Four ways search ads can benefit your SEO

Four ways search ads can benefit your SEO

Digital marketing is a multifaceted industry, whose various practices have been put in place in order to ensure a brand’s online presence is expanded and ultimately accessible to a substantial and loyal customer base. Two of its most notable tools are Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Pay-Per-Click (PPC). These channels belong to the respective spheres of Earned Media and Paid Media, but that’s not to say they aren’t compatible with each other. In fact, PPC can prove to be extremely beneficial when it is integrated with SEO practices. Here are four reasons why.

  1. Valuable Keywords

Keywords are an important aspect of any PPC campaign or SEO strategy. No matter which of these channels you’re using to help your brand appear more prominently on Google, you still need to do a significant amount of thorough keyword research. But SEO and PPC do differ in terms of how quickly results show. While the former takes some time, the latter is almost immediate in how it reveals which keywords will work and which will not.

The benefit here is that the data you’ve acquired from your PPC practices can contribute towards your SEO campaign. You’ll have a better idea of what web users are searching for and what keywords they are using, and your SEO strategy will be more effective as a result.


  1. Remarketing

Imagine a scenario in which your brand’s website is attracting a substantial number of visitors and it’s all down to your brilliant SEO strategy. That being said, these visitors merely browse your website and leave it before making a purchase. That is not the desired outcome of directing a web user to your site. Your want their final action to be a purchase, and you can make this happen with some help from PPC.

Basically, PPC will offer you the chance to do some remarketing. While your SEO practices have made an impression on your prospective customers, the Pay-Per-Click advertisements you have created can build on that impression, leading customers beyond the browsing stage. Your brand’s products and services will already be in the mind of the customer and a well-placed advertisement has the chance to drive that customer back to your website, where the desired action will be completed. Thanks to the help of PPC, a purchase just might be made.


  1. Smarter Decisions

SEO and PPC campaigns can often share the same metrics, from conversion and click through rates to bounce and exit rates and the time a prospective customer spends on a website. You can therefore combine data from both these channels, using it to make well-informed decisions for your brand. You’ll be able to ascertain which of your keywords are merely generating traffic to your website and which are able to generate sales. Added to that, after analysing these metrics, you’ll be more able to determine which visitors to your website are interested in making a purchase and which aren’t. With all this information you’ll be able to make better decisions regarding your SEO.


  1. More Local Leads

If your brand is location-specific you’ll want people in the immediate vicinity to come across it when they Google products and services related to your brand. That’s why you should use PPC ads for local searches, as these will help increase the number of local leads to your website. Properly optimised ads will appear on Google searches, while a good SEO strategy will ensure your site shows up on the first Google search page. PPC will therefore improve your presence on Google.


PPC and SEO might represent two different sides of digital marketing, but they work well together. The proper use of PPC practices can easily enhance the benefits of a well-formulated SEO strategy.

Instagram spotted testing “order” button

Instagram spotted testing “order” button

While shopping though Instagram has been around since 2017 (in the US), Instagram has recently been spotted testing an “order” button in the Stories feature. While no official statement has been made by Instagram on the matter, this could mean that the platform is starting to seriously consider the various ways in which consumers can make transactions directly from the Story they are viewing.

For those who aren’t fully aware of the Instagram shopping experience, in March 2017, Instagram launched a feature whereby US businesses could tag their products in organic posts. This was subsequently rolled out to Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Australia. The tag gives customers the ability to tap through to find product prices and extra details, making online shopping a seamless experience directly from a related post.

Today, any business that applies and is approved for shopping in Stories can do so and take advantage of the benefits it offers. According to Search Engine Journal, with access to this feature, “businesses can add product stickers to stories, which works just like adding any other type of sticker. Users viewing the story can tap on the sticker to open a product page. From there they can make a purchase.” As of September 2018, the feature had proved incredibly popular, and was being used by more than 400 million business accounts on a daily basis.

With the initial phase a success, it is now no surprise that Instagram has been spotted testing an “order” button. While its purpose or function is still unclear, the green button features a dollar sign, and suggests that it may allow consumers to order a product or service directly from the relevant story. This does not mean the button will be officially launched and become a permanent feature but it does prove that the company is experimenting with how orders could be made through the platform. 

