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Digital as an ‘add on’

Can it be said that digital is simply an ‘add on’ to a strategy or are brands looking at digital in the completely wrong way?

With any new media there is always concern and uneasiness regarding its use, but the growth of digital has now surpassed this child-like stage, where more brands are now choosing to allocate a larger percentage of their budgets towards the use of digital media over the use of traditional media than ever before. According to the Digital Media and Marketing Association “The outlook for the South African digital publishing industry is positive with excellent results being recorded in the first quarter of 2010.”

It can therefore no longer be said that digital is an ‘add on’ to a brand strategy due to its rapid growth over the last few years. Digital should be seen as a viable platform; just like that of television and newspapers and just like with any other platform the selection for a brand will ultimately depend on the overall objectives determined within the strategy. A brand should thus always utilise a media neutral approach.

If digital does however work for the brand there are various advantages of its use. Digital can be updated and changed whenever necessary, unlike that of traditional media, so if there is an issue with a website for example, it can be fixed almost immediately. Secondly, the concept of instant links back to the world of digital and directly correlates with the ideals of the new consumer who ultimately thrives on instant gratification.  Digital media is also much more measurable in terms of reporting, as information is more freely available and through Google analytics for example information is collected and organised almost immediately.

There are many other digital tools for tracking and measuring data and many can be utilised free of charge, making it a lower cost medium in terms of measuring. Lastly, digital is more focused on Return on Investment (ROI), however it is vital to ensure what the set criteria is in order to achieve that success. According to Ahmed and Tunnah, who are both involved in large corporate digital endeavours “If you don’t have clear criteria for success and a way to measure your progress against them, there’s no way you can be deemed to succeed.”


Digital should no longer be seen as an ‘add on’ to a strategy, because it has gone through a rapid growth over the last few years.  It should however be viewed as a platform, whereby it is selected so as to achieve specific objectives. A brand should never just push digital to fit into a specific message, as this will simply result in wasted time and limited results. Digital offers many advantages over the use of traditional media and therefore if it is determined that digital media is relevant in achieving the objectives, the desired goals must be identified so as to measure the brands overall success.                                                                   




  How does your brand operate?

Have you used digital as an ‘add on’?

Are you operating in a media neutral way?

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Google Officially Announces that Site Speed Counts as a Ranking Factor

It has been rumoured by many and mentioned by Google since late last year that the speed of a website is a very important factor. It should come as no surprise then, that Google made the official announcement that they are including a new signal into their search ranking algorithms: site speed.

Simply put, site speed reflects how quickly a website responds to a web request. The speed of a website (time that it takes to load) is very important, to all Internet users and specifically, site owners.

Google says that their users place a lot of value in speed and after doing some internal studies they have found that if they slow users down [on Google.com] thay have seen less engagement. They have come to the conclusion that users love fast sites and that a faster web is a good thing for everyone.

Faster sites create happy users, improves user experience and reduces operating costs. If a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.

This is enough motivation for Google and why site speed is taken into account in search rankings.

How does Google measures page speed?
There are two primary ways Google will measure page speed:

  1. How a page responds to Googlebot
  2. Load time as measured by the Google Toolbar

Tools for you to test your site’s speed
If you are a site owner or webmaster, here are some free tools that you can use to evaluate the speed of your site:

  • Page Speed, an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.
  • YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.
  • WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages’ load performance plus an optimization checklist.
  • In Webmaster Tools, Labs > Site Performance shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world as in the chart below. We’ve also blogged about site performance.
  • Many other tools on code.google.com/speed.

According to Google, site speed is a new signal and it does not carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. They are saying that currently there are fewer than 1% of search queries affected by the site speed signal and that the signal for site speed only applies for visitors searching in English on Google.com.

Your site may, or may not, be affected, but it is widely suggested that you start looking at your site’s speed to improve your ranking in search engines and improve everyone’s experience on the Internet.

Using site speed in web search ranking
It’s Official: Google Now Counts Site Speed As A Ranking Factor

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Get Your Site Images Indexed faster via Updated Sitemaps Protocol

Images are important elements in any website as they can be used for various purposes such as delivering a visual attraction, relaying a specific message, used for branding or enhancing the feel of a brand. Images, in general, are used to illustrate what we are saying and it is used commonly on millions of websites to help people understand what they see or read. Without images, the Web would be a very bland experience.

That of course is great when people stumble onto your website and have the opportunity to see it, but what can you do to get your images onto the Web?

Most of you have heard of Image SEO, optimizing images by adding an alternative image desciption and by giving images keyword related filenames, etc. That is certainly the way to go, but as of yesterday, Google is making it even easier for us to inform them of the images that we think are important.

