Web 2.0 enables businesses to actively engage with customers and collaborate with them on product development, service enhancement and promotion. In terms of marketing, this drive towards user-created content means forming a direct link with the consumer and providing them with product news and information.
Increasingly it seems, businesses are relying solely on search engine optimisation techniques to market their products or services. Although this is an effective tool in making potential customers aware of your product, it neglects other online marketing methods.
As an internet marketing technique, SEO takes advantage of Web 2.0, improving website visibility through understanding how search engines work and what the user is looking for. SEO techniques look to modify HTML code and website content in order to increase results.
However, whilst increasing website visibility, SEO does not create a strong brand image or product reputation.
SEO and credibility
Chris Patheiger, Vice President, Business Development, Redux Media, believes that marketing companies or departments should not confuse SEO with credibility.
“With enough money, SEO can buy you visibility. But credibility is what drives actions (clickthroughs, purchases, etc.) – and that involves more than tagging pages,” says Patheiger.
One company based in Johannesburg, South Africa, lends credibility to Patheiger’s argument that SEO has its advantages and disadvantages. Marketing guru organisation Afridesign looks to broaden its Marketing 2.0 potential, through PPC campaigns, mobile marketing and social media websites. It has championed the cause of SEO in the past but feels its time to explore other avenues of visibility maximisation.
Established in 2000, Afridesign is a web design and development studio which also focuses specifically on mobile and online marketing. Debating the pros and cons of SEO for modern business, Laura Prall, Head of Online Marketing, Afridesign, agrees that SEO is an important technique in online marketing, not only for her company website, but also for its clients. However, she says that Afridesign is now looking at other options as the cost of relying on SEO is significant as well as limiting for her firm.
“As long as search engines are around, SEO will be an important part of online marketing,” says Prall. “Clients are familiar with these forms of online marketing having been around for some time. They are comfortable with the idea of investing money in SEO and paid search and are more likely to take these routes. Having said that, I strongly believe that social network sites such as Facebook are starting to give traditional search engine sites such as Google some competition.”
“It also makes sense that a business should be advertising and marketing itself where large volumes of people are going on the web every day, not just on search engines,” Prall adds.
Indeed, the nature of search engines are changing and evolving constantly, so unless a company has a dedicated member of staff monitoring SEO operations, then website traffic is at risk, especially if a business relies on this technique.
According to Afridesign, it is important to diversify operations and customise online marketing techniques which are specific to each individual business, utilising both SEO and social media channels.
“It is advisable that a website should have many different sources of traffic. I believe that there is no formula to be followed, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. However, businesses need to fomarketing 2.0rmulate their own online marketing strategies,” Prall says.
South Africa and social media
Convincing businesses to invest in other techniques can be a problem, as SEO is a familiar and proven technique. Afridesign believes the online community in South Africa, for example, remains in the dark when it comes to social media marketing (SMM) and mobile marketing. Although these techniques are being utilised by bigger brands with sizeable marketing budgets, “Mobile marketing and SMM are still relatively new and developing industries, it takes someone who is not afraid to take some risks, to embark on these forms of marketing,” Prall says.
Afridesign continues to develop its own marketing strategies by building a strong online reputation through a range of techniques. Through blogs, Facebook and Twitter, followers and potential customers are made aware of the services Afridesign offer. “We try to provide our followers with valuable, insightful information, as opposed to just marketing ourselves and our services. From time to time we may showcase some of the projects we have been involved with on these three platforms,” Prall points out.
In conclusion, one can safely say that although SEO is an excellent marketing tool, providing businesses with product visibility, it neglects credibility and requires continuous attention due to the constantly changing nature of search engines. Other marketing 2.0 techniques can prove very useful as social media marketing has proven in Afridesign’s case when it comes to reaching a large volume of people in one place every day. “Each product or service a business provides requires an individual marketing strategy, which would benefit massively from utilising a wide range of marketing 2.0 techniques,” Prall concludes.