SEO is Earned Media
When you think of “media” you tend to think about TV, radio, and newspapers (do people still read those?). However, the media really refers to any outlet where you can get attention by the masses and the Internet is one of those outlets. There are two types of media: paid and earned. Paid media is advertising. Earned media is any attention or publicity achieved from other promotional efforts other than advertising. In terms of search engine marketing, pay per click advertising is paid media and search engine optimization is earned media.
SEO is considered to be earned media because you can’t buy your organic search ranking. That’s why it’s called “organic” after all. The results appear organically. The search engines match the best fitting website to the keyword search queries based on their own internal algorithms. No money is exchanged between the parties. When it comes to earned media, and SEO specifically, probably the key phrase to pay attention to is “earned”. You need to earn that prominent search ranking! And in many cases it involves lots and lots of work in order to do so.
What can be confusing about paid media vs. earned media is that there are costs associated with both. Earned media needs to be earned and it’s not something that is just going to magically happen for free. In order to earn media, it’s necessary to invest in the tools that are going to eventually attract that attention. For example, press is considered to be earned media. If a news outlet does a segment on your business and you didn’t pay for that placement that is earned media. But it’s not that simple. In order to get that press there’s a good chance that a PR team needed to be hired, a press release needed to be written and published, and the PR team needed to do a significant amount of outreach. There are costs associated with each of these items including the salary of the PR team, the content writers, and the distribution of the release. The only difference between paid media and earned media in regards to the budget is that with paid media, the cost is more direct. You pay for an ad and it appears.
Online, the team that is responsible for your search engine optimization can be thought of like the PR team in the example above. You aren’t paying the search engines directly for an organic listing, but you need to complete the activities that are required in order to earn that prominent organic listing. It’s your SEO team that is going to spend the time and effort. In the case of SEO, it’s an ongoing effort too. Scaling back on SEO at any point during a campaign means that your results are also going to take a hit. There is a direct correlation. Once you ramp things up again you are going to have to invest even more in order to regain that momentum that you originally had.
SEO is earned media but it absolutely requires an ongoing investment in order to gain and maintain momentum in regards to an organic search listing.
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