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What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing uses a combination of search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing, content marketing, and other techniques to attract and engage consumers and convert them into leads.

An inbound marketing strategy helps bring in new users and generate leads by announcing, offering, and delivering relevant information consumers tend to seek out when considering a purchase. By providing valuable, engaging content, inbound marketing not only reduces the waste associated with traditional advertising, it also builds deeper connections with customers.

Inbound vs. outbound marketing

The greatest advantage of inbound marketing is that it attracts people who are actively searching for information to fill a specific need. Done well, inbound marketing dramatically increases a marketer’s chances of attracting and influencing exactly the right people at exactly the right time.

Outbound marketing encompasses channels that many people would call traditional advertising. It is a wide-net strategy where marketers pay to broadcast, print, mail, or email marketing messages targeting a large audience that may or may not be interested in a particular product or service.

An important and growing problem with the outbound marketing model in our media-saturated society is that people continue to tune-out traditional advertising messages as they fast-forward through TV ads, toss direct mail without opening it, and opt for streaming services over terrestrial radio.

That’s why today’s marketers view inbound marketing as an effective, efficient, and measurable way to reach consumers, generate social media shares, grow their email lists, and bring valuable prospects into the top of the marketing funnel.

The building blocks of an inbound marketing strategy

An inbound marketing strategy draws on a variety of techniques, channels, and content types that marketers use to attract and engage customers and prospects.

Search engine optimization

Marketers use search engine optimization to increase traffic to a website. Executed correctly, SEO techniques push a marketer’s web content toward the top of search engine results pages (SERPs) without paying for a prime position.

Marketers use SEO techniques to make it easy for internet search engines like Google to find, index, and rank their content, increasing the likelihood that it will be served up to searchers. These techniques include the use of keywords (words and phrases internet searchers are likely to use when researching a topic), the use of relevant links and backlinks on web pages, and compelling, high-quality content that is share-worthy.

Landing pages

A landing page is simply the destination page you reach by clicking on a search engine result. While it could be a website’s homepage, in an inbound marketing campaign it will most likely be a standalone page on a company’s website created for a specific campaign.

As the first stop on a visitor’s journey, a landing page should deliver on visitor expectations set by the search engine result they clicked on. A landing page might provide a high-level overview of a topic, product, or service, or it might provide more in-depth content available to download. In any case, it should be highly focused on incenting visitors to take a single action like clicking on a link or completing a form to continue the journey.

The key to an effective landing page is to keep it simple. Use a short, impactful headline, clear and action-oriented copy that promotes your offer or offering, and a call-to-action (CTA) button that attracts the eye and drives action.

When creating landing pages, it’s also important to consider that more than half of web traffic today comes from mobile, so they should be designed to be responsive.


A form is the part of a landing page where visitors are converted into leads and moved into and through the marketing funnel. Marketers often incentivize visitors to share their contact information by offering high-value content in exchange for filling out the form appearing on a landing page. The key to a high-converting form is balancing your desire to capture a lot of information about a prospect with their caution about providing it.

Content marketing

Content marketing includes media like blogs, e-books, videos, newsletters, webinars, and events that prospects and customers perceive more as useful information than advertising. Content marketing boosts engagement by delivering high-value content that informs and educates—without an overt “hard-sell” approach.

Social media

Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others help marketers promote their content to targeted audiences and drive traffic to an inbound campaign landing page—with the added advantage of capturing data about those who click through.

Pay per click

Pay per click (PPC) advertising is used to improve the ranking of its content in internet search results and drive traffic to its inbound content. While PPC might bring a marketer’s content to the top of search results, the telltale “sponsored” or “ad” notation may cause searchers to view it as being less credible than content appearing in organic search results.


Retargeting uses cookies to reengage people who have previously interacted with your brand across the web and social media. It gives marketers repeated opportunities to provide relevant content and nurture leads.

Using these components to execute a well-developed inbound marketing strategy will boost lead generation and guide those leads to and through a demand generation path that takes them on an engaging and meaningful customer journey.

The inbound marketing journey

Inbound marketing covers a lot of ground—both in terms of its many components and the range of media that can be used in an inbound campaign. A good way to understand how it all comes together is to look at a simplified trip through the stages of an inbound marketing campaign.


The journey begins with a marketer building a collection of content about a product or service. In the early stages of engagement, these should be highly informational resources—brand-neutral and search engine optimized e-books, blog posts, and videos explaining what the product or service is, who uses it, and how to choose the best product or service in the category. The company also plans a series of live webinars and events around the country.


With the content elements of the campaign in hand, it’s time to start attracting prospects.

The company launches a LinkedIn campaign highlighting several of the content assets they created, linking each post to a specific landing page for a specific asset. At the same time, pay-per-click ads targeting people searching for related information begin to appear online, and search-engine-optimized content pushes the company’s landing pages to the top of search engine results pages.

Convert and deliver

Anyone looking for useful information on the company’s product or service is going to be turned off by an obvious sales pitch for a specific brand. If you want visitors to fill out the landing page form that puts your content in their hands (and you do!), the landing page needs to focus on the value and credibility of the e-book, webinar, or video you’re offering. After all, inbound marketing is about attracting—not repelling—customers.

Retarget and remarket

Once you’ve attracted visitors to your landing page, you have an ongoing opportunity to connect with them while they’re still in a buying mood.

If they complete your landing page form, you’ll have an email address you can use to provide a stream of relevant and increasingly brand-specific content directly to their inbox. And even if they don’t complete the form, cookie- or pixel-based retargeting and retargeting lists will help them “find” your content again and again through targeted display ads served up on search engines and on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

Why is inbound marketing so effective?

When you put customers in the driver’s seat—letting them decide when and how to connect with your brand—you open up opportunities for deep, lasting engagement and long-term business relationships.

Better yet, a successful inbound campaign built with truly valuable content can turn today’s buyers into tomorrow’s evangelists for your brand as they share and recommend your content across their professional and social media networks.

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