Inbound Marketing & 3rd Generation of Websites: Part 2

In part I we delved into the early stages of websites, how they begin, their evolution and where they are heading today. From a business perspective, sites have seemingly gotten smarter, and the potential to utilize them for growth and lead generation is amazing. I like to think of a website as having a salesperson working for you 24/7/365. No vacation, no sick days and a constant ability to draw in fresh prospects. Sure there’s upkeep and in this article we are going to get our hands dirty with the foundation principles of Inbound Marketing. What exactly is Inbound Marketing?

Much like many people asked what social media was a mere few years ago, the term inbound marketing is not part of the mainstream vernacular, yet.

Inbound marketing is the process of drawing customers and prospects to you, instead of you seeking them via outbound techniques, like direct mail or cold calling. Oftentimes, these traditional methods are unwelcome and interrupt people without their permission. Inbound uses a combination of methods that position a business to be found when the prospect wants to find you. This is a much different idea, and simple at it’s core. Think of it like this: If you were watching your favorite TV show on DVR, and suddenly thought, “Hey, I need a new vacuum” and a vacuum commercial came on, you wouldn’t skip it. It was there when you wanted it there, not when the advertiser would force you to watch it.

Mind you the concept is not new, and the term Inbound Marketing has been around for many years, created by Hubspot, who is at the forefront of inbound marketing software and education. (full disclosure, my agency Soul NYC is a Hubspot Partner).

For businesses looking to redesign their website to be 3rd generation, there are some key elements to consider to set it up properly for Inbound Marketing. Your website is the major component, but external factors also can come into play. 1. You must have a blog. This is a must. The cornerstone of inbound marketing is producing interesting and relevant content on a regular basis. A website with a blog, gives a business the opportunity to broadcast at will. Blog content, besides providing useful information for your audience, also gives the search engines more opportunity to find your site. Continually adding to your blog adds pages to your site, and that fresh content is actually considered differently by Google and other search engines. Recent changes to search algorithms give more weight to fresher content. “Google’s aim is to include recency and freshness when determining relevance.”

  1. But what do you write about? Think about the things your customers ask you over and over again. These are great fuel for blog articles, and will be the types of things people will search for. Make a list of at least a dozen potential titles, so you have somewhere to start. Try to schedule posting at least one blog article a week, if not more. Make sure your content and titles are SEO friendly, which leads us to…
  2. Optimize Everything SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a key component is setting up your website for inbound marketing. It’s one of the most powerful things you can do to drive traffic to your site. It is important that the page titles are used properly. We often see the name of the company only on every page title, or just a simple one word description of the page content. The title should include important keywords and other information, like location that can help to return better results on search. These title tags show up in the browser, search engine results and many social media sites use that title tag as the link when posted. Example: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name 2 In addition it is good practice to link keywords within the body of your website content and blog posts to other pages on your site. Remember to write your content for readers, but consider the terms or keywords that they might be looking for. As always make sure that content is relevant to your audience and useful. Stuffing it with keywords over and over for the hell of it will make it unreadable and Google doesn’t like that either! These are just a few of the many things that affect SEO on your site. Do some research or discuss with your web design agency about properly structuring your site for SEO. There are also practices for Offsite SEO that are equally important. As we’re talking about fine tuning your website for Inbound Marketing, we will save that for another article.
  3. Integrate Social Media Social Media can work on many fronts. It can help you build presence and audience external to your website and position you as a knowledgeable leader in your field. In terms of your website, social can be used to draw people back to your content when you post it on the channels that you choose to use. It also is a way to spread that content. The larger your audience is on social, the wider your potential reach is. So post often and with relevancy. Share and retweet other people’s content as well. It’s just good practice to do so, and will always lead to reciprocal sharing of your content. On your site, implement tools to make sharing easy. Give site visitors the opportunity to like, share, tweet and email without leaving your pages by using social share buttons.
  4. Create Clear Calls To Action Once you’ve done the work to get visitors through your site through blogging, SEO and social, now what? You want to speak to them directly. A call to action helps to do that by giving them a specific action to take. These can be catered to the different types of people who buy your services by creating “buyer personas.” This differs for every business and usually there are several types of them. Regardless of the specifics, your call to action (CTA) should be written and designed in a manner that will incite a response. Some examples: Start Your Free Trial Today Call for a FREE Consulation Download our Ebook on XYZ Tell them clearly what you want them to do. A good CTA is explicit, concise and stands out on your page. Place them on pages where people wind up from search and social, like your homepage, blog, and services pages. You should have multilple CTA’s to use that are specific to the page or content the viewer is looking at. Then link those CTA’s to landing pages…
  5. Use Landing Pages to Convert Visitors to Leads This is where the magic happens. A good landing page is written to reinforce the offer of your CTA. It should describe the benefits of the offer and again incite an action. Common practice on landing pages is to remove all buttons and links, leaving the user with just the form that you will use to capture their info and register them as a lead. Once the form is completed, the user is typically sent an email with a link to download the offer or confirming receipt of their information and the next steps you will take. Here are 7 Tips to Landing page success from Search Engine Watch 3

