Inbound Marketing is a superweapon in the marketing landscape today. It combines the unique practices of SEO and social media, uniting in a web-centric system that attracts potential customers, fans, and advocates to your brand.
The inbound marketing method is how online businesses convert random strangers into long-term, loyal customers. Using a deliberate blend of digital marketing techniques, this method has all but replaced traditional forms of outbound marketing.
The Inbound Marketing Arena
Inbound marketing is the most effective form of marketing in today’s digital age. It attracts, educates, and converts new customers using different online touchpoints that are part of a brand’s online presence. The older outbound marketing style of previous decades is fading away. The ROI from buying advertising, email lists, print pamphlets, cold-calling, television, radio ads, and other forms of mass-marketing isn’t what it used to be. Inbound marketing draws customers to your doorstep, and it can bring them in droves.
By aligning the content that you publish with your customers’ interests, you attract the people that are most likely to buy from your company. The keystone of this methodology is creating quality and diverse forms of content to share on the Internet. Inbound marketing helps you publish the right content, at the right time, in the right place.
Pro Tip: In digital marketing, a call to action (CTA) is an instruction on your website designed to provoke users into entering the path to conversion. Your website CTAs should be clearly visible, above the fold, and include a unique and compelling offer that draws visitors into your inbound marketing system before they exit your site.
When ideal clients first visit your website, you want them to take one of five actions before leaving: buy, try, call, email, or follow. With inbound marketing, there are three key tactical areas you need to attract visitors, build an audience, and convert them to sales:
- You need to build a great website with a blog that consistently delivers deliberate, full optimized quality content. You also need to actively participate in social media channels and establish a footprint.
- To convert new website visitors, you need to capture their details with calls to action, online forms, and landing pages. Creative sales copy coupled with compelling graphic design and call to action carrots (such as free eBooks or special discount offers), will help spur the desired action. You will build an inbound marketing database of emails that will become a key asset in this process.
- With inbound marketing, it is imperative that you delight your consumers. This involves customer relationship management, closed-loop closed-loop reporting, and email and marketing automation. Surveys, social monitoring, analytics, and smart content creation are also important elements of the system.
The Future is Content Marketing
Within the inbound marketing sphere, another, more direct, form of digital marketing has replaced link building in terms of focus and importance in the SEO industry — content marketing.
In terms of SEO, a properly executed content marketing strategy will naturally attract the best kind of backlinks and genuine social signals.
Content can influence customer behavior over time. As an ongoing process, content marketing is the art and science of effectively communicating with your audience, so that you can sell your products with enough predictability to grow your business.
Unlike many other types of marketing, content marketing does not directly sell your products or services. There are very few direct marketing messages in this discipline. When you market with content, you aim to entertain, educate, or enhance the information surrounding your business. In other words, teaching is the new marketing.
Content is the present and the future of marketing. If you infuse your content with your brand’s story and help your consumers understand what you believe in and why they will choose to buy from you. This is what makes content marketing such a highly effective form of marketing.
A strong piece of content might make someone stop, read, think, and then take action. An educational video created by a natural health company on the dangers of sugar is a good example. It can include modern research and information that would enrich the users’ search experience. If the user decides she trusts the brand, she will naturally click over to her list of natural supplements to purchase some Stevia. At no point in the video did the company overtly advertise its products, because the focus was on the user and education, not the marketing message. Modern consumers love this form of media because it is non-intrusive and leaves the choice to them.
The key variable in content marketing is value. This is why it aligns well with the Google algorithm because the two work hand in hand to deliver a better experience to the end-user. Any form of content can be part of a content marketing campaign, and you should be aware that there is an extensive range of mediums available.
From podcasts, web pages, blog posts, and videos to landing pages, books, tweets, Facebook posts, and guest webinars, content fuels SEO like wood fuels a fire.
The Authority Marketplace
Content marketing has become the most effective way to gain authority in today’s marketplace. With the right content, you can soft-sell anything to a targeted audience, saving you time, money, and effort. All you need is a strong strategy, an SEO mindset, and the ability to consistently create high-quality content.
