SEO Vs Inbound Marketing

Lately, there has been an ongoing debate if SEO truly encompasses all that it is meant to or should an alternate term such as inbound marketing be used to replace the popular acronym of search engine optimization.

The world not associated with internet marketing would perhaps be fine with any connotation but from a holistic perspective, there are various arguments in favor and against of SEO and inbound marketing respectively.

SEO has become integral to internet marketing. The latter was the buzzword for almost a decade before the former gained prominence. Internet marketing is still the most commonly used term by non-marketing professionals and those who are not accustomed with online marketing. To be fair to both the terms ‘SEO’ and ‘inbound marketing’, let us take distinctive views as to what they both imply and if at all the former should be replaced by the latter for relevance.
The Term SEO

SEO is the term people use to depict online marketing. Anything that has to do with internet marketing is quickly associated with SEO. The real question here is whether SEO covers every aspect of internet marketing or not. Search engine optimization is only a portion of what is done in internet marketing. To assist efforts to get better rankings organically, there are several other aspects such as content creation, link building, conversion rate optimization, web analytics and of course social media. All these are apparently the free initiatives that do not involve paid advertising or paid SEO such as pay per click or affiliate marketing programs. Sponsored links or ads are also excluded from this discussion.

Given the fact that a company is likely to use all the popular channels and methods to get more exposure online and to create a dominating presence, SEO doesn’t necessarily depict or include everything. Social media marketing doesn’t have much to do with SEO and the same goes for content creation (unrelated to SEO content), conversion rate optimization and web analytics. These can be encompassed in the term ‘inbound marketing’.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing which is also sometimes referred to as free marketing actually defines all such internet marketing strategies and techniques which are free and eventually lead to getting more traffic, more hits to a website or more redirects to your sales pages or products showcase. From such a perspective, inbound marketing truly describes or illustrates in one phrase what all internet marketing stands for or includes.

Although the debate is still hanging in midair with market experts clearly split in their standpoints, most people feel that inbound marketing compromises the niche. Internet marketers have prized their identity of being SEO analysts or SEO experts and it is this term that defines them. It is SEO that defines internet marketing today. If that term is not reflected in whatever the phrase or brand is used to depict internet marketing, then there is hardly any resemblance to what they do at the core. Some experts are of the opinion that it is perhaps too early to think of alternate brands to depict internet marketing. Their argument is that if SEO or SEO marketing has to be replaced by some other term like inbound marketing then it should be internet marketing which is even more appropriate to imply anything that has to do with online marketing.

Those in favor of the terminology of inbound marketing disagree with these statements and perceptions. They harp on the fact that internet marketing includes paid advertisements, sponsored links and all such interrupted online marketing strategies. These are techniques or initiatives that users or customers do not like to be faced with while online. Hence, internet marketing covers a broader spectrum than inbound marketing. Since SEO and other social media marketing initiatives do not cover paid strategies, internet marketing cannot be the term used to replace SEO. Furthermore, SEO doesn’t deal with a lot of factors that internet marketing or even inbound marketing does.

Inbound marketing also has some competition from terms such as ‘organic marketing’, ‘free marketing’ and ‘earned marketing’. Free marketing doesn’t make complete sense since creation of content and having people working on SEO strategies still require investments or recurring expenses. Earned marketing is in contention but not as popular as organic marketing and inbound marketing.

From the perspective of those who monitor trends and keep a close eye on how the markets shape up, it is premature to opt for new terms for either Internet marketing or SEO. Inbound marketing would not only disassociate SEO from its apparent message but would also be even more perplexing for people not associated with the industry. SEO in itself is still evolving and many businesses do not know what it promises. At such a time, inbound marketing would make it even more distant from normal businesses that are looking for online marketing solutions.

Adam Chronister is co-founder of Enleaf, an award winning Web Design and Internet Marketing Firm. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments (9)

Fantastic blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?

I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m
a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or
go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m totally overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Thank you!

Jacques March 2, 2013

Inbound Marketing is an investment in talent and experience and, yes, it can be as expensive in the long run as traditional outbound marketing.

Andy March 12, 2013

I think the summery of this post was, SEO is a part of inbound marketing. But the term of inbound marketing is wider than SEO. I think inbound marketing contains viral marketing too. 🙂

Cathleen May 23, 2013

I do not quite understand about the “free marketing” and “organic marketing” but I’m sure all of it is very important in online marketing.

however, I am very interested in trying the “Organic Marketing”


dedymuswar June 4, 2013

Those are just other names for Organic Marketing.

Adam July 15, 2013

We were having a discussion over on GPlus about if Inbound marketing was just something HubSpot made up to differentiate themselves from other companies.

Paul Schlegel June 27, 2013

Yea, I think that is why some people have a problem with the term Inbound Marketing. Since its associated with a company I think people shy away from it. The term makes sense to me.

Adam June 28, 2013

I agree that SEO does not cover all aspect of internet marketing. It is just a part that they cover. I really like this article. It has more sense and it is worth to read.

Dorothy July 4, 2013

Great info. Lucky me I discovered your blog by accident (stumbleupon).
I’ve book-marked it for later!

Charolette September 3, 2014

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