Not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far away SEO (Search Engine Optimization) worked like a charm. Way back in the early 2000s search engines included submission forms to input keyword information. An eager little bot would crawl and include these words in its index. After this meta tags were crucial to the SEO process (until this too eventually went under due to over-spamming). The point is that while SEO used to yield direct results when it came to search rankings, the game has drastically changed.

Lead generation is the holy grail of marketing. More specifically, marketers want to use their ads or content to generate relevant leads — or prospects who are genuinely interested in the product or service being advertised. Before (and even today) SEO was seen as a tool to generate leads.

However, here’s the rub — unlike generating “clicks,” lead generation requires more advanced targeting and segmentation. Segmentation involves dividing a broad target market into consumer subsets with common needs, and then designing and implementing specific marketing strategies to match those needs.

In order to find the leads that count, data has to be filtered to achieve maximum relevance — for example through setting geo-location or behavior parameters. Targeted ads can be structured to specifically capture only the most promising leads. For example a text or banner ad has the ability to reach a relevant prospect, take him or her to a landing page, and then employ a lead capturing mechanism (such as a form).When it comes to online marketing, SEO is too broad to reach this degree of specificity.

If you’re an online marketer you’re likely familiar with the frustrating “not provided” keywords that show up in Google Analytics. Google encrypts organic keyword data for privacy and security reasons. This change in SEO has motivated many marketers to focus more on targeted marketing campaigns, such as the text ads that make up a PPC (Pay Per Click) campaign. (In the PPC model, advertisers pay the publisher when an ad is clicked.)

Unlike SEO, which is a relatively slow process, targeted ads can often achieve a higher conversion rate in a shorter period of time. The ability to link a search ad to a landing page translates into more robust, trackable analytics for digital marketers.The other major benefit of targeted advertising is protection from SEOalgorithm updates. Paid traffic ensures site visitor, regardless of changes tothe SEO algorithm.

Ideally, marketers should look for some balance between targeted ads and SEO. SEO still has its place in online marketing — particularly when it comes to building brand identity and trust. Also, organic link-building is still one of the best ways to build on site traffic. However, it’s time for marketers and their clients to re-assess the value and process of SEO. Long gone are the days of immediate results when it comes to SEO.

Furthermore, SEO is simply not an efficient way to go about generating leads. Instead, SEO is more about the long-term game. Targeted ads are a faster, more informative and scalable approach to lead generation and conversion. The role of modern SEO then is not to stuff keywords in a mad rush to generate traffic, but rather to create engaging content that connects the audience to a product or service in a meaningful way.