fast food brand’s website (links to this page) in the search result page:

    • “Are your milkshakes really made from potatoes?”

This voice search SEO concept is being fully integrating into traditional advertising, via point-of-sale collateral, packaging, billboards etc., which will incorporate campaign-related voice search questions. This through-the-line campaign is the first of its kind for a brand in South Africa, and to the best of my knowledge globally speaking too (I know that Nestle UK announced a voice search campaign a few days after our campaign launched).

Be brave and curious

So, I humbly implore all South African digital marketers to be brave and curious by pitching fresh ideas that are both imaginative and ROI driven.

My article appeared on here 

Tips to win at digital marketing – Paid search and SEO

Digital marketing’s search engine marketing (SEM) can be summed up as a means to harness Google search for your business, as part of your business’ marketing mix to increase product sales and/or brand awareness.

SEM consists of search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid search (Google’s AdWords) ads. Often businesses either invest in SEO or paid search ads but not both, or most likely not adequately investing in both. However, businesses should invest in SEM as a whole for various reasons.

Paid Search can break through clutter via innovation

Dunkin Donut’s executed paid search in an innovative and powerful way. Be inspired by watching this video.

SEO can piggyback off the latest tech to cut through clutter

McDonald’s harnessed “OK Google” voice search through SEO. This video explains it all.

Keyword research

Organic search and paid search keyword conversion data should be shared freely amongst both the SEO and paid search teams. For example, a well-executed paid search campaign will reveal insightful keyword-related data. This is the case because, for example, such a paid search campaign will show which keywords are resulting in the highest conversions, which, in turn, can then be focused on by the SEO team. In this way, SEO and paid search ROI can be maximised through focusing on the keywords that matter.

Alignment makes SEM cost-effective

This is quite obvious in highly competitive search categories, such as the financial industry. This is the case because paid search ads that target highly competitive keywords can be exorbitant. These expensive keywords would usually be popular non-brand-related search queries, keyword ‘z’ for argument’s sake. Keyword ‘z’ costs many hundreds of rands per click, resulting in a massive monthly bill. Naturally, this source of business leads would also dry up as soon as you stopped paying for your ads, while SEO is ongoing and not as ‘payment sensitive.’

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Image designed by Freepik

With SEO (assuming your website ranks #1 for keyword ‘z’) you will get a large amount of website traffic via keyword ‘z’, but you will only have to pay for SEO. What can end up happening is that paid search cost per conversions for keyword ‘z’ are much higher than SEO’s cost per conversion for keyword ‘z’. So, in this case, the paid search campaign was focused on brand-related keywords (less demand for them so they are affordable to target), where competitors’ ads could potentially detract from the company’s brand-related organic search listings.

These keywords perform better in terms paid search cost per conversion, while SEO focuses on the expensive keywords (in terms of paid search). Both SEO and paid search serve their purpose in a cost effective way.

‘Owning’ more of Google search

However, when budgets allow for it, paid search and SEO should always work in unison. When a company’s website ranks #1 in organic search, and #1 as an AdWords ad (for the same search query), there is often a boost in the number of people clicking through to your website via both the respective ad and organic search website listings. This is due to your company ‘owning’ more SERP ‘real estate’, i.e. the bigger the surface area in Google search that your company occupies the more attention your website will receive, like a massive billboard versus a small one. Mediative’s independent research showed that the top performing ad gets roughly 10% of clicks for any given search query, while the #1 ranking organic search listing gets about 30% of clicks.

So your brand will ‘own’ approximately 40% of the search result page’s clicks. One website I worked on showed an overall increase in click-through rate of over 35%, when its ad ranked first together with its number 1 ranking organic search listing. The reverse is true as well – your website could lose out on traffic if you don’t have an ad above your number one ranking organic search listing. A competitor may syphon off clicks by ranking first as an ad, even if your website ranks first organically.

Ads can indirectly increase organic search traffic via the principle of attribution

I have also observed paid search behave as a stimulus for organic search traffic. In other words, paid search ads can indirectly encourage people to click on organic search listings because of an increase in relevant brand awareness. I observed ads, which focused on keyword ‘x’, result in a monthly increase of over 100% in organic search-derived visits via keyword ‘x’ over the same period.

