Why do you have a website? If you’re like most site owners, the answer is probably something like, “to be found.” I mean, why have a site if no one can find it and use it, right?
Whether you are an aspiring author looking to get noticed by agents and publishers, a business owner who wants to get more clients or ramp up their sales, or a blogger looking to collaborate with brands; you want people to come to you.
That is how the marketing mindset works nowadays. However, many people freeze when they hear the word “marketing.” Their minds immediately conjure up images of sleazy salespeople who won’t budge no matter how many times you tell them no.
But that’s not what good marketing is about.
Good marketing nowadays revolves around inbound marketing. And the good news is that if you have a blog, you are already on your way toward creating a great inbound marketing strategy.
In this post, we’ll focus on what inbound marketing is, how it works, and how to tell if your WordPress site is following best practices.
For our handy inbound marketing checklist, scroll to the bottom of the post.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Unlike the old methods of buying newspaper, radio, and TV ads, blasting people with cold calls, and firing off an endless stream of emails, inbound marketing puts more focus on your potential customer.
It’s about creating content that attracts your potential customers to your site and keeps them coming back for more.
There are five core ideas behind inbound marketing:
Content Creation and Distribution. Creating content that is bound to attract your ideal clients by solving their immediate problems, concerns, and needs then sharing that content far and wide
Lifecycle Marketing. Ideally, you want your targeted leads to become your biggest fans who will go on to spread the word about you. However, they don’t just appear out of nowhere. Each lead you attract through inbound marketing will start off as a stranger. The goal is to transform each of those leads into a repeat visitor, who will become your customer and then promoter.
Personalization. We established that your content needs to speak to your ideal customer. As time progresses, you will learn more and more about their specific needs and then you can utilize that knowledge to further refine your content.
Multi-channel. Inbound marketing is not tied to one specific platform, rather it approaches people where they are, on the platform in which they feel most comfortable interacting with you.
Integration. Creating content, sharing the content across different channels and analyzing how well that content is doing – all that integrates together to allow you to put your focus on publishing the right content in the right place at the right time.
To sum it all up, the idea behind inbound marketing is to create the content that would appeal to your target audience (in other words, content that helps them solve their immediate problems, answers their questions and needs) and then share it on the platforms where they spend most of their time, at the time they are most likely to be there.
By focusing your efforts on inbound marketing, you are no longer a noise they’ve learned to tune out. Instead, your message becomes something they want to hear, something they want to learn more about, and that’s hard to ignore.
How Does it Work?
When it comes to inbound marketing, there are 4 key actions you need to take to capitalize on your marketing strategy.
Even though you might think you want to be found by as many people as possible that is not the right course of action. You want to be found by people who are most likely to become leads and ultimately, your ideal customers.
Those ideal customers are often referred to as buyer personas. They are the ones you should keep in mind whenever you create a piece of content. You should know your ideal customer like the back of your hand: what are their goals? Their biggest fears? Their most common problems? Are they male or female? What do they like? What do they dislike? How old are they…
Once you have narrowed down your ideal customer, you should focus on building and creating content that will speak directly to them.
Some of the most important tools to attract them to your site include:
Blogging. If you already have a blog, then you have an excellent start. Blogging is one of the easiest methods to create content that speaks and educates your target audience.
SEO. In today’s day and age, each and every one of your customers will begin their search online — either to find out how to solve a particular problem, compare products and services, or to find out more about a particular product. As a website owner, you should focus your efforts on selecting the right keywords and then create content, build links, and optimize pages around those terms.
Pages. In correlation to blogging and SEO, the static pages on your website should be optimized for your target audience as well. Rather than simply stating what you offer in dry corporate–speak, you need to speak directly to your target audience by explaining how you can help solve their needs in a language that they can relate to.
Social Publishing. Social media should be a natural extension of your blog. This is where they get to see the face behind the brand so do your best to represent your website in the best light. Aside from sharing relevant and valuable content, share content you know your audience would benefit from and don’t forget to engage in the conversation. This means responding to any questions you might get on social media as well as encouraging and being a part of the conversation.
Now that you have their attention, it’s time to convert those visitors into leads. This involves gathering their contact information. Ideally, you will have their full name, address, and email. At the very least, you can get by with just their email address.
