Historically, many marketers saw search engine optimization (SEO) as one piece of the inbound marketing puzzle. However, as search algorithms have evolved, it’s hard to imagine any piece of inbound marketing not influenced by SEO. In fact, the future of SEO looks a lot like inbound marketing. It is a key ingredient to the overall success of your inbound marketing strategy.
To demonstrate this, below are a few areas SEO can help to define your inbound marketing plan.
Defining buyer personas
Before you can start in on developing an inbound marketing strategy, you must first develop your buyer personas. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.
Understanding your personas will give you a better understanding of who your target audience is, and what kind of content needs to be developed in order to grab their attention. The more you understand your personas, the more likely you’ll be to resonate with them.
On a basic level, SEO is about connecting with your personas and attracting them to your website. If you want to rank in search engines, you need to know who you are trying to rank for, so that you can develop a strategy and tactics to get in front of them. In other words, make them aware of who you are. This is the first phase of the inbound marketing methodology.
Researching and implementing keywords
Once you have your personas in mind, you should have an understanding of what they’re searching for online and, in turn, which search terms you’d like to rank for on search engine results pages (SERPS).
Create a list of ideal keywords and conduct keyword research — with tools such as the Google AdWords Keyword Planner — to identify which words are best suited to rank for, based on search volume and competition. Once you have a solid list of core keywords, make sure you keep them in a place you can quickly reference when needed. The keywords will frequently be used throughout your inbound marketing strategy to help your business get found online.
The use of keywords as they relate to SEO has changed over time, but they’re still important and critical for SEO success and an effective inbound marketing plan. They’ll be used in your website, content and promotional strategies.
Note: Do not keyword stuff. In other words, don’t flood your content and website with your target keywords with the purpose of getting the attention of search engines. Search engines will penalize you for doing this. Instead, use keywords naturally within your content. Remember, your main goal should be to provide a positive user experience.
Developing a lead-generating website
At the heart of every inbound marketing plan lies a lead-generating website that can help convert website visitors into leads. However, no matter how amazing your website is, it won’t matter if people can’t find it. When building or re-designing your website, keep the following in mind to help you get found in search engine results.
1. Provide a positive user experience.
Yes, when it comes to SEO, user experience does matter. The more engaged the users are on your website, the more it will improve your search engine rank, as Google measures dwell time as a ranking factor. When selecting design and navigation as part of the user experience, don’t forget to keep your personas in mind.
2. Don’t ignore technical SEO tactics.
When building your website, you can’t ignore the technical components that contribute to ranking factors. For example, if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, Google will penalize you. If your site has slow load times, Google will penalize you. Do your homework to ensure you’re not missing any technical tactics that could impact your rank.
3. Keep content top-of-mind.
Content may be your most important SEO tool, so it’s important to give it the attention it deserves. In fact, it’s so important that it deserves its own section in this post.
Creating your content strategy
Content creation is at the core of any inbound marketing strategy. By creating engaging and educational content that caters to your personas’ wants and needs, you’ll be able to establish yourself as an authority in your field and credible source for information when they need it.
The trust that they develop with your brand from these efforts will make your audience more likely to buy from you.
To develop a solid content strategy, think back to your personas and see how you can best fulfill their wants and needs through content — whether it be answering questions or writing an article about a topic they're passionate about. Once you have that topic in mind, consider how you might be able to incorporate keywords from your list into the content to help get you found in search engine results.
Search engines like when websites are active, which is why it’s a good idea to run and maintain an active company blog where you can publish content on a regular basis. To help optimize your blog for search, consider including a target keyword in the following areas for each post:
- Page title
- Meta description
- H1 tags
- Naturally within the content
To learn more, read “Meta tags and the head section of a website.”
Outside of the blog, incorporate keywords in other types of content as well, including videos and premium content pieces, like digital white papers.
Promoting your content
Simply writing your content and publishing it isn’t enough to get found online; you need to get people to see it! Go back to your personas and think about where they would be hanging out online. Which social media platforms are they active in? Are they responsive to email? Do they frequent other sites that your content can be posted on?
If you know where your personas are spending their time, you’ll be able to get your content in front of them.
In terms of SEO, by promoting your content outside of your own website (off-page SEO), you’ll end up creating inbound links that are driving traffic to your website. The more people that click on an external link driving traffic to your website, the more relevant and popular search engines will think you are. This will thereby boost your rank.
Let SEO guide your inbound marketing strategy
As you can see, not only is SEO an integral part of an inbound marketing strategy, it can also actually define it. By keeping the above tactics and recommendations in mind, you’ll be on your way to setting yourself up for a successful inbound marketing plan.