When it comes to B2B marketing, search engine optimization is more than just a public relations tool.
Getting a blog post ranked at the top of Google might be a nice way to enhance your brand’s image among your best prospects, but you need to focus on converting those prospects to qualified leads if you’re going to make the most of your SEO efforts.
Contrary to what you might have been told by the SEO rumor mill, effective B2B SEO is much more about what kind of content you’re ranking for your desired keywords, and it’s much less about just bombarding the search algorithms with high authority backlinks. The content on your site needs to be actionable and detailed, but it also needs to be easy to digest!
Fortunately, there’s a playbook you can follow to have the search engines deliver consistent leads and generate a healthy return on the time that your marketing staff puts into your company’s SEO efforts.
If you’re looking to improve your B2B SEO Strategy in 2022, then you’re in the right spot. We’ve got the actionable steps you can take to increase your rankings and bring in more traffic.
What Is B2B SEO?
Before we dive into how you can design a B2B SEO strategy for your brand, let’s quickly look at what B2B SEO is.
Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the practice of creating web pages designed to show up for queries made by your target audience. B2B SEO, therefore, is the practice of creating web pages that rank high for queries your buyer persona makes about anything related to your product or services.
In short, an effective B2B SEO strategy brings your business in front of B2B buyers who seek to engage your services. If you’ve created something incredible and have no process to get it in front of people .. well, you’ve missed the mark.
Do B2C & B2B Require Their Own Strategies?
Everyone uses the same search engines to find information on the internet, right? Google reigns, and maybe people use Bing (yikes!), but essentially, there are few players who dominate.
So is there a need for B2B brands to design SEO strategies that are different from their B2C counterparts?
Yes and no.
Yes because the core principles for ranking are the same for both B2B and B2C brands. Of note, the basic SE (search engine) principles that you must get right for both include:
- On-page SEO. This mainly involves creating content designed to have a better chance of ranking.
- Off-page SEO. Refers to activities that take place away from a web page but influence how it ranks. A good example is when another reputable website links to your page.
- Technical SEO. This has to do with the technical aspects of your website that affect your SEO. An example would be site speed.
These three form the basic foundation of every SEO strategy. And that’s as far as similarities between B2C and B2B SEO strategies go.
What’s the Difference Between B2B SEO & B2C SEO?
B2B and B2C SEO strategies have one common difference — the target audience. They target different buyer personas. B2C brands target direct consumers while B2B brands target decision-makers in other companies. And in many cases, this means your B2B SEO strategy should not just target a single individual but everyone involved in making decisions in the organizations you’re targeting.
The Components Of A Winning Inbound Marketing Strategy
Ranking at the top of Google is a goal for many businesses. The problem is knowing how to do this and ensuring you rank for what your clients are searching for.
To create a winning strategy, you must know what best practices will get your posts to the top of the SERPs. However, this isn’t good enough. You must also choose the right terms to rank for.
It doesn’t do your business any good if you’re ranking at number one for terms your clients are searching for. You might get great traffic, but that traffic won’t result in sales because it’s not your target audience, and they aren’t interested in what you have to offer.
Your strategy must include these four vital steps if you want to increase your leads through organic searches.
- Know your target audience
- Know what they’re searching for
- Create valuable content (and the right kind of content) that offers real value to your audience
- Track your results and test for continued optimization
When you follow these actionable SEO tactics, you’re following the best practices to rank your site on the search engines. (BTW – filler content is dead.)
First Things First, Focus on the Decision-Maker
You don’t necessarily need to worry about targeting the CEO of every company you want to work with. Within each business are various decision-makers based on their level of expertise.
For example, if you’re selling Facebook ad strategies, you should target the marketing manager. The company’s CEO isn’t worried about their social media advertising, but their marketing manager most definitely is. Marketing managers worry about a lot, let’s be real!
Only once you know who you’re creating your content for, can you determine what they’re searching for.
