It’s still life in the slow lane for SA internet users

It’s still life in the slow lane for SA internet users

The internet, for the most part, seems like such an uncomplicated thing. 

But behind the scenes, it’s a huge spaghetti-mesh of really long cables that endlessly ping data back and forth between continents. In this age of mobile data and Wi-Fi, few people give thought to the existence of internet cables. But, it’s said that ninety-nine percent of international connections happen via these wires, which are located on the ocean floor. 

And, their depth can easily match the height of Mt. Everest. So, as you can now imagine, there’s a lot that can go wrong. 

Like sharks nibbling on the cables (there’s actual video footage of a shark trying to take a chunk out of Google’s underwater cable). Or a ship’s anchor accidentally getting caught in a wire. 

 

 

Whatever the case, cable damage can reduce an entire country’s internet to a snail’s pace. Which is exactly what South Africans have been experiencing for the last couple of days. The South Atlantic 3/West Africa (SAT-3/Wasc) underwater cables, which connect Portugal and Spain to South Africa, as well as the West Africa Cable System (Wacs), which connects South Africa with the United Kingdom, suffered spoilage. 

The international cable downtime impacted most large internet service providers in South Africa, including Webafrica, Afrihost, Axxess, and Mind The Speed. These ISPs have, meanwhile, resorted to Plan B: buying additional international bandwidth on other undersea cables.

Like all companies whose infrastructure is based online, we were hoping for a quick end to the unwelcome outage. But by Monday, it became clear that South African internet users have more 404s, blank pages, and buffering videos in store. Which is kind of putting us back into the era of dial-up internet. You know, the days when loading a video actually took longer than watching the video itself.

There’s no reason to panic though. Two cables that break down at the same time isn’t the start of the internet apocalypse. But reports indicate that repair work could take two weeks. For now, we can pin the blame for the delay on Cape Town’s notorious gale-force winds, which battered the city at the weekend, delaying the dispatch of the Leon Thevenin, the repair ship meant to fix the problem. 

 

Looks like it’s time to play the Google T-Rex dinosaur a little more seriously, and see if we can set a new personal record

 

Here’s what South Africans really wanted to know from Google in 2019

Here’s what South Africans really wanted to know from Google in 2019

December must be a fun time for Google, because that’s when the company gets to take stock of a year’s worth of search data and identify the queries and events that interested people the most. This year’s results once again proved that there’s no such thing as a silly question. Or is there? You decide for yourself after reading Google’s Year In Review report

From discovering interesting facts and learning new skills to finding a nearby business and the latest celebrity obsessions, Google truly is the answer to all questions, especially the ones people are too embarrassed to ask their parents, best friend, coworker, or some stranger on the street. The latest results not only offer insights into the curious minds of South Africans but also highlight the year’s biggest events that have captured their attention. 

Those hoping to see news makers such as the royal tour to South Africa, the KFC proposal, and the world’s second sexiest accent, Afrikaans, on the list, will be disappointed because as it turns out South Africans were more interested in the quirky origin of their breakfast cereal. Ironically, everyone’s least favourite words “load shedding” was the most popular phrase this year. In bidding (pun intended) adieu to the decade, Google also recapped the top searches between 2010 and 2019, with load shedding and Corn Flakes featuring prominently over the last ten years. 

Check out the top searches for the year and decade below. 

 

Top trending questions

  1. Why were cornflakes invented?
  2. What time is the rugby world cup final?
  3. How many votes for a seat in parliament
  4. How did Cameron Boyce die?
  5. How long is a rugby match?
  6. What is Bosasa?
  7. What time do voting stations open?
  8. Who won the election in South Africa?
  9. What is media?
  10. What is teenage pregnancy?

Top trending questions of the decade

  1. How to make slime?
  2. Why were cornflakes invented?
  3. How to get rid of belly fat?
  4. How to lose weight in 3 days?
  5. Where am I?
  6. How many weeks in a year?
  7. How to create an email?
  8. How to grow hair fast?
  9. What is depression?
  10. How to draw eyebrows?

Top ten trending searches

  1. Load shedding
  2. Election results
  3. Thanos
  4. IEC
  5. Fiona Viotti
  6. Black Friday Specials
  7. Gavin Watson
  8. Mark Batchelor
  9. Teacher’s Day
  10. Hoërskoel Driehoek

 

Top trending searches of the decade

  1. Load shedding
  2. Uzalo
  3. Meghan Markle
  4. Zodwa Wabantu
  5. Baby Shark
  6. Cardi B
  7. Game of Thrones
  8. Thanos
  9. Nicki Minaj
  10. Amapiano

 

Top ‘near me’ searches

  1. Job openings near me
  2. Parks near me
  3. Restaurant near me
  4. McDonald’s near me
  5. Hotels near me
  6. Hair Salon near me
  7. Voting Station near me
  8. Petrol station near me
  9. Makro near me
  10. Woolworths near me

Top trending South African personalities

  1. Neyi Zimu
  2. James Small
  3. Xolani Gwala
  4. Chester Williams
  5. Andile Gumbe
  6. Siya Kolisi
  7. David Kekana
  8. Faf De Klerk
  9. Peggy Sue Khumalo
  10. Robert Marawa

Top trending sports searches

  1. Rugby World Cup
  2. Cricket World Cup
  3. India vs South Africa
  4. Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates
  5. Afcon
  6. Bafana Bafana
  7. Cricket live scores
  8. Proteas
  9. PSL Standings
  10. Stellenbosch vs Kaizer Chiefs

