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What is Surround Sound SEO?

Have you heard of Surround Sound SEO?

It’s a modern approach to search and organic growth that applies techniques from product marketing, PR, and traditional SEO to reach potential customers at all relevant touchpoints. 

It also may very well parlay into the future of search with LLMs and chat-based interfaced. 

More on that later. 

First, this post will cover what Surround Sound SEO is, some background and context on why it works, and a few case studies. 

It will also cover how Surround Sound SEO fits neatly into the future of SEO along with generative AI answers. 

What is Surround Sound SEO?

Surround Sound SEO is a holistic approach to search engine optimization where brands seek to maximize the amount of real estate they occupy on a high intent SERP (search engine results page). 

In the traditional paradigm, the goal of SEO was to rank on page 1 when someone searched a phrase, driving traffic, and ultimately, customers from this traffic. 

In Surround Sound SEO, a brand’s goal is to be mentioned favorably on ALL of the pages ranking for a search term:

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For example, take a phrase like “best b2b SEO agencies.” 

If you’re someone searching for this phrase, we can make two assumptions:

  • You’re looking for a B2B SEO agency (in which case, you’re in-market for our services)
  • You likely want a consensus on the top agencies to choose among

Thus, if you can rank your website, you’re at least in the conversation. But repeated exposure, i.e. being mentioned on all the pages that rank for these terms, makes you appear more like a consensus pick, and searchers will be more likely to contact you. 

Origins of Surround Sound SEO

The term Surround Sound SEO was coined by Alex Birkett (me), Scott Tousley, and the freemium acquisition team at HubSpot in 2019. The approach was built out at HubSpot primarily by Irina Nica, whose team scaled the methodology across several product lines and keywords, resulting in thousands of incremental signups per month.

The idea for the methodology came from analyzing conversion and revenue data on the HubSpot blog and realizing certain content formats (BOFU content) converted orders of magnitude higher than others. Moreso, referral traffic from other websites mentioning HubSpot also converted extremely well. 

This, in combination with Tim Ferriss’ approach to book launches, where he sought to appear on all podcasts, media publications, and locations that his target market consumes at the same time, resulted in the primary thesis: it’s not just reach, but also frequency, that matters in search. 

Nick Eubanks wrote about the SERP Monopoly strategy around the same time, which made the mathematical case for stacking traffic through repeated mentions. 

The idea quantitatively makes sense (more mentions = more opportunities for traffic), but qualitatively, it maps to how consumers actually make buying decisions.    

Why Does Surround Sound SEO Work?

The central thesis on the Surround Sound SEO strategy is this:

Brands require repeated exposure to build credibility and top-of-mind awareness. 

Imagine you’re having a board game night with 10 of your closest friends. Y’all bring up TV and you ask what everyone is watching.

One person says, “Succession!” 

Now, at the very least, Succession is on your radar (if you hadn’t already heard about it).

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However, if everyone else mentions a different show, Succession may be in the consideration set, but it isn’t obvious that it’s good or you should check it out (unless you really trust that friends specifically).

Now, imagine that every single person says, “Succession! It’s so good.” 

Your chances of checking out Succession skyrocket. 

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In psychology, the Surround Sound SEO effect hinges on both the mere exposure effect as well as the bandwagon effect. You appear ubiquitous because you appear in all places your ideal customer is searching or hanging out. 

8 Benefits of Surround Sound SEO

Surround Sound SEO works effectively due to several reasons rooted in how users interact with search engines and consume online content. 

Here are the main factors contributing to its success and additional benefits you can expect by invest in Surround Sound SEO:

1. Increased Visibility 

By having multiple entries in search results across different types of content and platforms, a brand or topic becomes more visible to users. This increased visibility can lead to higher click-through rates as users see the brand repeatedly, enhancing recognition and trust.

This is math. If position #1 has X% click-through-rate, and position #2 has X/2%, then you effectively raise your overall awareness and traffic by 50% by appearing on position #2 as well as position #1. 

This continues, with diminishing returns, down the SERPs. 

Merely quantitatively, this makes sense. 

2. User Trust and Credibility

However, on the psychological side, there are benefits that are more difficult to measure. 

When users repeatedly see a brand featured in various credible sources and content formats, it can enhance the brand’s perceived credibility and authority. This repeated exposure builds trust, which is crucial in influencing user decisions and perceptions.

When they come to fill out a lead form, they’ve not just seen you once, but 5, 6, 7 times in various publications and contexts. They come in with explicitly more information on your, as well as an implicit vibe that you’re a go-to source for whatever they’re looking for. 

