The origins of search engine optimization (SEO) can be traced back to the early to mid-1990s. But over the last couple decades, the concept and practice has evolved.
At one point, SEO was touted far and wide as the end all to marketing search. And it still has a significant impact. Google frequently changes its guidelines regarding SEO requirements and bad SEO practices will penalize you in rankings. But today, we know SEO is a part of a bigger whole. Enter inbound marketing.
According to Hubspot, the full concept of inbound marketing only began gaining popularity in 2006. Hubspot company co-founder and CEO, Brian Halligan, is actually credited with originating the term. But while the concept of SEO is a vital element to any good marketing strategy and has been around longer, at least in digital practices, it is just one component of a wider scale of tools and practices that make up an overall inbound strategy.
The purpose of SEO broken down in its simplest form is the process of generating organic results on search engines so that your business is ranked high when services that fall in line with your mission are searched. This can be done in a number of ways and includes using keywords, optimizing your pages, creating great, informative content, and building links, which means quality pages are linking to your quality content.
When purchasing, customers go on a journey that happens in three phases: awareness, consideration, and decision. SEO is an integral part of all the phases. In the “awareness” phase, SEO can be used to entice the “right” traffic to your page. This means people who visit your page are the actual people that would buy your product or service. In inbound marketing, this person is called the “buyer persona.” Before you even begin to implement SEO or any type of marketing you need to know the people you are selling to. It’s your target market in focus and includes details like a persona’s goals, challenges, counterpoints, and demographic. Optimizing your pages with keywords that relate to the problem your buyer persona is having will help bring them to the page.
In the consideration stage, content should help the buyer with a solution, so the keywords should illustrate this. Content created for personas in the decision stage can specifically detail your company and how it can help the customer. Keywords and other SEO practices should be relevant to this content. SEO should be implemented at each step of the way and ties closely in with content. You can’t just load up your website with keywords to hook rank. Search engines are increasingly smarter and can discern the difference between a site that contains quality content and a site trying to school the system. Clearly, SEO and inbound marketing are not one in the same.
Ultimately, while SEO is a key component to best inbound marketing practices, it is just one important step of the larger inbound way.