When I speak with clients about developing, or redeveloping their company website, I am often asked if we can get their site to appear at the top of search results.
It’s an appropriate question. After all, search engines are the new “yellow pages” of today. Instead of flipping through a phone book to find the products or services they want, now your potential customers are searching the Internet.
But how to get a top ranking in search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo!, is only part of the challenge. Online marketing is all about standing out in a very crowded Internet marketplace with one goal in mind: drive more business.
It’s not enough to simply “be” at the top of search engine results, it’s a matter of being “found” online.
Not long ago, SEO firms spent their time creating web pages that included a lot of variations of the keywords that their client wanted to rank for. These web pages were not for human eyes. They existed “behind the scenes” for the search engines to index and link back to the company’s actual website. This tactic worked pretty well with the old search engine algorithms to push a company website to a page one search ranking for certain keywords, but didn’t always translate into website traffic and, more importantly, qualified business leads.
Search engines today are much smarter about returning search results based on natural conversations. Rather than simply matching up keywords, new search algorithms, like Google Hummingbird, are able to make a pretty good guess at the actual intent of the searcher’s query.
Marketers have responded by shifting from old-school SEO, which measured success by keyword ranking, and are instead focusing on inbound marketing strategies that produce ROI by attracting traffic and converting leads. The result is not necessarily a top search engine ranking, but more and better qualified visitors driven back to the company website.
What does Inbound Marketing Mean for Your Business?
For years, companies have been frustrated that they’ve spent a lot of time and marketing budget on their website, but they still aren’t generating the traffic, leads, and business results they expected.
Search engine optimization alone, misses potential visitors who do not use specific keywords in their search query and lacks the mechanism to convert anonymous visitors into qualified leads. Combine this with Google’s change in search strategy to promote natural conversations, reviews, video and other content, and the advantages of an inbound approach to marketing becomes clear.
What Does Inbound Marketing Look Like?
Create Content - Inbound marketing is about your content being found in the right place, at the right time by the right people. Instead of obsessing over keywords, creating content for inbound marketing involves what you know about your ideal customers, and then providing the kind of creative, engaging content that they want to consume.
Convert Leads - How do you know what your ideal customer wants? Many companies can make an educated guess, or target markets where they want to compete. An inbound marketing strategy uses a website that converts website visitors into contacts and leads. Using data you collect from real prospects, you can tailor content that is hyper-focused to their specific needs.
Nurture Leads - Inbound marketing is not a quick fix. It is a long-term process of nurturing visitors, contacts and leads with offers they find interesting. You need to commit to a regular schedule of content creation, including blogging, social media, email marketing and more, to continually attract and convert website traffic, and nurture leads through their decision-making process.
Measure - One big advantage of online marketing is the volume of data captured. Use that data to track the performance of your inbound marketing strategy so that you can see what works and what does not. Then optimize your campaigns and adjust your ongoing efforts over time.
The ability for consumers to find for themselves, the information they want online, coupled with recent changes to search algorithms, has prompted businesses to rethink traditional SEO, and embrace an inbound marketing approach to create relevant content, convert leads and measure their online marketing results.