To succeed with marketing in this digital era, you need a plethora of tools and strategies that work hand in hand. One of such is search engine optimization, commonly referred to as SEO. For inbound marketing to work, you need a good SEO strategy in place.
Most marketers who are just getting started with digital marketing find themselves torn between choosing SEO and content marketing (which is also synonymous with inbound marketing) for their strategy. But the truth is, you can’t have one without the other – they complement each other.
To have a good understanding of why they both work together, you need to first have a clear definition of what they are and what they do.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization, also called SEO focuses on helping your website rank high in search engines such as Yahoo, Bing and most importantly Google, in order to drive traffic to your website. SEO involves both creative and technical aspects that work together to make your website more attractive to search engines.
According to Moz, an SEO software company, search engine optimization can be defined as a “marketing strategy that is focused on growing a business’ visibility in organic or non-paid search engine results.” The creative and technical aspects needed to drive traffic and improve your search rankings are:
- The keywords on your page
- Inbound links to your website and internal links to other web pages
- Your website’s speed and responsiveness to mobile devices
And generally, the overall usability and structure of your website contributes to the success of a well-laid out SEO strategy. Using tools like HubSpot’s Website Grader, you can easily see how optimized (or not) your website is and offer suggestions to make it better.
Benefits of SEO
When done right, SEO offers some astounding benefits, not just for your campaign, but for your company website in general. Some of the most notable SEO benefits are listed below:
- The technical aspect of SEO which includes page optimization and responsiveness means your website’s bounce rate will reduce drastically. This sends the signal to Google and other search engines that your website is interesting enough for visitors to hang around.
- Your website and its content have the opportunity to enjoy the coveted first page result on Google. This is understandable because according to new study from online ad network Chitika, only content featured in No. 1 position in Google gets 33% of all search traffic.
- SEO can drastically reduce your marketing spend because you will be driving organic web traffic to your website, compared to using expensive Adword campaigns. This means your customer acquisition cost (CAC) will be much lower, thereby increasing your ROI.
- Finally, you will be getting highly targeted and relevant traffic to your website as a result of specific search queries that you have targeted in your keyword research, prior to launching your campaign.
One major disadvantage with SEO is that search engine companies, like Google, are constantly making changes to the way their search algorithm works in other to help users locate content and resources that is most meaningful to them. SEO best practices today might be totally useless tomorrow.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on driving highly targeted traffic to your website by using informative content. According to HubSpot (an inbound marketing software company), inbound marketing is used to “turn strangers into customers and promoters of your business.”
Inbound marketing is such a broad topic that I had to write a book about it; teaching marketers making the transition into the world of digital marketing how to use the inbound methodology to attract, convert, close and delight their ideal customers.
For inbound marketing to work, the following components must be put into place:
- Website optimization: This includes landing pages, mobile responsiveness, appropriate CTAs and page speed.
- Content creation: This involves creating blog posts, infographics, videos, ebooks (or whitepapers), and social media posts to drive traffic to your website.
- Social media marketing: Apart from search engines, social media also provides you the opportunity to drive targeted traffic to your website. This can be a mixture of paid and organic traffic resulting from your posts, images and videos.
- Lead nurturing: This phase becomes relevant once you have been able to drive traffic to your website and you managed to convert them to leads. Lead nurturing involves the use of email and customer relationship management (CRM) to guide the prospects down the sales funnel, towards the sale.
Each of these components are individual topics by themselves and I intend to cover them in subsequent blog posts, so I can explain how they all work together to make inbound marketing the most effective marketing strategy in the 21st century.
Benefits of Inbound Marketing
When done right, inbound marketing offers numerous benefits for your company’s marketing and overall brand image. These benefits are described below.
- Inbound marketing is cost-effective when compared to traditional marketing. Keep in mind, however, that inbound marketing is not cheap. You still need to invest a lot of creativity and manpower.
