Are you getting sick of reading everyone’s predictions for 2013 yet? Well, I promise you, you won’t feel like “this is 10 minutes of my life I’ll never get back”. Instead, you’ll feel invigorated and ready to go forth and do SEO battle…I hope.

I want to share my thoughts on the way I think we, as SEOs should be approaching Inbound Marketing in order to succeed in 2013 and beyond.

What Should I Focus on in 2013?

1. Real Company Shit (coined by Wil Reynolds)

Ever since Wil gave his presentation at the SEOmoz meetup at the Search Church in Philadelphia, #RCS has become a growing trend in the SEO community, and for good reason. It has inspired SEOs to start thinking like….well, marketers, that actually focus on accomplishing business goals rather than just building links. Don’t get me wrong, there is obviously still a place and a need for general link building in order to show movement to the powers that be, but remember, you should also be working on creating & implementing a strategy that ties all of your Inbound Marketing efforts directly to accomplishing business goals and driving sales and revenue.

Good Guy Greg SEO

#RCS can accomplish much more than just obtaining links. It provides a natural way to obtain links that drive traffic. Remember when the only benefit of a link was to send traffic to another page, before algorithms started using links as a ranking signal? We have to get back to that way of thinking, where the only acceptable link to go after is a link that meets these 5 criteria:

  • Drive relevant click-through traffic
  • Build brand awareness
  • Show thought leadership
  • Get users into your sales funnel
  • Help meet business objectives (sales/revenue/leads/engagement)

An increase in rankings are a by-product of links meeting these 5 criteria. Without meeting these 5 criteria, what good is the link? You could tell your client that you built 100, 200 or even 1000 links last month, but if your client doesn’t see any positive affects those links have on achieving business goals (increase in sales/revenue, leads, referral traffic etc) then what is the benefit to their business and what are they paying for?

What ‘Real Company Shit’ could you do for your clients? That all depends on the industry your clients are in, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

…Get your client to:

  • Sponsor a scholarship relevant to their business
  • Create a customer loyalty program – Give back to their most loyal customers
  • Create a contest and offer their services pro-bono to the top 3 winners (PRO TIP: Target local non-profit organizations and leverage their Social Media fans/followers for voting; see below)
  • Host a lunch-and-learn at their local Chamber of Commerce
  • Create give-away contests
  • Host in-person event meetups and invite their target customers – use – Invite other influencers in their niche to speak
  • Host weekly webinars, Twitter chats or Google+ Hangouts based around relevant topics in their niche – Advertise to target customers through Social Media and email
  • Get involved in their community: Organize and/or take part in tree planting initiatives, toy drives, food drives, conquer “disease” community walks etc.
    • Ask employees what they are passionate about and allow them to get involved in the community during work hours
  • Create Awesome Content (More on this below)

All these types of initiatives will help achieve this:

You’ll notice that some of these ideas are online and some are offline. In the age of digital marketing, small businesses in particular seem to have forgotten that offline initiatives are still a viable way to market themselves and can actually help build their online brand. These initiatives should be a part of every businesses overall marketing strategy.

Most online #RCS initiatives revolve around creating awesome and valuable content. These initiatives should be tied into a businesses overall content marketing strategy.

Offer Pro Bono Services to Non-Profits

To expand on one of ideas above, here is a step-by-step action plan for offering pro-bono services and attracting links/attention to you or your client’s site:

  1. Create a landing page that allows users to add and or/vote for the non-profit they feel most deserves pro-bono services
    1. For example,  in our case, we could offer $5000 worth of SEO, SEM or Social services to a deserving non-profit in the Toronto area (Some could definitely use it)
  2. Reach out to the targeted non-profits and let them know that they are eligible to receive these services…I don’t think they’d mind getting something for free
  3. Get them to encourage their fans and followers to vote for their organization
  4. Set a deadline for votes – the organization with the most votes at the deadline wins
  5. Publish a press release and get in touch with local media to get the word out
  6. Hopefully you’ll have 100’s or 1000’s of people sharing the landing page URL on social media and acquiring links from bloggers/news/media websites as well as the non-profit websites.
  7. You build brand awareness, community involvement (and naturally generate links) and the non-profits receive your services.
  8. It’s a win-win for everyone!