Google announced that you can now use a Sitemaps extension to provide Google with exactly this information. By using the Sitemaps extension you can, for each URL you list in your Sitemap, add additional information about important images that exist on that page. Sitemaps are an invaluable resource for search engines as it can be used to highlight important content on a site and allow search crawlers to quickly discover it.

To add your image URL’s, it won’t be required to create a new Sitemap, you just add information about images to the Sitemap you already use. Follow the instructions in the Webmaster Tools Help Center or refer to the following example:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″

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Tracking Your Web Site Traffic: The Importance of Strategy and Execution

Website traffic analysis tools have been around for a long time, used by webmasters, site owners and marketing individuals to try and make sense of what visitors do on any given website. Online trends demanded a change from analytics tools which traditionally only gave you the numbers of visitors that ended up on your site, where they came from, how many views a page received, and so on. The latest analytical technology not only gives you those visitor totals but also goes into further detail enabling you to analyze, and hopefully understand, how visitors engage online and how users interact with your site, offering ways for you to benchmark your site against others.

The challenge however still remains in understanding the data and identifying trends. This is never easy and requires a learning curve for most, therefore, the best strategy is that you plan ahead and think about what it is that you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it, before you slap a bit of analytics code onto your site. Once you have a full grasp of these goals you can easily execute a strategy into both your site and any Analytics tool that will allow you to track and monitor how your site visitors respond.

Your target market

Before you start implementing analytics to your site, it is important to know your target market. These are the people you want to reach; those you either want to talk to or sell your products to. Not only do you need to know who your target market is, where they are and how to reach them, but you also need to define means to engage with them and provide timely information to them.

  1. The first step is to attract them to your site, so, plan your marketing efforts to reach these potential customers in every possible way you can. There are many ways of doing online marketing but your money will be well spent if you start with a proper strategy built upon the knowledge you’ve gained from researching your target market.
  2. The second step once you’ve attracted visitors to your website is to keep them coming back for more, or at least, make them stay a while. This requires that your site talks to them in the right way. Use content that is fresh and engages the visitor. Offer your visitors ways of sharing and interacting with and through your site.
  3. The third (and crucial) step is how you set up and use Analytics to ultimately verify whether your efforts have reached your target market and whether they are enjoying the content that you are showing them on your site.

Where is your site traffic coming from?

Visits to your site will be a direct result of your marketing efforts and how well you “advertise” yourself online. By analyzing your site’s web traffic via analytics, you will know, and learn, exactly how successful your marketing efforts have been. You can track traffic by source (organic search, paid search, referral links or direct visits) and dissect individual pages to see how people discover, engage and enjoy your site, or not. Depending on your analysis, you will know when to cut the fat from your marketing plan and focus on the most strategic and productive campaigns or add to them when you see you are spread too thinly.

What is happening on your site compared to what you expected to happen?

If you are not seeing what you expected in terms of increased traffic to your site through a specific marketing channel, then you need to adjust and make changes where necessary for that channel. If you see a good number of new visitors to the site but fail to retain them then you will need to look at making changes in terms of design, navigation, structure or content.

Only by looking at the analytical data can you see where the potential pitfalls are. You should know how people navigate your site, where they spend their time, what they do and how long they stay around. You should know whether you are talking to the right kind of people and giving them what they are looking for.

One important thing to remember is that you should be making changes on a “trial-and-error” basis. If something you tried does not work, scrap it completely and try something else. Eventually you will find something your visitors will enjoy.

You might also discover that visitors may respond in different ways and that it may not necessarily be the way you thought it would happen, therefore be prepared to revisit your original goals and change your strategy so that you can make the necessary changes to your site and how you track it in Analytics.

What trends do you see?

The Web is constantly changing, what worked last year may not work this year. By tracking your site traffic, you will be able to see trends as they unfold: trends in who is coming to your site, how they are interacting with it, what they want and how they buy for example. You will be able to respond proactively to changing patterns, rather than reactively scrambling to fix a situation after it has become a major problem.

Be sure to always look at historical analytics data over longer periods of time and not just the recent data. In some cases trends are easier to spot when you look at a longer timeline but this may depend on the marketing channel and the timelines associated with it.

Are people interacting with your site?

This ties in closely with the overall strategy and purpose of your site as well as Usability and Accessibility issues. Are visitors visiting because of the great content or is it because they want to find out more about that specific product? Whatever the reason, they should easily be able to find the content or the product they are looking for and do something with it (…complete the site goals).

You should allow your visitors to make informed decisions right there and then by giving them the tools to engage through that content or product. If you provide content, allow the visitors to print it, PDF it, email it, store it, share it or bookmark it. If you sell products, make sure the visitor can see a demo, test the product, buy it, share it or comment on it.

It is essential to provide your visitor with the correct tools and for you to track those tools to see what visitors are doing once arriving on any page. Set up some goals or track events via your analytics tool to see what your site visitors like doing while they are on your site. This way you can see whether the tools that you’ve provided are of interest and whether they are able to easily use it. This also creates a platform for you to communicate with your visitors and learn from them.