Targeting the purchase funnel via organic search and paid search ads

According to leading independent research by Razorfish, “our research showed at least half (53%) of conversions and revenue happening through paid search are preceded by organic search visits within the previous seven days.” So, in this case organic search acted as an awareness tool, while paid search ‘closed the deal’ at the end of the purchase funnel.

That being said, the reverse is also true – by targeting specific keywords along the purchase funnel, organic search can be used to engage effectively with consumers at any stage of the purchase funnel. Regarding the pre-purchase and awareness part of the purchase funnel, broad, category-based keywords (and related words) would be the focus. The decision-making part of the purchase funnel would focus on product-specific keywords. I’ve observed a blue chip, financial services company’s website receive over 80% of their leads via organic search (with an amazing overall conversion rate of 20%). This also led to the highest number of long-term clients too, eclipsing all other sources of website traffic (including paid search). This company’s paid search campaign was limited.

So, depending on your budget and other variables like time, an ideal mix of organic search and paid search ads can be harnessed to achieve excellent business results.

Quality score

Another factor to consider is Google’s Quality Score, which is an important element to consider when it comes to paid search. A Quality Score is a metric that is scored out of ten, which Google allocates to your prospective ad. A high Quality Score points out that your landing page (website page that your ad directs people to) is relevant to your paid search ad. Relevance refers to the contents of a landing page, which is where the strength of SEO lies.

I’ve seen high Quality Scores result in a lower cost per click (a cost metric relating to a company paying for each time a person clicks on its AdWords ad) and lower cost per conversion (the cost metric associated with receiving a specific business lead via the ad). Well-executed SEO on a landing page will result in a high Quality Score. Basically, the search phrases (what people Google search) you target with your ads should match the website’s SEO-focused keywords. For example: A paid search campaign that targets keyword ‘x’ should be driven to a landing page which has been optimised for keyword ‘x’ too.

What should your digital agency do?

All of your brand’s SEM efforts should be aligned by briefing the SEO and PPC teams at the same time regarding future marketing campaigns. The SEO team can create optimised landing pages and / or optimise existing pages to improve paid search campaign performance (indirectly via attribution and as direct landing pages). The SEO team should share SEO-related data (keywords with best CTRs and impressions etc.) with the paid search team and vice versa. Ensure paid search keywords are driven to optimised destination URLs (landing pages).

Googling things is more popular than ever

The future of SEM is bright. The consumer-related popularity of Google search within each of our client’s industries is growing substantially by the day, across: mobile, tablet and desktop Google searches (in that order of significance).

There is therefore a solid business case to not only invest in SEM, as part of your company’s marketing mix but also to ensure that you get it right.

My article appeared in here.

Africa is the mobile advertising world’s sleeping giant

Africans have innovated in the realm of mobile before, in mobile banking, for which we are globally renowned. To paraphrase David Sable, Global CEO of leading advertising agency Y&R, the Western world can learn a lot from Africa’s mobile application of the latest technology in banking. I believe Africa’s innovative spirit has largely been the result of necessity, to make up for a lack of traditional infrastructure amongst its consumers.

That being said, we need to find that sense of necessity for the general mobile advertising industry in Africa. When it comes to mobile advertising, Africa has arguably lagged behind its Western counterparts. This has largely been the result of a combination of factors, namely: A ‘device technology gap’ legacy that is still lingering (low-income individuals with ‘basic’ feature phones and the rich with ‘advanced’ smartphones), advertising industry complacency and the fact that many mobile phone users have been incorrectly bunched together as a single market (on the assumption that all Africans have feature phones with limited features).

Advertising agencies and their clients have been conservative and complacent when it comes to pushing what mobile tech they can apply to their campaigns. I argue that Africa has even more to offer the world in the form of forward-thinking mobile advertising.

Mobile – An underutilised marketing channel

In terms of capabilities, mobile phones have progressed in leaps and bounds in recent years. So today’s SMS and USSD mechanics of current mobile campaigns can be seen as primitive in the context of some African markets.

A few years ago most feature phones in Africa lacked online browsers and related features. Well Opera Mini-powered feature phones and ‘budget’ smartphones have changed all of that. For example, feature phones have had Google search capabilities for some time now. Opera Mini’s low mobile data usage and feature phone compatibility have resulted in its widespread use in Africa.

