commit: 6b2ca8a - #414 (2014-03-05 12:54:44 -0500)
I think there are many different views on to what exactly inbound marketing is. I for one am not a big fan of PPC for my own projects because I know I can get the traffic a lot cheaper with content + SEO.
However, with that said I see Inbound Marketing as marketing that is targeted to what people are searching for. To me this would include PPC along with SEO, Content Marketing & etc.
I think PPC CAN be used in an inbound manner but the majority of uses aren't pull or inbound marketing. Heck, you can even use PPC for SEO as I rarely do for keyword research for example. Still I know that PPC is NOT SEO. You also can ride a bike like you ride a horse but only one of them is an animal.
You could argue Inbound Marketing being free distribution (voids PPC or any paid promotion) or contextual (buyers comes seeking you, not seller interrupting). Which do you think best fits it?
I wrote 62 pages on what Inbound Marketing is and didn't finish it. I'll call that my greatest failure of 2012. Here's a how I described it:
Inbound Marketing is a collection of marketing activities
that leverage remarkable content to penetrate earned media channels such as
Organic Search, Social Media, Email, News and the Blogosphere with the goal of
engaging prospects when they are specifically interested in what the brand has
So you pretty much draw the line at Paid vs. Earned media channels. But what about something like Facebook sponsored stories, Zemanta, affiliate marketing etc? That's probably not the Not trying to nitpick, but it could still be ambiguous?
I agree with you - what this industry really needs is a watertight, bulletproof, unambiguous definition. http://i.imgur.com/hps76.gif :)
I find Sponsored Stories to be interruptions. If there's a case to be made for those then Social PPC should be considered inbound marketing too, no?
Services/channels like Zemanta and Outbrain are much better arguments that fit better wit the Search PPC argument because the user has to be doing/reading some super relevant to your content for your content to pop up. However I don't think it's ambiguous at all because you specifically have to pay for them whereas with Organic Search, Social, Emails, News, blogs the only cost is the creation of content. We've seen enough 5 second cat videos burn through these channels to know that content can be made for free.
Not that we need more terms and confusion, but I lump Zemanta and Outbrain into Social Search as you'll see in my forthcoming HubSpot e-book series (shameless plug). The key distinction between Inbound Marketing (to me) and Social Search is that Social Search is spend-agnostic and doesn't necessarily include Email.
Affiliate Marketing...interruption all day.
So broadly speaking you're saying paid distribution isn't Inbound. Free distribution is.
We should really update this page: http://inbound.org/what-is-inbound-marketing
Why does it have to be so clear cut? Promoting engaging and relevant sponsored stories has got to blur the lines, and I don't see why it's not a hybrid.
I like where Martin is going with this and it's a good discussion for us to have here. Many industries go through this sort of DTDT ("Define the Damn Thing!") moment and healthy disagreement often leads to new learnings.
I can see where there's some natural tension between Direct Response marketing -- which I would agree definitely includes PPC, SEO, affiliates, CSEs, some social, some banner ads, some mass media, some off-line ads, etc. -- and inbound marketing, which is about earning attention.
To me, 99% of the time, "earning attention" means using free channels (SEO, social, etc.) to your efficient advantage, but not always. Sometimes, paid advertising can also "earn" attention. The original Old Spice paid TV ad (which inspired all of the social/Inbound follow-up) is a good example of this. But it's a rare exception.
So I think of them as a Venn diagram with some overlap. While some of the strategies and tactics are shared between Direct Response and Inbound, I don't personally think they are one and the same.
As an in-house, I had a Direct Response strategy for SEO, but I also had an Inbound strategy running side-by-side. The Direct Response strategy focused quite a bit on product page SEO and took into account thigns like PPC, mass media, banners, paid social, etc. The Inbound strategy was much more about integration with our social strategy, earned media team, and e-mail.
Take that as you will. But, to my thinking, Inbound specialists and Direct Response specialists probably do better working together than working apart.
Totally agree with you here. I think the issue comes down not to determining the semantics around a particular term, but to making sure as a marketer the client's goals and best interests are always in mind. Any effort to build a line between the respective values of PPC and SEO harms fulfillment of those marketing goals. These channels work hand in hand, and many potential customers will touch a brand through both paid advertising and inbound/content/social/whatever-you-want-to-call-it marketing before converting.
It's not solely about semantics. Either you pay a woman to have sex or you win her heart (and then have sex). Some people argue that buying your wife stuff makes her a whore too but I don't think so. Likewise there is a distinction here for some reason. When you pay for eyeballs using PPC ads you are not making the effort to convince them to come to you of their own accord. That's the point of inbound marketing though.
