SEO for 2017 In South Africa. What does it involve?

SEO South Africa 2017Search Engine Optimization or SEO can be a very vast concept.
The aim of this article is to simplify things a bit.

We’ve all heard about Google Penguin and the latest update 4.0, but what does this mean with regards to online marketing and specifically SEO?

The old ways have become new and the new ways have become old. Whenever there is a system that works well, there will be somebody trying to misuse it. That is why keywords and meta tags have become obsolete and Google is increasingly focusing on quality over quantity.

Google is placing emphasis on the website itself and more specifically each page itself and the quality provided to readers.

On-Site SEO consist of 64% of the total SEO score for a website and the rest is made up with backlinks, but be warned: Not just any backlinks from anywhere, they are looking for backlinks from a website with a high domain and page authority.

How are companies affected?

If your website is outdated and been gathering dust, now is the time to take action. Get a reputable business that is well up to date with regards to SEO to design or re-design your website.

Correcting your content will be a good investment as once content is correctly setup, it will remain that way. Once a spelling mistake is corrected, it remains corrected unless it is deliberately changed. Yes, Google does check the spelling on your website as well.

Focus on quality rather than quantity on your website.

Herewith some fundamentals to keep in mind

  • Mobile friendly. As we are reaching closer to 85% of internet users that are using mobile devices, this has become obvious and need not even be negotiable.
  • Rather buy proper stock images than grabbing images from Google images and if so, consider it as a temporary and unethical solution.
  • Make sure your keywords are well structured without keyword spamming and that your content is sufficient and easy to read. The longer, the better approach does not apply any longer.
  • The design itself should be fast loading, carries the message across, be functional and well structured. Google check the interaction on the website itself. Add a call to action or simple contact form.
  • Google likes to see themselves. Add a map, Youtube video, Analytics etc. The more you use Google’s products, the more they see a two-way street.

Getting backlinks

Social media is still one of the most effective ways to get backlinks rather quickly. The only disadvantage is that they are considered as temporary backlinks, meaning you will have to focus on getting long term, more sustainable backlinks as well.

In South Africa, we don’t have that many options when it comes to buying backlinks as for instance the US. The manual way is still the best way as this will ensure that your quality stays high. Buying backlinks are like buying a lucky packet, you don’t always know what you get.Well written articles and guest posts are still winners, it establishes you as an expert in your field.

Hypes and trends. By researching what the latest hypes and trends are and relating it back to your business can bring in a huge amount of traffic. For example, if a used car dealer would write a quality article on the latest Ford Kuga catching fire story, they can improve rankings as long as the content of the article is not spammy and the content is unique.

Reporting

Quality reporting remains crucial to check how you rank and check how you are holding up to the competition. Google keyword checker and Analytics are valuable tools, but more in-depth reports can cut down time significantly by simply minimizing the guesswork.

Where does one start? It all seems so overwhelming.

Get a good quality report on your current website and on your nearest competitor on the keywords, you would like to focus on. This will tell you what they have that you don’t and vice vera.

A good report should contain all of the above. How your website is seen by visitors as well as Google. It should firstly tell you how your website is structured and where the shortfalls are. How keywords are structured, headings are used and what the overall user experience is. Secondly, it should tell you how well your website is known on the Internet for a specific keyword and what your competitor, as well as your own Page (PA) and Domain Authority (DA), is. Think of this as similar to a credit score at a bank.

Your current website designer may feel a bit intimidated with such a report, but it is not to discredit anyone and should rather be seen as a valuable tool to help everyone. After all, the aim is to increase sales and improve the overall performance of the company.

The next step is to understand exactly what the report means and how it can be used to your advantage. Consult with us and let us make suggestions in this regard.

Action plan

Setting up an action plan towards your digital marketing will provide you with a guideline to follow, broken down into steps. Know where you should focus your attention and in which order, whether it is on social media, your website, citations, your current clients, SEO etc. You need to know where to prioritize and follow up from there.

There are much more considerations than above, but the best solution is to be as informed as possible and work with someone that has the experience and knowledge to assist.

Has your marketing strategy resorted to hope? – A simplified guide to effective digital marketing.

Digital Marketing

Is Digital Marketing the way to go and is it worth the effort?

I’m often faced by companies that simply do not know how to effectively market their business.

