I did a short presentation last week for the first ever startup/marketing meetup that our company has organized.
The pointers from my talk were mostly based on my personal experience for the past 3 years of my career as an online marketer and a business owner – so I was really excited to turn my slide deck into a blog post as well.
Inbound Marketing’s popularity as a medium to exponentially grow a business’ ability to attract customers and establish its brand as a leader in its space, has certainly increased these past couple of years.
I believe that it’s not just because everyone’s turning to it these days, or because it’s not as expensive as paid media.
But mainly because of the scalability and longevity of the results it is capable of providing, knowing that it involves data-driven (and measureable) processes – such as SEO, content marketing, social media, analytics, and conversion optimization.
This approach to marketing has helped me develop a one-man consulting business into a 20+ person company in 2 years.
I witnessed its power firsthand, and I’ll definitely be glad to share the key things I’ve learned from doing it.
#1 Great products make great marketing campaigns, not the other way around
Marketing a business is a lot easier when you’re offering a product that no one else in your market can match.
Users/consumers most likely share a product/service that they find really valuable to their peers (word of mouth marketing). And products that can be considered as one of the best solutions in solving a certain problem are definitely newsworthy.
It’s important to genuinely believe in the product that you’re trying to sell (or market). Because it is the driving force of your marketing campaign.
Although, this core principle doesn’t just apply on the product itself, as the entirety of the branded product can also be heavily affected by other factors surrounding it – like customer support/service, packaging, company culture, etc… (think of Zappos).
So when you’re offering a great product that’s in a very competitive market, then your brand’s unique value proposition will really matter, a lot.
#2 Understand the 2 core factors of SEO (for both site and page-level)
Relevance and Authority.
Search engines use hundreds of factors to determine sites/pages that they’ll be displaying to their users. But many of those factors stemmed out to become more accurate in gauging both relevance and authority.
For instance, optimization methods such as improving information architecture, implementing structured data, proper distribution of keywords, content optimization (title tags, meta descriptions, content matching the given title, internal/external links, etc…) and a lot more, all help search engines better understand what the information/products your site is providing and be able to determine if your site is relevant to what their users might be looking for.
Whereas links, brand signals (social, unlinked mentions, etc…), domain authority and sentiments from other entities about the brand tell search engines how popular and authoritative your brand is.
A good question to ask yourself every time you optimize a site for search:
Is this the most relevant and most authoritative site in this vertical for it to rank for keyword xxx?
If not, then you have a lot of work to do.
#3 Design is 50% of the battle
I actually got this tip from one of Rand Fishkin’s presentations (can’t remember which one though).
The more web consumption grows, the lower an average user’s attention span gets. Design separates many successful websites from their competitors, especially in persuading and engaging new visitors to stay longer on the site, because:
- Sites that provide better visual experience look more credible and trustworthy to users.
- It makes it easier for visitors to use and navigate the website (UX, usability and site architecture).
This area of marketing can strongly impact your site’s ability to convert visitors. It’s smart to invest more on it.
#4 To educate is the best way to sell
They’ve been giving ton of valuable information for free (through their content marketing efforts) which helped them established their brand(s) as an authority on their respective fields. And it’s a conventional wisdom in any industry that it’s easier to sell when people see you as an authority.
An effective content marketing campaign almost always aims to educate its target audience. Since having the ability to spread new and/or actionable ideas is one of the best ways to be remembered by your audience (influence).
This is the very reason why I always try to write extremely comprehensive blog posts (with ideas that I don’t usually see on other blogs) for the past 3 years of blogging. Because the more I teach my readers the things I do (and how difficult it is, sometimes), the more I can attract people to avail the services we offer.
#5 Invest on developing more “Big Content”
Content marketing has been the center of all attention these days in the world of online marketing – because it’s the center of it anyway. Content ties everything in digital marketing, that’s why it’s king.
When you have the best content on the web about a certain topic, you can get almost everything you need to fuel an online business:
And a comprehensive branded content (that’s purely informational) can certainly do well in search results these days (and can even outrank Wikipedia).
Many brands in our industry have already been implementing this (ex: Moz’s beginner’s guide to social media and QuickSprout’s advanced guide to content marketing), seeing that they’re getting a lot of good results from it (plus the fact that it’s a scalable landing page – since the content is evergreen).
This marketing initiative can amplify your brand’s online presence, especially when the content is specifically targeted to a set of audience that can potentially be your future customers.
#6 Earn brand visibility from high-traffic industry communities
Google has brought down a lot of link building techniques over the past decade (from comment spams, article directories, badges, reciprocal linking and now to guest blogging). But perhaps, this is the only artificial link building tactic that will not cease to exist – providing real value to other online communities.
I’ve preached this approach many times in the past, because I’ve had many successes with it.
Instead of submitting one-off content to hundreds of blogs in your industry, why not just focus on regularly contributing content to one or two top blogs in your space that are sure to pass on more quality traffic back to your site.
Being associated with high-traffic online publications can improve the perceived value that others see in your brand. Become more visible to your target audience through them.
#7 Content and brand identity fuel social media campaigns
This one’s very basic, but many people seem to forget how content plays a big role (a very huge chunk actually) in social media marketing.
Content initiates interactions in the social web, and content can also display a brand’s identity or what differentiates it from its competitors.
Most successful big brands in social media integrate content with their campaigns (like Red Bull), so why would it be any different to the smaller ones.
#8 Personal branding is vital in Inbound Marketing
People tend to follow, interact and listen to other people, not brands.
Aside from the benefit of improving the ability of the site to earn its target audience’s trust, having strong personas behind a brand also serves as a strong signal that search engines can use (for entity search).
#9 Use Analytics to find opportunities and traffic assets. Identify what’s working, then do more of them (80/20)
Many practitioners use analytics for reporting, but forget to use their data to actually improve their sites’ performance.
Identify what’s continuously bringing high-quality traffic and conversions to the site (whether it’s high or low in volume), so you can maintain/improve them and take more advantage of them. These traffic assets could be:
- Landing pages or existing content assets
- Keyword rankings
- Linking domains/pages (via Assisted Conversions)
- Locations where you’re getting more conversions
- Mediums (email, social, referrals, search, etc…)
#10 Optimize for remarkability and experience
Think of ways how you can make every visitor feel different when they’re on your site, because that’s what will make them come back.
In my case, I focused on including ideas on many of my blog posts that I think my readers wouldn’t find elsewhere. That was the unique selling point I planned to focus on for my blog’s content development a couple of years ago.
Because I believed that element will somehow make my brand more remarkable. And I think it kind of worked.
If you’ve built your business for the long haul, this should be a high priority. Knowing that eventually, brands and standalone platforms are what will matter most in the web’s ecosystem.
One good sample of this is CollegeHumor.com. They’ve established their brand very well through consistently providing remarkable content, which also impacts the experience their users get every time they go to the site.
Many of their content get shared a lot on social media, and I believe many of their followers just go directly to the site (due to the consistent content updates they do on their site).
The cult following they have built is enough for search engines to understand who they are.
#11 Maximize earned visibility to improve owned media
Use or test multiple CTAs on pages constantly generating new traffic to your website.
Calls-to-action shouldn’t just be used on your site’s transactional landing pages, because there are so many other secondary CTAs that you can use to build up your other marketing activities, such as
- Encouraging visitors to follow you on social networks.
- To subscribe to your blog’s feed and/or email newsletters.
- Check out products you sell that they might find interesting (based on the topic of the content they landed on).
#12 Do everything the hard way
The harder the things you do, the more your work becomes valuable. It also makes it harder for your competitors to replicate what you’ve done to succeed.