New! Local SEM Competitive Intelligence
Discover Your Competitor’s PPC Keywords & Ad Copy
Enter your #1 competitor's URL

SEO, PPC, Social Media…What’s the Right Inbound Marketing Mix?

Recently I happened upon a Hubspot post dealing with the definition of inbound marketing – in 140 characters. Now, we can all google definitions, and we always have a pretty good idea about things, even if we are not quite able to fully define them, but what caught my eye was the essence of these quick definitions – inbound marketing is all about letting people come to you by providing value – as regarded by a haphazard choice of Twitter members who were familiar with the term due to their work.

To my mind, inbound marketing has always been inseparably related to social media. However, it is not all about social media, all the time. Social Media, SEO, PPC – no matter which names we give them or what our attitudes towards their value are, we need all of them in a successful campaign. Sometimes, though, not all of them are affordable at once, for the lack of either money or staff. So which one isbest when it comes to getting the most out of inbound marketing, when this type of marketing is our “weapon of choice”?

PPC: Pay per Click Advertising

PPC as a Part of Inbound Marketing

It can be argued whether PPC falls under the category of inbound or outbound marketing. On the one hand, we have the argument that PPC advertisements function similarly to traditional means of marketing such as TV commercials, which belong to outbound marketing. On the other hand, however, PPC ads are controlled largely by the consumers. They are tailored to their searches and they offer them something they may choose to learn more about or ignore completely, but they are always free to choose.

If you are into the debate as to whether PPC is inbound or outbound, you can read more about it at Wordstream. There’s this great article by Larry Kim, the founder of Wordstream, which can offer you some thought food, but in the end, you will probably reach the same conclusion as Larry, Rand Fishkin, me – PPC is definitely a part of inbound marketing. Basically, with PPC you are not throwing advertisements into anyone’s face – you’re just there when they are looking for something related to your business.

The Value of PPC Advertising

    • Global search ad spending rose 15% in the first quarter of 2013, compared to the previous year, according to the Kenshoo Global Search Advertising Trends report. That rise was caused mostly by a 62% increase in click-through rates and a 21% increase in the number of clicks year-over-year. (Source of stats)
    • 72% of the inquiry participants say they plan to increase their PPC spending next year. (Source of stats)
    • A large majority, 83 percent of respondents, said they are feeling positive about the state of paid search. (Source of stats)

    These stats show a constant increase in PPC spending, which is driven by higher click-through rates and increased traffic. Marketers spend more on PPC every year. This is because a carefully planned campaign can turn your business around and boost your ROI. Some of its chief benefits in the inbound marketing world are:

    Speed: it gets you directly on the market faster than either SEO or Social Media. It can be launched pretty quickly, bringing in traffic and leads.
    Targeted traffic: Though targeting is used in both SEO and Social Media as well, PPC targeting provides additional traffic refinement, including geographic and demographic targeting.
    Easy cost management: it is up to you to determine how much a PPC campaign will cost you. Of course, some testing needs to be done to maximize your ROI, such as landing page testing or keyword testing, but these tests do pay off, and PPC allows you maximum efficiency when testing.
    Increased traffic: PPC sends both traffic and leads to your website. These leads can easily turn into consumers, and having more traffic leads to better ranking in Google search.
    Increased visibility: gaining ground on another front, such as paid search advertising, is an additional means to an increase in your visibility and ROI.

    In order for this to work for you, you need to:

      Know your audience: The ads you are planning to use in your PPC campaign need to be carefully targeted towards your audience’s age group, interests and geographic location. For example, if you have shops both in LA, CA, and in San Francisco, CA, you need to advertise the shop nearest to your target audience. So if they are from LA, the ad needs to be presenting your LA branch.
      Know where your audience spends time and target them there: in addition to paid search advertising, you should also consider Facebook, Linkedin and even networks such as StumbleUpon.

    If you want to read more about the usage of PPC and SEO in inbound marketing, you can download an e-book by SEO Perks and Marketo.


    As with everything else related to marketing and search engines, a problem with defining SEO still exists because each member of the community thinks differently and defines things differently. However, the accepted opinions of well-known SEOs state that it is a part of inbound marketing, so it needs to be treated as such. For example, Rand Fishkin of Moz included both SEO and PPC as parts of an inbound marketing strategy in his outbound vs. inbound marketing diagram.

