SEO is difficult, and we can argue that B2B SEO is even harder than its B2C counterpart due to several unique challenges: B2B tends to have much lower traffic and much lower search volume, while at the same time the sales cycle can involve several different decision-makers with different needs; each demands a unique type of content and may search for different keywords.
On top of those challenges, B2B decision-makers tend to be more logical and conservative when buying B2B products/services, and so in B2B SEO, we have to also focus on establishing thought leadership while convincing the prospect with quantifiable, sometimes technical data.
This is why it’s necessary for B2B SEO best practices to have a guide on their own, and this is why in this guide, we will share some of the most important B2B SEO tips and tactics you can implement right away in 2021.
Without further ado, let us begin right away:
1. Effective B2B Keyword Research: Addressing Pain Points
B2B keyword research is unique and can be challenging. The sooner we realize this unique challenge, the more successful our B2B keyword research will be.
For instance, in a B2B environment, it’s quite common to have a high number of buyer personas: the sales cycle can involve more than two or three decision-makers, and each of them should be considered as a unique buyer persona with their own unique pain points.
Second, with the naturally low traffic in B2B niches, we’ll get limited information from most keyword tools like SEMRush or even Google Keyword Planner, both regarding search volume and competition.
Instead, we should look for the following factors:
- High relevance and conversion rate: look for queries of which visitors are more likely to convert. In B2B relevant and high-conversion keywords are more important than high-volume keywords.
- Related to your product: fairly self-explanatory, the target keyword must be related to your product or service. Not all popular and relevant keywords are directly related to what you are offering.
- Competition: fairly obvious, target keywords that give you a reasonable chance to rank well while considering your budget and timeline. It might not be worth it to pursue overly competitive keywords
- Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU): with the naturally longer sales cycles of B2B businesses, it’s typically more effective to target top-of-the-funnel keywords.
The most effective method in B2B keyword research is to address the unique buyer persona’s pain points and turn them into topic ideas for the different stages of the sales funnel.
There are three major stages in most B2B sales funnel (buyer’s journey):
- Discovery: the target audience becomes aware of a problem it needs to solve (they might or might not be already looking for a solution)
- Research: the prospect considers the different solutions available to address this problem
- Decision: the prospect already made a choice, and just need a little push to finally make the purchase
The basic idea here is to identify the pain point(s) of a specific buyer persona in each of these stages and develop implementable topic ideas to address this pain point. This is how you can effectively target high-relevance and high-conversion keywords while creating an attractive topic.
For example, let’s say the target audience/buyer persona is a marketing manager of an eCommerce startup company, while you are selling a conversion rate optimization SaaS product. In such cases, we can develop the following topic ideas:
- Discovery stage: we can develop content like “Why are your conversion rates too low? Here are the possible causes”
- Research stage: “How a Conversion Rate Optimization Tool can help improve your eCommerce Conversion”
- Decision: we can publish content comparing your solution with your competitors’ products
So, in B2B keyword research, don’t solely focus on high-volume keywords, but think deeper about what kind of relevant topics you can develop to help your target audience move to the next stage of the marketing funnel.
2. Match Your Content With User Intent
Still related to the above tip, simply creating high-quality, 5,000-word long, in-depth content is not enough if it doesn’t meet your user’s intent.
It’s no secret that over the years, user intent has become a major part of any B2B SEO strategy. Google and the other search engines are continuously improving their algorithms to better understand the intent behind each query, and as discussed, knowing your searcher’s intent is especially important in B2B SEO.
But what actually is user intent? User intent, or search intent, is the reason behind why a searcher puts a search query into the search box, and there are four main search intents we should consider:
- Navigational intent: the searcher is looking to visit a specific page online, for example when people search for “Facebook” or “NBA”. Many people tend to use brand names when they have navigational intent, so the best thing you can do to cater to navigational intent is to optimize for branded keywords.
- Informational intent: in this type of search intent, searchers use the query when they are looking for specific information, for example when researching products/services. The searcher may also use questions as queries, for instance, “how to lose weight fast”. It’s important to develop informative content that answers the searcher’s question to target keywords with informational intent.
- Commercial intent: typically queries with commercial intent are used near the bottom of the funnel especially when the searcher is considering different product options. We can create product roundup and comparison topics such as “best accounting software” to target these commercial keywords.
- Transactional intent: the searcher is ready to make the purchase and will only need a little push. Typically they are looking for the best possible deal for the product. For B2B products, it’s common that keywords with transactional intent will include your brand name in the search query, for example, “HubSpot price” or “Buffer subscription plans”. Optimize your product listing and pricing page to target these transactional keywords.
3. Using CRO Best Practices To Enhance B2B SEO
Although CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is a distinct field from SEO, using CRO principles can help optimize your B2B website, especially by improving its user experience (UX).