I respect your opinion, but as a former PPC manager, I disagree and want to challenge your thinking a bit.
I don't think searchers/customers make quite as much distinction between the different types of search results as marketers do. I think they click on what captures their attention and appears to be relevant enough to meet their needs. I don't think it's as black and white as your example, especially when PPC and organic (and affiliates, and CSEs) appear for the same site on the same search result page.
Of course, that's just my opinion. But all the studies seem to show that PPC+organic drives additional incremental clicks that you wouldn't get from using either alone. My own testing validates that, which is why I think there's a nuanced picture here.
But exactly what the picture is, I'm not completely sure. :)
It's funny that several people have argued how searchers are too stupid to even know that they click ads. Recently I have disabled Google Adwords blocking on one of my browsers so that I can see how many ads the average users has to view before there is an actual result. That's why I even mistakenly clicked some ads afterwards. You know what? Many of the ads were broken. They led to homepages, out of stock products or were even broken links (not even 404 errors appeared). Google has apparently double standards on quality. So yes, there is a difference between ads and organic results for the user too.
Of course you get more clicks from additional PPC ads even in case you rank #1. After all ads outrank organic results. I still wonder how that makes PPC inbound though. In many cases Amazon ads outranked the actual #1 result that led to Amazon. The ad sent me to the hp or something while the organic result was indeed relevant. So advertisers pay to lose money on lost sales. This is hellbound marketing.
Jon - your response reminds me how us online marketers (or even /humans/?) love to find and define things in absolutes. We're not comfortable with the gray area. Absolutes is like math - binary. It either is or it isn't. Absolutes are a warm blanket of comfort.
I think that's the crux of this argument - there is overlap in paid / direct response marketing and earned / "free" marketing. I love your visual of a Venn diagram. Both have their place, both support each other. (Perhaps there are times when paid supports inbound - such as SEER's example of a press release supporting awesomely timed content: http://www.seerinteractive.com/blog/how-we-got-a-da96-link-from-a-press-release)
A really good point. Marketing IS a grey area. You can't define things in terms of absolutes. I mean, we can try, and bring some clarity that way, but ultimately the lines are drawn so that we can blur 'em.
Honestly, I don't understand why we can't take a holistic view of all online marketing practices (including PPC) and just refer to it as 'internet marketing'. PPC should always be considered when comprehensively evaluating an appropriate marketing mix.
Well as many of you know I've never been that fond of the term Inbound Marketing, though it doesn't rile me up that much anymore.
Yet, this is the type of thing that makes me rip my hair out - or maybe rip your hair out. At the end of the day, isn't our job to be a steward for that business and help them to succeed in any way we can?
If it's a start-up (I work with a lot of those) and you have key terms which you know you're not going to rank for early on, do you simply put your nose in the air and say 'oh, I'm an inbound marketer, I wouldn't lower myself to drive paid traffic, it has to be earned traffic.'
For real? I'd fire you in a nanosecond.
If you work hard to bring earned traffic to your site and you know that 90%+ of it doesn't convert during that visit do you simply let those people walk off into the HTML sunset? 'Oh well, we'll get those people on the next piece of content ... I hope.' Or do you come up with an integrated plan that includes remarketing so you can continue that conversation and get the most out of that first earned interaction.
If I pay for a sponsorship of an event that creates a very positive brand exposure for a valuable demographic is that a no-no? Because, you know, you paid for that banner or cardboard placard placed in front of the poorly carpeted ballroom.
Not to mention everything has money attached to it! Do you work for free? Is content created for free? I mean, maybe you've figured out how to get monkeys to create really compelling content but for the rest of us it's all paid at the end of the day.
Sometimes I wind up telling people to invest their resources in other areas. An email list rental and blast might sometimes be the best way for THAT business to move forward at that given time. A fair amount of the time I tell clients that the product needs to be fixed first and foremost and that marketing dollar spent now will be inefficient at best and a colossal waste at worst.
The definition isn't a term, it's what we do. We are marketers (or we damn well better be) and our job is to help build those businesses for which we are affiliated. We shouldn't be attached to the dogma of a term but to being better marketers.
Well said--we need to look at marketing holistically in order to determine what might work best based on each clients' circumstances and have the knowledge and ability to deliver it.
I think there's an affiliated "snobbery" about inbound marketing with some people because, while most of us at least understand the plight of inbound marketing (whether we subscribe to the term or not), there's a surprising number of businesses out there who still poo-poo / don't understand earned media. They still think writing press releases about their latest release and writing blog posts about how they saved puppies with their product is going to bring in the bucks.
