inbound marketing – 3 basics to getting found online ( seo )

Over the holidays, likely because I was reconnecting with old friends, family and new acquaintances, I found myself frequently answering the question, “What do you do?”   My typical initial response to that question is “I’m in Marketing” … but, undoubtedly that answer leads to a follow on set of questions including “What type of Marketing?”, “What is digital marketing?”, etc.  When we finally get to the point where I’m explaining the concept of “Inbound Marketing” and why it’s important, I find myself breaking down the concept of “getting found online” into what I believe are the three fundamental pillars of inbound marketing.

1.  Site Architecture:

  • Site & Information Organization (make easy for search engines to crawl)
  • Domain & URL Structue
  • Page Titles

2.  Site Content:

  • Unique Content (not duplicated, not regurgitated from another site, etc.)
  • Valuable to Targeted Audience/Visitors (important because if other’s find it valuable, they’ll link to it and inbound links help in SEO)
  • KW usage (body copy, page titles, page headlines, etc.)
  • Recency & Frequency of New Content Creation (this is why blogs are important – read starting a business blog – key considerations for more details on the topic of blogging for business)

3. Promotion to Get:

  • Inbound Links (both the quantity & quality of external links pointing to your site & pages matters – this is why a link building strategy is critical for Inbound Marketing & SEO success)
  • Visitors (the more eyeballs and traffic to your site, the more likely someone is to convert)

Of course the above is not exhaustive and there are certainly subtleties to all of the above, but, using the Architecture – Content – Promotion pillars to explain to lay-persons what I do to help businesses “get found online” helps!

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seo vs. sem | organic search vs. paid Search – what’s the difference?

There are so many ins and outs to making your website ripe for search engine optimization (SEO).   Before jumping into a more detailed deeper explanation on How to Influence your site’s Search Engine Ranking, let’s take a step back and clarify, for those unfamiliar with search engine marketing (SEM), the differences between organic and paid search as well as the pros and cons of each search engine marketing channel.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Organic Search Paid Search
Also Known As
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Natural Search

 

  • Pay-per-Click Search
  • Paid Search Placements
  • Paid Search Inclusion

 

How to Impact
  • Site Structure
  • Targeted Site Content
  • Online Credibility + Deference

 

  • Paying for Placements
  • Optimized Ad Copy

 

Costs
  • Hard Costs: Low/No $$ Cost
  • Soft Costs: Ongoing Time/Manpower to Optimize Site + Content

 

  • Hard Costs: $$ Cost-per-Click
  • Soft Costs: Campaign Development & Management

 

Perception
  • More Trustworthy (viewers know you rankings based on relevance, not paid placement)
  • Less Trustworthy (viewers know you pay to play, thus more “suspicious” of relevance)
Time/Effort Investment
  • Takes Time to Impact Rankings: Requires well architected site, ongoing content development, and continual site + content optimization.
  • Quick to Get up & Running: No/minimal site &/or content updates/changes required
Traffic
  • Higher ceiling + volume potential
  • Lower ceiling + volume potential
ROI
  • Stronger Long Term ROI
  • Stronger Short Term ROI
Metrics
  • Harder to Measure + Quantify
  • Highly Measurable + Quantifiable

When searching on the term “search engine marketing” in Google, the following results page shows the paid search results in green and the organic/unpaid search results in red.  Viewers typically assign more value and relevance to the unpaid/organic results thereby increasing their click-through effectiveness as compared to paid search results.

SEO vs. SEM search results page

SEO vs. SEM search results page

starting a business blog – key considerations

in today’s world of social media inundation, many business owners are feeling the pressure to jump into the social computing space by starting their own blog.  with 58% of the united state’s internet population (128,000,000 people) expected to be reading blogs on a regular basis by 2013 (source: emarketer), it’s easy to understand the motivation.  before going on, let’s get a sense of how many of those reading this post currently have a business blog:  

from a marketing perspective, particularly from the pov of attracting inbound traffic and leads, starting a blog for your business is a wise move.  most businesses’ digital footprint is primarily comprised of their website.  organizations that are more “digitally inclined” supplement their online presence via blogs, social networking and social media (blog, twitter, facebook, youtube, etc.).  blogs in particular, have taken on an increasingly important role in businesses marketing and communication efforts.  not only do they offer a useful communication channel for companies, they also serve as an important tool for marketers by making sites more discoverable (aka findable) online.  how do they do that you might ask?  well, search engines like google, look favorably on sites that offer new and fresh content vs. those sites that sit static for months/years on end.   by creating a blog and actively posting new blog content, you can favorably influence your company’s ranking in organic search results.