Digital marketing is becoming more affordable than traditional methods and more effective.

I’ve studied many digital marketing courses, the cheap ones, the free ones and the most expensive ones. They pretty much boil down to the same thing: Using honesty and integrity to attract customers and keeping them. Once a customer has bought from you, chances are very high they will buy from you again. Especially with regards to SEOand digital marketing

Let’s face it running TV or radio ads are out of reach for most businesses, especially for SME businesses and too risky when it comes down to ROI as well. Besides, these marketing strategies seem to work very well for B2C businesses such as the retail, but what about the rest of the thousands of other businesses out there?

Even running an advert in the printed media is becoming more and more ineffective. What about cold calling and relying on a sales team? Again this may still work for some companies, but for how long?

It was a shocker for me to see how many companies are resorting to the “hope” strategy. Simply “hoping” the sales team will stay motivated and “hoping” existing customers will re-order. This doesn’t seem like a very solid marketing strategy. It may keep the company afloat, but for how long?

A huge stumbling block businesses are faced towards digital or digital or online marketing is education, after all as they say: “Knowledge is power” Sifting through what works and what doesn’t can be a headache on its own, finding someone that isn’t going to feed you BS and overcharge you for it can be even worse.

It has become common knowledge that digital or online marketing has become the key factor when it comes to a solid marketing strategy. Business owners and marketing managers need to educate themselves and work on a solid online marketing strategy with the assistance of a business that has the experience and credentials to do so.

Where does one start with an online marketing campaign?

Your Website

The core essence of your online presence is your website. The basic concept is driving quality traffic to your website and converting the traffic into sales. Sounds simple right? You may have a great social media presence, but the fact remains you will still need a website that is user-friendly, aesthetic in order to stay ahead of the competition. Your website is the face that you put out there to the digital world. I often find companies that spend a huge amount of money on their offices and signage, but their websites look like it was a school project done over a weekend. This simply makes no sense. Customers walk through your online door long before they walk into your office or shop door, contrary to 30 years ago.

By designing quality websites I’ve had quite a few instances where companies’ sales increased considerably simply because the staff had a higher morale when referring clients to their website. Just a sense of pride can already make a huge difference in sales

Having a website professionally setup that makes a great first impression is the first, but vital step towards success. Think of it as your high-gloss brochure that you and your staff can be proud of. Self-built solutions are not always the best solution. You will be surprised how quickly prospective clients pick up that your website is home made and regards your business as unprofessional. The sad thing is they will not mention it to you because the don’t want to insult your business. Choose a website company with experience and credentials and rather pay a bit more, but still, make sure you are not being ripped off. Make sure that the prospect client is engaged, preferably by means of a call to action. Be proud and make it look as good as you can within your budget.

Get a report

Once your website is sufficient; the next strategy would be to get an SEO report on your website. This will provide you with a clear indication of the shortfalls of your website and what can be improved in order to make your website more sales driven. The objective here is to improve Google and other search engine rankings as much as possible, aiming for the No.1 spot. This is highly applicable to online shops (e- Commerce websites) but apply to most businesses.

A Solid  Digital Marketing strategy and plan

Your digital marketing should consist of the following minimum requirements:

·        Website promotion methods

·        Internet traffic generation methods

·        Social Media strategy

·        Local and/or broad-based marketing methods (business type dependent)

There are many different ways to promote your website. The obvious is to start with the basics and then refining towards a more targeted approach. Set out a plan, decide what you would like to achieve and work towards a goal.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

For many companies, this remains a major obstacle they simply do not know how to overcome.

SEO differ largely on our type of business. For example a restaurant or local business will mostly target geographically in a 50 – 100 km radius and an export company will obviously focus internationally. There is thus no “out of the box” solution or a “one size fits all” solutions, although there are some common ground and practices that overlap all SEO strategies.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

This applies to where you pay a company such as Google to promote your business and put you directly in a top or more visible spot. I would strongly recommend completing the steps above first. This will provide you with a better understanding of your conversion rate (meaning turning traffic into leads or sales). I often find client directly approaching the SEM strategy with a low conversion rate. Make sure your website is setup in such a way that it engages the visitor to either leave their details or make an inquiry.

“Pull” over “Push” strategy

The above will provide you with a better understanding of the key fundamentals of online marketing. Before we discuss the rest of the strategies, we need to understand how they work effectively over traditional marketing methods.