Thanks to Google Rankbrain, Google’s AI-based algorithm, Google can now measure metrics related to user experience including but not limited to:
- Dwell time: how long user stays on your website after they clicked on a search result
- Bounce rate: the percentage of people who go directly back to the search results page
- Click-through rate: the percentage of people who clicks on the search result to visit your website
On the other hand, one of the core principles of CRO is to improve user experience as well as eliminating obstacles that might prevent users from making the conversions. We can use the same principle to improve our SEO results, for example:
- Mobile-friendliness: ensuring your site is mobile-friendly so that people can easily convert even on their mobile devices is a core aspect of CRO. On the other hand, it’s no secret that Google now also prioritizes mobile-friendly sites to rank on their SERP.
- Page load speed: ensure your page loads fast. According to Google, 50% of users will bounce from a site that loads in more than 3 seconds.
- Secure: make sure to use HTTPS and SSL certificates so your users can know that your website is secure. Google also blocks non-HTTPS websites on Chrome.
- Structure and layout: intuitive menus, nav-bar design, and user-friendly layout are all important elements that can improve dwell time, which will also help both SEO and conversions.
Also, A/B test every element on your website for conversion. This way, you won’t only get an SEO-optimized website that can generate organic traffic consistently, but you’ll also ensure a high conversion rate for this valuable, hard-earned traffic.
4. Establish Thought Leadership Through High-Quality Content
It’s no secret that content is the core of any SEO strategy, but B2B SEO best practices require your content to be able to establish thought leadership.
Why? B2B decision-makers tend to be logical and will need more convincing before they will make the purchase, and one of the best ways to convince them is to consistently publish high-quality and relevant content to keep them engaged.
Even if you don’t blog a lot on your site (although you should), you should heavily optimize your product’s descriptions with B2B SEO principles. Focus on communicating your product’s unique value propositions and include relevant sources of information (licenses, research reports), and make sure every information you include is up-to-date.
You may also want to consider implementing structured data/schema markup on your site’s content so that Google can properly understand every element of your content. This will also make your site eligible for rich snippets.
5. Optimize Your Page for Valuable Long-Tail Keywords
Since the average search volume in the B2B space is already relatively low, we can leverage long-tail keywords in our B2B SEO tactics to focus on relevancy in targeting user intent.
Obviously, it’s much easier to understand the search intent in a long-tail keyword. For example, it’s difficult to understand the intent behind “accounting software”, but it’s much easier to understand the searcher’s intent for “how to use accounting software.”
Also, B2B customers tend to use long-tail keywords more as they go deeper into the bottom of the funnel. Thus, although these long-tail keywords may bring fewer organic visitors to our website
Besides the fact that it’s easier to understand and optimize for, it’s typically easier to rank for these long-tail keywords due to the lower competition.
In short, don’t solely focus on high-volume, popular short-tail keywords that might be too competitive. There are long-tail keywords that might be just as, if not even more valuable.
6. Effective Link-Building By Incorporating Link Hooks
One of the most important ranking factors in B2B SEO is to generate more high-quality backlinks, but we all know that getting these links from authoritative and relevant sites can often be the biggest challenge in any SEO campaign, even more in B2B SEO with fewer link sources.
So, what can we do about it?
First, it’s important to understand the basic foundation that your link-building strategy will only be as strong as the strength (quality) of your content: if your content is good, you’ll get those links sooner or later. On the other hand, no amount of link-building tactics can help low-quality content.
However, we can help our quality content to get more links by adding link hooks, essentially a piece of information that might be useful for others to they’ll link your content, and they can be:
- Unique data and information (data roundup, white paper, research results, statistics, etc.) People tend to link other sites when they mention such information
- Unique and interesting story (i.e. “my experience of losing 30lbs in a week”)
- Visual assets like infographics, beautiful photos, images, videos, etc. are always effective in generating more links
- A totally unique take on a certain topic
And so on.
In short, give them a reason to link your content.
7. Embrace Competitive Analysis
SEO, by nature, is a competitive field: you are trying to beat your competition to rank higher than them.
So, it would only make sense to perform competitive analysis as a part of your B2B SEO best practices.
The most basic form of competitive analysis (that is still extremely effective) is to do a quick Google search for your target keywords and see who is ranking on these keywords: they are your competitors.
Analyze their approaches with their content: they probably have some information you haven’t mentioned in your article, they are probably longer and more in-depth, and so on. Your job is to:
- Create better, more in-depth, more informative content than your competitors
- Be unique and cover the topic from a different angle
Also, check for your keyword gaps: keywords your competitors are ranking for but you haven’t targeted. These can be low-hanging fruit opportunities for you to target next.
It’s also important to perform a backlink analysis on your competitors. Their sources of backlinks are also potential sources for you. You can arrange an outreach campaign to target these websites and build healthy relationships.
To summarize, gather as much information as you can about your competitor’s SEO strategy: improve upon what’s working for them, and avoid their mistakes.
