Comparing SEO to Traditional Media
SEO (search engine optimization) is proven to be an effective investment when compared to other
marketing efforts. How exactly does SEO stack up against traditional media for the average
If you are considering how to spend your marketing dollars, take a look at these comparison points.
We will compare modern “best practice” SEO with traditional advertising like phone book ads and
direct mail marketing.
Getting Traceable Results
A phone book advertising campaign usually includes a simple print ad that includes your contact
information. You cannot trace how many people read your phone book ad or how many people throw
away their phone book and recycle it. You can only trace a handful of leads you might receive, but
only if you make a point to track their connection by using a unique phone number, a unique coupon
or if they actually tell you they found you via the phone book. Some phone books have online
advertising programs, but those are also limited to how many people actually use the phone directory
With direct mail campaigns, you design a postcard and mail it out to a specified mailing list. You have
no way to track who threw away the postcard or who read the postcard but did not react to it. If
someone decided to keep the postcard and put it on their desk for later, you will not know until they
opt to actually call you up a month later. You can only track the postcard campaign if the lead
contacts you using an exclusive phone number or exclusive coupon, or perhaps if they bring it to your
place of business to serve as the coupon.
With professional SEO services, you can use Google Analytics and other analytical tracking tools to
track all visits to your website. You can be creative with your reporting by filtering which pages in your
website are most effective and you can even track conversion rates if someone visits a specific sign
up form or another call-to-action page, and you can see how much time the average user spends on
Flexible Marketing Messages
A phone book advertisement is a 12-month commitment. The ad is printed in the phone book and
cannot be changed until the next year when the new directory is ready to be published.
Direct mail pieces can be designed in many creative ways, but once you print your postcard or flyer it
is set on paper, and you must utilize that entire set of printed items with that fixed message. If you
have a new promotion, or if your company changes its brand message, you must design a new
campaign and have new pieces printed.
SEO efforts are highly flexible. If your company decides to promote a new product or if you have a
change in contact information, you can make updates to your website at a moment’s notice. Then you
can immediately begin the process of revising your efforts toward new keywords, or new content
strategies. In some cases, you may change your audience focus and your priority of which types of
customers you want to attract. You can immediately begin creating new web pages to describe these
new initiatives and start directing your SEO company to promote them.
Attracting the Right Types of Customers
Advertising in a phone directory puts your ad in front of a very broad pool of people (assuming they
keep and use the phone book). If you are in a niche business, most of those people reading the ad
will not be your ideal customer. If you are a business-to-business company, the average consumers
reading the phone book will not apply to you. The only thing filtering the leads is the category that you
are listed under within the book, and that category is often somewhat broad.
Direct mail relies on a mailing list. You might order a mailing list from a printing or lead generating
company and narrow it down by a certain area or a certain category. These mailing lists are typically
very broad. They only assume that someone on the list might be interested in using your product.
Unless you are using a list of subscribed customers for a special project, you likely have no idea if
anyone on the mailing list is a qualified customer.
With SEO marketing, you reverse your situation and focus on customers who are already searching
for your product. You focus on making your website attractive to search engines and to people and
building your reputation online, so that when a qualified customer does search for the appropriate
keyword, they find you. When your SEO company performs diligent keyword research, they put
together a list of terms that closely describe your unique product and your unique customer
challenges. This ensures that your business gets in front of ideal customers and not just a general
With a typical phone book advertisement, you visit with your local phone directory sales representative
once a year. They review your options in ad sizes and content and ask you to commit to an annual
contract to print the ad. You may hear from someone who helps you setup your ad’s artwork and copy
shortly after. But once it is submitted for print, you most likely never hear from the phone directory
company again, until it’s time for your contract renewal.
With direct mail advertising, you may work with a printer or direct mail marketing company to design
and print your postcard mailing piece and setup the mailing list. Some printers also assist with the
bulk mailing process. But after the mail is sent, it is up to you to track activity (or non-activity), follow
up and create new campaign strategies.
A professional SEO company will constantly track the performance of your search engine optimization
and provide you with statistics and reports. The SEO company can use tools like Google Analytics,
Google Webmaster Tools and others to analyze your website’s strengths and its growth. A good SEO
professional will communicate with you frequently and gives progress updates. Since everything is
traceable, they are able to offer vast amounts of customer support with data backing their efforts.
Targeting Multiple Markets
Sometimes it is important to diversify your audience, directing specific products to the right region and
the right type of customer. With traditional marketing mediums, there are limitations that will hinder
your ability to branch into other markets quickly.
Phone books are printed for a specific city or metro area, and if you want to advertise in other areas,
you must engage in additional contracts for those separate phone book ads. If you want to reach
customers in a nearby city that is only an hour drive away, you will likely need to double your ad
expense to participate in that second region’s directory.
Direct mail can reach more areas, but it will require you to expand your mailing list. You will need to
invest in a larger mailing list and work together with your direct mail company to research and build the
new list. You must increase your printing costs and postage costs to print more postcards to send out
to the additional recipients. You could also decide to print separate, different marketing messages to
target each audience in a different mailing.
SEO services are fairly flexible, and it is possible to target more than one area at the same time.
Google and Bing have geared search engine technology to be more localized, and it is a good
strategy to start your marketing with a certain city or region in mind. However, you can easily branch
into similar surrounding areas, such as neighborhoods or nearby suburb towns. Businesses often
start with a primary target market initially and begin to branch into others a few months later, with
some simple shifting of the SEO efforts. It may take some time to get great results in the new
markets, but the shift can be made quickly and your SEO team can start working toward those goals
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