Email marketing vs. SEO – What you need to know for 2024

As a marketer, I am willing to wager that you have some experience with SEO and email marketing. You’ve probably heard about both and perhaps done some research if you are a newbie.

Regardless of your level of experience, you might still be wondering which is a more worthwhile investment for your business. In this post, I’ll discuss all things email marketing vs. SEO, from how marketers currently use both strategies to making them face off in the ring against key marketing goals.

Email Marketing and SEO: A Quick Review

Email Marketing involves sending content via email to a list of subscribers, such as weekly newsletters, promotional messages, or even a happy birthday message. This is a cost-effective and flexible way to communicate with your audience.

The most important email marketing metrics include clickthrough rate (CTR), email open rate, and conversions/leads.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the way you can make your website appear in organic search results. It’s a quick way to find out how to replace the batteries in your smoke detector if it begins its annoying pinging.

The key building blocks of a successful SEO campaign are keyword research and creating helpful, high-quality content. You should also ensure that your website can be crawled. Sales, leads, and conversions are the most important metrics that web analysts track.

Email Marketing vs. SEO: What do marketers say?

The 2024 Report on Marketing Strategy & Trends revealed that email marketing was the most popular channel for marketers, followed by websites/blogs/SEO (32%).

Email marketing is more popular than SEO, but SEO has the highest return on investment.

The marketers also don’t seem to be letting go of either channel. We asked marketers to choose the media in which they will invest most in 2024. Website/blog/SEO was ranked second, followed by email marketing.

In order to dig a little deeper, 48% say that they will increase their investment in SEO over the next year. And a majority (49%) plan to continue investing in email marketing in 2024.

The increasing investment in SEO is due to Google’s adding “experience” to its existing E-A.T. framework (expertise, authority, and trust) and the upcoming search generative experience. In response to these changes, SEOs will likely invest in new strategies to make sure they are putting their best foot forward in order to rank on SERPs.

Email Marketing vs. SEO – A Comparison Against Marketing Goals

In the report mentioned above, we asked marketers what their goals are for 2024.

Priority is given to increasing sales and revenue, then improving customer service, raising brand awareness, and reaching new audiences. The goal of marketers is to drive traffic and increase engagement on 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 the top destinations marketers have.

SEO wins in increasing revenue/sales.

Return on investment (ROI) directly relates to marketers’ top goal for 2024: increasing revenue/sales. Since marketers say SEO has the highest ROI of any channel they leverage, I’m handing this win to SEO.

Email marketing wins for improving the customer experience.

Improving the customer experience is the top-two goal for marketers in 2024. A pillar of any excellent customer experience is personalization, and email offers excellent personalization opportunities, so I’m declaring it the winner for this goal.

Yes, you’ll optimize your website to align with 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, [your name here]!” banner just for you, right? If you have, I’m impressed, but you probably get those personalized messages from your favorite brands over email.

Pro Tip: Use HubSpot’s Email Marketing Tool 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.

SEO wins for increasing brand awareness and reaching new audiences.

SEO takes the cake in increasing brand awareness and reaching new audiences. Nearly 1 in 4 websites have an average SEO clickthrough rate between 10-19%, and direct traffic and organic search are the top traffic drivers to their website.

Your reach with the channel is significantly higher because anyone searching the internet using keywords related to your business or offers has the potential to discover you, which equals reaching new audiences.

Your emails are only sent to people who already know about your business and have chosen to receive them. While you certainly can reach new people if you purchase email lists, I can never recommend this practice over prioritizing SEO to reach new audiences.

Email marketing wins for increasing engagement.

I have to hand increasing engagement to email marketing. While you will undoubtedly drive traffic with SEO, there is no guarantee that all your visitors are qualified and ready to take their attention to your business a step further.

Your email recipients are qualified leads who have opted in to receive your emails because they’re genuinely interested in what you offer. This genuine interest leads them to be more interested in your offers, which can inspire 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 of one over the other, and I’m sorry to say that I can’t.

Focusing on one over the other should depend on your marketing objectives. If you want to increase brand awareness, dedicate more effort to SEO. To build personal customer relationships, spend more time on email marketing.

What I can definitively say is that the best marketing strategies have an omnichannel approach.

For example, I would recommend that a local business prioritizes email marketing when it comes to letting locals know about upcoming events, sales, or any business changes. I’d also tell that same business that they can’t forget about local SEO because an optimized Google My Business profile is the best way to get out in front of local searchers who haven’t discovered you yet.

If you’re struggling to decide, consider this: If you don’t want to take a combined approach, weigh your specific goals against the areas where email marketing and SEO shine and choose the one best suited to help you meet your objectives.

If you want to take a combined approach, weigh your specific goals against the areas where email marketing and SEO shine, and choose which one is your primary area of focus and which one will be there to support the other.

Whatever you decide, both channels are tried and tested, and they are true media that will help you drive the growth you’re looking for.

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