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If you’re serious about online marketing, SEO is one of the main areas you are budgeting.  You also have other forms of paid marketing that you’re using to drive immediate leads.  I call this “short-term lead generation”.  The reason for the name is because you can literally generate leads within hours of getting your ads up and running.  Not the case with SEO, particularly if you’re not doing it well currently – but the idea is that as you become better at SEO in terms of driving qualified leads, you can choose to become less dependent on paid sources, particularly if the ROI is not there.  SEO is a long-term strategy, and hence why I feel it is the marketer’s long-term lead generation strategy.

That’s right – I said it.  SEO is more than rankings and traffic.  It’s about the right traffic by increasing rankings for the right words.  But how do you know what the right words are?  You can mine data from paid sources who are actually converting into leads to feed your SEO activities, from premium content to link building to press releases.  After all, you want to fail fast, and fail cheap.  That means if the keyword(s) are not converting well after several tests, then you may be attracting the wrong customers with this keyword.  You will begin to identify which set of keywords tend to drive the “researching” crowd, versus the word sets that tend to drive the “buying” crowd.

Once you have that, you can then nurture the “researchers” by offering free downloads or other resources instead of hard-selling them.  For those who have already done their research and are ready to “buy,” you can present them with pricing and test your call-to-action copy, button colors, and more.

As you hone your SEO performance, you will begin to see that your cost per lead will decrease significantly compared to other paid sources.  But, that doesn’t mean that you should discontinue your paid lead generation.  Determine what your max cost per lead is (15% of your total cost per acquisition, or what you’re willing to spend to get a new customer) and keep your sources under that threshold.