How often do you see or hear people claim to be inbound marketing experts? Have you heard someone claim that they "will get you on the first page of Google"? There should be one word that pops in your mind when you hear someone make that claim (hint: it rhymes with pullchit.) Why do I say that? First of all, Google's algorithm updates over the past few years favor websites that frequently produce content relevant to keyword phrases targeted to the website. Websites that try and game Google's algorithms with keyword stuffing and links from dubious websites are being penalized. Secondly, it takes time for Google to index your website and to build domain authority. My advice is to run as fast as you can from anyone who claims that they "will get you on the first page of Google." They either don't know what they're talking about or they are deceiving you.
Here are some tips to help you determine if your inbound marketing expert is truly an expert.
Beware of those claiming to be be an SEO or Social Media Expert
Inbound marketing is a coordinated set of tactics designed to draw prospects into your marketing funnel and convert them into happy customers by matching your selling process to their buying process. Here is an illustration of the inbound marketing process courtesy of HubSpot.
SEO and social media are just 2 of the 8 primary elements of the inbound marketing methodology. SEO isn't really SEO anymore; we prefer the term Customer Experience Optimization. What this means is that technical SEO is just as likely to harm your marketing as help it if you're not creating great educational content for your website visitors.
Social media is changing the way we communicate and do business. It seems that you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a LinkedIn expert. I've seen self-proclaimed LinkedIn experts send out spam LinkedIn messages to all of their contacts selling their services. This goes against the grain of everything inbound marketing is about - it's permission marketing, not interruption marketing.
Lead generation should be one of the primary goals of social media marketing for SMB companies. If you're not using social media to generate leads by directing prospects to landing pages, you'll never see a dime from your efforts. Likewise, if all you do is post links to your landing pages, you won't be successful.
Social media in an inbound marketing context is about establishing your company as a trusted adviser by posting useful information, usually from other people. You should occasionally post links to your blog articles and landing pages. We recommend following the 10:4:1 rule. This approach will give you the best lead generation results. Beware of social media experts who can't show you how to generate leads from social media.
In evaluating potential inbound marketing consultants, look for companies that advocate an approach that integrates the 8 primary elements of inbound marketing into your existing sales process.
Are the employees of your expert certified in inbound marketing?
The field of inbound marketing (also known as internet marketing, digital marketing, online marketing or content marketing) is roughly 5 years old. If your expert hasn't completed training or education in the last few years, they're not an expert.
All-in-one internet marketing software provider HubSpot offers a free certification in inbound marketing. To obtain the certification, you need to attend 8 online classes and pass an examination. I highly recommend this free certification to anyone that wants to take advantage of this new marketing approach. If you're an SMB company owner or manager, you'll probably know more than your "expert" if you invest the time to get this certification.
The HubSpot certification requires an annual re-certification. This reflects that fact that the field of inbound marketing is evolving rapidly and that your knowledge will quickly be obsolete if you don't continue your education.
There are other degrees and certification programs for inbound marketing. Make sure your inbound marketing consultant has a current certification.
Do your inbound marketing experts "eat their own dog food?"
Many web design and SEO firms are facing a changing environment. As mentioned previously, technical SEO is rapidly becoming obsolete and content management systems like WordPress, HubSpot and Joomla are making it easier for SMB companies to manage their own websites. Many web design and SEO firms have invested the time, effort and resources to become inbound marketing experts. Many have not.
How can you tell if your expert has transformed their business into a true inbound marketing consultancy? Look at their results for doing inbound marketing for their own companies. Here's what you should look for:
Can they demonstrate that they have generated website traffic, leads and customers from their inbound marketing efforts?
What is their MozRank? A mozRank is SEOmoz's "10-point measure of link authority and popularity. It's similar to the old Google Page Rank and is logarithmic, so bear that in mind, too. (That means it's ten times as hard to move from a 3 to a 4 as it is to move from a 2 to a 3.)" - source: HubSpot. The key to using this metric to judge your expert is to see how their mozRank has increased as they have implemented inbound marketing.
A simple way to judge any website's marketing effectiveness is to use HubSpot's free marketing grader. This tool measures the marketing effectiveness of the website in question. The marketing grader gives each website a score between 0 and 100 that reflects how the site compares to the 3 million plus sites that have been analyzed using the tool. If you get a score of 55, that means your doing better than 55% of the sites that have been graded by the tool. If your expert's site gets a score of less than 75, I'd recommend asking some questions about why they're not ranked higher.
An important way to judge the capabilities of your "expert" is to see how they've performed inbound marketing for their own companies.
Many so-called experts sell their services by using a variation of the get-rich-quick theme: work with me and I'll get you on the front page of Google. Like most get-rick-quick promises, that's just too good to be true. The truth is that inbound marketing takes time, effort and skill in order to produce meaningful business results. If you're considering hiring an inbound marketing consultant, look for one that is certified, has produced results for their own business and one that paints a realistic picture of what to expect. Want to learn more? Schedule a free consultation with a certified inbound marketing professional.