Marketing automation platforms and SEO are often discussed in the same breath, but they have somewhat of a tumultuous relationship. Some say marketing automation platforms can hurt SEO if you aren't careful, while others believe it's complementary. What's the real answer?

Understanding the Relationship

"Your business is like a bar stool," digital marketing consultant Jon Rognerud says. "Take any one of the four legs out and it will fall over. Strangely, most businesses are like a three legged stool."

What does Rognerud mean by this? Well, he admits that most successful businesses have a great product, good salespeople, and a team that understands exactly what their target market needs. However, the fourth and most important leg is missing: lead generation.

Lead generation is typically missing because it's scary, intimidating, and there are so many different options to choose from. There's SEO, social media, content marketing, paid advertising, and an entire suite of other specialties.

Over the past few years, software known as "marketing automation" has risen to prominence. As the name suggests, its goal is to automate various marketing actions that are seen as repetitive. These include social media, email, and various website actions.

The problem is that many companies have invested in marketing automation without understanding how it really fits into the larger digital marketing picture. Specifically, they're viewing it as totally separate and unrelated to SEO. As a result, thousands of businesses resemble unbalanced three legged stools that could topple at any given moment.

To understand this imbalance, you have to start by reviewing the conversion funnel. While there are many different versions of the conversion funnel, we'll use the very basic example that follows a three-tiered progression of Awareness > Evaluation > Conversion. In this example, awareness is at the top of the funnel, evaluation is in the middle, and conversion is at the bottom.

When a company invests in marketing automation, they're nailing down the middle of the funnel. While this is great, the problem is that many of these companies haven't done anything to address the top of the funnel. The result is something like an inverted hourglass. The middle of the funnel is prepared, but there's nothing going on at the top of the funnel to bring leads in.

When does marketing automation fall short? "When there's no top-of-the-funnel foundation put in place to support middle of the funnel marketing automation," HubSpot explains. "Many marketers invest in marketing automation before they have fertile ground for advanced lead nurturing campaigns to blossom. Marketers won't have the ingredients they need for effective marketing automation until they have both a steady flow of organic leads coming through the funnel."

This is where SEO enters the picture. While SEO touches multiple points in the funnel, it's largely a top-of-the-funnel tool for reaching customers who are searching for your products and services in the awareness stage. In order to get the most out of both SEO and marketing automation, the two must work in harmony with one another.

SEO allows you to make the most out of your marketing automation investment while marketing automation ensures your SEO leads don't go to waste.

Five Important Crossover Points

Without further ado, let's check out some of the specific crossover points where marketing automation and SEO complement each other for maximum benefit.

1. Closed-Loop ROI Tracking

Are you familiar with closed-loop return on investment (ROI) tracking? This tracking allows you to see the revenue each keyword produces over a specific period of time. It's essentially the measuring stick by which you gauge how profitable it is to focus on individual search terms.

"With marketing automation, closed-loop ROI tracking tracks every lead, giving you the ability to attach each keyword to a prospect record and continue to follow the lead until it is a closed opportunity in the CRM," marketing automation expert Matthew Sweezey explains.

This is tremendously beneficial and removes much of the guessing game associated with understanding how leads progress through the funnel. "You see the full closed loop and therefore know where each lead came from and the revenue it brought in, which in turn enables you to prove the value of each marketing channel," Sweezey continues.

2. Tracking Visitor Behavior

You aren't required to have marketing automation software in place to bring in new sales prospects - your SEO efforts alone can certainly generate leads. The problem is that you don't necessarily know which ones are producing the bulk of your sales.

If the old adage that 20 percent of your customers generate 80 percent of your revenue is true, then you need a way to identify and focus on the 20 percent. If your marketing automation software has built-in web tracking software, you can follow your PPC ads so that you know which leads are serious.

"By knowing how your visitors are interacting with your ads and how in depth their engagement is, you are able to fully optimize the productivity and effectiveness of these ad campaigns, thus increasing the chance for conversions," digital marketing strategist Erin McCabe says.

3. Checking for Toxic Inbound links

You spend a lot of time attempting to build up high-quality, organic links that will improve your organic search rankings. Unfortunately, all it takes is too many unsolicited backlinks from spam sites to get you slapped with a Google link penalty.

With marketing automation, you can set up a feature that will automatically notify you when a potential harmful inbound link is detected. This allows you to take immediate action to remove the link and prevent costly SEO penalties.

4. Improving Campaign Relevancy

When you're able to better understand which keywords and ads are helpful in generating leads, suddenly you're able to put together highly relevant marketing campaigns that stand a better chance of penetrating your target audience and pushing customers down to the bottom of the funnel. This means you're able to better maximize your budget and strategically reallocate funds to the places that matter most.

5. Better Sales Intelligence

Ultimately, this all leads to better sales intelligence. "Because every lead passed to sales through marketing automation has a full history report, including the keywords a prospect searched for, the sales department can use this data to improve its sales process," Sweezey notes.

The end result is a more intelligent organization that's no longer simply making assumptions and experimenting with SEO and marketing, but rather identifying trends and strategically acting upon this information.

Make the Most of Your Efforts

While you do have to be careful that you don't rely too heavily on marketing automation and forget about your core SEO responsibilities, the reality is that marketing automation platforms help SEO tremendously.

If you want to be an organization that sits on a well-balanced stool with four legs, then you would do well to facilitate a healthy relationship between these two core areas.




Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.






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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > The Relationship Between Marketing Automation and SEO