I read with deep interest today, an article in the Financial Post titled Marketing: Is SEO DOA? In this article, Chris Dixon, CEO of Hunch blogged that startups should not rely on SEO as a core marketing strategy. I wanted to weight in on this article, because a definitive "YES and "NO" is incorrect … but rather it requires a situational response!
When Does SEO Work Best?
In order to understand when SEO might work exceptionally well for a startup, its important to understand why SEO works when it does, which means understanding the role that SEO plays in the marketing mix.
The Role of SEO in the Marketing Mix:
Within the marketing mix, different types of media perform different roles. Some media is better at creating awareness or generating interest. Other media performs better later in the purchase process. The key is in understanding these distinctions, and specifically 'Creative' and 'Directive' types of media.
Radio, television, newspapers for example, are all types of Creative media. Creative types of media are great for creating awareness or need because they are intrusive forms of media. Intrusive from the perspective that we didn't ask for the ads, but they were shown to us. This isn't good or bad, but it means that these types of media are better at creating awareness and need.
Search on the other hand is a form of directive media, meaning the ads/results are user initiated. Think about it … you only search for something when you know it exists. By definition this means that if something is revolutionary, most can't search for it because they don't yet know it exists. I wrote a more in depth post about the differences at "The Role of Search in Advertising".
When a startup is launching a novel new (revolutionary) concept (imagine Groupon 2 years ago), most of us don't know that the product or service already exists … so SEO won't serve the company well. Instead, much larger investments in creative media such as newspapers, radio, television, social media, etc. would serve the company much better.
If on the other hand the startup is more of an evolutionary leap than a revolutionary leap forward (eg. Living Social, WagJag) … and the industry has already been well established, then search works much better.
Lastly … its also important to note that as a revolutionary new concept gains awareness, companies will need to begin investing more in SEO as search volumes for related terms increase. This is one of the other advantages of SEO … because searchers per-qualify themselves as being interested in whatever it is they're searching for, they're typically much later in the purchase process (ie. nearer the purchase decision).
What are your thoughts? Do you have a different perspective?