Inbound Marketing for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

by Jason Acidre on March 15, 2012 · 24 comments · Content, Conversion, Search, Social

Inbound marketing or earned media is a marketing principle that merges several online marketing practices that aim to attract visitors/customers to a site – instead of interrupting their online activities through paid methodologies – by simply discerning what its target audience need, search for and find genuinely interesting and providing value to meet those necessities.

Processes that this marketing strategy mostly involves are search engine optimization, content marketing, social media and conversion rate optimization, wherein most don’t rely on heavy marketing budgets, but can provide longevity for its results to a great extent in terms of branding and revenue generation.

Performing well on these other marketing channels can massively improve a site’s search visibility, given that search engines are now using social, usage and trust signals to weigh websites and webpages’ overall authority that allows them to gauge who should be ranking well on their search results.

Gillian Muessig, President of SEOmoz, recently presented about why SEO is more than SEO nowadays, which pretty much explains everything on how inbound marketing works:


Inbound marketing is an ROI-focused strategy, and several interesting facts support the idea which somehow proves how powerful it is as a marketing tool today.

  • Methods used in inbound marketing cost 62% less per lead than traditional outbound marketing, and channels used within these strategies have higher percentage of customer acquisition, which means it can generate higher revenue for a lower cost of investment.
  • Content and blog marketing allows a site to increase its traffic by 55% and 400% more pages to be indexed by search engines (meaning, greater chances of getting found through long-tail search queries).
  • There are 3 billion searches on Google per day, and a huge fraction of those queries are for information about products, services and local businesses.
  • There are already billions of users worldwide on different social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Stumbleupon, Google+, Linkedin, etc…), which can also improve the effectiveness of marketing campaigns through spreading awareness, brand/service/product discovery and interactive communications (in building customer relationships).
  • Getting found through search engines generates revenue, as these visitors already have the intent of knowing more/reviewing/buying a certain product/service. Putting out useful branded content through blogs can then increase customer acquisition.
  • Converting traffic to leads, customers and/or brand loyalists is easier, as most of these marketing channels are measurable and can be improved further through thorough analysis.

Below are some of the processes that small as well as medium-sized businesses can use to grow their website’s traffic, conversions and brand strength.

Merge SEO with Content Marketing

Having SEO in mind before actually launching a full inbound marketing campaign and its content strategy is an advantage, because it will allow you to easily map out the important keywords that your campaign is going to target and on how you can efficiently distribute them to your site’s pages for them to have higher chances of ranking on search engines for their designated search terms.

It’s important to optimize your site for search to be able to have its content (especially the site’s important landing pages and linkable assets) regularly crawled and be ranked by search engines. Some of the optimization techniques that you can implement to your site to support your content marketing strategy are:

  • Making sure that your inner pages will be crawled and can funnel PageRank down to your important pages and categories through good site architecture, canonical URLs, setting up an XML sitemap, readable permalinks, including a robots.txt file and using descriptive keywords/anchor texts for the site’s internal linking, for the reason that this can help your content be more visible on search results.
  • Optimizing for local search results, wherein you can distribute location-based keywords on separate landing pages.
  • Making your inner content sharable by including and making social buttons very visible to users.
  • Determine and optimize the entire site for speed, you can use Google’s Page Speed Online to test how your site is performing in terms of its loading time and to see what elements/aspects of the site are affecting your important pages’ loading process.
  • Put emphasis on implementing trust and brand indicators to your site (about us page, privacy policy, trust seals, disclaimer and social proof), as search engines do use these signals to determine a site’s authoritativeness.
  • Rich snippet optimization such as implementing rel=”author” and microdata to your site’s important pages/content, for them to display more prominently on search results (which can massively increase their CTR).

Keyword research is a vital part of SEO, and small businesses can utilize this process to improve their content development strategy by simply basing their content production to the keywords that their target audience use to find content over the web.

Use keyword research tools like Google Keyword Tool, Google Insights for Search and Ubersuggest to find keywords with sufficient search volume and demand that the site’s projected linkable pages can target (infographics, comprehensive articles, videos, etc…).

