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seo-tools

The term “Digital Marketing” encompasses a large array of services. There’s SEO, PPC, Content Marketing, Email Marketing, Social Media, Display Ads, Gmail and Google Placement Ads, and many more. I know this is a lot of options, but there is a common thread that connects each of these different methods: leads.

Regardless of which service you choose, each shares the same end goal: to drive more marketing-qualified leads to your business.

 

mql-definition

 

There is a serious problem plaguing companies that rely on their digital campaigns — and it’s a self-induced one. Too often, agencies focus too much on vanity metrics and blindly optimize their campaigns.

By “blindly,” I mean without a specific goal for monetary growth in mind – simply ranking for ranking’s sake.

Increases in traffic and boosts in rankings are nice. But leads and revenue are even nicer.

 

real-growth-comes-from-real-leads

 

It’s time to stop worrying about vanity metrics in isolation. It’s time to stop thinking of SEO and PPC as individual campaigns. Start growing your digital presence with a “comprehensive search marketing lead-gen” approach, and start focusing on the metrics that drive actual leads.

This will mean integrating your different campaigns and re-aligning your focus. You won’t be writing guest posts just for backlinks anymore. You won’t be using your AdWords data just for your PPC campaigns.

Lead generation campaigns that are truly focused will target users on a comprehensive search level. From enterprise SEO to B2B PPC, the buyer’s journey is expanding. The more universal a search becomes, the more comprehensive our campaigns must become.

 

universal-search

 

To get you started, let’s take a look at two major facets of digital marketing that everyone is familiar with. Your keyword data will define what search queries you target and what content you develop. Your link building and guest blogging efforts will determine your organic growth.

So, let’s dive into these two SEO factors and see if we can turn them on their heads. We are here to look past vanity metrics and start reorienting our efforts to generate actual leads.

 

Number One: Improve Organic Keyword Targeting with Suggested Search & Paid Conversion Data

 

Everybody knows that the more effective your keywords are, the more success you will see. But what is it exactly that defines an “effective” keyword?

Let’s start by taking a look at what the tools look for in their keyword evaluation. A highly-trusted tool that most digital marketers like to use is the MOZ Keyword Explorer.

 

moz-kwe-b2b-marketing

 

As you can see in the screenshot, the KWE shows a few different stats for any keyword entry:

 

  • Search Volume: shows how often a term or phrase is entered into Google Search each month.
  • Search Difficulty: shows a score from 0(easy) to 100(hard), indicating how difficult it would be for the term to rank on SERP page 1
  • Search Opportunity: shows a score from 0(low) to 100(high), indicating the estimated Click-Through-Rate of organic web results on that SERP (note: organic only)
  • Search Potential: shows a score from 0(low) to 100(high), indicating a combination of the other three metrics for the term

You can also take a look at the SERP Analysis drop down menu to see the current page ranking for the term.

“moz-kwe-serp”

 

This tool is great, but there’s still some data missing.

For example, a lot of search terms pull “no-data” as the search volume result. This is because the MOZ team has not yet collected the volume metrics for the specific search term.

Many search marketers think “no data” means that the term has no value, and they move on to the next variant.

This isn’t necessarily true.

Don’t worry – there are ways to find some very valuable keywords that don’t always pull search volume.

 

Golden Take Away #1: Suggested Search Keyword Data

 

When performing your keyword research, you need to consider Google’s predictive search suggestions. For many popular search terms, Google will anticipate the intent of the user and either finish the search query or predict what the user may possibly be searching for.

 

“ppc-agency-wildcard”

These predictive terms will sometimes pull “no data.” This is most likely because they are technically not deliberate searches.

But there is still a way to access what the predictive searches may be showing users. We like to call this trick the WildCard.

The WildCard is great because it can show you the search results users are actually seeing.

These terms might not pull any search volume – but they are sending users to the SERPs where you need to be!

 

“ppc-moz-volume”

 

We used the WildCard at Directive to target our content to suggested search queries. We were able to write a post that ranked on the first page for one of the suggested search SERPS.

It is no small feat for a query to rank on the first page, even for one with enough actual volume to cause Google to suggest it to users. This post has been able to generate a large amount of quality traffic to our site.

 

“ppc-agency-cost-serp”

 

Make sure you are using a variety of different tools and keyword research methods to target the most valuable SERPs.

There are other keyword tools that will give you custom data on your specific page’s keywords performance. Tools like SEMRush are great for this.

