Why SEO Is the Best Inbound Marketing Investment

During many a client or prospect meeting or call, I get a lot of questions about how to make the most of inbound marketing. Many of those questions are focused on the basics of how inbound marketing itself works.

In reality, inbound is a mix of tactics and strategies that set you up to receive traffic without paying for each and every visit. The issue comes down to timing.

To get quick traffic and (hopefully) conversions, inbound may or may not be the best way to go about accomplishing that goal. Sure, social media marketing can drive some quick bursts of traffic, but those are not the most likely to convert in many cases.

Realistically, online advertising like social and PPC are the best quick turn tools in your arsenal. If you want to get a new site on the map and start driving immediate results, the best way to do that is to pay for the visits and do your best to turn them into customers.

On the other hand, search engine optimization (SEO) is a long play. Traffic earned from SEO work today will come in months or years. This can be discouraging to some marketers who are under tight deadlines and influenced by unreasonable expectations of immediate ROI. At least a quarter of folks we pitch for our SEO services push back due to concerns over the slow roll of SEO.

But with my 15 years optimizing websites for organic rankings, I stand by my assertion that SEO is one of the best ways to invest your money for the long haul. Let’s look at a few reasons why I have that opinion.

SEO: The Top Inbound Marketing Investment

Appreciating Asset

As opposed to PPC and social media marketing, which both require you to pay for a click or push out a tweet/status update to get a visit, SEO provides growing value over time. You don’t have to “pay to play.” It works like a snowball rolling down the hill, growing over time as you keep the faith and push forward.

Even more importantly, sites that rank well are much more likely to earn links. When writers are researching topics that you cover, and you show up on page 1, your likelihood of being cited as a source skyrockets.

Assuming you follow white hat SEO practices, your investments in SEO today will continue in perpetuity, even if/when you stop investing in it. Speaking of white hat SEO…

Method to Stay in Google’s Good Graces

Google is always updating algorithms, pushing out penalties, and working to enforce their web guidelines. If you show good faith effort to push out content and pursue keywords within their parameters, there’s no reason you should have a problem ranking over time.

Now, there is some risk of penalty or algorithmic loss of traffic. But that’s one reason you want to keep investing in SEO.

The stated rules may change, but the spirit of the rules does not. If you want to avoid being caught up in one of their witch hunts, it’s paramount for you to either bring in an SEO consultant /agency or hire an SEO expert right in-house.

Make sure you have someone actively monitoring the algorithm situation and proposing any required changes for your website to help you comply with the latest guidelines. This alone will pay for itself many times over, as you avoid bending the rules or even making honest mistakes that open you up to a massive loss of traffic.

Key Role in Online Reputation Management

Online Reputation Management (ORM) has been a hot topic the past few years. There’s a good reason – it matters more than you might realize.

ORM is the practice of proactively managing the tone and sentiment of your online presence, and SEO is a huge piece of how you accomplish that feat. With reviews playing a big role in local ranking and an ever-growing volume of blog posts being published, it’s only a matter of time before someone comes away unhappy about something. And think about it – the unhappy customer is the loudest customer.

So some amount of negative commentary is bound to come sooner or later. SEO is a great way to preemptively downplay those problems, so they won’t easily leap to the first page of the SERPs for your company or personal name.

How do you do this? You use SEO to tell your story in your own words. Use it to build your brand, and to establish credibility and trust in that brand. This is one of the most under-appreciated benefits of doing SEO long term, and one that we all need to remember when discussing things like ROI and the slow roll during the early days of an SEO campaign.

Cost Effective Way to Outmaneuver the Competition

SEO doesn’t have to be very expensive if you play your cards right. And if you are in an industry that depends more on old school marketing tactics, you can get a leg up on your competitors in a cost effective manner.

The beauty of SEO is that you can pay a lot for an expert (or team of experts), or you can pay much less for pre-built content marketing packages. If you are very low on funds, you can invest sweat equity in it (growth hacking style) and still reap benefits, although your reach and progress will be pretty slow.

Regardless of how you choose to proceed, you should at least be in the game. For industries where SEO is not commonly used, you will be ahead of the pack just by doing it.

In industries where SEO is common, you have the opposite issue. You absolutely HAVE to do it to keep pace with the competition. No matter how you slice it, SEO is a smart competitive move in any industry that uses the internet for any type of promotion.

Amplification for Other Marketing Activities

What other marketing activities are you managing? If you participate in trade shows, conferences, social media campaigns or just about any other activity to promote yourself, SEO can help you get more visibility for those activities.

Say you have a brand new site and want to promote an event you are organizing. How likely do you think you will be to rank for that event as soon as you publish an announcement? Not very.

But if your website already has a good amount of domain authority, you should see the announcement rank in pretty short order. You can’t just jump to this level of performance – it takes planning and preparation, and of course, investment in SEO for the long haul.

Take advantage of the “Megaphone effect” that SEO can offer. Set yourself up for future success by investing in SEO now.

Important Role for Managing Buyer’s Journey

With inbound marketing taking over as the top strategy for most companies, it is more important than ever to tell your entire story on the website. I am a huge advocate of building out the navigation and content (pages, not blog posts) to walk prospects through the entire customer life cycle / buyer’s journey. That way, no matter where they drop in on your site, you can help usher them along the way to a purchase.

Now let’s say a prospect is looking for content down the funnel, perhaps competitive comparisons. If this is a typical step along the buyer’s journey in your industry, then you should be trying to rank for it. Down funnel content is the most likely to convert to a sale, so avoiding it is nothing more than short-sighted.

Think about how a potential customer moves from awareness of your brand, through consideration, and on to a purchase. Then optimize for topics and keywords that overlay that whole process. Semantic SEO has opened up a whole range of approaches to managing this effort, so think long and hard about the questions they might ask, the objections you might receive, and how you can address all of those topics proactively.

And when a prospect goes looking for answers via a Google search, you can one day be right there when they need the information. Over the long haul, this sort of performance will provide immeasurable ROI. And it’s the culmination of many months of dedicated work to put you there when they come looking.

This is the power of inbound marketing. Make SEO your friend in all of it.

Summary

SEO is absolutely beneficial to a successful inbound marketing effort in multiple ways. The investment, though it doesn’t show immediately ROI, will pay for itself many times over if you stick with it.

Did I miss any other reasons to invest in SEO? Feel free to chime in below in the comments with additions or feedback. I’d love to hear from you.


Feature image credit: Flickr, License: CC BY (commercial reuse with modification)