Is Paid Search Inbound or Outbound?Is Paid Search Inbound or Outbound?

If you’re plugged into the digital marketing world today like I am, you’ve probably heard two common terms: inbound and outbound marketing.

While I believe both are effective strategies for bringing in new leads to your business, the two tactics differ both in method and effect — and many of the most common marketing strategies today fall into either one genre of marketing or the other.

The Basics of Outbound Marketing vs. Inbound Marketing

At their very core, outbound and inbound marketing are inherently different. Outbound marketing is the type of marketing most people probably recognize from growing up. It is an interruptive marketing tactic, which means that marketing content is delivered without a viewer’s permission when they are doing something else (hence, the “interruption”). Popular types of outbound marketing include billboards, TV ads, radio spots and more.

In contrast, inbound marketing is a permission-based marketing tactic. Essentially, inbound marketing involves companies sharing valuable, relevant information with the world in order to convince potential customers that their company is knowledgeable and trustworthy and, ultimately worth buying from. Inbound marketing is permission-based because consumers have to seek it out in order to find it, and thus, have given their permission for consumption. There are many types of inbound marketing efforts, including blogs, e-mail newsletters and more.

The Benefits of Inbound vs. Outbound Marketing

Both inbound marketing and outbound marketing have their strengths, and each can have a place in a marketing strategy. However, when looking at inbound vs. outbound marketing, it’s clear that inbound marketing has several benefits that make it a wiser marketing choice in today’s digital age.

Geared toward cultural preference for on-demand consumption: We live in an on-demand world. Consumers watch TV online and order delivery meals from restaurants. Because of this shift to on-demand media consumption, inbound marketing has become a more appealing marketing tactic than outbound. The first company to focus on inbound marketing, HubSpot, noticed the fact that outbound marketing tactics (like direct mailings and television ads) were turning people off. They, thus, shifted their focus to a new ideology, which they dubbed “inbound marketing.” This ideology recognized the pervasive cultural behavioral changes and figured out how to take advantage of them as marketing opportunities.

More affordable: Inbound marketing is a more affordable marketing strategy than outbound marketing. And, not only is inbound marketing an affordable option, it also pays off: a study by Demand Metric showed that inbound marketing generates three times more leads than outbound marketing while costing 62 percent less.

More Visible: A drawback of outbound marketing efforts is that they are often blocked by ad-blockers, even on mobile devices. In fact, mobile ad-blocking has grown by 90 percent year after year. Inbound efforts are a way to get a company out in front of consumer’s eyes without worrying that technology will remove them.

More valuable: Inbound marketing efforts aren’t just promotional. They add value to the world in terms of content and knowledge.

Is PPC Advertising Inbound or Outbound?

One type of advertising that is hard to categorize is Pay-Per-Click advertising or PPC. With PPC, advertisers must pay a fee each time their ad is clicked. Since the invention of PPC, marketing experts have debated whether the strategy was inbound or outbound.

In 2010, the leading inbound gurus at HubSpot deemed PPC campaigns as an outbound tactic, and declared them “wasteful.” They explained, “Outdated marketing methods [rely] basically on advertising methods like pay-per-click (PPC) and banner ads,” and they result in an over-saturated web.

However, by 2015, HubSpot leaders had changed their mind, and they began advocating PPC in conjunction with other marketing strategies in order to generate leads at a lower cost. They hinted that they now believed PPC could be seen as an inbound tactic, explaining, “Paid ad campaigns present an effective marketing channel when used strategically and in sync with other initiatives. Also, in his HubSpot Inbound 2016 keynote speech (which I heard myself!), company founder and CEO Brian Halligan insisted that taking advantage of AdWords was an important tactic in order to amplify your content.

Why did HubSpot shift their position so drastically? With the way that Google and search algorithms work today, it has become essential to use PPC ads alongside your valuable inbound efforts. PPC advertising doesn’t only promote your business, it also fits the criteria of what inbound marketing should be:

Shown to the right consumers at the right time, presenting a direct solution to a query that’s been posed and helping move the searcher further into the buyer’s journey.

Because PPC ads have become relevant and helpful to users, it’s clear they are now an inbound tactic.

How to Use PPC Ads to an Inbound Effect

So, I may have convinced you that PPC fits the requirements of an inbound strategy. But, how can you use them to an inbound effect?

  • Answer People’s Questions

When people search for something on the Internet, they’re looking for an answer. Set up your ads so they answer a simple question or two and so that they target the people that will actually find them relevant. Don’t overcomplicate your ads with information that doesn’t actually answer what consumers are asking.

  • Move Customers Down the Sales Funnel

Every buyer has a journey through the sales funnel, and inbound efforts should help move customers from being top of funnel customers to middle of funnel (and through until they buy). Your ads should be the first step in moving consumers through the funnel: that ad should encourage someone to access an inbound effort (a blog, eBook, etc.) and take that first step in their journey.

  • Target Customers

You can use the information you’ve already collected about leads to target them with PPC on multiple platforms. By showing people who have already expressed an interest in your business relevant information, you can personalize their experience and ensure you’re adding value to the content they view online.

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