Pro Tip: In today’s authority marketplace, the companies with the best content become the most respected. This also signals to Google, through visits and engagement, that you are a subject-matter expert. Use content marketing to build authority in your niche, and you will dramatically improve your website’s online visibility.
A business that spends time building authority and subject-matter expertise can dominate its niche. Many brands have done this in order to leapfrog over their competition. They publish expert posts in their niche and have become the “go-to” teachers, mentors, and experts because of it.
Anyone can brand herself an expert, but it takes meticulous strategy, high-quality content, and consistency to convince Google that the expertise is authentic. Brands or personalities that are the most searched are the ones making the most money. Google leads by example by periodically releasing free courses and webinars, and by regular old blog posts.
There has been an explosion in image and video content over the last five years, but nothing beats good, solid text. Writing is a critical element for lending weight, trust, and credibility to your brand. A company with good writing resources can build a strong online following, which can be converted into repeat sales.
If you had capitalized on the content marketing trend back in 2010, your brand would be significantly larger today. Content marketing is here to stay, and it’s never too late to get started. Just like backlinks, you need to focus on quality rather than quantity. If you start pumping out fluffy, useless content, your content marketing efforts will backfire. Keep in mind that the kind of content your company chooses to create will shape how customers perceive your brand online.
Building Content Distribution Channels
A content distribution channel is any platform your brand can use to consistently publish content online. Multiple channels form a major network of your personalized brand content and should all point back to your website. In content marketing, your website is like the “central command” for all of your content.
You control your own destiny on your website, but not so on platforms like Facebook or Google +, where any small policy change might negatively impact your business. You want your website to be the referral source for all of your best content. It’s much more beneficial, from an SEO standpoint, to post a story on your website’s blog and then to share that post on Facebook, than it is to publish the content directly on Facebook with no digital trail back to your site. In other words, publish on your website, then share and distribute that content on social media.
SEO experts focus on building websites that rank. Business owners want quality online leads and for the phone to ring off the hook. To attain both of these, you need to understand how to build online content distribution channels. And it all starts with articulating your main goals and metrics and then developing an overarching content strategy that will govern your individual channel strategies.
Pro Tip: Think of each channel point as a piece of your brand puzzle. Your content should not be the same on every platform, but rather should be tailored for that specific audience. Each channel will need to be optimized to suit the style and needs of that platform, according to what works best for that community. Remember that content posted in your distribution rainbow must lead back to your site to turn it into a lead-generating pot of gold.
You should think of content marketing in terms of a strategy, not as a random marketing tactic. It encompasses all of your channels and lays out how they work in unison to build a complete picture for your user. Along with your website and blog, the other five main channels you should focus on are Facebook, LinkedIn, Google +, Twitter, and YouTube. There are many other social media channels that may be effective for your business, such as Pinterest and Instagram, as well as niche websites such as Houzz. If your customers are members of other social media websites, you need a presence on those too. Your content distribution channel should also include guest-blogging partnerships with third-party websites, online press release services, and any business or association website where you can reliably publish content or news about your business.
With your website at the core of your marketing pursuits, you will strike out and develop content distribution channels that will shape the face of your brand online. In terms of SEO, your custom channel will enable you to consistently distribute fresh content to an ever-growing audience. This, in turn, will generate social and website engagement signals that will contribute to higher search engine rankings.
Blogs and Guest Blogging
Back in 2009, top content marketers realized that blogging was a powerful tool for SEO. Facebook was reaching an unfathomable level of popularity, and social media was shiny and new. Marketing pros that saw the potential in creating original content for SEO are now leaders in the field.
You can still replicate this success for your brand. A website with a blog is a powerful publication tool. Google essentially wants your company to open a publishing division and invest in creating great content for your brand. Its algorithm updates have made this very clear. Fresh, high-quality content regularly posted on a blog is a major ranking factor.
A business without a blog is a business looking for trouble. Credible companies need to realize that a single blog post each week on an optimized website will land them higher in the search rankings over time than will be wasting money on low-quality SEO services on a static website.
