Digital marketing has never been more important than it is now. With 0ver 67% of B2B purchases being influenced by digital, you have no option but to up your digital marketing game.

And the best place to start is with B2B keyword research.

To drive relevant traffic, generate inbound leads, and drive sales, you must have a proper B2B keyword research strategy in place. Failure to have one could result in you losing ground to your competitors and stunted growth for your business.

What is B2B Keyword Research? 

Keyword research is the practice of identifying the words and phrases people use to find a product, information, or solution to a particular problem. B2B keyword research is the practice of finding search phrases B2B buyers use when looking for a product to solve a problem in their organization.

The Purpose Of B2B Keyword Research

Why should B2B keyword research be the foundation of every B2B digital marketing campaign?

Reveals What Your Audience is Looking For

B2B keyword research helps you understand your target audience’s wants and needs. This is important as it enables you to align your brand, product, and messaging to appeal to your audience. It also helps you understand the stages your audience goes through as they research the solution to their problem. This, in turn, enables you to design an effective B2B buyer journey.

Helps You Understand the Competitive Landscape

Another vital purpose for conducting keyword research is that it helps you understand the competitive landscape your brand is in. For example, comparing how you and your competitors rank for specific keywords will help you know where you stand against your direct competitors. 

Informs Your Content Marketing Strategy

Content marketing is one of the best ways to:

  • Build trust
  • Educate
  • Drive traffic 
  • Generate inbound leads

For your content strategy to pay off, you must focus on the right keywords. Proper B2B keyword research will enable you to create content that answers your audience’s questions and helps them achieve their goals. As a result, you’ll establish yourself as a thought leader in your industry.

Directs Your SEO Efforts 

Running an effective SEO campaign is a tricky tightrope to walk. It entails creating a strategy that will help you woo search engines and B2B buyers. Executed well, a B2B SEO strategy results in you generating high-quality leads that have a higher chance of turning into paying customers.

The Challenges of B2B Keyword Research

B2B SEO is different from its B2C counterpart. One of the significant differences is in the way keyword research is done. For example, when conducting B2C keyword research, you’re only targeting one person. However, with B2B keyword research, you have to target a group responsible for making buying decisions for the organization.

Another difference is that as a B2B marketer, you also have to understand your ideal customer profile (ICP). This kind of organization would be the perfect fit for your product. Understanding your ICPs is vital as it helps you understand their pain points and aspirations, which are essential starting points to conducting B2B keyword research.

While the purpose of both B2B and B2C keyword research is the same, the process is different. B2B keyword research is more complex and requires deeper research as the B2B buyer cycle is longer. But more on that in a moment.

Understanding Search Intent & Buyer’s Journey

One of the most important aspects of keyword research is understanding search intent. Search intent simply means the reason behind a user inputting a particular search query in search engines. Also known as user intent, search intent has become a central component in B2B keyword research.

Understanding search intent is critical to your success as it helps you build effective buyer journeys. Here’s how that works:

Create Keyword Intent Buckets

To maximize the impact of search intent, you must create keyword intent buckets. These are just groups that represent similar intent. There are four main keyword intent buckets you’ll need to know:

  • Informational: This refers to searches where the user is looking for general information on a product or problem.  These usually contain the words “how”, “where,” or “when.”
  • Commercial: Commercial intent refers to searches where the user is ready to buy but is still comparing options. Commercial intent keywords usually feature words like “best”, “compare”, “reviews”, among others.
  • Navigational: The searcher is looking for a specific web page. Navigational searches usually include a brand name, web page name, or URL.
  • Transactional: Transactional intent is exhibited when a user is ready to make a purchase and knows what they are looking for. These usually feature words like “price,” “cheap,” “buy”, e.t.c.
  • Local: The searcher wants to go in-store and is looking for the best local service provider. These are usually followed by near me or location.

As you conduct your B2B keyword research, make sure to group your keywords according to the buckets above. This will help you create content that addresses questions searchers ask at different stages of your buyer journey.

This brings us to the next step.

Define Your Buyer’s Journey Stages

Just like keyword research, the concept of a buyer journey isn’t new. However, many marketers make the mistake of viewing them as two different disciplines.

However, your B2B keyword research should always be married to your buyer journey. After all, people are at different stages of the journey and search is essential to finding answers for each stage.

FYI, a buyer journey is a visualization of the stages your customers go through from the moment they realize they have a problem until they purchase your product. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll look at the three basic stages of the buyer journey — awareness, consideration, and decision. We’ll also look at how you can map your keywords to each stage.

