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The Basics Every Business Owner Should Know

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The Basics Every Business Owner Should Know

This article is an introduction to marketing for small-business owners, solopreneurs, and beginner marketers. Our goal is to help you understand the key concepts of marketing without unnecessary jargon.

This guide is going to be packed with information. But keep in mind that we’re only scratching the surface here. So feel free to follow the links to other articles that dive further into topics you’re most interested in.

But first, here’s what we’ll talk about:

Here’s how the American Marketing Association (which reviews the definition every three years to keep it timely) defines it:

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

If that definition sounds a bit complex, here’s the gist of it. What this definition is trying to tell us is that marketing is not only about promoting something, but it’s also about creating desirable products and services and distributing them in a way that increases their attractiveness.

Why is marketing important?

Businesses transfer (sell) goods or services to customers in exchange for value (money). Sounds easy. But here’s what can go wrong for a business:

  • The customer may not know about the product/service.
  • Even if they know it, they may not have a desire for it.
  • Even if they know and have a desire for it, they may choose to buy from another business.
  • Even if a business manages to go through all the steps to transfer its goods, the customer may not be satisfied enough to come back, buy again, or recommend the business to others.

Marketing is a business practice meant to address all those issues, such as generating awareness through generating desire, fostering customer loyalty, and encouraging advocacy. In other words, because marketing connects the business with its customers, there can be no sales without marketing.

So now we know what marketing is and why it is important. But what does marketing actually do? What are the main roles or key areas of marketing?

For decades, marketers have been answering these questions with the four Ps of marketing:

  • Product – What you sell
  • Price – How much you sell it for
  • Place – Where you sell it
  • Promotion – How you get customers

Let’s dig in.

Product

One of the roles of marketing is co-creating the product. In fact, this is where all marketing starts.

Every product development process needs to take market conditions into consideration. Things like who the customer is, what product features the market demands, who the competitors are, and how to do better than these competitors. We can answer these and similar questions during market research.

Discovering what to build is a critical stage in marketing and in business. That’s because it’s virtually impossible to effectively market a product that doesn’t fit the market. Conversely, a product that can satisfy an existing demand in a promising market doesn’t need complicated or pushy marketing tactics.

So, to give you a taste, here’s how Ahrefs (our product) matches against some fundamental questions that marketing answers in this area:

4 Ps of marketing: product fundamentals. Table with questions on left and corresponding answers on right

Price

A good price is one that your target audience can afford and makes your business profitable. This is easier said than done. But marketing is here to help.

Setting a price point arbitrarily is rarely a good idea. There are various ways marketers can inform executive decisions based on market insights. Here are some basic ones:

  • Run a survey or conduct interviews with your target audience. You can discover what price will make people question the quality of a product and what price will make people deem the product too expensive for their wallets.
  • Make comparisons with your competitors, aka benchmarking. If you set your price close to what your profitable competitors charge, you will likely get a pricing model that works in your market.
  • Adjust for the psychological aspect of pricing, i.e., focus on what your price should communicate to your future customers. Make sure you’re not offering fewer benefits for the same price as your competitors. Or even worse, fewer benefits for a higher price. On a typical value proposition matrix, the best options are the ones highlighted in green:
Value proposition matrix table. Three columns are "higher price," "same price," and "lower price." Rows are "more benefits," "same benefits," and "fewer benefits"

Place

How and where customers will buy a product or service, i.e., place, is another factor that marketing influences (this happens even before we touch on promotion tactics).

Here, market research offers insights into important information, such as the customers’ shopping habits and competitors’ sales channels, to determine the optimal distribution model.

Have you ever wondered why some products are not directly available on the producer’s website? Or why do some types of software come in both digital and physical versions while others do not? That’s no coincidence. That’s marketing.

Here’s a quick rundown of some popular distribution models that marketers can choose from:

4 Ps of marketing: summary of distribution models. Columns are "types of product," "direct distribution," "indirect distribution," and "examples of mixed distribution models" with corresponding information below

Promotion

Only after establishing sound fundamentals in the product, price, and place can marketers then focus on promotion. These are the tactics used to reach the target audience with a message. Think advertising, blog post creation, social media, email marketing, etc.

