It Doesn’t Matter What You Call Your Online Strategy!

One thing I’ve always found surprising is the amount of strong opinions we seem to have around the nomenclature of SEO/SEM/content marketing, etc within the industry.

I ran a poll a while back asking what the best term to use was – content marketing or inbound marketing. This generated lots of responses and opinions:


It’s always interesting to see the results, but when you think about it – does it actually matter?

Is looking at each individual channel really the best way to go?

  1. SEO: If all you do is optimize a website for search engines, you’ll probably have the most finely-tuned website with no links and no rankings on the internet. Congratulations! However, the SEO role obviously involves a lot more than just optimization, link reputation clearly plays a large role in 2012, which is very difficult to do without content/social/PR.
  2. Search Marketing: Yes, you’re marketing yourself to generate more search traffic online – but surely there’s more to it than that that adds to the mix? For example, converting that traffic into customers, or engaging via social channels maybe?
  3. Link Building: You’re building links – what about the quality/relevancy of these links? And how does that affect your overall search strategy? On its own it doesn’t mean anything of value.
  4. PPC: Do you optimize your paid search campaigns to pay for each click? Of course not – you want to maximize the revenue from your campaign. That requires content, call-to-action, email marketing campaigns, conversion rate optimization etc.
  5. Content Marketing: I’m clearly more of a fan of this term than others, but if all you just focus on marketing great content – without any SEO knowledge or social media expertise, you’re definitely missing the bigger picture.
  6. Inbound Marketing: Likewise, there’s much more to the content you create than the links that it produces. And this mixes in with your social and search strategies of course.
  7. Social Media: Marketing yourself on social media without great content to share is far more likely to just be shouting, not that anyone will listen.
  8. Conversion Rate Optimization: Again you could have the most finally-tuned website for generating sales, but no traffic!

I could go on, but you get the point!

And like anything, you can’t just trust a single metric on its own – it doesn’t matter what it is. If it’s business, you can’t judge performance by looking at revenue without considering profit. In sport, you can’t just look at games won, without games lost etc…

Sticking it All Together = Marketing Gold!

Wouldn’t it make more sense to integrate all of this together? That way you’ll have an optimized website, a strong/natural link profile, it generates targeted traffic from keywords (both organically and paid), it’s highly-converting and attracts new visits via social content, whilst engaging with customers. That sounds much more effective surely?!

I recently wrote about the need to ditch the silos when building a team.

For the best strategies you need to get everyone all involved from day one and get them working together – then they can all help each other out. I really like an analogy from Greg Boser, who said that it’s like a Chinese food court – you just ending taking bits of each without worrying where they come from, and it probably doesn’t work very well together!

So What Should we Call it?

Some people dislike the term “content marketing”, even more seem to dislike “inbound marketing” – largely because they’re both new and maybe considered buzzwords. Yet others are saying “SEO” isn’t the most accurate name to use anymore either (which feels a bit like we’re going round in circles, SEO was once a buzzword too!).

I think there’s a strong argument that SEO has grown up a lot recently and that you no longer need to just specialize in search to succeed in Google. That doesn’t mean SEOs can’t adapt and involve social/content into their strategies though.

Likewise, for the reasons above – there are also arguments that any of the other suggested replacements are flawed too. There are just too many factors to consider in a modern online strategy. Perhaps we should just use an old term instead? Marketing seems to have worked pretty well for a while now!

But let’s be honest – who really cares?

Do Your Clients Care What it’s Called? No, You Take a Budget and Spend it Where it Works Best!

And that’s the way it should be – CMOs are judged on generating revenue from their marketing budgets. What it’s called when they report this is irrelevant. And if you look at the reasons above, it’s clear that if you have an integrated search strategy – the whole is going to be much greater than the sum of all parts.

So you can focus on getting great results – and leave your competitors to argue semantics.

Do You Think it Makes a Difference?

I don’t want to turn this post into a debate on what it’s called – that’s not what it’s about. But do you think the name of your marketing activity makes a difference? And does that affect your day-to-day strategy?

Related reading

How to conduct a branded search audit
How to write SEO-friendly alt text for your images
How to perfectly balance affiliate marketing and SEO
international insight from google analytics