What is inbound marketing? A beginner's guide

Inbound Marketing is a marketing strategy that aims to target customers with relevant and useful content.

The goal of inbound marketing, which was coined by HubSpot founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah who realized that the Internet age requires a new marketing paradigm, is to find potential customers and customers while maintaining a close relationship with them to build them up.

In this post we learn:

Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing

Outbound marketing is a disruptive form of marketing in which you send a message or product to a prospect through cold calls, cold emails, direct mail, etc.

Inbound marketing is the opposite: you create useful content for your audience that they will seek when needed.

How inbound marketing works

According to HubSpot, there are three steps to inbound marketing:

  1. Attract. Bring the right people.
  2. Engage. Help these people with their weaknesses and goals so that they are more likely to buy from you.
  3. Joy. Go beyond anything for them. Help them achieve success with your product.

Together they work like a flywheel.

You attract prospects for your company. These people are engrossed with your content and eventually become convinced that they will buy it and turn it into customers. After they have achieved great results and customer service with your product, they will become “ambassadors” to introduce you to their friends.

It's similar to a marketing funnel, but it doesn't stop at the final stage. Rather, the last stage drives the first stage, which drives the second stage, and so on – also known as the flywheel.

Get started with inbound marketing

You have seen how inbound marketing works in theory. But how is it actually carried out in reality?

Inbound marketing is essentially our entire marketing strategy here at Ahrefs. We devote a large part of our resources to creating helpful content that our customers will teach SEO and digital marketing while promoting our product – like the article you are reading right now.

Our blog receives 600K+ Visitors per month. And only from Google.

Our YouTube channel has ~ 209,000 subscribers and receives ~ 355,000 monthly views.

Coupled with an industry leading product loved by our customers, inbound marketing has helped us become one of the most popular SEO Tools in the market.

This is how we use inbound marketing at Ahrefs.

1. Put on

If people don't know you exist, they can't buy your product. So the first step is to acquire potential customers.

In inbound marketing, this is mainly done through content creation and publishing, also known as content marketing.


At Ahrefs, our acquisition strategy is focused on SEO-driven content marketing; H. Content that is designed to rank high on search engines.

Why SEO Driven?

While you can post content as long as it is of interest to your audience, most of these articles will not get any traffic in the long run. When it is first published, there may be an initial outbreak of traffic (“glimmer of hope”), but interest diminishes (“flatline of nope”) when people are no longer interested.

However, when you create content Topics that Google constantly searches for, then there is a guaranteed continued interest. As long as your article ranks on Google, you'll get consistent, passive, organic search traffic.

That is why our traffic continues to grow year after year:

This is how we create SEO Content at Ahrefs:

Find topics with search traffic potential

Every post we post on the Ahrefs blog targets a term with search traffic potential.

Use a keyword tool to find these topics. For example, suppose you own a website about the paleo diet. Enter a relevant topic like "Paleo" into a free keyword research tool like Keyword Generator. There topic ideas will be suggested and you will learn how popular these topics are.

Scroll down the list to see if there are any good topics for your website.

Recommended literature: Keyword Research: Ahrefs' Beginner's Guide

Optimize your pages

Once you've identified a topic that you want to target, the next step is to start creating content that deserves a rank. This means that your content must pass four "exams":

  1. Relevance. Align your content with search intent; H. The "why" behind a search query. This guide shows you how to customize search intent.
  2. Thoroughness. Cover all of the things that seekers expect and want to see. Analyzing search intent will give you a basic idea. However, you should also analyze relevant top-ranked pages for pointers.
  3. Uniqueness. If your content is the same as a ranking article, no one will click and read it. You need to bring something new to the table.
  4. Clarity. Make your content clear and easy to read. Follow the tips here to make your content easier to read.

Once you do that, the "technical" tweaks like placing your keyword in the title tag will be carried out.

Read the following post for a complete guide on how to optimize your page for search engines.

Recommended literature: On page SEO: The beginner's guide

Create links

According to Google's Andrey Lipattsev, links are one of the top three ranking factors on Google. So if you want to rank high in the search for something competitive, you will almost certainly need links.

For example, we recently ran a link building campaign where we created links to our page about SEO Statistics. We have acquired a total of 36 links from 32 unique websites.

This brought our side up and we've held pole position ever since.

Would you like to learn how to get started with link building? Watch this video:


Recommended literature: Link building for SEO: The Beginner's Guide (2021)

Video marketing

Content marketing isn't just about the written word. There is also video content. YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world.

This is how we do video marketing.

Find video topics with search traffic potential

Like Google, in order to rank on YouTube you need to target topics that are being searched for. Use our YouTube Keyword Generator to find these topics.

Enter a relevant keyword, then scroll the list to see if there are any relevant topics.

Create optimized videos

You only have 30 seconds. If you don't attract their attention by then, the viewer is gone. So if you can't ripple like Dave Chappelle and still get people interested, we recommend scripting your video.

That way, your videos will be precise and avoid getting caught up in a tangent. After the recording, edit them strategically so they are interesting and keep getting attention.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5EOWffq-gk&feature = emb_title

Recommended literature: Youtube SEO: How to organize your videos from start to finish

Promote your videos

Ranking on YouTube isn't the only way to get more views for your videos. Read this post or watch this video for more tips:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwkUlTl2Iow&feature = emb_title


We covered text and video. Of course we can't leave out audio. The most popular format is the podcast.

Here's something interesting. Although we've never created our own podcast, we've received a lot of signups from them.

How did it happen? Simple: we appear on them.

Since there are a lot of podcasts out there and they need guests, we figured it would be easier to find an existing one than to create our own.

So we do it

Find podcast opportunities

Of course, the easiest thing to do is to search Google for podcasts in your niche. However, if you're just starting to appear on them, the Tim Ferriss Show probably isn't your first stop.