Marketers are usually associated with activities from this area of marketing—and this “image” is not wrong. Once the strategic components of marketing are in place, marketers spend most of their time working on promoting what their companies have to offer.

When planning promotion tactics, marketers need to know some things:

  • Who are they trying to reach?
  • What marketing channels work best?
  • What is the typical buying journey of their prospects?
  • What budget and staff do they need to achieve their goals?

For example, at Ahrefs, our core marketing tactic is content marketing. We’ve chosen to focus on this type of marketing because:

  • Lots of people are searching on Google for solutions to problems our product solves. So if we create content that ranks high enough, people can find us through Google and learn about our product. (We’ll talk more about product-led content in the last section of this article.)
  • If we can create content that ranks while “drinking our own Champagne,” we can send an authentic message about the quality of our product and the expertise of the people who build it.

In the next paragraphs, we’re going to focus on the promotion part of marketing. But if you want to read more about the four Ps of marketing, check out this guide.

OK, let’s move on.

Marketing is a process. Professional marketers are well aware that visitors don’t become customers immediately—at least not in every type of business. And marketers don’t argue with that fact. Instead, they take that into account and develop a “path” to convince people gradually.

It’s likely no other marketing concept conveys that truth better than the marketing funnel.

A marketing funnel is a system designed to attract customers (or clients) to a business. And then convert them. Gradually.

A typical marketing funnel consists of several stages of converting visitors into leads, then into customers, and then possibly into brand advocates.

Funnel with 6 sections. From top to bottom (Awareness, Interest, Consideration, Action, Loyalty, Advocacy)

Take these two tactics, for example.

A blog post about doing keyword research for SEO is likely to drive visits from search queries related to the topic, such as “seo keyword analysis” or “how to do keyword research.” This means that this content is a good way to generate awareness and interest about our brand and product, as people Googling these terms don’t need to know about us in the first place.

List of keywords with corresponding data

On the other hand, we have a landing page that compares Ahrefs to some of our competitors. Since it will be mostly visited by people who already know our product and are most likely in the market for an SEO tool, this is a proper tactic for the Consideration stage of the funnel.

The other important takeaway from the marketing funnel model is that marketing as a process doesn’t end after someone buys from you. If you want your customers to come back and make repeated purchases, it’s a good idea to keep people engaged after the “purchase” stage.

One of the ways to achieve this is to send out a regular newsletter to your mailing list. Datacamp, a code learning platform, aims to keep its users engaged by sending regular emails. They contain a “weekly goal” reminder and a curated list of resources. Here’s an excerpt from one of those emails:

Excerpt of Datacamp's email

Introduction to the types of marketing

Marketing is a business challenge that has more than one solution. These different solutions are the types of marketing. And these are not secrets in the industry—companies copy and remix them all of the time. The key lies in choosing the optimal combination of these types and using them well. Let’s take a look at some examples.

B2B and B2C marketing

These acronyms stand for business-to-business marketing and business-to-consumer marketing, respectively.

Marketers often differentiate these solutions because some tactics are more effective for marketing to businesses and others for marketing to consumers. Even the messaging style differs.

Here, we have an example of account-based marketing: A company uses emails to promote a new product feature. The emails were carefully targeted, sent only to accounts most likely to benefit from the new feature. Instead of urging prospects to “buy now,” the message is a case study of a solution to a business problem.

Datanyze's email containing link to case study

Below, we have a tactic often used in B2C marketing: influencer marketing. In this example, an influencer with 21.5K Instagram followers quite obviously advertises a food delivery company on her page. It’s a simple yet powerful message: If that company is good for me, it’s probably good for you too. Here’s a handful of discounts so that you can take action immediately.

Influencer's Insta post promoting Foodpanda and discounts

Inbound and outbound marketing

Another pair of basic marketing types that can be used to describe most marketing tactics is inbound and outbound marketing. The first one is about “pulling the customer in” by, for example, providing helpful content to the prospect when they’re ready. The latter is about pushing the offering to the customer with an “interrupting” message, e.g., advertising.

First picture: lady welcoming man. Picture below: lady with megaphone screaming "buy" at man

For example, when we aim to attract new visitors with an article about email outreach, it’s inbound marketing (if people access the article via a search engine).