As Instagram is heavily focused on improving the shopping experience it offers, similar buttons are expected to make an appearance in the future for testing purposes. In South Africa it might not be as obvious an investment, but as over 90 million accounts in the US are tapping product tags on a monthly basis, it makes it worthwhile. South African businesses who make use of Instagram may well see additional shopping features roll around sooner than anticipated.

Digital Performance of the Automotive Industry

Digital Performance of the Automotive Industry

The South African automotive industry is among those most frequently impacted by the smallest conditional shifts within the country. When things are going well, consumers have more money to buy locally manufactured vehicles and when Eskom lets the lights go out manufacturing can grind to a halt. The commercialisation of electric vehicle technology in South Africa is also going to have a long-term impact on the performance of several local plants.

While local sales have slumped in recent years due to the economic crunch felt by consumers, good news has recently given new hope to the export half of the market with reporting “a potential R60bn could be invested by SA’s vehicle manufacturers and component makers in the next five years” and reporting that “South Africa on track for record vehicle exports”. But will this be enough to make up for the shortfall in local sales which shows few signs of improvement?

The motor industry as a whole is suffering from a poor global economy and tariffs dispute between America and China with potential extension of that market unrest between America, the EU and Mexico (where several major manufacturers operate out of to cut labour costs). Manufacturers operating out of South Africa specifically have concerns regarding the country’s stability and the poor economic spending power of consumers as well as power grid stability. 

To counteract slumping in-store sales car manufacturers and their dealers are turning increasingly to a more cost effective form of marketing to try and get the message across that in a tight economy, their brand has the best solution. Some in the industry have relied on attractive websites and existing brand strength, such as Volkswagen and Honda, limiting their search and display advertising to smaller budgets and simple banners. 

This Spartan approach to their online marketing would likely only work for them. As two of the most popular local brands (along with Toyota and Nissan) they can rely on most car buying South Africans to search for their brands by name if they don’t see an ad to click on. Due to the sheer volume of their vehicles in the country entering the used car market, exposure is also a key element and it’s not one that their competitors can counter with passivity. 

It can be said of most South African divisions of large manufacturers however that many have been caught like a bunny in the headlights when it comes to digital marketing. Traffic and engagement remain unfalteringly low for all but the already established brands. 


Let’s Look at Some Examples

Below we have some comparative traffic numbers for Honda, the now discontinued Chrysler, Fiat, VW and Volvo over the period of a year. Honda, despite some highs and lows retains a relatively stable average over the course of a year. VW appears as a somewhat distant but relatively stable second while Fiat and Volvo perform little to no better than the abandoned Chrysler website.



Mixing it up a little below it’s apparent that those with the lower brand recognition who don’t pursue a strong online marketing presence also perform on par with Chrysler. Renault stands out but Subaru, Kia and Peugeot are nowhere to be found. Renault’s slight bump here is likely due in some part to their display advertising. Renault, in general, appears to focus more on paid marketing tactics such as search and display than their ‘on tier’ competitors and it’s working for them. 



On the other hand their marketing budget doesn’t appear to be that high which means that were a competitor to dedicate a real effort to their own online campaign Renault could quickly find itself losing this narrow margin. Below we get a further indication of paid media spend and effectiveness, with Peugeot, Fiat and Subaru with little to show for whatever efforts they may be putting into a digital strategy. It’s worth noting once more though that even though Kia and Renault are performing better, the degree to which they’re doing so is tenuous.



Zooming in on the ‘all traffic’ window again over Jun 2018 – May 2019 we get a clearer picture of Renault’s complete performance against same tier competitors. 



So what are Subaru, Peugeot and Fiat doing wrong? 


For one thing, although Fiat does some display advertising, Subaru and Peugeot do little to none and their search campaigns are limited to the degree where it becomes difficult to ascertain their actual scope. Subaru, Peugeot and Fiat have nice looking websites with varying degrees of emphasis on user experience. Fiat’s is very user-friend but has little to no content onsite in which to place critical keywords or run search ads to. 