Traditional marketing such as newspaper advertisements mostly uses a “push” strategy. Quite simply put, adverts are “pushed” out, readers react to it and then they buy.

The difference with internet marketing is that it is more focused on a “pull” strategy. To explain this as simple as possible, it works like fishing. One cast the bait; a fish sees it and gets reeled in. Many statistics have shown that internet customers are a bit more reluctant buyers. They often need to be nudged three or four times before they actually buy a product. This has a lot to do with trust. We all know there are a lot of scams and get rich quick schemes out there. The thing is customers and potential customers know this too. To put this, in short, you basically need to grab potential customer’s attention with something more innovative than is already around them, built up a trust relationship and then they will buy and keep buying from you.

For this reason, although it may seem very complex, it is vitally important that your business conducts a professional image right across all platforms and strategies. One slip may cause havoc and result in a loss of sales.

Everything needs to look good, make it easy for customers to conduct business with you, be accessible to their questions.

Social Media

Social media marketing has become increasingly powerful over the last two to three years as a marketing medium and almost surpass search engines.

Understanding how social marketing works can prove to be vital to your business’s success.

As mentioned above, the key factor to successful sales is building trust. The internet can be a very impersonal thing. After all, everything is a piece of glass. The more personal you can make the user experience; the more prospective buyers will trust you and buy from you.

Let’s use an example: Let’s say a customer have bought a car from a dealership and are not entirely happy and lodge a complaint on e.g. Facebook, how the dealership responds or failure to do so will build trust or mistrust. Having people asking questions and receiving an honest and caring answer can be like a magic wand to your sales.

The more people see the positive response, the more prospective client you have. People are very curious things, Most will scroll down a few posts to see what else is there. If they only see one or two posts of a year ago they will either think you have been out of business and just made a lucky sale or completely lose interest. The power of perception can be very important and can be turned in your favour or against you.

The key strategy would be building quality content and keeping a consistent pace.

There are many different strategies, daily, weekly or monthly. It all depends on your marketing needs and type of client you would like to reach. For some companies, Facebook marketing might not work at all, for others, the key to their success. Get the best advice you possibly can.

Besides Facebook, there are many more social media platforms; usually, a combination of two or more platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn can be used. Again it all depends on of the type of customer you are trying to reach e.g Facebook proves to be advantageous for B2C business and LinkedIn more B2B. The best advice I can give you is to get the best advice you can before starting a campaign.

E-mail marketing

Opt-in e-mails are still very effective as a marketing tool. We all have busy schedules and many things to think about. We read something, and tomorrow have forgotten all about it even if it is something that we really want or need. E-mail can be used very effectively as a reminder of the products or services you have to offer. Just the right subject line can be very effective, even if your e-mail is never even opened, everybody still checks their emails constantly.

E-mail marketing should only be used as a communication tool to subscribers and as far as possible avoided as a “push” strategy. Besides for many anti-spam measures, it has become simple etiquette and business ethics not to grab an e-mail list from somewhere and blindly sending out mass emails. This may have worked well about 10 years ago, even for myself, but has become very unpopular and can damage your company’s good reputation in today’s world.

The power of video

Video has become increasingly powerful as a marketing medium. A simple explainer video can increase sales dramatically. The logic behind this is that prospects are more visually stimulated and have to read less. Watching a video is less strenuous than reading and a message can be made muck more powerful than with text. As mentioned earlier, digital marketing is about building trust. The more you show about yourself and your business, the easier you make it for people to trust you.

Endorsements, testimonials, and reviews

Last but definitely not the least are what people say about your products or services is vital to your online success or misfortune. Imagine a prospective client conduct a Google search or find your business on social media and find many good things people have said about your products or service, trust is built within seconds, can you just imagine what this will do for your sales? Although the internet is a big world, it can become a very small world very quickly.

Never forget to ask your existing clients to rate and review your service and/or products.

Conclusion

Online marketing seems to be very overwhelming to most business owners and sales executives. It is a total mind shift from traditional or “old school” marketing methods, but taking it step by step and being consistent with an honesty and integrity approach, you can skyrocket sales and the best of all is to keep them. Sometimes it may seem like a slow and costly process, but things can turn in your favour very rapidly and costs can be far less than traditional media.