    The Value SEO Brings into Inbound Marketing

      • A Hubspot research shows that inbound marketing dominates lead sources, with social media and SEO driving the highest level of leads with each driving 14%. (Source)
      • Social Media and SEO leads were also the most likely to convert, with 15% of marketers saying that SEO delivers above average conversions. (Source)

    As you can see, SEO is becoming increasingly useful when it comes to inbound marketing. An SEO’s job is to ensure that the totality of a company’s inbound marketing campaign remains search engine friendly. SEO can contribute a campaign largely by:

      • Providing the analysis of keyword trends, traffic, links and conversions in order to help content creation and PPC teams do their best, as well as to help turn leads into conversions.
      • Working on the website itself (on-page optimization) making sure the website remains fast and user-friendly so as to encourage potential clients to check it out and return to it again, all in the effort of creating leads.
      • Helping in the creation of a unique branding strategy by knowing where and how to distribute the right pieces of content and how to get the right links to it in order to build authority.
      • Working with a design team to insure that both search engines and visitors will love the website.

    If you only take some time to think about it, you will come to the same conclusion as I did – SEO is necessary to support both PPC and content marketing. You cannot just make appealing content and scatter it around in social media and ads hoping it will find its audience. SEO is built upon much more than just tackling websites so that the engines like them and building as much links as possible. It is constantly changing and adapting, catering to the needs of different branches of marketing by providing data for the creation of the right content, its distribution and promotion.

    The analysis of keywords and trends, traffic (current state and changes) and competition provides a starting point for every campaign. Throughout the campaign, the stats need to be tracked and the campaign adjusted to the changes. The right content needs to be created on the basis of the collected data and the progression of the campaign, and the distribution depends on SEO data as much as on demographic targeting. As you may see, we need SEO.

    Social Media

    Social media seems to be the perfect vehicle for a discreet campaign that would draw audiences to you when they see the awesome content you have to offer. Add devotion and strategy to this convenience and your business may get the lift it needs.
    Numerous as social networks are today, the choice of the content form you can use to convey your message is really large. You have Facebook and Google Plus for almost any type of content, Twitter for short and sweet messages, Pinterest for images, YouTube and Vimeo for videos, LinkedIn for messages to business people, etc. The choice is wide and the benefits manifold:

      Visibility, reach and brand awareness – likes and sharesin exchange for content raise brand awareness and improve visibility, which in turn leads to more leads. Calls-to-action combined with the right wording go a long way towards your marketing aims.
      Testing – Testing different types of content for different types of audiences, containing different wording can influence the increase in your conversions, and it is fairly easy to perform.
      Engagement – You get to actually communicate with your audience, which means that they will see a partner in you, rather than a provider. This puts you in the position to use the word-of-mouth and trust potential to the fullest.
      Feedback – You actually get clear feedback, expressed through words and not just numbers, so that you can adjust your campaign properly.
      The promotion of all your other channels – Your website, your blog and all of your social media profiles, even your guest posts need to be interrelated so that each of them promotes the others. This way, your networks grows more quickly.
      Digital marketing base – Your social media pages will in time become your base, a place where people see what you have to offer and find links to more content or to your products/services.

    Bottom line, social media is just as important as PPC or SEO. Data collected via social media will, no doubt, influence further marketing decisions, as it will influence revenue. Some may argue whether it is even more important than PPC or SEO. So, what’s the conclusion of this author?

    PPC, SEO or Social Media?

    They all offer valuable data and great results, but if I had to choose, which one would I choose? If I were to make the choice for a large company with a formidable budget, I’d say all of them. PPC, SEO and Social Media are inextricably intertwined and it would be impossible to use just one of them without using at least a pinch of the other two. A well-formed strategy should balance the strengths of all three, and use them to the fullest.

    What is your opinion? What options do you use and why?


Chris Sparks, iSpionage Director of Marketing
Chris is an online marketing and content strategist here at iSpionage building awareness and engagement within our target markets. Connect with Chris or on Twitter.