What’s The Difference Between SEO and A Marketing Strategy?

  • Aaron Gray
    Aaron Gray
  • Blogs
  • calender calendar-blackSeptember 30 , 2022
  • calendar-black 12 min read

Search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing strategy are terms often used interchangeably in various contexts. However, these words mean two different things, and so are their impacts on your business.

Understanding the distinction between SEO and a marketing strategy is crucial in growing your company, whether it’s a start-up or an established company. In this article, you’ll learn more about SEO and marketing strategies, how they work, and what makes them different from each other.

What Is A Marketing Strategy?

A marketing strategy is a framework for an organisation’s marketing plan. It provides the direction and actions a business must undertake to achieve its specific goals. These goals can vary from one company to another, depending on the results pulled from their data-gathering process. Simply put, a marketing strategy identifies the methods used by an organisation to reach out to its target consumers and convince them to purchase its products and services -whether online or offline.

Before formulating a strategy, your company must evaluate its market, target audience, and current performance to set its marketing objectives. You can only achieve optimal results by identifying who you want to target, where, and how.

Whether you’re planning to launch a product or working for higher revenues, think of the following essential marketing aspects:

  • Product: Focus on what you’re trying to sell and how it adds value to your target market.
  • Promotional goals: What are your objectives? For instance, do you want to increase product awareness and reception? Or are you aiming to highlight your product’s unique value? Knowing your goals allow you to send clearer messages that prompt your audience to act accordingly.
  • Price: This covers not only accurate pricing but includes your marketing budget as well. You’ll find out more about marketing budgets later.
  • People: Who are you selling your goods to? Do you understand their preferences and behaviour? What would make them choose your product over your competitors?
  • Place/Platform: Which channels are the most effective? Is your market online, or do you need to consider offline strategies for optimal results?   

There’s no one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. Effective techniques will depend on your market and consumer analysis, and how they align with your specific goals.


What Are The Most Effective Marketing Techniques?

After discovering the who’s, why’s, and how’s of a marketing strategy, your business can use the two primary channels to launch campaigns: offline and online.

Statista, a leading data firm for marketing and consumer products, has shared that the total online spending for marketing has overtaken traditional advertising in the United States. From February 2018 to 2021, the organisation noted that offline marketing expenditure continued to decline whereas the budget for online marketing strategies reflected a steady increase.

Period Traditional marketing spending (vs. six months ago) Digital marketing spending

(vs. six months ago)

February 2018 -1.7% (decrease) 15.1% (increase)
February 2019 -1.8% (decrease) 14.3% (increase)
February 2020 -0.4% (decrease) 13% (increase)
February 2021 -0.2% (decrease) 14.3% (increase)

Source: Statista

As companies must complement their online efforts with traditional marketing strategies, figures for February 2022 showed more businesses spending on offline marketing strategies. Based on the marketing expenditure data mentioned earlier, traditional marketing activities noted a 2.9% hike compared to the previous six months. Digital marketing activities continued to rise too, posting a 16.2% growth during the same period.


Digital Marketing Techniques 

Furthermore, marketers worldwide in 2020, identified the most effective online marketing strategies, as shown in the following chart:

Image Source: Statista

This survey of global marketing professionals also found that artificial intelligence (AI) is used mainly in analysing marketing data across all regions. In Asia, some marketers use technology to create content as well while AI primarily automates advertising and marketing strategies in other areas.


Offline Marketing Methods

Unlike online methods, traditional advertising is more challenging to measure because it’s difficult to link a specific activity for every lead or conversion. Still, several options are available to promote a business outside the digital realm. These include cold calling, speaking engagements, print advertising, networking, direct mail, and participating in trade shows and commercial exhibits.

Instead of using digital tools to reach the audience, offline marketing strategies rely on face-to-face interactions and tangible channels to get the message across. Placing billboards strategically, distributing flyers and brochures, and paying for spots on television, newspaper, and radio are also classified as offline marketing strategies.


What Is SEO?

According to Internet Live Stats, there are over 100,000 searches conducted every second, making search engines a potentially powerful platform for business visibility. Moreover, a study conducted jointly by the world’s leading search engine and a market-based research firm between November 2017 and January 2018 discovered that 53% of consumers search the web for the best possible purchasing option.

SEO is the acronym for search engine optimisation, which encompasses numerous activities to make your web pages more visible in organic or non-paid search results. Placing on top of the organic search results is essential for every business because it increases site traffic. According to a 2020 study, 28.5% of users click the first result on the search engine results page (SERP) while only 15% click and 11% want to know more about the second and third pages on the ranking.


How Do Search Engines Rank Web Pages?

Besides attracting site visitors, ranking high on SERPs gives credibility and authority to a brand. That’s because search engines use algorithms to rank pages, and machines don’t have biased opinions as people do.

Search engines have bots or crawlers that scan billions of web pages for content. These bots analyse the context of the content using internal and external links. Internal links are pages found within pages of the same domain, while external links refer to pages published on other, usually more, authoritative sites. Through these connections and context analysis, crawlers can index a page.

Once a user types search words on the search engine, these bots present the most accurate results through the SERP based on the bots’ understanding of user intent. Because crawlers depend on algorithms, they can be programmed to understand and predict human behaviour and preferences.

For example, here’s what appears on my search engine after typing a query about marketing strategy. There were over 900,000 results, with the definition of the term ranking at the top of the page.


According to the world’s top–ranking search engine, several factors are considered in ranking pages through the use of the following elements:

  • Search intent: Search platforms consider every user’s motivation for initiating a query. For instance, if you type in ‘weather,’ the results will use your location to show the weather details in your current area, understanding that you need to know today’s predictions. The results will only change if you key in a specific place.   

