Inbound marketing is here and looks set to stay for the near future, this is the message from HubSpots latest marketing report The State of Inbound Marketing. The report which interviewed just under 4,000 marketeers from across 150 countries examines in detail the state of inbound marketing across the business community.
So with all this attention being directed at content strategies and inbound marketing techniques, what exactly can we learn from this report and is it really relevant to small scale bloggers and internet marketeers (like myself).
What is Inbound Marketing?
For many people, especially within the blogging and writing community, the first question to ask is – what exactly is inbound marketing? It’s a term that is relatively new to the sector although HubSpot claim that it has been used now within the marketing industry for a number of years. Hubspot’s own definition of inbound marketing is that it is a marketing strategy that –
focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product
Inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing, which uses the more traditional marketing approaches such as bill board ads, banner ads, magazines and TV. According to Zac Gregg at Vital design in our modern media culture most people fast forward through ads and ignore unsolicited emails, so traditional marketing (outbound) techniques are gone.
Perhaps one of the statistics that might impress bloggers, which is also from Zac’s article, is that 85% of 25-35 years olds will click out of a website if it has excessive advertising. It appears that we have gone from a society that was surrounded by advertising to now wanting less, in fact much less of their presence.
Inbound marketing on the other hand uses techniques that many bloggers and content writers will be familiar with, these include using social media outlets, using SEO and having a content strategy.
Gregg describes inbound marketing as permission based, rather than in your face marketing. In fact many content marketeers will be familiar with this approach which is at the core of most content marketing strategies.
Haven’t you then just described content marketing?
Yes I suppose – but apparently it’s not that simple. According to HubSpot content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing, which implies that there is more to it than just writing content.
Another blog by Corey Eridon on developing a content strategy claims that there isn’t really a standard definition of content marketing, instead it usually refers to anything that involves creating content and distributing it on social media and other digital channels such as blogsites and webpages.
Content marketing is therefore the process of creating content and distributing it, so that much is clear to me. The difficulty then is what exactly is different about inbound marketing, or is this HubSpots own marketing campaign to claim a piece of the marketing jargon? Their report states that there is no need to describe inbound marketing to anyone because it is now engrained into the business psyche (just unfortunately not mine).
Evolve design in Ireland differentiate between content and inbound marketing by describing content marketing as about solely developing content, with the specific aim of engaging customers and getting them to take action. Whereas inbound marketing uses many of the strategies mentioned above such as;
- create blogs
- write white papers
- using social media marketing
All of these tactics are used to draw customers in and keep them returning time and again. Content is central to this process but it also needs all the other channels in order to pull in the right customers. This is the essence of inbound marketing.
Back to the research report and HubSpot found that at this stage most marketing companies see content marketing as a sub category of inbound marketing. They are closely related but not quite the same thing.
So What is the Impact for Smaller Scale Bloggers and Businesses?
Reports are all well and good but what can I learn from a large industry report in relation to marketing? Well according to the HubSpot report between 70 – 80% of small to medium businesses are focused on trying to generate more leads and convert existing leads to customers. This is also probably true for most small scale bloggers, affiliate marketeers and content marketing businesses.
It seems that regardless the size of the business the marketing strategies and approaches are still similar. To date content has been king and this is probably true for all scales of business, however unfortunately this content has sometimes had to be directed at search engines rather than customers.
The introduction of the Google Mockingbird algorithm changed this focus slightly, because now google was focusing on meeting the needs of its customers and it is planning on using the websites it ranks as a means to achieve it. Suddenly content had to become more meaningful, and by meaningful I mean suit google’s purpose.
Inbound Marketing and Customer Search Needs
Google’s aim is to match exactly what customers are looking for, to those websites which can best offer that information (according to them). Google is not just focused on the words on the page or in the article anymore, but rather it is interested in how well established your authority is on the subject matter.
How do you show authority?
The process of building authority is not new to content marketeers and bloggers. Creating quality content and drawing in customers through your expertise is the backbone of many content marketing strategies. The most common techniques for establishing and building authority are to do some or all of the following;
- Build backlinks from quality sites, not spam
- Develop a strong social media presence (especially on Google+)
- Create engaging content with comments and replies that constantly updates the article
- Ensure that there is current content on the site
- Ensure that blogs and articles are uploaded regularly onto the site
- Plan and write good quality content, long enough to answer the readers needs
- Include outgoing links in your work to other quality sites of expertise or resources for readers.
- Produce attractive content with images, videos, diagrams and use of headers to break up the written content.
- Remember to include internal links to other articles on your own site to show you have written more on the subject matter.
All of these items can link back to the original description of inbound marketing. In other words it is about creating content and then distributing it through a number of digital media channels, and encouraging engagement. By following this process it is possible to build authority and attract customers, so that they will follow your recommendations when they are interested. And it fits into the new SEO process and what search engines are also seeking.
Inbound Marketing Summary
The term inbound marketing might be accepted within the bigger industries but it is still a new concept in the smaller business and blogging community. But at the same time the term content marketing has developed to such an extent that it has outgrown it’s original meaning. Perhaps the term digital marketing has readily been adopted because it says exactly what it is, in the same way content marketing appeared fairly straightforward and has become a comfortable term to be around.
Inbound marketing might be the new jargon term but like a new pair of shoes it hasn’t quite been worn in enough yet. Personally I would like to see a clearer demarkation between content marketing and inbound marketing. At the moment these boundaries are blurred and used interchangeably, which simply adds to the confusion.
So my finally question is what term do you use and which makes most sense for your own business, either as an independent blogger or as a small scale business, inbound / content or both?
Other articles on this site that may be of interest on SEO are.
There is also a downloadable e-book on Writing SEO content.