In a B2B environment, SEO is among one of the most effective marketing channels in generating leads and customers, but implementing proper SEO can be easier said than done.
On the other hand, since SEO is by nature, a long-term game, when not implemented properly, it can take forever until you get any impact at all from your SEO campaign, making it a waste of time and resources instead.
When implementing B2B SEO, it’s very important to understand that B2B SEO is no longer about simply stuffing your pages with your target keywords and building low-quality links.
Google and the other search engines are getting smarter at understanding a page’s context in relation to the target keyword and now the quality of the backlinks are just as, if not more important than quantity.
Thus, B2B SEO in 2021 requires a more holistic approach in delivering high-quality, relevant content to your target audience, and in this guide, we will discuss how.
However, so that we are on the same page, let us start from the very beginning: the initial concept of SEO.
What Is SEO?
SEO, as we know, stands for Search Engine Optimization, and as the name suggests it is about the efforts to optimize our website (or web pages) so that it can rank higher on Google’s and the other search engines’ SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for specific queries/keywords.
However, how exactly can we achieve that?
It’s important to understand that SEO is not a hack or a secret technique to ‘cheat’ Google’s algorithm so you can rank higher. Instead, it is about optimizing our web page and its content to align better with Google’s and the other search engines’ main objectives: organizing and publishing valuable and relevant information for their users.
So, the basic principle of implementing SEO is fairly simple: the more useful and relevant your content and website are for your target audience, the higher you will rank. SEO is a series of optimizations made on your website (on-site optimizations) and outside your website (off-site optimizations) to ensure your website is more valuable, relevant, and accessible for your target audience.
Another important thing to understand is that ranking, even the #1 ranking, is not the end goal of SEO. Ranking on its own won’t give any tangible value to your B2B business, instead, your objective should be to increase the quantity and quality of organic traffic, which in turn will help you in generating more leads, conversions, and ultimately, more sales.
B2B SEO: Why Is It Unique?
B2B SEO is unique when compared to B2C SEO in several important ways, mainly because of the different target customers served.
Remember that the core idea of SEO is to deliver value to this target audience, and this is why SEO has to be approached differently for a B2B organization, mainly because of three different things:
- The nature of the product/service offered: B2B products or services are typically designed to help the client’s business to perform better in a tangible way (i.e. help our client grow their profit).
- The sales cycle and life cycle of the product/service: a B2B sales cycle is typically longer than its B2C counterpart, and there can be multiple decision-makers involved in the purchase decision. In SEO this would translate to the need of developing different content to target these different decision makers (that often have different roles and needs).
- The specific needs or requirements of your B2B prospects: typically B2B decision-makers have to be ‘convinced’ in a logical way that your product/service can indeed help their company. This can result in the need for more technical, data-driven content when developing our SEO content.
To be more specific, there are also several unique challenges to B2B SEO we should consider:
- Low volume target keywords
There are obviously more people searching for B2C-related keywords every month than B2B-specific keywords (i.e. “best Netflix show” vs “best POS software for small restaurants”). This is also caused by the more complex and typically longer sales funnel in the B2B environment.
So, keyword research in a B2B SEO setting is often much more challenging, and B2B SEO marketers would need to really understand their target audience’s intent in searching for these keywords. So, in B2B SEO, we are not solely focusing on search volume, but rather the quality and intent of the search.
- Lower conversion rate
Typically click-to-sale conversion rates are always lower in B2B settings companies when compared to their B2C counterparts, although these conversions would typically translate into a much higher value than selling a single B2C product. This is why, again, knowing the B2B target audience and demonstrating why your product/service and your company are their best solution is very important.
B2B customers want the confidence that you are a reputable and trustworthy company even before they’ll inquire with your company. This is why establishing thought leadership by delivering valuable and relevant content is the core of B2B SEO strategy.
Step-By-Step Guide To Effective B2B SEO Strategy
Step1: Understanding Target Audience To Develop B2B SEO Strategy
As discussed, typically B2B keywords have lower search volume, which will translate to lower organic traffic. On the other hand, the average conversion rate is also typically lower than in a B2C website.
Meaning, in B2B SEO we have to really make sure that the right people are visiting the website to maximize what we have, and this is why a core foundation of B2B SEO is to identify your target audience and really understand their needs, behaviors, pain points, and search intents, among other factors.
As discussed, a unique thing in the B2B environment is the fact that there can be multiple decision-makers involved in the sales cycle, but we also have to consider the buying influencers as our SEO target audience.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this: let’s assume we are a B2B company selling marketing automation software to other companies. In this case, the buying decision-maker can be the CMO or CEO, but the users who are going to use the software can be a buying influencer (i.e. a marketing officer suggesting your software to their marketing manager).
