By now, as a business owner or CEO, you’ve heard of and likely (hopefully) implemented an SEO strategy; maybe you hired an agency, or have an SEO manager on staff. You browse reports and try to decipher charts showing the monthly volume of searches on a specific keyword.
You blink at the mention of benefits of long-tail keywords (a group of words or a phrase targeting a more specific search). If you’re lucky, and well organized, you are able to track the performance of such and such keyword to determine its usefulness to help you reach your business goal.
Search Engine Optimization is sadly often used only to increase a business's visibility on search engines and transforming SEO performance into an opportunity (then a customer) is left to other tactics, such as Pay-Per-Click or email marketing. And yet, SEO is a powerful sales driver when used in conjunction with an inbound marketing strategy. It is the underlying foundation of a website, of all content that passes through and is sent out, and is source of incredible knowledge about your prospects. From the moment your page is found on SERPs (Search Engine Page Results) to the signing of the contract with a new client, Search Engine Optimization has been one of your most trusted advisor.
If you're unfamiliar with SEO -- learn about the ways investing in SEO helps businesses.
Using SEO as an Inbound Marketing Technique
Contrary to traditional digital marketing, B2B inbound marketing is a full-scope endeavor designed to attract visitors, get them to become qualified leads and convert them into customers. The inbound marketing methodology, defined as a purely customer-centric technique, has been created to take the guessing away and bring you more business, organically.
How is SEO related to Inbound?
The inbound process uses SEO-focused dynamic smart content to bring visitors to your site (a step above increasing ranking and visibility, already) and encourages them to take a specific action so they enter the sales funnel. Whether signing up for news, or downloading an ebook, the most important aspect of the strategy is to capture information and trigger a complete buying process.
As such, SEO takes on the bigger role of becoming part of the lead generation strategy and is the focal point of content, be it on-site or off-site.
All your inbound marketing efforts become deeply connected to one another and SEO is the core of the network, holding everything together, helping you to create relevant content and take specific steps to attract, convert, close and delight your customers.
The fact that SEO is more than improving your ranking doesn’t mean you should neglect that aspect and dismiss it as irrelevant. On the contrary. Any Smart inbound Optimization (SiO) you implement is fruitless if users cannot find you. The basic concept of SEO still holds true and visibility is your number one priority, especially in today’s all-digital world. If your products or services are of any interest, if you bear any hope that people will find you, you need to help them. There is no way around a sound on-page search optimization.
Put simply, on-site SEO is the conversation your site has with search engines and other sites. As of today, several factors affect search results. Algorithms are constantly evolving, becoming more precise and more user-centered as they aim to provide the most relevant answer to a specific query.
Your quest for prospects start on your website.
Quality content is not an option, it’s a requirement. Page content has to be useful, relevant to the topic, likable and linkable. It should provide information (the reason why a user searches is to obtain answers), be reader friendly, rich in appropriate keywords while flowing naturally (keyword position is as important as density so they register with the reader’s mind without seeming forced or out of place).
Meta title and descriptions
The title tag and meta description of a page are what search engine will display on result pages. As a preview of the content you have to offer and an element that determines if you are worthy of ranking high or not, you need to pay attention to them. They too shall be SEO-proof, engaging and convey your offer and brand message in the allotted length.
Search engines don’t like pictures, they like words. Any visual on your site should be identifiable with an alt. tag to increase your visibility.
URLs play an interesting role in SEO, both from a hierarchy perspective (from main page to subpages labeling) and a user’s point of view. Your focus keyword should always appear in the URL. Don’t settle for short, irrelevant or unrecognizable content.
To sum up, on-site SEO gets you started on the path to success by
- Including the keyword in the title tag
- Including the keyword in the meta description
- Including the keyword in the URL
- Including the keyword in the visuals' alt text
- Including the keyword in the content of the page in a natural manner
Content Marketing & SEO
Inbound marketing focuses a lot on content for a reason: it’s all about providing valuable information to the users, based on their progress along the purchase path.
Content is crafted depending on their level of awareness, tailored to their needs at the consideration stage or when they are ready to make a decision.