3. Comprehensive Coverage

Surround Sound SEO aims to cover all aspects and queries related to a specific topic or keyword. 

By addressing various user intents and providing answers in multiple formats (articles, videos, podcasts, etc.), a brand can effectively become the go-to source for information in that niche.

This expands our conversation being Google’s 10 blue links to, essentially, wherever your potential customers are hanging out. 

You have to do the research here. Maybe they all listen to a cluster of 5-10 podcasts, and you appear as a guest on these. Maybe they all hang out on LinkedIn and you turn your employees into LinkedIn thought leaders. 

Your goal is simply ubiquity and omnipresence wherever they hang out and make decisions. 

4. Competitive Edge

Dominating the search results can put a brand ahead of its competitors, as in the SERPs, we’re all competing for a finite pie of attention. 

When a brand appears in multiple search results, it reduces the visibility of competitors’ content, potentially diverting traffic and engagement away from them.

If you can not only appear on many different pages, but also increase the salience of your appearance (i.e. get listed as position #1 instead of #10 on the “best tools” list), you’ll crowd out potential competitors for consideration. 

5. Contextual Cues and Differentiation

So, this is a big topic, but you’ve probably got a lot of competitors, and you all probably sound pretty similar. 

Like, how many email marketing tools are there? Content marketing software? Dozens and dozens. And there are a few leaders (e.g. Mailchimp for email), but the rest need to differentiate to splinter off some business, competing for a segment of the big player’s market. 

So in these Surround Sound mentions, you can work with your product marketing team to craft boilerplate blurbs and positioning statements that carve your unique niche out. 

Many lists nowadays are delineating among “best” lists into subcategories:

  • Best for small businesses
  • Best for SEO
  • Best for technical users

Not only can you craft how often you appear in SERPs, but you can help influence the message and context that potential customers are coming to your demo calls with. 

6. SEO Benefits

This strategy also supports fundamental SEO goals, such as link building and keyword optimization. 

Every mention, or almost every mention, is essentially a high domain rating backlink on a relevant page in a relevant SERP. These are highly valuable backlinks. 

Appearing in these SERPs, for these categorical keywords, also likely influenced your brand entity (though this is more conjecture). 

You can help Google understand that you, indeed, are an expert in X field. Theoretically, this could help you rank your own content in this topical niche (again, conjecture, don’t take this as a hard fact). 

7. Remarketing and Integrated Marketing Campaigns

What do you know about someone searching for the “best kettlebells?” 

They’re probably in the market for kettlebells. 

Even if you rank #1 for this keyword, and you convert incredibly well, some 95% of people that land on your page still won’t buy. 

However, you now have an incredibly powerful behavioral data source for remarketing audiences. 

We’ve helped clients set these up, basically using these as remarketing pools, and then running targeted ads with added ABM parameters to reach only those in their target market. 

At Omniscient, we use these in conjunction with CRM triggers to do proactive outreach to those in our system who haven’t filled out a form yet, as well as to identify company level data on who is landing on these lists + other high intent pages like case studies.

Data, data, data. 

8. Adaptation to Algorithm Changes

Look, it’s been a volatile time for Google search. We’ve written and talked a lot about that. 

If the SERP includes a feature snippet, ubiquitous presence helps you appear in those:

SGE and generative answers also appear to favor frequent mentions:

While nothing can future-proof you entirely, a surround sound approach, with its diverse content and wide-ranging online presence, is more resilient against these changes, ensuring steady traffic and visibility even as search dynamics evolve.

4 Surround Sound SEO Examples

While I’ve mentioned a few examples above, it may be useful to see how real brands in the wild are implementing the Surround Sound SEO strategy. 

1. HubSpot

HubSpot is where it all started. 

I found that a list of the best meeting schedulers converted incredibly high. I wrote more of these lists to see if I could replicate it. I also discovered the same patterns with competitor comparisons and other formats, even middle funnel content like “how to create a landing page.”

We started some small scale partnerships with friendly companies to ghost write listicles and see if we could replicate the same conversion rates with off-site listicles. 

Eventually, we got additional budget, built an internal data product to track these mentions (one of my proudest career achievements), and Irina scaled this beyond my belief. 

Read the whole Surround Sound Series here:

Fun fact: Semrush saw this series and built a tool based on it, which I’m sad to say has since been deprecated. Someone else please build this! 

2. Cognism

I saw a post from Liam Bartholomew, VP of Marketing at Cognism, where he talked about investing in this approach.