Awareness

The awareness stage is where a customer realizes they have a problem. The keyword intent bucket to focus on is the informational intent bucket. Create informative content that helps users identify a problem and understand that it can be solved.

Consideration 

Customers on the consideration stage have defined their problem (or opportunity). They’re now looking for solutions to solve their problem or achieve their goals. The keyword intent bucket to focus on here is the commercial intent bucket. 

Users at this stage are looking for reviews, comparison posts, reports, and other types of content that can help them decide which solution to go for.

Decision 

By the time a searcher reaches the decision stage, they’re ready to buy. Therefore, your keyword intent buckets to leverage are the transactional and navigational intent buckets. If local search is a big part of your marketing strategy, you can also include the local intent bucket here.

At this stage, you can create case studies, landing pages, and other types of content designed to nudge visitors across the finish line.  

Obviously, there’s no one-size-fits-all buyer journey. Instead, each brand will have its own unique one determined by several factors such as the product, price, and length of the sales cycle, among many others. However, no matter how many stages there are in your buyer journey, always map your keywords to each stage and create content tailored to move users from one stage to the other. 

How to Effectively Analyze Keywords for Intent

How do you accurately figure out the intent behind a search?

This will take a bit of analysis on your part. Here are a few tips for effective keyword intent analysis:

Look at the SERPs 

Google only serves the most relevant content for search queries. To understand search intent, plug a keyword into your browser and look at the results you’re served with. This will give you a good idea of the intent behind that query. Also, take note of high-ranking competitor content.

Also, as you study the SERPs, pay attention to elements like featured snippets, and the People Also Ask feature. These will provide a wealth of knowledge about what people are looking for and the questions they’re asking around your keyword.

Consider Modifiers in the Keyword

Modifiers tell a lot about the intent behind a query. For example, high purchase intent keywords will include modifiers like “price,” “buy”, etc. On the other hand, low intent keywords will include modifiers like “how”, “what,” e.t.c. Both are extremely important and they do reinforce each other, so make sure you have good variance in your keyword portfolio.

Use Customer and User interviews

Another way to understand search intent is through customer/user interviews. Although this may take a bit more effort to plan and execute, it gives you better information. For this method, you’ll need to ask current and potential customers to tell you what they were looking for when they found you in search. To contact your customers, you can use surveys or emails. You can also pick up the phone and call them.

How to Conduct Keyword Research

Because keyword research is a critical component of an effective SaaS SEO strategy, it goes without saying that you must get it right. Here are a few tips for doing that:

1. Information Gathering

The first step to impactful B2B keyword research is gathering the right information to help you direct your content creation. To do that:

Brainstorm Topic Ideas

What kind of content is your target audience looking for? 

Write down potential topic ideas you think your target audience would be interested in.

Spy on Your Competitors

Check out what your competitors are doing in terms of content. Take particular note of the keywords driving the most traffic to their web pages. Ideally, you should look at 5-10 key competitors to get a clearer picture.

Check Existing Rankings

The SERPs provide a wealth of information on the content you should be producing. Check out top-ranking content and investigate which keywords are helping them get there.

Interview SMEs and Customer-facing Teams

Another effective way of gathering information for your keyword research is to interview subject matter experts (SMEs) and any customer-facing personnel on your team. Because these interact with your customers, they know the common questions customers ask and issues they face.  

2. Place Keyword Ideas Into a Keyword Tool for Analysis

Once you have keyword ideas to run with, the next step is to put them in a keyword research tool. We’ll look at the best ones in a moment.

When you plug in your keywords in your keyword research tool, you’ll want to check:

  • Monthly search volume: Refers to the number of searches that feature that keyword in a month.
  • Competitiveness scores (like keyword difficulty): Show how easy or difficult it is to rank for that search term.
  • If you already rank for the term: Keyword research tools will show your position on SERPs for a particular keyword. This helps you know how much work you have to put in to rank on position #1.
  • Cost per click: This metric shows how much it will cost you when users click your ad that features that particular keyword.
  • Traffic potential: Traffic potential is a metric that shows an estimate of the traffic you can expect to drive to your content when you rank for that keyword.
  • Location data: Shows where most visitors who search for that keyword are located.

This is invaluable data that will help you choose the right keywords for your campaigns. Keywords that will help you craft effective B2B inbound marketing campaigns.