    1) Have a Clear and Emphasized Call to Action
    2) Align Your On-Page Message and Call-to-Action With Your Off-Page Promise
    3) Simplify Design and Reduce Text
    4) Use Images Judiciously
    5) Show Brand Validation
    6) Enable Sharing and Highlight Social Validation
    7) Test, Test, Test

  6. Analyze & Measure Everything The foundation for all inbound marketing efforts is analytics. You have to know where your traffic sources are coming from, what they’re looking at, and whether or not they are engaged with your content. This requires robust software to be installed on your website.

Google Analytics is a start but it doesn’t offer the full suite of measurement tools needed to effectively get the job done.

Good tools will track and measure many important bits of information that will allow you to continually improve your inbound marketing game. Knowledge is power, and the right platform will provide you all of the insights needed to craft better optimized content, stronger CTA’s and landing pages, as well as gain valuable insight about who is hitting your site. Leads and Conversions are also recorded and data can be tracked and compared over time.

This constant measurement allows us as marketers to improve our efforts while the customer or business owner has real data on what is being done and how that relates to ROI.

Final Thoughts…

Inbound Marketing, is a worthwhile, proven approach that can create a steady flow of traffic and leads when executed properly. If you’re considering a website redesign, ask your developer or agency about how you can implement features in your new website to facilitate this. As always make sure that the approach is right for your business. If you decide to go it alone and are not capable or writing and producing content in a timely manner, it may not be a fit. You can seek out assistance from a qualified professional or agency so that you get the most out of inbound marketing.

Sources:

About Tommy Spero

Tommy Spero ( @tommyspero ) is the Principal and Creative Director of Soul NYC (www.soulnyc.com) , a branding, web design and inbound marketing agency that helps companies large and small use design and technology to grow their businesses. Tommy drives the vision of the agency, with over 14 years working in the design and interactive space. His experience working with some of the worlds biggest companies, like American Greetings, Sony Music, VH1, Showtime and Novartis, gives him unique insight on how small and medium businesses can succeed through the use of branding and technology. His design work has been featured multiple times in the LogoLounge series of books by Rockport Press, as well as appearing on television and all across the web.

Inbound Marketing & The 3rd Generation of Websites – Part I: How did we get here?

As we all become further connected and rich content is being produced literally by the second, a huge shift has taken place in how businesses are utilizing the web for marketing. Social media, SEO, blogging, lead generation – these are all things that even the smallest business is now concerned with. Dollars are harder to earn and the need to see results from marketing efforts is more important than ever. Beyond making it look better, companies are now asking “how can I get more out of my website?”

But where did we start? Maybe, I’m feeling a little nostalgic after sitting in a Delorean last week at LITweetup (thanks @namnum). To understand where we are, and more importantly, where we are going, I thought we’d take a little trip back in time. Mind you this is in no way meant to be a detailed history, I’m glossing over huge chunks of happenings, but from the perspective of a designer and avid user of websites for the last 15 years or so, this is what I’ve seen.