All of the above may help you to identify any problems your site visitors may be encountering while spending time on site. And that information can help you significantly improve their user experience and your sales.

In conclusion

If you are serious about using your web site as a tool for business, it is absolutely essential that you define your goals first, implement the correct strategy to both your site and Analytics in order to track your site traffic and make informed decisions. The bottom line is this: you can make wise decisions for your business by tracking the right metrics, but if you start out wrong, you will end in failure. Make absolutely sure that you target the right market, that your goals are clear, that your strategy is sound and that you have executed it into all the right places. This should make it easier for you to then track in analytics, but if you incorrectly implemented or you are tracking the wrong metrics, you will make the wrong decisions.

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Mobile Design and SEO Best Practices: Essential Tips

The growth in the Mobile Industry over the last decade has made it paramount for all businesses to have Mobile Sites in order to reach this growing new target market.

Current local (South Africa) trends show that:

  • There are ten million mobile Internet users in SA (Five million PC Internet users in SA)
  • One in six Google searches in SA originates off a mobile device.
  • In South Africa about 40 percent of mobile phone users have WAP-enabled phones.
  • The top Mobile Applications currently in South Africa are: Mxit – with 15 million+ users – and Facebook.
  • Mobile search and eCommerce will be a large area of growth in 2010.

In short, this indicates an importance for businesses to target mobile searchers and users of mobile applications.

Some of the best Mobile Site examples I can give include BBC, the Goal mobi site, and College Humour (N/B: “these examples obviously look better on your mobile phone – feel free to suggest your favourite mobile sites below“).

However, when creating a Mobile Site it is also imperative to build and optimise the Mobile Sites so it is user-friendly and accessible on the Mobile Web.

Mobile Design and SEO Best Practices
When designing a Mobile Site one aspect to consider is that one must understand that mobile searchers/users are different from PC searchers/users. In order to cater for Mobile users designers must:

  • Provide an elegant experience by considering whether individuals possess a smart phone (for example an iPhone with fully featured web browsing) or a standard mobile phone (with stripped site features).
  • Consider that phones are not used like PC’s – users are usually on the go therefore the site should be more goal oriented – Relevancy and Simplicity is key.
  • Mobile designs are to conform to the new W3C standards in order to create mobile-friendly style sheets (CSS).
  • Mobile Sites must be small, lightweight and fast-loading site – (< 20kb / page).
  • Consider User Agent Detection –  this is another form of transcoding which takes into consideration the type of mobile phone an individual uses to search and provides more uniform browsing experience for various device types.

Once the Mobile Site has been built, Mobile SEO steps can now come into play. These include:

1.    Validating the page with the .Mobi Validator or the W3C Validator
2.    Following ‘traditional’ on-site  SEO Best Practices such as:

  • Major keywords in the title tagging
  • H1′s and body text
  • Rich keyword Meta Titles and Descriptions
  • Keyword-rich anchor text for internal links

3.    Mobile Search results tend to reflect ‘Local Search results’ – your site must be optimized for local type searches. Also submit your business info to local directories making sure your site is verified and included in sites like Google’s Local Business Center.
4.    Get the Mobile Site spidered and indexed – submit to major search engines:

In short, the above Mobile Design and SEO factors are to be strongly considered when building a Mobile Site. These aspects help provide a solid Mobile Site foundation for your Mobile Campaign or Strategy. For further Mobile Campaign or Strategy enquiries, visit our Virtuosa website.

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Will growth in South African Internet usage improve user experience?

According to the Internet Access in South Africa 2010 study, conducted by World Wide Worx and jointly sponsored by Cisco, the number of South African Internet users passed the 5-million mark for the first time, breaking through the 10% mark in Internet penetration for the country. The study shows that the South African Internet user base grew by 15% last year, from 4.6-million to 5.3-million, and is expected to grow at a similar rate in 2010. Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, says that the growth will continue in 2010 and that the 6 million mark will be reached by the end of the year.

While the number of Internet users were stagnant between 2002 and 2007, the contributing factors to this growth are the landing of a SEACOM last year, grants of Electronic Communications Network Service licenses to over 400 organisations and also a continued uptake of broadband connectivity by small and medium enterprises.

Reshaad Sha, Senior Manager for Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group, comments that South African consumers and businesses are demanding access to online applications and services that can only be experienced via high speed connectivity, such as fibre-optic networks. He says the year ahead will see the proliferation of high speed connectivity materialising more widely than ever before.

How can this affect our experience online?
The recent reduction in broadband costs is having a huge affect on the use of internet in South Africa and will continue to do so during 2010. Cost reductions make high speed connectivity more affordable, not only to businesses but also the normal man on the street. Therefore, I would expect to see a huge growth trend in the overall Internet usage for South Africa in 2010.