The SEMRush Dashboard has an abundance of metrics to analyze and help guide your SEO and keyword endeavors. You can see how your specific pages rank for specific keywords. You can also click-through to see a SERP analysis of the other pages ranking on page 1 for the term as well. On the whole, the dashboard is incredibly helpful for nuancing your keyword strategy.

But, again, there is still something missing.

If you know what you’re doing, you’ll already be treating your best ranking pages as “money pages.” These pages generate the most traffic, so they should focus on the services or solution that you offer. These pages should be where you are converting the highest number of users possible.

Essentially, this means you are treating these money pages as organic landing pages. If this is the case, wouldn’t it be nice if you could see some conversion data for those keywords? “bingo”
This is where the integration of your paid and organic data comes in. Even though tools like the KWE or SEMRush don’t give you any conversion data for your keywords, AdWords does.


Golden Take Away #2: AdWords Keyword Conversion Data

 

You can access conversion data in AdWords to see which long-tail variants of your keyword have the highest conversion rate.

 

“adwords-conversion-data”

 

This is valuable information! Traffic-wise it’s great to rank on the first page of any SERP. But if you aren’t targeting the queries that generate actual leads, you’ll end up with a sea of unqualified visitors. Make sure you’re using the keyword variations that generate leads!

Consider this scenario: you are a commercial real estate company planning to advertise a new apartment complex. You use Google and some classic PPC ads to help broaden your visibility and get some tenants into those new apartments.

Which keyword do you target? “New OC Apartment Available For Rent” or “New OC Apartment Available for Lease”?

Both search variations generate a high search volume, but “rent” has a much higher conversion rate. If your ranking on the SERPs is due to the lower- converting keyword, you may be missing the boat entirely.

Remember the golden rule: You aren’t just trying to generate search traffic. You are trying to generate leads.

Gloat about your flooded pipeline, not about your organic rankings.

 

ignitur-in-body ad

 

Number Two: Use Guest Posting as a Lead Generation Channel

 

I’ve already taken shots at a few tools like KWE and SEMRush that are trusted by the industry. So why not keep the trend going and critique another tried-and-true growth tactic.

 

“why-not-innovation”

 

There are a few different ways to improve the authority and ranking of any given page. There is technical optimization, which takes into account your title tags, H1 tags, and alt text. This is done in hopes of impressing Google with how well you’ve formatted your pages.

There is also on-page SEO. On-Page SEO focuses on strengthening the keyword orientation of your individual pages. The higher your on-page content can rank in Google and answer user queries when they land on your page, the more they will convert.

But there is a third factor that far too often is ignored.

 

“backlinks”

 

If you are new to SEO, you may not know what backlinks are, so let me clarify. Backlinks are one of the best ways to improve the authority and digital reputation of any page or post. They also increase the traffic flowing to your domain.

Essentially, a backlink is any hyperlinked anchor text on a page or post that links back to another page. To improve your organic rankings, you need as many high-authority pages as possible with backlinks to your domain.

Backlinks are one of Google’s favorite ways of identifying a post’s relevance and value. This means that, even though it can take a lot of time and energy, link building is a must.

Even though backlinks currently are still a major part of Google’s ranking algorithm, they still aren’t a major priority for many agencies — which is a problem.
“madness”
Industry leaders such as Rand Fishkin agree:

We will continue to see links in Google’s rankings systems for at least the next five and probably the next ten years.

@randfish

Link building is a definite “must” for any company planning to grow their digital presence organically. So — what’s the best method for building these links?

#Blogging–> the most common ways your blog is likely to earn interactions that lead to links.

@randfish

 

Guest blogging is still considered the best link-building tactic for the following reasons.

Reason #1: Guest Blogging is the most transparent and white-hat method for link building available. First, you create a unique and high-quality guest piece that ranks high in Google. Then, in return for your writing such an awesome piece for their blog, the referring domain sends a backlink from the guest post to your domain. The link is usually in the author’s bio, thus making it very transparent to Google and to users as to who wrote the piece, and who the piece was written for.

Reason #2: You maintain control of the links you target and earn. As opposed to other scalable and more grey-hat tactics, such as Wikipedia broken link building, you know exactly what you’re getting from building guest post links. With Wikipedia, you often submit several different link replacements, but only a few may stick. You may have an unlucky week and go 0 for 10 on Wikipedia links. Guest blogging is different. Once you secure a guest posting opportunity, you are essentially guaranteed your backlink once the post goes live.

Reason #3: There is a third reason that too many content marketers fail to address today — the unique lead-gen potential of guest blog backlinks.

“lead-magnet-guest-blogs”

If you know how to write really awesome guest content, these backlinks can become lead-gen channels themselves.