Most people are, however, very cautious when it comes to giving up their email address. So in order to make them want to hand it over, you need to offer something valuable in return. When I say valuable, I mean anything that would be interesting to each of your ideal customers. This can be a short ebook, a white paper or a case study, worksheet, checklist, an audio recording, a video training series…
When it comes to converting visitors to leads, the best assets include:
Forms. These are usually email signup forms where you ask for their email (most often their name, too) in exchange for a download. A good place to feature a signup form is below a blog post or in your sidebar, and to repeat it again in the footer of your website. As with anything, your forms should be easy to fill out and stand out from the rest of your content.
Calls-to-Action. Calls-to-Action or CTAs are buttons or links that encourage your visitors to take action with words such as “Download my Checklist to Complete XYZ” or “Sign up for a live workshop.” Sometimes they include a form, and often they lead to a separate form where visitors can submit their information.
Landing Pages. Landing pages serve a specific purpose–and that is to convert visitors to leads. This is where you expand on the offer in the call-to-action and where you include another form where the user can submit their information. The information submitted on the landing page can be as simple as a form including a name and an email field, or it can be somewhat longer including more specific information that can be used by your sales team. Landing pages should not include anything else other than your offer and the form so distractions are minimized.
Once your visitors have filled out the form on your site, they become contacts. It’s your responsibility to keep track of those leads in one place by using a custom marketing database. Make sure that every interaction you’ve had with your contacts is documented and that it makes sense for you. In the long run, that information can be used to optimize your future interactions with leads and visitors.
The next step in inbound marketing strategy is to convert your contacts into actual customers. This can be achieved through various marketing tools which include:
CRM Software. Customer Relationship Management software allows you to keep track of all the important details about all your contacts, companies, and deals in your sales pipeline. Above all, it makes it easy to get in touch with your ideal audience at the right time.
Closed-loop Reporting. This allows you to analyze your marketing efforts and see which one of those methods works best to bring in new leads, how well your sales team is doing to convert those leads into customers, and much more. When you integrate this with your CRM software you can have a snapshot of your marketing strategy at a glance at all times.
Email. If your visitors aren’t ready to become clients yet, email can be an effective tool to build trust and ease their decision to make a purchase.
Marketing Automation. This includes creating a series of automated email messages that relate to the needs and the lifecycle stage of each lead. The content of the messages will be different depending on where and when a visitor actually converted into a lead and that’s one of the biggest benefits of inbound marketing.
The last action on our list is delight. Even though you converted your leads into customers, your work doesn’t stop there. In fact, to do inbound marketing the right way, you need to continually engage with your current customers, thrill them with new offers and gradually transform them into your loyal fans which will promote you, your company, your products, and services to their own little tribe.
At this stage of your inbound marketing plan, your tools should include:
Surveys. Asking your current customers for feedback is the best way to ensure you are providing them with what they are looking for instead of randomly guessing and hoping to hit the target.
Smart calls-to-action. By smart, I mean calls-to-action that are specific to your ideal customer depending on the lifecycle stage.
Smart content. Content that is geared towards your ideal customers’ interests and challenges written in a language that’s familiar to them.
Social Monitoring. This is also sometimes called Social Listening, which refers to actively keeping track of social conversations that matter to you, listening to customers’ questions and comments, and then reaching out to them with relevant content.
What Goes Into an Inbound Marketing Plan?
So now that you know how inbound marketing works. It’s time to come up with a plan.
The first thing you need to do in order to create an effective inbound marketing strategy is to realize that traditional marketing is dead. According to a study done by HubSpot, 91% of the people surveyed have unsubscribed from email lists, and the average click-through rate for display ads is less than 0.2%
Bearing that in mind, you need to focus your efforts on different methods. Your plan should consist of 6 main parts. So let’s examine them, shall we?
Creating remarkable content
Long gone are the days when it was enough to churn out content filled with keywords. The competition is tough and you need to make sure your content stands out from the rest. This comes by creating content that is targeted to your ideal buyer persona – content that inspires, entertains, provokes, and educates.
This doesn’t mean talking about you and your brand all the time. It doesn’t work anywhere else in life so why should the Internet be any different? Instead, you should focus on helping your target audience and making them feel like you really “get them.”
Using the power of visuals
In the age of short attention spans, images really do speak more than words. A number of studies have shown that the average attention span is just 8 seconds so make sure those 8 seconds count. Creating highly engaging visual content that begs to be shared is a good way to get the attention of your target audience. This includes not only photos but infographics, slideshows, videos – anything that will make you stand out from your competition.
