[Note from Lee: A few weeks ago, Michelle wrote a great post on Retail SEO tips and this week, I've asked her to tackle B2B SEO and general search marketing tips, since one-size SEO does not fit all programs. Enjoy!]
Search marketing should be a top priority for organizations in any industry. But B2B search marketing efforts take a slightly different form than the tactics used in consumer focused SEO and PPC programs . Typically, B2B markets are smaller, products and services are more complex, and sales cycles are longer. Therefore, B2B marketers must think a bit differently in terms of target keywords, online content and link building.
TopRank has worked with many companies using search marketing to reach Business to Business audiences over the past 8 years and we’d like to share these 5 B2B search marketing tips that can help companies maximize their results:
1. For B2B companies, getting found is just the beginning. While B2C companies can reasonably expect to generate a purchase from a single site visit, the sales cycle for B2B companies is much longer. Once a prospect finds the B2B website via search, the real work begins to convert the prospect to a sale. Understanding the B2B searcher and their position within the sales cycle (Evaluation, Consideration, Purchase) is essential for creating appropriate optimized content to meet their needs.
Additionally, web sites focusing on reaching B2B audiences, must focus an equal amount of effort on gaining relevant search engine rankings and the stickiness of their site. Visitors looking for B2B solutions can be convinced to stay on a site longer by:
- Providing the information prospects need to assess the company and its offerings
- Relying on analytics and user experience metrics to measure stickiness factors, such as time spent on specific pages, clickthrough rates on calls to action and length of visits
- Ongoing heatmap analysis to ensuring that the appropriate links are included on the home page to lead prospects to the most important content
2. Content is key for B2B websites. For B2C websites, the majority of content focuses purely on product information. Because sales conversions for B2B organizations are based more on building relationships, content must position that organization as an industry thought leader and a trusted resource. Including video demos, case studies and newsletters on a site can help B2B organizations build relationships with their audience.
For one client in the B2B marketing industry, TopRank devised a blog strategy incorporating industry thought leader interviews. Insight was gathered from notable figures and shaped into keyword-optimized blog posts for a special interview series. This tactic contributed to a nearly 50% increase in organic traffic to the blog. More importantly, referrals from the blog to the corporate site increased by more than 140%.
3. B2B target keyword glossaries must be more robust. Clearly, targeting the proper keywords is essential to any search marketing campaign. But for B2B organizations, keywords need to cover a longer buying cycle, and therefore must often be more diverse than B2C target keywords. Prospects at the beginning of a sales cycle might use certain terms to search for information that differs from terms used by those ready to purchase. That variety of keywords must be supported by relevant content and link building as well.
For one B2B client, TopRank® Online Marketing devised a robust keyword strategy that considered audiences at multiple touch points to achieve significant results. The realization was made that prospects who are ready to buy typically use solution-based terms – either general or exact product names – in their searches. On the other hand, prospects at the beginning of the sales cycle use issue- or problem-based terms in their searches. The target keyword glossary, therefore, included both specific product terms and issue-based terms. This helped increase keyword referrals by more than 60%.
4. B2B organizations must think outside the box when it comes to link-building. Because B2B markets are typically smaller than B2C markets, there may be fewer websites capable of linking to B2B sites. Consider the amount of fashion-related blogs compared to food processing technology blogs. To increase the number of inbound links to their sites, B2B organizations must get a little creative:
- B2B organizations can approach their supplier networks for inbound links to their site
- B2B organizations with a small target audience can create link bait focused on a different but related market
- For very specific niches, a B2B blog audience can be widened by blogging about more general company-related issues
5. B2B search marketing efforts have to speak to multiple entities within a business. Unlike B2C purchases, B2B purchases involve different stakeholders within a company. Each stakeholder comes to the site with a different set of expectations.
For example, a B2B site that sells recruitment software might be visited by a company’s HR manager to gauge the effectiveness of the software. A member of the company’s finance department might visit the site to assess the value of the product. In still another scenario, a member of the company’s IT department might visit the site to learn how the software can be integrated into the overall system.
B2B search marketing efforts must identify:
- Who in the business is buying products/services on the website
- The level of understanding stakeholders have about products/services
- The jargon different stakeholders use to find products/services
- The benefits that their business needs to receive from products/services
As you can see, there are some important considerations for B2B search marketing vs consumer focused audiences. The key is to understand the unique needs of the target audience, how they search, evaluate solutions, consume information and ultimately, how search affects decision making, both directly and indirectly.
What tips do you have for B2B organizations to add to this list?