SEO is not Marketing Strategy

SEO is not Marketing Strategy

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) remains a hot topic in marketing circles, particularly among those who focus on the Inbound Methodology. This is with good reason, as inbound focusses on getting customers to find you rather than the other way around.

But why in 2017 are we still obsessed with SEO? Why haven’t marketers mastered a repetitive process built from best practices to make their sites optimized for search engines? Instead, we’ve turned SEO into an endless game, where we value keywords over content that truly connects with customers. Too often we prioritize search volume over the value that our content can add to customers.

Strategy is about differentiation. In 1996, Harvard Business School Professor Michael E. Porter argued that operational effectiveness is not strategy. After all, what stops your competitor from operating more effectively than you? Nothing.

If marketers are all competing for a limited number of keywords, marketing quickly becomes a race to the bottom. After all, what stops your competitor from doing better SEO than you? Nothing.

All digital marketers should produce content with SEO in mind. All digital marketers should occasionally audit their content and analyze their SEO efforts. It should not be a central part of their strategy. Instead, it should be a simple box they check-off as part of their marketing plan.

Marketers should spend time focussing on what makes their marketing strategy unique. Where can they reach customers where their competitors are not reaching them? What kinds of content aren’t being produced right now that could add real value to their customers? Are they properly communicating what makes their product/service unique from their competitors? These are the questions digital marketers should be asking themselves.

For sure, there are opportunities to base a marketing strategy on SEO. For example, in industries where digital marketing has historically not been prioritized, there may exist keywords that are relatively easy to rank for. Alternatively, if your product/service caters to a narrow market niche that lacks competition for keywords, then SEO may be central to your marketing strategy.

For the rest of us, let’s focus on producing great content, differentiating our products and services, and adding value to our customers. We’ll view SEO as a necessary chore, but not as a marketing strategy.