Inbound Marketing Is A Scientific Method Designed To Drive Leads And Search Is The First Part
Inbound scientist checking in here. I’ve been in the lab most of last week looking at a way to predict website visitors based on a variety of inputs and it’s coming along brilliantly. The next step is to test our calculations with a variety of clients and prove that the formula works consistently. Stay tuned. But today I want to share how you can apply science to help you get found more frequently on search engines.
Yes, it’s true. There is a science behind search engine optimization, or getting found on the web. The back story to that statement is the effort requires a complex connection of related marketing tactics executed synchronously over a period of time. It also requires a deep dive into the current search analytics, a well-defined SEO strategy and a plan of attack that you stick with and optimize over time.
Strategy, planning, tactic integration and analysis are the building blocks you need to execute the science of inbound marketing within your search effort.
Start looking at data. It’s a little like a scavenger hunt. One thing usually causes you to look for another and then another and then another. Consider the exploration part of uncovering a hypothesis about what’s working or what might work. For example, a lot of people think they know what keywords they want to be found for. This usually comes from a misunderstanding around how your prospects search, but that’s OK. Start looking at those keywords. Are they highly searched keywords? If so, you’re on the right track, keep going. But if they’re not, your initial assumptions were wrong and you now have to find the highly-searched keywords.
Tools are out there to help you identify which keywords should be part of your scientific search strategy. Take advantage of those. Look at your competitors’ websites, not to copy what they’re doing (because they might be doing it wrong), but to get more data. What their sites are ranking for and what words they’re using need to be inputs into your selection strategy. More on that later.
Look at other data points, too. It’s not enough for keywords to be highly searched. If they’re also very difficult (scores range from 1 to 100, with 100 being the hardest to rank for), it’s going to take longer and require more investment (time and resources) to break into rankings for high-difficulty terms. It’s better to look for terms with a difficulty rating below 70.
Armed with this data and having done enough analysis, now you can push forward and select the keywords you want to track and the ones you want to rank for.
Keyword(s) And Keyword Phrase Selection
Tools like HubSpot allow you to track up to 1,000 keywords. This is great, but you can’t work aggressively to rank for all 1,000 keywords at the same time. I guess you could if you had unlimited budget, people and time, but no one has that situation. Instead, you must be smart.
Come up with 1,000 keywords, phrases or questions and put them into HubSpot or whatever tracking tool you’re using. Using the software tool to its limit just makes good sense and it will give you access to more data on the performance of all those keywords, phrases and questions.
But to drive results, select a handful to focus on. This is your first opportunity to deploy your new scientist language, which is “we should test that.” Pick six to 10 keywords or phrases that have medium to high search volumes and medium to low difficulty ratings. These are going to be the first words you start testing. Document your current rankings so you know what performance looks like today.
While you’re at it, also look at a few other metrics. Look at total keywords ranked in the top three, look at total keywords ranked in the top 10, look at total visitors from organic search over the past 30 days and look at total leads from organic search over the past 30 days.
Now you have the perfect baseline to track performance, run experiments and see how they impact your key metrics.
Goal Setting And Optimization
Now you want to set some goals for your search efforts. Typically, goals can be simple, such as “do better this week than last week.” Don’t scoff at this. A continuous improvement goal like this works wonders for us and for most clients. By working every day to get more keywords in the top three and top 10 and to drive more leads and visitors from organic week over week, you can rocket your website visitors in no time.
Some goals might be more long term and aspirational. You might decide that you want to rank for a highly-searched term that is extremely difficult. No problem. As an example, it has taken us four years to get to be at the bottom of page one for the term “inbound marketing.” This term has a 98 difficulty and drives almost 10,000 searches a month. We understood the commitment and it has paid off.
Once you have your goals, start running optimization experiments. Some of the tests you want to consider when practicing the science of search include:
- Increase the number of blog articles that focus on the keywords in your top-10 portfolio
- Experiment with keyword usage in these blog articles, focusing on the headlines, sub-headlines and body copy
- Change the URL structure of your site to make it more keyword-centric
- Look at the copy on those pages and make sure the headlines, sub-headlines and body copy include the right keywords
- Make sure your pages have good links and contextual conversion points; the more visitors click and convert, the higher your pages’ quality scores and the higher the rankings
The more tests you run and the more experiments you complete, the smarter you’ll be and the better your marketing will perform.
Daily And Weekly Metrics Review
The only way to know what’s working and what’s not is to watch the metrics. Some metrics, like keyword rankings, need to be looked at weekly, while other metrics, like visitors and leads, need to be reviewed daily. The key is making sure you have enough data points to statistically validate that the experiments are accurately reflecting prospect behavior.
Keep in mind that you’re not curing cancer or sending people to Mars. You don’t need a PhD in statistics to run experiments like the ones I’m describing. You should make sure you have enough data points to make the tests valid. If only two people visit your page, it’s not enough data points. But if 200 people come to the page, it’s probably enough to draw some conclusions.
The biggest change here is getting into the habit of checking in on your experiments, documenting the results and looking for trends. Again, this doesn’t have to take a ton of time, but you still have to do it or have someone else, like an inbound agency, do it for you.
If you like where this is going, then there’s good news: You get to be an inbound scientist, too. The best way to embrace this role, and this is going to be easy, is to practice the phrase “we should test that.” This simple phrase puts the burden on the data to produce an answer. Instead of doing it because you think it’s right, the CEO wants it that way or the board said to do it this way, scientists do tests and they use data to prove assumptions. The results are often discoveries that change the way the rest of us look at the world.
It might take some practice to change your approach to marketing, but stick with it. Everyone thinks they’re a marketer because they read emails, visit websites and watch TV. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Today, being a marketer is more like being a doctor. It takes years of practice, training and experience. The science of marketing makes this a reality.
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