Written by Jessica Ann on April 16th, 2014
How to Understand the Top Three Marketing Strategies
There are three key strategies used to promote websites and for many people this represents a battle: SEO vs SEM vs Content Marketing. The truth is much more nuanced and most successful strategies will use elements of all three.
The elements you choose will depend on the time you have and the money you can spend. So to help you understand the differences (and to save you time to boot), here is an explanation of all three:
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
SEO is a term that most people have heard of but that does not make it any easier to understand. Its definition is constantly evolving. SEO today is different to what it was 12 months ago and unrecognizable to what it was five years ago.
But there are two main elements of SEO and they are both designed to help a search engine decide where to place you in its search results. The first element is on-page SEO and it relates to the structure of your website. As website design has progressed standards have developed that help Google and other search engines to read websites and understand what they are about. You should adhere to those standards.
The second element of SEO is off-page SEO. Essentially it is about the websites that link back to yours. When a website does this Google and other search engines regard it as vote of confidence in your website. And the more votes you get from high quality sources the higher you will rank.
It sounds complicated but it is traditional PR and is a tactic that has been around decades before the internet was born. Back then it took the form of submitting press releases to news organizations. But the principle was the same – you tell someone about your website and hope they will link back to it.
It is effective when done well but this approach often appears spammy, which means that requests for links are ignored. To be effective you have to be brilliant. Let’s look at an old example of press releases to illustrate this point.
One of the pioneers of the press release was Edward Bernays. In the 1920s he worked with the American Tobacco Company and could have approached marketing by sending out press releases telling newspapers how good he thought the company’s products were. Instead he adopted a much more innovative strategy.
One of his press releases told reporters that women's rights marchers would be joining a New York parade and would light Torches of Freedom. The women were actually models and the "torches" were cigarettes, but Bernays achieved his goal as his story was published (he got the link).
Link building in the future will have to be as good as Bernays’ PR work.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing)
SEM is easier to understand. It is a term that includes SEO and also paid search engine advertising. This could be paid inclusion in search engines but when it comes to Google it means pay-per-click advertising via Google’s Adwords and other products.
Social media is starting to play an increasingly important role in the wider strategy of SEM. This is because search engines look at your social media presence and use that as one of the many signals to determine rankings.
Social media is also important to the final part of online marketing: Content Marketing.
Content marketing is another form of marketing adapted to the Internet. But its history is rich. Content marketing involves creating fantastic, unique content for your customers so that they get value. Truly unique, engaging content drives readers to engage and tell others about it -which drives targeted traffic to your website and increases sales.
It is similar to SEO because you get links. But instead of you asking for them directly, your readers (and the people who share your articles) share your links on your behalf. This can build organic SEO.
One of the best examples in history predates the Internet and comes from the company behind Jell-O. Up until 1904 it had slow sales but then the company created a cookbook which it hand delivered to American households for free. They created unique content, and gave it to their users for free. And guess what happened? Sales of Jell-O jiggled through the roof.
Jiggle your marketing strategy through the roof by juggling SEO, SEM, and content marketing. Used together, they can make the most impact. And they don’t require a cookbook.
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