SEO or inbound marketing: what’s in a name?

The relationships between SEO and inbound marketing: if inbound marketing were a house, then SEO is the foundation on which it’s built.

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It’s pretty widely accepted that SEO is important and convincing someone that being visible online is critical to a company’s success is no challenge. Explaining and understanding how SEO fits into an overall inbound marketing strategy, however, is more difficult. Those that “do” SEO are often plagued with tunnel-vision, focused only on search engine optimisation, and marketers often don’t have the expansive knowledge of organic search to give it the attention it demands.

So how do the two fit together?

What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is the pull to outbound marketing’s push. Rather than chasing down potential customers through cold calling, inbound marketing attracts them, interests them, and entices them with useful information, a positive customer experience, and building loyalty.

There are lots of inbound marketing tactics that businesses can employ, and as technology develops, these tactics change and improve all the time. Some of the most well-used include:

  • Content creation: such as blogging, video, news, and other copywriting
  • Social media marketing: with activity on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and forums
  • Email marketing: communicating newsletters and offers
  • Direct traffic: more traditional PR through brand news and press releases
  • Conversion rate optimisation (CRO): to improve the online customer experience
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO): obtaining free, organic website traffic…

What is SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)?

SEO efforts improve your website’s visibility in search, which essentially means appearing in search engine results pages (SERPs) for certain keywords and phrases relevant to your business. Users who arrive at your site after clicking a search engine result are known as “organic” – they came to you, rather than you pursuing them specifically.

There are a lot of boxes to check for SEO, and I won’t/can’t list them all adequately here, but generally speaking, the tasks include:

  • Building a decent backlink profile for your site
  • Technical checks such as site speed and responsive pages
  • Creating quality content, optimised with relevant keywords

SEO, or rather SEO Best Practice is always changing. Search engines are constantly trying to refine their search results to make for a better user experience.

What is the relationship between SEO and inbound marketing?

If inbound marketing were a house, then SEO is the foundation on which it’s built.

With both disciplines being pull (not push), the purpose of SEO and of inbound marketing is so similar, however, SEO is more like the essential groundwork for a successful inbound marketing strategy. But it’s not the only part.

If you’ve launched a new product on your ecommerce site, for example, SEO should be at the forefront of that launch:

  • Keyword research and trend analysis
  • Creating keyword-rich, linkworthy content for users and search engines
  • Technical fixes so the site is crawlable, speedy, and sufficiently tracked
  • Conversion and ecommerce tracking (esp. Goals in Google Analytics)
  • Implementing good UX for an enjoyable experience for users
  • Relationship management with relevant third parties for exposure/link building
  • Incorporating brand messaging in any collateral around the new product

These elements work together to get your new product – or rather the page talking about your new product – ranking in search. Better rankings tends to mean more visitors, and more visitors tends to mean more sales.

What is social media’s role in inbound marketing?

Another inbound marketing strategy, social media marketing, should also have a lead role in your overall strategy alongside SEO. Like SEO, social media relies heavily on strong content to succeed, but what that content looks like depends on the platform. And the platforms you use will depend on where your target audience hangs out. Social signals are fuelling search results more and more, and so companies should take note:

Social media can help with link building

Sharing a piece of good content through social media invites other users to also share it. A reshare, a retweet, or a repost acts as an endorsement of that content, as does linking to that content from a website. The latter forms part of a link building strategy and helps build a diverse-but-relevant backlink profile, which search engines love.

Social media followers add authority

Consider when social media posts are pulled into search results. If one Twitter account has 500 followers, and another has 50,000, the latter is far more likely to have its tweet pulled into search. Growing social media followers organically can positively impact SEO.

Social media facilitates local interaction

Google’s local search for personalised results presents an opportunity for companies to have a voice in their local area. They can interact with other local businesses, comment on local events, and publicise their own local events.

SEO and inbound marketing

Organic search is part of the larger inbound marketing experience. A marketing team solely focused on SEO is missing the bigger picture – a full inbound marketing strategy will have SEO at its heart. Marketing teams should be working together with SEO specialists to incorporate it into other strategies.

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