When you think about inbound marketing, you probably consider things like content offers, landing pages, forms and drip email campaigns. In reality, inbound marketing represents an approach to marketing that focuses on attracting your ideal customers, engaging with them in a helpful, meaningful way and continuing to delight them even after they became a customer.
So, inbound marketing encompasses a series of digital tactics, including blogging, SEO, conversion funnels, email marketing, social media and content. And while inbound marketers spend a lot of time creating content and nurturing leads, I want to make the case that SEO is the foundation of any solid inbound strategy.
Curious to learn more? Let’s get started.
First Things First: What Is Inbound Marketing?
Before we dive in, let’s look at what inbound is and how an inbound strategy translates into real-life marketing actions.
As HubSpot explains, “Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them.”
The inbound methodology breaks down the process of attracting new customers into three stages.
1. The first stage is attracting the right audience to your website. This involves:
- Publishing relevant content on your blog
- Guest posting
- Social media posting
- Paid ads
These are some of the tactics that can help you get your potential clients’ attention and drive them to your website. Getting the right people on your website and attracting enough traffic are equally important – you need high-quality traffic, and you need enough traffic to see conversions.
Why do I say this? Statistically, out of all the visitors who land on your website, around 3-4 percent are ready to make a purchase or convert if you are a business-to-business (B2B) company (e.g. by booking a meeting or a demo) right then and there. If you get 1,000 visits per month, that leaves you with a maximum of 3-4 leads. If you consider that the rate at which leads convert into marketing qualified leads is, on average, 15 percent, then that leaves you with less than one marketing qualified lead (MQL) every month – which doesn’t sound any good. Your first job is to get enough qualified traffic on your site. If you fail to do that, the rest of your inbound effort is undermined.
2. As people interact with your website, you now want to present insights and solutions aligned with their challenges and goals and engage with them. If you manage to prove that you understand their pain points and have a suitable solution to overcome these challenges, you increase your chances of winning prospects over.
Some popular engagement tactics are:
- Content offers/lead magnets
- Landing pages
- Forms and CTAs
- Email campaigns
3. As prospects turn into customers, your work continues. Your goal now is to delight by helping them be successful with your product or service. Delighted customers can become the best advocates for your brand.
Now that we’ve laid down the foundation, let’s take a closer look at SEO and where it fits in your inbound strategy.
Why Is SEO Important in the First Place?
SEO is the practice of optimizing a website or web page to increase its visibility in search results. The better optimized a website is, the higher it will rank in search results.
To simplify the picture, I like to say that SEO involves mastering four different areas:
- Technical optimization: Ensuring your website is crawlable, secured, has a good internal linking structure and a good site speed
- On-page optimization: Making sure your web pages are optimized for relevant keywords
- Content: Publishing high-quality content regularly proves to search engines that you master a specific topic; hence, your website should be listed higher in search results
- Backlinks: Receiving inbound links from high-quality, trustworthy websites
You can’t really win at SEO if you only focus on backlinks but ignore content creation and technical or on-page optimization.
SEO Matters Because:
- It’s a source of targeted traffic. Visitors coming from organic search land on your website looking for a keyword or phrase. They are researching products or services or want to make a purchase. They didn’t click on a fancy ad or random social media post; they were actively researching products, services or information to help them make a purchase.
- It continues to bring results over time. Unlike paid advertising, which stops getting you results when you pause it, web pages that rank high in search results will continue to attract visitors over time.
- Organic search results receive more clicks than paid advertisements. This is because they appear more credible to searchers. How much more credible? SEO has almost 20 times more traffic opportunities than pay-per-click (PPC) on both mobile and desktop, according to a Jumpshot and Moz study.
Inbound Tactics to Help Increase Your Search Visibility
So, how can you use inbound tactics to improve your website’s search visibility and also connect with your target audience?
Use the Content Cluster Approach
The content cluster approach represents a way of organizing your website content around main topics and sub-topics. In using this approach, you signal to search engines that you are an expert on that given subject, and you also enable your readers to find everything they need to know on that subject.
So, for example, if you have a productivity management tool, then team productivity can be a core topic for your business. Instead of writing distinct blog articles about keeping meetings productive, team productivity when working remotely, tips on time management, etc., you can create a pillar page that touches on every aspect related to your core topic of team productivity. Then, you can write blog articles that dive deeper into each sub-topic, connecting these articles to the pillar page. When you use this content cluster structure, your blog articles on related topics no longer compete against each other.
This new way of organizing content came as a response to changes in users’ search habits over the past few years. We’ve moved on from the practice of typing fragmented keyword queries into search engines. Instead, we’re more likely to search entire phrases. Today, 64 percent of users are typing search queries of at least four words. These longer search queries make users feel they are getting the best result from the endless amount of content out there.
As a result, search engines have evolved too. They focus on developing a deeper understanding of context and user intent rather than ranking results based on keywords alone.
Run a Content Audit
Google values fresh content and rewards those websites that regularly update content by displaying them higher on the search results (check out this Freshness Algorithm Update Google released for reference).
Building new content is a priority for marketers, but it’s one that takes time. One quick-win idea is to run a content audit and refresh outdated material with newer data, links or insights.
To run an audit, you need to make an inventory of all your website’s content and assess each piece.
You want to identify:
- The types of content you have: e.g. lead generation page, blog post, case study, customer story, generic web page, company updates
- Content that is underperforming and can be optimized/repurposed in order to gain more traffic
- Content that is outdated and should be reviewed to check if the information is still relevant and can be re-written or deleted
- If on-page SEO main elements are in place (targeted keyword, H1, meta description, images with alt text)
- Metrics such as social shares, backlinks and sessions that paint a clear picture of how your content is performing
- Broken internal or external links
Define Your Buyer’s Journey Map
Creating a journey map helps you understand what questions potential clients are asking at each stage in their buying process. Uncovering what questions your business needs to answer allows you to create the right type of content and research the right keywords and phrases.
To simplify the buyer’s journey map, you can use three stages:
In the awareness stage, customers will look for content that helps them answer questions such as:
- How can I improve, solve, optimize or prevent a particular issue?
In the consideration stage, buyers will want to know:
- What are the solutions that are available to me to help me solve my problem?
- What are the pros and cons of each solution?
In the decision stage, buyers need to know:
- Is this solution effective?
- Is there proof that the solution works?
SEO shouldn’t be an afterthought in your inbound marketing efforts, but rather a central element. You need to understand what core topics are relevant for your potential clients, build pillar pages around them, answer buyers’ questions and continuously update your content with fresh insights and data.