Great SEO does not exist in a bubble, but is part of a broader marketing framework. Columnist Marcus Miller explains how an awareness and understanding of this framework can improve SEO performance.
It’s a peculiar time to be a marketer. Many of us in the SEO world, myself included, are not traditionally trained as marketers. In fact, I studied computer science and was initially a web and software developer.
My marketing career was a fortunate accident — a case of being in the right place at the right time. I was working developing e-commerce sites, and when that job was done, the question soon became, How do we get more traffic and more customers? This led me into the new and exciting world of SEO circa 1999.
Of course, there is more to marketing than just getting highly ranked on search engines, and it took me a while to figure this out. But over the years working as an SEO, I have learned the value of more traditional marketing processes and how they relate to SEO.
Search engines want to connect people with the best possible results — so user engagement and satisfaction is likely an SEO ranking factor. Certainly, on-page signals and links are still super-important, but these won’t help if users do not engage with your site. SEO is now firmly a part of the overall marketing process, and good marketing will only help improve rankings and drive more traffic.
And so it follows that the SEOs I respect and admire are all highly savvy marketers. It’s not enough to focus on delivering more traffic. To do great SEO in 2017 and beyond, you have to be a great marketer.
In this article, I am going to look at the marketing mix and a classic marketing tool known as “the 4 Ps of marketing.” I’ll discuss how you can use this tool to improve your marketing and SEO.
The 4 Ps of marketing
The classic definition of marketing is simply “putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time.”
Stripping away the complexity can be powerful. The 4 Ps of marketing helps us here by focusing on these four key areas:
As it happens, SEO does a lot right by default. When a user searches is certainly the right time, and a search engine is often the right place. Yet, we also have to ensure the product and the price are right as well — after all, there will be a lot of competition on that search engine’s results page. And, of course, there is more to digital marketing than just search engines, however important they may be.
Let’s have a look at each of these four key areas:
Who are your customers? What are their goals? What jobs do they have to perform that you could do better? What are their pains? Ultimately, how does your product help your customer? Understanding your customer and how your product relates to their needs is fundamental to your pricing and promotion of your product (or service).
At my agency, for example, we provide a digital marketing service. This helps our customers achieve their business goals and takes away the work and pain involved in trying to stay abreast of the digital marketing landscape. We try to save our customers time and money and improve their results, so they can focus on doing what they do best.
Your product or service is the foundation of your marketing approach. You need absolute clarity here. Price and promotion will all be influenced by your product.
Getting found is only half the battle — you have to convince your prospective customers that your product or service can deliver.
Price is intrinsically tied to value. But price must also consider established price points in your industry. If you are too expensive, your product won’t sell, no matter how desirable. If you are too cheap, profit margins will suffer.
There is something of a pendulum with price, where a lower price will typically generate more sales, but a higher price will generate more profits. You have to find what your perfect balance is here, and that will depend on your marketplace and lead generation strategies.
SEO is a great example of how difficult pricing can be. Typical wisdom will say that SEO costs around $100 an hour. However, when we spent some time analyzing SEO packages and SEO prices, we found some very different perspectives on what people were willing to pay — particularly when it came to small business SEO services.
Pricing is fundamental, and you need to carefully consider price points to ensure you can deliver the service but still make a profit. Brand and online reputation will play into this, of course, but most of us are not Apple — so you might be able to pull off being 10 percent more expensive than a competitor if your product is right, but push too hard on the pricing and you will typically lose work.
Where will customers look for your product? Will your customers search for you? Will you generate business through offline channels or in person? Does your marketing mix include a combination of online and offline marketing channels?
If you are an emergency plumber, then people are going to grab their phone and go straight to Google, so that one is fairly obvious. But, for many services, different people will buy in different ways: networking, referrals, search engines and so forth. Determine where your customers are and where you need to be to sell to them.
Where will you get your marketing messages in front of your prospective customers?
Search engines? Search ads? Social networks? Online banner advertisements? Press? TV? Direct mail? Billboards? Do you use ads or top-of-the-funnel strategies like content marketing? Do you try to sell, or do you use lead generation and nurturing strategies?
Is time of day a factor? Is there any seasonality in your marketplace? Are there other external factors that can be leveraged to improve your marketing?
What do your competitors do here? Are some channels highly competitive? Where are the opportunities? A SWOT analysis can be useful here (another traditional marketing tool).
This really depends on the customer, and often the best approaches strategically integrate marketing channels to maximize results.
In our business, we find that higher-funnel activities like content marketing work best for us in contrast to ads. As an example, we have a piece of content that details 30 small business SEO tips. This generates some good exposure and leads for us. Whereas, if we run search ads, we will get leads, but we are often in competition with other agencies. It also tends to come down to price, and while we are not expensive, there is always someone cheaper.
You have to figure out how your marketing, lead generation and sales work together to fine-tune your approach. If you can find some way to provide comparable quality while being measurably the cheapest service, you can likely be aggressive in all channels.
Putting the P(ieces) together
So, there are a lot of moving parts here. You can tackle product, price, place and promotion in any order. And in all honesty, I tend to merge place and promotion when we do this for ourselves and our clients. Product informs price. Price points inform the product. No point adding some radical new features if they push the price up too high.
You must consider the marketplace you operate in and your competition. Scalable marketing success will very much depend upon getting all of these factors aligned. If you measure the success of your SEO by how many conversions you generate from organic traffic, then you can improve your SEO by tweaking your product pricing.
The point I am trying to make here is that great SEO does not exist in a bubble. It is part of a broader marketing framework. As marketers and SEOs, we have to consider these other factors to ensure we can keep on improving the work that we do.
If you have a product that is not selling, try considering each of these factors. Is it the product itself? Is it the pricing? Or is your promotion just not up to scratch? Use the simple 4 Ps framework to interrogate your marketing, and your results will only improve.