I’ll just have him describe it:

“We switched to a money keyword strategy that focused on BOFU content and keywords with the highest intent.

The goal changes from bringing in as much traffic as possible to bringing in the best quality traffic, full of those prospects ready to buy. 

But we got good at this, so then what’s next? 

SEO Surround Sound.

Surround sound SEO aims to dominate the SERP for your money keywords.

Number 1 isn’t enough. We all want all 10.

A surround sound strategy, means ensuring your rank number 1 for all related money keywords as well as an off-page extension of your backlinking strategy.

✅ We start by Googling our money keywords (e.g., “b2b lead generation tools”).

✅ On the SERP, Cognism has the second place. But it isn’t mentioned in any of the other top nine results. 

✅ Next, we contacted each website, asking if they could add Cognism to their lists.

✅ We won’t get Cognism on every URL. But it’s certainly worth trying. 

If successful, we get the link juice and increase our brand awareness

The end result, we’re everywhere 😎”

Fun stuff, and great to see this idea being executed so well!

3. Omniscient Digital

We’ve done a ton of Surround Sound SEO, and we’re continuing to invest in the approach. We’re also running small scale experiments around the advent of generative answers, and we’re parsing out variables and how things may differ in a chat-based search world. 

However, we published a case study with Semrush on our work building visibility for our podcast

Essentially, we went from zero search visibility to 45% visibility for “best content marketing podcasts.” 

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This drives real podcast signups and puts us in the same conversation with the biggest name podcasts in content. 

How did we do it? 

Wrote our own list, but also just did a bunch of outreach and partnerships:

4. Persefoni

Persfoni is a fast growing company in an emerging industry, climate technology software. 

Specifically, they make carbon accounting software and wanted to own the term. They came to us to craft a Surround Sound SEO project. 

First, we wrote and published our own list on the “best carbon accounting software,” quickly ranking this:

(Well, I should say that first we conducted market and keyword research to determine the 5-10 relevant terms we wanted to monopolize). 

We then used our SERP tracker to analyze the SERPs and find friendly websites we could make deals with to get Perfefoni mentioned on existing listicles. We partitioned out unknown websites and contacts, and crafted outreach campaigns to get on their radar. 

Then we partnered with friendly websites to create net new listicles that included Perfefoni.

End result? They’re all over the place, one of the key brands mentioned in relation to these queries:

I’ll end with a little bit of speculation.

Everything about the Surround Sound SEO strategy serves the current state of affairs: 10 blue links that you click independently, with the occasional feature snippet. 

And while search has remained surprisingly stable the past few years, AI and new modes by which users discover information are possible. 

While we have more research to do to parse out individual variables and how LLMs weigh them, so far it is apparent that the Surround Sound SEO strategy parlays into being included in SGE summaries:

This is not so different from appearing in a featured snippet, no?

These snippets and summaries pull from web sources, and being that web source can help you be included, but it can also help craft HOW you appear and in what context:

Here’s a ChatGPT summary for the same queries, SaaS content marketing agencies:

What I’ve noticed is all of these answers are remarkably similar to each other, including the more “traditional” featured snippet. 

Perplexity, too, stunning though it is upon first use, also seems to pull from the same 5-7 sources on a topic, most of which rank highly on traditional search results pages.

Information is valuable, and curating that information is a hard problem, one that Google has worked on a lot over the years. 

While we don’t know exactly how the information retrieval and curation process will change with LLMs (will links matter more or less? What about technical SEO?), they have to source their information from somewhere, and there will very likely be citations and some form of attribution.

The thing I like about the Surround Sound SEO approach is that it doesn’t require a leap of speculative faith; it works today, and my hunch is that the foundations of the approach will parlay well into the future of organic growth. 

One foot in the present, one foot in the future! 

We’ll be writing a lot more about this in the coming weeks, months, and years. 


Surround Sound SEO aims to monopolize search results pages for high intent search queries, resulting in brand ubiquity, high click-through-rates, and ultimately more revenue and brand awareness. 

The surround sound approach can be applied more broadly to other channels. The idea is this: identify core customer journey stages and potent touchpoints, and then appear favorably in those places. 

This approach works now to drive business results, and it will likely set you up well for LLM optimization and the future of search. Talk to me if you want to get started. 

Alex Birkett

Alex is a co-founder of Omniscient Digital. He loves experimentation, building things, and adventurous sports (scuba diving, skiing, and jiu jitsu primarily). He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit.