It’s no secret that mileage varies when it comes to appealing to today’s consumers with advertising.
In fact, 77% of digital advertising experts say consumers’ declining trust in major social media platforms is the biggest challenge with digital advertising in 2023, according to a recent survey of marketing professionals from Integral Ad Science.
While there are still some creative ways to imbue ads trustworthiness, the reality is that the savviest brands are the ones not only experimenting with alternative ways to attract new customers — but approaching it in ways that benefit consumers first and foremost.
To that end, the most effective alternatives to traditional advertising right now are organic SEO and word of mouth marketing through online reviews because.
Unlike pay-to-play channels, these alternatives share a philosophy of democratizing accurate information for consumers. Regardless of what brands are up to, Google’s goal is to serve the most relevant results for the person typing into the search bar — and people like to leave reviews to help other shoppers have better experiences.
Because these alternative marketing channels share an organic quality that’s second nature and trustworthy to consumers, they’re a powerful combination for brands looking to attract new customers — without using their marketing budget to shout into a social media void.
Here’s how to cut through the noise with organic SEO and word of mouth marketing.
Organic SEO lets your target audience discover you naturally
It may or may not be surprising that Google processes an estimated 99,000 search queries every second — which makes 8.5 billion searches daily, and 2 trillion global searches each year.
Or that in the eyes of consumers, all search results are not created equal. According to recent research, organic search results have a significantly higher click-through rate (28.5% and 15.7% respectively for the first two results) compared to paid search, where the average click-through rate hovers around 2%.
Those figures present a real competitive advantage for brands prioritizing organic SEO above other channels — and we didn’t even mention yet that organic search drives 1000% more traffic than organic social media.
Be the search result they actually click
There’s a lot to gain from being the search result that consumers actually click. Google is typically the first place someone starts when they’re searching for a product or service, so the higher you are on the first page of search results, the more eyes you’re going to get on your site. That’s the first step towards more visibility and more sales for your brand.
In a perfect world, organic SEO is a way to market to your target audience — without them feeling like they’re being marketed to. If all goes to plan, your website and product pages will appear organically for shoppers intent on buying exactly what you offer from an unpaid result instead of a Google Ad.
Word-of-mouth marketing lets your happiest customers do the talking for you
Word-of-mouth marketing can refer to any information or messaging that’s publicly available about a brand — but that doesn’t come directly from the brand. In 2023, that tends to look like face-to-face conversations, influencer marketing, and customer reviews.
Just like with organic SEO, the effectiveness of word of mouth channels is pretty compelling. According to SEMrush, word of mouth is directly responsible for 90% of all purchases. And on the flip side of the coin, more than 25% of people will completely avoid a business that someone they know had a bad experience with.
But how do brands get customers to start talking about them — and keep a finger on the pulse of what they’re saying?
Reviews give customers a forum to sing your praises
Asking customers to leave reviews is one of easiest ways to spin up a word of mouth marketing strategy that you can quantify, monitor, and ultimately control — especially if you’re automating review invitations to go out every time someone makes a purchase.
Giving every customer the chance to post feedback gives you trustworthy user-generated content to highlight throughout your customer journey — and captures the whole gamut of how your customers feel. Giving customers an accurate representation of your brand through authentic reviews gives them way more reasons to trust you than polished advertising copy does.
The biggest benefit to collecting reviews is that they have a wide range of uses for your business beyond word of mouth marketing:
Showcasing them throughout your customer journey can significantly improve your conversion rates.
They contain powerful consumer insights that can help you improve your customer experience and increase your revenue.
And they’re a great way to build your online reputation.
The final benefit to mention is that, unlike organic SEO, you can see a positive impact from word of mouth marketing channels like customer reviews fairly quickly. And that positive impact can actually lift your organic SEO performance.
Word of mouth marketing and organic SEO work better together
Although these two strategies may seem pretty different on a technical level, we’ve established that they’re a powerful combination for marketers looking for alternatives to traditional advertising.
But what you may not know is that word of mouth marketing in the form of customer reviews can directly improve your SEO in a number of ways.
Islandsurf.com's product pages show up as rich snippet results in organic search
One of the biggest impacts reviews can have on your SEO is earning you rich snippet star ratings in the search results. Having your ratings visible on Google can do much more than just make your site look nice in SERPs — they can increase your organic traffic by 30% and increase your revenue from organic traffic by 677%.
Let trustworthiness strengthen all of your marketing
We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again. Organic SEO and word of mouth marketing are a force for good when it comes to building trust with consumers who may turn up their nose at traditional advertising.
Of course, advertising will always have a time and place — but for most brands, it’s worth experimenting with these two low-cost strategies instead of funneling all of your budget into an echo chamber.
After all, these strategies are low risk and high reward because they directly address your customers’ needs while serving yours. At the end of the day, helping Google show your brand to people who are actually looking for what you offer — and giving shoppers a forum to read and write about your customer experience — adds up to more conversions, and less budget spent.