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Growth Hacking vs SEO: What is the Difference?

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A Growth Hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scruti‐
nized by its potential impact on scalable growth.

-Sean Ellis, Growth Hacking Godfather

Growth Hacking

Usually measured in units such as traffic, conversions new user signups and revenue, actions of new users (liking or commenting, giving an email address. All tangible countable actions you can count.

SEO

The big bad acronym in digital marketing. Those who do it can’t figure out how to convince those who need them and those who need it can’t seem to figure out how to hire someone who actually knows SEO. In a nutshell, it’s doing whatever one can to increase organic traffic from search engines. But SEOs are also using paid traffic, email marketing, and social media to generate more organic traffic.

Growth Hacking vs SEO

Growth hackers tend to start off as developers while it’s rare that an SEO has a purely technical background. They are more than likely to be a project manager, a systems engineer or a writer. They are slightly less results-oriented and more revenue-driven. One of the first questions a good SEO would ask a prospective client is the current relationship between cost and client acquisition. SEO has been proven time and again to be the most cost-effective way to drive traffic to a site.

Markus Spiske Pwpvgq A5qi Unsplash
@markusspiske

Quantifying Results vs Gut Instinct

When approaching digital marketing as a growth hacker,  you spend your time quantifying results. On the other hand, it is very possible to be an effective digital marketer by assessing the situation of a given topic. The current Covid 19 virus is a good example. Nobody knew 3 months ago that this would become a hysterical topic globally and thus there would be no data to support developing content, building links and mentioning it in your paid ad strategy. But if your instinct said to take a chance on it, you’d more than likely be experiencing a swoon of traffic to your site now.

 

What is the difference?

To sum up, the difference is the mindset. when you are quantifying results, you let the data guide you down your digital marketing path. With SEO, you are more like a doctor than an engineer. The systems you have in place to develop content or build links are more about the relationship you have to a specific topic or the owners of supporting websites.

Building links, getting articles published and editing the layout of your site to appease user intent are more subtle than simply crunching numbers and getting users to “sign up” or vote with their time. The two mindsets can be complementary but if they are not clear what each provides to your digital marketing campaign, it can dilute your effectiveness. The best approach is a blended one. If you don’t know a topic well, check the data. Are there enough searches for a given topic? Does the niche seem to be growing? The tools available these days are staggering but at the end of the day, you really need to have a good grasp of what readers are looking for. This is clearly a talent that not all SEOs or growth hackers have.

Interested to know more about this topic? Check out a slightly dated book that deals with the topic in more depth. Any book published on digital marketing is going to be out of date the minute it’s published. But this one has some really interesting evergreen concepts.

The Art of SEO

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