    • Content relevance: The system often determines relevance if the content has the same keywords in the search box. It’s better if these words appear on the headings of the text and are repeatedly mentioned in the body for a reasonable amount. Avoid keyword stuffing.
    • Content quality: This aspect of web page ranking is constantly evolving. However, the most common measurement is the presence of external links from authoritative sites. In addition, crafting quality content that shows expertise on the subject matter can help rank your pages higher.
    • Page usability: Search engines also evaluate user experience when ranking web pages. For instance, if your site or page isn’t user-friendly and has high bounce rates, the system interprets it negatively, pulling you down on the SERP. Bounce rate can be seen on your Google Analytics account.

  • Context and settings: A user’s search history, location, and other settings can impact its search results too. For instance, if you’re in Canada and you enter ‘basketball’ in the search box it may show up Canada Basketball as the first result.
    Search engines have numerous other considerations in ranking pages, which are constantly updated, making SEO work challenging and time-consuming.

 What Are The Differences Between Them?

With knowledge of the basic concepts, you’ll be able to have a better understanding of their differences.

  1. A Marketing Strategy Is A Framework while SEO is a tool

A marketing strategy is the foundation of a company’s online and offline marketing initiatives, while SEO is an essential digital marketing tool. That said, a marketing strategy defines how a business will carry out its campaign to achieve its goals – whatever they may be – using offline and online marketing methods, as discussed above.

And because marketing strategies cover several activities, businesses are expected to allocate more for such initiatives, whether they do it independently or hire an outsourcing company.
According to the Business Development Bank of Canada, companies spend from 2 to 10% of their revenue on marketing, with business-to-consumer firms paying more than business-to-business companies. In 2019, they conducted a survey and discovered that small businesses spend CAD$30,000 annually on average while bigger companies spend over CAD$100,000 in promoting their products and services.

On the other hand, SEO is only one of the many digital marketing tools an organisation can utilise for several purposes, including boosting brand awareness and authority. Looking at the chart presented above, you’ll notice that organisations can tap other digital marketing tools to promote their marketing strategies. These tactics often complement SEO practices, including content marketing, social media marketing, mobile marketing, and so on.

Comparatively, in terms of costs, SEO services take up a small slice of the marketing pie. A 2019 survey by an online SEO firm suggested the general monthly spending for SEO services is below USD$500, despite the disparities in individual expenditures. As with other services, top marketing firms ask for higher fees, but you can get your money’s worth in such cases.

According to the same research, companies paying more than USD$500 are reportedly happier with the results.

  1. A Marketing Strategy Encompasses Online And Offline Initiatives; SEO Is Exclusively Online

Marketing strategies cover traditional and online activities, like placing stalls inside malls and high-traffic locations to launch a product or tapping a famous social media influencer to do the same. Conversely, SEO only works when digital presence and visibility exist.

By its very nature, you can’t use SEO tactics if you don’t have a website, although you can list your company on the local business listings offered by a popular search engine. Still, it would help if you had some level of online presence in doing so.

For instance, on-page SEO techniques, such as internal linking, title tag, meta tag, and image optimisations, work when publishing content on any of your web pages. Additionally, off-page SEO methods, which broadly cover strategies that don’t involve uploading SEO-driven content to your site, still aim to increase your webpage ranking and brand authority using other online tools. Activities, like link-building, content marketing, podcasts, joining communities, social media, and influencer marketing, aren’t useful if you have zero digital presence.

  1. SEO Is Dictated By Algorithms While Marketing Strategy Deals With People

While a marketing strategy focuses on how you can achieve your sales and other business targets, SEO strategies depend on pre-determined parameters. You already know how search engines rely on algorithm-trained bots and crawlers to ‘understand’ what a webpage is saying and rank these as a user enters a search query.

Looking at the examples above makes SEO sound easy to implement, but it isn’t. Some technicalities must be understood and considered to optimise page ranking, including sitemaps, Href language, and many others. Take a look at these reminders and rules for ranking high on the results page culled from the most popular search engine.

As you can see, these tools are meant to be understood by the system, which runs on algorithms and machine learning platforms. In short, using the right keywords and supplying the correct meta information is at the core of SEO work. These ensure that the page can be identified, understood, and indexed by the system properly for optimal visibility.

This is not to say that putting machines in the front and centre is paramount when creating SEO-driven content. In fact, one of the rules cited by the search engine in the previous section is for uploaders to develop relevant and valuable content for their target audiences.

In contrast, marketing success is always focused on people. While strategies consist of a wide range of activities, creating a memorable and catchy tagline is often one of the most effective long-term strategies for brand recognition – if that’s what you’re aiming for. When you craft one, consumers will instantly connect an important aspect of their lives to your brand. As a result, your company wins the hearts and minds of the audience, expanding their customer base.

According to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman in his book, ‘How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market,’ an effective marketing strategy impacts the subconscious. He went on to say that up to 95% of purchasing decisions are often driven by underlying urges in humans, including emotions.


Final Thoughts

SEO is an essential element in achieving digital marketing success. Despite their differences, SEO and a marketing strategy go hand in hand in attracting and persuading customers to convert and eventually become loyal supporters of your brand.

Without implementing sound SEO practices, your business will find it hard to reach out and be seen by their target audience – the cornerstone of every business marketing strategy.

If you’re ready to implement SEO and marketing strategies or aren’t satisfied with your current provider, we can help you. Check out our services or contact us to learn more.