 

Golden Take Away #3: Don’t be Afraid to Break the Rules

 

Let’s take a look at how most content marketers approach guest blogging.

To begin with, many content marketers are actually missing the boat when it comes to guest blogging. You will naturally be earning backlinks regardless of how you leverage your guest posts, but if you are pouring all those hours into creating awesome guest content, you had better be sure that you are generating leads as well.

You may say, “That’s a nice goal, but how do you drive leads with guest posts?”

The answer? Break all the “best practice” rules for guest blogging.
“rule-breaker”
I know it may be a shocker for a content marketer to tell you to ignore or deviate from “best practices,” but trust me! There is logic behind it. To clarify, let’s take a look at some guest blogging “best practices” and see how we can deviate from them.

 

Rule #1: Write about the “How.” Writing about tangible action items that readers can employ in their own campaigns is usually the best approach to reach readers on the most engaging level. Readers aren’t looking for theories to interpret or riddles to decipher. They are looking for quick wins to improve their campaigns.

Rule #2: Explicitly brand any tangible examples. The best blog posts have concrete examples and annotated screenshots to help walk the reader through any statistics. They don’t just reference the improved statistics, they show a Google Analytics screenshot. Since the proof is in the pudding, this often means citing specifically which campaigns worked for which sites. The more tangible your examples, the better your post usually performs.

Rule #3: Point your backlinks to money pages or service pages. The best guest posting campaigns don’t just send every backlink they earn to the home page. While this is an important page in your domain, it’s not where users are converting most. Instead, you should point your backlinks to the actual service pages where users are converting. This way you can boost the ranking of the “money pages” within your domain that drive actual revenue.

These rules will help you write high-quality and authoritative blog posts that look something like this.

Following these three guidelines will keep your guest blogs relevant, actionable, and engaging. These backlinks can be huge SEO Growth factors, especially if you are writing on trusted blogs like MOZ and Wordstream.

Now all of this is fine and dandy for strengthening your brand and improving your rankings. but it isn’t necessarily going to get you leads.

While it may be going against all the “best practices” I just laid out, there is a way to use guest blogs to fill your pipeline. Let’s take a look at Engagio’s guest post for Auth0 to see how guest posts were leveraged to generate leads.
“engagio-autho0-guest-blog”
In this post, Engagio breaks every single “best practice” for guest posts. They don’t brand their self-promotional examples. They talk constantly about the “why” instead of the “how.” They don’t even point their backlink to a service page. And boy does it work for them!

 

Golden Take Away #4: Guest Posting the “Why”

 

Lead-gen guest blogging isn’t about providing the most value to your readers. It’s about subtly marketing your service as the solution to an industry pain point.
“sell-the-solution”
Normally, guest posts should be filled with tangible takeaways that your readers can test themselves. But in a lead-gen guest blog, you are explaining the “why” instead of the “how” to readers. This means you won’t be writing any “how-to” sections in these guest blogs. Although this may be terrifying to content marketers, hear me out!

Engagio spends this entire guest post talking about “why we need to start considering Account-Based Everything.” They don’t explicitly explain which tactics are ABE tactics, nor do they explain how to perform Account Based Marketing or Sales. They simply discuss the need for it.

Why? Because the solution they are writing about is their brand! Engagio is the only marketing agency out there known for ABE. They are generating demand for their service through these guest posts. Step 1 in a guest blog lead-gen campaign.

An important note: Lead-gen guest blogging requires a reconsideration of what you consider ” wins.” True, writing about the “why” as opposed to the “how” will probably hurt your engagement level to begin with. Readers simply don’t engage as much with theory as they do with tangible explanations. But the goal here is to target the buyer’s journey using a different level of content.
marketing-funnel

Golden Take Away #5: Branding the “What”

 

I said earlier that a “best practice” for guest posting is to be transparent in citing your examples. If you are discussing a tactic or strategy, you should back it up with the context of that campaign and who it is for. The more tangible and specific you’re examples, the better.

In lead-gen guest blogging, it’s the opposite. Because you are writing about the “why” in these guest posts, you don’t want to explicitly market yourself as the solution. Readers are smarter than that, and they’ll sniff out your self-promotional B.S. a mile away.

Instead, solve the specific pain point of the “why” you are discussing by means of your unique service or solution.

The key is that you write about the method or service as the solution to the problem – what it is that the reader needs (your actual guest post being the “why you need it”). Let me be very clear here – you market your service as the solution, not your company or brand name.