How to Define Your Ideal Target Audience
As you can see, an effective B2B SEO strategy hinges on you being able to define your ideal target audience. Here are a few tips to help you do that:
Clarify Your Core Offering
The first step to defining your ideal target audience starts with some introspection. Get deep, get zen! You need to be clear about what exactly you offer, the problems you solve, and why your audience should pick you over your competitors.
When communicating your offering, be careful to do it from your customers’ perspective as this will help you to clearly express why it’s a perfect fit for them.
Define Your Ideal Customer Profile
Your ideal customer profile (ICP) is a description of the company (not individual) that will benefit the most from your product. A few factors that can help you determine your ICP include:
- Budget/Revenue: Can the company afford to pay for your solution?
- Industry: Are there certain industries that particularly need your product?
- Average size of the company: Is your product for any size business or are you targeting companies with a particular minimum threshold of employees?
- Legality: Are there any legal issues restricting some customers from using your product (e.g. age, local government restrictions)?
This is not a comprehensive list. You can tailor it more according to your product, business model, and target market. Making an ICP can actually be enjoyable! It helps you better understand your client, and will definitely reveal any holes your product might have.
Create Targeted Buyer Personas
Once you’re clear about what you offer and the pain points you solve, the next step to identifying your ideal target audience is to build a buyer persona. While this is easy for B2C brands, it can be complicated for B2B. This is because you need to factor in, not just the decision-makers, but the people they’re making decisions for. In summary, you’ll need to discover:
- What your ideal customer looks like.
- The problems they solve in their organization.
- The typical size of their teams.
- What a typical buying process looks like.
Creating a targeted buyer persona will help you create a personalized SEO strategy that will help you get in front of the right audience, thereby improving your conversion rates. While it may sound complicated, you can easily create your buyer persona using a tool like Hubspot’s Make My Persona tool.
How To Develop Your Own B2B SEO Strategy Roadmap In 2022 & Beyond
Ready to develop your own B2B SEO strategy?
Let’s quickly dive into some tips to help you create an effective one.
1. Consider Buyer Intent When Choosing Keywords
Traditional SEO practices might tell you to target a keyword with 50,000 searches a month. However, in the B2B market, you don’t need hundreds of thousands of page views. Instead, you need to focus on a small, specific, and targeted audience.
Your audience is the decision-maker in their company. Your audience has a specific question in mind when they begin their online search.
For example, in the B2C market, if someone is searching for “shipping costs,” they’re probably trying to mail their Aunt Margaret a sweater for Christmas. But you’re targeting the business that’s calculating their shipping costs for 25 pallets of printing paper! Aunt Margaret is nowhere to be found in this interaction.
This takes a different approach, and you’ll target different keywords than your B2C competitors. So, when it comes to SEO marketing and organic traffic, the basic concepts are the same. For you, however, you’ll want to ensure that the keywords you choose have the right intent for your target audience.
2. Create Valuable Resource Content That Educates & Empowers Prospects
At the heart of any SEO strategy is great content. And B2B search engine optimization isn’t any different. You need to create the content your clients are searching for. This is the key to improving your rankings and getting found organically and consistently.
This step is where you’ll combine all the research you’ve done in the previous two steps. You’re creating content that’s written specifically for your target audience and answers the questions they’re asking the searching engines.
There’s a reason that Google earmarks billions of dollars for research on artificial intelligence every year, and it’s not so you can spend your day stuffing keywords into your articles in ways that a real human being would never want to read.
The algorithms that companies like Google use are designed to crawl the web and figure out for themselves what your content is actually about. Again, you’re not going to outsmart the thousands of software engineers that any of the large search companies employ, so have faith that your content will rank higher if you just write like you are having a conversation with your ideal customer.
The language your ideal customer uses will certainly vary from industry to industry, but your content must sound natural for the search engines to even consider ranking it highly these days. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many companies fail to heed this warning.
Using analytics tools like Google Search Console in tandem with Google Analytics can give you crucial insights into the language that your users and prospects are using to find and engage your website.
