There are many good reasons to embrace content and inbound marketing as a strategy for building website traffic and generating sales leads.

Start with the continual flow of free traffic you get once your pages are indexed and ranked on Google.  And how that traffic can be converted into sales leads with the right website strategies.

And don’t discount the value of demonstrating your expertise on topics that are important to you and your business.

We use content and inbound marketing ourselves and believe it’s an important long-term strategy for every business.

But notice I said “long-term” – and therein lies the challenge for many organizations.

Content and inbound marketing should be on your plate, but if you need leads and sales right now, your patience is going to be tested.

I’ll explain in a minute, but first, let me provide some background.

What is content and inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is a commonly accepted marketing term to describe the strategy for getting found on Google (and other search engines) through organic search (not paid search).

By creating web pages, blog posts and other content on your website that strategically respond to specific keyword inquiries, Google will hopefully recognize the content and list the appropriate pages when someone searches with those keyword phrases.

This is called inbound marketing because your prospects come to you.  Contrast that with outbound marketing where you need to reach out to your prospects.

I combine the combine “content” with “inbound marketing” because content is the essential ingredient for generating inbound traffic.

How does content and inbound marketing work?

Without getting into the weeds, here’s a quick overview of the process:

Step 1 – It starts with identifying the keyword phrases your prospects are likely to use when searching for a business like yours. In a way, the keyword phrases you select are actually questions your prospects are asking about the products or services you provide.

Step 2 – Using these selected keywords (or questions) as your guide, you now need to write articles, blog posts and other content around those phrases – that essentially answers those questions. This could mean dozens or even hundreds of articles and other content (such as photographs, infographics and video).

Step 3 – Content is then optimized for search – meaning each article is given its own page and uses the keyword phrases throughout the text. Meta description information (behind the page data) will also be optimized.

Step 4 – To let the world know about the new content, social media posts are used with links back to the website and the specific article.

Step 5 – When visitors come to the website, strategies need to be developed to encourage those visitors to join the email list or download a free guide.

Step 6 – Over time, the search engines take notice of individual web pages and blog posts – as well as your website as a whole – and will begin to list those individual content pages for specific keyword phrases.

You can see that content is the central element in this process – and that takes time.  Add to that, Google needs to index your pages and recognize your content before offering it up for certain search inquiries – and that takes even more time.

What about Paid Search?

Paid Search (using Google Adwords and others) is a faster, more reliable path to Page 1 on Google.

With Paid Search, your web traffic will be driven not by content, but by money.  If you’re willing to pay, you can get listed quickly – often within a couple of days.

It’s debatable whether Paid Search belongs under the inbound marketing umbrella.  It certainly meets the definition in that it generates traffic from people who are actively search for a business like yours.

But Paid Search is not an organic search exercise.   As soon as you stop paying, your listing comes down.

The good news and the bad news

If and when you get listed on page 1 of Google through organic search, the good news is you can expect a consistent flow of free traffic to your website for a long time to come – at least from that webpage or post, and for that specific keyword phrase.

To maximize your benefit from this traffic, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done everything you can to convert that traffic into leads.

Now for the bad news.

Even if you do everything right, there’s no guarantee you’ll get a high-rank listing.  You’re competing with many other businesses for the top spot – and you are always at Google’s mercy.

If you are successful and are able to get ranked, it will likely take months, even years, to happen. And that’s for just one keyword phrase.

Moreover, if you find some success, this approach doesn’t have the ability to scale up.  You cannot simply turn up the pump to generate more traffic and leads.

Why an outbound strategy is also necessary

While content and inbound marketing is a worthwhile goal, many businesses can’t afford to wait that long.

They need leads now.  They need sales now.

They need to reach out and connect with prospects directly using outbound marketing.  They need to interrupt people and let them know they have solutions to their problems.  Because if they don’t do it, their competition will.

Outbound marketing is viewed as traditional (or old-school) marketing because that’s how we did it before the Internet (although you could argue that Yellow Page marketing was pre-Internet inbound marketing).

Today, for outbound marketing, we use direct mail, email and advertising (both online and print) – and yes, we continue to use it to generate leads and acquire new customers.

A misunderstanding of costs

One of the chief selling points of inbound marketing is that you will get free traffic and free leads.

It’s true that when you get listed for organic search, your listing will cost you nothing.  Your web pages will be listed based on the content you provide – not the amount you’re willing to bid for a Google search ad.

But don’t kid yourselves.

Inbound marketing isn’t free.  It takes time to research and write all that content.  It takes time to edit and format your pages.  It takes time to promote your content on social media – and more time to prepare your website to convert visitors into leads.

And that costs money – unless, of course, you’re going to do it yourself.

There are many content providers out there – ranging from low-cost providers that offer pre-written and pre-designed content to custom-developed content providers that require high retainers.

It’s time for inbound AND outbound marketing

Building an organic presence through content and inbound marketing is a smart move.

How quickly you start seeing results is anyone’s guess.  It will depend on your skill, your resources (internal staff or budget to outsource) and a little bit of luck.  But reality should tell you it’s going to take a while.

In the meantime, and even later, outbound marketing will put you in touch with the people who buy your products or services – and can give you the results you need right now.

A Quick Word About Us

We create lead generation campaigns using Direct Marketing or Digital Marketing – and very often a combination of the two, which we describe as Digital Direct Mail.

Our campaigns include both Outbound Marketing (direct mail, cold email, phone) and Inbound Marketing (SEO, PPC, Local Search) as well as Lead Nurturing funnel activities.

If lead generation is in your plans, we invite you to download our FREE Guide, The Lead Generation Blueprint. Or click here to schedule an Exploratory Phone Call.

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."