I’m willing to bet that as a marketer you have experience with email marketing and SEO. If you’re a newbie, you’ve at least heard of both strategies and probably even done a little research on them.
Regardless of your experience level, you may still be wondering which investment makes more sense for your business. In this post, I’ll discuss everything related to email marketing vs. SEO, from how marketers currently use both strategies to pitting them in the ring against key marketing goals.
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A Quick Refresher on Email Marketing and SEO
Email marketing is sending content to a list of subscribers via email, such as a weekly update newsletter, promotional emails, or even a happy birthday message. It is a flexible and cost-effective way to share messages with your audience.
The most important email marketing metrics are click-through rate (CTR), open rate, and leads/conversions from emails.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the way you make your website visible in organic search results. To make it simple, when my smoke detector starts making annoying pinging, I immediately find a step-by-step guide to replacing its battery.
The main building blocks for a successful SEO strategy are keyword research, creating high-quality, useful content, and ensuring that your website is crawlable. The most important metrics tracked by web analysts are sales, leads, and conversions.
Before pitting them against each other, let’s look at how marketers are using both practices.
Email Marketing Vs. SEO – What are marketers saying?
Our 2024 Marketing Strategy and Trends report found that email marketing is the most leveraged channel among marketers (33%), followed by website/blog/SEO (32%).
Despite email marketing being more popular, SEO provides the highest ROI, and email marketing is a close second.
Marketers show no signs of letting go of any channel. When we asked marketers which channel they would invest in most in 2024, website/blog/SEO came in second, with email marketing right behind.
Digging a little deeper, 48% of marketers say they will increase their investment in SEO in the coming year, and the majority will continue to invest the same amount in email marketing through 2024 (49%).
I attribute the increased investment in SEO to Google’s addition of “experience” to the existing EAT framework (Expertise, Authority, and Trust) and the upcoming Search Generator Experience (SGE). SEOs are likely adapting and investing in new strategies in light of these changes to ensure they are putting their most experienced foot forward to rank in the SERPs.
Email Marketing vs SEO – A Comparison Against Marketing Goals
In the report I mentioned above, we also asked marketers about their goals in 2024.
The top goal is to increase revenue/sales, followed by improving customer experience and increasing brand awareness/reaching new audiences. Marketers also want to increase engagement and drive traffic to their websites.
What better way to compare email marketing and SEO than to assess how each will help marketers meet their goals? Below, I’ll pit the two against each other and declare a winner for each of marketers’ top goals.
1. SEO wins in increasing revenue/sales.
Return on investment (ROI) is directly related to marketers’ top goal for 2024: increased revenue/sales. Since marketers say SEO has the highest ROI of any channel they use, I’m handing this win to SEO.
2. Email marketing wins at improving customer experience.
Improving customer experience are the top two goals for marketers in 2024. A pillar of any great customer experience is personalization, and email offers excellent personalization opportunities, so I’m declaring it the winner for this goal.
Yes, you’ll customize your website to your audience’s needs and interests, but you can’t get as personalized as you can with email marketing. You can create specific segments for personalized targeting or even send individually customized emails on a customer-to-customer basis.
Just think about it – you’ve probably never visited a website on your birthday and seen a “happy birthday” message. [your name here], Banner just for you, right? If you have, I’m impressed, but you’ll probably get personalized messages from your favorite brands over email.
pro tip: Use HubSpot’s email marketing tools to tailor your emails to individual subscribers based on key characteristics like lifestyle stage, and capture their attention with the most relevant subject lines, attachments, and CTAs.
3. SEO wins for increasing brand awareness and reaching new audiences.
SEO plays a vital role in increasing brand awareness and reaching new audiences. Nearly 1 in 4 websites have an average SEO click-through rate between 10-19%, and direct traffic and organic search are the top traffic drivers to their website.
Your reach is much greater with the channel because anyone searching the internet using keywords related to your business or offering has the potential to find you, which equates to reaching a new audience.
Your emails are only sent to people who already know about your business and have opted in to receive your emails. Although you can certainly reach new people if you buy email lists, I can never recommend this practice instead of prioritizing SEO to reach new audiences.
4. Email marketing wins at increasing engagement.
I’m tasked with increasing engagement in email marketing. Although you will undoubtedly increase traffic with SEO, there is no guarantee that all of your visitors are qualified and ready to take a step forward with your business.
Your email recipients are qualified leads who have opted in to receive your emails because they are genuinely interested in what you offer. This genuine interest motivates them to become more interested in what you have to offer, which may lead them to click through to your website to learn more about what you shared.
Email Marketing vs SEO – The Verdict
I know you want me to give a final answer to one rather than the other, and I’m sorry to say I can’t do that.
Focusing on one over the other should depend on your marketing objectives. If you want to increase brand awareness, put more effort into SEO. To build personal customer relationships, spend more time on email marketing.
I can definitely say that the best marketing strategies have an all-encompassing approach.
For example, I would recommend that a local business prioritize email marketing when it comes to letting local people know about upcoming events, sales, or any business changes. I would also tell the same business that they can’t forget about local SEO because an optimized Google My Business profile is the best way to get in front of local searchers who haven’t found you yet.
If you’re struggling to decide, consider this: If you don’t want to take a joint approach, weigh your specific goals against the areas where email marketing and SEO shine and how they can help you accomplish your objectives. Choose the most suitable one to help you.
If you want to take a combined approach, weigh your specific goals against the areas where email marketing and SEO shine, and choose which is your primary area of focus and which will support the other.
Whatever you decide, both channels are tried, tested and true channels that will help you drive the growth you are looking for.