Someone searching for "email outreach" on Google, then clicking on Ahrefs' article on SERP

But when we launch a PPC marketing campaign with ads featuring the same article, that’s outbound marketing. This is because we’re reaching out to potential customers who may not necessarily be interested in us or ready to learn more.

Ahrefs ad promoting "email outreach" article

Content marketing

Content marketing is the process of creating and distributing content to attract and retain customers. By content, I mean blog posts, podcasts, videos, infographics, ebooks, etc.

Promotion through content marketing usually involves satisfying a prospect’s need (e.g., the need to solve a problem at work, the need for entertainment, etc.) while giving exposure to the product or brand.

For example, Trader Joe’s (a grocery store chain) found a way to serve up helpful and entertaining content featuring everyday products that shoppers can find on its shelves. And it’s doing this in more than one way:

Links to three types of content in Trader Joe's catalog

Trader Joe’s regularly generates three types of content in the Fearless Flyer food catalog that’s also distributed in print.

So not only does it go the extra mile and provide product information on neatly designed pages, but it also gives some inspiration on what to do with those products:

Recipe write-up on left. Picture of ingredients on right

While sharing recipes for delicious meals, Trader Joe’s also promotes its products.

Take a look at this picture from one of its blog posts titled “Take a Dip Into the New Year” (pun intended). The main characters here are two ordinary jars of olives. But by showing them in the context of a delicious olive dip (there’s a recipe for it too), the olives now look exceptionally tasty to potential customers.

Olive dip with bread

Through its content marketing, Trader Joe’s is turning dull grocery shopping into a colorful, funny, and appetizing journey that gets better with every product shoppers put into their carts.

Trader Joe’s content is an example of product-led content, which we’ll talk more about later.

Email and social media marketing

Email and social media, although quite different from each other, share a similar idea for marketing: gather an audience and use an owned marketing channel for direct messaging.

For instance, here is the same message distributed in two different ways. One is in a newsletter sent to our email subscribers; the second is a tweet to our Twitter followers.

Excerpt of Ahrefs' newsletter containing short write-up on one of its articles

Do you notice the intersection of different types of marketing here? There’s content marketing (the article about statistics) mixed with email marketing; there’s also content marketing mixed with social media marketing. By “mixing” these, we can reach more people with our articles instead of only publishing them on our blog.

Growth marketing

The last type of marketing I want to talk about is a rather new addition to the “family.” Growth marketing is the process of increasing a company’s revenue by applying an experiment-driven and integrated approach to all stages of attracting customers.

So instead of simply copying what’s working for other marketers or focusing on one marketing channel, growth marketers devise hypotheses and then verify them through data from marketing experiments. Therefore, growth marketing needs to be open to any type of marketing and all marketing channels—as long as they work and there is data to prove this.

What’s also distinctive here is that growth marketing, unlike some more traditional theories of marketing, doesn’t just attract people to a business. It aims to take care of the entire marketing funnel. So, at one point, a growth marketer may be optimizing ads on LinkedIn. At another, they may be turning customer feedback into product feature ideas.

Take a look at the example below to see how growth marketing can be different from the types you’ve seen above. This model shows a growth loop that works for Notion, a productivity app: Every new user is a chance to attract (and/or retain) another user without the company needing to incur additional costs or take further actions.

4-step growth loop for Saas: attract new users, activate users, retain users, then users build templates

Three marketing tips from an eight-figure ARR company

Everything we’ve discussed so far may sound like basic marketing theories. But make no mistake here—these things work. Here’s how applying some of the above principles helped Ahrefs become a successful, eight-figure annual recurring revenue (ARR) company.

Tip 1. Marketing relies on the product more than anything else

The effectiveness of marketing depends on many factors, e.g., the budget, how well a business stands out from the competition, and whether the business targets the right audience. But above anything else, marketing relies on its fundament which, if you remember from the four Ps of marketing, is the product.

Here’s why:

  • Marketing can’t effectively promote something that the product doesn’t deliver, i.e., it has to be based on what the product truly offers.
  • Marketing is expected to generate customers. But the message that marketing creates is not the only factor that a potential customer takes into consideration. Marketing can point someone toward a product. But the person’s final decision will most likely depend on the functionality and price of that product.
  • People don’t need to trust marketing anymore to learn about a product. Before buying anything, they can check product reviews or see what other people say on social media. This ties back to the importance of having a good product.

