Much of the misinformation about both the state of SEO and the state of inbound marketing these days is driven by competitive business practices from both sides, leaving the truth hard to discern. So is inbound killing SEO? Is SEO hurting inbound? Here is an introduction to how inbound marketing and SEO fit together, and why both industries have a lot to learn from each other.
1. Inbound marketing is more comprehensive
Inbound marketing is a bit of an umbrella term that covers a lot of well known internet marketing techniques that you have probably already heard of, like PPC and SEO. The defining characteristics of inbound marketing is that company’s earn the attention of potential customers by creating content, instead of buying or begging for their attention using cold-calling, traditional advertising or other older marketing methods. It is generally thought that buy leading a customer to a company naturally, converting a sale is easier and marketing becomes valuable to the customer as opposed to an annoyance.
Many forget that inbound marketing is actually a term coined and peddled by the company HubSpot, but it has grown from a simple marketing buzzword created by one company to support an entire industry dedicated to its marketing principles. There are even different streams of thought within inbound marketing, like lean inbound marketing for example. Inbound marketing is seen as better for small companies, as the cost per lead is generally lower than traditional outbound marketing and it is immensely scalable as a marketing method.
2. Inbound marketing in changing the way we see SEO
It is not just as simple as saying that SEO is a category within inbound marketing or that it is just a tool used by inbound marketers, as SEO has been changed and informed by inbound marketing perspectives over the past few years. From that angle, you could say that SEO from an inbound marketing specialists view is vastly different than SEO from a ‘SEO purists’ view. What is the difference, you may ask? It’s content. Sure, SEO experts have known ‘content is king’ for awhile now, but SEO experts have long seen content as just a delivery channel for their real holy grail: links. More attention was generally paid to the metrics of a particular site or the keywords in a particular link than to the quality of the content that hosted said link. Because of this, content produced by pure SEO companies has not always lived up to expected standards.
3. Inbound marketing is killing traditional SEO (and that’s not a bad thing)
The truth of the matter is that the SEO label has been dirtied both by black-hat techniques and by the aforementioned poor quality content that even white-hat SEO were producing. So in a way, inbound marketing is killing traditional SEO because inbound marketing is first and foremost about content: not links, not keywords, not metrics. That is not to say that those three variables are not focused on intently by inbound marketers—they really are. But content should always come first, because that is what earns customer trust and that is what makes inbound marketing unannoying advertising. Any lead generation blog will tell you that the benefits of quality content are essential, which is exactly why we should be focusing on it as marketers.
So traditional SEO is dying, but that doesn’t mean all SEO is dying. The inbound marketing revolution is in effect cutting away dying branches from the larger SEO tree, and allowing the healthy, good parts to flourish and grow. The success in terms on returns on investment for inbound marketing and content marketing have forced the wider internet marketing industry to reassess how they were treating content. SEO companies can learn from their inbound counterparts and start putting content at least on par in terms of importances with links, and inbound marketers can be less general and get more in-depth if they learn from SEO experts. Simply put, both industries can learn from each other, and if they do, then both will flourish.