Inbound Marketing and how it is different from SEO

If you own a business, be it big or small, you will also know that you need a website for it. Next, you also must have an idea that you require search engine optimization (SEO) for it to soar high in search results. You must have heard the term ‘SEO’ a lot and heard about inbound marketing as well. These two terms are used together so often that people start mixing them up or take them as one and the same thing. Let’s clear this out first:

Search engine optimization is the process in which you position your website in a way that it ranks well on the search engines. When people search for something related to your niche, they should be able to find your business in at least the first page of a search engine (Google, Bing, etc). Ranking well ensures that you are noticed, which brings in traffic to your website and makes your business look credible.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is a set of strategies devised for promoting a business online. They include reaching audiences, engaging followers, optimizing the conversions as well as the SEO. It means that the set of greater strategies meant to market and promote a company may have SEO as one of them too.

To answer the question ‘Inbound marketing and how it is different from SEO’, let’s look at some reasons below:

Creating content

Search engine optimization is to optimize content that does well on search engines, it doesn’t necessarily include content creation. Inbound marketing, on the other hand, places a lot of emphasis on creating quality content that becomes a need for the target audience.

The ranking factor

The field of SEO relies heavily on ranking. This focus mostly comes at the expense of online traffic. Inbound marketing is based on building traffic that is sustainable. By sustainable it is meant that the content production is designed in a way that keeps bringing in traffic from time to time, regardless of any algorithm changes in search engines.

Link Building

SEO means building links from sites that have authority and are relevant. These links show Google and other sites how much credible your website is. But links alone are not enough. One needs to have a site which is based on quality content that resonates with a user. It means that SEO ends at link building, but inbound marketing takes it forward by paying attention to content which people get help from, and share it to raise awareness.


SEO gets your website a high ranking and fluent traffic via organic searches. Inbound marketing makes use of Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns at times to bring in traffic.

Social Media

Social media management isn’t always associated with SEO but Inbound marketing has a lot to do with social media management because it makes people aware, gets real interactions and some loyal customers who can bring in traffic via word of mouth.

Visual appeal

SEO is to work around the technical bits and improve the site’s ranking, while inbound marketing creates some visually appealing content that grabs the attention of people. The enormous amount of copy/paste on the interwebs means that it is important to keep creating great visual content to lure an audience.


In a wider perspective, inbound marketers know how all fields collaborate in promoting a product. SEO is solely dedicated to polishing rankings and boosting website traffic. Search engine optimization experts will know everything in the field that helps in improving ranks, but inbound marketers know SEO as well as every other element that goes into the mix.

SEO contributes to Inbound

It doesn’t have to be a great debate about the importance of either practices. In the words of someone on Twitter, ”Remember when SEO used to sound cutting-edge?”

SEO tries to get organic traffic to the site and Inbound watches over it. Rand Fishkin of Moz is of the opinion that even though the term ‘inbound marketing’ sounds new, it is a world in itself and it’s practices stretch to:

  • Combining the practices of content creation and conversion optimization to earn visitors’ trust and their business.
  • Jointly leveraging the channels of search, social, blogs, PR, referring links, email and word-of-mouth to promote this content.
  • Using sophisticated analytics practices like first-touch and multi-touch attribution to better understand the true value of your content and your visitor sources.

Some people hesitate to invest in SEO or marketing because of some common myths. It is all the very important for you to do deeper research before giving in to any myths. The internet has it’s good and bad sides, so an investor must watch out before investing in any kind of SEO or marketing services. Here are some common misconceptions about SEO and inbound marketing:

Myth#1: SEO and Inbound Marketing don’t mix:

In general, both SEO and inbound marketing work together to help the customer. SEO brings the traffic to the site and inbound marketing gives the customer a positive experience by providing great content. Inbound marketing turns strangers online into potential customers who would like to do business with you. For that, it makes use of tactics mentioned above. In this regard, SEO can help you so much with your website by bringing in people who realize that you have what they need. Inbound surely is a wide platform, and SEO makes it tick.

Myth#2: SEO is dead

This is the biggest joke for people working in the tech industry. For business owners this may make some sense, and that’s the lot who needs some clearing out of misconceptions. SEO is NOT dead, and not looking like it is going to drop dead all of a sudden any time soon. Search engines are an essential part of people’s lives, and that makes SEO an integral part of a business strategy. The chart below shows the popularity of SEO in the past 12 months:

Myth#3: Inbound Marketing is about writing every week

Writing blogposts is an important part of the inbound marketing strategy. It attracts ideal customers to your site and makes them a loyal visitor. But then again, you can attract customers via social media and SEO too.

