Why combine inbound content marketing with Search Engine Optimization? One without other is like trying to fly an airplane with just one wing.
Info Over Advertisements
By now, it’s difficult to argue against content marketing. According to a study by CEB quoted by the Content Marketing Institute, “The average B2B buyer has completed 57% of the purchase process before contacting the vendor’s sales team.” The same article quotes Roper Public Affairs — 80% of decision makers prefer to get information from articles instead of advertisements.
The trend continues to rise. According to Demand Gen Report, 75% of B2B buyers admit they rely more on search and content to make purchasing decisions than ever before. And that’s from 2014.
A Likeness to Traditional Marketing
Content marketing has more in common with traditional marketing than one might think. While it’s the antithesis of 30-second television and radio commercials aimed at the mass market, it’s been used for decades by many advertisers. Schlitz became a bestseller in the early 1930s by running ads telling drinkers—in great technical detail—how much care they took making the beer. In the 1960s Shell gave away millions of pamphlets with advice on road safety and car maintenance. Mail order companies grew by giving away free reports to obtain names and mailing addresses. Online sellers have given away free reports to obtain email addresses since the release of Netscape in 1994. The best marketers and sales people have always known it’s better to have prospects who approach them first.
The primary difference between marketing 20 years ago and the marketing of today has everything to do with the marriage between content marketing and SEO.
Manipulation No More
In the early days of the Internet, marketers considered search engines a source of free traffic. Many, though certainly not all, used sneaky techniques to manipulate the engines to obtain high rankings. Ah, but Google’s great innovation evaded on-page manipulation of keywords by evaluating how many other sites linked to a page. The more links, the more valuable the content on the page. At least that was the assumption.
Once Google revealed their secret sauce, webmasters immediately began manipulating inbound and outbound links to enhance ranking. Thus, over the years, Google has updated its algorithms many times to devalue certain types of links.
Valuable, Relevant, Current
Today, links that enhance search engine rankings are called “backlinks,” and come from other, well-respected sites. The more quality content you can publish on Google-approved, authoritative websites linking back to yours, the more highly your own page(s) will rank. That’s part of a strategic SEO plan. So, not only do you need great content—extremely valuable to potential customers—but your great content must also be search-optimized and well-liked by other websites willing to reference your work.
Today, keyword research is no longer about manipulating on-page content even in a white-hat manner. It’s determining what your prospects want to know, and giving that information to them — valuable, relevant, current content. Free reports and such can still be used to capture email addresses, but you must also publish plenty of search-optimized content, white papers and case studies to attract interested prospects. Search engines are just the medium by which those prospects find your company — that’s effective inbound marketing.