Twelve months ago I handed in my notice at a UK digital marketing agency and packed my bags to explore the wider world in which we live.

After several months in Asia, touring temples and burning on beaches, I settled into a digital marketing role in Queenstown, New Zealand.

It was actually the appeal of a ski season that attracted me to this buzzing town, but I was fortunate enough to have a skill set that was useful to local businesses.

Now the winter is over and the snow all gone, I thought I would share a few reflections on the digital industry in New Zealand and on how, in my experience, it compares with that in the UK. 

1. SEO practices lagging behind

It is fair to say there is still lots of black hat SEO going on across the world, but I was surprised how common it seems to appears in many Kiwi agencies.

Latterly, my employer in Queenstown gave me the task of finding an agency to carry on the work that I had started and, in doing so, even looking as far afield as Auckland (New Zealand’s largest city) I noted a plethora of proposals talking about directory submissions as a fundamental practice and social media as the means to directly obtain ranking.

As my search went on, I did find some reputable, content-driven agencies, I was just surprised how difficult they were to identify, with black hat SEO practicing agencies appearing quite prominently.

Perhaps this reflects the paucity of international businesses in New Zealand, with a lack of access to leading services it becomes difficult to compete against the larger Australian and global businesses, though I could be wrong.

Regardless to whether there is a correlation here, there is an obvious opportuntity for white hat agencies to market themselves and benefit from inbound channels to some degree. 

2. PPC is cheap again!

Having previously been working on PPC accounts in competitive markets in the UK, it was refreshing to suddenly experience such affordable CPCs and CPLs. I noted this across a range of advertising platforms.

Particularly in Queenstown, there is still a significant reliance on traditional advertising techniques, so for the few who are investing in digital, the results they are achieving are exceptional.

Inevitably, this will change with time, as more competitors become involved, but for the present, it all provided an interesting contrast to my previous experience in the UK. 

3. Improving infrastructure will drive fast growth

Without doubt, tourism is one of New Zealand’s largest markets. But as a largely unpopulated rural island, there is only limited internet availability.

Indeed, most establishments still charge for Wi-Fi usage, and as a result, many tourists often remain unconnected while on vacation there.

However, with cheaper mobile data providers gradually becoming available and reception coverage improving, this will surely all change before long.

An improved infrastructure is also likely to create a much bigger digital tourism market and tourism businesses are already developing their interest in this.

A tipping point will come when more tourism businesses shift their marketing budgets from offline to online and begin to reap the benefits of attribution and measurable return on investment that they have hitherto been denied.

4. Consumer behaviour seems slightly different, for now

Without wishing to sound disparaging, I sensed that, in general, New Zealanders  are less preoccupied or absorbed by technology as their counterparts in other countries.

Not only are Kiwis very comfortable talking to the person sitting next to them on the bus, but hitch-hiking remains one of the most common forms of transport.

Perhaps with the further development of communication systems, this will all begin to change soon, and online grocery shopping will become the norm in New Zealand too.

However, I rather hope it doesn’t as I’ve enjoyed receiving recommendations from other travellers rather than through TripAdvisor and being impressed upon by clothing retailers to try on the jeans, to ensure they fit well, before deciding whether or not to purchase them!

If you found this interesting, you may want to check out Econsultancy’s State of Digital Marketing in Australia and New Zealand report which looks at the Australasian digital industry in more depth and discusses it's future.

Edwyn Raine

Published 1 December, 2015 by Edwyn Raine

Edwyn Raine is Digital Strategist at Evolution 7 and a guest blogger on Econsultancy. You can follow Edwyn on Twitter

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Comments (5)

Jez Walters

Jez Walters, director at ross creative services

As someone who's regularly travelled to NZ I'd have to agree completely with all of the above. I love the place and its absolutely true that the nation is not preoccupied by tech. They're too busy enjoying the amazing scenery and nature....still, I'd agree that for UK digital professionals with the right skills, there are fantastic opportunities only tempered by the fact that with a population smaller than Scotland, there's not a lot of free-floating business going around.

over 2 years ago

David Iwanow

David Iwanow, SEO Product Manager at

Yep good summary of how different the NZ market is compared to the UK, but I recall very quickly in Australia the FB Ads CPC rates were quickly one of the highest in the world as a lot of companies shifted traditional budget from offline into paid social without a focus on true ROI they just wanted to grow the number of fans or drive traffic to their website...

