The Role of SEO in Inbound Marketing

SEO (or Search Engine Optimization) has been a key marketing strategy for businesses of all shapes and sizes, for many years. Whether you’re a global brand targeting an international market, or a small business targeting local traffic, if you’re not ranking well, you won’t be getting the traffic you need to grow your business online. So, you may be wondering… What is the role of SEO in Inbound Marketing and do you still need to worry about SEO? Well I have some good news for you. The rules of SEO still apply and it remains an essential strategy to help attract visitors to your website. But, SEO on its own is not enough. It needs to be part of a larger Inbound marketing strategy to get the results your business needs.

SEO in Inbound Marketing

So what role does Search Engine Optimization play within your Inbound Marketing campaign? The Inbound methodology is to attract, engage and delight your target customers, and SEO plays a key role in the “attract” stage. It’s all well and good creating fantastic content offers, landing pages and call-to-actions but if no one can find them, your campaign will fail. SEO is about identifying and targeting the right key-terms in order to achieve a high position in the search engines. The theory is that by achieving higher rankings, your website will benefit from increased visitors and more sales. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes SEO agencies will focus on ‘trophy’ terms which, in reality, may not deliver the right traffic to your site. For successful SEO you need to know who your buyers are and what search terms they will be using.

Keyword Research

Once you have identified your buyers and developed your buyer personas, the next step is to research the type of content which will help solve their problem. You also need to be aware that the most relevant content for each persona will depend on which stage they are at in their buyer journey.


“John has had a decking area built and is now looking for materials to protect it. He has little knowledge of this, so is in the awareness stage. He has found that there are oils, protectors and paints available, but doesn’t know which he should use.”

Solution: An introductory blog post about how to maintain your decking


“Mike has had a decking area built and has carried out research into how to maintain this. He has identified the type of product he needs as decking protector. He is now researching which brand is best for him”

Solution: An expert’s guide to the top ten decking protector products

In the examples above the buyers are at different stages in their journey. Example 1 would not be suitable for Mike as he already knows which type of product he needs. Likewise, example 2 would not be much use to John at this stage, as he is still in the initial research phase.

Once you know the type of content your users will be looking for, you need to find out what search-terms they will be using to find the content. There are a number of free tools available online to help with this including:

The Google Keyword and Uber Suggest tools will show you seasonal trends, search volume, SEO difficulty, cost per click and pair search difficulty.

Keyword Tool

The secret is to find the search terms with the highest volume and lowest search difficulty score. In the example above “how to look after decking” has the highest volume of searches and the lowest search difficulty, so this would be worth pursuing. The next step will be to create your blog post around this search term. Your title could be “How to look after decking in 5 easy steps”, or “Top tips on how to look after decking”.

Using the above technique is a fantastic way of targeting long-tail key phrases with a high chance of converting. But, in order to reach the holy grail of SEO, you need to also focus on building Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters.

Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters

A few years ago, searches contained fewer words and were less conversational than today’s search queries. Nowadays, partly due to the arrival of voice search and smart speakers, complex search phrases are much more common. Search habits are constantly evolving and Google has recognised this, implementing 2 major updates to their algorithm – the Hummingbird update in 2013 and the RankBrain update in 2015. These updates allow the algorithm to understand phrases and context, improving the search results for complex queries.

What this change means for SEO is that targeting a specific keyword per blog post, is no longer the way to go. Instead, you need to build your content around pillar pages and topics clusters. A pillar page is a content page dedicated to a specific subject, for example, a primary service or product range. In the case of a retailer of decking products, a pillar page about decking would be a perfect example. This page could include chapters on the history of decking, different decking materials, how to maintain your decking, how to build your decking and so forth.

Pillar Pages and Topic Cluster

A topic cluster is a group of sub-pages linking from the pillar page. These pages will relate to the pillar page subject, but will delve more deeply into specific areas, or topics. For example, the blog post we mentioned earlier “How to look after decking in 5 easy steps” could be included as part of the topic cluster. This could be linked from the pillar page chapter “How to maintain your decking”, providing a useful additional resource to your readers.

The use of pillar pages and topic clusters will enhance your website’s authority, boost the ranking for more pages and provide easy to navigate, useful resources for your audience.

Why SEO is not enough on its own

SEO is all about driving relevant traffic to your site and is crucial to the success of your Inbound Marketing campaign. On its own, however, it won’t convert those users into leads or customers. Once the targeted visitors are on your site, you will need to use Inbound Marketing methods to optimize their conversion paths. By creating fantastic content offers, landing pages, call to actions and email automation, you can convert your visitors in qualified leads, acquire new customers, and increase sales.

SEO is an essential part of any Inbound Marketing campaign and will help ensure you deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time. Your campaign requires a solid foundation to build upon to deliver qualified leads, higher conversions and more customers for your business!

To find out more about Inbound Marketing, get in touch with our team for a friendly, no obligation chat.Want to learn more about Inbound Marketing and how it can be integrated into your business growth strategy?