Before HubSpot took the concept and ran with it, inbound marketing had its humble roots in the startup and “growth hacking”. The ethos started there – hungry startup CEOs would spend their evenings and weekends writing blog posts and downloadable guides, doing SEO outreach and sharing this “journey” on social media. The OG inbound marketing was a way to grow your business from nowhere – building a subscriber base and getting your product in front of them, without having to have a dedicated marketing budget.
So it’s hard to imagine this young and hungry CEO who’s eating nothing but Pot Noodles and is basically chained to his or her desk shelling out loads on PPC, right? Well, inbound’s grown up a bit since then. It’s proven its effectiveness in the big leagues, and the some of the most successful businesses have built their marketing strategy around it.
PPC is very much still in the mix – it’s got stats galore that any data-driven marketer will drool over, and it has significant benefit of being able to drive results quickly.
But where do you slot PPC into your decidedly inbound-leaning strategy, especially when inbound is largely driven by its scrappier younger cousin SEO?
Come with me, on a journey through my mind. Step over the Drag Race references and duck under the pointless Harry Potter trivia to get my thoughts on inbound and PPC, and how they relate.
PPC – is it inbound?
This is one I’ve always struggled to square in my brain. PPC is – at its very base level – paid advertising. Its distant relatives are putting an advert in the Yellow Pages, or renting a billboard – but it’s younger, smarter and has better gadgets. But it’s not outbound either. Outbound is about getting your message out to as many people as possible. Aha! – I hear you say. Isn’t that what advertising – and by extension PPC – is? Well, pipe down a minute, I’ll get there. Outbound is also “obstructive” – you’re getting in front of your potential customers and essentially shouting at them. I don’t think this is what PPC is. First of all, people still have to choose to pay attention to and click on your ad. You’re not really obstructing them. A successful PPC strategy is highly targeted, thinking carefully about audience, conversion rates, attracting clicks with good content, and pushing people through the funnel. Doesn’t that sound like it’d be more at home in the inbound camp than the outbound one? I think so. Come to our inbound tent, PPC – we’ve got keywords. And halloumi.
So, now we’ve got that sorted out, what does it all mean?
SEO and PPC – they play nicely together
PPC and SEO are very different. But they are related. Like I alluded to earlier, they’re cousins with very distinct personalities. PPC is loud, confident and a bit impulsive. SEO is quieter, more cerebral, and a bit of a geek. Despite their differences, when they work together, they work well. Stay with me here.
I’ve already mentioned keywords in this article, albeit briefly. Both SEO and PPC require keyword analysis – determining which terms your ideal customers are searching for, and which are good targets for your business based on monthly search volume, competitiveness and in the case of PPC, cost per click. A successful digital marketing strategy uses both channels to target the same keywords – this is just common sense. If you’re just starting out with inbound, content and SEO, chances are you’re not going to rocket to position 1 for your brand’s core keywords. PPC can fill this gap and bring you some awareness coverage while you build your site’s authority through SEO activities. And once you’re smashing both, your brand will be dominating page 1 of Google – meaning more impressions and more clicks (both paid and free ones).
Once you’ve built up traffic to your site from PPC and other channels, you can also use the remarketing functionality to drive people who are already on the hook a bit further down the funnel. For example, if they find a particular blog post via organic search, you can then use remarketing to display a targeted PPC ad both in the search results and across the Display Network – on other sites they visit – encouraging them to come back and find out more. Nifty, eh?
What about content?
This is something I don’t see enough businesses doing. As they’re a pretty premium commodity, many businesses like to funnel their AdWords clicks through to their most “valuable” pages – specific products, categories, book a demo, contact, etc. Something they can point at and say – “This £1.50 click is worth a £50 sale. Sweet.” It’s very tempting – if you’re gonna pay, you might as well get more bang for your buck, right? Well, how about flipping this on its head a little? Unless you’re a locksmith, and people have a very specific problem that needs solving very quickly, what are the chances they’re going to click on your PPC ad and hand over the cash there and then? Low. I think PPC can be very effective when it slots neatly into the inbound funnel. You can use it to great effect as a tactical campaign to drive to landing pages for consideration content for example. If you’ve done your job with keyword research right, you know people are searching for this kind of content, which ticks the search volume box. Also, it’s likely to be less competitive than a core keyword, ticking the cost per click and competitiveness box. You could even use the remarketing tactic mentioned above to drive people who have visited and seen a relevant blog post to the landing page and a download of the content.
So there you have it. For me, PPC is just as welcome at the inbound marketing party as any other tactic. I do leave you with a final word of warning – PPC is not exactly a budget-friendly activity. You’ve gotta have a bit of a wedge to chuck at it. It can be difficult to drive any sort of numbers with anything below £50 a day in terms of budget. It also requires a bit of patience – it can take as much as a week to start seeing any meaningful data that you can action – changing bid strategies, ad text, etc.
If you’d like some more advice or guidance about how to effectively use PPC as part of your wider marketing strategy – get in touch.