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Inbound Marketing and SEO: Can They Work Together?

The trouble with marketing is everyone has a different discipline or a different technique they excel at. It’s natural. If you’re an expert in a specific field, you’ll want to sell that service.


While it’s natural, it isn’t fair, and it can result in ridiculous battles like inbound vs SEO. It also means that people don’t get the right service for them, and that just won't do!

That’s why we’re going to explain the relationship between inbound marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO). There’s no competition between them.


What’s the Difference Between Inbound & SEO?


inbound seo map

There are some key differences between inbound marketing and SEO. Inbound marketing is a philosophy, it pulls people to your product or service, whereas SEO is a tactic that supports this philosophy.

Inbound involves various marketing practices:

There are three types of SEO, on-page, off-page and technical.

On-page SEO includes the following practices:

  • Posting long-form content - 1500+ words
  • Adding alt tags to images
  • Adding keywords
  • Creating inbound and outbound links

Off-page SEO includes the following practices:

  • Guest blogging
  • Branding
  • Influencer marketing

Technical SEO includes the following practices:

  • Improving site speed
  • Optimising for different devices (mobile, tablet, desktop)
  • Adding an XML sitemap
  • Registering with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

What’s the Relationship Between Inbound Marketing and SEO?

SEO can be used as a technique on its own, and inbound marketing can function without a considerable investment in SEO, but they work so much better as a team!

Think coffee and doughnuts, cheese and red wine. All great on their own, but a formidable as a pair.

The chances are you’ll be using techniques in both areas anyway, so it makes sense to understand how they work together.

If inbound marketing is the philosophy, SEO is a pillar of the philosophy. You aren’t going to achieve as much as you’d like to without it in your inbound strategy.

Similarly, you aren’t going to get the best ROI from your marketing efforts if you aren’t considering how SEO fits into a broader strategy. SEO shouldn’t stand on its own.


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So, How Do You Develop Your Inbound SEO Strategy?

There are various techniques you can use to fuse SEO into your inbound strategy, here are some of the best ways to do it:

  1. Start optimising your blog — content is what gets people to your site, but are you optimising it? Search engines like to see you care about your content, so little things like adding headers to your text, updating your articles regularly and answering questions are point scorers.
  2. Get your technical setup right — your blog may be optimised, but if the Wizard of Oz isn't pulling strings behind the curtain, you risk being ignored by search engines. You can do this by analysing your web navigation, URL structure and dead links, plus other methods.
  3. Develop a link building strategy — your web pages rank based on relevance (which your cover with your content) and authority - or popularity as it’s better known. Think of your pages like a book or video game; if it gets positive reviews, the retailer promotes it. If you want search engines to like your content, you can do this by creating content that generates inbound links, guest posting or outreach.
  4. Understand how location impacts SEO — there’s a community right outside your doorstep, are you appealing to them? 97% percent of customers use search engines to find local information. So it makes sense to optimise your site. Consider what type of businesses operate in your area, what location-based keywords you want to rank for, and set up Google My Business.
  5. Social media and SEO have an indirect relationshipHootsuite conducted an experiment after they noticed Twitter and Facebook page rankings were going up, which asked the question of whether social media improves rankings. The answer? There’s a positive correlation between social engagements and change in rank. So focus on creating engaging content. Consider adding a paid budget to the articles you want to rank; it has nearly double the SEO benefit of organic promotion.

SEO Tools To Help Your Inbound Strategy

Paid: Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a paid tool with various features: site explorer, keyword explorer and content explorer. Let’s explore.

Site Explorer

Let’s take a look at smallbusiness.co.uk. This part of the site gives you a profile from everything to backlinks and Ahrefs ranking score. But let’s look at traffic and inbound keywords.

As we can see, they get around 40,000 hits a month and rank for 65,000 organic keywords, with 600+ ranking in the first three results.

This tool will help you build an SEO profile of your business and will play a part in developing your inbound marketing strategy.


ahrefs site explorer

Keywords Explorer

smallbusiness.co.uk have created their inbound plan and ‘small business tips’ is a keyword they want to target.

They can see it gets 100 searches in the UK and you need 17 inbound links to get on the top page.

They can also see that there are four related questions and a featured snippet, so they write the content with that in mind.

There’s another keyword they feel could be useful, ‘small business marketing tips’. All this information goes into the content strategy.


ahrefs site ahrefs keyword explorer

Content Explorer

You can use the content explorer to find out what articles are most popular for keywords or search queries.

