You can argue that marketing and SEO are different sides of the same coin (and I will). Their methods or tools vary, but the end result of communicating effectively with your target audience by focusing on creating relevant content is the same. To further explain how my whole coin theory works (and to convince you I do have a leg to stand on with it) this article examines the parallels of marketing and SEO.
How can they be the same coin?
To begin it must be said that marketing is a very broad term. It includes radio and TV advertisements, events, direct and relationship marketing, sponsorship, product placement, and online marketing of which SEO is an essential part.
I was looking into examples of current successful offline campaigns with absolutely no online features (so no SEO, no PPC, no Social Media), but couldn’t find an example; as online has become such an essential part of marketing.
Instead I found articles such as the one by Steve McKee emphasising how integrated campaigns are the only way forward (McKee, 2012). McKee explains how the channels of marketing are becoming so fragmented that it has become difficult for businesses to know which communication tool will reach their target audience (McKee, 2012). An integrated marketing approach is recommended, meaning that the identity of the brand is consistent throughout all communication channels, but that the message still needs to be adapted to suit the communication tool and audience (McKee, 2012).
From this article we can take that knowing your target audience and understanding your brand, or the brand you are representing in the case of SEO, are essentials for marketing and SEO. To better understand this, the concept of knowing your target audience and understanding your brand will be examined in turn.
Knowing your target audience
In SEO knowing your target audience is the first point of business. No SEO campaign can start unless you know who your audience is, as you can’t determine which keywords to target without knowing how your target audience searches. The key questions which need answers are:
What are people searching for? Is it a general term, a niche specific term or are they looking for brand names?
What is the goal of their search? Are they looking for information only? Are they looking to purchase? Are they looking for information, but may purchase if they like what they see?
The question “when” refers to both the day/time of day of people’s search, as well as the month. For example, Christmas present ideas are unlikely to be an important search at the end of July. End of October and beginning of November and it’s a different story.
These are just some of the key questions during the set-up of an SEO campaign.
Every marketer knows the relevance of knowing your target audience (it’s in every book and every lecture ever held about marketing). Nevertheless, it’s easier said than done. An example of marketing getting their target audience spot on can be seen in the communication events hosted by Snickers in Beijing in 2008. Mars wanted to create a buzz around its Snickers brand, and knew that its target audience in China were Generation Y, who enjoyed hybrid sports, such as Basoccer (a combination of Basketball and soccer/ football for us Brits). So, they created street events which hosted such sports (Tabuchi, 2008). The timing of this event was, of course, very significant and part of the event strategy.
Understanding your brand
Knowing who you are talking to is just as important as understanding what you are talking to them about. In this article the two points are looked at separately to make the parallels of marketing and SEO clearer, but they should go hand-in-hand when developing a strategy.
For SEO, understanding a client’s brand is very important, as the content created to represent it needs to be in sync with the brand. Content can’t be relevant to the target audience if it isn’t related to the brand represented by the SEO firm. Getting to know and understand the client’s brand is therefore also an essential part when starting an SEO campaign, and any information you can get from the client to make this easier is worth asking for.
For marketing, understanding your own brand can lead to communication success. Coca-Cola did a good job of understanding what their brand was and how to communicate it to their target audience when their quirky and cheeky brand Oasis sponsored ITV2’s quirky and cheeky show “Celebrity Juice”, (O’Reilly, 2012). The brand of Oasis and the sponsored programme had a perfect fit, while both were also relevant to the target audience of Oasis.
SEO and marketing don’t only have the need for the same background information in common, but are also showing a similar trend.
As mentioned above, integrated marketing is the main topic of marketing journals, with campaigns like the Old Spice re-brand (which started off as an online sensation) (Aquino, 2011) championing the relevance of this trend. In SEO, the trend of creating content relevant SEO has been emerging. This trend is very similar to the integrated method, as it doesn’t stop with just creating the content, but is reliant on it being in sync with the brand message, and reaching the target audience.
As Tom Schmitz says: “Don’t just complacently optimize your company’s website for a set of search queries or keywords. Get involved with how your website operates. Seek creative ways to present content, ways that will use your website’s assets and abilities”, (Schmitz, 2012).
So, in a nutshell parallels such as target audience, brand message, content and relevant distribution exist between marketing and SEO. How can marketers and SEO executives benefit from this knowledge?
By being aware of these essential campaign parallels, SEO executives and marketers can communicate more effectively. We can also benefit from each other’s research and findings by reading both marketing and SEO journals to find inspiration for content and communication ideas, as well as keeping track of how a brand is evolving in the consumers’ eyes.
McKee, S., 2012, Integrated Marketing: If You Knew It, You’d Do It [online], Bloomberg Business Week, Accessed: 23/07/2012, http://www.businessweek.com/printer/articles/24494-integrated-marketing-if-you-knew-it-youd-do-it
O’Reilly, L., 2012, Oasis Fresh New Sponsor Of Celebrity Juice [online], Marketing Week, Accessed: 23/07/2012, http://www.marketingweek.co.uk/oasis-fresh-new-sponsor-of-celebrity-juice/3033919.article
Schmitz, T., 2012, Are You A Strategic SEO Thinker [online], Search Engine Land, Accessed: 23/07/2012, http://searchengineland.com/are-you-a-strategic-seo-thinker-126471
Tabuchi, H., 2008, Mars’s Snickers Gets Olympic Lift [online], The Wall Street Journal, Accessed: 23/07/2012, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121934874538461229.html
Aquino, J., 2012, The 10 Most Successful Rebranding Campaigns Ever [online], Business insider War Room, Accessed: 25/07/2012, http://www.businessinsider.com/10-most-successful-rebranding-campaigns-2011-2?op=1