Over two-thirds of B2B transactions begin with a generic search on a search engine. Therefore, one of the most important elements of a holistic marketing strategy is to establish trust with the prospective buyer, especially when they’ll be searching for your brand or services on a search engine like Google.
Developing that immediate visibility and rapport through search engine optimization (SEO) is even more important when you consider the difficulty buyers experience when trying to weed through the various service providers in search results, not to mention the influx of vendor marketing and communications efforts they encounter on a daily basis.
Although personal recommendations and professional introductions still often make the short list of potential solutions providers, the importance of online visibility in search results cannot be ignored. Whereas B2C SEO efforts usually focus on immediate conversions, such as a sale or other transaction, B2B SEO efforts need to:
- Generate awareness of the seller’s solutions by targeting prospective buyers online
- Lead with the value proposition and tell the buyer how the product or service will solve their problem
- Develop excitement by impressing a potential buyer who will in turn share or reference the seller’s product in the future
- Rise to the top of the consideration set by showcasing a unique selling proposition and standing out from the competition
- Motivate a delayed conversion, usually in an offline environment
As a result of these differences, the B2B sales process usually takes much longer than the sales cycle for business to consumer focused products or services.
B2B SEO Keyword Strategy
As with any SEO strategy, a B2B SEO strategy will focus on identifying the keywords to target within your campaign. While these efforts may entail a detailed review and audit of competitor efforts, along with a deep dive into keyword search volumes, a B2B SEO strategy should also consider buyer intent.
When looking at buyer intent relating to keyword searches it’s important to consider:
- whether searches are aimed at generic terms
- if there is search volume tied to questions about how to solve a particular problem
- if there are searches behind specific products or services.
It’s also important to remember that potential B2B buyers on average conduct 12 searches to find and select an appropriate vendor, so you want to optimize your site for a variety of terms and phrases to maintain visibility. The more your brand appears in search results, the more credible your business will appear.
Other buyer intent considerations to think about while researching keywords for your B2B SEO campaign include:
- The different types of buyers or stakeholders that are engaging in a search for your product. This includes their various roles within the organization or concerns about why a new solution is needed. For example, someone in the accounting department conducting online research might use different search terms than someone in the procurement or marketing department looking for the same solution. Different terms or jargon used by unique decision makers is definitely something to remember during your keyword research and planning.
- The different points in the sales cycle of your product or service. The keywords used to search for a particular solution may differ depending on whether the researcher is in the early, mid or late phases of their research. For example, someone just getting started with vendor research may use different terms that a buyer much further along in the research process. Searches early in the sales process might use relatively generic keywords, whereas more detailed keywords, comparisons or long-tail search terms may be used the closer the researcher is to making a final decision.
Once you’ve concluded your keyword research, which will include a list of terms that satisfy targeted buyer personas and different points in the sales cycle, you’ll want to start thinking about how to cater the content of your website to those specific search terms and audiences (executive level, marketing, end user, etc.). In doing so, you will serve up the most relevant selling points to those decision makers while attempting to increase your ranking for those terms. Content and SEO tactics can ultimately (after time) lift you into the top 3 listings for each search term, where over 60% of clicks are received.
Requirements of a B2B SEO Strategy
Today’s B2B SEO strategy needs so much more than just keyword optimized meta titles, meta descriptions and web content. In addition to these traditional SEO elements, a B2B SEO campaign should use content marketing and supportive materials to assist decision makers with their own internal sales pitch. After all, by the time a B2B buyer reaches out to a seller, they’ve conducted over half of their research online – it’s in your best interest as the seller to simplify that process as much as possible!
As you work to create such materials, make sure that you remember the non-intrusive nature of search marketing. Your efforts should be based on your buyers’ intent to buy, not your intent to sell. Considering this approach in your marketing efforts and materials, make sure to make use of optimized assets such as:
- Impactful, attention grabbing graphics
- Telling charts and graphs
- In-depth white papers that illustrate product/service superiority or real-world results
- How-to content that resonates with decision makers, such as demo videos
- Detailed comparisons of competitive solutions that weigh pros and cons
- Social sharing features that allow buyers to save, share or post your content on social media
- Regular blogging efforts, or guest blogging on relevant industry sites, that helps drive traffic and introduce new ideas
- Customer reviews, feedback and insights
- Promotion of content through social media and eNewsletter efforts
Although these strategies aren’t so different from B2C efforts, where content is also repurposed in various forms and on multiple platforms, the ultimate goal in B2B SEO efforts is to assist influencers with the decision making process. In order to do so, it’s important that your content be found easily, showcase your level of expertise and can be used as part of the buyer’s own sales pitch.
Gauging B2B SEO Program Success
Measuring the success of a B2B SEO campaign extends beyond simply looking at keyword rankings month over month. In addition, you should also look at leads generated over time and improvements in website engagement, like a lower bouncer rate and higher time spent on the site. Also consider elements offsite, such as the number of social shares your blog posts received, retweets of your social posts, and the number of times your white papers were downloaded, and then look at these metrics over time.
When you’ve hit the nail on the head, you’ll start to notice an uptick in the numbers each month, especially during times of heavy content promotion, social amplification or email outreach. In addition, you should also begin to see increases in the time spent per page and repeat visitor metrics as prospective buyers explore your site content for additional support and justification.