3. Apply Filters to Make Your Keyword List More Manageable

When you conduct keyword research, mainly when using a keyword research tool, you’ll discover that you have a lot of keywords to work with. The best way to filter out irrelevant keywords and those that aren’t profitable, you’ll have to apply filters. Examples of filters you can use include:

  • Volume limits: Set this to filter our keywords with little or no traffic. For example, keywords that have less than 50 searches per month.
  • At least 2-3 words per keyword: Typically, one-worded keywords are extremely difficult to rank for and have no commercial value.
  • Keyword difficulty: Aim for keywords that are between 20-60. These are not too low that they have no value and not too high to be unattainable. However, this is mainly dependent on your domain authority (DA).

4. Manually Review Each Keyword for Prioritization

While keyword research tools are a great way of determining the right keywords to target, you’ll also need to evaluate them manually. A few questions you can ask to determine this include:

  • Does your company have the “right to own” this keyword/topic? 
  • Does the keyword describe your business or the solution you provide?
  • Do the sites ranking on the first page look and sound like you?
  • Do you have the necessary amount of domain rating or backlinks to compete for that keyword?

These and other questions are a great way to evaluate if you should target particular keywords or not.

5. Map Keywords to existing or Future Content Assets 

As you work on your editorial plan, map your keywords to content pieces you’re planning on creating. You can also map them to existing assets you’re thinking of optimizing. Doing this will help you create content that both ranks and satisfies user intent.

Remember, you must align your keywords to the stages of your buyer journey. This way, your content will achieve the business goals you set for it.

6. Track Keyword Performance

Once you’ve added your keywords to your content and published it, you must track keyword performance. You must add your target keyword list to a rank tracking tool to do this. Doing so will help you track each keyword’s progress over time.

Tracking keyword performance is a critical component of B2B keyword research as it helps you:

  • Understand your ranking position against competitors
  • Troubleshoot traffic drops
  • Identify keywords that contribute more to your revenue
  • Create better iterations of your campaigns

Keyword tracking is one of the best ways to determine whether your SEO efforts are paying off or not. So invest in a good keyword rank tracker and keep tabs on all your important keywords.  

Speaking of tools, let’s check out some of the best tools to help you with your B2B keyword research.

Best Tools for Keyword Research

To effectively conduct keyword research, you’ll need to leverage tools. Doing it manually is virtually impossible.

So, which are the best tools for B2B keyword research?

Here are our top picks:

Google Search Console (GSC)

Google Search Console is a collection of free tools from Google that enables you to monitor your website and optimize your content. One of its key features is its keyword research tool. You can also use GSC to monitor and track your keywords and determine which posts bring more traffic to your site.

Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is another free tool from Google that can prove invaluable in helping you discover keywords to target. You can also use the tool to build effective search campaigns as it has other features that help you determine the best keywords for your brand. For example, the tool can help you organize your keywords into different categories. 

Semrush

Another tool you must add to your toolbox is Semrush. Semrush is an all-in-one marketing tool used for planning and monitoring digital campaigns. One of its core features is the keyword research tool. Not only is it a great tool for discovering keywords, but it also helps you understand keyword trends, track your keywords, conduct competitor analysis, and much more. 

Ahrefs

Like Semrush, Ahrefs is a powerful SEO tool that can be used for keyword research, rank tracking and much more. With an easy-to-use dashboard and powerful insights, Ahrefs is considered one of the best B2B keyword research tools on the market. We’re pretty big fans of Ahrefs over here.

The SERPs

Search engine results pages (SERPs) are one of the most underrated keyword research tools.  However, by analyzing SERPs closely, you gain insights into:

  • Keywords that rank
  • Questions people ask around certain keywords
  • The type of content that performs well
  • Search intent

Don’t take SERPs lightly. Instead, make it a habit to include SERP analysis in your SEO strategy sessions.

B2B Keyword Research — The Key to Improving Visibility, Increasing Traffic, and Boosting Your Revenue

B2B keyword research plays a huge role in planning and executing impactful SEO campaigns. Without it, your content creation won’t be targeted. As a result, you’ll, among other things:

  • Drive irrelevant traffic
  • Generate low-quality leads
  • Experience high bounce rates

So, as you plan your next digital marketing campaign, make sure to spend time on your keyword research.

If, however, that’s something you don’t have experience in or bandwidth for, we’re here to help. RevenueZen specializes in planning and executing B2B SEO campaigns that work. So go ahead and check out our B2B SEO services and give us a shout.

The Last B2B Keyword Research Strategy Guide You’ll Ever Need
Ken Marshall

Ken Marshall is the CGO and a Partner at RevenueZen. He’s been doing some version of digital marketing for the past seven years and has shifted his focus to all things SEO and inbound for the last five. Husband, mini Australian shepherd puppy dad, and serial entrepreneur (mostly failures, lots of lessons).