Ever since Google rolled out the “Boston” update back in 2003, the SEO game has seen a constant evolution. Google’s persistence in providing a better user experience to their users has made marketers adapt to the changes and updates that are introduced from time to time.
As a result of this constant change, some of these techniques or tactics have shown superb results, others became obsolete, and there were also some that could never become anything more than a “buzzword”.
Another upcoming technique, or rather, a set of techniques is “inbound marketing”. If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you may have heard of this term. Just like with everything that shows even a slight spike in results, the web is filled with hundreds of guides that teach you how you can build an inbound marketing strategy.
For those who don’t know what inbound marketing is, here’s the HubSpot definition:
“Inbound marketing is focused on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage in your customer’s buying journey.”
Thanks to ad blocking technology, reaching out to prospects have become more difficult than ever before. Marketing tactics and techniques that were once considered “traditional” are now being regarded as intrusive. These days, prospects don’t want to be disturbed with advertising and this is where inbound marketing proves to be advantageous.
While there is a need for marketers to adapt to this shift in consumer behavior and expectation, simply abandoning the tactics that have worked for a business in the past is not the smartest move.
Instead of going cold turkey on your current strategy, supplement it with inbound marketing. Here are a few ways you can supercharge your existing marketing efforts with little inbound marketing tweaks:
Account-based marketing to supplement mass marketing
As of 2017, 615 million conventional devices and 108 million mobile devices use Adblock. This is a clear indication of how repulsed the audiences are when it comes to advertising.
Conventional practices are all about becoming visible, getting impressions, and building brand recognition. While all that is definitely important for long-term success, simply making your brand visible is not enough. As an agency, we understand that our clients don’t care about impressions, they care about leads generated, conversion rates, and the amount of revenue brought in as a result of their marketing efforts.
The same can be achieved by introducing a little personalization to your current marketing efforts. Enter account-based marketing (ABM), a precision led marketing approach that targets only your best prospects.
What is Account Based Marketing?
By definition, Account-based marketing concentrates on engaging and marketing to a specific list of prospects instead of marketing to a large audience.
ABM is all about concentrating on your best prospects. Instead of generating hundreds of leads, ABM targets a few ideal prospects and guides them through a comprehensive conversion funnel to lead them to the purchase decision.
ABM is especially effective for B2B businesses where the sales cycles are long, the purchase decision requires a high level of consideration, and generating leads is difficult. When these things are true, the average customer lifetime value is also usually much higher. While inbound marketing practices are all about attracting customers, ABM actively and directly markets your offering to a potential client.
Here’s an email that we sent to Zoho, informing them about their canonical URL issue, which eventually helped us close a $20,000 monthly deal with them.
In order to make your offering stand out, ABM employs personalized messaging that addresses your prospect’s pain points to show them that your offering is the perfect solution to their problem. However, the first step in this direction is to build buyer personas of your ideal consumers and understand their most pressing pain points. Hubspot did a great guide on buyer personas.
80% of marketers agree that ABM outperforms other marketing initiatives, and the reason is obvious. As human beings, we all want to feel special and valued, which is exactly what ABM does for your prospects.
How To Use ABM To Your Advantage
As mentioned earlier, abandoning your existing strategies altogether is a risky and probably, expensive move. Instead, the smart thing to do is to continue pushing for better brand recognition and simultaneously reach out to your best prospects with personalized communication. Doing so will have two advantages:
- You will be able to catch the attention of the most valuable prospects.
- Since 70% customers choose “known retailers” your brand recognition efforts will ensure they identify and trust your brand to continue further into the conversion funnel.
Keyword intent to supplement smarter keyword research
All digital marketing strategies that work start at keyword research. There was once a time when simply stuffing web pages with keywords meant you have a pretty good chance of ending up on the first page of Google SERPs. However, soon enough, keyword stuffing became something websites were being penalized for.
Google is constantly working towards improving the user experience on their platform. For a search engine, better user experience simply translates to ease of finding answers to queries. For this reason, Google started giving backlinks and content more important than keywords.
