Marrying SEO to outbound marketing

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When it comes to results, Kenric Van Wyk, president of Acoustics by Design, couldn't be happier with his company's push into the realm of search engine optimization.

Acoustics by Design is a b-to-b company that offers acoustic consulting services to such clients as engineering firms designing buildings; city governments looking to create noise ordinances; and hospitals and healthcare facilities with privacy concerns.

With such a wide (but shallow) market, Van Wyk knew a traditional outbound marketing program wouldn't make any sense—it would require massive effort and expenditure to reach the relatively few companies in a particular industry that might need acoustical consulting services. Instead, Van Wyk turned to SEO to bring in leads, then use them to supercharge his outbound marketing program.

Every year since we've started really optimizing our site, we've doubled our number of hits to our site, almost all through organic searches,” he said. “Fifty percent of our annual revenue comes through queries that came to us on the Web.”

How Acoustics by Design accomplished this is a classic study in the marriage between old-time outbound marketing and modern SEO.

“The first step in SEO is effective keyword research,” said Galen De Young, managing director of Proteus B2B in Grand Rapids, Michigan, who helped design Van Wyk's program. “You have to know how searchers will form their queries. They might be looking for a product, for geographically specific terms—for any number of things.”

It's a mistake, De Young said, to base any SEO effort off your current search analytics; after all, these only reflect people who are already finding your site. Analytics don't actually reflect the way people behave on the wider Internet, meaning you might be missing out on popular search terms and keywords.

Once the keyword list is in place, it's a matter of loading your site up with high-quality, keyword-optimized content. This can take almost any form—from blog entries to forums to product sheets, or content marketing pieces like white papers, podcasts and webinars.

The exact nature of the content depends on this question: “Once they arrive at our site, then what?” It's crucial not only to understand what will draw traffic but the results you're hoping to get from that traffic.

“Optimization is only part of the equation,” said Paul J. Plvan, president of Mercury Leads. “Web marketers must focus on "What's in it for me?' If your prospective buyer comes to your website, you'd better to able to convert them. Statistically, it's been proven that website marketers have about eight seconds and 2.3 clicks to garner a conversation.”

For Acoustics by Design, this means not trying to sell customers—at least obviously and right away.

“When we get people to our site, we're not trying to sell them,” Van Wyk said. “We want to get them to the site, and keep them there and provide meaningful content.”

But of course that's not all. The company also collects e-mail addresses through a contact sheet and newsletter sign-up that form the backbone of its outgoing marketing effort. In effect, SEO is the engine that drives the internal list-building, which in turn powers an ongoing e-mail marketing campaign that Van Wyk describes as highly successful.

“We have a list of 7,000 names,” he said. “Our open rate is about 30%, with a less-than-1% unsubscribe rate.”

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