Africa is the mobile advertising world's sleeping giant

African mobile users are more digital savvy than many think. For example, Google search is incredibly popular in many parts of Africa, together with sites like Facebook. With the right stimulus, a popular, reality TV show like Big Brother Africa for example, can result in a massive growth in Nigerian, Kenyan, Ghanaian and South African viewers interacting with the show’s website throughout the series to find out the latest news. These viewers would access this website mostly via many millions of Google searches – Google is truly the primary gateway to the internet. These consumers are not ‘backward’ but more advanced in their mobile habits than generally thought to be.

The potential is truly massive

In 2015, with the growth in usage of smartphones and more advanced feature phones we have exceptional opportunities to be creative with mobile advertising. I’ve elaborated on Opera Mini as a mobile game changer but I should share more of my thoughts on another key player. I’m referring to harnessing a powerful phenomenon, Google and its technologies, in a creative and effective way. Google is a major innovator in mobile phone technology. This is not only due to their technological prowess but also to their unrivalled global footprint.

Earlier I referred to ‘budget’ smartphones – Tech Crunch shared some details about the ‘sub-$50’ (‘basic’) Android-based MTN Steppa smartphone, which doesn’t require a contract, are major catalysts for smartphone penetration in Africa. Google’s Android mobile platform is the world’s largest (Android has 1.4 billion ’30 day active’ devices in the world” according to Google) and with it come Google’s technologies such as mobile Google search and “OK Google” voice search to an audience of an unprecedented size.

Google’s Android One smartphone (Infiniti Hot 2 mobile device) retails in Africa for around $88 and has the latest Android software (read latest and greatest Android technology). This Android One-powered smartphone is available in Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Morocco as reported by PC World. This opens up massive potential for the exciting application of mobile technologies in mobile campaigns like never before. I’m explicitly not referring to mobile advertising media such as mobile banner ads and Facebook ads because I’m trying to make a point that we have moved beyond that now (not to take anything away from them and their continued success, creative potential and relevance).

On Device Research, the research company, has done some interesting African mobile research, which revealed promising results. They found that mobile penetration in South Africa is at 133%, which means that most South Africans have more than one mobile phone. South African smartphone penetration is at 47%. While Kenya’s mobile penetration is 70% and their smartphone penetration is 31%. While Nigeria’s mobile penetration is at 22%, with smartphone penetration at 29%.

Last but certainly not least, mobile data, which is of vital importance when it comes to mobile development, is becoming more affordable as time goes by, as discovered by On Device Research.

Mobile campaigns need not break the bank

It need not be expensive to execute such advancements in mobile advertising either. The clever usage of Google’s technology in a campaign can be done cost-effectively. This is especially the case when you focus on using Google’s mobile, organic search results as the backbone of your campaign. This type of Google search listings is free to make use of a marketing channel, unlike Google ads.

A recent African example of what I’m rambling on about

A South African mobile advertising campaign springs to mind, which I think ticked the effective and forward-thinking ‘boxes’ well. I’m referring to the use of Google’s “OK Google” voice search technology in a mobile advertising campaign. It made use of mobile organic search (voice search makes use of mobile search) which resulted in a relatively low cost per lead for users to make use of voice search to access a website. Cost per click paid digital media (website banner ads, paid search ads and YouTube ads) is not a prerequisite for such a campaign to function properly. Watch this video for more information about this example of African mobile advertising.

This mobile campaign has performed exceptionally well and has been recognised for it locally too in 2015. The South African Assegai Awards is well-respected in South Africa, as a hat tip for agency work that is creative and effective. Award entries are scrutinized by their judges who are leading industry figures. The campaign I refer to was entered into these awards while it was in its infancy, having run for only two months. Regardless of that fact, it won a silver Assegai Award in its category.

Be inspired by Cannes and be brave too

African advertising agencies need to reflect on what exactly is creative mobile advertising, work that has well-executed elements of novelty and effectiveness. Client return on investment demands value, which are all the product of well-executed mobile campaigns.