At Ahrefs, we made sure our product fit the market before we hired the first full-time marketer. Back then, the product grew mostly thanks to word of mouth from satisfied customers and impressed reviewers. To this day, word of mouth is one of our top three customer acquisition channels.

Poll on Facebook where people prefer Ahrefs to SEMrush

Just one of many polls where people vote for our product. Source: SEO Signals Lab.

Our product-market fit also allows us to invest in content marketing confidently. This brings us to the next point.

Tip 2. Create product-led content for SEO

To create product-led content means to turn your product into actionable advice for your audience.

Consider the scale below, which we use to rank topic ideas. Product-led content is basically content that gets at least a “1” on that scale:

Table with scores 3 to 0. And explanation of criteria to meet each score.

In general, there’s nothing wrong with non-product content, as it can offer a vast pool of topic ideas with considerable traffic potential. But we prefer sticking to content where we can feature our product because:

  • We can naturally showcase our product in each piece of content: how it looks, how it works, and what it can be used for. And we can do all that in a context that is familiar to the reader.
  • This style of content can serve more purposes when it comes to the marketing funnel. The same article can be an effective way to attract visitors and retain customers.

And finally, to create product-led content for SEO means to develop content with organic search as the main distribution channel in mind. In marketing jargon, the kind of content that is designed to rank in search engines and attract searchers from search engine pages is called SEO content.

This type of content has many benefits. But for the sake of brevity, here are two main ones:

  • SEO content generates almost free, consistent, and passive traffic from search engines.
  • Searchers are likely willing to learn more, as the content answers their search queries.

Let’s illustrate the results of this tactic: Currently, the content on our blog alone generates over 340K organic visits every month. If we wanted to generate the same amount of traffic through paid ads, we would need to spend almost $540K every month.

Tip 3. Experiment, measure, and scale what’s working

As you may have noticed, at Ahrefs, we mainly stick to content marketing. But that doesn’t mean we don’t do other types of marketing. In fact, we experiment whenever there is a chance for us to learn something new or improve something that’s already a commonly used tactic.

Here’s why it matters:

  1. What works for some may not work for others – So not only is it wise to take any marketing advice with a grain of salt, but it’s also important to test things yourself.
  2. It’s hard to get things right in the first run – And you probably shouldn’t try to. An iterative process of reaching your marketing goals is often the best approach.
  3. Trying something out in practice is often a better way to solve problems – This is compared to just having a theoretical discussion among your peers.

But whatever you do, it’s crucial to measure the outcome. Just like the old business adage says: What you can’t measure, you can’t improve. For instance, let’s look at the chart below showing one of our blog posts’ organic traffic. If we hadn’t measured the post’s performance, we couldn’t have improved it. Consequently, we would have missed out on a lot of traffic.

Line graph showing jump in organic traffic after post was updated

The rest of the process is pretty straightforward. If it works, start doing it regularly. And if it works in the long run, do more of it.

It’s a simple rule, but it sometimes gets overlooked. Marketers tend to get distracted from what’s important by the latest fads. They also get too consumed by the everyday chase of nailing those KPIs.

Final thoughts

Let’s quickly sum up what we discussed in this article. First of all, contrary to popular belief, marketing is not only about promoting a product. It’s also about co-creating the product based on market research and user feedback.

Secondly, marketing is typically a process that connects the right audience with the right kind of product, a sort of matchmaking. It doesn’t end at converting a visitor into a customer. Some marketing tactics will allow you to keep your customers, encourage them to come back, and spur them to recommend your business to others.

Finally, there is no silver bullet in marketing. There are different types of marketing that you should probably try out to see what you can do best and what gives you the best outcomes. On that note, we hope our sharings on the three simple yet powerful things that have worked for Ahrefs will inspire you.

So what are the next steps here? If you’re in need of a battle plan that will guide your marketing efforts, that means you’re in need of a marketing strategy. Well, you can learn how to do that in this five-step guide. And if you want to streamline your learning process, try these 17 Free Online Marketing Courses to Learn Digital Marketing.