There is still a lot of very cost effective PPC opportunities in Australia and NZ where a lot of global competitors have not yet started pushing up the CPC prices or implementing anything close to what is possible. I recall there was also a lot of client education opportunities as I was able to easily implement several standard PPC or Analytics that several global agencies they worked with in the past said was not possible. So I say take advantage of your knowledge and educate your clients in what is possible and set the standards based on great data and insights.

The SEO aspect is an interesting one as talking with many SEOs that had worked in that space there was a perception that there was a limited number of naturally occurring link opportunities in NZ space. The solution many went for was pure sponsored path or get links from international sites like AU, UK, USA but the method depended on client budgets and was it a long term strategy or just short term thinking along the lines of we want 10 links per week...

over 2 years ago

Darren Craig

Darren Craig, Founder at Fully Charged Media

Whilst I would agree with you about being quite a bit behind generally (being a Scot in Queenstown, and almost 6 years in NZ), I think it's a combination of agencies resting on their laurels when they have grown up in a market and got a safe client list, and the perceptions of the business owners.

Being based in Queenstown as well, unfortunately heading to Auckland for a replacement reinforces the mentality of having to go to the big city to get the skillsets when there are some locals with world class expertise if you look for them (like via Google).

Having attended many digital marketing conferences overseas, and in NZ I can say I can say I've met many skilled practitioners who are thinking way ahead of both NZ and many overseas companies, if you know where to look for them. Most local agencies are still building proprietary CMSs and delivering sub par websites...and the majority of businesses still consider the online brochure (aka website) to be the only part of their online presence.

The biggest gap is the education of the marketplace, and growing awareness of the many 'dodgy' practices going on in the digital industry (I've seen many). Whilst the internet is still way behind many overseas offerings, there has been massive strides forward in the last few years.

The biggest problem is business owners don't know (and shouldn't have to) which questions to ask, and generally developers or designers don't think like marketers. There are also the PR companies who jump on board digital without a long term succession plan which doesn't help the perception in the marketplace.

With tourism almost being the biggest industry, the booking engines available and commonly used don't help with best practice digital marketing and ROI tracking. Mention adding conversion codes to a confirmation page and you often get a silence at the end of the support line.

This along with very poorly set up analytics is a big stumbling block to agencies who are trying to use the latest techniques, spend $10,000's of dollars in training and are bringing in latest techniques and transparency into the marketplace....and you don't have to go to Auckland. Give me a shout if you head back to Queenstown ;-)

over 2 years ago


Steph Coulton, Strategist at INK Digital Agency

I've just moved to NZ on a working holiday, it so stunning! I'm going to do a similar thing, do some travelling and then get myself a job within Digital. I'm looking forward to learning the differences and seeing them for myself! Hopefully I'll be able to add some more to this list. Massive thanks for the head start on this!

over 2 years ago


Will Joyce, Head of Digital at Paper Stone Scissors

Being a returning Kiwi after spending 20 years abroad -mainly in emerging tech and digital... I find NZ is such a "dichotomy". While the population is generally aware/educated and connected, there is not this sense of dependency of that device in the pocket. I will admit being a digital practitioner back in NZ. When it comes to provideing recommendations/solutions, I do still wonder why I am having the same converations I was having 10 or 15 years ago when digital was "new and wondrous".

While I lament there being a small innovation / entrepreneur sector in "digital". This does actually exist in droves, but it is mainly focussed in Primary and Secondary industry sectors - Think Jetpacks, Rockets, Microwaved low carbon fuel sources, and amazing advances in Agri-tech.

As far as Wifi and other infrastructure, I think the author may have been a victim of perhaps in own circumstances. Free Wifi abounds in New Zealand, even in the regional areas; and it continues to roll out at Council and social enterprise level. NZ has the one of the largest Fibre to the Home coverage for its population, and it is actually now the same price if not cheaper than standard ADSL. This focus is not just centred around the main metro area of Auckland but deep into other provincial centres. Where Fibre is not available it is offered very cost effectively over LTE.

I do wholeheartedly agree with items like SEO, unique consumer behaviour (TV is still strong, people like to go to the shops - Kiwi's have an art in creating awesome retail experiences, and there is a desire to maintain a work-life-balance).

But for all of you (and myself) who are coming here ... while it is a land of opportunity... come here for the right reasons... and dont import the 70hour working week, "always on" mentality, and sense of superiority. Work within the culture, embrace it, and take advantage of quality of life.


over 2 years ago

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