Inbound Marketing: Is PPC Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

Inbound Marketing

Is PPC Inbound or Outbound Marketing?

By Gary Wright January 28, 2019 • 6 minutes to read

As much as we like to think of Inbound Marketing as marketing initiatives that attract prospects toward your brand without interrupting, more than that, Inbound Marketing is about being somewhere with the answer when someone is looking for it.

So by that definition, Google's Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising can fit under an Inbound Marketing umbrella. But in truth, it depends on how you use it... 

Opinions on PPC as Inbound or Outbound Marketing

Some known Inbound marketers such as Tadeusz Szewczyk (Tad Chef on Twitter) reckon Inbound Marketing should by definition exclude paid media, thus PPC.

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We see his point, that for the most part, inbound marketing excludes paid media like PPC and revolves around free distribution/sharing of attractive content.

It’s important to note here that using PPC is kind of like paying to skip the 'SEO queue'. The SEO queue or URL ranking is not so much about who got there first, but rather about how relevant and distinguished Google thinks the websites and content pages are. So even though PPC ads can be cleverly-targeted, in reality, it’s quite likely that the SEO results are more relevant than the ads Google shows. So in that case, and in agreement with Tad Chef, PPC could be regarded as interruptive...

On the other side of the fence, sit the likes on Stuart McHenry and Ed Fry…


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We like Stuart McHenry’s analysis of the debate and agree with Fry on that PPC could be excluded from being inbound because it’s paid media, but should be included because it’s contextual.

Phew. This is a weird one right?

Bear with us though, there are more insights here...

what is inbound

What do We Think About PPC being considered Inbound Marketing?

Essentially, we believe that PPC can be considered Inbound or Outbound Marketing depending on its execution. So if well-targeted PPC advertising forms a part of a content-driven inbound strategy, then to us, it may be considered 'inbound'.

So let’s explore the differences between how PPC fits under either an Inbound or an outbound marketing strategy...

Paid Search (PPC) as Outbound Marketing

We’ve all come across an ad for a product listed above the search results when all we were trying to do was do some research whether or not finger-skateboarding is a recognised sport in any countries. Those finger-board product ads that popped up were interruptive in light of what was being searched for. "What if I already have 34 finger boards and just wanted to know was how far I could go with it?"

Jokes aside, even if you do come across PPC ads that weren’t exactly what you were looking for (meaning that they’re more ‘outbound’ than ‘inbound’) it doesn’t necessarily mean that the advertising brand is wasting its money or that we wouldn’t recommend the initiative. The fact is, PPC is contextual and has effective algorithms behind it to ensure people come back to Google over and over again.

That being said, we all know how often we glance over at the ads, knowing that the organic SEO ranked results are most likely more qualified or relevant than the brands that had to pay to get our attention.

"So on the one hand, we shouldn’t be averse to PPC ads because those brands believe in their solution enough to pay for your click. And on the other hand, we should take PPC ads with a pinch of salt because the top-ranking SEO results went through far more of Google’s qualification/relevance scoring."

Paid Search (PPC) as Inbound Marketing

Used most effectively, PPC can fortify Inbound Marketing strategies in the short-term. If the targeting is done intelligently, PPC can help ensure your brand is found and amplify relevant content to people looking for something like it.

“PPC offers great short-term boosts to new initiatives but bear in mind that in the longer term, investing in an Inbound Strategy, which naturally comes with incredible SEO benefits, will offer far superior value-for-money.”

As an example: using Google Analytics, we know that people are searching for social media trends 2019, and in order to capitalise on this, we place a Google ad targeted towards marketing and social media managers in our area of operation. This helps our landing page get more traffic, supplementing the syndication of our website blogs.

In that situation, the PPC ad is completely contextual and shown only when the targeted audience is looking for it. Thus, could be considered inbound marketing. And sure, it’s not as, ‘inbound’ as creating a video series about how to adapt to social media trends, then using those videos to drive traffic to the landing page hosting a downloadable eBook, but hey, it’s still helpful and contextual.

Inbound PPC conclusion

After all is said and done, Google’s algorithms are so powerfully detailed nowadays and can detect your intent so accurately that it’s making more interruptive, ‘outboundy’ PPC ads less and less likely.

So don’t be averse to PPC advertising, but know that there are far more sustainable and effective strategies to generate traffic and gain leads or new business.

For more information, download our Beginners Guide to Inbound

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