Take the search query ‘small business tips’, it’s returned two popular articles with the majority of social media shares coming from Pinterest.

What can the company learn from this? There are a lot of small businesses on the platform? Is that where a portion of their audience lives?


ahrefs content explorer

Free: Google, LSI Graph

You won’t be able to replicate Ahrefs with these two tools, but they’re a good starting point if you want to test the method, albeit with limitations.

Search engine results page features (SERP) are easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for. You can also find out the best ways to get them with a little research.

LSI Graph performs the same function as the Ahrefs keyword explorer, but it won't give you any traffic or backlink metrics, so it’s all guesswork.

To help your on-page SEO, you should download the Yoast plugin if you have a WordPress site.

lsi keywords

Inbound Tools To Help Your SEO Strategy

Free and Paid: HubSpot

HubSpot’s free marketing CRM won’t have any direct benefits to your SEO profile, but it will help you determine where your strengths and weaknesses lie with the analytics board.

HubSpot analytics will help you determine which pieces of content get the most views, which forms get filled out the most, and which premium content gets the most downloads.

Although this doesn’t help your SEO profile, it can help you determine content gaps, figure out which articles have the right information, or which articles have the wrong information.

You can use this information and use it in your SEO strategy. If you’re known for writing leading pieces on customer service, you could do some outreach for articles that aren’t performing so well, or republish them.

This could improve your SEO profile by getting more quality backlinks to your site, or driving more traffic.

Will The Paid Version Of HubSpot Improve My SEO Profile?

The HubSpot Starter package doesn’t offer you much more than the free marketing platform, and it’s priced at £42 pound a month.

With the Professional package, you get a HubSpot blog which comes with SEO blog optimisation tools, plus HubSpot’s SEO and content strategy tools. Pricing starts at £655 per month, which is a big leap, but it’s worth it.

How Is It Worth It?

When you’re uploading content, you need to ensure you optimise for SEO purposes, and that’s what HubSpot allows you to do.

As you can see from the screengrab, the amber dots point to something you should include or improve, and the green dots tell you what you’ve done right.


hubspot blog optimisation

Meta description — when you appear on the page for a search query, the title of the link describes the article. The meta description explains in a little more detail what the article is about. It’s also a good opportunity to include your keyword.

Title length — if your title is too long search engines will cut it off. And who wants a portion of a title to appear on a results page? Try to keep it under 70 characters.

Add header tags — header tags help search engines break up your content so it makes sense. It also makes the article look better for the reader, who can choose which parts are relevant to them.

Add alt text to images — search engines can’t read images, so having text attached to them helps them understand them. An accurate description will improve your SEO.

Adding links — adding links from reputable sources makes you more trustworthy, it’s also an opportunity to link to your resources and keep visitors on your site. Don’t stuff too many links in or it’ll make your article look untidy.

Load time — who likes their web pages to load slowly? It just increases the chance of someone leaving.

Domain name not in title — plenty of companies engage in this practice, but HubSpot considers it bad practice. Not including the title makes your content appear more trustworthy, although we couldn't find any evidence to assert this.

Attach to the core topic — see the video below for why topic clusters are the new way of doing inbound SEO.


The Importance of HubSpot’s Content Strategy Tool

Traditionally, marketers focus on keywords and want their content to rank for those keywords. But search is now conversational and simple keywords won’t stand alone. That’s why you have to change the way you structure your content.

Quick brainstorm

Think about the topics your customers are interested in. For example, if you own a kennel, your audience may be interested in dog grooming. But their interest won’t stop there. They may want to know what the benefits of dog grooming are, or the best products.

That’s where your cluster content comes in, which supports the main article by linking back to it through supporting articles. They’re known as topic clusters

The topic cluster also helps you organise and centralise your content, rather than having 100’s of blogs with no apparent link to each other.



Are There Any Other Tools?

There aren’t any tools that will have a direct impact on your SEO profile, but there are organisational tools that will help you along the way.

Consider where you store your strategy, whether that’s Google, PowerPoint, Asana or Coshedule, and think about what SEO information you need to store.


Consider What You Want From This Combination

Before you make a decision, consider what your goals and budget are. Use the tools that will help you, and focus on the areas where you can see the most growth.

There isn’t a definitive approach when supporting inbound with SEO, but these tips will definitely help:

  • Make sure you understand the relationship between inbound and SEO before you start marketing
  • Create a list of tools you want to use, decide what's more important by looking at your site metrics with Google Analytics (e.g. traffic or bounce rates)

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