Base your contents’ titles on your campaign’s target keywords, as people are more likely to use your pages’ titles (including your keywords) when they begin sharing or linking to your content, which can help boost your contents’ search rankings for each allocated search term.

The foundation of your overall campaign should be centered on creating interesting and useful content for your target market and on how your materials can stress your business’ unique value proposition.

Merge Link Development and Social Outreach

Combining the power of social signals and editorial link attributions to your site’s rich content can speed up the process of obtaining better search rankings for your campaign’s targeted keywords.

That’s why it’s always important to provide high value content that people would really want to link to or share with their networks to be able to scale your content marketing strategy, where links and social mentions will come naturally after its promotion stage.

There are many content promotion techniques that you can do before and after creating and launching a solid content, such as:

Link/Social Outreach

Identify and make a list of heavy linkers and social sharers in your industry that will find your content useful and will have high probability of sharing your content. Try reaching out to them (through email) and ask if they’ll be interested to see your content. You can check out this post for more in-depth tips on how to find linkers and on how to do the linker outreach method.

Content Distribution

You can also support your highly resourceful content by building artificial links directing to it to amplify search visibility and content discovery through social channels. Several ways that you can do to build links as well as to market your content:

  • Contextually link to your content through guest blogging.
  • Link to it through free whitepapers, ebooks and slide presentations.
  • Link to your content from your press release submissions.
  • Participate on highly relevant forums/communities and link to your useful content as a reference for your contributions.
  • Cover industry news and pitch it as a guest blog/column to relevant blogs and/or news websites.
  • Offer your content to be featured on other bloggers’ newsletter, incentivize the pitch or propose a deal that will be beneficial to both parties.

Linking Out

Link out to other people or organization in your industry that have strong following base and readership to have a reason for contact. Most of the time, they’ll share your content (and sometimes link back to it), particularly if the content that’s containing a link to their works or website is offering valuable information.

Engaging influencers and building relationships

Building relationships with bloggers in your industry who have strong following (on their blogs or social networks) can also be a powerful tool for your content marketing and link building campaign, as the more your content can reach their audience, is the more you can enhance your chances of acquiring natural links and social mentions from their networks/followers (seeing that they are vouching for your content).

You can also absorb their followers along the process of gaining their trust and having them share your own content to their networks, which normally leads to more brand followers who will regularly share your site’s new updates (new blog posts, promos, events, etc…).

Competitive Intelligence

Know the factors that make people link to or share your competitors’ content by identifying the top domains linking to them as well as their key followers who continuously share their content on different social networks. You can use tools such as Open Site Explorer to determine their top linked pages and Topsy to find influential people who’re sharing their content.

Assess these factors and try to overcome their approach when it comes to content creation and outreach by understanding the nature of linking and social behavior in your industry through extracting your competitors’ data.

Distinguish why those people link to and share your competitors’ content and how you can get them to share and link to yours as well.

Social Media and Lead Nurturing

Social communities can help businesses spread their brand’s messages effectively, especially nowadays wherein more people are heavily participating on different social channels to share compelling and useful ideas related to their interests.

Developing a robust community within the site’s domain or externally (on social networks) is certainly one of the best ways to scale a business, since online communities will enable you to get more possible leads to your business as the community grows, help spread awareness about your product/services/industry (through social sharing), and can help a business build a strong online brand presence.

Below are some of the ways that you can implement to improve your social marketing and lead generation strategies:

Use Social Badges as Secondary Calls-to-Action

Make your social badges or links to your social profiles very visible on your website to continuously grow your social community, since every time you fascinate new visitors from your site, enticing them to follow your brand on different social networks (that you actively use) will help your campaign disseminate new content in the future.

You can place these CTAs on your homepage (above the fold or on the site’s sidebar) as well as on your inner pages’ (blog posts) closing parts.

Improve Middle of the Funnel offerings

Give your audience more reasons to return to your site, because these types of visitors are the ones who’re most likely to buy from you, since they already know your brand and/or have experienced the value you provide to your community.