8. Track Progress and Conversions
Since SEO is a long-term game, it’s very important to monitor your progress against the B2B SEO campaign’s objectives so you can make the necessary adjustments as soon as they are required.
Remember that ranking is not the end goal of SEO: ranking alone won’t bring much value unless it also brings organic traffic, which in turn can help generate leads, conversions, and ultimately, sales.
Thus, you should monitor at least the following metrics:
- Keyword ranking: pretty self-explanatory, if your ranking isn’t climbing as desired, you should adjust your B2B SEO tactics
- Organic traffic. You can track organic traffic quite easily with the free Google Analytics.
Your organic traffic should grow steadily (or decline steadily) in proportion to your page’s ranking (if it climbs higher in SERP ranking, it should generate more organic traffic).
- New backlinks: and referring domain. There are various tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs that can help in backlinks analysis.
- Organic conversions: you can use Google Analytics to track the number of conversions based on your site’s objective, including purchase conversions, email newsletter signups, phone calls, etc.
- Page speed: use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check for issues related to page speed performance
- Engagement/UX metrics: like bounce rate, dwell time, pages per visit, and so on. You can track these engagement metrics and use the data to develop better, more engaging content.
- Click-through rate (CTR): High organic CTR indicates that your title and META description are already appealing to your target audience. Optimize them otherwise.
- New vs returning visitors: although the main objective of SEO is to bring new people to your site, getting them to return is a useful indicator that your traffic is the right fit for your site, and that you are already meeting their needs with your content.
9. Build Brand Recognition and Awareness Effectively
As we’ve discussed above, in B2B SEO we should focus our content to help establish our thought leadership and expertise in the industry. However, this is also a good opportunity to build your brand recognition.
The basic idea is to ensure that the more people that read and share your content, the more people will recognize your brand and associate it with the niche.
You can do this by including branding meta title tags in your content. When possible, you can put your brand name at the end of your title tags like this: “Content Title | Brand Name”. While this might not directly affect your SEO performance, it can help the search engine algorithms to associate your brand with your target keywords.
So, you can do the following with your title:
- Keyword 1 | Keyword 2 | Brand Name
- Keyword 1 & Keyword 2 | Brand Name
However, make sure your title is natural and easily understood by human readers and not sounding too hard-selling. Also, keep your title short (under 60 characters) because Google and the other search engines truncate titles that are too long. You’d want your title to be displayed fully.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to be too obnoxious, you can include your brand name in the META description instead of your title.
Doing this can help establish your brand’s authority in the niche, and both your users and the search engines can recognize that you are a trustworthy brand for the target keywords.
10. Optimize Mobile User Experience
Yes, even in the B2B environment, more and more employees now exclusively use their mobile devices to perform work-related online activities, including searching for solutions for work-related problems where they might stumble upon your content.
Thus, we should definitely consider making every element on our B2B website mobile-responsive and/or mobile-friendly.
Before anything else, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check whether your site is already mobile-friendly.
If you are using WordPress, then you can simply update your Theme into a mobile-responsive Theme. Nowadays you can choose from thousands of completely mobile-responsive Themes, even free ones, so this shouldn’t be an issue. However, make sure your Theme won’t be too much of a burden to your site’s load time.
If you are using platforms like Wix or SquareSpace, among other visual website builders that are popular lately, most of them are already using mobile-friendly designs, but you should still double-check every element on your website as follows:
- Make sure it’s easy for your users to click on buttons, scroll through menus, and interact with different elements on your website with their thumbs, even on smaller screens. It’s best to test on as many devices as possible for this factor.
- Make sure your CTAs are easy to find and easily clickable on smaller screens. Your audience should be able to find your CTA on the page immediately, and it should be big enough without blocking other elements and content.
- If you are using forms, make sure the fields are easily clickable on mobile screens, and don’t include too many fields.
- Very important, make sure fonts are readable on smaller screens. You might want to choose bolder fonts or use larger font sizes if necessary.
Also, be very careful with pop-ups. While pop-ups can be effective in catching your user’s attention, they can easily block the entire screen on a mobile device, which will annoy the users and might cause them to bounce immediately.
In general, don’t use too many pop-ups, and make sure to always give them an easy way to exit the pop-up (typically a prominent ‘X’ at the top-right corner)
As you can see, there are a lot of different factors that can be considered in B2B SEO best practices, but the ten B2B SEO tactics we have shared above are among the most important for you to successfully climb Google’s ranking in 2021. You can also consult with B2B SEO agency Nine Peaks Media if you are looking to streamline your SEO and grow organic traffic faster.
However, arguably the most important factor to consider is to really understand your target audience, which can be a very complicated process in a B2B space. In the B2B sales cycle there can be several different decision-makers involved in the process, and each of them is a unique buyer persona.
Understanding each of these buyer personas and delivering the right content to address their needs remain the best way to improve engagement, get more backlinks, and improve conversion rates, all of them should be your most important objectives in implementing B2B SEO.