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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
Google.co.za 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.
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.