More affordable connectivity will allow an increasing number of users to go online and the demand will affect connectivity from homes, the office and mobile devices.

Let’s face it, Internet costs in South Africa have not been the cheapest and you still get people who are afraid of spending hours online, afraid of the cost, therefore limiting the time they spend online.

That picture is going to change dramatically and should cause an influx of many “inexperienced” consumers who will be flocking to social networks or have the need to establish themselves online as first time users. At home, many folks will acquire a connection for the first time or they may be changing from a dialup to broadband or even from a small broadband package to one with larger upload and download speeds. Whatever the scenario, it simply means that more families will start spending time online and more people will be exposed to the Internet. This is laying the foundation for many of the younger generations to come.

There will also be small companies who will swop their dialup’s for better connectivity and their staff will increase their time spent online, moving away from just connecting to check mail or reading the odd news article to spending hours browsing and researching. These smaller companies will also look at getting themselves some kind of online presence (if they don’t have one) or will seek to improve their current site. Bigger companies who are Internet savvy will similarly upgrade their broadband connectivity while at the same time invest in improving the upload/download capacity of the server where their sites are hosted.

I don’t expect marketing strategies to change much from what we’ve seen in 2009. The increase of numbers in the market space as well as the improved speed of broadband will certainly make companies realise the potential and they will try to take advantage of it by either improving their own stable or by renewing/continuing their marketing efforts.

I do foresee that an increasing number of individuals and corporates will look at their own websites, knowing that previous limitations regarding high quality visuals or video streaming won’t be there any longer and they will start to look at implementing improved interactivity to their sites.

I see this as a little chain of events. Cheaper rates and improved broadband speeds will increase the demand in connectivity while at the same time improve the quality of websites and web applications online which in turn will also provide online marketing and design agencies the opportunity to improve the quality of sites and services.

So am I saying that cheaper, faster internet connections will bring better experience online? I guess I am. It may not happen overnight, but by the end of 2010 we could see some improvement in general which will just set the trend for 2011. Only time will tell.

How can this affect our behaviour?
One thing about human nature is that we either get used to something and accept it for what it is, or we get dissatisfied and look for something better. When we discover that we can get a better solution for a fraction of the cost we are currently paying, or a faster broadband service for the same price, we jump at the chance. We will invest time and money to explore it, play with it and make it our own. This happens to individuals who operate independantly as well as individuals who make decisions for large corporates. Whether we are accessing the Internet from our homes, the office or our mobiles, we will always want something better, faster and cheaper to power us into whatever we do online.

In conclusion, I completely agree with Mr. Reshaad Sha from Cisco. In 2010, South African consumers and businesses will demand a higher level of access to online applications and services as well as better experiences via high speed connectivity. This is putting the responsibility on Service Providers and Design/Marketing Agencies alike to make it all happen. Let’s hope they all respond in kind.

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Get Your Site Checked Today by the Google India Search Quality Team

If you were a Indian Webmaster, why wouldn’t you want the Google Search Quality team to analyze your website and offer constructive advice on accessibility and improvements that can lead to better visibility for your website in Google’s search results?

According to the official Google India blog a new Site Clinic launched yesterday and will accept site submissions until 20 January 2010. Indian Webmasters can register their sites for the site clinic by simply filling in all the information requested on a form and by complying to some guidelines such as being registered on Google’s webmaster tools and by meeting Google’s quality guidelines.

There is also a Site Clinic especially for the Spanish-speaking market launched by the Google Webmaster Central blog in Spanish in September 2009.

For the rest of us, it seems we simply have to do the work ourselves via our own Google webmaster tools accounts and by meeting Google’s quality guidelines. Who said everything is fair?

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Google SideWiki: Introduction (101)

Google’s Sidewiki is finally in full effect and it’s potentially one of the coolest tools to come from the Google team this year. For those that may not know what I am talking about, here is a short introduction:

“Google Sidewiki allows you to contribute helpful information next to any webpage. Google Sidewiki appears as a browser sidebar, where you can read and write entries along the side of the page”.

Continue reading

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Increase your Organic Search Ranking with 3 Simple Keyword tips

Organic traffic is the web based traffic which you are naturally able to attract to your site without using any short cuts or paid submissions for the promotion of a website. This traffic is an unpaid listing on search engines or web directories.

Just the other day I came across a site that had a serious drop in its Organic traffic and this got me thinking of strategies that could be used help the site recover from this slump in Search visits.

Anywoo, I thought I’d write a short blog – (well 3 short tips to think about actually) – that you can employ in order to Increase Organic Search Engine Traffic to your site.

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Flash vs SEO, the saga continues….

We all know that in terms of SEO, Flash is considered less than perfect, and completely Flash driven sites are considered by some in the SEO world as a complete ‘No no’, however the times are changing.

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