Right now, a strong backlink profile is more important than ever before. However, keywords still haven’t lost importance. After all, keywords remain the only way for search engines to understand what the user is looking for and present them with relevant information. To improve this experience further, Google has started hinting on the importance of search intent or keyword intent.
What is keyword intent?
Simply put, keyword intent is the reason behind a search. It goes beyond the search term to understand what the user is really looking for. Are they looking for an answer to a question? Are they looking for a product? Are they researching before a purchase? Are they trying to land on a specific website?
This can be easily explained with an example. Imagine you search for the term ‘breakfast’ on Google. The intention behind this term can vary, you could be looking for a breakfast joint near you or could be searching for breakfast food recipes as well.
Searching for a term is the first step in a buyer’s journey to making a purchase. If you are able to understand the intent behind the most common (and relevant) search terms being used by your personas, you can create relevant content to guide them to the purchase decision. Not to forget, if the users end up fulfilling the objective of their query on your website, a better rank on the SERPs is almost guaranteed.
How to use keyword intent to your advantage
In order to be able to really leverage the power of keyword intent, it is important to understand the buyer’s journey. Let’s look at this journey from the keyword point of view. When making a purchase, each buyer goes through three stages:
The Awareness Stage: This is where your prospects realize that they have a problem and are looking for solutions. The majority of your prospects could be in this stage. Since at this stage, the intent of making a purchase is absent, you need to target keywords centered around queries. At this stage, long-tail keywords are most relevant. For instance, for an inbound marketing agency, the relevant queries of their customers at this stage would be:
- What is inbound marketing? Is it worth the effort?
- How to do inbound marketing?
- Why is inbound marketing becoming popular?
- What are some great inbound marketing tactics?
Consideration Stage: After realizing they have a problem, this is where your prospects are actively looking for a solution. In most cases, a consumer in the consideration stage has already made the decision to purchase and is looking out for the most feasible option. At this stage, the prospect is “considering” and comparing his options online. The queries for our inbound agency example from the previous stage would look something like:
- How to choose the best inbound marketing agency?
- Inbound marketing agencies in [area].
Decision Stage: By this time, if your content for the previous stages is on point (more on how to craft targeted content in the next section), the prospect is somewhat convinced that your offering is the best solution to their problem. They usually just need that last bit of convincing to push them into making a purchase right away. This is where urgency and information play a crucial role. At this time, your keywords should focus on purchase or contact terms. Drawing from our previous example, the queries for our imaginary inbound marketing agency will look like:
- How much does inbound marketing cost at [agency]?
- How much time does it take to see the results of inbound marketing?
- Do inbound marketing services come with a guarantee?
It is also important to remember that while most of your prospects will be in the first stage of the buyer’s journey, there is a good chance that you will run into a number of leads that are in the subsequent stages.
Once you have understood the intent behind the keywords your audiences are using, this intelligence can then be applied to create relevant content for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Let’s jump right on to how that can be done!
Education to supplement brand promotion
In this section, we will be looking at the buyer journey from a marketer’s point of view in order to understand what kind of content works for each stage. This is also a good time to mention that the buyer’s journey is also called the conversion funnel. The logic behind this term is that the potential prospect is guided through a funnel of “keyword-intent powered” content to lead them to the purchase decision.
The objective of this approach is not to advertise your offering in the initial stages. As mentioned earlier, when the prospect is at the beginning of their journey, or at the top of the conversion funnel, they are looking for information, and not for products to purchase.
Brand promotion content is still extremely important. However, combining that promotion with a comprehensive, educational content-powered funnel is a great way to not only boost sales numbers but to build better, more lasting relationships with your prospects.
What kind of content should you create for each stage of the conversion funnel?
Since we will be looking at the conversion funnel or the buyer’s journey from a marketer’s point of view, a post-purchase stage will also have to be taken into consideration to engage and retain the converted clients.
- Awareness Stage: In the last section, we established that the prospect is simply looking for information related to their problem. At this stage, educational content powered by top-of-the-funnel keywords works best. Blog posts and infographics are ideal for the awareness stage. Well researched content that provides in-depth information and actionable solutions will compel your prospects to move to the next stage of your conversion funnel. Moreover, since your content will be relevant to the queries of your prospects, it will also boost your SERP rankings.