In terms of optimization, inbound content is nothing if you are not aware of its double benefit: it helps your target get closer to you and it helps you get closer to your target, thanks to the keywords. SEO is all about content marketing. Or is it the other way around?
The different types of content:
- Web pages
- Product descriptions
Each of these types of content can leverage your position and increase your performance, provided you follow some basic rules. Do not create content just so you can say you did. Do your research on keywords and usefulness. Ask yourself how your customers are searching, what their motive is, their behavior. Measure the performance and optimize. Content is never more so powerful than when you are in control of its power (or lack thereof) and are not afraid to throw it away to start over. If you are overwhelmed at the prospect, hire an inbound marketing agency and let them do all the work!
SEO Off-site Strategy
Off-site SEO could be viewed as the way other sites talk about you. Where the goal of on-site optimization is to show up on search results and directly bring the visitors to your site, off-site implies the user lands somewhere else first then finds you. Inbound off-site SEO aims at finding ways to funnel your target back to you for their next step.
All content you publish needs to be distributed and promoted. Share articles on social media, in specific groups, write blogs as a guest on other platforms.
Your business is not an island and your reputation should spread to the outer space (so to speak). Despite the fact that search engines take your online presence into account (i.e. mentions of you), implementing a smart backlink-building strategy is an important component of inbound marketing. As with all elements of the concept itself, it’s not about quantity but rather quality. Becoming active on forums and other reputable sites like Quora or Medium, posting in LinkedIn and Facebook groups can increase your visibility with the audience that matters to you (your future qualified leads).
Familiarize yourself with how to build high quality backlinks.
The world is social. Unless your business is a tiny niche targeting people who live on remote islands with no communication infrastructure, chances are your ideal customer is - at this very moment - checking one or more of their social accounts. Social media marketing occupies an important position in the B2B inbound marketing process. Social platforms are useful in several ways:
- Social users love to engage and interact and respond well to valuable content. From videos to funny visuals or emotion-triggering posts, the major networks are where your presence can matter. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… You can easily gain shares and retweets, especially if you are targeting the right users.
- Which brings us to the second - and arguably most beneficial - way to use social media: information. What groups users belong to, what they say or ask in their comments, where they are located, their demographics, the accounts they are following contribute to gathering valuable data to build your buyer personas and truly understand what matters to them, and how to convert them.
- Buyer Personas are the foundation of anything inbound you can do. The ultimate goal is to generate leads and qualify those leads so they can become customers. Sending out undifferentiated content, be it in blogs or full blast email campaigns, will not provide the type of Marketing ROI you are looking for. In fact, it will likely hurt you. Your ideal buyer is leaving yummy crumbs on social platforms. Investigate to learn who they are.
Traditionally, marketers think SEO has played its part once a user has clicked and visited your page (even if it’s for a few seconds). Inbound marketing takes SEO further as it develops into a legitimate tool to generate and nurture leads, and is integrated in content specifically designed for a buyer persona. Developing buyer personas will not help you sell, it will help the right people to buy from you.
Characteristics of a Buyer Persona
Beyond the basic (and important) information you want to know, such as age, gender, location or job title, you need to dig a little deeper and get to the core of what your customer needs and wants in life.
- Motivations. Why, why, why. Ask yourself (or prospects if you can) why they do things, what keeps them up at night, what makes them tick.
- Challenges. You can’t provide a solution if you don’t know the problem. Try and identify the pains, the needs, the frustrations.
- Goals. Understand where they want to be, where they want to go and how your product or service can bring them closer.
Based on that intel, a lead generation marketing company will craft campaigns that are bound to be successful and get you the marketing return on investment you so desire. As each buyer persona you create will have specific behaviors, you can use SEO much the same way they do when they are searching for a solution, hereby closing the gap. Not to mention it gives you a substantial advantage over your competition.
SEO is a strong component of marketing, and especially in inbound marketing. Optimization is one word we inbound marketers use a lot, at every stage of a campaign. Don’t dismiss search engine optimization as a tool with limited capabilities. The technique can help you reach your business goals.
Is your SEO strategy performing as it should?