Peugeot’s site is not particularly pretty and gives an impression of being a financial or money lending site at first glance. While it’s easy enough to find the car model you might be looking for more information on there’s little more than technical specs once you get to the car’s page. The site doesn’t do anything to tell the browser what that particular model excels at, what it’s known for or why they should care. 

Subaru has a nice looking website that’s quite user-friendly and even has a news section for posting content. Part of their trouble is that they don’t. Publications are infrequent and far from optomised for online searches. They dropped a lot of content in June and a single article in September with nothing else to show for the year on their News page. 


The link to real sales


While there are many causes for poor sales numbers to consider there’s a clear pattern here as well. 


According to the sales figures from NUMSA the same manufacturers not engaging in digital promotion are seeing lagging sales figures while those who already enjoy powerful brand recognition such as Toyota, VW and Nissan take the lions share of the market. For the lesser known brands to make it in South Africa they need to create an image, claim a niche in the public’s eye and this isn’t something that happens on it’s own. 


Brand Protection and the misuse of display marketing

Brand Protection and the misuse of display marketing

How the SA market has misused display marketing and programmatic

The topic of the incorrect use of programmatic buying in the SA market crops up from time to time and I have learnt that clients and, more frighteningly, agencies do not know exactly how programmatic nor how real time bidding works (it is very complex.) In fact, in many cases a lot of client money has been wasted on so called ‘private networks’ and in the worse case the networks or agencies have benefitted at the expense of the client.

It comes up in the news as well occasionally sometimes highlighting a variety of large, and medium corporations that have found their online display advertising appearing on sites that are not right for the brand. This includes ‘fake news’ sites, but also includes sites with content that brands don’t want to be associated with such as politics, violence and adult content.

Essentially, one of the questions asked should be, “how did my advertising partner allow my adverts to appear on these sites? What brand protection was in place for advertising? And, what measures and filters should or have been added to avoid this in future?” 

Looking at the issue in context as an example 

Let’s also look at where the fault may lie by looking at another example to put it in perspective. After shopping around for a while I go to the dealership with what I think is the best offer, and buy myself a nice new car. The dealership gives me all the assurances that the car is safe, performs as intended and it’s going to get me to point B. I glide out of the showroom, and all the electronics fail at the first red light. Was it me? Am I responsible? 

I don’t think I deserve the blame for breaking the car. I’m just a consumer, the end-user. Now, a lot of people would suggest that the dealership is directly to blame for not testing the vehicle, or for not having the means to test it. But, if this sort of failure happens with that particular car all the time, then perhaps the manufacturer bears more responsibility. You’ve probably guessed that in this example, I’m the brand, the dealership is the marketing agency and the manufacturer is the wider online ad network (of which Google is a large player).

For the sake of simplicity, the dealership should have test driven the car themselves (programmatic management) to ensure that the customer was positioned to reach their destination in it (better quality brand safe sites).

Basic Steps for display Brand Safety

I will highlight a few simple brand safety measure that should be followed, and one of them is NOT just relying on the ad networks inbuilt filters to block inappropriate content, as these may not be adequate especially if the ad network used is a ‘private agency network’,  a smaller network or even a white label of a poorer quality network! 

Again the use of a mature known engine like Double Click ensure that the filters they employ (while still fallible) are constantly being evolved, improved regularly due to the size and learnings that network has. Here are just a few quick wins when it comes to brand protection.

1) Actively use the brand safety filters and customise them!

In my business we start off by ensuring the brand safety features are active and we get into them manually. Using pre-set features within DoubleClick (which has by far the most robust and advancing  filters) is a start, not the end of it. Google includes validation steps. In this way if your client is selling cars, you build protections against themes like “crash” and “accident”. Simply negative targeting a word is insufficient, you have to build out themes around that content as site may refer to automobile accidents or traffic fatalities…. 

2) Add another layer of protection

We also look at verification software, programs like Moat, comScore and DoubleVerify which doesn’t only enhance brand safety but increases ad effectiveness and allows clients to also see where inventory is being served, whether it is being seen by a human, a bot, or even served behind site content!

