Targeted Marketing vs Spam Marketing

Almost any marketing method can deliver good or bad messages, be tied to good or bad causes, or be of value or negative value. I think whether marketing is targeted and effective is much more important than the delivery method. SEO gets a bum rap for a variety of reasons, but one thing about good SEO is that it is targeted. Most marketing is not.

SEOs Are Scum:

A person who sold text links for scuba blackjack is considered credible when calling most SEOs scum? By who? And why?


I pay my credit card bill and get ads for stamps, soccer, and health insurance. And the envelope contains coupons which, if redeemed, enroll me in worthless programs that cost 10x the value of the coupon. Banks the size of Chase have to do stuff like that to be profitable?

Ad Networks:

Now ad networks are writing things on people's foreheads to get buzz and attention. If the only way you can get people to talk about you is to create controversy or do stupid things that associate you with BumFights is there any satisfaction in that model? And then on the back of that you have your PR firm emailing an owner of a competing network, alerting them to the latest inside scoops and strategy? And then send that same person email spam pitching the SEO value of your wares without my name in it and the email titled "strategic partnership". Where is the relevancy?


In spite of already writing the most popular guide I get emails inviting me to see what is all about. Why?

Search Engines:

Google is now pushing selling off topic branded advertising and continue to sell ads on sites they banned for spamming. Google sells AdWords ads for software that they specifically say not to use in their webmaster guidelines. Why?

Yahoo! is so desperate that they are reduced to marketing via phone spam. They call that innovation?

The Truth:

But everyone is fighting to say they have the best ad targeting, while the goal of many quality updates is to drive up ad costs, even if that precludes quality or relevant ads. But in some cases targeting is what will make the ad network more efficient. Let me run through an example...

Imagine that you use Google Checkout and one of your customers bought your product and uses Gmail. Now imagine I am a competitor who bids on your brand. Do you think Google may show my ad in your customer's email? Why wouldn't they?

But most people can't serve ads with the precision Google can. And at some point, even if you are targeted, you still have to do some amount of push marketing to get seen. Look how much push marketing and public relations work Google still does even after they are worth over $100 billion. You don't get to be a market maker without first being a market manipulator.

Be a Relevant & Profitable Marketer:

I think whether marketing is targeted and effective is much more important than the delivery method. If you are lacking on scale or budget you can always make up for it using creativity and targeting. Here are a few targeting methods I find exceptionally effective:

  • Frequently sharing my thoughts.

  • Asking for feedback.
  • Answering emails.
  • Participating in forums.
  • Bidding on new buzzwords before others.
  • Linking to a site I want to be seen on. (Bonus points if I write a bunch specifically about them).
  • Legitimate blog comments.
  • Interviews.
  • Reviewing other well known products in the vertical.
  • Going to conferences.
  • Syndicating articles to well read sites.
  • Buying site targeted AdSense ads.
  • I have tried buying ReviewMe ads on sites that decided they did not want to accept money to review my stuff, but decided to review it anyway. When they reviewed it I left a comment on their blog. Another well known blogger then linked to me based on that comment.
  • Personalized emails.

Marketing doesn't have to be expensive if it is targeted, especially if what you are marketing is of real value and you are good at conveying the value.

Published: February 10, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


February 10, 2007 - 11:45pm

I've always wondered why so many fail to see the value of targeted marketing. One well targeted visitor to your site is worth far more than hundreds who have no interest in what you are offering.

February 11, 2007 - 2:33am

Good marketing is all about letting believe the lies they want or more accurately they need to believe in. It's all about playing to their world view and telling a story. Marketing is usually about everything except the truth.

Bottled water is the best example of this. The product is identical among all the competitors. The truth is that many of the bottled water companies are actually selling you city tap water rebottled. What differentiates the various names and brands is what lies or stories their bottles tell. In this industry it's all about brand and marketing or what lies the buyer WANTS and NEEDS to believe to reinforce their viewpoint. People want to feel "spoiled" and that their doing something "healthy" or treating themselves to the fine cool "Fuji" bottled water. Take away the marketing and it's probably bottled at some dirty plant in Texas.

SEO is no difference. Jason needs to believe SEO is bullshit to justify his philosophy and pre-existing notions about marketing. No matter how much "legitimate" SEO you show him he'll probably still hold strong to that belief. Just like other people in the search engine marketing industry like Danny Sullivan (not picking on him - I read search engine land a lot) need to believe that SEO is rocket science and harder then it actually is.

The truth is in the middle, comparing SEO to rocket science seems pointless to me. Saying it's simple and full of snake oil salesman is also pointless. All that bull shit is marketing. It's playing up to viewpoints they already have and telling a story. Has absolutely nothing to do with truth.

A lot more then just targeting goes into what normal people would call legitimate marketing, but the truth is marketing is usually considered legitimate if it doesn't break any laws and it works. Like it or not almost all Internet marketing involves some sort of spammyness or less then perfect targeted marketing (loved the credit card examples). This includes Jason and even probably from SEObook. It's a competition people and marketing works.

PS - I'm not supported of spam marketing or of telling false stories to your clients; I'm just making a point and illustrating a reality.

February 11, 2007 - 3:31pm

"One thing about good SEO is that it is targeted. Most marketing is not."

Unfortunately though most SEO isn't targeted either though. At lease not nearly as much as it could be. In my opinion it's because of this that SEO is likely to become an in-house function in many organizations in the near future.

February 12, 2007 - 12:19am

I would agree that most SEO is not targeted. That is one of the big differences between professional grade and low quality SEO services.

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