Inbound Marketing Prioritizes SEO as Traffic Generation Proves Challenging

May 22, 2017

Proving ROI has long been a top challenge for marketers. But marketers participating in HubSpot’s latest annual State of Inbound report [download page] have bigger fish to fry: generating traffic and leads. In fact, growing traffic is not only a bigger challenge than proving ROI, it’s also a bigger priority.

The top marketing priority for the coming year is actually converting contacts and leads to customers, cited by 70% of respondents. But a majority (55%) also said that growing traffic to their websites is a top priority.

Doing so may not be too easy, at least on the consumer side: a recent study from Adobe Digital Insights declared that “organic web traffic in North America is saturating,” pointing out that web traffic had only grown by 0.1% per annum over the preceding 42 months for the measured verticals. (Those were Media & Entertainment, Retail, Travel, Finance, Automotive and Health.)

The response to these challenges? At least on the inbound side of things, it’s about improving SEO presence. Some 61% of respondents said that when thinking specifically about inbound marketing, growing their SEO/organic presence is a top priority. That’s the third consecutive year in which this is the leading priority, perhaps reflecting the continuing changes and updates made by Google.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that SEO is a top lead- and revenue-producing channel that’s highly rated for ROI.

In order to support their SEO efforts, inbound marketing projects will lean heavily on content, per the report’s findings. Indeed, blog content creation (53%) and content distribution/amplification (47%) are the next-most prioritized inbound marketing areas, with YouTube the social channel most likely to be added to distribution plans this year.

Secondarily, about one-third are also focusing on interactive (38%), visual (31%) and long-form (29%) content creation.

Are Marketing-Sourced Leads Effective?

Driving traffic and leads is one thing, but converting them – the top marketing priority overall – is another. This is very dependent on the quality of the lead, of course. And on this point, there’s some disagreement as to marketing’s effectiveness.

In fact, respondents to the survey were just as likely to say that leads from marketing are poor quality as they are high quality. By contrast, they were much more emphatic about leads sourced by sales, being 3 times more likely to say that these leads are high than poor quality.

Overall, when asked the top source of sales for their sales organization, respondents tabbed sales-sourced leads first (38%), followed by referrals (33%) – the highest-rated in terms of quality – and then leads from marketing (25%).

There’s a caveat, though. Among the one-fifth of respondents who reported that their marketing and sales teams are “tightly aligned” with a service-level agreement (SLA), leads from marketing outperformed both sales-sourced leads and referrals as the top source.

These tightly-aligned organizations were also more likely to report that their marketing strategy is effective (81%, versus 61% overall).

That seems to be a solid argument for better alignment…

About the Data: The State of Inbound report is based on a global online survey fielded from December 2016 through February 2017. The survey was available in English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese and had 6,399 participants from 141 countries. More respondents reported selling to other businesses than to consumers. The vast majority are not HubSpot customers or partners. Some 4 in 10 have annual revenue of at least $1 million.

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