2. Create Awesome Content & Stand Out

“Create awesome content? OK, Thanks Ken”.

I know, it’s A LOT easier said than done. It takes a lot of time and the resources and budget have to be in place. Employees and other departments (design, development, marketing etc) have to be leveraged to truly create something outstanding. In the end, putting this amount of work into content creation is worth doing, but you also have to approach it with the right thought process if you want to succeed.

What you don’t want to do is decide what content you’re going to create without doing any research into your target audience first. That is a sure way to failure. In order to give your content the best chance at being successful, you need to build out audience personas so you know what type of content your audience is interested in. Mike King does an excellent job at describing what audience personas are and how to build them.

Once you have done your research and created personas for your audience, you should have a good idea of what type of content resonates with your audience the best. Create something unique and valuable for visitors on your site that will help your brand stand apart from your competition. For example, Swissotel Hotels & Resorts came up with this awesome worldwide etiquette guide.

Look at the amount of social activity around this very simple idea:

Swissotel Worldwide Etiquette Guide

Another example is How many mortgage calculators have you seen out there? There are tons, but Zillow found a way to make theirs stand out above everyone else’s.

Zillow Mortgage Calculator Stats

127,000 links! From 2,993 root domains!

That’s some awesome content!

And you don’t have to be a big brand to attract this type of attention. I think we all remember the hilarious commercial that was released on YouTube in March of 2012. Before that video, no one had ever heard of DollarShaveClub. Now, the video has close to 10 million views and the startup has received $9.8 million in venture capital funding. I’d say the work put into creating that video was well worth it.

Another small budget awesome content creation comes from Will at SEER Interactive. He wanted to create something to prove to their clients that getting budget for content creation is well worth it. Will created a landing page that describes how tech companies make money. A very simple idea, but created in a very interesting and fun way.

3. Build Relationships

Building relationships has always been part of marketing, but I think for a long time SEOs thought they could hide behind their computer screens and just build low quality links. Post-Panda and Penguin, it is absolutely essential to get out there on Social Media, attend events and even pick up the phone every once in a while in order to build relationships with influencers in your space. These relationships will be key in introducing your brand and content to new audiences.

Without building strategic relationships, you’ll be severely limited in who will promote and/or publish content for you. This limits your audience and potential to pull in new customers, links and social signals.

Your biggest asset for building relationships is Social Media, and more specifically Twitter. Megan Brown from iAcquire has written probably the most comprehensive guide I have seen on relationship building with Social Media – you should check it out.

What Should I Not Focus on in 2013?

  1. Low quality directory links
  2. Low quality article directories
  3. Social bookmarking
  4. Article spinning
  5. Paid links / link exchanges
  6. Blog networks
  7. Press releases for the purpose of gaining links
  8. Blog commenting for the purpose of gaining links
  9. Forum signature links
  10. Profile links

Yes, there is a place for some of these tactics when done right and for the right reasons.

For instance, blog commenting is completely fine if you’re commenting on relevant blogs, leaving valuable/insightful comments, not stuffing keywords/links in the ‘name’ field and/or text box, doing it as part of a branding/relationship building campaign etc. Press releases are still a great way to promote newsworthy content such as sponsoring an event, opening up a new location, offering pro bono services to non-profit organizations etc.

But when we look at these specifically as link building tactics, we know that they’re bad practice, but how many of you are still implementing these? Hands? I know, old habits die hard and it’s very difficult to completely shift to a new way of thinking especially when we see some of these tactics still work for competitors sites. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty as the next guy, but I’m trying to change to better serve my clients and to help make the web a better place.

In Conclusion…

These are just a few of the things that you should think about incorporating into your overall Inbound Marketing strategy in 2013. By far not an exhaustive list, but by incorporating #RCS, awesome content and relationship building into your overall Inbound Marketing strategy, you’ll be setup for success in 2013.
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Tagged with: content marketing, Inbound Marketing, link building, seo, Social Media

About Ken Fobert

Ken Fobert is an SEO & Inbound Marketing specialist at Powered by Search. Besides that, guitar, coffee and beer are good descriptiors. Hit Ken up on Twitter and Google+.