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.




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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

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How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Getting to the top of Google can be quite slow. Especially so for small, new websites. And the competition can often be too strong, which makes it quite unlikely for you to outrank your rivals in the first place.

Well… if you can’t win, change the rules.

There’s a very simple trick for getting search traffic for the keywords that you want to rank for—without actually ranking for them.

Enter…

One of the most common pieces of marketing advice is to “go fish where the fish are.” Whatever product or service you want to sell, you have to follow three simple steps:

  1. Figure out who your ideal customers are.
  2. Find the places where those people are hanging out online.
  3. Go to those places and find ways to promote your product.

Quick example: if you want to sell fitness gear, it would be good to figure out how to tap into the r/Fitness community on Reddit, which has over 12M members.

What does it have to do with SEO though?

Well, whatever search traffic you want to drive to your own website… someone is already getting it to theirs, right? And their website is not necessarily your direct competitor.

If you own a bagel joint in Singapore, you definitely want your website to rank in Google for “best bagels in Singapore.” But the pages that actually rank for this keyword are listicles, which give readers a bunch of different suggestions. So your job is to get featured in as many of those top-ranking listicles as possible.

Ranking for a keyword with your own website isn’t the only way to get customers from Google. Getting featured on other pages that rank for this keyword is incredibly effective too.

I call this tactic “second-hand search traffic”.

The underlying idea is not new though.

You might have heard of the concept called “Barnacle SEO,” shared by Rand Fishkin back in 2014. There’s also a concept called “Surround Sound,” coined by Alex Birkett. And another one called “SERP Monopoly strategy” by Nick Eubanks. There’s also a reverse concept, called “Rank & Rent.”

The idea behind all of these tactics is practically the same: if a page gets a lot of relevant search traffic from Google—you have to try and get your business mentioned there.

1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330765 614 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything
Source

But that’s easier said than done, right?

Why would anyone bother to feature your business on their website?

Well, one simple answer is money.

If a website owner can make money from mentioning your business on their page, there’s a good chance they’ll do it. This money could come in the form of an affiliate commission or a flat fee for an annual or permanent placement. Sometimes these things can also happen as part of a broader partnership deal.

Getting listed for free is very, very hard. Especially so if you’re not already a big and respected business that people naturally want to feature on their website.

And yet—it’s not completely impossible to get listed for free.

Case in point, we just published our own “best SEO conferences” post, in order to rank for relevant search queries and promote our upcoming event, Ahrefs Evolve Singapore.

And then we went ahead and reached out to all websites that rank for the “best SEO conferences” keyword and asked them to add Ahrefs Evolve to their listicles. So far 10 out of 17 featured us on their pages, without asking for any payment whatsoever.

1721330766 734 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330766 734 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

The most straightforward way to execute this strategy is to compile a list of highly relevant keywords (with high business potential scores), pull all the top-ranking pages for each of them into a spreadsheet, and start your outreach.

But there’s one other fruitful source of pages to get second-hand search traffic from. These are pages that are linking to your competitors, while getting a decent amount of search traffic themselves.

Here’s how to find these pages in 3 simple steps:

  1. Put the website of your competitor in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
  2. Navigate to the Backlinks report.
  3. Apply the “Referring page > Traffic” filter.
How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for AnythingHow to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

Here’s an example of a page I found while trying this out for the ConvertKit website:

1721330766 665 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything1721330766 665 How to Get Search Traffic Without Ranking for Anything

As you can see, this page is not about “email marketing” (the primary topic you’d go for, if you wanted to promote an email marketing tool). And yet, this page is receiving 2.6k visitors per month from Google (as estimated by Ahrefs), and it recommends a bunch of email marketing tools to its readers.

So if you own an email marketing tool—like ConvertKit—you definitely want to get mentioned on that page alongside your competitors.

The moral of this story is that you should look outside of the topics that are immediately relevant to your business. Any page that gets traffic and mentions a competitor of yours should become your target.

And Ahrefs makes it super easy to find such pages.

That’s it.

I hope you found this tactic useful. Don’t sleep on it, because there’s a good chance that your competitors won’t.