 

Top trending movies searches

  1. Avengers Endgame
  2. Captain Marvel
  3. When They See Us
  4. Aquaman
  5. Lion King
  6. John Wick 3
  7. Joker
  8. Hustlers
  9. Birdbox
  10. A Star is Born

Top trending music personalities

  1. Johnny Clegg
  2. Thami Shobede
  3. Nipsey Hussle
  4. Mampintsha
  5. Oliver Mtukudzi
  6. Nichume
  7. Ndlovu Youth Choir
  8. Babes Wodumo
  9. Pitch Black Afro
  10. Kabza de Small

More than 40 000 search queries are submitted to Google every second. This equals to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. “This year’s trending searches show South Africans’ keen interest in the world and people around them. Pop culture, sports and politics captured the nation’s attention. Nine of the 10 top trending search terms were for local people, news and events,” Google commented on this year’s results. 

 

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 businesslive.co.za reporting “a potential R60bn could be invested by SA’s vehicle manufacturers and component makers in the next five years” and businesstech.co.za 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. 

 

Google’s investment into AI

Google’s investment into AI

Artificial intelligence is all around us, and it’s no surprise that Google is at the forefront of its innovation and advancement. Google Lens is the company’s major investment into the AI space and it merges perfectly with its core search function. 

Introduced to the world in 2017, Google Lens is image recognition technology developed by Google itself. It gives smartphone users the ability to find out more information about something they see by snapping a picture of it. Using visual based machine learning, it can identify and subsequently serve the user relevant information about the contents of the image. What’s more, the technology doesn’t only serve information on objects, but also barcodes, QR codes, labels and pieces of text.

Available on both Android and iOs, Google Lens has recently added features such as the ability to read handwriting, identify landmarks, plants and animals, and copy text. This year, Google has announced that even more features are to come, including the ability to recognize and recommend menu items, as well as split bills and figure out tips.

As Google Lens is essentially the newest edition to search engine marketing, how can companies optimise their online content for it? While Google Lens hasn’t receive full adoption by all consumers yet, it certainly won’t hurt to be prepared for this advancement in search marketing. Below are just a few ways to get your website prepared:

  • Ensure branding imagery is on point: From logos to signs, ensure your brand imagery is high quality and clearly visible. This makes your company easier to be picked up and your information served on Google Lens.
  • Fill in all alt tags: As imagery is your most important tool when it comes to Google Lens, all alt tags must be completed in detail.
  • Optimize photo data: Adding to the basics of your image information will help the platform to serve more relevant information to users. On top of image size, date, time and coordinates, use unique, high quality images, use the JPEG format, use appropriate image sizes for your website and add captions that are as descriptive as possible.

By 2018, Google Lens was officially available on both Pixel and non-Pixel phones via the Google Photos app on iOS, in Google Assistant and on the Google app. Languages it supports include; English, spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German and Korean. This makes it clear how heavily invested Google is in the AI industry, making access to information simpler by the day.

Google removed 2.3 billion ‘bad’ ads in 2018

Google removed 2.3 billion ‘bad’ ads in 2018

In order to continue its objective of providing a safe digital advertising environment for all involved, Google has stepped up it safety protocols in the last year. After a number of scams reared their nasty heads in 2018, the leading search platform had to make a move to eliminate the risk users were being exposed to on a daily basis. 

The move was two-fold; billions of ads (2.3 billion to be exact), and one million ad accounts found to be ‘bad’ were removed from the platform for violating existing policies, while new policies were created. In total, 31 new policies were formed in response to negative ads relating to third-party technical services, ticket resellers, cryptocurrencies, bail bond payments, and addiction rehabilitation facilities. Accounts may only be granted to organizations that have been certified. To deal specifically with fraudulent rehabilitation centres, Google has partnered up with LegitScript, a verification and monitoring service for online pharmacies.

According to the search giant, “Using improved machine learning technology, we were able to identify and terminate almost one million bad advertiser accounts, nearly double the amount we terminated in 2017. When we take action at the account level, it helps to address the root cause of bad ads and better protect our users.” So while ad removals dropped, ad account removals essentially double in the last year, in an effort to remove the thousands of bad ads that one fraudulent account could create.

In addition to removing negative ads and accounts, Google also removed about 1.2 million pages, 22,000 apps and 15,000 sites who were found to have violated their policies in place to prevent incorrect, hateful and poor quality content. This, as Search Engine Land reports, is a very good thing. While you might not think this type of content may will affect your website’s search marketing efforts, these bad ads, sites and apps can in fact bring down your own campaigns’ performance, and your safety and integrity if your industry or company is in anyway related.

In Google’s report, ‘Enabling a safe digital advertising ecosystem’, they outline a recent removal of what has been cited as one of the biggest fraudulent operations they had ever encountered. Known by its codename ‘3ve’, the operation used fake domains and websites to exploit data centres and infect computers with malware, ultimately extracting large amounts of sensitive data. An average of 10,000 fake domains and more than three million ad bid requests (daily) were found. After passing the case on to the FBI, eight people were charged with numerous crimes including money laundering.

As new scams and fraudulent operations arise, Google is committed to dealing with them to ensure the safety and integrity of all legitimate advertisers on its ad search network. In the end, everyone in the system can be affected, and removing all negative ads and accounts will work in everyone’s favour.