As referenced in the book, Inbound Marketing & SEO, Inbound Marketing is defined as an organisation gaining the privilege to deliver anticipated, personal and timely content to people who actually want to receive the content. It’s a concept the polar opposite of customers being blasted email shots, their email addresses being sold off to 3rd parties without permission, money off coupons and direct mail shots where an organisation hopes enough customers would interact with the promotion to make it stick.
A number of digital communications channels are being utilised to adapt an Inbound approach with the aim to customise the delivery of content to a well-defined, targeted customer group such as Search Engine Optimisation and Social Media, working together as one joined up digital strategy, delivering the same message adapted for the chosen digital channel optimsed to attract the right user group.
This post will discuss in more detail how SEO and Social Media can best be tailored for an inbound tactic:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO ensures that a web site is well placed to be discovered by a Search Engine (e.g. Google), when a user is looking for content or information.
The foundation for a successful SEO strategy is ensuring content is relevant and authoritative. Relevancy is measured by the degree to which the content of web pages and documents returned in a search matches the user’s query intention and terms. Authority refers to the importance of online content which is displayed to a user searching for a specific keyword or phrase.
For brand strategy, being an industry leader in your sector could mean your website already enjoys thousands of external links pointing to your online content from high authority websites e.g. Government and other industry leading websites such as broadcasters, ISPs for example. To succeed in generating links to website content from external websites requires your content to be remarkable and unique and is satisfying the requirements of the target audience and to ensure your search strategy is about creating content that users would want to find.
Major changes have taken place within the SEO landscape over the past few years such as the growth of Google and its continuous evolution of updates to its algorithms (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird…to name a few) which in turn has assisted to clean up the search engine results pages by removing low quality websites from ranking successfully. Instead, the search engine is focusing its efforts in ensuring recognised brands that deliver authoritative, compelling and remarkable content are benefitting from high search visibility.
It is no longer a case of having a website that is relevant and authoritative, but to consider SEO as only one part of the full digital communications mix in what has recently been described as one part of your inbound marketing strategy.
According to market research company Forrester, investment in social networks will increase by 300% over the next five years. This growth is mainly fuelled by the desire of organisations to utilise these channels to drive reach and engagement with their audiences through building brand advocates and developing communities.
Technology enables a crisis to be communicated and social media plays the part where anyone can comment and join in on the conversation. As well as providing a platform to provide participation between the brand and the audience, warranting the opportunity of Social Media to help amplify the brand and drive deeper engagement with its users.
Where social media was once treated as a separate digital channel, not connected with other tactics, it has now matured to become a channel that directly supports in particular SEO where the social signals are becoming more important as sources of information to search engines to define the relevancy of a brands offering and the ranking position of the organisation within search engines.
However, recent studies have suggested different social signals have a different weighting within search engines. According to a recent industry survey by Moz.com, Google+ has a direct correlation with the search ranking of a webpage whereas Facebook shares have less weighting and influence in supporting the ranking of a specific webpage.
The variance in different social signals impacting search rankings is also supported by a survey conducted by Search Engine Watch who concluded that whilst Google has the ability to use Facebook metrics within their algorithm, there is no evidence that it is being used to index or rank content this way within the search engine.
Creating and promoting remarkable content is an essential ingredient for a successful digital strategy. Building a following through social media channels provides brands with a direct relationship with their audience who can help promote and share content to their own social media followers and importantly, ensuring the organisation maintains their social media “voice” in delivering timely, interesting messages.
A recent survey conducted by Econsultancy (2012) concluded that nearly 50% of companies do not have any internal policies for using social media. This is supported by BrianSolis (2013) who commented that “inside most organisations, there’s a broken link between social media marketing and customer service where the majority of time, resource and money is spent on marketing, not in supporting customer service engagement on social networks”
The need for digital channel re-alignment
How a brand operates within a digital environment requires a re-alignment of specific digital channels to ensure they are working together and complimenting each others strategies to reach shared objectives in engaging and delighting the end user.
But in the digital age, is a brand enough to safeguard the organisation’s future? Organisations need to get away from thinking they can control all external influences and rather focus their energy on becoming more transparent and collaborative with their audience or even suppliers and stakeholders?
How a brand interacts with their existing users as well as interacting and engaging with new audiences requires digital channels such as SEO and Social Media to be integrated together and not managed in silos with an emphasis on an Inbound approach to deliver anticipated, personal and timely content to people who actually want to engage with the content.
Learn to Delight your audience
Learn to delight, attract and align your strategy with and where your audience exists and look to differentiate your proposition from the competition. Don’t assume you need to be on every Social Media channel and optimising your content for all the keywords your competitors optimise for.
Just learn to focus on who and where your audience is and are and put your audience at the centre of your conversation, by interacting, engaging and using their feedback to steer new opportunities to satisfy and delight and learn to monitor, measure and manage your campaigns to understand the metrics which provide insights in how you’re developing your inbound marketing strategy