Search engine optimization (SEO) should be a top consideration for an effective demand generation strategy. A whopping 93% of all online experiences begin with search engines. That’s reason enough for B2B companies to pay attention to their SEO. Search engines can be an excellent resource for driving traffic, but what about leads? Studies show that online search is often the starting point of the buying cycle.
Knowing how to optimize your Hub and content for SEO will help you capture attention no matter where the buyer is in their purchasing decision.
What Are the Essential Elements of B2B SEO?
There is much more to the B2B SEO process than simple keyword research. You have to understand the needs of the B2B buyer and the buying journey, as well as the potential profit of your SEO.
Here are the essential elements of B2B SEO that you will need to know to create a successful demand generation campaign.
Search Profit Potential
Optimizing for B2B isn’t the same as optimizing for B2C. While both B2B and B2C buyers start their journey with search, B2B buyers are more considerate of what eTraffic describes as “search profit potential.”
Search profit potential is what the company stands to profit if a conversion is made. They argue that B2B products often cost more than B2C products. Shoes, for example, might have a search profit potential between $50 to $300, while a B2B profit potential could be closer to $3,000.
B2B buyers may also be more likely to include keywords that include “cost” and “price” (i.e. “marketing automation software cost”). And B2B buyers may be made up of more than one person, which can affect purchasing decisions.
2. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is any SEO work involved with your Hub that doesn’t involve content. This can include site speed optimization, indexing, and other metrics that affect how well search engines rank your site.
Google, for example, will crawl a Hub with Googlebot, a program that discovers and updates pages in Google’s index. Your Hub has its own xml sitemap, so this will make Googlebot’s job a lot easier. But that is just one element of technical SEO.
Technical SEO can be made up of many different elements, such as:
- Page speed: how quickly your Hub loads on both mobile and desktop
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): a framework that allows sites to load faster on mobile devices
- Structured data: the backend code used to build your website, also called Schema Markup
- Secured certificates: if you use an HTTPS site versus an HTTP site
- XML sitemaps: your site’s map of indexed content
- Redirects: areas of your site that are redirected (401 errors, etc.)
- Links: this include backlinks and other site links
To ensure that all of these elements are positively contributing to your SEO, you will most likely need to perform a technical audit.
Technical SEO is your foundation. It should make up 20% of your overall SEO strategy.
A technical audit will identify weak points in your SEO that hurt your results. It’s a process that will give you a list of actionable items to fix or improve, so your foundation remains strong.
When performing a technical SEO audit for a B2B Hub, your checklist should look something like this:
- Quick Overview: This will include checking index pages, reviewing Google Analytics and doing a mobile-friendliness test.
- On-page Optimization: This involves optimizing any title tags, checking for missing titles or descriptions, correcting any keywords in H1 tags and optimizing image sizes.
- Content: This includes reviewing your homepages and landing pages for optimal keywords, removing keyword-stuffed content, and analyzing your click-through rates (CTR).
- Duplicate Content: This ensures that no content on your Hub is plagiarized or duplicated.
- Site Architecture and Internal Linking: This is an audit of your internal and external links.
- Technical Issues: This includes any redirects, errors, URLs, and other technical elements that might be broken or outdated. You can find these errors easily through sites like Google Search Console or Ravel Tools.
- Site Speed: This involves site speeds (not to be confused with page speed) on both your desktop site and your mobile site, hosting speed connection and more.
- Mobile: This is an audit of your mobile user experience and analytics.
- International: This includes a review of any international versions of your URL, country-based targeting and overall URL structure.
- Analytics: This ensures that your Google Analytics or other tracking metrics are set up properly and that your AdWords and other campaigns are properly linked.
The good news is, you don't have to go this one alone. You can use SEO tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to help you conduct your audits and create SEO reports.
A more in-depth audit checklist can be found in this B2B demand generation guide.
By performing a technical SEO audit, you can make a significant impact on your B2B organic search results and overall ROI. You should perform an audit at least once a year, but preferably more often. If you are launching a new product or service, adding landing pages to your site or otherwise including new keywords, perform an audit to ensure everything is already working up to par first.
3. Keyword Research
The next element for successful SEO is keyword research. Mapping keywords for the B2B buyer will involve understanding the B2B buying cycle, which is much longer than the B2C buying cycle.
B2B products and services are typically more expensive and involve a bigger commitment. The buying process can include multiple people or teams as well as extensive research to ensure the investment is worthwhile.
