There are two fundamentally different SEO strategies: aggregator and integrator SEO. The concept, inspired by Ben Thompson, is a powerful mental model that can be used to understand how to invest and think about SEO strategy.
So far, I’ve covered mostly aggregator SEO case studies and concepts on Growth Memo.
- Integrator vs Aggregator Growth
- Substack’s SEO opportunity
- Uber Eats: SEO aggregation case study
- The Growth strategies of the top BNPL providers
- SEO strategy case study: Instacart
- 5 examples of product-led SEO
But not every product lends itself to an SEO aggregator strategy. In fact, most don’t. That’s why I will cover more Integrator concepts and case studies in the next couple of Growth Memos.
The difference between Integrators and Aggregators
Before jumping into the SEO part, we need to understand the radically different mechanics between Integrators and Aggregators from a business strategy perspective.
Aggregators capture demand with a superior user experience so well that they commoditize supply. Google’s Search experience, Youtube’s video content, or G2’s software reviews come to mind. Their discovery is easy, usage is free, and the experience is superior. At the same time, supply is commoditized. There is little room to stand out on Google, Youtube, or G2.
Integrators, on the other hand, create content that’s so good that they can own more steps of the value chain and build a direct relationship with their customers.
By definition, Integrators need differentiated content to stand out and attract customers. HBO’s tv show Game of Thrones, for example, is so good that users subscribe. HBO can sell it directly to customers without any brokers, mediators, or distributors. Another example is a web traffic report from Cloudflare. It’s differentiated because no one else has that much data about web traffic. There is no competition.
Examples of Integrators:
- New York Times
- The Verge
Aggregators need to focus on user experience and inventory, Integrators on their audience. aggregators need to optimize for discovery, Integrators for content production.
Now, let’s look at the SEO implications.
SEO levers for Integrators
Another word for aggregator SEO is product-led SEO. As such, another word for Integrator SEO has to be Marketing-led SEO. The main differentiator is that integrators must create the content themselves, while aggregators can leverage UGC or inventory to scale SEO.
Integrators have different content formats in their arsenal: landing pages, blog content (sorted by time), and content hubs (connected pages focused on an evergreen topic). They have to make strategic decisions about content publishing frequency, length, and how much of the content is keyword-targeted.
There are three common pitfalls Integrators fall into, especially with blog content.
One is the content commodity trap. Most companies create content that can be easily replicated by others, making it a commodity.
The second one is missing the question, “how is this better than anything else out there?” The bar for content quality is continuously rising with more competitors and lower barriers to creating content.
The last one is trying to combine editorial and search-optimized styles in the same content. While not impossible, getting the balance right is extremely difficult. As a result, a lot of content doesn’t perform because it tries to be two things at the same time.
In B2B, Integrators can drive pipeline through two more levers: Lead Generation tools (e.g., tax savings calculators in the case of B2B) and programmatic pages. Payroll provider Gusto built 190 pages with tools around taxes and paychecks that drive +100,000 monthly visits. Wire transfer company Wise, for example, has built 12,000 landing pages for SWIFT codes driving over 80,000 monthly visits. [x]
The final piece of the SEO strategy for integrators should be a landing page strategy. It can overlap with a programmatic approach but also stand by itself in targeting different industries, features and personas.
Lastly, Integrators often follow the 80/20 rule for content: 20% of the keywords and landing pages drive 80% of the results. Sometimes, it’s 90/10 or 70/30, but the power distribution is very common. That doesn’t make 80% of the pages redundant. They fulfill an important forcing function of Topical Authority, link building, and answering important questions along the user journey to conversion.
Secondary strategic considerations
SEO - at least for Integrators - cannot succeed in isolation. It needs distribution, brand, and insights from paid as a launchpad.
Integrators need a plan for content distribution
Content distribution is an accelerant. Think about it as a stronger engine in a nice car. You can drive without a regular engine, but once you put a V8 in the front of the car, you notice a little difference.
SEO obviously is the primary distribution channel for Integrators, but they have more weapons in their arsenal. Secondary channels like email lists, mobile apps, advertising, and influencers can significantly boost traction of articles, backlinks and stress test whether they convert.
One factor often forgotten is that repurposing content can also act as an accelerant. Content distribution through… more content. One way this works well right now is for podcasting. Splitting a long podcast into 10 short clips and putting them on TikTok and Youtube Shorts can build an audience quickly. The same might be true for content, Linkedin, and Twitter - if you play it right. But for that to work out, you need to experiment and have a strategy.
Competing without a strong brand is difficult
The long-term goal of integrators needs to be to become a destination for their target audience. Come for the guide, stay for the editorial content. Aiming to become a destination for their target audience increases the chance of fast-tracking visitors to customers and reduces the need to compete for every relevant keyword along the buyer journey. Instead, they only need to convince searchers once or twice that they’re the right solution.
Another reason for investing in brand awareness is recognition in the search results. Brand recognition is real. For ages, Buyers have sought out brands they know and trust - also in the search results.
Paid Search insights for Organic
One of the main drivers of brand recognition is advertising, but there are other benefits to running ads as well.
One, you can capture a significantly larger click share by occupying more search results, especially as the number of organic snippets is shrinking.
Two, Google Ads are a fantastic way to quickly test whether landing pages and other content converts and at what baseline.
Three, Organic Search can be a remedy for low ROAS (return on ad spend) and high CAC (customer acquisition cost). Balancing Paid and Organic traffic for keywords with high CPCs can be key for sustainable growth in B2B.
Conclusion: Integrator strategy in a nutshell
Integrators scale SEO fundamentally differently than aggregators. Their leverage comes from differentiated content and an optimized production process. Along the many strategic decisions they need to make, some of the most important ones revolve around publishing frequency, length, and keyword focus. They can substitute their strategy with lead gen tools and landing pages.
Often forgotten but effective are strategies around content distribution. Once a company realizes the difference between no distribution and leaning on email lists, apps, ads, or influencers, there is no going back.
Many people consider integrator and aggregator SEO strategies and think the latter is better. That’s not true; they’re just different.
Aggregator SEO tends to be much more technical and product-focused, whereas Integrators SEO leans heavily on Marketing. We tend to forget that Marketing helped companies grow even before the internet.
Integrator SEO feels “artsy” and more creative because content creation is central to success. You can build an engine around it just like you can with aggregators, but you need a strong strategy.