I present to you… A (very) brief history of website evolution.

Though Al Gore invented the interwebs sometime earlier, I’d say the mid 90’s were when it started to really gain traction. As with any new thing, there are early adopters, the first generation. Some small and medium business jumped online and the brochure site was born; typically very thin on content and only a few pages, if that. It was a sign of the times, and it was good enough. At the time most people were connecting to the internet through AOL. Remember the signup CD’s they used to send in the mail? The Post Office must have made a killing for a few years delivering those things by the truck full. Though there were obviously some innovative things going on with design and technology, the expectation for most websites was very low.

Internet usage was increasing yearly and by December 1999 there were 248 Million people using the entire internet1. Let’s put that number in context to a stat from today. According to their SEC filing in April, there were 901 Million users on Facebook alone.2 That is simply astounding. By the time you are reading this they will likely be close to crossing the 1 Billion mark.

The late 90’s and early 2000’s saw Macromedia Flash (now owned by Adobe) taking over and there was a rush to make websites more alive and interactive. It was an exciting time as some outrageous stuff was being created. Many of the top digital creative agencies, like Firstborn and R/GA really hit their stride here, as the technology was allowing seemingly endless possibilities. Sites became immersive, and video was easier to display if you had the bandwidth to watch it. But that’s at the top end. Trust me, alot of absolute crap was produced too. The flash “intro” was born and everyone one wanted one. This of course came with a price. We had a saying at the agency I used to work for, “There’s nothing worse than an ugly website, than an ugly website that moves.” Enough said. Though, sometimes when I’m bored to tears on Facebook reading that some “friends” I barely knew from High School are changing their kids diapers, I long for the days of Mr. Wong, Peanut Butter Jelly Time and Zombo.com

Enter Web 2.0

Around 2004, the term Web 2.0 was coined by O’Reilly Media3, and the emergence of real-time information, collaboration, sharing and user-generated content became prevalent. This is really when social started to become a factor in sites. Companies and musicians alike were building profiles on Myspace, and Facebook was just getting rolling. Sites became cleaner in appearance, and blogs were growing in use. Flickr and YouTube emerge as channels of sharing and self expression, and anyone could achieve celebrity status with enough views. A tide was turning and many websites were re-designed around this point as they simply looked so out of date.

Trends that began then are still evolving today and much of it has become common practice. Social is no longer a buzzword, but a viable form of media for those inclined to understand how to use its power. There is not an advertiser in print or TV who isn’t asking you to like, follow or join their conversation. Brands are engaging and listening, and the smallest single customer interaction is now extremely important.

For the last few years there’s been a shift in expectation. Companies big and small are finally starting to realize that maybe there’s more that can be done with their website, more to be gained from that investment. They’re asking “what can I get out of it, what else can it do for my business?” I like to call it the “3rd generation of websites.” More and more companies are now redesigning with purpose, and that purpose is to generate leads and new business.

In Part II, we’ll dive into this next generation, and how Inbound Marketing is changing the way businesses are using the web.

Sources:

  1. http://www.internetworldstats.com/emarketing.htm
  2. http://mashable.com/2012/04/23/facebook-now-has-901-million-users/
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0

 

About Tommy Spero

Tommy Spero ( @tommyspero ) is the Principal and Creative Director of Soul NYC (www.soulnyc.com) , a branding, web design and inbound marketing agency that helps companies large and small use design and technology to grow their businesses. Tommy drives the vision of the agency, with over 14 years working in the design and interactive space. His experience working with some of the worlds biggest companies, like American Greetings, Sony Music, VH1, Showtime and Novartis, gives him unique insight on how small and medium businesses can succeed through the use of branding and technology. His design work has been featured multiple times in the LogoLounge series of books by Rockport Press, as well as appearing on television and all across the web.

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