When B2B buyers do their research, they typically search for B2B specific keywords. Keywords like “payroll services,” “CRM solutions,” or “document storage” are more B2B specific, whereas something like “cloud backup services” might relate to both B2B and B2C buyers.
To start the keyword research process, you want to:
- Assess objectives in search intent (what are B2B buyers searching for?)
- Confirm that each keyword relates to your B2B product or service
- Assess keyword difficulty metrics
- Research related terms
This will involve creating buyer personas that reveal intent, as well as making a list of keywords related to your products or services.
From there, you will want to assess how difficult it will be to rank for those specific keywords. Keyword tools like Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Tool can help you compare results. It should also help you determine the page and domain authority of your Hub, which will factor into whether or not you rank for those keywords.
If your domain or page authority is low, you may want to target less competitive keywords.
You will also want to research related keywords that your B2B audience might search for. Tools like Google’s autocomplete function or a keyword planner like SEMrush will help you assess the best alternatives. With these, you should be able to compile a list of keywords that are highly relevant to your B2B audience.
4. Content Marketing
The next stage of SEO revolves around the content of your Hub. Your keywords are only as good as the content around it. Your ultimate goal is to create content that moves the buyer further along in the B2B buying cycle. You can use many different types of content to aid you in this endeavor, like social media, blogs, and videos.
Begin by developing your core content before building a blog or creating a social media marketing strategy.
Core content is any content that revolves around your sales proposition. This includes things like:
- Product descriptions
- Service descriptions
- Solutions and benefits
- Calls to action
It’s copy that is traditionally found on your homepage and landing pages. It’s what the buyer will use to determine whether or not your product or service will meet their needs. Your core content doesn’t need to be extensive, but it should contain the most important keywords as well as some value proposition that can help promote what you do and the benefits of your service and product.
This content is usually for those lower in the buyer funnel, but it still contains critical information to the buying process.
Once you have your core content, you can move on to creating blog posts and other types of content that will help extend your reach.
5. Digital PR/Link Building
The final element of a successful B2B SEO campaign is link building. While your content can rank without them, links assist search engine crawlers like Googlebot, giving you a much better chance of ranking higher.
Every result in Google’s search index goes to a specific page on a Hub, not the whole site. So every link you have to an individual page – and every link someone else has to pages on your site – the more effective your SEO will be.
There are several strategies you can use to build links for your Hub, depending on your ultimate goals. If you just want to build relationships with other sites that will link back to your site (digital PR), you can guest post on B2B blogs. Simply create a list of relevant websites, blogs, and online publications that are relevant to the products and services you offer, and reach out to them (email or social media works well) to see if you can guest post.
If you already have relationships with them professionally, that can be an easy way to get your content featured on their site with links back to your landing pages. You can offer to do the same for them. Or you can include internal links to your content within your blog posts, which is an easy way of generating natural backlinks.
You may also want to try link reclamation. Link reclamation is when you seek out mentions of your business on the Web. To do this, you can use Google Alerts or another mention-monitoring tool to alert you whenever someone uses your company name.
Are you starting from ground zero without relationships or mentions, but still want links? You can feature your Hub in a business directory, or in other industry forums and community websites. Google My Business is one example of a free directory where you can list your site for easy link building. Or if you want to go the community route, Quora is a great resource for B2B marketers.
Not only can you answer questions your audience may have directly, but you can also create links back to specific content that addresses concerns.
This works to build authority for your content but also sets you apart as a thought leader in your industry.
It’s important for B2B companies to have a strong SEO strategy in place. The foundation of your SEO campaign will involve your technical SEO.
But that’s only a fraction of what’s involved in the process. You will also need to develop a strong list of keywords that are relevant to your B2B audience. And you need equally-relevant content on your Hub that includes those keywords naturally. This not only includes your core content but any other types of content marketing.
Finally, you need to link back to your Hub to promote your authority and expertise. Look for opportunities to build relationships and create links naturally, but don’t overlook the power of a business directory or community forum for a little link-building boost.
About the Author
Garrett Mehrguth is the CEO of Directive Consulting and founder of Freshly Salted. He has been published by Salesforce, Marketo, Moz, Convince and Convert, Marketing Land, Search Engine Land, SitePoint, Wordstream, and more. He has spoken at Digital Summit, SMX, State of Search, 3XE Digital, Share 16, MozCon Ignite, Big Digital, General Assembly, and others.More Content by Garrett Mehrguth