Is inbound marketing the alternative to CPC advertising? Some are saying so, in light of historical figures showing dramatically rising CPC costs and predictions that they’ll continue to rise over time. But is inbound marketing a one-size-fits-all solution?
Inbound marketing is essentially the use of organic marketing tactics to bring potential customers to your Website naturally. In other words, you’re not “artificially” driving traffic to your site using paid advertising.
Small businesses struggle with ROI
The New York Times highlights one small business, a vacation rental company, Cedar Creek Cabin Rentals, which started utilizing CPC advertising in 2001 and watched the rates rise over the course of 10 years or so to double what was initially paid. Yet, Cedar Creek didn’t double its sales as a result. Any small business owner would question doubling its investment but getting a zero percent return on the increased spend.
Google isn’t contending these arguments. In fact, Google promotes the use of a multi-pronged strategy to drive sales, including paid search, organic search and social media. It’s the recipe that makes the most sense for each business that produces results, and the recipe isn’t the same across the board.
What’s inbound marketing?
Inbound marketing is the process of helping potential customers find your business using natural methods like social media, organic search and blogs. It’s generally defined as “organic,” because you’re not paying for these leads or for any particular placement that draws attention to your Website.
Inbound marketing is an essential tool every business should use. Google even advocates its use despite the profits it generates from paid search. But inbound marketing is tough to accomplish. It requires a massive investment of time and resources in order for it to be used as a 100 percent marketing strategy, and most businesses won’t see results for months or even years if it’s the only strategy utilized.
The best solution for most businesses is to use a combination approach including both organic methods and paid advertising in complimentary efforts that, together, produce more visitors, click-throughs and conversions than either method could achieve alone.
How to make CPC work for you
Instead of using CPC advertising as a short-term means to an end, consider it a long-term strategy. Think about how you can configure your ads and landing pages to start the relationship-building process with your customers.
Your landing pages, for instance, are designed to produce conversions. But if the conversion doesn’t happen, what recourse do you have? Using strategies like a second CTA on the same landing page that encourages visitors to like your company’s Facebook page can help you stay in contact with those who didn’t convert to sales right away. These secondary CTAs should be noticeable enough to catch attention and placed strategically so that they’re noticed second to the primary CTA.
Inbound vs. outbound: Focal points are the same
It’s true: Whether you’re buying ads or you want to produce organic content to draw in visitors, you’ll need to know your target audience. Fortunately, as most social networks have adopted some form of paid advertising, there are an abundance of tools at our disposal to define exactly who our target audience is, even down to the network-specific level.
Make use of those same landing pages that you’ve taken such care to design (or paid someone to design) for your organic content efforts and leverage those for your PPC campaigns. Why wouldn’t you? You’re targeting the same person (your ideal customer doesn’t change whether you’re paying for leads or getting them free, right?) in either case, and your inbound landing pages have been carefully and painstakingly designed to be the most engaging, informative, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it page on your site. It’s a no-brainer.
Use past inbound wins to drive paid efforts
Inbound marketing often involves materials like eBooks, offered free to visitors with the goal of earning their contact information and starting the relationship-building process. So if you’ve produced a hugely successful content marketing piece, why aren’t you using your paid search efforts to continue that success?
You may not make a sale right off the bat, but if you’ve been collecting the appropriate data, you’ll have an idea of what percentage of users who download or read a particular piece of content will eventually turn into paying customers. Use this metric to decide how much to spend on paid traffic efforts.
You can also test out brand-new paid ad efforts using organic tactics. The power of social media is huge. Throw out some new ad copy just to gauge the potential response from followers. If you’re seeing a boost in engagement, likes, re-tweets or responses, you might have a winner on your hands. It’s an informal, yet incredibly useful and statistically significant method for testing without spending a ton of money.
If you’re still stuck on the inbound marketing versus paid search argument, get over it. Marketing is an all-inclusive effort. Use all your resources to your collective advantage.