The Truth About Inbound Marketing vs SEO

You might have come across the terms inbound marketing and search engine optimizations (SEO) while searching for ways to promote your website. Inbound marketing vs SEO, which one is better you might think?

Both of them are powerful ways to generate traffic and leads for your website but they aren’t exactly the same.

While both disciplines focus on attracting customers to your business, each deploys different methods.

Put simply, inbound marketing uses a holistic strategy to attract and convert customers on your website whereas SEO is geared towards optimizing your website for best performance (high ranking) on search engines.

SEO is considered a subset of inbound marketing, attracting customers to your business while inbound marketing takes them through the full funnel.

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In this blog, we’ll dig into the similarities and differences between inbound marketing vs SEO and which one is better.

The Basics of Inbound Marketing

Put simply, inbound marketing is a system of marketing techniques that can help you get your product in front of more potential customers.

Inbound marketing does this by following three key steps –

  • Attract – creating high-quality content that prospects actually want to consume and positions you as a trusted advisor.
  • Engage – addressing the pain points of prospects and customers by offering them insight and solutions that solve their challenges.
  • Delight – going above and beyond to support and empower your customers in making the most of their purchase.

These are not three linear steps but more of a flywheel where each feeds into the next.

A delighted customer spreads goodwill and word of mouth that further attracts new prospects to your product!

While the inbound marketing methodology uses a high-level approach of attract, engage and delight, let’s also look at some of the more specific techniques that go into making a stellar inbound marketing strategy.

Content Creation

Case studies, product brochures, white papers, blogs, and eBooks are all examples of content types that you can offer your customers.

These content types are often used as lead magnets on a campaign landing page to optimize website conversion.

Creating high-quality content (no matter what its form) is your goal when it comes to inbound marketing.

Social Media Management

You’ve got great content, but how do you put it in front of your prospects and customers? This is where social media steps in, and social media management is when you optimize your social media channels for success.

Good social media management is when you post high-quality content, engage with your followers, and use social listening to drive traffic to your website and increase brand awareness.

Managing multiple accounts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest can be a heavy lift for an in-house marketing team. The best marketing teams don’t shy away from hiring a great marketing agency!

Lead Nurturing

Inbound marketing does not stop at just getting leads. But it smartly uses lead nurturing to ensure that none of your leads slip through the gaps of your marketing funnel and are warm by the time they reach Sales teams.

Awareness to conversion can sometimes be a long journey depending upon the industry you are in. Lead nurturing can help you bridge the gap and shorten the conversion time by offering great content at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Website Optimization

Most of your content resides on your website and if your website is not optimized for leads and conversion, your content is pretty much existing in a vacuum.

The best websites use well-designed landing pages to drive leads, a simple website architecture to help with SEO, and offer an excellent user experience!

Understanding Search Engine Optimization

SEO or search engine optimization is the art of optimizing your web content so that it ranks higher on search engine results page. The holy grail of SEO is having your website rank on the first page of Google.

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SEO thus gets more visitors to visit your website organically. A good SEO strategy will use a targeted approach that intends to attract specific search queries and audiences to your web content.

Let’s take a look at some of the things that go into SEO:

Link Building

Besides search engines, there are also other places you can get web traffic from. For example, other websites and social media. Link building helps in getting other websites to link back to your website.

While you must manage your own website links with a well-built navigation and website architecture, link building is a great way to get referral traffic and build authority for your content.

Responsive Website

If your website takes longer than 5 seconds to load you can forget about getting any traffic.

Make sure your website loads fast on both mobile and desktop and has an interface that works well in different browsers and devices.

Google picks up on these optimizations and rewards you with a better search rank.

Keyword Strategy

Look at yourself, at your customers, and at search intent before forming your keyword strategy.

Keyword research begins with a Google search! Google auto-suggests keywords as you start typing in. This can give you a fair understanding of what other people are searching for.

Create content that uses keywords that are backed by the right intent. Keywords stuffing can no longer help you and might actually downgrade your webpage in rankings.

Instead, use keywords strategically and try to use long-tail keywords that better reflect search intent.

The HTML code

Your website runs on HTML. And there is a lot that you can do with that code that can help you rank better!

Starting from something as simple as ensuring all your webpages have page titles and descriptions for search engines to pick up, and content tags (H1, H2, and so on).

You can even use AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages to increase your load times and consequently improve your ranking.

SEO is complex and rightly so. It is difficult to organically rank on the first page of SERP but it is possible! Consider taking the help of an agency if all those technicalities confuse you.

Inbound Marketing vs SEO – Content Is Still the Foundation

Content forms the bedrock of both inbound marketing and SEO. An inbound marketing strategy will use content that is more aligned to the buyer’s journey and the buyer personas.

Instead of fighting for the customer’s attention, inbound marketing focuses on attracting them to your business by creating content that is fine-tuned for your target audience.

The content for inbound marketing would thus be more holistic and include collateral such as brochures, case studies, infographics, white papers and more.

Whereas SEO would focus on making that content more visible to search engines such that your content ranks higher on the search engine results page.

SEO uses both creative and technical methods to drive traffic to your website.

This would include using keywords strategically across your website and collateral, ensuring that meta content and descriptions are used, and content is written in a way that makes it credible enough to be picked up by other websites (link building).

Understanding your target audience’s search behavior and the Google algorithms impact is also important when creating SEO friendly content.

Impacting the Funnel

While SEO is primarily focused on attracting, inbound marketing takes the full-funnel approach and plays a larger, more holistic role in the conversion of leads.

Both SEO and inbound marketing use a unique set of tools to move leads through the funnel.

For inbound marketing that includes – lead nurturing, social media management, content creation etc.

For SEO it includes – keyword strategy, designing responsive websites, link management, webpage load speeds optimizations etc.

As you can make out, inbound marketing is a much broader concept and lead conversions are built into the methodology. Where SEO does help to coax leads through the funnel, it can’t do so as effectively due to its limited scope.

Moreover, SEO does not have a clearly outlined lead nurturing process. Inbound marketing does with lead nurturing.

Lead nurturing uses continuous communication with the prospect and educates them to make sure leads are nurtured through the funnel.

Understanding the ROI of Inbound Marketing vs SEO

When it comes to SEO, a lot of businesses make the mistake of just gauging ROI with their search engine results page (SERP) ranking. SEO has far more depth than just that metric.

Whereas a lot of inbound marketers make the mistake of considering SEO as more of a reserve player on the team.

This is the wrong approach. Marketers need to consider the data from SEO and inbound marketing combined.

The ranking is important, but when it comes to ROI, so is generating sustainable web traffic and nurturing that traffic to produce conversions.

In this regard, SEO and inbound marketing go hand in hand. You wouldn’t be doing justice to your analytics if you look at these metrics in silos.

You might be wondering which is better when it comes to inbound marketing vs SEO.

For some businesses, SEO alone might do the trick but for most businesses and to create more long-lasting results, you need to consider both SEO and inbound marketing as one.

Focusing on SEO alone might leave your customers clueless when they land on your website because they can’t find the content they need.

Whereas focusing on inbound marketing alone will make your content spectacular but that content will exist in a vacuum.

These are crucial parts of your overall marketing strategy and one does not go without the other.

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