Organic search remains an invaluable marketing channel for business-to-business (B2B) organizations looking to capture relevant non-brand search demand and manage their brand reputation.
This article provides an overview of why SEO differs for B2B companies and four tips to help you drive success from B2B SEO.
What is B2B SEO?
B2B SEO is a marketing strategy used to improve the organic search visibility of B2B companies. Many B2B companies view organic search as a way to build their brand and drive sales.
B2B companies use SEO to create and position content to align with their target audience’s relevant search interest and intent.
How is SEO different for B2B companies?
SEO for B2B companies is different in several ways.
- Target keywords have lower search volume, are longer tail, and contain more industry-specific jargon relative to target keywords for business-to-consumer (B2C) companies.
- You are not just trying to capture one searcher but a collection of searchers called a “buying committee” that has the influence and power to buy your product or service.
- The sales cycle is much longer and harder to measure compared to B2C.
From visibility to profit: 4 ways B2Bs can maximize organic search
With the above differences in mind, below are four tips to help you drive success via B2B SEO.
These tips have been informed by over a decade of experience in the B2B space with a focus on utilizing organic search marketing to capture revenue.
The tips will work for organizations of all sizes and are applicable to both agency-side and client-side.
Tip 1: Create an ideal customer profile (ICP)
To determine which keywords you want to rank for in organic search, you need to first need to understand your target audience. One great way to understand your target audience is via the creation of an ideal customer profile (ICP).
An ICP allows you to understand your target audience by first identifying key traits of your best current customers. These key traits are then used to generate a profile that summarizes what an ideal customer looks like for your business.
Once you understand your ideal customer, you can more easily conduct research and identify keywords that you believe align with the search interests and intent of your ICP.
Depending on the size and complexity of your business, you might need more than one ICP. For example, many businesses go to market by industry, so those types of businesses will need an ICP per each industry market.
ICPs can contain various types of key traits depending on your company’s products or services. Still, some common traits are annual revenue, number of employees, industry, geography, anticipated length of sales cycle, and key personas.
Key personas overview the buying committee and end-users of your company’s service or product. These personas should contain pain points the individuals are encountering that will be solved using your product or service.
The pain points are great information for keyword research and content ideation to develop content that will pull in searchers based on their business’ needs.
ICPs are used by account-based marketing (ABM) practitioners as the foundation of their strategy. You can also use ICPs to position your SEO program ahead of your competitors.
ICPs will help your organization go after search demand, hopefully bringing in the best prospects and, ultimately, the most revenue.
Dig deeper: Do personas REALLY matter in content marketing?
Tip 2: Create content for the entire buying committee
Many B2B marketers fall into the trap of concentrating all their marketing efforts on targeting just senior leaders at organizations. Senior leaders, however, are typically the last people in the buying process.
A larger buying committee stretches from senior leaders all the way down to end-users, who could be managers, analysts or even entry-level employees.
All members of a buying committee have some impact and influence on the buying process, so creating content that will capture searches from all members will only increase the likelihood of your brand being known, considered, and purchased.
Invest in creating content for the full marketing funnel and buying committee.
How a CEO searches and how a manager searches is different, as they have different perspectives and different problems to solve. Do the research and identify the keywords that best align with the needs of the various buying committee members.
Dig deeper: B2B keyword research: A comprehensive guide
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Tip 3: Measure revenue impact
Measuring the revenue impact of organic search traffic is critical to the success of your SEO program. Show that SEO is not an expense but an investment in future cash flow.
If you are not already doing this, then reach out to your customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation teams to begin the discussion.
Collaborating with these teams will enable your organization to better understand and optimize organic search traffic to capture more revenue.
Revenue impact can be measured:
- Directly from closed-won deals stemming from leads that submitted an online form after entering your site from an organic search listing.
- Via contribution to the sales pipeline from organic search traffic, which shows the potential future revenue of deals when closed.
Contribution to the sales pipeline is especially important in B2B organizations that have longer sales cycles that can range from 6–12 months.
Attribution modeling must be reviewed and utilized consistently to properly measure the impact on revenue. Organic search is just one of dozens of potential traffic sources and it is usually one of a dozen plus different touch points prior to purchase.
Picking an attribution model that thoughtfully accounts for organic search’s impact on the customer journey is important to ensure organic search gets its due credit.
Dig deeper: How SEO content helps increase sales
Tip 4: Integrate and set clear expectations
SEO should touch almost every marketing and sales function within a B2B organization.
Website, content, analytics, CRM, marketing automation, paid search, business development, go-to-market, executive leadership, public relations, and brand teams interact directly or indirectly with SEO.
Making sure that SEO is integrated and has clear expectations with all these various stakeholders is important to the success of B2B SEO.
Without alignment with stakeholders, SEO will be misunderstood, underutilized, blamed, and potentially forgotten.
If done properly, SEO will improve your website, make your content more appealing, increase your brand awareness, drive more relevant traffic, inform the naming of your products and services, and ultimately increase revenue.
Setting SEO expectations via clear goals across the various stakeholder groups will help integrate SEO at your B2B organization. Do not allow SEO to become siloed and underinvested.
Make SEO known and understood across your organization. Hold regular SEO educational meetings with key stakeholder groups, share performance data with these groups, and develop ways to add SEO to their workflows and procedures.
Dig deeper: How to use SEO education for stakeholder management
B2B SEO success means contributing to the bottom line
For SEO to be successful in your B2B organization, it needs to capture revenue. SEO success should not be measured solely with keyword rankings, inbound links, page speed, etc.
SEO success should be measured on its contribution to your organization’s bottom line. If you are not progressing your SEO program to be viewed as a long-term, revenue-generating function, you are doing a disservice to yourself and your organization.
Hopefully, the four tips in this article will help you truly make SEO an investment in the future cash flow of your organization.
Dig deeper: B2B SaaS SEO: Mapping your keywords to the customer journey
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.