Lee Odden

Integrated Marketing: What Does It Really Mean?

integrated marketingWe’ve always considered our online marketing agency “search plus” and by that I mean search is central and important, but accomplishing client marketing objectives requires a broader view than just optimizing web pages and digital assets. Of course if you follow us here or you’ve read Optimize, you know that.

As social and search technologies evolve along with changes in consumer behaviors, there’s a trend towards a convergence of disciplines. Mature, data driven digital marketers see where search fits in the scheme of things but many brand marketers and traditional search agencies are still a bit lost. I’ve seen brands view SEO solely as an afterthought and SEO agencies think search is the only way to market online.  These polarized perspectives are often driven more by self interest or limits in capabilities than knowing what will make the most impact for a business.

With digital and integrated marketing, more attention is being paid to the buyer journey and the multiple channels where paid, owned, earned and shared media can attract, engage and convert new business. The convergence and integration of marketing tactics as a strategy brings many competitive advantages but also complexities.  Discounting search optimization outright wastes tremendous opportunity. Overemphasizing search misses the forest for the trees.

SES (the conference) has realized this trend and is offering a keynote panel session at SES Chicago this week (Thurs 11/15 at 9:30am), called: “Integrated Marketing” What Does That Really Mean?, to bring some meaning to the madness. Here’s the official session description:

As the debate on what to call SEO continues, and much is made of the terms “content marketing” and “inbound marketing,” many in the industry cite integrated marketing as the answer. But what exactly does this mean? This leading panel of experts will discuss the meaning of the term and the merits of a fully fledged integrated marketing strategy. From case studies of high-profile brands, you’ll learn how to plan, create, execute, and measure cross-channel tactics for advanced digital marketing initiatives.

The panel will be moderated by my fellow SES Advisory Board member and Author, Anne Kennedy with panelists that include Giovanni Rodriguez, Co-Founder and CEO of SocialxDesign and Todd Friesen, the SEO Director at Salesforce. Although, Todd will always be “Oilman” to me.

On this topic there are many considerations but two in particular come to mind:

The Customer Journey drives integrated tactics. i.e. Be where the customer is (and those who influence her) during the sales and customer lifecycle. Data informed customer segmentation calls for tactics to be integrated for efficiency, effectiveness and competitive advantage.

A simple example might be the knowledge that prospects often post certain “buying signal” questions to certain forums, then mining those opportunities for pre-sales engagement. By understanding those information pain points, the brand moves to create the right mix of relevant media, ads, email, and content that is optimized for the inevitable search queries that will be used to validate recommendations made WOM or on social networks/forums as the prospect moves from consideration to purchase.

It’s a simple concept really: Generic SEO anticipates demand through keyword research, why not evolve that process and anticipate search demand by better knowing the customer journey? Integrated implementation of this holistic view of online marketing is a central theme to my book, Optimize.

Many organizations pay lip service to the notion of integrating marketing but are not structured to execute. Investments in content marketing for example are on the rise, but companies are too often reluctant to invest in anything outside of traditional digital advertising to drive traffic to that content.

An integrated approach that involves building social and search optimization into the content creation and promotion process would extend reach and provide a greater level of continuity with consumer experience across discovery channels like search engines and social networks. The same integrated effort can be extended to Online PR, email marketing, and other marketing communications.

Growing demand for integration means a growing demand for marketers with high levels of skill. As Google’s Avinash Kaushik (opening keynote speaker at SES Chicago) has said, “You can no longer be good at just one thing, or two. It is a 10-thing world now (and maybe a 20-thing world soon).” One of the key questions is, where does that talent come from? In-house? Agency? Both?

When it comes to search marketers answering the question about what “integrated marketing” means, I think optimizing customer experience across channels along with optimizing digital marketing effectiveness for brand marketers is a big part of the answer. We’ll find out what the panel and the audience thinks about that later this week in Chicago. I hope to see you there.

What is your definition of integrated marketing? If you’re heavily invested in search as an online marketing approach, how have you evolved your search marketing initiatives to be more integrated with other channels?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Brilliant. As a marcom professional with 10-plus years of experience, I see the world as a 10-plus-thing now. There may be a lot of tools that include free platforms, but finding the brains to deliver the results, managing the tech and talent is challenging. It’s like having a car with no one to drive, no map, no plan. Sure, you can get to wherever you need to go, but you need people with a plan and knowhow to get you there.

    Optimize. Integrate. Communication. <– They are all great themes to aspire and you can't get anywhere in a 10 year world without these traits. Right on.

  2. Some good ideas here, Lee. Integrated marketing is simply being in as many channels as possible, from search to email marketing. Different strategies and mediums for different customer personas. Search advertising for the people who know exactly what they are looking for (people closer to the buying phase). Free content through emails to the people who do not trust your brand yet. And social to build relationships with the influencers who can spread your brand.