Cannes and top, local advertising awards should inspire African agencies to create work that can compete at the highest global standard, and not just leave Western countries to compete amongst themselves. The Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is arguably the world’s most important source of advertising inspiration and the yardstick for advertising excellence. Memac Ogilvy Label Tunisia agency winning five Silver and two Bronze Lions in 2013 for their ‘Mobilizing the 12th Man‘ campaign is testament to this principle. This Tunisian-based agency’s work is truly inspiring. Clearly some African advertising agencies excel at groundbreaking work, which is a result of a robust, creative corporate culture and by the collaboration of cross-discipline individuals who don’t put limits on their thinking. Calculated risk-taking, I feel is critical too, playing it safe results in SMS campaign after SMS campaign and nothing original.

David Sable also once noted that he loved the energy, motivation and innovation associated with Africa. We as Africans should live up to these truths about us. So, I humbly implore all African digital marketers to be brave by pitching fresh mobile ideas that are imaginative, scary and ROI driven. Let’s fully wake up the sleeping giant that is Africa.

My article appeared in here.

Why should all digital marketers care about creativity?

Creativity plays a central role in digital marketing. I must confess that I’m not a creative, a person who works in an agency’s creative department. However, I have the privilege of working with leading creatives that have been recognised on a global level.

Fran Luckin, the group executive creative director at Quirk (she has judged at Cannes and many creatives have won Cannes Lions awards under her leadership, including Gold) has influenced my understanding of creativity in a big way. Collaborating and co-operating with her has lead to my best work output as a digital marketer.

What is creativity?

Fran has helped me understand what creativity is all about by introducing me to leading research, as well as her own ideas and thoughts on the matter. One thing that stood out for me is that many people argue that judgements about what’s creatively excellent and what isn’t are purely subjective.

Why should all digital marketers care about creativity?

She gave me this useful insight into what is creative, “Academics like Theresa Amabile and Robert Sternberg argue that, although we can probably never achieve an ‘objective’ definition of what’s creative and what’s not, nonetheless qualified experts in a domain [digital marketing discipline] can reach reasonable agreement over which work in that domain is more creative and which is less creative. That’s what awards juries like the Cannes judges do. Those judgement calls inform a global creative code [the advertising industry’s, agencies’ or individual’s internal system of evaluating if an idea is creative or not], the judges literally curate a winners’ showreel of work for the world to see. Such award-winning work then filters down into individual agencies and helps them to make judgement calls regarding their own work.”

Fran expands further on creative codes, “The predominant values common to most creative codes are that the work has to be relevant and original. Creativity isn’t entirely subjective, different domains can have different experts with slightly different interpretations of what’s novel and original.”

Forward-thinking campaign mechanic or creative idea?

Being an early adopter (with reference to Moore’s Technology Adoption Curve) of the latest technology can lead to forward-thinking digital marketing campaigns. But are they creative or not, especially if they are relevant and original?

The best way to express my thoughts on this is through an example. The McDonald’s campaign I worked on recently relied on the application of the relatively new “OK Google” (voice activated) voice search technology, not to be confused with ‘traditional’ voice search technology of the past.

Google promoted their “OK Google” voice search technology for the first time in late 2014 via an exceptional campaign by the 72andSunny agency. So, we were early adopters of “OK Google” voice search technology, by launching our campaign on 8 May 2015, but were we being creative? From an SEO specialist’s perspective, we were creative because what we applied to SEO had not potentially been done before for a third party brand and its application was relevant to the campaign. SEO (search engine optimisation) usually revolves around only improving websites’ visibility in ‘traditional’ forms of Google search, not “OK Google” voice search. This video will explain what I mean. From a creative’s perspective, this McDonald’s campaign may not be seen as creative but rather only as a forward-thinking digital marketing mechanic.

Interestingly, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity gave a creative ‘hat tip’ to a digital campaign’s application of Google search technology in the past. The ‘Romanians are Smart’ campaign won a silver Cannes Lion in 2012.

Why should you care about creativity?

I feel that we, as non-creatives (not working in agencies’ creative departments) can understand what it means to be creative in our own right and how to strive to produce work that we deem is creative too. So, we can all be creative in our own way through applying fresh thinking to solving clients’ business problems. While our definition of creativity may differ somewhat, two things are important to all digital marketers. First, imaginative thinking is important when it comes to problem-solving.