3. Make Sure Your Landing Page Serves A Compelling Purpose For Your Prospect
This is the fundamental rule of B2B SEO. The keywords here are “for your prospect”. To put it simply, don’t confuse “a compelling purpose” with what you think the search engines will be interested in.
Too many B2B companies try to guess what the search engines want instead of figuring out what their prospects need to hear before taking the next step in the customer value journey.
While it’s true that search algorithms use factors like content length to determine how highly a given page ranks in 2022, meta-characteristics like the number of words on your landing page are far from the only factor that determines whether you reach the top of page one or you stay buried on page three.
The algorithms are designed to reflect what your visitors want, and they aren’t designed to be a test of how well you can game the system.
Above all else, user engagement is the most important metric to optimize for. User engagement, however, is highly contextual to the type of content that is featured on your page.
If you’re sending prospects to a video sales letter, for example, then the search engines will be keeping a close eye on how long users spend watching the main video, how they interact with the video player, and whether or not they leave your page without taking further action.
Basically, if the video sucks and they leave, you’re going to get penalized by the Google gods.
As more and more users respond to the content on your page in ways that indicate they like and trust your company, your landing page will climb up the search rankings faster and faster.
Don’t make the mistake that most of your competitors are making. Design your landing pages to sell your prospect on moving to the next step in the buying process, and forget about trying to outsmart the engineers at multibillion-dollar technology giants.
If there’s one thing you can be certain of, it’s that all of the shout-outs, link campaigns, and slick SEO tricks in the world won’t help you if your visitors hate your landing page. Treat your prospects with the same respect that you would show them if they visited your business in person.
4. Answer Common Questions In Your Landing Page’s Metadata
Human beings are naturally curious, and asking your prospect a question can be a great way to hook their attention and get that initial user engagement.
You’ve probably seen headlines like “Why Is Everybody Talking About ____?”, and there’s a reason that so many publications use them. As any great copywriter will tell you, the main purpose of the headline is to get the reader to stop and read the line that follows.
When people see a question on the search page, they instinctively want to know the answer. After all, a question that popped into their head is what got them to submit their search query in the first place.
The searcher’s curiosity can mean more clicks for you, but just make sure that your landing page actually answers the question in your headline.
5. Optimize Your Website & Technical SEO Factors
Your website is at the heart of your B2B SEO strategy. As such, you must invest time and resources to ensure it’s optimized to rank high. To do so:
Pay Attention to Your Core Web Vitals
One thing Google aims to do is to give users the best possible user experience. This is where Core Web Vitals come in. These are a set of metrics Google uses to allow developers to know how users are experiencing their web pages. The three core metrics Google uses as their Core Web Vitals are:
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): LCP basically has to do with page performance factors like load speed.
- First Input Delay (FID): FID measures how long an interactive element on your page takes to respond to a user’s input. It measures your website’s responsiveness.
- Cumulative Layout Shift: CLS measures the stability of elements on your web page especially when scrolling.
Getting these right is now more important than ever as they contribute to Page Experience, one of Google’s ranking factors.
Sort Out Your Technical SEO
Technical SEO involves ensuring your website is technically optimized. This is important as it makes it easier for search engines to crawl. Again, it also plays a role in giving visitors a positive user experience (UX). It also determines how search engines crawl your website. A few factors of technical SEO you must get right include:
- Optimize your page speed
- Make your website easy to crawl
- Ensure there are no broken links
- Make your website mobile-friendly
- Avoid duplicate content
- Ensure your website is secure
- Implement structured data
- Create an XML sitemap
- Optimize your URL structure
- Disavow spammy/toxic backlinks
Getting your technical SEO is crucial to your strategy as it lays the foundation for the success of your website. You may have the best product or content, but if your technical SEO is poor, you’ll struggle to rank.
6. Build Industry Relevant & High-Quality BackLinks
Backlinks have always been and will always be an integral part of any SEO strategy.
What are backlinks and why are they important to your B2B SEO strategy?
Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. They’re crucial to your SEO strategy because they are votes of confidence that your content is valuable. According to some studies, links are among the top three ranking factors search engines consider. Besides ranking, backlinks play an important role in your B2B inbound marketing strategy as they also help drive traffic to your site.
That’s why you must build relevant, high-quality backlinks.
For your backlink strategy to be effective at boosting your SEO, you must build industry-relevant and high-quality backlinks. A few ways to do this include:
- Publishing valuable resources like original research. Use a simple survey tool like Survey Anyplace to create an industry-relevant survey. The published results will be a powerful link magnet. Look at your upcoming content calendar and create questions based on all the themes you’ll be writing about.
- Create helpful tools and calculators. People love tools that make life easier and will link to them to add value to their content.
- Guest post on relevant blogs. Guest posting is the practice of creating a piece of content to be published on another site. Doing this wins you a backlink from the website you publish on. And hey, maybe you’ll make a new friend along the way.
- Publish valuable content. Publish valuable content like ultimate guides on a regular basis. The more value you pack in the content, the higher the chances that other publications will link to it.
- Leverage partner pages. Get listed on the partner pages of other businesses you partner with.
- Email outreach. This is a link building strategy that involves sending emails to relevant publications to include a link to your resource. For this to work, your resource must add value to their audience.
To keep your rankings, you must make building backlinks an ongoing part of your digital PR and B2B SEO strategy.
7. Increase Credibility Through Barnacle SEO (Business Directory Listings)
Another way you can boost your B2B SEO is by using barnacle SEO.
What is Barnacle SEO?
Barnacle SEO gets its name from the barnacle, a crustacean that attaches itself to rocks, ships, and whales among others. You may also be familiar with Barnacle Boy, Mermaid Man’s fantastic comrade.
What does this have to do with your B2B SEO strategy?
For most small businesses, it can be difficult to rank for relevant keywords as they’re already taken by bigger, more established websites. And that’s exactly where barnacle SEO comes to play. Like the barnacle, you can boost your SEO by “attaching” your website to other websites with higher authority. While you may not rank for the keywords you’re targeting, being mentioned on a reputable site (usually third-party local listing sites) could get you a bit of link juice. It also helps you tap into the website’s traffic and potentially gain some leads.
But isn’t barnacle SEO the same as local SEO?
Fantastic question. While barnacle SEO may sound a bit like local SEO, they’re different. The main difference is that with local SEO, you’re optimizing your own website. With barnacle SEO, you focus on the SEO results of other websites. You target websites that are ranking well for the keywords
How Does Barnacle SEO Work?
So how do you execute a barnacle SEO strategy?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Identify important keywords. For best results, target long-tail money keywords. These are keywords that help generate traffic that’s ready to buy.
- Find sites that rank for your target keywords. This can be done using your keyword research tool.
- Identify potential websites to target. Whittle down your list to those websites that are more likely to give you a link or mention.
- Look for opportunities to be mentioned or linked to. This could be an ad on the website, an opportunity to publish a blog post, list your services, e.t.c.
While barnacle SEO may be the perfect way for small businesses to gain exposure and drive traffic to their site, it can also be useful for bigger brands and improve the SEO performance for SaaS companies. Especially when you list your brand on business directories, you boost your brand awareness. This, in turn, results in more leads generated.
8. Align Offline Marketing & Sales With Your SEO Efforts
This strategy requires thinking outside of the box a little bit, and that means your competitors are highly unlikely to do it.
After your sales reps get off the phone with a lead for the first time, what do you think that prospect does if they want more information? They’re usually going to open up their web browser, punch your company’s name into one of the major search engines, and take a good look at everything they find.
Knowing this ahead of time, you can plan some of your efforts around what prospects who are already in your sales funnel are trying to find out about your company.
In other words, SEO can actually be a highly effective lead nurturing tool. Most of the companies in your space will be putting all of their efforts towards ranking for lead generation terms, and they won’t bother trying to compete with you for terms that your existing leads are putting into Google or Bing.
