Guest Contribution by Mike Khorev
Many marketers and business practitioners understood that SEO and inbound marketing are very important to each other. However, at the same time, the same marketers face difficulties in really understanding how SEO fits into the wider concept of marketing strategy.
In this article, we will discuss how SEO is actually very important—if not the most important—aspect of the holistic inbound marketing concept, with both of them working together in achieving the same marketing and business objectives.
First, let us discuss both of them individually, and then we can discuss how they fit together.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
While the term inbound marketing has risen in popularity and has become the major buzzword in digital marketing for the past three years or so, the inbound marketing concept is actually not that new.
In fact, inbound marketing has been around since the early 2000s, for around 15 years now, although back then the concept is defined using different terms like pull marketing (as opposed to pushing marketing) among other terms.
So, what actually is inbound marketing?
In a nutshell, inbound marketing is a marketing initiative that emphasizes “pulling” customers and prospects inwards, rather than “pushing” your promotional message outwards.
In practice, inbound marketing combines various digital marketing channels to do one thing: ensuring high-quality and relevant content is available out there to attract your target audience and prospects to your brand.
There are many different digital marketing channels available, from search marketing (SEO and search ads), social media marketing, content marketing, various paid advertising, and others. Inbound marketing pulls all of these channels together to achieve the same objective: attracting potential customers and generating leads.
How Inbound Marketing Works
Above, we have established that the main idea of inbound marketing is about pulling people to your brand—or more specifically, your site—. This is why inbound marketing is also often referred to as pull marketing.
‘Traditional’ marketing, or outbound marketing, works by pushing our promotional message, our brand, and our product/service to as many people as possible (mainly through advertising). This practice disrupts the prospect or customer’s current activity, and so it often receives resistance. Nowadays, more and more people are using ad-blockers, and even when they are not, many people today naturally ignore ads or even any content they perceive as ads.
As mentioned above, inbound marketing is mainly about putting our content out there so the target audience can find it, fitting in the natural buyer’s journey. Here is an example of an inbound marketing cycle:
- A prospect is facing a problem or in need of information, and they begin searching for possible solutions. As with most people nowadays, this specific person uses Google
- This prospect finds out about your content, consumes the content, and recognizes your brand as a reliable source for their current problem. They also learned about your product/service here.
- Your site automatically offers an ebook related to the initial content that the prospect can download for free in exchange for their email address. This prospect finds the offer valuable and signs up for your email newsletter.
After this, this visitor effectively converts into a prospect or lead.
As you can see, since the prospect is the one being proactive in finding your content, there is little to no resistance from their end—as long as your content is relevant and informative—. This is the main reason why inbound marketing is effective.
Inbound marketing, as discussed above, can include various marketing channels including:
- Content marketing. The center of inbound marketing is content, so it’s fairly obvious.
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as the main way to promote the content and attract people to be aware of your content
- Email marketing as a way to nurture the captured leads
- Conversion rate optimization of your website
- Brand advocacy and brand awareness campaigns
- Social media marketing including influencer marketing
- User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) optimizations
So, how SEO actually fits into this inbound marketing cycle? Is it only about getting the content ranked higher to attract more audiences? This will be our topic for the rest of this article.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is essentially a series of optimizations on your website so your site can rank higher on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), mainly on Google but also other search engines.
However, it’s important to understand that SERP ranking is not the end goal of SEO, but just a means to an end for another objective: organic traffic. Organic traffic can, in turn, allow us to achieve other goals like brand awareness, lead generation, sales conversion, and others.
While SEO strategy involves on and off-site optimization, they can be boiled down into three main things:
- Ensuring your content is relevant and valuable for your target audience (including getting backlinks as votes of confidence)
- Making sure Google can properly crawl and index your website
- Optimizing user experience aspects of your site to keep your audience as long as possible on your site
How SEO Fits Into an Inbound Marketing Strategy
SEO is a crucial element of the overall inbound marketing cycle, if not a necessity to make inbound marketing actually works.
Why? Because SEO is still the most effective way to promote your content and generate organic traffic to your website, and attracting your target audience to our content is the essence—the core—of inbound marketing.
On the other hand, as we have discussed above, SEO relies on content and especially the quality of your content, while content is also a very important element of inbound marketing.
Consistency in publishing content (both in terms of quality and quantity), is the most crucial activity of both SEO and inbound marketing as a whole, while at the same time, also its biggest challenge.
To summarize, SEO drives organic traffic, which is a crucial aspect of inbound marketing’s basic idea of pulling prospects and consumers that are proactively looking for content.
The terms inbound marketing, content marketing, and SEO are often used interchangeably with each other, but all three of them are very different from each other, although they are closely related.
In practice, content marketing and SEO are both the key elements of inbound marketing: SEO allows high-quality content to be visible and searchable by the human audience, igniting the start of the inbound marketing cycle.
Mike Khorev is an SEO expert and digital marketing consultant(5) who helps small and mid-size businesses generate more leads, sales and grow revenue online. He offers expert advice on marketing your company the right way through performance-based SEO digital marketing, web design, social media, search engine marketing, and many other online practices.