- Inbound marketing has a long-lasting ripple effect, both in terms of reach and the continuous value to delivers to prospects. By creating an evergreen content, you make it easy for that content to continually help you generate leads for years to come.
- Inbound marketing provides the opportunity to portray your brand whichever way you like. If you want to appear professional, laid back or run, inbound marketing makes it easy for you through your content’s tone, brand voice and overall communication strategy.
- Inbound marketing helps you build authority in your industry. When you constantly create and deliver valuable content that prospective customers find valuable, your brand will be viewed as an expert and your content will referenced by analysts and third party sources.
As you can see, there are some overlapping benefits for both SEO and inbound marketing, and the main reason is because SEO is one of the components of the inbound process. Many “experts” treat search engine optimization differently from inbound marketing when instead, they should incorporate both of them to work together. SEO should complement inbound marketing because they are both different sides of the same digital marketing coin.
None can actually exist without the other because without SEO, inbound will struggle to rank in search engines, driving in the much needed organic traffic. And without inbound, SEO will do a great job of driving traffic but most of that traffic won’t be interested in your content and will leave without converting into a lead.
How to Implement SEO into Your Inbound Strategy
SEO is a critical component of any inbound marketing strategy. This is not to say I am advocating for writing for SEO. There is no need to load your content with technical keywords and forget who you are writing for – your target audience.
The approach I like to use is to first focus on creating content that my target audience will find useful, then research the keywords they use to find that information. The goal is to incorporate some of these keywords into my content.
I personally like to use Google Trends to optimize my website to meet the needs of potential visitors and Moz Keyword Explorer to create content that’s optimized for a particular keyword. I find it helpful to know whether people are actually searching for that keyword. Another tool if you don’t where to start is Kissmetrics which provides guidance on how to perform keyword research effectively.
Keep the following in mind when you attempt to incorporate SEO into your inbound strategy:
Use Highly Targeted Keywords to Get More Accurate Search Traffic
Google has expanded the research result beyond the keyword. When you use a term on the search engine, Google will groups together the search volume data for many similar keywords variants. Keywords are still the primary method to the search process, and the objective of search engines is to connect people with the information they seek effectively.
Keywords should not be the only focus, but it can make or kill your campaign. Tools such as Soolve can help you to generate idea for keyword. This will give insights onto which terms and language to use to increase your chances of being found.
Create Original, Informative and High-Quality Content for Your Audience
Keywords alone cannot do the trick. That is why high-quality and original content must be thrown in the mix in order to make your content more engaging to your audience. The way we consume online content has dramatically changed. Low-quality content does not engage readers. It does not generate inbound links, and as a result, it will not generate leads or convert sales.
There are great stats showing the importance of content marketing and why it should be the focus of your online strategy. Customers are getting tech-savvy, and they will only engage with content that meets their expectations. Hence research shows that ad blocking has increased by 82% to reach 12 million users in the UK (June 2015). Content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders.
Leverage Your SEO Strategy with Internal Links
Google ranks a website’s relevance based on the internal links and the authority of those links. Inbound links are ways to use the content to help with the objective of SEO. Inbound links continue to influence the search rank and visibility. It will assist the search engines to crawl the website more efficiently.
Another apparent benefit of having inbound links is the number and quality of links coming into a page are used as a ranking signal which in turn will increase your website visibility. Other benefits of internal links include:
- The right internal links can do great things for your website:
- They can improve usability through anchor texts
- They can help spread the link juice
- They can boost page views
- They can improve PageRank
- They can help to crawl and indexing
So where does this leave us? I would say you need to focus on SEO as a part of your overall inbound marketing strategy. Using one without the other will only lead to a waste of time and money. Think about this – if you get people to your site you need to provide them with something valuable, otherwise, you will lose them.
SEO should not be an afterthought, instead, it should be an integrated part of your inbound content strategy – but remember you need to create great content that set you apart , if you want to improve your organic search rankings.
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