Direct Mail vs Search Engine Optimization

by Kym Merrill

We often have business owners come to us who have been in business for a while and are looking to improve their marketing. The same tactics that they’ve been using for years and years just aren’t cutting it anymore. Usually, these clients are used to sending out direct mail and want to know if it would be worth it to switch their marketing dollars to digital marketing instead, generally search engine optimization (SEO). Here’s an analysis of SEO vs direct mail.

First, let’s make sure that we are all on the same page with definitions. Direct mail refers to sending out physical advertisements in the mail, often either to your past customers or to all homes in a certain area. For example, a postcard advertising a new dental practice in the area.

Search engine optimization, on the other hand, is a form of digital marketing that involves optimizing a website so that it shows up when people search for related terms on a search engine such as Google. For example, a website that shows up when you search Google for “dentist near me”.

Now that we have that clear, let’s dive into the comparison.


One of the advantages of direct mail marketing is that it can drive quick results. Often after sending out a mailer, especially one with a coupon, you get an influx of customers. However, the period in between sending out mailers can be slow.

On the other hand, SEO can take a little bit of time before you start seeing results. After all, it takes time to optimize a website and get good rankings. However, once those rankings are established, results are much more consistent. SEO is an investment that can pay off for the long term.

Reach and Qualified Leads

Direct mail works by reaching a large pool of customers and counting on the fact that some of them are in the market for your services or products. Many of your recipients won’t be in the market and will just throw out your mailer, wasting your money. However, you might just remind someone who wasn’t thinking about your business. For instance, dentists often send out mailers reminding clients when it’s time for another cleaning. Those clients probably weren’t thinking about the dentist but now are.

SEO, on the other hand, reaches customers who are currently in the research process. You might not reach as many people, but the people that you do reach are much more engaged and likely to need your services, given that they have searched for them. This can lead to more qualified leads. On the other hand, with SEO you do only reach customers who have sought out your services, meaning that you aren’t likely to remind customers the way you might with a mailer.


Many people throw away ads they receive in the mail, citing them as junk mail. Just think about how much mail you receive. Do you actually take the time to look through all of the ads? However, others are wary of the internet and are more likely to react well to physical mail. You have to take into account your audience.

SEO often has a bit more trust. Many people are hesitant about ads. When they search, many people scroll right past the paid ads into the organic results. And you guessed it, those organic results are the results of SEO. Since SEO isn’t direct advertising, many people trust the results more.

Tracking Results

If you are trying to track the results of your marketing efforts, it can be difficult to do that with mailers. Yes, you can offer a coupon and then track how many people redeem that coupon. However, that isn’t foolproof, since people might need services or products outside of the coupon but still be converted by your mailer.

SEO is much easier to track. Using programs like Google Analytics and Google Search Console, you can track how many visitors came to your website from a search, what they did on your site after, and even get an idea of what keywords they were searching for. While no tracking is perfect, it’s much easier to track SEO to measure your results.


Overall, marketing efforts work together. Often, people will receive a mailer in the mail and then pull out their computer and search for the company. In an ideal world, you will utilize multiple marketing methods. If you have to choose just one though, hopefully this guide helps.

If you need more help with your marketing, Kite Media can help! We specialize in everything from SEO to social media ads to pay-per-click advertising and can help you find the best strategy to reach your customers.

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