so, the beauty and benefit of a business blog, given the above, is pretty evident.  that said, developing and maintaining a blog takes a lot of work.  before cavalierly jumping into the world of blogging because it’s the latest thing, it’s important to evaluate whether you have both (a) time and (b) people to start and maintain your blogging efforts.  there’s nothing more off-putting than visiting a blog only to find out that it hasn’t been updated in months.  if you can’t commit to ongoing nurturing and feeding of your blog, you’re better off not starting in the first place.   however, if you’re committed to dedicating the time, effort and resources necessary, a blog can be an invaluable business and marketing resource.  below are a few areas to ponder as you consider your blogging next steps:

  • who’ll be writing blog posts? do you have more than one person that can write blog content?  if there is only one person with the insights, experience and ability to develop content for your blog think about how you can carve out time for they to develop blog content on a regular basis.  if you’ll be leveraging several people to contribute content to the blog, identify someone who can work with these individuals to ensure they develop content aligned to your target audience’s interest(s).  consider developing a publishing scheduled with assigned topics and authors.
  • where will your blog live? there are several blog platforms available … some free, some that cost.  as you research your options, think about the following; how many people will be writing blogs?  how easy/intuitive does the platform need to be?  do you want the blog to live on your domain?   some platforms to consider: wordpress, blogger, hubspot.
  • what will you write about? your goal should be to create blog content that will appeal to your target audience(s).  it’s best if the subject-matter of the content is something you, or your blog contributors are passionate about because that passion will come across, engage readers and be easier to write.  blogs are a 2-way communication tool, so any topics that spark conversation, questions or opinions are great blog fodder.  as discussed in bullet #1 above, consider developing a publishing calendar and outlining topics to be covered to ensure subjects of interest to your audience are covered.

for more information on starting a business blog, check out this inbound marketing university webinar,  how to blog effectively for business.

personal brand: get crystal on what you want to be known for

in my last post, “6 steps to building your personal brand for the job search“, I wrote about the opportunity to apply fundamental branding and online marketing principles to building your personal brand.  although the context of my last post was leveraging your personal brand for the job search, the same concept(s) can, and should be applied whether you’re on the job hunt of simply just interested in developing your personal brand for other professional and/or personal reasons, outside looking for a job.

so let’s talk more about step #1 – “get crystal on what you want to be known for” … this is where the old adage “focus is good” comes into play.  the reason (especially in context of online & inbound marketing) that clarity in this area is important is because defining “what you want to be known” for upfront is critical to effectively moving through steps 2-6 and is the basis upon how you’ll position yourself to be found (i.e. via search) and identified by others online.

let’s pretend you’re a baker.  although you’re trained, and  certainly cable of creating hundreds of different baked goods (cookies, pies, tarts, etc.) you’re an expert at wedding cakes.  You’re passionate about wedding cakes and want to pursue a long-term career in the wedding cake business.  whether you plan to start a wedding cake business of your own, or are looking for a job as a wedding cake baker,  you’re #1 objective, from a personal branding/marketing perspective would be to ensure people looking for wedding cake bakers find you.

in our example, it’s much more valuable if  someone looking for a wedding cake baker finds you vs.  someone looking for a pie baker — right?  not only is this person looking for someone who does exactly what you do, they’re clearly, at that moment in time, specifically interested in wedding cakes and are therefore are a more qualified lead …  more qualified meaning they’re more likely to want what you’re “selling”, are more likely to engage with you and as a result, you will likely have to spend less time, money and resources converting them to a customer … leading to a better marketing return on investment (marketing ROI).

so, back to the topic of FOCUS … for all the reasons mentioned above, it should be obvious why  focus is important.  not only will focus direct more qualified leads to you, it will also inform how you build out and position yourself in the market via both traditional and emerging marketing channels (collateral, website, social media, advertising, etc.).  significant  resources (both time + money) can go into positioning yourself in the market, so you want to make sure to focus on areas that will provide you the best  return on investment and/or effort.  this is where focus can really help.