3) Actual impressions payed for

Billable impressions are the number of impressions that reached the intended or guaranteed audience. In a campaign with an audience guarantee, impressions that don’t reach the agreed upon audience (as defined by Nielsen, comScore, vCE, or other 3rd party) will not be charged for. This paves the way for Exchanges and Networks to ensure the correct labelling of audiences and delivery thereof of the correct ads.

The agency should be managing all of this, not simply buying up inventory wherever it’s available but what often happens is that, despite having access to one of the most accurate tools in digital display, there ends up being a spray-and-pray approach. Programmatic buy and referred deals are also a good strategy to mix into your campaign to ensure that your placements are on quality sites. And while manually blacklisting sites is a good idea, it’s also great to whitelist sites you would prefer to work through. 


Programmatic done right should be relevant and add value

Programmatic has many emerging benefits such as omnichannel targeting and measurement, increased relevance and efficiency as well as reducing media costs (wastage). However it is not perfect, and does require skilled knowledgeable management in order to limit ad fraud and the risk of ads appearing alongside undesirable site content.

Despite a few lingering technical and philosophical challenges, a lot more is going right than wrong. The digital marketing space is tightening and enhancing customer targeting everyday to make ads more relevant, more useful to the consumer, and therefore less costly to the client. Today we can serve ads to any specific demographic, area, at any specific time. We can instantly adjust live campaigns to take into account special events new messaging without missing a beat, or remind you the day after you abandoned your shopping cart that you meant to buy that new pair of adidas, and there’s still a set left in your size. 

However, all of this takes active and skilled management by the agencies and clients running the campaigns. To get this sort of granular marketing right takes a lot of work, system understanding and training. By no means should programmatic display have a “get it live and let it just run” mentality.

Simply put programmatic display is NOT only the placing of display banners on selected websites, this is display marketing circa 2004! Programmatic display marketing requires audience management, real time bidding, relevant content and expert management to succeed effectively


TMI MD Lauren Foster Joins Bookmarks Awards 2020 Panel

TMI MD Lauren Foster Joins Bookmarks Awards 2020 Panel

The judges have been assembled for the 2020 IAB SA Bookmark Awards, and we’re excited to announce that TMI’s Managing Director, Lauren Foster, has been selected to serve on the prestigious voting panel for the category “Innovative Engineers.”

The Bookmarks Awards recognise companies who have demonstrated digital excellence, while also seeking to empower all members of the digital media and marketing industry to thrive in the digital economy. As in previous years, the event will honour the exceptional teams behind the most creative and innovative campaigns in eighty categories.

Lauren will be one of nine judges on the Innovative Engineers panel, chaired by Accenture Interactive Africa Lead, Dee Chetty. It is the judges’ responsibility to comb through this year’s submitted projects, compiling shortlists, and ultimately crown the winners in the categories of Web Applications, Digital Installations and Activations, Use of CRM, Loyalty Programs and Gamification, VR & AR, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and Craft – Software, Coding and Tech Innovation.

Lauren (centre) pictured here at the 2018 Bookmarks Awards, where the team scooped up an award for Paid Search Marketing.


Andrea Quaye, jury president of the 2020 Bookmark Awards commented, “I’m thrilled to be joined by such an esteemed and professional Bookmarks Jury in 2020  – a group of extremely talented individuals who bring a diverse point of view to the judging process and who share their expertise to set the benchmark for digital excellence in South Africa. Our job is to define what is considered to be the best work in digital – for its innovation, creativity, impact and effectiveness.”

TMI is, of course, no stranger to the Bookmarks, having won the Bronze Craft Award and Golden Pixelor Paid Search Marketing in 2016, as well as a bronze award for Paid Search Marketing in 2018. With extensive experience leading an award-winning agency that’s at the forefront of digital marketing innovation, Lauren will bring an expert eye and insightful mind to the evaluation process that will certainly contribute to the quality of the Bookmarks. 

The Bookmarks is scheduled to take place on 19 March 2020 at The Galleria in Sandton. We wish Lauren all the best as she represents TMI Collective.