Unfortunately, not all of us are born graphic designers. In that case, you can consider outsourcing those tasks to a graphic designer, bringing one on your team, or if you are really strapped for cash, using tools like Canva which comes with loads of templates you can modify to suit your needs.
Your Calls-to-Action shouldn’t be ignored. Spend as much time on crafting compelling CTAs as you do on creating your content and your visuals. The last thing you want is to spend hours on an epic blog post and infographic only to have people leave your site because your CTA wasn’t clear, or worse, weak.
Utilizing the power of analytics
You might think you have the greatest marketing plan of all time, but the simple truth is you won’t know how it works unless you gather and measure data. It’s important to know which pages on your site brought in the most leads, where they clicked, and where they dropped off. Similarly, you want to know how many of your contacts actually turned into customers, at which point on your site they converted, and where they were when they left.
You won’t know any of that without analytics software. Google Analytics is great for tracking your website and more sophisticated tools like CrazyEgg can show you exactly where your visitors are clicking.
After you have results gathered from analytics, you can start testing different variations of your marketing strategy. This is often referred to as A/B testing and you can set up tests for almost anything, your headlines, your CTAs, content, the color of buttons, and so forth.
This is a valuable part of any marketing plan because it lets you tweak until you get that perfect solution that is guaranteed to convert.
Getting the right people on your team
Finally, it would be foolish to expect you to handle all of this on your own. As a website owner, you already wear many hats and not all of us are born marketers. Knowing when to bring people on your team to help with your marketing efforts is a smart decision. However, you should be careful to hire those whose skill set not only matches your strategy, but also those whose vision and value align with yours. They should also be ready to continually learn and improve so you can update your marketing plan as your goals grow.
How Can WordPress Help Me?
By now we all know that Google likes websites that are updated on a regular basis. And WordPress is an excellent choice when it comes to that. However, WordPress alone is not enough to really pull off a successful inbound marketing campaign. Thankfully, we’ve put together a few steps you can take to turn your WordPress website into an inbound marketing machine.
1. Create Landing Pages
One of the first things you should do is create landing pages. Plenty of themes today come with landing page templates included but if your theme doesn’t have this functionality out of the box you can work around this with the help of plugins.
Aside from the obvious fact that you can create landing pages for your website, WordPress Landing Pages lets you monitor and improve conversion rates, run A/B split tests, customize your own templates and more. The plugin comes with Visual Editor so you can easily view changes you make and integrates with Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, and Ninja Forms.
With this plugin, you can create fully customized landing pages for your campaigns and publish them to your existing WordPress sites. Unbounce allows you to customize your landing pages to match your brand perfectly, and the WYSIWYG builder allows for quick and easy page editing.
The plugin offers a 30-day free trial, after which you have to upgrade to a paid plan. Paid plans start at $49/month.
Inbound Now is a complete marketing suite that gives you calls to action, landing pages, leads management and tracking, and email and marketing automation. It’s an all-in-one solution that aims to convert your WordPress website into an inbound marketing machine. It’s completely customizable and allows you to perform A/B tests to refine your marketing strategy.
The basic free version will allow you to try out their calls to action, landing pages and lead management while the rest of the features are available with paid plans that start at $99/year.
I’m pretty sure by now you know that including a strong call to action at the bottom of your posts can significantly increase your conversions. But why stop there? An easy way to add more call-to-action buttons is to include them in your sidebar, either by uploading an image to an Image Widget (available if you use JetPack) or by utilizing the Text Widget which allows you to insert plain text as well as HTML code.
If you’d prefer an easy solution to add beautiful buttons anywhere on your site then MaxButtons plugins will do the trick.
With MaxButtons, you can create great-looking CSS3 call to action buttons that can be used on any post or page on your WordPress site. The easy to use button editor makes it a snap to generate awesome CSS3 buttons in very little time.
The plugin comes in a free and a paid version which allows you to add social sharing buttons and advanced design functionalities. The paid version is available for $19.
LeadIn is an easy-to-use contact form and marketing analytics plugin for your website that helps you better understand your website visitors. It comes with a powerful dashboard that lets you view what pages they’ve visited, when they return, and what social networks they’re on by utilizing publicly available information about each of your contacts.
