Tracking leads sources in digital marketing has never been easier. Google Analytics and third party providers offer tracking options that identify the source for every lead, dividing them into the four main digital categories: organic searches, paid ads, social media, and email campaigns.
Identifying the value of a lead isn’t as easy. Generating high-quality leads is a growing challenge for marketers today, and the definition changes from industry to industry.
For the purposes of this article, high-quality leads have one or more of the following qualities:
- A shorter-than-average buying cycle
- A lower-than-average cost per acquisition
- An educated prospect that requires less hand-holding from the sales team
- High retention rate: Likely to purchase more than one product or service in the future
Using this definition, let’s evaluate SEO and lead quality.
As CIOs and marketing managers shift their focus to the quality of leads over quantity, the concept of account based marketing is gaining popularity. Brands that are slow to embrace account based marketing or measure the lifetime value of a customer can still measure lead quality through the criteria listed above.
How does SEO produce high-quality leads?
In HubSpot’s 2017 State of Inbound report, 52% respondents who are part of outbound teams do not think their marketing strategy is effective. In contrast, almost 70% of respondents feel their inbound marketing methods are effective.
SEO is 100% inbound. If a prospect is typing a word or phrase into a search engine that relates to your brand or industry, they are already searching for your product or service. Even if they are using education keywords to do research, your landing page and call to action can draw them into another marketing avenue (email newsletter, social media, retargeting).
Image Source: 2017 HubSpot State of Inbound
89% of customers begin their buying process with a search engine (B2BMarketingZone). While that percentage doesn’t relate to lead quality; internet customers who use search to find products and services fall into the inbound category.
Target High-Value Conversion Keywords at a Lower Cost
Once marketing teams gather enough data from organic and paid search marketing initiatives, they can identify a handful of high-value conversion keywords.
The “high-value” part is unique to each industry; and SEO teams can create content and landing pages that target buyers who are searching for these exact phrases, without the high price of a paid campaign.
The cost of getting a lead factors into its value; traditional outbound marketing is more expensive than inbound marketing methods. Not only does inbound marketing cost less, but buyers are also further along in the buying cycle when they use high-value keywords to find a product or service.
SEO and Sales Alignment
Companies that have alignment between marketing and sales teams sell more and grow more than competitors (Hubspot, State of Inbound). It’s easy to align sales funnel data (buyer intent) and strategies with SEO; top ranking landing pages can be optimized to reach high-value buyers with useful content across the board.
Sales teams can guide SEO teams to deliver content marketing pieces that merge with keyword targets, attracting attention from both search engines and warm leads.
SEO: Gateway to Second-Stage Lead Gen
A Nielsen survey found that sixty percent of consumers with internet access prefer to buy new products from a familiar brand. SEO can drive prospects into other lead generation pathways that build trust: email newsletters, social media, retargeting. Although the conversion credit may go to retargeting, email, or social category, SEO is what led them there.
Using one digital marketing channel to drive engagement to a second channel can be time consuming and expensive, but the longevity and cost-effectiveness of SEO make it a cost-effective lead generation strategy.
SEO is a Long-Term Lead Generation Strategy
Unlike ads, SEO doesn’t ‘turn off” in one day. SEO builds a foundation for lead generation that only gets better with time, driving the cost per lead down.
A study from SurveyAnyplace shows SEO/Content Marketing as the lowest cost-per-lead when compared to other digital marketing channels:
As your SEO team builds more and more content, your search results will keep meeting prospects at every stage of the decision-making journey. As prospects discover your branded assets and landing pages in the SERP, they will begin to see your brand as an authority within your industry. As a result, SEO will continue to drive consistent inquiries from prospects who are moving toward the decision state, trust your brand, and are ready to convert.
SEO Targets the Top Online Shopping Activities
Another Nielsen survey found that information gathering and deal seeking are primary online shopping activities. SEO marketing teams, from eCommerce to B2B, can create unlimited content assets that engage researchers and deal seekers.
Updating existing pages with fresh content that appeal to deal seekers is a win-win. Search engines can index updated pages at higher placements within the SERP and capture the attention of a buyer who is ready, willing, and able to make a purchase.
While brands can use paid advertising to attract these shoppers, the cost of the ads for competitive search terms often eliminates the value of those paid ad leads.
SEO Captures Mobile Leads
In 2016, nearly 60% of internet searches were performed on mobile devices. With one in five mobile phone users activating ad-blocking software, mobile SEO is a must for brands who want to capture leads from affluent and savvy smartphone users.
While conversion rates remain low on mobile devices, capturing attention and engagement from mobile users will ensure that your brand is visible when the go back to their desktop device to make a purchase.
SEO Provides Customer-Centric Engagement
Unlike paid advertising or outbound methods, SEO gives brands the ability to provide customer-centric content to prospects at every stage of the conversion funnel and reduce churn rates. In today’s customer-centric environment, when brands meet customers exactly where they are within the conversion funnel, they yield better ROI from their content marketing and SEO efforts.
This type of engagement is especially valuable for B2B brands and B2C luxury products and services, as buying cycles are typically longer, and customer retention is a crucial part of lead value. If brands had to rely on paid advertising options to meet customers at these critical stages, the cost would prohibit many of them from engaging prospects at the customer level.
Content itself is expensive to produce. Why not invest it in an SEO campaign that not only delivers high-value leads but offers longevity and relevance in a marketplace that becomes more competitive every day?
Even as SEO changes, it will continue to attract high-quality leads due to the nature of search itself. Search engines are continually shifting and adapting to deliver even more useful, relevant content to the consumers that brands are after, making the inherent value of an SEO lead superior to traditional outbound methods. While paid digital advertising will always have a place at the table, cost-per-lead can prohibit brands from growing their lead pipeline through customer-journey campaigns.
As account based marketing gains traction within digital marketing, SEO can help raise the lifetime value of customers by directing them back into the sales funnel as a repeat customer.