If you haven’t figured it out, we’re huge fans of content marketing. Content marketing provides value for both sides of a transaction. The seller gets a sale and the buyer more than they asked for by learning about a company’s feelings and opinions about topics close to the buyer’s heart.
Sometimes the little trick you teach someone through a content marketing piece can be more valuable in the long term than what you’re selling, if your content quality is good enough and meets the right people.
However, you still have to connect people to the pages through search. This means that companies cannot ignore SEO. But what even is SEO anymore? As anyone in this space knows, SEO has been declared a dead dog again and again and again. Techniques that were best-practice even two years ago are now considered to be ineffectual or even dangerous. Heaven forbid you hire someone who did SEO 10 years ago and is still trying to get those techniques to work.
We don’t think that SEO is dead. It just changes so much with each shift that it feels like it. It would have been better if marketers could declare SEO phases like they do web phases, like SEO 1.0, 2.0, etc. Each major change meant we had to adapt to a whole new world of how to rank properly.
If you’re pursuing a B2B content marketing campaign and you want to get organic traffic, not just social media traffic or email marketing traffic, to your content, then you cannot ignore SEO. Here’s our opinion on how to do good B2B SEO these days.
The State Of SEO
Let’s start with some fundamentals that haven’t changed.
- SEO is still about getting your content in front of searchers who are looking for queries related to your business.
- SEO is still about getting your content ranked higher than your competitors by proving to search engines you have superior pages.
- The goal of SEO is to drive more traffic to your site.
The basics are still there. It’s the details that keep changing. Furthermore, most SEO advice is targeted to B2C businesses. Let’s take each in turn from a B2B perspective.
Getting In Front Of B2B Searchers
One fundamental change in SEO since Google started using RankBrain, it’s AI tool for improving search algorithms, is that keyword queries are less important than topics about your keywords. Search engines are much better at analyzing natural language queries. (e.g. How do I increase conversion rates for my content?) and improving all the time.
You’ve probably noticed this in your query autocompletes and in the knowledge snippet boxes on Google, that box of related questions that you can use to get quick answers.
While you shouldn’t ignore the fundamental keywords that describe your product, (e.g. content marketing platform for our product), you can create much more powerful SEO results by creating pages that focus on your searcher’s topics than generic keywords.
This is important for B2B because there may be many different stakeholders that have to sign off on going with you as a vendor. Each of these stakeholders will approach your business from a different perspective. One might want to know if your product has superior features. Another might want to know how much money you can save using your product. Creating separate pages that answer these questions will expose your brand to a larger part of your audience.
Note that this also makes for excellent content marketing! You don’t necessarily have to dig into a keyword research tool if you have good personas and can imagine the sorts of questions those personas would ask before buying your product. There’s a whole section of CONCURED that computes natural language queries related to keywords that you can use as a springboard. You can write content that addresses those questions, counterarguments, and so forth to draw each stakeholder deeper into the funnel toward conversion.
In times past, SEO was seen as a game of who can exploit a search engine’s algorithm better. It was like trying to cheat at gambling. Find an edge in the algorithm and you can beat your opponents. And just like a casino catching a cheater, they ban those who cheat from playing.
Getting high rankings comes down to convincing search engines that your content answers a question better than a similar page. Writing topic-specific content is a great way to start, but there’s a bit more to it. Search engines are still dumb about a lot of things and we have to give them some help so they’ll recognize exactly what your page is about.
The standard techniques of putting in keywords into important positions are still there, but a new tool has hit the scene called Schema that can really help you fine-tune how search engines analyze your pages. It’s a type of technical SEO, so you’ll need to talk with your IT people about using it. Schema code on your pages can be quite complicated but there are plugins that can help you add the basics.
Another technique you can use that’s well suited for B2B is to only write a single long (1500-2000+ words) page per search intent. B2B companies do not have to go for volume on content to be successful or noticed. If a business is looking for a vendor, they’re going to do their research. Having a solid piece waiting for them patiently over time is all you need. And since that page, if done well, will get the most clicks on your site for that topic, it’ll climb higher.
It’s not so common now to see the top results for a search all covered by a single domain. So trying to crowd out the competition through creating lots of content is not the best way to go. Google will just select what it thinks is the single most relevant page and the rest of your content will be buried.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t write smaller pieces or even related side pieces to your big pillar posts. You can still content market with little posts, but by focusing large pieces on the most important queries you’re getting and keeping those large pieces from treading on each other’s topic territory, you’ll maximize SEO as well.
Traffic Generation, But Not Conversion
Here’s another fundamental difference between B2B and B2C SEO. The goal of SEO in a B2B context is NOT to convert. Yes, you read that right!The goal is just to increase exposure points to your brand and let your content percolate in the reader’s minds while they make their decision.
It’s rare to have a business select the first vendor they come across to solve a problem. They want to take their time and do research. It’s a slow process that winds through many different channels before a final decision is made.
In contrast, B2C SEO is all about the conversion rate. Get the traffic and drive them immediately to a conversion before they change their mind. It a much faster and more direct funnel. However, thanks to improvements in analytics, there are ways to track who is converting based on who found you first in an organic visit and how much money that conversion produced. Check out Google’s “Assisted Conversions” report.
Another good metric for SEO for B2B is search volume divided by CTR. Search volumes for most businesses are going to be quite low, especially if you’re looking at long-tail topic queries than your generic keywords. This means that even if you just get a few clicks thanks to small niche sizes, you can still measure improvements in traffic generation over time.
One factor about SEO that hasn’t changed is that it is a slow process. There is only so much you can do to hurry search engines along to re-rank your pages. Page age, domain age, and many other factors are beyond our control or hidden from us. Investing in SEO is like investing in bonds. Slow to mature but sure in return so long as you don’t try to cheat the system.
But that doesn’t mean it has to be your only strategy. Content marketing can strike while the iron is hot on a particular topic and generate a large return quickly. It is the stock market to SEO’s bond market.
SEO still works for B2B but it has to move away from the trends of the past. Many of the same strategies used for good content marketing, like quality content ideation, can also improve SEO as a side effect. Done well, these disciplines work in a synergistic way to keep your brand at top-of-mind for any visitor who visits you with a serious interest.
What do you think? Do you think sticking to one-topic-at-a-time with large big posts is the way for B2B companies to maximize their SEO? We’d like to know your thoughts. Let us know in the comments what you think.