The problem that we face in South African commerce right now is that very few top CEOs know what SEO, or what SEM marketing entails. Some might say, "well that's because it's not important, and how can it result in sales?" Hmmm, this attitude would make you look foolish in front of a company (competitor) that has grasped the potential which Google, Yahoo and other search engines present.
Imagine the look on Eric Schmid's (CEO of Google and a former member of the board of directors of Apple) face at such a remark. In this day and age any serious business and any well-informed and knowledgeable, marketing-orientated CEO will know what SEO is, and what potential it holds for their organisation.
Web helps online, offline businesses
Even if your business isn't online-orientated, the web can help you substantially. The fact is that people use search engines for information, buying products online, selling goods, offering services; people are using the web to decide where to eat dinner, where to make their next purchase, where to get help solving their issues. Search engines have created a luxury for us, because we search within their data bases for whatever we need or want.
The fact remains that the information on the internet has some control, order and direction because of search engines - this has been created for our (users) convenience, online business; retrieval of information has never been easier. Search engines provide us with a world's worth of knowledge and information at the tip of our fingers - not the internet, but search engines. Reason being because when we search, we often find what we are looking for. An internet browser is used only when you know the url destination, unless you use Chrome (owned by Google) where the url browser is a search engine.
SEO - bridge between product and user
This is where SEO comes into the scope of things. Search engine optimisation presents findings to searches. It is the bridge between the product (website), and the search engine user. SEO really should be called website optimisation, because SEO companies don't optimise search engines, but rather websites for search engines. Make sense? Good SEO will gain your brand exposure and more importantly leads, which then could become sales.
With modern stats reporting, every cent that is spent can be accounted for based on a cost per acquisition (sale/lead) model. This helps to keep you informed as to whether your SEO strategy is working or not, and if your budget is being used effectively.
Now imagine this scene: CEO needs to increase web exposure. What is the first step? Call the IT guy! Or, the web development company! That's like getting a flat tyre and going to the petrol station. Petrol stations are involved in the motor industry, but not directly with the motor tyre industry. Anyway, my point is that SEO is a specialist marketing department on its own. You need the SEO guy to communicate with the web guys, and the web guys with the technical hosting guys, and the account manager to the CEO, or in whichever format best suits your business.
SEO - pure marketing
SEO is not a mystery and it's not a bunch of special tricks - it is pure marketing. It's understanding a target market, looking at their behaviour when using search engines, seeing what keywords they use, and then ensuring you connect the search engine user (potential client), to the intended destination, which in this case could be a product, service or information.
So how can we get the CEO informed? Well, by getting SEO in South Africa to where it deserves to be. We can do this by having workshops, doing internships, holding corporate workshops and getting it into an academic curriculum.
SEO will help South Africa's economy grow because it's not about magic or bells and whistles marketing, it's about helping serious customers get what they are looking for. Matt Cutts (head of anti-Spam Google) mentions that Google's aim is to ensure the user is pleased. Thus the goal of SEO should be to please the user, and in return search engines will consider your keywords. Let's keep supporting and educating our economy's CEOs, because the future of online search marketing lies in their hands.
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