With 9 out of 10 B2B marketers using content marketing, competition for attention is more fierce than ever. The constant battle with Google algorithm and indexing updates and the masking of useful data against which to optimize has caused many ambiguities when it comes to implementing traditional SEO advice.
That doesn’t mean search doesn’t warrant top priority. Search is core to finding answers in daily business life: Google handles 100 billion queries monthly and 16% of those queries have never been seen before. According to a recent DemandGen report, 81% of B2B buyers start their journey to finding solutions through search.
That means there are huge opportunities for continuous optimization of content performance in search to attract, engage and convert. Great SEO strategy also contributes to great user experience, so it should play an essential role in every digital marketing mix.
To get the most out of organic search optimization in a very social and content marketing focused world, I think it’s important to make the distinction that most SEO is based on anticipating demand. Alternatively, content marketing and social media have a very big hand in actually creating awareness and interest for B2B products and services through education and buzz.
The distinction will help companies get far more out of their online marketing strategies. How? By focusing SEO efforts on optimizing for what we know customers are actually looking for and also to get the most out of search discovery driven by paid, earned and owned media content.
Another way of looking at this is that a tactical SEO approach involves identification of popular keywords relevant to existing content and then implementing a mix of SEO copywriting, technical SEO audits, linking and social media promotion to create or improve signals for search engines.
Strategic SEO will consider the customer journey from Awareness to Purchase to Advocacy and the planned content, media, advertising, public relations, offline events and promotions that generate demand. A strategic approach to SEO then helps B2B companies get the most value out of their content and media investments by making them easy to find where ever relevant prospects are looking.
SEO That Optimizes for Demand:
For example, let’s say a marketing software company wants to increase inbound leads through search engines. They’ll do the relevant keyword research based on existing content and maybe competitors to identify which keywords are most in demand according to certain product features and problems solved for specific market segments.
Popular and relevant phrases are then used to create a keyword glossary that is mapped to existing website content for optimization through copywriting, links and off site promotion (links and social shares). There’s more to SEO than that, but these are the basics most companies implement.
Content That Creates Demand:
Alternatively, let’s say a business services company is investing in a content marketing strategy to develop the kinds of information that will create awareness, interest and consideration in a specific market or channel. That content plan will also provide the kinds of information that directly influence inquiries and support the sales process.
A strategic initiative like this may be supported by advertising, offline events (speaking/sponsoring), social networking, visual media/interactive, media relations and email marketing. The content and media involved in this example can be discovered in numerous ways outside of search. The focus on education and awareness vs. always on “buy now!” creates awareness early on in the sales cycle and helps position B2B brands gain preference critical to influencing buying decisions.
Best Case Scenario: Optimized & Socialized Content
Planned content designed to provide useful information across the sales cycle is effective and represents the price of admission for the most fundamental of digital marketing initiatives. B2B buyers pull themselves through 70% of the buying cycle before ever talking to a sales rep, so it’s important to gain early awareness and engagement.
Applying search and social media optimization best practices for content to become known as “the best answer” wherever prospects are looking or engaging online is where a lot of companies fall down. Therefore, doing so is a competitive advantage.
With strategic content marketing, it’s important that B2B marketers make sure SEO is more than just a checklist item. Include optimization of known demand keywords and topics as part of demand creation efforts through new content and digital assets, social media, advertising and PR. Extend the reach of earned, owned and paid media by including search optimization for those content types as well.
Think of optimization in terms of how the brand wants to be known and also in terms of the customer journey. How does your target audience discover information online? What are their preferences for content consumption? What kinds of information and will motivate them to take action and further themselves along the sales funnel? These are essential questions for more effective content marketing.
Where to Learn More:
I’ll be presenting on this very topic at the B2B Content2Conversion Conference in New York (sold out) this week . This event includes other awesome B2B marketers like Michael Brenner from SAP, Ann Handley from MarketingProfs, Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute, Ardath Albee from Marketing Interactions and many more.
My presentation is titled: “Content Optimization: How to Integrate Search, Social and Inbound to Drive Demand”. If you’re registered, I hope to see you there on Tuesday.
Beyond that presentation, helping companies develop integrated content, social and search strategies is something we do every day at TopRank. Give us a call or email and if we’re booked or not a fit, we can certainly point you in the right direction whether it’s other consultants, tools or additional events for education.
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