Inbound marketing drives innovation and success at all levels of business, but like all technology-driven marketing practices, it continues to evolve. The ability to stay at the head of the curve, implementing the newest tactics and adjusting your strategy accordingly will keep you atop your competitors in 2018 and beyond.

Let’s take a closer look at the areas that your business should be focused on most in 2018 to adhere to best practices for inbound marketing.

Persona Development as a Foundational Tool

Persona identification is not new. It’s one of the oldest pillars of a good marketing campaign and is more important than ever for small businesses using technology to target narrow streams of new traffic. But technology is making it increasingly possible to use your persona targeting efforts to improve everything from the language in your nurturing emails to the targeting on your landing pages and blog posts.

  • Identifying Key Channels Based on Personas – Where are your target users spending their time online? Forums, social media channels and groups, websites, and newsletters – knowing these things can provide key insights into the content they want and the thought leaders they trust.
  • Building Thought Leader Profiles – In addition to your persona profiles, you can now generate thought leader profiles that illustrate the types of content you should create, the medium and channels through which to deliver those insights, and the types of resources you can build to help your audience.
  • Optimizing Content Based on User Search Intent – Google is getting better at understanding what a user wants when they search for something, and if your site doesn’t provide it, you’ll rank lower. Persona development allows greater insight into that search intent so you can update existing content and create new content to meet it.

By understanding who your target audience consists of and the language they use to describe their problems you can upgrade your messaging at almost every level – on your website, in your marketing materials, and even in person.

Media Matters More Than Ever

I’m not the first person to tell small business owners that they need to invest in media to support written content, but in 2018, it matters more than ever before. People can retain 65% of what they see in a relevant image after three days, compared to just 10% when they hear something, and in 2017 video content represented more than 74% of all internet traffic. Even more telling, according to an Animoto survey, four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video than read an article. 

People are visual creatures and technology has finally reached the point at which we can consume media in the way that best fits that nature. Video is more compact and Internet access is faster than ever. Tools like Canva, Venngage and Designrr are inexpensive and make it possible for even a small business to build visual content without a designer. Whether it’s creation of custom image headers for use on social media, visualizations of data in your articles, or slideshare and video versions of your written content, media matters and should be top of mind in your marketing efforts.

SEO Is a Living, Breathing Organism

Search engine optimization has evolved in ways that few could have expected, even just a few years ago. When Google launched, it measured dozens of factors on a static basis. Smart marketers were able to game that system quickly, and they kept ahead of the curve for more than 15 years, updating their tactics as Google announced and implemented new algorithm changes.

In the last two years, this has changed. In 2016, for example, Google conducted 9,800 live traffic experiments and more than 130,000 search quality tests, resulting in 1,653 search changes and 11 major algorithm changes. In 2017, there were 12 major algorithm changes and Moz’s Mozcast measurement of search volatility was routinely at or above 90-100. The search engine is a living, breathing thing now – constantly updating and revising its measurement of your site and its value based on thousands of known and unknown factors.

Yes, links matter, but you can’t manipulate the system in the way you once could. Even the best SEOs have shifted their focus to what matters most – quality content delivered to answer questions and address search intent. What matters now?

  • Site quality and user experience
  • Content quality and frequency
  • The ability of your site to address the questions and concerns of your visitors

The stuff that always should have mattered – and as the search engines improve their ability to scan your site and determine if it is effectively addressing these concerns, those technical factors will matter less and less.

What can you do? It’s simple. Produce quality content, fix problems on your site, and be actively engaged with users to ensure your content addresses their questions. Look for red flags like high bounce rates, drops in the number of new backlinks to your content, or insufficient engagement from your audience.

Staying Ahead of the Curve in 2018 and Beyond

Content-driven marketing is the core of most B2B marketing departments, but it cannot rely on the same old tactics year to year. Like the search engines and user media preferences, these best practices will only continue to evolve, and your efforts need to keep up.

Concerned your website isn’t ready for an investment in marketing due to these best practices? Download our free guide, 17 Tips to Ensure Your Website is Marketing Ready, and learn what you can do to maximize your marketing investment and generate real ROI.