So it is not just about writing mindless blog pieces. Blog content is key to getting the attention of a person. Millenials specially like to read thoroughly about a topic before they dive in to the market to buy a product. It makes blog writing a need, by which a user’s question is answered on every step of the journey. Topics that follow an inbound strategy always help the user and nurture the user into a customer. The ‘awareness stage’ of the buying process is taken care of by relevant, timely and relatable blog pieces. It only means that blogs play a fundamental role in the inbound marketing process, but they are not the only representative of the entire picture of the inbound marketing game plan.

Myth#4: Inbound takes years to earn results

This is a very common myth. It is true that inbound can take some time before the results show up, but when you think about it – it is not outbound marketing that works with billboards and a mass market. Inbound is like a special focus on your relevant customers and a relevant audience who would like to see what you are selling. For most companies, it will take about six months to have the effect of inbound marketing show. In this example, an inbound client got the following results.

Over 6 months the website visits increased

This client started in August and was getting leads by October (PurpleFrog)

It is not a very slow process and can turn into a fruitful one in a matter of months.

Myth#5: Inbound is expensive

Since all businesses nowadays get suggestions about trying inbound marketing as a long-term solution, they think it must be very expensive. This couldn’t be further from the truth. When you look at outbound marketing techniques and the money they cave in, you will love your inbound marketing plan that basically nurtures a lead all the way through.

TV ads are directed at a mass audience. It is not confirmed that everyone who watched the ad will buy the product. Inbound marketing has a lower cost and is targeted at a segment of population which will. In most cases, these customers end up buying a product. According to HubSpot, inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional advertising. The following chart shows the performance of inbound marketing in the past 12 months vs outbound marketing:

Small business are specially preferring inbound marketing because it gives them a competitive edge over big businesses who can dish out a lot of money for adverts.

Myth#6: Inbound doesn’t work

In HubSpot’s state of inbound 2015, almost 4000 people took part in a survey about inbound which garnered these results:

  • 75% prioritized inbound methodology in their marketing.
  • Companies with less than 25 staff were 6x more likely to use inbound.
  • Inbound works for B2B, B2C and nonprofit companies.
  • Inbound marketing generates 3x more leadsthan traditional advertising.
  • Leading marketing companies reported receiving 300% higher ROIwith inbound.

From the above stats we can get an idea that inbound does work and it also gets results. Companies are finding success in inbound. What raises myths is the common fact that inbound may not be the marketing strategy for a certain business because every business needs a different strategy. This shouldn’t be related to the failure of inbound. Most of the people research online, and if your website is answering their questions, they will be loyal to you.

Myth#7: SEO is untrustworthy

People who are involved in business or have recently established startups may have a lot of bad things to say about SEO. Their general idea is that SEO rotates around a bunch of wrong tactics used to get traffic. People think that spam is synonymous with SEO, which is complete blasphemy. There is a dark world in SEO, where the wrong ways of link building and SEO happen. Google also has a way to deal with black hat SEO, and Google’s judgement is upon all those who use low quality SEO practices. For other disciples, the process of search engine optimization is simple and straightforward.

Last word:

A world not associated with internet marketing might be okay with not paying attention to both SEO and inbound correlate or not. They might just be okay with calling it ‘internet marketing’. For people associated with the digital marketing industry and with a keen eye on trends, this matters a lot. You need to know what is asked and what should be done to provide it. People who call themselves SEO experts also know that Inbound Marketing is not just a bunch of unrelated tricks. It may as well be the new name for online Marketing.

To avoid confusion just remember that search engine optimization shouldn’t be disassociated with Inbound. Both the fields are ever evolving and new changes in the algorithm may bring a new term to the surface. According to Adam Chronister of Enleaf,

“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’’

So rather than feeling threatened by inbound marketing, businesses should embrace the rise of inbound as a holistic approach, since it is making us do better marketing – the end goal! The days of being handed a blog post and told to add keywords to it are coming to an end, and that’s a good thing!

Special Note: If you are looking for more detailed discussion on this topic, please join me in a Webpromo.Expert’s webinar today on the similar topic.

2 thoughts on “Inbound Marketing and how it is different from SEO”

  1. Nice post, Moosa, very well-written. As a result of the Webinar today, i paraphrased this to say:

    SEO outcomes plug into Inbound Marketing workflows, just as a dozen other disciplines do. Email. Social. Content. PPC. SEO data is especially critical at the outset. But Inbound Marketing is the one, most universally accepted term for the entire chain of events and processes used to propel digital prospects along a path to purchase.

    As Dan Thies said, “You could even say that SEO is largely a side show of good inbound marketing,
    but don’t say that in a room full of SEOs.” : )

  2. Hi mmhemani,

    You have explained it really well appreciate your writing on inbound marketing and seo and I completely agree what you have written, SEO is part of inbound marketing which helps like a brother hood, we can measure it like inbound marketing is the parent and seo, social, content, email, marketing automation all this are separate channels which makes a complete inbound marketing.

    Now a days inbound marketing has more demand amongst b2b customers because they have a belief in inbound and it’s way of serving people to get better results.

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