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Having worked in the SEO industry for over 10 years, I am now the founder of an inbound marketing agency. With my experience and knowledge I thought I would take this opportunity to discuss the following questions: Is inbound marketing the new SEO? Why are so many SEO companies calling themselves inbound marketing companies?
Why are SEO companies changing to inbound marketing?
I cannot speak for every other SEO company but I can tell you my own experiences of the industry and hopefully this will give you a better understanding of why this has come about.
The phrase “inbound marketing” was really first mentioned by Seth Godin before anyone else was talking about it. Seth is considered the leading mind in modern marketing and is a voice every business and marketer should be listening to, in my opinion.
A lot of great SEOs will tell you that they have been doing inbound marketing for years it is just under a different name.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Bill Shakespear
Mostly I would have to agree with this, but I think that these SEOs are referring to content marketing, which is a sub set of inbound marketing.
It has taken years to get where we are today with marketing. First came along Google, the first piece of the puzzle, which empowered people to search for the things they wanted instead of being told what they wanted. At the same time blogging was becoming more popular, and then along came Facebook and Twitter which was the final piece in the puzzle that makes up what we call inbound marketing today.
So, we have Google that lets consumers research and find the products and services they want, we have business blogs that help the customers with their research and help them with their pain points and finally we have Facebook for customers to share this research and recommend great products and services they have found. Search, blogging and social form the building blocks of inbound marketing.
If you take a look at some of the best SEO companies a lot of what they are doing is inbound marketing, it’s just they are not calling it that. SEO, like social media and Facebook, are different cogs in the same inbound marketing machine. There is nothing to say that this may change in the future, other services may be added that complement inbound to make it even more effective.
It is not much of a big leap for SEO companies to move into the inbound marketing industry. The only people that are losing out in all of this is the consumer. If SEO was not confusing enough they now have inbound marketing to deal with. However I do think inbound marketing is an easier concept for businesses to understand.
This is all happening because we are still a young industry and we are going through a constant state of change and marketers have so many different ideas as to what works.
The industry is crying out for a certification or a body that represent us all so we can finally have rules and best practices. The problem is everyone is arguing about what works and what doesn’t, what services should be offered and what they should be called. The closest thing the SEO industry has to an industry body is SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) who are a non- profit organisation which serves the search and digital marketing industry.
I am personally proud that I work for an inbound marketing company as inbound for me is the first big step into a more mature digital marketing industry and does not require you to do anything that may get you banned from the search engines.
The SEO cat and mouse game
SEO is sold on the promise that it is the solution you need for online success. The reality falls much shorter than this as some think because you are at the top of Google your problems are over. This could not be further from the truth.
About four years ago I wrote an article on Site Pro News called SEO can lead a Horse to Water but you Can’t Make it Drink which discusses that just because you are at number one in Google does not mean you will get more sales.
Search engine optimisation is split into two different categories on-site and off-site. I do not have a problem with on-site as this is the process of making your website more attractive and visible to Google and for the most part actually helps Google.
It is the off-site part that I start to have problems with, link building in particular. I don’t care what Google says publicly but there is no way they like this behaviour no matter how ethical it seems to be.
The reason you do link building is to rank higher in Google, so by design you are trying to manipulate the search results. It doesn’t matter how you dress this up, this is what you are doing. Over the years every SEO tactic has gone the way of the Dodo because Google keeps changing the way it ranks websites to combat SEOs that try to link build their way to number one.
So you see, to me this is a pointless endeavour and it is you, the business owner, who is paying for this. They spend all your budget building links with article marketing, forum links and directory submissions to try and get you to number one. While at the same time Google is going behind them devaluing all these kinds of links. All the money you have paid these companies is going down the drain.
The other problem is that if you are a new website and your competitor has 10,000 links there is no way you could possibly catch them. I don’t care how good the SEO company is, they will tell you it’s not about quantity but it’s about quality. This is a way to try and get around this argument. Although this is true there is no way quality websites are going to link to brand new websites. Well there is but that involves creating remarkable content which is the basis of inbound marketing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are SEO companies out there that are doing amazing jobs but there are just too many of them that are not. That is why if inbound marketing gets more of these SEOs to take notice and join in then the better the industry will become. Inbound marketing does not require you to try and manipulate Google.
SEO has a very important part to play in inbound marketing and there is some really amazing talent in the industry that deserves to be recognised.
The first rule of inbound marketing is to be remarkable. That is by having a great product or service that stands out and is unique. If the only difference between you and your competitor is price then there is nothing much remarkable about your business.
You need to start with exceptional products or services but one other thing that will help you stand out is how you treat your staff and in turn your customers. If you create great places to work and amazing customer service you are already better than 99% of businesses out there.
I will be writing a post on the companies that I have personally worked with that I think are remarkable but for now here is a quick list.
Now it’s your turn
What do you think of the current state of the industry? Do you think SEOs get a bad rap and what has been your experience?