You need to build curiosity and demand in your readers through these guest posts. This is done for the purpose of generating some brand curiosity and some clicks through the backlink. Now that you have visitors clicking through your link, where do you want that link pointing? To your “money pages,” right?

Wrong again. This is not surprising since lead-gen guest blogging breaks all “best practice” rules.

So where do you want this backlink to point? You actually want to point it to more blog content, as opposed to pointing it to a conversion-heavy service page. Now readers are clicking through the backlink in your guest post to read your branded blog.

You’ve written the “why” in an off-site blog to generate qualified traffic interested in your unique service. Now your branded blog can start marketing that service. If your guest content is the “why,” your branded blog should be the “what.”

These posts should explain the intricacies and specific value propositions of your service. For example, we guest post about topics such as “why you need to start talking “Share of SERP.” On our own blog, though, we write about lead generation tactics and demand generation strategies that are each a part of our “Share of SERP” method. We write about the actual value of the solution.

This is the “what”: the specifics of what makes the solution so unique.

 

Golden Take Away #6: Gating the How

 

But what about the “how”?!! This is the content that readers are actually looking for. After you’ve spent all this time generating the demand for your service, where is the “how to” content?

Simple. It’s gated in eBooks on your site that are waiting to convert users.
“engagio-abe-ebook”
Now that you’ve spent the time developing the “why” and the “what,” your readers should be chomping at the bit for the “how.” This is why you can gate this content in eBook format to generate leads through form submissions.

It’s a long-term, large-funnel-scaled strategy, but it should look something like this:

Golden Take Away #7: Consider the Platform

 

Most content marketers try to secure guest posting opportunities on the leading blogs in their industry. For example, if you are in the digital marketing space, you’ve probably tried more than a few times to get on MOZ.

I like to call these high-ranking blogs “Whales” because they have such high authority, rankings, and traffic.
“thought-leadership”
Guest blogging for these whales can result in some huge SEO wins. As always when it comes to lead-gen, however, you should take a step back to see if they are really growing your pipeline.

Here’s a question that I bet most content marketers haven’t asked themselves: Are you writing for your potential customers or your colleagues?

Most digital marketers don’t like to admit it – or haven’t even realized it yet – but they are marketing their services to the  wrong audience. Although it’s always a nice ego-boost to receive some recognition from other industry leaders, they aren’t the ones paying you! They aren’t the ones you need to impress!

“mo-money-customers”
Stop targeting the leading blogs of your industry, and stop marketing your services to your competition. Instead, start identifying the non-industry blogs where your potential customers consume information. For digital marketers – and this may shock some – this means that you can  finally stop your desperate efforts to write for MOZ.

Instead, here are some non-industry blogs that CFO’s and Marketing VPs of actual enterprise-level companies read. These are the platforms where you need to guest post.

  • Forbes
  • Business Insider
  • Marketo
  • Engagio
  • Pardot
  • Outbrain
  • Bloomberg
  • Washington Post
  • Fast Company

Remember: lead-gen guest blogging means going against every convention of link-building guest posts in order to attack the channels and funnel-stages that drive actual leads.

 

Golden TakeAway #8: Rankings are Out – Share of SERP is IN

 

Lead generation and demand generation are huge pain points across the digital marketing space. This is because agencies too often get caught up with vanity metrics like rankings. This is not to say that these aren’t important statistics to track. However,  they aren’t directly contributing to your ROI and revenue, so they shouldn’t be your first priority.
“lead-generation-pain-point”
In a market super-saturated with different methodologies, tactics, strategies, optimizations, and whatever buzzwords you can think of, we need to be picky about how we optimize our campaigns.

Whether you are using SEO, PPC, Content, or something else, the end goal needs to remain the same: GENERATING LEADS FOR YOUR PIPELINE.

It’s time we moved past the siloed departments of SEO and PPC. Rankings aren’t going to raise your bottom line and neither will lowering your CPC. Stop visualizing digital marketing as a series of individual campaigns and posts.

Start creating the demand needed to generate leads by using comprehensive search campaigns and Share of SERP. Instead of isolating your different digital marketing assets, start leveraging them regardless of channel in order to fill your pipeline. Don’t let yourself be dragged down by convention. If you want to use guest posting for lead generation and AdWords for organic keywords, don’t let anyone stop you.

They can laugh all day long as your pipeline steadily overflows.

Like I said, “Rankings may be nice, but revenue and leads will always be nicer.”

 

Sean Martin

I am the Growth Marketing Manager at Directive Consulting – a digital marketing agency based in Southern California specializing in comprehensive search campaigns for industry leading B2B firms.