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Inbound marketing and SEO – working together in harmony
When you are creating content on behalf of your brand, there are many principles that you want to embody in your writing. Your priorities will likely be to showcase your business in the best possible light, target customers effectively and get those all-important high search rankings – but is it possible to do it all?
In content marketing, there often comes a cross-point where you need to decide whether to finetune your content for the preferences of search engines like Google or focus on serving the informational needs of your readers.
Inbound marketing can help solve that problem, allowing you to deliver content that pleases your customers while fitting in with SEO algorithms, so you still rank for the right keywords.
In this guide, we have explored how inbound marketing and SEO can work together in perfect harmony, enabling you to achieve all the deliverables you need to with your content and promote favourable results for your business.
What is inbound marketing?
Inbound is a marketing methodology that emphasises how brands can provide value at every stage of the customer journey. It aims to tailor marketing activity to the needs and questions of the consumer at any given point, so they can gather evidence and come to an informed purchasing decision. As a business, you will nurture them along this journey so that they commit to a purchase with you.
When creating inbound content, your goal is to exceed the customer’s expectations by attracting, engaging and delighting them. Insight forms a vital role in understanding the different pain points, challenges and preferences that each customer audience experiences during their buyer journey. It will enable you to craft copy that is relevant and timely, addressing their needs and being available to them at the very time that they are searching, in the right way, and on the most appropriate platforms.
What is SEO?
SEO (which stands for Search Engine Optimisation) is a way of writing content to reach the top of the search engine results pages (SERP). With 25% of people clicking the first result that shows on Google and few venturing past the first page, securing those top spots can be incredibly powerful in bringing traffic to your website.
By using SEO, you can target customers with relevant queries to your business using the right keywords. For example, if you are a car insurance provider, you might write content that answers questions such as ‘what is a car insurance excess?’. By ranking highly for that search term, you can bring users to your website and from there, they might convert to a customer if your content has made them feel informed and confident enough to buy a policy from you.
To incorporate SEO, you need to undertake keyword research to identify the language that the public are using when searching and find relevant words to target. Your aim should be to match the user’s search intent so that you thoroughly answer their queries and provide the information they want.
How do inbound and SEO work together?
While inbound and SEO are often discussed separately as concepts, there is a great deal of overlap between the two. By combining them, you can enhance the results you experience.
Often, SEO is seen as a way of just increasing traffic to your website by using the correct search terms to lure people in. However, genuinely great SEO content needs to match the intent of the user as well as the words they use. When deciding which content to list first on the search engines results page, Google doesn’t just focus on what website uses the term being searched the most. It prioritises those that provide the most value to users to better answer their questions in depth.
When creating search engine optimised content, this means looking at the questions they have and providing everything they want to know – in an authoritative way, using a tone of voice that resonates and shows your brand as a trusted partner in their journey. This emphasis on value directly aligns with the principles of inbound marketing.
The questions a consumer may have will vary depending on the stage of the customer journey. Inbound is about answering those questions at each step so that the individual successfully moves along towards a decision. By utilising both SEO and inbound, you can identify the queries across the buyer journey and answer them appropriately.
SEO is also a way to lead people to your brand, forming part of the ‘attract’ stage in the inbound methodology. Once you have brought them to your website, you need to use inbound principles to guide them along their journey, providing continual value to engage and delight them. By doing so, you can turn your search traffic into leads and then into customers.
SEO and inbound can fuel one another. By implementing value, as with the inbound methodology, you’re more likely to match search intent and reach the top positions of Google. Using SEO, you can help people find you by speaking in their language, empowering your inbound activity to better understand the answers they need – and then convert them into customers.
How do I combine both?
As SEO and inbound complement each other so well, it makes sense that you should use them both in your content approach. While you still need strategies that focus on each individually, they should work together to boost your results. We’ve listed the steps you should take to combine both efficiently.
Start by using SEO as a source of insight
As we’ve already mentioned, inbound marketing relies on audience insight to understand your target customers’ needs. SEO can provide this insight, through keyword research, by helping you to define the language your audience is using and the questions they are asking around specific topics. This can help you decide what subjects you should tackle in your content and the terminology you should use, so you can go about answering their queries.
Create a content plan
With keyword research to arm your approach, you can start to craft a content plan and build a hub of information that is authoratitive and capable of providing answers. When planning your content, you need to focus on offering relevant information that aligns with their journey stage.
Let’s take a fitness equipment brand as an example. In the attract stage, content will look at users as relative strangers to fitness gear and your business. Titles may include ‘The best fitness equipment to use at home’ or ‘The benefits of fitness equipment’. The goal is to kickstart their education in the area and help them understand what they need.
By the engage stage, the user will better understand what fitness equipment is and how it can help them, but they need to know what specific solutions they should use. In this stage, content titles may include the likes of ‘What are the best resistance bands to use?’ or ‘What dumbbell weight should I buy?’. The information you provide will move them on in their mission so that they can decide what they want to buy from your brand.
Finally, at the delight stage, your customer has already committed to a purchase, and your focus is adding value that exceeds their expectations and improves their loyalty. A content title example could be ‘The ten best exercises to do with your resistance band’, which helps customers get the most from their purchase and increases satisfaction.
When content planning, you need to keep your keyword research and product offering in mind. This will help you refine your titles to suit the questions users are actually asking while maintaining their relevance to your brand.
Write content that provides value
Once you have pinned down the content titles you will be writing, it’s time to contemplate the actual copy. This is what will enable you to secure high search rankings and satisfy readers, so it’s vital to get it right.
You must implement both SEO and inbound tactics in your writing. For SEO, this means using the proper terminology, determined by your keyword research. For inbound marketing, it means incorporating a tone of voice that matches your brand personality and allows you to become a helpful, authoritative figure to readers. Both methodologies will also require you to be clear and offer the relevant information for the user’s needs.
Most importantly, you need to consider how you can provide the most support for your readers. This might mean going beyond the questions asked and identifying additional needs the user might not even know they yet have. By providing continual value, you can ensure you encompass the fundamentals of the inbound methodology by nurturing consumers and bringing them to your brand. You will also help search engines understand what your content is about and how it can serve users, so Google ranks you for the relevant terms.
Both SEO and inbound are continual processes that you need to consistently implement into your work. Neither are ever ‘complete’ and you must identify new ways to optimise your content over time.
Look to review and update your content regularly to align with consumer behaviour at that time and address any new needs that may have emerged. Google tends to favour content that is updated, which can help you boost your SEO and continue to outrank your competitors.
Thinking ahead also means considering where your customers may go next. As the focus of inbound is to guide the customer along their journey, you need to consider how your content does this. Map content for each stage of the customer journey so that they have somewhere to go that is aligned to their emerging requirements. You should also utilise calls-to-action that informs users of where that next step is while keeping them close to your brand.
Although SEO and inbound marketing are two individual concepts, there are many ways in which they intertwine. Ensuring your content planning and creation is aligned with both allows them fuel each other.
With this, you can enjoy better results. It will become easier to attract higher levels of traffic to your website. You will then convert those strangers into customers before delighting them so much that they become loyal brand ambassadors.
The impact for your brand will be a growing customer base and content that works for you on every level.