Once your brand or a personality within your brand, has established a blog, you are a subject- matter expert. You can now engage in the industry’s best- kept secret — guest blogging. The best bloggers in a specific niche tend to know each other, because they leverage one another for influencer marketing, social media amplification, and yes, SEO.
Pro Tip: Guest blogging is a content marketing tactic. To do it right, you need to identify high-quality websites relevant to your industry. Your goal is to create an educational (non-advertorial) blog post and submit it to the site owner for publishing. Be sure to include a bio at the end of your guest blog post that includes a link to your website and at least one social media account. Upon publishing, both parties should cross-amplify the post in social media for maximum exposure. Guest blogging is unique in its ability to generate many levels of social media, marketing, and SEO value. Consider inviting guest bloggers to occasionally publish on your website as well.
Aside from killer content, what does Google love most? Genuine links! Guest blogging (for free, not paid) is one of the best possible methods of earning quality, genuine links that improve the credibility of your website. If you can create expert contributor posts for high quality, third-party websites relevant to your niche, you will get SEO value from them.
Guest blogging is a good way to show Google that your content is important and useful within your niche. It is not easy, and you will have to do some legwork and outreach to find guest blogging opportunities, but it is worth it.
Don’t try to cheat Google by creating link-laden, keyword-stuffed, spammy content to publish on poor-quality websites. Using guest blogging for the sole purpose of getting backlinks to your site is just another silly form of black hat SEO. Create original, high-quality, niche information of which you are proud. This is how you can use guest blogging to grow your audience and make a positive contribution to your search engine rankings.
Website authority is about who links to you, and guest blogging typically results in links back to your website. As you strategically create and publish guest blog posts, these links will, over time, contribute to a well-rounded SEO strategy. While guest blogging is popular in the SEO niche, relatively few companies use this tactic, which leaves you with an opportunity on which to capitalize.
Books, eBooks, Case Studies, and More
Valuable, optimized content is essential to content marketing, with a diversity of formats being a key element. The companies that are winning big online are using digital content to build their authority and online brand presence. This is how you build an SEO wall that will be tough for your competitors to break. We have discussed social media and blog posting at length, so here are other forms of content to add to your arsenal:
- Print Books: With many self-publishing options today, it’s much easier to create and publish a book than you might think. Many brands are doing this now, and it not only helps you establish niche authority but enables your brand to leverage the power of Amazon and other online book-distribution networks.
- eBooks: Create an eBook on a topic that will promote your products or services by telling a story or educating an audience. EBooks are used as lead magnets and subscriber incentives to build email lists, or they are sold on Amazon as an additional revenue source.
- Case Studies: These prove to your users that you have a track record of past successes. They can be posted on your website, shared on social media, and used in official marketing publications.
- Whitepapers: Establish yourself as an industry expert by publishing periodic whitepapers on common problems and solutions in your field. Persuasive whitepapers are a clear demonstration of authority.
- Infographics: Infographics appeal to members of your audience who are more visual or have shorter attention spans. These detailed graphic images tell a story by laying out complex information in a simple format that is attractive to the eye. They are highly sharable and make excellent social media posts.
- Web Videos: Aside from blog posts, nothing beats video in terms of SEO and conversion value. Build trust and authority by creating how-to and explainer videos. Do reviews, talk about industry news, and work with your customers and strategic partners to create testimonial videos.
- Webinars: A webinar is a short online course that educates people on a specific subject. It usually includes a few subject-matter experts who discuss or explain something important. These can be live or they can be staged.
- Slideshow Presentations: Any time you use a PowerPoint presentation to present to an audience, be sure to upload that presentation to a slideshow-sharing site such as SlideShare.net. Once published, your presentations can achieve their own organic rank, and similar to videos, this media file can be embedded on third-party websites.
- Guides and User Manuals: Content can be instructive, and there is nothing more rewarding than educating your audience. A good guide not only tells your potential buyer how you do something but why. These are great sales tools!
These and other content formats will help you feed the “content monster” that is born the moment you implement a content strategy. SEO relies on fresh, relevant content, so keep these forms of content coming!