The Rise of Inbound Marketing Over SEO

3 min read

19 March 2012,

Digital Marketing

Over the past couple of years there has begun a change in the nomenclature (naming) of that great industry with which we are a part – SEO. Since its inception in the mid 90's, the SEO name has stuck as a name to describe the process of gaining visibility in the organic results of the major search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo). The term SEO stands for "search engine optimisation", which up until a couple of years ago described the process that SEOs carried out – they attempted through "on page" (changes made to the site) and "off page" (link building) means to raise their client' sites' rankings in the SERPS.

Up until quite recently, there was a division between SEO and SEM, with SEM meaning PPC advertising; the paid side of the search engines. Occasionally the tern SEM could, confusingly mean both organic and paid search. Both SEO and SEM, together with channels such as Email and display, went up to make up the industry that is known as Internet Marketing, Online Marketing, or Web Marketing.

So a few years ago SEOs begun to realise that the tasks they were carrying out on a day-to-day basis were more varied and numerous than the SEO name seemed to describe. Today, for the average client, a typical SEO will be involved with: linkbuilding; on-page changes; content creation; social media, Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO); blogs and web analytics. So you can see that the SEOs job consists of more than linkbuilding these days:

1) Content creation – content can come from one of three places; the marketer himself; a third party (such as a copywriter) or the client, who can find time to write a blog or an article for the site.

2) Social Media – Since the advent of Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more recently Google +, SEOs have the responsibility of at least coordinating, if not fully running, clients' Social Media campaigns.

3) CRO – increasingly a weapon in the SEOs armoury, CRO is the process of tweaking a landing page to have the best conversion rate possible, and to encourage each user to do whatever you want them to do on your site.

4) Blogs – SEOs comment on and write guest posts for lots of differing types of blogs, in different types of industries.

5) Web analytics - Vital to the SEO for measuring the success of his efforts and allows them to see what is working (or not). Also good for reporting to the client the progress of marketing efforts, and for suggesting changes to the website.

A few years ago it mooted by a few in the industry, most notably Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz, that a new name to supersede SEO might be needed. "Organic Marketing" was put forward, but then dismissed by Rand Fishkin due to its similarity to "organic food marketing". The industry doesn't want to be confused with organic vegetables!

So then another name was proposed – inbound marketing. I think this sums up what we do quite well. Rand Fishkin has proposed this definition for inbound marketing:

"Content creation, combined with investments in both the technical and outreach-based tactics in channels such as organic search, social networks, blogs and other websites, measured through analytics and tuned with conversion rate optimization."


However, this lengthy description has thankfully been trimmed down to: "Any tactic that relies on earning people's interest rather than buying it"

The new name of inbound marketing has not been taken up by everyone in the industry (for example Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land) so is not going to change overnight to become the given name for the industry. However, I think that a new name is definitely needed, and that inbound marketing is as good as any I have heard. I will be using it in office and client discussions from now on.