How is SEO for B2B marketing changing in 2017?
One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen in Search in recent years is the way Google delivers results – it’s all about semantic search. Google is getting wise to the intent and contextual meaning of individual searches in order to deliver more personalised and accurate results. B2B search queries tend to be longer and more detailed than B2C. This is because businesses are more likely to need niche products or services and use actual questions or long sentences to find what they need. Google can now assess the intent of these queries to produce more helpful Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), which means your SEO efforts should tap into these more complex and specific search queries.
Although niche subjects and long-tail search queries tend to have lower search volumes, they can be the most valuable B2B keywords because those who use them are looking for very specific information. If you can tap into the niche wants and needs of B2B searchers by ranking well for these long-tail queries, your lead generation rates could skyrocket.
In order to succeed in B2B SEO in 2017, you’ll need to:
– Develop buyer personas to establish exactly who’s looking, what they need, and what drives their search.
– Map the customer journey in order to align your keywords with buyer intent.
– Research niche and long-tail keywords to make the most of the highly detailed queries B2B customers are using.
How to create a buyer persona
When it comes to SEO and B2B keyword research, demographics such as age, gender and disposable income are less important. What matters is the industry of the business and the role of potential buyers in the purchasing cycle and decision-making process.
Ask yourself who is making decisions when it comes to purchasing your product or service. For many B2B transactions, this will be multiple different people. It could be a department manager’s job to search for potential purchases based on a list of criteria given to them. They’ll be searching for a solution to a problem, whilst considering aspects such as budget, price and key features. However, those actually using the product could be junior employees who may be consulted on whether it fulfils their needs in terms of real functionality. Their concerns will focus around practical aspects, such as specific features and functions of a product, and testimonials or case studies from others who have used it. The final purchasing decision is likely to land with a CEO, business owner or stakeholder whose primary interests may be pricing and ROI.
By taking into account these different wants and needs, you can develop a variety of buyer personas and work on researching different keywords that fit into your buyer categories.
Ask yourself the following B2B buyer persona questions:
– What is their role in the purchasing process? (researcher, final decision maker, actual buyer, etc)
– What problem do they want to solve? (streamline processes, increase productivity, cut costs, etc)
– What are their main drivers? (functionality, price, ROI, ease of implementation, etc)
– Where do they search for information? (desktop search, mobile search, social media, forums, trade shows, etc)
– What type of content do they consume? (blogs, product pages, video, articles, etc)
The B2B buying journey
B2B customer journey mapping ties in closely with buying personas, because it’s likely you’ll be targeting different personas at different points in the buying journey. The customer journey consists of the following steps:
Discover – when they first become aware of your product/service.
Explore – when they learn more about what you have to offer and how it can help them.
Buy – when they consider things like price, ROI, and whether the product/service is of true value to them.
Use – when they put your product/service into action.
Engage – when they return to you for further support or added value.
When developing your buying journey, consider where each buyer persona fits in, so that you can begin to assess what the different intents and needs are. With this in mind, you can begin to research keywords based around the real demands of your B2B customer at each point in the buying journey. Plus, you can start to formulate the types of optimised content needed to tap into customer demands at each point in their journey.
Perform B2B keyword research
With your buyer personas ready, it’s time to pull together some seed keywords. These can be brainstormed based on the personas you’ve created, but you’ll find inspiration from a number of different places:
– Your existing marketing materials and product copy.
– Your website and blog, using Google Search Console and Analytics to find organic keywords already driving traffic to your site.
– Competitor sites using tools like SEMRush to find organic keywords they rank for.
– Forums and Q&A sites, using tools like BoardReader to search for forums relevant to your buyer personas. Use them to pull together popular questions, phrases, terms and topics, or take inspiration from suggested searches if sites have such functionality.
Go deeper into keyword research for lead generation
Your seed keywords can now be used to do more detailed research and compile a list of terms which are:
- Relevant to your business
- Have a reasonable search volume, and
- Could convert a searcher into a lead.
There are a huge variety of tools you can use, and we recommend trying a few different ones to get a broad range of inspiration.
Google Keyword Planner – found in Google Adwords, this free tool can help you gather searchvolumes, get an idea of competition and get inspiration for related queries and long-tail keywords which is ideal for niche B2B SEO. Note though that the Keyword Planner is designed for help with Google ads, and its data is therefore skewed to PPC data rather than organic search. It’s still a great place to start, though.
Keywordtool.io – you can get up to 750 keyword suggestions for free with this tool as well as related search questions, but to the Pro version has the most potential since it provides search volume as well as even bigger lists of keywords.
WordStream – much like Keywordtool.io, only with the option to find niche keywords which are often very valuable for B2B.
LongTailPro – this tool specialises in long-tail and niche keywords, and even allows you to sort niches into different sets of keywords, which is ideal for splitting keywords into your buyer personas.
Cull and categorise keywords
At this point it’s likely that you’ve grown a list of thousands of keywords, so it’s time to cut out those which aren’t relevant and organise terms into different categories.
– Check the search landscape for ambiguous terms (by simply doing a Google search) and consider dropping them if you’re likely to be competing with content from a whole other industry.
– Categorise terms by user intent, and drop terms with intent not relevant to your products or to your buyer personas and/or buying journey.
– Group words semantically, so that you can target similar phrases like ‘bookkeeping software’ and ‘bookkeeping program’ within one page. This helps avoid thinning out content into multiple pages whilst tapping into semantic search at the same time.
With a list of refined keywords to hand, you can begin to craft content which taps directly into your buyer personas’ needs and fulfils all aspects of the buying journey. As with any type of SEO, your content should be highly relevant to the keywords you’re targeting. But when it comes to B2B SEO and the niche long-tail keywords on your list, you need to be even more careful that your content is relevant if you’re to rank well in the SERPs and keep your customers engaged. If you succeed, you’ll be well on the way towards boosted leads in 2017.
For more tips on how to generate new leads in 2017 take a look at our B2B marketing guide: 9 steps to new business campaign success. Or sign up for your own New Business Marketing Review which will identify the key areas you need to focus your marketing efforts on.
About the Author:
Matt Cayless is the Director of Client Strategy at Bubblegum Search an SEO & Content Marketing Agency. He is an expert in Search Engine Optimisation having worked on campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands and has a passion for helping businesses grow online. Away from his desk, he can be found training for his next marathon while always remaining fearful of carbohydrates.