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

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What SEO Should Know About Brand Marketing With Mordy Oberstein

For the SEO industry, the Google documents leak offered an important view behind the scenes. Although the leak was not a blueprint of how the algorithm worked, there was considerable confirmation that SEO professionals were right about many elements of the algorithm.

From all the analysis and discussion following the leak, the one insight that got my attention was how important the brand is.

Rand Fishkin, who broke the leak, said this:

“Brand matters more than anything else … If there was one universal piece of advice I had for marketers seeking to broadly improve their organic search rankings and traffic, it would be: “Build a notable, popular, well-recognized brand in your space, outside of Google search.”

Mike King echoed this statement with the following observation:

“All these potential demotions can inform a strategy, but it boils down to making stellar content with strong user experience and building a brand, if we’re being honest.”

Mordy Oberstein, who is an advocate for building a brand online, posted on X (Twitter):

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand.”

It’s not the first time that “brand” has been mentioned in SEO. We began to talk about this around 2012 after the impact of Panda and Penguin when it first became apparent that Google’s aim was to put more emphasis on brand.

Compounding this is the introduction of AI, which has accelerated the importance of taking a more holistic approach to online marketing with less reliance on Google SERPs.

When I spoke to Pedro Dias, he said, “We need to focus more than ever on building our own communities with users aligned to our brands.”

As someone who had 15 years of offline experience in marketing, design, and business before moving into SEO, I have always said that having this wide knowledge allows me to take a holistic view of SEO. So, I welcome the mindset shift towards building a brand online.

As part of his X/Twitter post, Mordy also said:

“I am SO happy that the SEO conversation has shifted to thinking about “brand” (a lot of which is the direct result of @randfish’s & @iPullRank’s great advice following the “Google leaks”).

As someone who has straddled the brand marketing and SEO world for the better part of 10 years – branding is A LOT harder than many SEOs would think and will be a HUGE adjustment for many SEOs.”

Following his X/Twitter post, I reached out to Mordy Oberstein, Head of SEO Brand at Wix, to have a conversation about branding and SEO.

What Do SEO Pros Need To Know About ‘Brand’ To Make The Mindset Shift?

I asked Mordy, “In your opinion, what does brand and building a brand mean, and can SEO pros make this mindset shift?”

Mordy responded, “Brand building basically means creating a connection between one entity and another entity, meaning the company and the audience.

It’s two people meeting, and that convergence is the building of a brand. It’s very much a relationship. And I think that’s what makes it hard for SEOs. It’s a different way of thinking; it’s not linear, and there aren’t always metrics that you can measure it by.

I’m not saying you don’t use data, or you don’t have data, but it’s harder to measure to tell a full story.

You’re trying to pick up on latent signals. A lot of the conversation is unconscious.

It’s all about the micro things that compound. So, you have to think about everything you do, every signal, to ensure that it is aligned with the brand.

For example, a website writes about ‘what is a tax return.’ However, if I’m a professional accountant and I see this on your blog, I might think this isn’t relevant to me because you’re sending me a signal that you’re very basic. I don’t need to know what a tax return is; I have a master’s degree in accounting.

The latent signals that you’re sending can be very subtle, but this is where it is a mindset shift for SEO.”

I recalled a recent conversation with Pedro Dias in which he stressed it was important to put your users front and center and create content that is relevant to them. Targeting high-volume keywords is not going to connect with your audience. Instead, think about what is going to engage, interest, and entertain them.

I went on to say that for some time, the discussion online has been about SEO pros shifting away from the keyword-first approach. However, the consequences of moving away from a focus on traffic and clicks will mean we are likely to experience a temporary decline in performance.

How Does An SEO Professional Sell This To Stakeholders – How Do They Measure Success?

I asked Mordy, “How do you justify this approach to stakeholders – how do they measure success?”

Mordy replied, “I think selling SEO will become harder over time. But, if you don’t consider the brand aspect, then you could be missing the point of what is happening. It’s not about accepting lower volumes of traffic; it’s that traffic will be more targeted.

You might see less traffic right now, but the idea is to gain a digital presence and create digital momentum that will result in more qualified traffic in the long term.”

Mordy went on to say, “It’s going to be a habit to break out of, just like when you have to go on a diet for a long-term health gain.