Influencers and decision-makers will have different pain points and needs: they will search for different queries on Google, and we have to also consider how different decision-makers with different roles (i.e. a CEO and a CMO) might also have their unique needs. You will need to consider this in your SEO strategy.
One of the most important objectives of your B2B SEO is to shorten the sales cycle, and by delivering the most relevant and valuable content for each purchase influencers and decision-makers, you can achieve this objective.
By properly understanding each of your target audiences, you know how to optimize your content and implement the right SEO strategy to attract the most ideal audience to your website.
Step 2: Analyze Your Sales Funnel
Before we can properly develop our SEO strategy, we have to understand how your B2B business’s unique sales funnel actually works in relation to your target audience–which we have discussed in the previous step.
Why is understanding your sales funnel important for SEO? The basic idea is that we should develop specific and relevant content for each target audience/buyer persona at each stage of the sales funnel.
A basic B2B sales funnel goes like this:
- Awareness: in this stage, you would try to capture your prospect’s attention so they can be aware of your existence. Broader, preliminary content works best in this stage.
- Research: the prospect is already aware of their (or their company’s) problem and is looking for a solution. Yet, they may not know exactly what solution they’d need to purchase or are probably comparing between different solutions. Our focus in this stage is to establish thought leadership and to convince them that your solution is the best for their current problem.
- Decision: here the prospect is already serious about purchasing your solution, and they might just need a little extra push to seal the deal. In this stage, your focus is to help your prospect make the final decision, and ensure they have everything they need to convert.
So, what you should do in this step? While there can be various different approaches you can try, in general, you can:
- Gather as much data as you can via your analytics and monitoring tools. Track how customers are finding your business (i.e. from which channels, which search queries, etc. ). Grab key metrics like average time to purchase, reasons they might abandon the sales process, lifetime value of a customer, and more.
- Discuss the details with your sales and marketing team, ask them to explain the funnel, the most important touchpoints, and other important details you might need
Step 3: Perform SEO Audit
The next step here is to perform an SEO audit of your website to assess its current state.
SEO audit is a pretty deep subject on its own, and you might want to check out our dedicated guide for SEO audit. However, here are some important aspects you should audit:
- Crawl and indexation issues: make sure Google can crawl and index your pages properly. You can use Google Search Console and other tools for this purpose
- HTTPS status codes: whether your site has properly use HTTPS certificate
- XML Sitemap: make sure your sitemap is properly formatted as an XML document and follows Google’s XML sitemap protocol.
- Page speed: use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to measure your site’s load time and potential issues related to load speed.
- Mobile-friendliness: check whether your site is already mobile-friendly and/or mobile-responsive.
- Keyword opportunities and cannibalization: check for potential keywords your site already rank for (i.e. on the 2nd page of SERP) and whether there are two or more pages competing for the same target keyword (cannibalization).
- Robots.txt: check your robots.txt file whether it’s properly configured
Remember that these aren’t the only factors that might be important for your SEO audit, and again, refer to our guide to technical SEO audit for a more thorough discussion.
Step 4: Keyword Research
Proper keyword research based on your buyer persona/target audience is a crucial part of any B2B SEO strategy. By targeting the right keywords alone, you can significantly boost the success rate of your SEO campaign.
The basic idea of B2B keyword research is to consider the different buyer personas you’ve identified above and use these three principles:
- The target keyword should be relevant for the specific buyer persona, measured with high enough monthly search volume
- The target keyword should be relevant for your business/product/service. Obviously, not all keywords that are searched by your target audience will relate to your product/service.
- Based on your SEO budget and the deadline of your SEO project, the competition for this target keyword should be manageable. If the keyword is too competitive, it might be not worth pursuing even if the search volume is really high.
Again, you should consider the different stages of the sales funnel to understand the search intent of each keyword, and you should consider the following:
- What problems your target audience is currently facing, and what kinds of search queries they might search related to these problems
- How is your product/service a potential solution for these problems
- The main/unique features of your product and service
Last but not least, you can use various keyword research tools to check your competitors’ target keywords and which keywords are driving high organic traffic for them. You can potentially target these keywords if the competition is manageable.
Step 5: Content Development for Different Personas At Different Stages of The Funnel
Remember that the main objective of developing your content is to establish thought leadership to convince your buyer personas and buying influencers that you are their best solution for their problems.
Thus, based on:
- The target keywords you’ve defined above
- The search intent of target personas
- The persona’s current stage at the sales funnel
We can develop a content strategy to cover the most relevant and valuable topic targeting the keywords.