Then again, relying on inbound marketing to save the day isn't probably the best idea, either.
I like your and Jon Colman's responses because they emphasize that, ultimately, inbound fits into a wide spectrum of marketing tactics (so many channels, so little time!), and the best solutions will select what's best for their business from all available options.
PPC is like paying for a cab/taxi, SEO is like getting a driver's license. Inbound marketing is like learning all means of transport by yourself including riding a bike, flying a plane etc. In case you pay someone to take you on riksha or fly with an airline it's still a difference. IMHO inbound marketing is about showing businesses how it's done and outbound marketing is simply making them pay without telling them how they can do it.
But sometimes you land in a foreign country and your car is at home and the buses there are a mess and don't even go where you need to go and you have to get to that important business meeting so ... you jump in that cab. Nothing wrong with that. Better that then walking all the way there, showing up late and sweaty but proclaiming that you did it for free.
I totally agree. I'm far more interested in being a good marketer and growing my client's business than I am in whether a particular method is "inbound" or not.
I sense an attitude in the SEO world that PPC is somehow inferior because it's a paid click rather than a "free" click. And yet SEO isn't free, the costs are just distributed differently. I see PPC and SEO as inherently similar, in that they are both methods to get a link to a client's company on the right SERPs. SEO and PPC use different methods to make that happen, but they both have this in common: they facilitate the connection between search traffic and the content/product/service that that traffic is searching for.
A M E N ! (Forgot to comment before). You perfectly summarized how I feel about this.
Inbound is just a buzz word, band wagon, in my opinion.
"Well as many of you know I've never been that fond of the term
Inbound Marketing, though it doesn't rile me up that much anymore."
Says the guy posting on a website called "inbound.org". I'm just teasing AJ. The term is starting to grow on me.
i think inbound marketing is getting people to call you, rather than doing say, cold calling. by this definition i think PPC ought to be included in inbound marketing. Common inbound guys! give PPC a dedicated topic here. not just "advertising/PPC".
I think terms are what people make of. So, if there is more or less agreement that inbound marketing refers to earned media, this is how me may want to define it. Even though I disagree, because of the real meaning of the word "inbound".
However, I think there's much more agreement on what online marketing means, and this is a sketch I just did (sorry for the quality) of how I see the distinction: http://postimage.org/image/yr85kwgaj/
Some others already articulated my thoughts on inbound marketing. (That it's only part of a wide spectrum of marketing strategies, tactics, and tools to call on for the best chances at attracting, converting, and retaining customers.)
To me, inbound marketing represents a sea change in the way we approach online marketing as a whole: balancing out product/corporate push marketing with entertaining, informative, timely, and targeted complementary pull marketing.
I'm excited about it because I love the challenge of quantifying something so qualitative as writing, and creating content that people actually want to read and share.
That's not to say paid media doesn't have its place - that stuff is hard work, too. I've barely scratched the surface of PPC before I retreated back to my email and website content.
Many marketing consultants and agencies have been quick to hang their hats on the term "inbound" over the last few years. I avoid "inbound" in my bio and services description, but I think it's a great illustrative term when I'm having business development conversations.
To me, the inbound marketing isn't so much about free distribution vs paid distribution. I've always thought about marketing this way:
Inbound marketing is helping people find the information/services/products they're looking for. In other words, helping those people who have a need (and are looking for a solution) find the solution my client/company offers. So I would see SEO and PPC (specifically search PPC) being forms of inbound marketing.
Outbound marketing is reaching out to people and trying to convince them of a need for the solution my client/company offers. So I see methods like cold calling, email marketing, direct mail, TV/radio advertisements, some display advertising and non-search PPC, as forms of outbound marketing.
I know this isn't the definition that is listed in the "What Is Inbound Marketing?" article here on Inbound.org, but that's how I look at it.
I'd argue that it's how email marketing and direct mail are used that define them as outbound vs. inbound. Email about a product sale? Outbound. Email about the top news for the week among the industry? Inbound.
And what's the distinction? Informational vs promotional?
Inbound marketing is typically more about earning people's eyeballs through value-driven content. Think infographics, viral content shares, link bait type content, etc.
I agree that "inbound marketing" is just a buzzword. In essence, we have already done it even before the term was born - email marketing, link baiting, etc.
To me, inbound marketing is how you use attractive and authoritative content to attract people to find out more about you and your business, and convert the incoming traffic into leads, and, eventually, leads into revenue. "Leads" can be new buyers, clients members or email newsletter subscribers - anything you can do to convert traffic.
