B2B Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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B2B search engine optimization (SEO) is an online marketing strategy designed to help your business’s website rank higher in organic searches. B2B SEO does not inherently differ from B2C SEO, but it does need to be more pointed than SEO techniques intended to rank B2C sites. In B2B marketing, your target audience is often narrower and content is more technical and industry-specific.

Therefore, determining impactful B2B SEO objectives and utilizing solid B2B SEO strategies is imperative for your B2B marketing success.

What is SEO (search engine optimization)?

Search engine optimization (SEO) involves best practices intended to increase traffic to your website using organic search engine results. When a user searches on a search engine such as Google or Bing, algorithms determine which webpages should show up.  

Ranking well involves three primary tactics:

3 core B2B SEO tactics

1.   On-page optimization – The content you create and how that content is structured and implemented contributes heavily to which keywords you’ll be visible for, and how high you’ll rank for them. This includes written, image, and video content.

2.   Off-page signals – Other websites that link and cite your content validate your website’s legitimacy to search engines.

3.   Technical considerations – Google is very outspoken about user experience as a ranking signal. Mobile-friendliness, HTTPS, and page speed are already included in Google’s algorithms. Core Web Vitals are more complex technical factors that Google announced in May 2020.

How SEO works and factors to consider

Websites are visited regularly by search engine crawlers which use the information gathered about these websites to create an index. SEO operates by gathering information in response to a search. The index is filtered through an algorithm to provide users with the best answers to a query. 

Several factors can affect the search engine’s algorithm. Here is a non-exhaustive list, as search engines aren’t fully transparent about the hundreds of ranking factors or their weight:  

  • Keyword usage and contextual relevancy
  • Backlinks: the quantity and quality of websites linking back to your content
  • User, usage and traffic or query data
  • Brand signals: the mentions of (and links to) your brand, legitimacy of social media profiles, and physical location with a valid Google My Business listing
  • Content length, readability and unique value: this factor is incredibly important as the unique value of content will drive both user engagement and backlinks. Duplicate content should be avoided at all costs.
  • Technical considerations: there is a growing list of technical optimizations including site speed, security and mobile-friendliness
  • Specific content features including images, video, schema and metadata
  • Domain-level authority

This is just a sampling of the many different ways to optimize your site and related content to help search engines better recognize you as a valuable and reliable source of relevant information that explains what you do and what benefits you offer.

Why is B2B SEO important in the sales process?

Key decision-makers in the business world are searching for you, so you need to be quickly and easily accessible by organic means. More than 60% of B2B marketers are searching the web organically to learn about a company, assess its reputation and weigh its reviews prior to making business decisions. Additionally, stats convey that 68% of all online experiences begin with an organic search, making SEO a powerful tool in the B2B sales process.

In the B2B world, not only do you want to be quick-and-easy to find, but it’s imperative to show that you’re credible or that you’re an expert in your field, which is often reflected by your ranking and availability as a reliable source. Business professionals are looking for high-quality information that assures them of your relevance and knowledge. They’re interested in content that conveys a thorough and profound message with underlying tones of leadership, authority and trust.  

In addition to branded queries related to a user’s investigation of your organization, many searches are informational in nature.

The more industry-relevant content you are able to create in order to solve user intent, the more likely your website and brand will be visible to the user.

Benefits of SEO vs paid campaigns for B2B marketing

SEO can have many benefits for B2B marketing over paid campaigns, which include Google Ads, social media ads, and display campaigns. The two marketing methods can be combined but should not be considered equal. Paid campaigns are a one-time expense with little residual effects, but when looking to the longevity of returns, SEO is the better investment. In the short-term, SEO can be slow to make its mark, but long-term, it’s well worth the effort.

