Since HubSpot coined the term inbound marketing in 2005, the strategy has gained widespread popularity in marketing circles. Inbound marketing entails the creation and publication of helpful content that attracts customers to the company’s website.
The content often includes newsletters, ebooks and other educational resources that website visitors sign up for. The company gathers sales leads and ushers them through the buyer’s journey.
Inbound marketing reverses the strategy of previous standard marketing tactics. Instead of reaching out to customers through advertising, email lists or telemarketing, inbound marketing attracts customers to the company. Some PR agencies include inbound marketing web design among their services.
While educational or informative content provides the foundation of inbound marketing, attractive and contemporary website design is also an essential component. PR and marketing professionals who create content must understand elements of effective inbound website design. Website design for inbound marketing should focus on how to position content to attract targeted customers. Whether through your company’s blog or social media, your content should be engaging and simple to navigate, making it easy for readers to understand your message. Well-designed inbound marketing content displays the following characteristics:
Direct linking to educational content. External links to promoted inbound marketing content, in press releases for instance, should send visitors directly to the content – not to the home page or other directory. The content marketing page should then include prominent internal links that provide easy access to other educational content and also to website sections that contain product information.
Simplicity. The arch-enemy of a good website is complexity, says Ross Andrew Simons at Innovative Marketing Resources. Complexity confuses visitors and fails to guide them to call to actions. Too much content, especially on the main pages like the home page, increases complexity, causing visitors to leave. Simons urges web copy writers to follow the “less is more” motto when describing products and offers. White space helps make the site more appealing instead of cluttering it with overloaded content.
Visual hierarchy. Take the “eyeball test” to see what visitors look at first on a page and where their eyesight goes on a web page. When a design is cluttered, a visitor’s eyes might jump erratically around the page, Simon notes. They have difficulty focusing and fully comprehend the key message. Visual hierarchy, a fundamental element of graphic design, organizes content and design elements in a sensible layout. Viewers know what to look at first, and text and graphic elements guide eyes to what to view next.
Optimized navigation. Optimized navigation, including intuitively organized sections, helps visitors easily move from page to page to access content and useful information. Allowing visitors to self-segment themselves by industry, functional role or search purpose helps them quickly locate relevant information. A sticky navigation bar allows visitors to see conversion links no matter where they are on the site and reduces the chance getting lost on the website, says internet marketer Amanda Nielsen at New Breed. Like the name suggests, a sticky navigation bar is a navigation bar that “sticks” to the top of the window and follows the visitor down the page as they scroll past the fold.
Transitions to product information. The website visitor should be able to easily transition from the educational and information content of inbound marketing to more promotional information about your company’s products and services. The transitions can be made through the navigation bar or through eye-catching product messages alongside the inbound marketing content.
Call to actions. Call to action (CTA) offers throughout the website entice visitors to complete forms, provide contact information or engage with the company through comments, chat or other means. “This is where understanding your buyer personas comes into play. By understanding your customers, you can place offers throughout your website that will appeal to them,” says Beverly Driskill at Axia Public Relations. A large CTA button in the navigation bar with a phrase like “Start Your Free Trial” or “Request Consultation” reminds site visitors of the standing offer. The 800 telephone numbers for sales and customer service should be prominent on each page or easily accessible through a “Contact Us” button in the navigation bar.
Social proof. Social proof includes testimonials, recommendations from influencers and earned media mentions that “prove” the company’s reputation or status in its industry. Third-party endorsements can significantly boost trust in your brand.
Resource library. Inbound marketers can accumulate many different content offers over time. A resource library organizes those offers in one location. With enough content, the resource library can categorize offers based on the type of resource, type of customer or buyer persona and their stage in the buyer’s journey.
Frequently asked questions. A website section that contains answers to prospects’ most frequently asked questions can include information on how to contact the company with questions. A prospect with questions is often a hot prospect.
Bottom Line: Inbound marketing requires more than valuable content. A first-class web design allows users to access the content that is most relevant to them and clearly shows how they can take the next step in their customer journey with your company.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.