I was recently talking to a prospect, now a client, about his frustration with the countless marketing companies promising to help increase their online presence. He spoke with an SEO company that ranked very well for "SEO" industry keywords but who didn't offer social media, email marketing, or Pay Per Click. Although, he understood the value of SEO companies, he also knew that he could generate fast business with Pay Per Click. He spoke to a Social Media expert with over 10,000 followers that only focused on Facebook and Twitter. The large Pay Per Click company he spoke to didn’t offer Facebook PPC. Here inlays the problem. Most businesses hire separate contractors from different companies to do most or some of the activities, leading to broken messaging with no defined goals for business growth. Inbound marketing agencies, however, do all of the above and more using a proven methodology to increase traffic, leads and sales. Inbound agencies include SEO and other core tactics, but as a part of an overall strategy using the Inbound Methodology.
Understanding the Inbound Methodology as a Whole. What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing, per Wikipedia, "is the promotion of a company or organization through blogs, podcasts, videos, eBooks, newsletters, whitepapers, paid advertising, SEO, social media and other forms of content marketing to serve and attract customers through the different stages of the purchase funnel (more on this later)." The goal is for customers to find your website through any and all relevant online mediums and then having them perform a specific action, such as filling out a form with their information, to receive an offer. The content you provide and action you want them to take is dependent upon what part of the funnel they are in, such as ready to buy, looking for more information, or considering you among other companies.
At its core, Inbound marketing involves creating content that will be of use to a visitor depending on where they are in the Buyer's Journey.
Another component in the inbound methodology is nurturing your visitors into potential customers. Let's say a visitor doesn't purchase anything right away but you've collected their information via a form they filled out for a download. You now have a way to get in touch with them in the future. Also dependent on where they are in the funnel, you may want to email them with more targeted information in regards to a product or service they were looking into on your website. There are certain software’s (more on that later) that you can use to categorize your leads based on their actions, behavioral patterns, and interests, giving you insight so that you may target offers and messages specific to them.
Even after a visitor becomes a customer, keeping in touch with them has the potential to turn them into a repeat buyer or they can refer new business. By using information gleaned from what they bought from you in the past, you can effectively target them with products or services they might be interested in later. You can also use social media interactions to get word-of-mouth promoters, turning your customers into an extension of your marketing team, helping to draw in new visitors and customers.
SEO as a Tactic of Inbound Marketing
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tactic used to increase a website's keyword / phrase search engine ranking positions (SERPs). Theoretically, if a website's keywords are higher up on a visitor's search engine query, it should help drive traffic and thus revenue to your business. SEO companies focus just on doing this, ignoring other opportunities that allow a business' website to improve the company's bottom line. Inbound Marketing agencies focus on a more encompassing strategy (more below) to improve the performance of your web properties. SEO does play a role in the Inbound Marketing methodology, but as part of the BIGGER PICTURE as opposed to a SINGULAR FOCUS.
Experienced Inbound companies have the knowledge necessary to utilize SEO strategies and tactics just like an SEO-specific company, but can also build upon that in order to get the best return on your online marketing investment.
Content Creation and SEO
Creating content that will both rank well in the search engines and prove useful for visitors is the main force driving SEO efforts in an Inbound Marketing campaign. For your website, in addition to the text on the page, this can include:
Off-site Content Creation
There are many different types of content that can improve SEO, which include but is not limited to: Case Studies, Charts / Graphs, eBooks, Dictionary, User Generate Content, Mind Maps, Helpful Application / Tool, Vlogs, Slideshares, Templates, Pinboards, Timelines, and more. The specific mediums used for your SEO strategy is dependent on your business goals, time and budget.
On-Page Optimization 3.0
Websites that are well-interlinked tend to fare better in the SERPs as opposed to sites that have pages only accessible through a directory or main page. On-page includes things such as proper meta tags and content optimization but its evolved much further over time. As soon as a visitor lands on your website, there should be a fairly easy way to allow them to convert to a lead, become a customer, download important useful information, or subscribe to your blog.
Optimizing your site to require the fewest number of clicks from landing page to lead page is a critical function of a website. You should have as many pages as necessary for the customer to educate themselves before contacting you by creating funnel pages based on the action you want them to take. You want to do A/B testing and multivariate testing to increase your traffic to leads ratios and to improve user experience. As a result of experimenting on your site, you'll have the added benefit of keeping the user on your website longer, improving multiple SEO metrics which can influence rankings. One way to do On-Page Optimization 3.0 is by implementing Growth Driven Design.
One of the most important aspects of a well-rounded inbound campaign is a link building strategy that focuses more on quality as opposed to quantity. The three keys to this are:
Understanding Buyer Personas within the Inbound Methodology (Important!)
Knowing exactly who to target is how you get the best return on your marketing investment. Just by taking a basic look at your customers, you can probably get an idea of some types of information that would be helpful in building a buyer persona. Inbound companies help build buyer personas while an SEO company will have nothing to do with the buyer after getting them to click on your page.
The easiest parts of the buyer persona to build include demographic information (gender, age, etc.), which is a great place to start, but it needs to go deeper than just a few data points. Other attributes of your buyer persona to look at would be:
Stages of a Buyer's Journey
The path a customer takes from being unfamiliar with what you have to offer to making a purchase is known as the buyer's journey. This is typically classified into awareness, consideration, and decision stages. The ability to strongly represent your brand during each of the stages plays a vital big role in determining whether or not you get a new customer.
Building an Inbound Marketing Campaign for Your Buyer Persona
Once you have all of the pieces in front of you, they can be put together to create a campaign specifically aimed at your buyer's persona. A full campaign involves taking these things into consideration:
The Full Spectrum Approach
Inbound marketing would not be possible without SEO, but SEO companies usually do not touch buyer personas, social media, pay per click, lead nurturing and buying stages. Many are doing more than one but rarely all-in-one. This leads to less targeted content and missed lead capture opportunities. Taking all aspects of a growing marketing campaign into account is necessary to get the best result for your bottom line.
Is Special Software Necessary?
The short answer is no.
Software does exist that will help you with an inbound marketing campaign, but it is not necessary in order to implement an Inbound marketing strategy. The software is only as good as your team and how they follow the methodology.
Service providers like Hubspot, Marketo, and Pardot can make it easier to track certain metrics and implement inbound, allowing you to focus more on your business.
It is still essential that you know both what to look for and how to interpret the data. In addition, to implement closed-loop reporting (knowing where ROI comes from) without using software, can really make the time spent on your internal processes longer. Implementing an email nurture campaign without software is also very difficult. For those experienced in creating and managing Inbound campaigns, these programs can be great from an organizational standpoint, but for beginners it may be overwhelming.
Choosing an Inbound Marketing Agency Over an SEO Company
At Rizen, our roots are as an SEO & PPC company in Miami, but we made the switch and reprogrammed our thinking to become an Inbound Agency. An approach that combines all aspects of internet marketing together is going to work better for you than focusing on just one part of a successful internet marketing technique. Having several companies performing different tasks and not communicating with each other is an inefficient and expensive way to take your company to the next level. Inbound agencies do all of the work from making the buyer persona, to creating the content, posting on social media sites, leveraging Pay Per Click across Google, LinkedIn and Twitter, and nurturing your leads as they go through their buyer stages. SEO companies only focus on trying to get your website to rank, which is important, but is just part of the formula.