Making SEO a key component of your B2B marketing approach can provide you the following benefits:

  • SEO is the more cost-effective choice in the long-run: This is especially helpful when you’re operating on a tight budget. For SEO, it’s a bit more difficult to calculate your return on investment (ROI), it can take months to really take off, and it does involve an initial investment, but it also has a lesser cost per acquisition (CPA) over the long-term than PPC.  To outrank your competitors, create and distribute great content. The start-up can outrank the established brand with incredible content creation, while paid campaigns are often wrought with competition for immediate results that drive up bids on keywords and audiences.
  • SEO has a longer lifespan: SEO is an investment that grows in value over time. If implemented correctly, a proper search engine optimization strategy will pay dividends in perpetuity. Over time, content, backlinks, and domains become more valuable due to their legitimacy from Google’s perspective.
  • SEO is sustainable: Since paid campaigns come at a cost and their effect quickly fades without additional investment, it’s not a realistic long-term investment for startups and small businesses. 
  • Organic results are preferred: Users place more trust in organic results than paid ads. Organic results are so effective, in fact, that they typically derive 15 times the clickthrough rate (CTR) of paid search results if you’re doing SEO right and ranking well. This also means incorporating link-building into your SEO strategy, since over 90% of pages don’t rank and therefore, aren’t ever seen via an organic search.
  • SEO is 24/7: Paid campaigns are a great way to build brand awareness, but Forbes estimates that Americans are flooded with 4,000 to 10,000 ads daily, so ad filtering is becoming more commonplace. With paid strategies, you need to determine how and when your ads should populate. SEO allows for your content to always be working for you. A solid SEO foundation, though, can always get a boost from paid media distribution.

How to prioritize your content

Prioritizing your content means creating an effective B2B content marketing strategy that helps to establish authority in your niche and supports your sales objectives using both video and written content and varying distribution channels. This also means being very strategic about your SEO tactics and keyword usage.

For example, sometimes opting for low-volume keywords over those with the highest search volume will drive more quality traffic to your site, unlike the typical B2C SEO model, because B2B audiences are typically very specialized. In fact, the more specific, the better, since nearly 70% of search inquiries contain four or more words.

Here are nine tips to help you prioritize and properly strategize your content:

  1. Be specific about your company and sales objectives
  2. Determine your precise audience or create a buyer persona
  3. Research and brainstorm relevant and valuable content
  4. Figure out what form of content will resonate best with your audience
  5. Build your content base and prepare a content calendar
  6. Keep up with current trends and information that would excite your audience
  7. Find out where your audience spends the most time accessing content and how to best reach them
  8. Regularly measure the effectiveness of your content
  9. Experiment with tools to help streamline and execute your content plan

Create a 10X content piece

Coined by Moz and SparkToro founder Rand Fishkin, 10x content is a content piece that is ten times better than the highest-ranking result for a specific keyword. 

Creating 10x content isn’t a simple task, but the results are clear and quantifiable. 10x content results in more links, higher rankings, and more traffic into your funnel. To create 10x content, hire an experienced B2B SEO agency that will research your industry, potential client base, and competitors to deliver content that will impress your prospects and rank high on Google.

How to do B2B SEO keyword research and competitive analysis

Keyword research and competitive analysis are key components to a well-thought-out SEO strategy. Determining what your audience is searching for and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your top competitors can help you flesh out a content marketing plan that covers your bases and capitalizes on untapped opportunities.

In the beginning, craft your SEO and content strategies in such a way that concentrates on lowering your resistance. You want to start with your “low hanging fruit,” or easiest targets, and expand from there. Additionally, focus on areas of low competition to derive the highest value since your audience will be presented with little to no options but to rely on you.

This is a complex process involving several steps to devise the most effective plan that complements your business and sales goals. Working with a professional to find the best keywords for your SEO strategy, determine the level of competition you’re faced with and assess your ability to produce high-quality content that generates backlinks and ranks, can get you seeing returns faster and save you valuable time and resources long-term.

Types of search queries and user intent

There’s an array of scientific research that goes into user intent. A 2006 study conducted by the University of Hong Kong determined that on a fundamental level users have two main search goals. The first goal is to find information specific to the exact keyword searched, and the second is to find more general information related to a topic in its entirety. This intent can further be divided into how narrow or exhaustive the user is.

A culmination of studies on this subject have led to the way engineers design search engines to return results to users. The idea is to fully meet the needs of the user following a measurable scale found in the Google Search Quality Rating Guidelines. When you search for a specific need, not only do the results reflect a solution to that need but also how to achieve that solution within close vicinity to your home or business, if necessary.

In addition to understanding user intent, search queries can be separated into three distinct categories:

1.   Transactional queries: This type of query is intended to perform a specific action, such as a purchase.

2.   Informational queries: This query allows a user to acquire knowledge about a specific topic.

3.   Navigational queries: This focused query takes you exactly where you want to go. For instance, if you search for a particular brand, known entity or website, the results will reflect this intent.

