One of the great things about inbound marketing is that your content keeps paying dividends over time, long after it was originally promoted. Just consider what HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe said during his session at the LeWeb'12 Paris conference earlier this month:
“We’ve built up these big marketing assets that continue driving an ROI for our business. So I could send the whole marketing team on vacation at HubSpot, and our new lead flow wouldn’t actually drop by that much because of all these assets we’ve built up.”
That’s a pretty good spot to be in, eh?
The Long Term Impact of SEO on Lead Generation
What if the campaigns you’re working on this month were still generating leads for you six months later? What about three years later?
At HubSpot, we’ve discovered that 90% of the new leads we generate each month actually converted on offers that we didn’t create or actively promote that month. Furthermore, 70%of new leads came from offers that we hadn’t touched in over 3 months!
Similarly, we’ve also found that around 70% of the leads we generate from our blog each month come from older articles that weren’t published that month.
In other words, old content and offers you've created months -- even years -- ago has a huge potential to continue generating new leads now and in the future. Doesn't inbound marketing rock?
This means that whatever content you’re creating now should not only take into account your current campaigns and goals; it should also be optimized to generate leads months and years into the future. So how do you make sure your content is getting found and generating leads long after you’ve stopped promoting it through channels like email, calls-to-action, and social media? You guessed it! By optimizing it for search engines.
I’m sure you already know that millions of people turn to search engines every day to solve their problems. About two-thirds of the search traffic we see coming into HubSpot.com is from non-branded terms like “lead generation” and “marketing software.” People are looking for answers to their problems, and they are finding our content. And for us, having web pages that rank well for these terms generates thousands of new leads for us each and every month, without any additional effort on our part. That’s why it’s so critically important to keep SEO best practices in mind whenever you’re creating a new piece of content or offer. Because doing the right things now will pay dividends long into the future.
Landing Pages: The Biggest Lead Gen Bang for Your SEO Buck
When it comes to getting maximum lead generation benefits from SEO, landing pages are especially great targets, since a high-ranking landing page will almost certainly drive new leads for you each month. After all, that's what landing pages are for! People are already out there looking for information, so make sure they find your offer!
Let's walk through some of the most important parts of a landing page that you should be focusing on from an SEO standpoint so you can start turning your landing pages into long-term SEO assets.
The Page Title
The most important element for any on-page SEO is the title of the page, according to data from SEOmoz. The page title is the description of the web page that shows up at the top of your browser (or in the tabs if you have more than one open in your browser window):
Page titles are one of the most effective ways to indicate what the content on a given page is to search engines, and they’re also a key component to consider when following SEO best practices. Specifically, follow these rules when creating page titles for your landing pages:
Keep it short. Search engines generally only show the first 60 characters in search results, and your page title doesn’t need to be the full title of the content or offer you’re promoting. Instead, focus on keywords by removing any unnecessary words. Just be sure it's also still easy to read and clear to a human what the content of the page is all about.
Include high-quality keywords first. Search engines place more emphasis on keywords that appear closer to the left of the page title. Because this is the case, you should start your page title with your most important keywords first, and include your less important ones later.
Use vertical pipes to separate concepts and phrases. This is a good best practice since it helps search engines break apart multi-word phrases and figure out which keywords go together. For example, you'll notice that we use a vertical pipe in the page title of this blog ("Internet Marketing Blog | HubSpot").
Don’t include your company’s name in every single page title. You should aim to optimize your landing pages for long-tail search visitors who are simply seeking information on a topic and haven’t necessarily heard of your company. Don't worry -- even if you leave out your company’s name, you’ll still rank well for branded searches because of your root domain name and the rest of the page authority your site has built up. There's no need to waste valuable SEO real estate on things you’ll already rank for.
The Landing Page URL
The URL of our landing page is its next most important on-page SEO element. Your URL helps communicate even more information to search engines about the content on the page. Furthermore, URLs also convey site structure and how this page fits among the other content on your site.
Most of the rules for landing page URLs are actually very similar to page titles:
Keep it short. Most search engines only show about 65 characters in the URL portion, and some of these will be taken up by your domain name (e.g. http://www.hubspot.com....), leaving you with only a few dozen characters to work with if you don’t want your URLs truncated in search results.
