Digital marketing involves a lot of things besides just getting a website seen. It also has to do with a visitor's experience from the moment they first see an ad or article to the time they visit your site to the times they're exposed to follow-up e-mails to the time they finally make a first purchase ... and beyond. So don't get me wrong when I simplify digital marketing for this article, but I felt this relationship between digital marketing and human health was an interesting one to share.
Two primary elements of getting people to a website include SEO and PPC. SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization, an involved process that's designed to get a website better exposure in search engine results. PPC refers to "Pay Per Click," one of the more popular forms of paid advertising where you only pay when someone clicks on your ad and visits your website.
Of course the human way seems to be finding the easiest and fastest way to do something, so people have tried automating SEO as well as paying pennies on the dollar for people overseas to do the work. Have you ever run across articles that seem all but worthless and have an obviously poor grasp on English? If so, you've probably run across some of that hired work ... which no longer provides meaningful results because the search engines continue to refine themselves to look for quality over quantity. (And frankly, to the human stumbling across the articles, I expect they tend to diminish trust in the associated company as well.)
In my mind, these two approaches are very much like natural and medicinal approaches to wellness. Getting or staying healthy through natural methods -- like good nutrition, supplements as needed, quality sleep, stress management, etc. -- involves a kind of commitment that many people, from my experience, won't make. It means paying attention to how your body responds to different foods, the way SEO must pay attention to how visitors respond to content. It means choosing quality food, even if that's at the expense of quantity (though you still need enough), just as SEO is better off producing better content even if that limits how much is produced. And it is ongoing. It is a part of life rather than something you take once a day so you can ignore symptoms, much the way SEO is an ongoing effort.
Medicinal health, however, is built on the idea that we don't want to deal with negative symptoms and that, by paying a few bucks for medicine, we can swallow something and ignore the problem. Kind of like paying to turn on ads for your website so you can ignore the fact that you're not doing anything healthy for it (producing great content) and, as a result, it's giving you poor results (no natural traffic -- funny that we call non-paid traffic "natural" or "organic").
While natural and medicinal health often butt heads (resisting ... urge ... to make joke ... about both sides ...) with each convinced that the other is killing people, digital marketing might actually teach us an important lesson about caring for our health.
You see, someone in digital marketing might know more about SEO than PPC or vice versa. They might prefer one over the other. But I'll wager that almost any professional digital marketer knows how important both sides are when used properly and when used to complement one another.
For instance, sometimes before investing in the long-term effort of SEO for a particular website, someone might used paid ads for immediate results in order to test whether the site -- with traffic -- will lead to sales. If it's actually built around something people don't need or want, or the messaging is off, it's better to know that early on rather than spending a ton of time (which also = money) to drive natural traffic through SEO.
Similarly, we sometimes don't have time to achieve a desired health result to wait for good old nutrition to kick in. Using blood coagulants or setting a bone after injury are both good examples of Western medicine kicking butt over nutritional supplements.
But giving time / energy to SEO (even if hiring quality help to do so) means caring about the health of the actual site -- about the content people will relate with and hopefully share with others. Rather than bandaging, your attempting to thrive. And doing this should, in most cases, actually improve the results of PPC -- for instance, a higher quality landing page potentially means a lower cost per click on your paid ads and potentially converts more traffic, both of which drive UP your return on ad spend.
I mean, we all see the commercials. We know that pharmaceutical drugs come with long lists of possible side effects, which often include depression and death. This is true whether or not a doctor prescribes them but, I'll wager, the odds for bad results increase dramatically if you're self-diagnosing and popping whatever pills you want. In a similar way, the cost of paid ads can be dangerous to a business even in good hands, but the cost of paid ads in the wrong hands can almost certainly spell disaster.
Yet, despite the possible downside of drugs or PPC, they can also be essential to our goals for health or running a business online.
Another similarity relates to something you might have seen often on nutritional products: they don't diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. They have to say this because of legal matters surrounding medicine, but it also makes sense: they aren't targeting symptoms, which are how diseases are defined. Instead, they're trying to provide all the nutrients needed for the body to operate correctly and, in doing so, hope to eliminate one or many or all diseases in the body. But nothing specific is targeted. Meanwhile, a drug isn't trying to provide holistic wellness of the body -- it is trying to target very specific symptoms in order to eliminate them through precise methods.
All this said, when it comes to health, I'm a big fan of thriving naturally and medicating only when necessary. In digital marketing (although I still think this requires testing on a case-by-case basis), I find that you can be thriving in SEO (getting a #1 search result, for instance), but STILL increase sales for that keyword by running paid ads that people might click on instead of your non-paid result. This is a topic for another day, but I think it's an exception to the overall health analogy. In health, I doubt that you're ever going to get healthier if you're thriving naturally and then decide to add medicine to "enhance" your wellness. Far as I can tell, it definitely doesn't work that way.
But at the end of the day, I think this digital marketing analogy is useful overall to remind us that there's probably a time and a place for both natural wellness and medicinal approaches to health. While the two tend to compete for space, as if fighting over the same purpose in society, I believe they are different approaches to a common end goal, much as SEO and PPC are. And as different approaches, they have the potential to work beautifully together ... if only they will. I guess that'll boil down to people's ability to stay open minded and look at the whole picture ... and to our ability to overcome the powerful messaging of the financially and politically strong pharmaceutical side of the equation.
If we can, maybe digital marketing will prove a pretty good model for human health.