Stages in the buyer journey

Understanding the buyer’s journey in marketing can help you develop SEO strategies to implement at each stage to attract potential customers and ensure increased conversions. There are three main stages including awareness, consideration, and decision. Each stage further corresponds to a portion of marketing or sales funnel that leads to the buyer’s final purchase.

The top of the funnel, or beginning of the buyer’s journey, shows the buyer’s initial distance from a purchasing decision. As you get the buyer to move through the process to the bottom of the funnel, they are closer to becoming a customer. There are three things you need to do to convert buyers: attract, engage and delight.

  • You attract your buyers when they are mere strangers and seeking initial awareness of what you have to offer. Content is paramount at this stage to make your potential customer aware of their problem and the solution you can give them. The best way to get the attention of your buyers at this stage, is via informational blog posts, industry-specific research, and measurable data.
  • Next, as they start to consider your product or service, you need to engage them by reaching out to them via email, retargeting and social media. Also, consider expert guides and case studies to influence their decision. You want to convince them of why they should acquire a solution through your business specifically. Convince them of your expertise and superior performance.
  • Finally, you want to delight the buyer in their decision to convert to a customer. Provide them with a valuable and impressionable experience. Continue marketing to them via email, loyalty programs, and retargeting and remarketing efforts. Additionally, customer reviews and product comparisons can turn your buyers into no-cost promoters for your business, attracting new leads.  

SEO also supports the inverted funnel of account-based marketing, as in-depth content developed with specific personas in mind can meet a user’s intent and rank well on search engines. 

Hub and Spoke content topics

The hub and spoke model in content marketing provides a framework to organize your content and better funnel your buyers through each stage of the conversion process. Larger overview pages for particular topics are called the hub pages. These hub pages link to more in-depth topical pages called the spokes. The spokes take certain aspects of the overall subject matter and expound on them in greater detail and relevance for more focused solutions to buyer problems that satisfy user intent.

This is great for SEO because it provides a neighborhood of content relevancy and a natural way to provide in-depth coverage on subtopics with context. Essentially, the hub and spoke model gives you a way to develop authority with linkable assets, raising your ranking on search engines.

Importance of developing linkable assets for B2B SEO

Keywords are a primary focus for SEO considerations, but they are still just one part of the SEO process. Linkable assets can take great content with stellar keywords and boost it above its competitors on search engines by supporting your credibility, establishing your industry-leading authority, and providing you with that next level of needed exposure.

Linkable assets are simply informational pieces of content that are valuable and engaging enough to be worthy of linking to and sharing by your audience and other bloggers or writers. Three things to consider when attempting to create content with linkable assets are:

1.   Focus on your audience over your brand

2.   Do your research and provide in-depth information

3.   Make it highly useful and relevant

Backlinks and B2B link-building

B2B link-building is necessary to rank your content and support your SEO efforts. Links also build professional relationships, increase authority in your industry, and establish brand credibility. Getting backlinks from websites with more authority than yours boosts both the page being linked to as well as your entire domain. As your domain authority builds, so will your ranking for more competitive keywords. As you make a name for your brand, search engines will be quick to recognize your website and see your business as a valuable result.

Effective ways to build links for your B2B business include:

  • Be a podcast guest: Make sure it’s relevant content and that the episode will be referenced on an active, frequented, and authoritative website.
  • Host a live stream: Not only is live streaming a great way to engage in a dialogue with your audience, but it will generate links and shares from participants and your audience.
  • Ask guests to link back to you: When someone volunteers to be your guest on a blog, webinar, live chat, podcast, etc., you can always ask them to link back to you when sharing the content. They can post the content to their own website with a shout-out back to you.
  • Press relationships:  If you don’t have established relationships with journalists, use Help a Reporter Out to identify opportunities to provide your expertise. When the article is published, you’ll likely get a link back to your website.
  • Network: In your B2B niche, leverage your relationships and network to identify opportunities for backlinks from partners.
  • Raving Fans: If your customers are happy (how’s your NPS?!), you can request that they link back to your content. 

SEO is an important component of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy for your business. When evaluating how to increase your business’s opportunities and revenue, feel free to reach out to the B2B SEO experts of Second Eclipse to discuss what the right mix of strategies is and how B2B SEO should fit into your marketing mix.