You can offer monthly free ebooks (like Hubspot’s free whitepapers), newsletters, comprehensive blog posts (regularly), free tools, free webinars, free extensive lessons (like Codeacademy and Affilorama’s free affiliate marketing lessons) and other downloadable freebies (pdf, videos, plugins, etc…)

By improving on these aspects of content marketing, you can constantly increase and grow the amount of sign-ups to your email list, which will allow you to gather more information on your audience and eventually send targeted messages to them.

Leverage Content to Build Conversations

Communicate with your audience through social networks, since they are more to converse on these channels. You can share not just your content, but also other relevant content (perhaps from your competitors and link prospects) that your audience may find useful.

This can then spark conversations with your followers as well as with your link targets, so take advantage of this. You can also use your social profiles to create user-generated content, as this will definitely strengthen your external community.

Building a Community within your site

It’s very important to develop your site’s ability to engage its user, given that usage-data is one of the ranking factors that search engines use these days, and possible new visitors can also use this aspect of the site to assess if it’s worth their time.

You can engage your users in several ways such as building conversations through your blog’s comment sections, inviting guest bloggers to your site’s blog, launching a forum, organizing contests and/or awards. Make use of these content assets to build more brand followers/loyalists and to funnel more possible leads to your business.

Encourage Social Sharing

The more referred visitors you generate to your site through social discovery, is the more you can grow your readership, following and possible leads. Make it easy for your visitors to share your content by making your social buttons very visible on your site’s pages, especially to your site’s share-worthy content (as people will naturally share them if they find it really interesting or useful).

Measure and Optimize for Conversions

Measuring and tracking your campaign’s performance is vital, since understanding your results and the key areas that might need more of your attention can speed up the process of achieving your marketing campaign’s objectives (for instance, increasing highly engaged visitors and improving customer acquisitions).

There are certain metrics that you should be measuring, most importantly for small and medium businesses that are active with their online marketing, because these metrics basically justify your results and let you see where your campaign should be heading next (like improving on channels that generate you more revenue).

Metrics that you can use to assess your campaign’s performance could be segmented into 4 different parts – traffic, engagement, content and conversions.

Monthly unique visitors vs. returning visitors

Compare your previous months to the current month to see the impact of your online marketing campaign (SEO, social media and content marketing).

Traffic Sources

Identify traffic sources and referring websites that send traffic with high user-activity (have low bounce rates, stay longer on the site and view more internal pages of the site). Knowing which sites send the best type of traffic to your site will enhance your lead generation strategy (as you can then focus on getting more traffic from them).

Top performing pages

Determine what pages of the site are performing well in terms of page views and user activity, because these pages can be your campaign’s possible linkable assets (that can help you scale your link building efforts), and you can as well improve these pages’ CTAs for maximum conversions (given that the traffic they are receiving are highly engaged).

Keyword performances and Search Rankings

Check if your targeted keywords are ranking well on your desired search result location(s) and if they are sending traffic that takes action (based on time on landing page, bounce rate and page visits).

Growth in audience reach

It’s also important to monitor the improvement in the size of your brand’s reach when it comes to social networks, blog subscriptions and email subscribers (to your newsletter) to determine the efficiency of your traffic generation campaign (SEO, social and content marketing).

You can use tools such as Klout, Feedburner, and­ Mailchimp/Aweber to measure your audience size and growth for each different sector (social, blog subscriptions and email subscriptions).

Goal Conversions   

Set up your campaign’s goals on Analytics to see how your site’s important landing pages are performing (if they are capable of converting your visitors into leads/sales). You can also check the traffic sources that are generating traffic that leads to customers to your site, and choose to either improve the traffic generation process or the ability of your landing pages to convert the existing constant amount of traffic they receive.

Test your Landing Pages

Use Google Website Optimizer to test the strength of your landing/product/services pages’ call to action and/or to know what page elements appeal to your visitors for them to convert more to your goals.

If you liked this post, you can follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre and add me on Google+.

Image credit: IndependentConceal

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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