By now you quite probably have read through Jon Henshaw’s Inbound Marketing Is Incomplete Marketing, in which he argues that HubSpot is most likely a hypocrite – because while it preaches inbound marketing as the Holy Grail, its actions tell a different story: that HubSpot’s been investing in outbound marketing too and is making the best of both worlds.
Probably Jon was too harsh on HubSpot. His article seems more of a frustration against the rising popularity of inbound marketing – one that most of us, including myself, share.
We’ve been into the search industry for nearly a decade. We’ve never used HubSpot but seen the term inbound marketing gaining more and more popularity over the last few years, the major impetus, of course, being Dharmesh Shah and Rand Fishkin (the other day we all saw SEOmoz switching to Moz and embracing inbound marketing fully.)
Ok, let’s walk through the definition of inbound marketing first
Inbound marketing doesn’t make much sense to many. Some find content marketing a better term. For some it’s permission marketing – coined by Seth Godin.
The basic idea around inbound marketing is to put SEO, social, content, PR, conversion rate optimization, print media and all those things that don’t interrupt a user’s flow in one basket. Inbound.org, co-founded by Rand and Dharmesh, (still) claims that inbound marketing is about getting earned rather than paid attention.
Much to my surprise (and most likely yours as well), Rand tweaked the definition a bit in his goodbye SEOmoz post, by including PPC under inbound marketing and highlighting that it’s all about interruption vs. organic.
In spite of being into PPC for years, we personally don’t consider that PPC qualifies for inbound marketing if the latter is about organic attention earning. Heck, PPC does interrupt searchers.
Amazingly, Jitbit even went on claiming that #1 result with the much-coveted Google+ authorship is often skipped by searchers because it looks like a paid ad.
We’m not saying that PPC is bad or ineffective (we recommend it to our clients all the time) – we’re just saying that considering PPC on the inbound marketing side seems to be out of convenience and not merit.
Every modern SEO is somewhere an inbound marketer
SEO, if we put aside the problems with the term, basically means optimizing sites for search engines so as to make them crawlable.
It’s been long since SEO evolved from what it actually was – a one-time activity. That happened when more and more people started thinking SEO as the best and slickest way to rank high in search engines. Promotion across search engines got coupled with SEO. People started to play around with ranking factors, especially links.
Since Penguin, Panda, authorship, knowledge graph, co-occurrence and the like, however, this SEO became more and more difficult and an urgent need to look after all the influencers to SEO found its birth.
Usability, user flow, performance, social, content… they all now have a major role to play in a site’s success across search engines and with its targeted audience, and hence they have become an integral part of every SEO’s job.
So every modern SEO is somewhere – deep down – an inbound marketer; in fact they don’t have any other option.
Probably the shift to inbound marketing is good
It’s hard, really hard, to part ways with the term SEO, after all it’s that which we love and have over time given a new meaning to. Probably it’d be a little unfair to give it all to inbound marketing. But all this (yet) seems to be for good, majorly because most people see SEO as something that doesn’t have anything to do with user experience, page speed and even social.
Finally, of course we’re not doomed to embracing inbound marketing. It’s not the death of SEO, either. It’s rather (mostly) a new way to look at what we as SEOs do.
P.S. Most likely we’ll never be able to give up on the term SEO.
Over to you, dear readers. What are your thoughts on inbound marketing? We’ll see you in the comments.