An alternative method is to identify someone of similar caliber in your industry who has featured on multiple podcasts. For example, Scott Young is relatively well known in the personal development niche.

We enter his site into Ahrefs' Site Explorer and go to Backlinks Report and type his name in the Include box. We also only filter for "referring page titles".

As you will notice, the links in the Referring Page column are mostly podcast interviews.

Position yourself as a guest

Find the podcast host's email address and let them know that you are interested in being a guest.

Recommended literature: 12 lessons learned from 20+ podcast interviews in 4 months

2. Engage

Just because people are visiting your website now doesn't mean they are buying automatically. This is where the "engagement" phase comes into play.

You need to understand their weaknesses and goals. Then you need to come up with insights and solutions that will help them solve their problems.

Here is an example of how we do it at Ahrefs.

A searcher wants to know how to find who is linking to his website. You search Google for this query and find our content. Guess what? Our product – Site Explorer – solves this problem. Hence, we include it as a potential tool that you can use in our article.

This is not enforced. Our toolset was basically designed to solve this problem. It's part of the narrative, of course.

If you focus on the following topics:

  1. Have search traffic potential;
  2. Is a problem that your customers want to solve;
  3. Is a problem that your product solves

You hit two parts of the flywheel at the same time. Not only will your content rank on Google and attract new prospects, but you'll get them involved right away.

But that's not the only thing we do. Here are some other engagement tactics we use as part of our inbound marketing strategy.

Email Marketing

Not everyone will buy once they read your content. Sometimes they need more time to evaluate. Or maybe they are at a different stage in the buyer's journey – maybe they just discovered they have the problem.

Whatever the reason, you need a way to get there so you can keep getting involved. The best way to do this is by creating an email list.

At Ahrefs, we keep it simple by showing an email sign-up box next to the article.

Of course, this is not the only way. They can also provide an incentive to sign up – a free e-book, worksheet, PDF Version of the article, etc.

Don't let them down once they're signed in. Keep the relationship going. For us, we're sending a welcome email with the best articles on the blog:

You don't have to copy what we do. The world is your oyster. You can test different emails and see which ones are best for your audience.

Free tools

After reading our content, some people want to test out our toolset. You want to see how it works for you. So we help them.

You can sign up for Ahrefs Webmaster Tools, which gives you free access to Site Explorer and Site Audit for your own website:

Or you can use any of our free ones SEO Tools:

The best part? Each tool is designed to target a keyword with search access potential. Like our blog posts, they are scheduled for both the Acquire and Activate phases.

Two birds, one stone.

Would you like to learn how to use free tools as an inbound marketing tactic? Read this post (jump to # 4).


Our Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Tim Soulo, once told me:

My theory is that people don't sign up for your tool and then learn how to use it. My theory is that people first learn how to use their tools and sign up because they know how to use their tool.

Tim Soulo

Our blog shows them how to solve SEO and digital marketing problems with our toolset. If they want to go further, we have an academy where potential clients can see one of our two free courses:

These courses give potential customers confidence. It will be just like Tim said it would – by the time they sign up for our product they will already know how to use Ahrefs from our content.

But engaging with prospects isn't the only thing that works. It also "seeps into" the next level – joy. Existing customers who may need further training on the product can take advantage of these training programs at any time.

This helps to keep them as they always learn how to do more with our toolset.

Win win.

3. Joy

After a prospect becomes a customer, that is not the end of the story. Remember: it's a flywheel. Every enthusiastic customer can tell his friends and family about this. This, in turn, will give you more customers who can recommend more people. The loop may be infinite.

However, the flywheel will only move if you perform excellently in this phase and delight your customers.

The best way to do this is actually have a great product. As the saying goes, "You can't give a pig lipstick." If your product isn't working or helping your customers solve their problems, there aren't a variety of "gratifying strategies" that will make your customers happy.

So this is the first thing you should do. Once you have the foundation in place, you can use one of the following strategies that we will use:

Live chat

If one of our customers has problems with our software or is not sure how to do certain things, they can always contact them via live chat.

This will keep frustration low as they can get help almost instantly.


A big part of our commitment to our customers is to keep them informed about two things on an ongoing basis:

  1. How do you SEO;;
  2. How to use Ahrefs SEO.

We do that with our blog, YouTube channel and courses. However, we understand that not everyone has the time to go through our content to find out how our reports work.

We have therefore decided to create tutorials within the toolset ourselves.

Click on it and it will show you the different ways you can use the report.

If a user gets stuck, they can go through the tutorial and figure out what to do.

Take-away: Find out how to embed tutorials in your product to teach your customers how to use specific features.

Community for customers only

Every new Ahrefs customer is invited to join our customer-only community, Ahrefs Insiders.

If you only use it for customers, the quality of the group will stay high. Every member knows that every person has skin in the game – they have subscribed to the product and mean business SEO.

This creates high quality discussions and members who are happy to help each other with digital marketing issues.

They are also allowed to give feedback and contributions to product development and often get a first glimpse of new functions. This solidifies the relationship between our customers and us and shows that we are ready to listen.

Would you like to know how we built this 14,000-strong group? Watch this video:


Final thoughts

HubSpot, whose founders coined the term, does inbound marketing very differently. While they used similar tactics to ours, they have sales teams. This means they focus on generating enough traffic and qualified leads for their sales teams to close.

Ahrefs is largely self-serving and does not have a sales team. That is why we decided to implement our inbound marketing strategy.

Your company will be different. After all, you are likely in a different industry, targeting different customers, building differently, and having different resources.

Which means the tactic you use will be different. However, the principles of inbound marketing remain the same: attract -> engage -> inspire.

Did I miss something important about inbound marketing? Let me know on Twitter.

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