Since Google algorithms were yet again updated (Penguin, Panda), results of a classic SEO have been worse and worse. The effectiveness of the traditional disruptive advertising is decreasing, regardless of the media. On the other hand, it has long been known that “content is the king”.
This has sparked a new trend in internet marketing called inbound marketing.
The traditional marketing (“outbound marketing” or “disruptive marketing”) relies on a paid advertisement. The advertiser reaches its target group through messages that are added by force to the content users are interested in. The number of adverts is increasing, their size is greater and greater and so they are more disturbing to users consuming the content. Moreover, users get used to the adverts and no longer pay much attention to them.
By contrast, inbound marketing is basically content marketing expanded by guerrilla marketing and social media marketing. It is about permanent creation of various content pieces that are valuable enough for users to share, send to friends or publish on their own blogs. Of course, each publication needs guerrilla and social media support to be noticed.
Valuable content that you are able to attract target users with is simply solid knowledge about subjects they are interested in. This knowledge surely is there in your company. You only need to develop procedures and motivate your employees to deliver it on a regular basis.
Depending on the specificity of the business and the characteristics of the target group, the content on which inbound marketing relies may take different forms:
In the medium and long run, nothing will work as well as a good company blog. What we only need to remember is that a company blog is not a company news website because that would be interesting to nobody (well, perhaps, except for the competition). Information from the business, pieces of advice, analyses, rankings or tests, if published on a regular basis, will sooner or later naturally increase traffic on the website and even without additional guerrilla or social media support.
An example of an excellent company blog is KISSmetrics Blog.
E-books and reports
Larger content pieces are best to be published in an easy downloadable form (e.g. PDF). Their readers should also be able to copy and publish them on their own websites or blogs. Most bloggers don’t limit themselves to publishing only their own content and readily turn to thematically similar materials from other sources that can be legally used.
Of course every e-book or report should contain clear information about its author and the company the author represents as well as a link to the website.
Seth Godin, the guru of marketing, has published several noteworthy and free e-books, such as “Who’s There?”.
Video materials are not only watched with pleasure. It is also easy to prepare and make them available. Simple tourist cameras already offer HD quality and have better and better microphones. As connection speed grows in companies and at homes, time limits on films published on video services (YouTube, Vimeo etc.) are extended. What should be filmed? The person speaking is an absolute must. The speech may be illustrated, for example, with whiteboard drawings or – if the budget allows – with animations.
You can post video recordings on a company blog to add some variety to them or you can decide to have a video blog as such and regularly feed new pieces to your company channel (podcast).
A good example of great video materials on a blog is Whiteboard Friday series on SEOmoz blog.
What makes it highly probable that our material will appear on hundreds of other blogs – of course with a valuable reference to our site – are infographics. Hand-collected data (and it’s absolutely necessary that their sources are given) presented in the form of visually attractive graphs and diagrams and in a format which makes them easy to publish should entice lots of bloggers.
A good deal of popular infographics had their premiere on Website Monitoring Blog.
A webinar is a web-based seminar, i.e. a kind of a live interactive training. Streaming allows webinar participants to see the lecturer and the materials they present (slides of a presentation or a shared desktop) and to take an active part in the training. It’s often the case that the recording of a webinar is later made available as a video. Still, without interactions it is no longer that valuable.
A webinar should always be led by a well-prepared expert in a given field. It’s not easy to share knowledge live but this kind of form is perceived as very valuable and bloggers and trade websites readily inform their readers about planned webinars.
Interesting webinars are prepared by HubSpot.
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To a large extent, guerrilla marketing and social media marketing count on achieving a viral effect. But to achieve the snowball effect you first have to make a small snowball and push it down. Even the most interesting material has to be published somewhere and appear in a place where it can be noticed.
It’s best when our new material is Google-indexed as soon as possible and as high as possible. That can only be ensured with website/blog optimization. To check whether your website is optimized use SEOtryout website.
Users who liked our publication will be willing to share it with their friends. To increase the chance for that we should make that easier by putting social buttons next to our piece. They allow readers to like or share our content. Today it makes the best sense to use Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Stumble Upon buttons.
It’s worth trying to retain users who landed on our site, i.e. to persuade them to subscribe to our e-mail newsletter or at least to notifications about new publications. If somebody liked our material and shared it with their friends, it’s very likely that they will like our next piece.
It’s also worth enabling an RSS feed that users can add to their feed readers (e.g. Google Reader).
The world’s largest social networking service is a very important element in inbound marketing. Apart from that it helps to “like” and share, it can also be used more actively: you can create and run a brand profile (fan page). Users who will “like” the profile will be informed about new publications and if they share the publications on their profiles, then they will not only promote particular content pieces but also our entire profile.
And the ever growing fan base can in the future be used for various marketing actions such as competitions which – as far as Facebook is concerned – work perfectly.
Other noteworthy social networking services are Google+ and Pinterest – the latter is best when our content is in graphic form (e.g. infographics).
Underestimated by some people, it still is a huge marketing power and its 140-character tweets cannot be omitted from any online marketing actions.
Comment marketing and Guest blogging
You can also promote your own content on somebody else’s blog. While in the majority of cases the links that are placed in comments under posts have a “nofollow” parameter and are not particularly valuable from the perspective of SEO, they are clicked by users who read posts and comments under them. Of course, promotion in comments cannot be pushy and has to justifiably refer to the post.
You can start cooperating directly with chosen blogs. Guest blogging is increasingly gaining in popularity. A blog owner allows another author to publish a text on their blog. Thanks to that the blog owner gains additional valuable content and the author gains a valuable link (or links) to their own blog or website. Both parties win.
You can look for blogs and authors that you can cooperate with on your own but you can also use websites that make this easier, such as MyBlogGuest.
Forums and Q+A websites
Promotion on forums is by no means “signature marketing”. It’s sometimes possible to write it straight about your own publication but it’s usually perceived as a kind of spam. That’s why the only effective strategy is – as is the case with Q+A websites – to act as an expert. It’s about sharing your knowledge and informing your readers that there’s more content about the subject to be found on your blog.
Word of Mouth
“Word of mouth”, sometimes also called “whisper marketing”, is the information and opinions shared directly by customers. It’s a friend’s recommendation. Forget about impersonating satisfied clients. Each and every action like this will always backfire on you. The only way to gain positive WoM is excellent content on a user-friendly website. WoM about your content can give support to WoM about your product and brand but that requires a perfect product and even better customer service.
The traffic gained through inbound marketing is of incomparably better quality than the traffic from paid advertising actions. Users are interested in the subject and so there is every likelihood that they belong to the target group. Additionally, they do not feel lured by the advert as they visit the website of their own free will and we act as an expert.
Of course, we want users to convert to our clients. Indeed, we can sometimes plant some content about our offer in between articles on particular subjects. That, however, cannot be a typical marketing text but rather a kind of a titbit, a behind-the-scenes view etc. After all, there is the entire layout of our website/blog for us to use.
In a situation where there is nobody in the company that could devote some time to generate content or – all the more – to promote it, what remains is the outsourcing of inbound marketing actions. Modern e-marketing agencies long ago learnt to deliver content and they have resources to generate and promote it. In other words, they are able to create and promote a company blog from beginning to end.