You can start planning a 6-month or 12-month editorial calendar listing:
- The topic/working title of the content piece
- The target keyword (so it’s easier to track SEO performance)
- Who’s responsible for creating the content, and who’s responsible for publication and promotion
- The current status of the content (on progress, published, revised, etc.)
- The date the content is going to be published
- Where the channel is going to be published (which channel)
- How you are going to promote your content
Also, while you should mainly focus on your blog as the central information hub for your business, you should also diversify your content and use different content formats and medium to reach your target audience:
- Research reports/studies
- White papers and eBooks
- Video and live-streaming content
- Testimonials and case studies
- Tools relevant to your product
And so on.
Step 6: Optimize Your Landing Pages
The next step is to create optimized and solid landing pages to help drive your sale.
Remember, again, that organic traffic to your content and search ranking are not the ultimate goal of your SEO, but ultimately it’s about getting more sales.
It’s important to create a holistic strategy between your content and your landing pages: your content should drive your prospects to the landing page, and vice versa you can use your landing page as a hub for your content (i.e. by listing relevant content pieces on the landing page).
Your landing page should obviously be SEO-optimized, but we should focus on creating a landing page experience that provides relevant and valuable information related to your product and service.
Step 7: On-Page and Technical SEO Optimization
Similar to SEO audit, technical SEO optimization can involve many different aspects and can be a very deep subject to discuss, and you can refer to our technical SEO checklist guide for a clearer picture. However, here are some key areas to consider:
- Keyword optimization: make sure all your content is properly optimized according to the target keyword. However, include your keywords naturally and make sure your content is comprehensive and natural for your human readers
- Page speed: make sure your page speed is properly optimized
- Mobile-friendly: make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Test your website on as many devices as possible
- Optimize your URLs: shorter URL is always better, but make sure your human audience can understand what your URL is about. Use your main target keyword in your URL, and use dashes instead of underscores
- HTTPS: make sure your site uses HTTPS instead of HTTP. This is a very important SEO ranking factor.
- Structured data markup: implement schema.org markup accordingly so that your site is eligible for being featured as rich snippets
- Internal linking structure: check for broken links and orphan page, and optimize click depth. Make sure all redirects are working properly
Step 8: Content Promotion and Link Building
Backlinks remain one of the most important ranking factors for your SEO, but it’s very important to understand that nowadays, Google and the other search engines are not only considering the quantity of the content, but also quality: getting just one link from a high-quality site that is relevant to our niche would count more than getting 50 different links from low-quality, spammy sites that are not connected at all to your industry.
However, we all know getting these high-quality backlinks can be easier said than done, but there’s no shortcut besides your content quality: if your content is good, people will link you sooner or later, and vice versa, no amount of link-building strategy can help content that is inherently bad.
Yet, we can amplify your content’s linkability by making sure we give these link sources enough reason for them to link your content, the link hooks, which can be:
- A new, unique insight regarding a certain topic (i.e. a totally new idea about something)
- A piece of unique information/data, for example, a research report, white paper, data round-up, etc.
- An interesting story worth sharing (i.e. how your company was founded, if it’s interesting)
- Aesthetically pleasing assets (i.e. images, photos, infographics)
Only after we’ve ensured the content quality and its link hooks, we can move to various link building strategies to help build links to this content.
In general, we can differentiate link building strategies into three major groups:
Reaching out to a potential source of backlink and build quality relationships. For example by sending outreach emails to other websites and influencers relevant to your industry. Outreach link building strategies can involve many different forms: email, social media mention, blog commenting, and so on.
Pretty self-explanatory: we broadcast our requests for links to as many people as possible (i.e. by broadcasting your content on social media), with the hope that some of these people will give you those valuable backlinks.
Using various paid channels (i.e. Facebook Ads) to promote your content to amplify our broadcast reach and get those backlinks. Paying for guest posting opportunities or even paying directly for backlinks can be categorized here.
As we can see, the basic idea here is to promote our content via all the possible channels, while aiming to get more backlinks in the process.
It’s important to remember that SEO, including B2B SEO, is a long term-game. However, although it might take several months before you can see any significant result from your SEO campaign, it will be worth it in the long run as you’ll get a sustainable source of organic traffic, which in turn can generate more leads, customers, and sales.
It’s very important to work with an expert B2B SEO agency and monitor your SEO progress regularly, at least for the following factors:
- Your link profile, especially the number of backlinks you have and their growth
- Your ranking, and your organic traffic should also grow as your rank climbs higher
- The time people spend on your pages
- Bounce rate
By monitoring your progress and adjusting your tactics whenever necessary, you can successfully implement your B2B SEO strategy and grow your B2B business.