If you’re familiar with inbound marketing, then you probably have a general idea of what SEO (search engine optimization) is all about. If you’re not sure what SEO is—you’ve got some work to do! This post covers the basics and explains why it's so important to incorporate SEO into your inbound marketing strategy.
What is SEO?
According to Moz, one of the leading experts in the industry, “SEO is a marketing discipline focused on growing visibility in organic (non-paid) search engine results. SEO encompasses both the technical and creative elements required to improve rankings, drive traffic, and increase awareness in search engines.”
In other words, SEO is all about making sure your website is easily found in search engine results pages (SERPs), and the higher it ranks, the better. There’s certainly a lot more to it, but we won’t get into the nitty gritty in this post. Search Engine Land created an excellent video that explains the basics of SEO. To summarize, here’s what you need to know:
Every word on your website will be accounted for by search engines. The content on your site should be comprehensive, yet reasonable. Be sure to write content that includes the keywords you want to rank for, but don’t overdo it. “Keyword stuffing” is not the right way to approach your SEO strategy. If it doesn’t sound like natural language, it could be a turn off to search engines and readers alike.
Every one of your website pages should be titled succinctly, giving your audience and search engines an accurate idea of what the page is all about. This is the display name that will show up in the tab of your browser window.
Every time your website page is linked to from a trustworthy site, it increases the chances of being ranked higher. The takeaway here is trustworthy. Search engines can pick up on bogus practices (a.k.a. black hat SEO—or using techniques that often violate search engines’ terms of service and don’t necessarily help humans) and won’t reward that behavior well.
In addition to links from trustworthy sites, it’s important to note the types of words that are used in those links. For example, if you link to a source like Forbes, and in the link use the word “money,” search engines pick up on the fact that Forbes is related to the word “money.” Theoretically, the more that happens, the better the linked site will rank for that term.
Keeping your website content fresh and consistent should be a crucial part of your SEO strategy. But that’s not enough on its own. Growing the number of links pointing toward your site will be important as well, signaling to search engines that your site is relevant to specific keywords.
Oh, and there’s one more thing about SEO that’s mighty convincing. It can help you get more qualified leads.
“SEO leads tend to have higher close rates than outbound leads.” – Forbes
Now that we’ve covered the basics of SEO, it’s time to talk about inbound marketing and how the two are related.
What is inbound marketing?
Buyer behavior has changed over the past few years in a number of ways, from the things people expect from your business to the way they interact with the rest of the world. The more things change, the more you have to adjust your selling strategy.
The traditional method of outbound marketing (think cold calling) involves sending one message to a giant audience of potential customers. It isn’t working anymore, and hasn’t for a while. If your message doesn’t resonate with people, they’re gone in seconds.
HubSpot defines inbound marketing as being focused on “attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer's buying journey. With inbound marketing, potential customers find you through channels like blogs, search engines, and social media.”
“Companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got 4.5X more leads than companies that published 0–4 monthly posts.” – Forbes
Since we all know our collective attention span is close to non-existent, it’s now more important than ever to hit your audiences with the right message at the right time.
How do SEO and inbound marketing work together?
You should have strategies for both SEO and inbound marketing when it comes to your website.
If you only focus on implementing a really great SEO strategy and forget about inbound, it won’t pay off. Customers want to consume pieces of content that make them feel like they can trust you. If you don’t offer that, it won’t matter how many site visits you garner as a result of SEO efforts.
On the flip side, if you focus on inbound marketing and not SEO, you could suffer from a lack of traffic to your site. What good will your amazing content do if it can’t be found? A strong SEO strategy will ensure the content you create becomes visible to the people you are targeting.
When you combine the two, you’ll reap the benefits of each and draw in more people you actually want to target, as well as show up in relevant search results.
And don’t forget to develop and stick to your content strategy so you can provide people with what they want to see, when they want to see it, on a regular basis.