The ecosystem will change, and it will force change to our approach. SEOs may not have paid attention to the Google leak documents, but I think they will pay attention as the entire ecosystem shifts – they won’t have a choice.

I also think C-level will send a message that they don’t care about overall traffic numbers, but do care about whether a user appreciates what they are producing and that the brand is differentiated in some way.”

How Might The Industry Segment And What Will Be The Important Roles?

I interjected to make the point that it does look a lot like SEO is finally making that shift across marketing.

Technical SEO will always be important, and paid/programmatic will remain important because it is directly attributable.

For the rest of SEO, I anticipate it merges across brand, SEO, and content into a hybrid strategy role that will straddle those disciplines.

What we thought of as “traditional SEO” will fall away, and SEO will become absorbed into marketing.

In response, Mordy agreed and thought that SEO traffic is part of a wider scope or part of a wider paradigm, and it will sit under brand and communications.

An SEO pro that functions as part of the wider marketing and thinks about how we are driving revenue, how we are driving growth, what kind of growth we are driving, and using SEO as a vehicle to that.

The final point I raised was about social media and whether that would become a more combined facet of SEO and overall online marketing.

Mordy likened Google to a moth attracted to the biggest digital light.

He said, “Social media is a huge vehicle for building momentum and the required digital presence.

For example, the more active I am on social media, the more organic branded searches I gain through Google Search. I can see the correlation between that.

I don’t think that Google is ignoring branded searches, and it makes a semantic connection.”

SEO Will Shift To Include Brand And Marketing

The conversation I had with Mordy raised an interesting perspective that SEO will have to make significant shifts to a brand and marketing mindset.

The full impact of AI on Google SERPs and how the industry might change is yet to be realized. But, I strongly recommend that anyone in SEO consider how they can start to take a brand-first approach to their strategy and the content they create.

I suggest building and measuring relationships with audiences based on how they connect with your brand and moving away from any strategy based on chasing high-volume keywords.

Think about what the user will do once you get the click – that is where the real value lies.

Get ahead of the changes that are coming.

Thank you to Mordy Oberstein for offering his opinion and being my guest on IMHO.

More resources:


Featured Image: 3rdtimeluckystudio/Shutterstock

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SEO

4 Ways PPC and SEO Can Work Together (And When They Can’t)

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4 Ways PPC and SEO Can Work Together (And When They Can’t)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your pages to rank in a search engine’s organic results.

Pay-per-click (PPC) is a form of online advertising where advertisers pay a fee each time someone clicks their ad.

There’s no conundrum between the two types of marketing. You don’t have to choose one or the other; the best companies use both.

Here’s how they can work together and produce magic:

Creating SEO content is the process of figuring out what your target audience is searching on Google and aligning your content to their search intent.

To start off, you need to find out what they’re searching for. The easiest way is to use a keyword research tool, like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Here’s how you might find keywords for a hypothetical coffee equipment store:

  1. Go to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer
  2. Enter a relevant keyword (e.g., “coffee”)
  3. Go to Matching terms

Go through the list and pick out keywords that are relevant to the site. For example, the keyword “how to grind coffee beans” seems like a good keyword to target.

The keyword "how to grind coffee beans" and relevant SEO statsThe keyword "how to grind coffee beans" and relevant SEO stats

Once we’ve chosen our keyword, we want to know what searchers are looking for specifically. Sometimes the keyword gives us an idea, but to be sure, we can look at the top-ranking pages.

So, click the SERP button and then click Identify intents to see what searchers are looking for:

The Identify Intents feature in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerThe Identify Intents feature in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

We can see that searchers are looking for techniques and methods to grind coffee beans at home, and especially without a grinder. If we want to rank high, we’ll likely have to follow suit.

Those are the basics of creating SEO content. But doing just this isn’t enough. After all, the quote goes, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?”

This applies to your content too. You don’t want to create into a void; you want people to see and consume your content. This is where PPC comes in. You can run PPC ads to ensure that as many people see your content as possible.

For example, at Ahrefs, we run Facebook ads for our content:

An example of a Facebook Ad we ran for our contentAn example of a Facebook Ad we ran for our content

We also run ads on Quora:

Our Quora ads campaigns we ran for the blogOur Quora ads campaigns we ran for the blog

This way, we make sure that none of our content efforts go to waste.