You also have the option to collect visitors’ emails via a popup which uses the contact data to intelligently know when to appear.
SideOffer is a sliding side tab designed to generate leads & increase conversions by displaying a highly visible call to action for your users. It was developed to help strengthen and sustain your inbound marketing and conversion optimization efforts, and it’s available for free.
3. Related Content
One of the best ways to keep visitors on your site is to provide them with content related to the one that brought them to your website. The benefit of this is longer time on your website, lower bounce rates, and more chances to impress and delight your target audience.
This plugin allows you to display a list of related posts on your website and in your feed. What makes Contextual Related Posts different from similar plugins is the fact that the list is based on the content of the title and/or content of the posts which makes them more relevant and more likely to be of interest to your readers. This allows you to retain visitors, reduce bounce rates, and refresh old entries.
This plugin is free.
The best way to attract visitors to your site is by optimizing your SEO efforts. By that, I mean researching your keywords and then planning your content around them. However, your SEO efforts should be boosted by using a plugin such as our own SmartCrawl SEO plugin or All In One SEO.
5. Content Structure
Another important factor when it comes to SEO is your content structure. This means setting up a customized permalink structure for your blog as well as creating categories for your content. You can then include categories in your permalinks since URLs are important factors in search rankings. By doing this you inform not only the search engines but your visitors as well how a particular blog post relates to other content on your site.
6. Image Optimization
When it comes to image optimization for inbound marketing you need to make sure that your images are compressed and load fast and that their names include words that can help you get found online. It’s one of the most overlooked aspects of proper inbound marketing and yet the way you handle images matters for several reasons:
Image size affects page load time which in turn affects search engine results.
Properly named and tagged images can show up in image search results where there is often less competition.
Images increase engagement. According to a study done by MarketMeSuite content with images attracted 94% more pageviews than content without images.
When it comes to optimizing images, our very own WP Smush Pro plugin can help you reduce the size of your images. The plugin does have a free version, but the pro version removes several limitations such as image file size and the number of images you can “smush” at one time. The pro version comes with our monthly membership priced at $49/month.
As far as image files renaming, if you are uploading new images it’s easy to change the name before you upload them to the site. But what if you already have a fair number of images on your site?
Media File Renamer is a plugin that automatically renames your media filenames depending on their titles. When files are renamed, the references to it such as posts, pages, custom types, and their metadata are also updated.
The plugin comes in both free and paid versions which gives you a few more features like manual renaming, renaming depending on the post the media is attached to and a few more options. The Pro version is available for a one-time payment of $34 or yearly payments of $15.
7. Social Media Integration
Finally, no inbound marketing strategy would be complete without integrating social media. After all, you want your content not only to be found, but also shared on social media so your message can reach even more targeted leads.
For the last step, your WordPress website should include social media sharing buttons which make sure your content appears correctly no matter which social network your content gets shared on.
Use CRM software to keep track of all the important details and interactions with your contacts. Tools: HubSpot CRM
Analyze. Use analytics software such as Google Analytics or Crazy Egg to understand how visitors are interacting with your website and how well your sales team is doing. Tools: Google Analytics, CrazyEgg, KISSMetrics
Automate. Use email and marketing automation to further build trust with contacts who aren’t ready to buy yet and to target the right message that relates to the needs and the lifecycle stage of each lead. Tools: MailChimp, Active Campaign, ConvertKit
Continue to engage with your customers by creating new offers and gradually transform them into your loyal fans which will act as your promoters.
Use surveys . Ask for feedback to ensure you are giving your customers what they want. Tools: PollDaddy, SurveyMonkey
Use smart calls to action and smart content. Make sure your calls to action and your content is geared towards your ideal content based on their interests and their lifecycle stage.
Social Monitoring. Keep track of social conversations and reach out with relevant content when your customers ask a question. Tools: Hootsuite, Cyfe, Simply Measured
As a website owner, and possibly a business owner, you wear a lot of hats. With so many responsibilities, marketing can easily get pushed down to the bottom of your list. Thankfully, you can generate new customers and visitors without having to go out to them through inbound marketing, a technique that brings customers closer to you through blogs, videos, email newsletters, and social media marketing – all tasks which you are likely already using. The secret to making it successful is to create content that appeals to your target audience and sharing it where they hang out at the right time.
Have you developed your inbound marketing strategy yet? What are your favorite tools? Let us know in the comments below.