Second, creative work is important, as it is arguably the type that breaks through competing clutter to provide client with the best ROI. Non-creatives can help build effective mechanics or frameworks for creatives to flesh-out to become one-of-a-kind, successful campaigns. Creatives have strong creative skills because they exercise them often and are not scared to push what is possible too.

With the above in mind, we, as digital marketers need to embrace this ideal; to exercise our creative abilities in terms of our different digital marketing disciplines, without letting the fear of failure stop us from producing excellent work as a cross-discipline team.

My article appeared in here.

Online PR: Reinventing Online Reputation Management

The title of this article may sound over the top, but current South African online reputation management (ORM) practices are out of date.
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Brands currently make use of a fragmented approach to ORM. Also, search engine optimisation (SEO) and digital paid media are not adequately utilised, if at all. Below I will share with you leading global research as well as my practical, successful findings.

An integrated approach to ORM

A holistic approach to ORM is needed, which makes use of ‘reputational’ SEO with carefully selected and executed digital paid media types, as well as social media content. Naturally, we also make use of ORM software and other online tools. We coined the name ‘Integrated Online Reputation Management’ for this service or ‘iORM’ for short. iORM is an ‘always-on service’, with real-time effectiveness.

The results are maximum positive consumer sentiment and improved website engagement for brands. These results are made possible by a methodology developed by myself, as head of search strategy and innovation at Quirk digital agency, together with the support of my bright colleagues.

It works

I’ll give you an example. An iORM client of ours, in a competitive consumer service industry, has benefited significantly from our service. A recent PR issue emerged for this client, centered on one of its products. We not only improved positive brand sentiment, but we also increased the number of business leads (via the website) for this product.

iORM has allowed this client to maximise its positive influence on its relevant piece of the South African digital landscape.

The search engine manipulation effect

Properly executed SEO is critical to successful ORM. High-ranking organic search engine listings can sway public opinion. Leading research from the American Institute of Behavioral Research and Technology sums up the Search Engine Manipulation Effect as, “Internet search rankings have a significant impact on consumer choices, mainly because users trust and use higher ranking results more than lower ranking results.” I couldn’t agree more with their research.

The Streisand effect

It is essential to be mindful of the Streisand effect when it comes to ORM. I’m not referring to the effect that Barbra Streisand has on her fans. Instead, I’m referring to a PR-related phenomenon, which Wikipedia summed up as, “A phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicising the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.” iORM is carefully executed across the Internet with the Streisand effect in mind in order to achieve maximum ROI for our clients, without any unintended consumer backlash.

Why is iORM an independent service?

iORM should run parallel to clients’ other digital marketing campaigns. iORM and the other brands’ campaigns act as a two-prong approach to digital marketing, each with clear objectives. A brand’s iORM and other campaigns would compromise their individual focus if they were not independent of each other.

International validation of iORM

We are ‘preaching’ the latest methodology in communication performance, while this new philosophy is still fresh from a global perspective. I’m referring to Barcelona Principles 2.0., the first international framework for measuring communications performance. This framework was devised by AMEC (International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, the largest of its kind in the world), PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) as well as many other leading global PR-related organisations.

Current online PR and ORM efforts are obsolete – AVEs (Advertising Value Equivalency metric) are no longer the value of communication. There is a need to be holistic, integrated and aligned – across traditional PR, digital: paid, earned, shared and owned digital marketing channels. There should be a focus on the measurement of engagement, ‘conversation’ and ‘communities’.

iORM utilises data in a smart, ‘creative’ way

What distinguishes our unique iORM product from other ORM efforts? The answer is simple: iORM allows for the intelligent acquisition and use of data, together with the single purpose of improving a brand’s communication performance, across multiple digital channels in a cost-effective way.

South African brands need to take full control of their reputations and iORM is the answer.

*My article appeared in here

Voice Search SEO

Check out this new campaign, which is based on Google’s “OK Google” voice search,  but Siri will do as well.

Take a look at the McDonald’s SA’s Know Our Food question pages, which take searchers to their answers. These pages reveal information, either a behind-the-scenes video or image, as well as to guide consumers to the Know Our Food website: