Product-Led SEO vs Marketing-Led SEO
Deciding what skillset to look for in your new SEO hire
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Q: I know I need to hire an SEO, but what can I expect an SEO person to do for my company?
Hiring for an SEO role can be tricky, not just because many don’t fully understand SEO or how it works but also because SEO hires come in many shapes and sizes with varying skills and experiences.
Today my aim is to do a deep dive into two of the more common types of SEO skillsets that exist in the wild to provide better clarification for employers trying to figure out what an SEO can do for their company.
Product-Led SEO vs Marketing-Led SEO
The two types of SEO I’ll be focusing on are Product-Led SEO (sometimes called PLS or Aggregator SEO) and Marketing-Led SEO (MLS or Integrator SEO). I’ll be using these terms interchangeably throughout this post.
Where do these terms come from?
I first saw the term Product-Led SEO in a book of the same name written by Eli Schwartz, but Kevin Indig is another popular user of this term. Kevin Indig and Ben Thompson both use the term Aggregator in relation to similar ideas. Ben wrote a really interesting article on Aggregation Theory, which I highly recommend, and Kevin cites Ben as one of his sources for coining the term Aggregator SEO.
Marketing-Led SEO is not as common a term (yet), and the only person I’ve seen using Integrator SEO is Kevin Indig, but I hope to help popularize these terms because I think they’re extremely accurate and descriptive.
What is Product-Led SEO?
Product-Led SEO, sometimes called Aggregator SEO, Technical SEO, or Programmatic SEO, collects and displays information in one central location. The point of PLS is to aggregate content, prioritize the user experience, and drive engagement with the content. Product-Led SEO often treats the website as the primary product.
Product-Led SEO is focused on consolidating supply and demand in one central location, which is why a focus on user experience is so important.
PLS also focuses on network effects and growth loops to improve user experience. PLS also prefers to use user-generated content (UGC) to grow and improve its product.
YouTube is a perfect example of Product-Led SEO in practice.
Millions of searches happen on YouTube every day. This allows YouTube to centralize the aggregated content (supply) in one place and offer multiple results to your searches (demand), all while focusing on improving the customer experience on their website. The more people that watch videos, the more advertisers are interested in paying to show ads. The more money that enters the ecosystem, the more creators join the platform. This loop has been central to YouTube’s success.
Features of a Product-Led SEO/Aggregator SEO strategy
Multiple companies have integrated these Aggregator SEO strategies deep into their products. Here are some examples:
Aggregating data found on the internet
Google, Zillow, Airbnb
Strong network effects
Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat
Emphasis on extraordinary user experience
Like every halfway decent tech company, Netflix, Spotify
Focus on loops where the experience gets better with more users
Amazon, Uber, SurveyMonkey
Leverages User Generated Content
G2, YouTube, Substack
What is Marketing-Led SEO?
Marketing-Led SEO, or Integrator SEO, is sometimes described as Content-Led SEO or Editorial SEO.
Marketing-Led SEO is characterized as having a strong product and using content to own the experience that surrounds the product by establishing a direct relationship with users.
Most Marketing-Led SEO strategies include writing blogs, conducting keyword research, and studying user journeys and intents, all to capture user interest and build a relationship between a product and a user.
Effective Marketing-Led SEO can happen before someone becomes a product user, during the sales or adoption cycle, and even after a sale is closed to help educate, retain and encourage product usage.
Companies focusing on Marketing-Led SEO need strong content to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
When companies focus on Marketing-Led SEO, their content is the SEO product, as opposed to Product-Led SEO, where the website is the SEO product.
In a Marketing-Led SEO strategy, the website is generally the marketing property and requires a focus on the audience, content creation, and distribution.
Hubspot is an excellent example of a Marketing-Led SEO champion. They produce incredible content in the form of blogs, videos, templates, calculators, tools, and more. They create all this content available for free to users with the hope that the content helps establish Hubspot as an authority, and when a reader needs a service that Hubspot offers, their first choice of vendor is Hubspot.
Features of a Marketing-Led SEO/ Integrator SEO strategy
Focus on audience, content creation, and potential tool/calculator creation
Focus on website page creation which could be landing pages, blogs, or hubs
Emphasis on creating unique content or search-optimized content
So how do you hire?
I’m not here to say which strategy or skillset is more effective, but I do think certain strategies are more effective for certain companies and products, and that should certainly guide your hiring hand.
If you are building a product with network effects, user-generated content, and aggregated data, consider hiring someone with Product-Led SEO experience.
If you want someone to direct content efforts, better understand your users, and develop a stronger relationship between company and consumer, look for a Marketing-Led SEO hire.
This isn’t to say that a Marketing-Led SEO person can’t do Product-Led SEO or employ those strategies.
In fact, I plan to turn this into a longer series that explores Product-Led SEO strategies and companies who are nailing that as well as companies rocking Marketing-Led SEO strategies and opportunities for crossover between the two.
I’m also planning to write about how to decide where should the SEO role sit in your organization to help those hiring for SEO understand how to make that role as effective as possible, so keep an eye out for those posts coming soon!