SEO and Inbound Marketing: “It's Complicated”

May 28, 2014 | Inbound Marketing, SEO

Complicated relationship between kitten and puppy

If SEO and inbound marketing were humans, their Facebook relationship status would be “it’s complicated.”

It is widely accepted by marketers that SEO and inbound marketing are related, but there is a lot of confusion when they try to define exactly how that relationship works. This confusion is only heightened by the fact that over the last several years SEO has been switching its focus from links and keywords to quality content and brand authority. Some people think that SEO and inbound marketing are just two names for the same thing. Others conjecture that inbound marketing is a replacement for SEO. All of these people are wrong.

If they are wrong, then what does the SEO-inbound marketing relationship look like? This question can be most easily answered by reviewing the definition of each strategy.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the part of a marketing strategy that focuses on increasing a website’s ranking (and thus visibility) in search engine results. This rise in ranking is achieved by making sure the website provides an excellent user experience and relevant, useful information that meets an otherwise unmet consumer need. Search engines take into consideration link profiles, proper keyword usage, site structure and speed, and brand authority (among other things) when ranking websites. So, search engine optimizers (SEOs) end up combining efforts with many different areas of marketing when they work to optimize websites. I work with the web development, content, and social media teams at 212 Media Studios on a regular basis as I create and implement SEO strategies for websites.

If you would like a more expanded definition of SEO as well as some resources on how SEO works, check out this article.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing attracts prospective customers to a business, rather than the business going out and interrupting what customers are doing. It focuses on creating high-quality content that is relevant and useful to specific buyer personas (i.e. ideal customers). It also pays close attention to where and when content is posted, making it as convenient and effortless as possible for buyer personas to access. It encourages the use of tools like social media, email marketing, and SEO to gain links to the content in places that buyer personas will find it. This content can be in the form of blog posts, ebooks, infographics, check sheets, or any other materials the buyer personas want. In exchange for their contact information, they receive the content for free, and the business gets a qualified lead. It can then nurture these leads through further contact and content downloads, ideally eventually converting those leads into satisfied customers.

To learn more about inbound marketing, take a look at this information from Hubspot.

So, How Are They Related?

As you can see, one certainly does not replace the other, and they are not the same thing. SEO is a part of inbound marketing—a part that cannot be ignored. A business can create all the content it wants and make it available to the public, but if the public cannot find it because of a low-quality website that search engines cannot easily index and navigate, the marketing strategy will fail. SEO is the part of an inbound strategy that ensures a website, content and all, ranks as high as possible in search engine results, increasing visibility and the likelihood that prospective customers will find it.

A search engine optimizer creates and pursues goals with other teams, such as content and social media. This results in a unified marketing strategy that is more likely to succeed. However, he or she is typically not in charge of actually creating the content and posting to social media. This article talks extensively about the relationship between SEO and inbound marketing.

Do you use both SEO and inbound marketing in your strategies? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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