in our example, it’s more valuable to be “found” by someone looking for a “wedding cake baker” than someone looking for a “pie baker”, if wedding cakes are what you do. Even more specific would be to geographically focus your efforts … for example “seattle wedding cake baker.”  in our example, geographically focusing is even better because the wedding cake business is very locally focused with people looking for wedding cake bakers in specific geographic locations.

so,  we’ve now narrowed down the focus for our fictional wedding cake baker. although there are many ways our fictional baker could go about positioning him/herself, asking some fundamental questions helped us focus on areas that will be most effective and beneficial to our baker:

  1. what do you want to be known for?  what are you most passionate about?  what do you love doing?
  2. how will the audience you are targeting most likely find you?  what will they be looking for?  use their language
  3. what will provide you the best ROI (i.e. least time, effort + money expended + best results)

as we move  through our conversation in upcoming blogs we’ll examine why this focus is valuable and how it will be applied to building your personal brand and marketing yourself.

6 steps to building your personal brand for the job search

a friend recently asked me for advice in helping them think through their personal brand.  that request, combined with recent conversations with local recruiters + hiring managers about their approach to id’ing, screening + hiring makes it evident that we’re now operating in a recruiting 2.0 (moving quickly to recruiting 3.0) environment.  so, why not apply the basic online marketing + inbound marketing best practices and principles (aka marketing 2.0) to building, marketing + optimizing an individuals personal brand?

“digital interviews” have become an effective and efficient way to screen job candidates.  unfortunately, this process, hampers a candidate’s opportunity to personally connect with those hiring. in the past, this personal connection was accomplished via phone screens, face-to-face meetings and even cover letters.  all the more reason a robust online personal brand is important – it’s your opportunity to get a portion of that personal connection back, tout your subject-matter-expertise and express your personality,

to that end I’m starting a series of posts to provide actionable steps to help anyone interested develop their personal brand  and build out their online presence and exposure.  below are the six steps, to be covered in more detail in upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

  1. get crystal on what you want to be known for? – this is your personal elevator pitch. we all have a resume’s worth of experience + skills to tout but it’s important to focus on 1-3 most important things you  want to be known for when building out your online brand.
  2. get a presence think linkedin (mine – lizmolitor), twitter (@lizmmolitor), blog
  3. id your personality – clever, controversial, funny or serious – think apple vs. microsoft, target vs. nordstom
  4. create content – blog, white papers, articles, etc.
  5. have an opinion – see #3 … it’s ok to dissent + debate
  6. promote yourself – comment on blogs, tweet, speak, etc.

seattle inbound marketing consultant

After over 20 years of marketing in the start-up and enterprise environments, I’ve seen lots of stellar and not-so-stellar marketing executions and efforts. I’ve seen the marketing universe morph from brand-centric, mass media, in-your-face, interruptive tactics (aka outbound marketing) … to more user-centric, user-driven, customized, opt-in, value add, time-shifted, delivered when/where/how-you-want-it (aka inbound marketing).

Despite traditional, mass media, outbound marketing’s glamour … a la Mad Men (I’ve been privy to that world myself … and it was a good ride!), many factors over the 10+ years have influenced the rise in importance of strategic inbound marketing.

  • Maturity of digital space & personal productivity technology – (can you say iPhone, SEO, SEM etc?)
  • Increased customer savvy – there’s a reason i get solicited to less than my parents … i know how to work the system
  • Privacy demands – (caller id, do not call list, spam filters etc.)
  • Time shifting of marketing demand – technology advancements & user-demand have led to the time-shifting of marketing.  A”sell to me on my terms, when I invite you to do so” consumer attitude & enabling technologies like Tivo (DVR), pop-up blockers, spam filters, do-not-call lists, caller ID, CAN-SPAM regulations and the like have changed when/how marketers reach customers.

To that end, I’ve decided to take my background and experience in the interactive and inbound marketing space to help businesses evolve their marketing strategy and begin leveraging the transformative value and ROI of inbound marketing and the interactive space to grow their business.

If you are interested in discussing how interactive/inbound marketing can contribute to your business objectives, let’s start a dialog!   You can follow me on Twitter @lizmmolitor , connect with me on LinkedIn or respond to this post!

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