In inbound marketing, IMHO, content is king (that's why blogs are great inbound marketing tools!)
My 2 cents...
"I agree that "inbound marketing" is just a buzzword." - Came here to say this and now can't think of anything more meaningful to add.
When someone asks me what "inbound "is, I think Seth Godin's "permission marketing" - are you interrupting someone from an activity they're currently doing? In the case of a search query, PPC or SEO - as long as the content is relevant, then it's all value-driven and not a waste of the searcher's time. I'm with AJ here - who cares if it's paid or not, as long as we meet our goals without polluting the internet.From an advertising standpoint, it's a "pull" strategy, except that people are already looking for what you're providing - you're just matching up their need.
Inbound marketing is the process of creating content for every stage of a buying process.
Here is an article about inbound marketing: http://www.zoomqa.com/what-is-inbound-marketing/
For every article like that I can find others that include different examples of what inbound is.
By Wikidef: Inbound marketing is advertising a company through blogs, podcasts, video, eBooks, enewsletters, whitepapers, SEO, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing. In contrast, buying attention, cold-calling, direct paper mail, radio, TV advertisements, sales flyers, spam, Email marketing, telemarketing and traditional advertising are considered "outbound marketing" (yes, I realize Wiki isn't a source and I realize someone here probably wrote these sentences. I just agree so I'm using theirs instead of rewriting it myself.)
Hubspot likewise did a PDF on PPC: inbound or not. They were of the mind that it's sort of both... it has part inbound, part outbound, which is why I think we argue about it. http://www.hubspot.com/Portals/53/docs/Pay_Per_Click_Marketing_HubSpot_PDF.pdf
The question we're not *directly* addressing is what do you come HERE to learn? Do you want PPC stuff included? Whatever we call it, I want to learn more "digital marketing" and not inbound, outbound, sideways or whatever direction the marketing is going. My job is to increase revenue for companies I work for. They won't care *how* I do it as long as at the end of the day, they're making more cashola. Let's say we make Inbound.org all about what one group would call "true" inbound marketing (not PPC, not sponsored posts) - then we have to go to another website to learn PPC, paid marketing and other digital strategies.
Sorry to be blunt, but EFF THAT. I want those posts about paid marketing on Inbound. I want it to be a complete resource for marketing, not just a piece of the puzzle. Would we then want paidmedia.org? Why visit two sites? Why make this more complex than it has to be? We all know what belongs on Inbound - marketing.
This whole post circles back to the petition for a PPC category, yes? http://www.inbound.org/discussion/view/petition-for-a-ppc-category-on-inbound-org
So take it a step beyond "what is inbound?" and figure out what we want here. Place a vote for me in the "give me marketing" category - I'll sort out for myself if I use it on cold or warm leads, inbound or outbound, interruption vs permission. Just give me the best of everything.
The weird thing to me about it was exactly the sentiment you express. Not that I think a site like that is *bad* by any means - but it makes little sense as the site on a domain like inbound.org. It would be like me running a site called LinkBuildingBlog.whatever and then doing posts about effective discount strategy when dealing with affiliates.
Great topic... Inbound Marketing, to me, is the use of digital tools (Social Media, SEO, E-Mail, Content, PPC, etc) to drive traffic to your website and convert traffic to leads. It's investing in quality content instead of ad space and educating consumers rather than interrupting.
Inbound marketing is an umbrella term to simplify the description of overall SEO, content marketing, social media marketing, search marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing. (kind of a growing list) Usually used best when describing an overall strategy as opposed to the individual pieces/tactics.
From the dictionary definition of the word [inbound]:inbound |?in?bound|adjective & adverbtraveling toward a particular place, esp. when returning to the original point of departure [as adj. ] : inbound traffic | [as adv. ] we have three enemy planes inbound on bearing two ninety.For our purposes I view the term inbound as anything that helps drive traffic to a place. Speaking broadly, I would include topics like:Tracking data from that trafficDifferent ways to drive that trafficHow to convert that trafficEven if it's branding related, it's ultimate goal is to eventually lead to a conversionI think it would be foolish and short-sided to say "this kind of marketing is inbound" and "this kind of marketing is outbound". We're all here to read industry related information. For example, if we call social media "inbound" and twitter ads "outbound" does that mean we shouldn't be aware of this? Also, if you really wanted to split hairs, you could call SEO a type of advertising. Online marketing is all interrelated, and there are overlaps with each discipline, and having a broad knowledge of the landscape is useful to everyone. tl:dr - I'm a PPC guy and I want to be invited to the party.