Links are an important Google ranking factor. Generally speaking, the more links your page has, the more likely it’ll rank high in the search results.

But acquiring links is hard. This is why it’s still a reliable ranking factor. And it’s also why there’s an entire industry behind link building, and tons of tactics you can use, all with varying levels of success.

One way you can consider building links to your pages is to run PPC ads. In fact, we ran an experiment a few years ago to prove that it was possible.

We spent ~$1,245 on Google search ads and acquired a total of 16 backlinks to two different pieces of content. (~$77-78 per backlink.) This is much cheaper than if you had to buy a backlink, which according to our study, costs around $361.44.

(It would be even more expensive if you acquired links via outreach, as you would have to consider additional costs like software, manpower, etc.)

Retargeting allows you to target visitors who have left your website.

Here’s how retargeting works:

  1. A visitor discovers your article on Google
  2. Your ad management software sets a cookie on the visitor’s browser, which allows you to show ads to these visitors
  3. When the visitor leaves your website and surfs the web, you can show ads and persuade them to return to your website

Depending on where they are on the buyer’s journey, you can convince them to take the next step.

buyer's journeybuyer's journey

For example, if someone found your website via your article on the “best espresso machines”, it’s likely they’re looking to buy. So, you can set your retargeting ad to encourage them to visit your espresso machines category page.

On the other hand, if a visitor discovered your website from your “what is a coffee grinder” article, they might still be early on the journey. In that case, it might be prudent to encourage them to sign up for your email list instead.

Every site has important keywords. For example, besides our brand and product terms, critical keywords are “keyword research”, “link building”, and “technical SEO”.

Since these keywords are important, it makes sense to dominate the SERPs for them. You can do this by simultaneously running ads for them while ranking in organic search. For example, Wix ranks for the keyword “create website for free” in both paid and organic SERPs:

Wix ranks for the keyword “create website for free” in both paid and organic SERPsWix ranks for the keyword “create website for free” in both paid and organic SERPs

This is especially useful if you’re a new or smaller site. The keywords that are important to you are likely important to your competitors too. Which means you can’t compete with them overnight.

So, a good strategy is to target those keywords via PPC first, while investing in your SEO strategy. Over time, as you acquire more backlinks and gain more website authority, you’ll be able to compete with your competitors in organic search too.

While both channels are complementary, there are times where it may make more sense to choose one over the other.

When to choose PPC

If you fit these scenarios, it might be a better idea to go for PPC:

  • You’re promoting a limited-time offer, event, or launching a product. According to our poll, SEO takes three to six months to show results. If your event, offer, or launch is shorter than the expected timeframe, it’ll be over even before SEO takes any effect.
  • You need immediate, short-term results. If you need to show some results now, then PPC will be a better choice.
  • You have a disruptive product or service. SEO depends on figuring out what people are already searching for. If your product or service is completely novel, then it’s likely no one is searching for it.
  • Hyper-competitive SERPs. Some niches have competing sites with large SEO teams and deep pockets. Coupled with Google’s preference for known brands, if you’re in these niches, it can be difficult to compete. PPC offers a viable alternative for gaining visibility on the first page.

When to choose SEO

Here are times when it may make better sense to choose SEO:

  • Keywords are too expensive. Some industries, like insurance or finance, have cost-per-clicks (CPC) up to a few hundred dollars. For example, the keyword “direct auto insurance san antonio” has a CPC of $275.
  • Your niche is restricted. Certain industries or niches (e.g., adult, weapons, gambling, etc.) are prohibited or restricted from advertising.
  • You have a limited budget. PPC requires money to begin, whereas SEO can drive traffic to your website at no direct cost per visitor.
  • You’re building an affiliate site. Affiliate sites earn a commission when people buy from their recommendations. While it’s not impossible to build an affiliate site from PPC, it’s difficult to control the return on investment (ROI) since affiliate site owners cannot control sales conversion rates.

Final thoughts

There are cases where focusing on either SEO or PPC makes sense.

But most of the time, the best companies don’t discriminate between channels. If they produce positive ROI, then you should be using all marketing channels.

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