Use slashes to separate concepts and phrases. Ideally, each level of depth in your URL has its own page that visitors can check out. So for example, if you’re promoting an offer about generating leads through social media in 2013, your URL to the landing page might be:
and you’d also have a page on generating leads through social media at
and a more general page on lead generation at
so that things are nested logically. Information architecture is a key part of this as well. Making sure your landing pages -- and all the rest of the content on your site -- are well organized helps both search engines and humans find the content they’re looking for, at the right level of depth.
Put more important keywords closer to the left. Just like with page titles, keywords that appear earlier in a URL are given more weight than ones that appear later. This follows from the last point about nesting concepts in your URL. If someone is searching for “lead generation” you want to make sure they find your /lead-generation/ page and not necessarily one of the other, more specific pages.
The Heading Tag
There should always be a single "H1" heading tag on your landing page. It should succinctly describe your offer and explain what the page is about. But be forewarned: Don’t try any keyword-stuffing tricks with this. It likely won’t help your rankings at all, and it could confuse visitors and cause them to bounce back to the search engine result page.
When a search engine detects that people clicked on your website, but then came back to the search results and clicked on another result, the search engine takes that as a sign that your content probably didn't answer their question, and thus, doesn’t deserve to rank for that term.
That's why it’s important to make sure search engine visitors can figure out exactly what you’re offering on your landing page very quickly, before they lose interest and bounce back. You should also consider using a subheading, graphics, and bulleted lists to help visitors understand your offer quickly and keep them engaged with your content.
The Image (Wait ... What?)
Visual content is much harder for search engines to scan and understand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use images to help your page rank for certain keywords!
Because of the difficulties associated with visual content, many search engines take clues about what an image contains from its file name and the alt text you provide.
The file name should be short and include words separated by dashes. The alt text should describe either the content of the image, or the content the image is illustrating. Alt text is used by screen readers and is displayed when an image fails to load, so it should clearly describe the images on your page so viewers know what they're missing. For example, if we included an image of the sales and marketing funnel on a landing page for an offer about sales and marketing alignment, the file name might be sales-marketing-funnel.jpg, and the alt text might be "sales and marketing funnel."
These can also be great places to include synonyms or variations of your keywords (as long as they appropriately describe the image), since they’re not content that visitors usually see, but can still help you rank for permutations and variations of your targeted phrases.
Rich snippets enhance search engine result listings, like the ones pictured below. They give searchers more information about your content -- such as authors, music, reviews, events, products, etc. -- making your page stand out from the other pages provided in search results, and thus, garnering you more search traffic.
To see if your page qualifies for rich snippets, run it through Google's free structured data testing tool. The tool will automatically scan your page and generate a preview of what it could look like in search results. What this tool is looking for is specific markup in the HTML of the page that helps search engines identify the content of a given page, like an image, a video thumbnail, a star rating, or a price. The type of rich snippet generated depends entirely on the content of the page. For example, a listing for an ecommerce site might have the product's price, category, and 5-star rating, while a listing for a video streaming service might display a video thumbnail and the length of the video.
The specifics of the markup are defined on schema.org, which is a joint effort by Google, Bing and other major search engines to come up with a common set of markup that they'll all use for generating rich snippets. If you're comfortable editing HTML, then it's definitely worth reading the specification on schema.org and figuring out how to best mark up your content to create the appropriate rich snippets.
Of course, while it's a good idea to follow all of these on-page SEO guidelines, you still might not make it to page one of the search results for your targeted phrase(s). That's because the majority of a page's authority comes from off-page sources. The most important thing search engines consider when ranking a given page is whether or not other people on the internet are vouching for that piece of content by linking back to it. This includes actions like linking to your page from within a blog post, or sharing that page on Twitter.
Since these off-page signals are so valuable, it's important to design your landing pages in a way that encourages people to link back to them. This can include things like offering a "Tweet to Download" option or some other kind of social sharing trigger like social media sharing buttons. Another option to consider is allowing your offer to be embedded on other websites, and ensuring that the embed code you provide includes a link back to your landing page.
There are many other tactics for building inbound links that we've written about in dedicated posts like this one. It's always a good idea to spend some time thinking about how you can build more links into your landing pages to get more SEO juice out of them.
Following these tips will help your content to rank high in search engines for months and years into the future. As a result, you'll be able to turn each new landing page you create into a long-term asset that keeps driving leads long after your initial campaigns around them have ended. Talk about a return on investment!