- Consideration Stage: This is where the consumer starts understanding how your services can solve their problems. At this stage, your content should focus on showing that your offering is the ideal solution. This can be easily achieved with explainer videos, how-to blog posts for your products, and case studies. Remember, the prospect is currently weighing their options and your content should set a stage for purchase.
- Decision Stage: By this time, the consumer has realized your offering is the best solution to their problem. The only challenge left is to convince them to make the purchase now. Testimonials, reviews, and offers that communicate urgency (like limited time discounts) work like magic at this stage.
- Post Purchase Stage: Once you have managed to convert a visitor into a customer, it is time to convert them into a repeat-customer and ambassador of your brand. After all, word of mouth is the best form of marketing and who better to promote your product/service than a satisfied customer. Produce content about your business values, CSR, and customer service. ‘Thank You’ emails, special offers, how-to videos, new updates, surveys and general feedback follow-ups on their experience are some great ways to let your customers know that you still care about them.
More Ways To Use Informative Content To Start Building Lasting Relationships:
Creating content for your website is critical for search engine rankings and for the conversion funnel. However, apart from the search engine, there are a number of other platforms where your content can attract prospects to your conversion funnel.
Guest Blogging: Like we said, your prospects at the top of the funnel are hungry for information. So a substantial chunk of your audience will end up at an authority blog in your niche. Approaching such online publications for a guest post contribution and partnering up with them for content collaboration is not just a way to get valuable backlinks, it also enhances your visibility in front of relevant audiences. Not to forget, when your brand is visible on a website that your prospect trusts for information gathering, it gives you an added credibility over the competition. Guest blogging is a great way to build trust for your brand and also supplements your brand recognition goals and online presence.
However, keep in mind that the emails you use to reach out to top bloggers in your niche should be as personalized as the emails you send to your key accounts. Using a template and giving it little tweaks to make it look and feel personalized works well. Check out the email we used to secure a guest post on JeffBullas.com:
It’s a simple email that begins with offering a little bit of background of the sender. On the second paragraph, we mixed our pitch for a guest post opportunity with a bit of humor to build rapport. Popular guest post site editors already get tons of guest post request emails, and trying a bit of humor can help break the ice. In the end, the emails talk about my offering in clear and concise words.
Social Media: Yes, that’s another platform where your consumers are very active. But besides general chats, people also use these social platforms to look for information and recommendations when they are purchasing. Not to forget, brand interactions on social media routinely go viral (remember Wendy’s twitter roasts?). Having a robust social media presence may require a bit of effort, but if done right, the results are well worth it. We wrote a comprehensive guide on how brands can drive engagements and traffic through social media.
Traffic to supplement rankings, and vice-versa
Ranking high on the SERPs remains one of the top objectives of any marketing endeavor on the Internet. However, there are a number of “hacks” that will get a website to the first page of the SERPs, but they rarely have a long-lasting effect.
Moreover, as unreal as it may sound, better rankings and more impressions don’t directly translate into a better bottom line. For this reason, and for the sake of better user experience, it is important to keep the focus on relevance. If a brand has understood their target audience in detail and knows about their pain points and addresses them, success, both in terms of sales and rankings is definite.
If the user is searching for a term that you rank for, ends up visiting multiple pages of your website because the information is relevant, it will be much easier to convert them into a lead and eventually make a sale. This will also communicate relevance and trust to the search engine, lower your bounce rate, and ultimately, improve your rankings for the said keywords. Improved rankings, in turn, mean more (relevant) traffic. In simple words, while the technical part of SEO is important unless it is combined with the intention of providing real value, the results will be short lived.
Traditional digital marketing and inbound marketing are definitely complementary practices. Adapting to the latter does not require a sacrifice, it simply demands a little proactive action. Building a customer-focused marketing strategy automatically translates into building a business goal focussed marketing strategy.
However, one thing that works for improving the performance both disciplines is testing. The Internet not only empowers the users, it empowers marketers by offering valuable data about every effort they make. Testing emails, landing pages, even Call To Action buttons will provide invaluable intelligence that can be applied to improve the results that your efforts bring about.