For example, let’s say your company name is “NextGen SaaS”. How many of your competitors do you think are focused on ranking for the term “NextGen SaaS experiences”?
Anybody who is searching for a term like that is already considering purchasing from your company and is looking for some extra assurance that they will be making a good decision. Thus, a search term like that represents the perfect opportunity to swoop in and make sure that a Testimonials page from NextGen SaaS is the first page that this searcher sees.
The key here is to understand that B2B SEO can be a force multiplier for your existing sales efforts. The above strategy can work especially well if you’re selling a high-ticket product with a longer sales cycle.
9. Test & Track Your Results
It has been said a dozen times, but it’s still true, search engine optimization is a long game. It isn’t something you publish once and forget about. You need to continually track your results and optimize each page to get better results.
For example, if you have a page on page one but not at the top, do some further research and update the information on the page. Google rewards fresh content, so take the time to do this step, and you will see your results skyrocket.
New competitors come onto the scene every day. So you can’t rest on your previous accomplishments. Be sure to test and track your results regularly to keep your top spot in the SERPs.
Important KPIs to Track for Your B2B SEO Strategy
To effectively track the performance of your SEO strategy, you need to know the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to track. A KPI is simply a quantifiable measure of performance for an objective — in this case, your SEO. A few examples of KPIs you must track include:
- Organic traffic. This is one of the most important KPIs to track as an increase in organic traffic shows that your SEO strategy is working.
- Search rankings. Search rankings are another KPI that directly shows the success of your SEO strategy. After all, SEO is all about visibility.
- Organic clickthrough rate (CTR). CTR is a metric that measures the ratio of clicks on your link to the total number of users who viewed the search results. A high CTR shows that your title tag is well-optimized.
- Pages per session. The number of pages users visit per session are an indicator of the quality of your content. A high number of pages visited shows that your content is resonating well with your visitors.
- Average session duration. This measures the amount of time a user spends on your site. It’s also an indicator of how well your content is performing.
A few tools you can use to track your KPIs include Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Moz among others.
10. B2B SEO Is An Ongoing Effort
Let’s say your SEO efforts are mega-successful. Your landing page has finally hit the top of the first page for your biggest keyword, and it’s bringing you leads left and right. Are you prepared to wake up tomorrow and see 15 new competitors climbing up the search results and threatening to outrank you?
You should be ready for that reality, and you should be prepared to deal with it every week. By the way, we’re not talking about the companies that you were worried about last quarter. We’re talking about companies that you weren’t even aware of until they started showing up out of nowhere.
Thanks to increased outsourcing opportunities, decreased overhead requirements, and the internet providing a reduced barrier to entry for many industries, it’s never been easier for somebody to go into business and start stealing your market share. This happens every day, but establishing your rankings as fast as possible does give you a first-mover advantage.
To keep your rankings high, you’ll need to constantly update the content on your most popular pages. Just making a few subtle tweaks to the introductory paragraph in your site’s best blog article can give you an edge over companies that don’t do anything at all, but you’ll also want to update any educational content to reflect new developments in your field.
For example, suppose that you have an article on smart home technology ranking at the top of page one for the search term “smart doorbells”. Whenever a major advance in smart doorbell technology hits the market, it’s a good idea to revise your article with a few sentences about the news if you want that page to stay on top. Even updating a page’s title when the year changes can have a large effect on how well it ranks.
These aren’t the changes that will turn your leads into deals, but they will help your content get in front of more prospects. Of course, getting more eyes on your content will result in more deals, so making these subtle changes can be worth the effort.
For businesses that use white-hat strategies and treat their prospects right, the B2B SEO landscape hasn’t actually changed as much as it might seem.
In fact, the algorithms have become more and more favorable to legitimate marketing practices over time. For businesses that have become used to relying on unsustainable tactics like keyword stuffing and using spammy links, getting to the top of the SERPs is going to get much tougher.
As long as you approach your online marketing efforts like you are having a face-to-face conversation with your most valued customers, then the sky is truly the limit on your ROI.