Few terms are as omnipresent in modern marketing as SEO – search engine optimization (SEO). This strategy can help your website rank higher in search engine results and drive organic traffic to your site, ultimately boosting sales.
B2B companies and B2C companies need to approach SEO differently, however. There’s an inherent difference in the approach for selling to other businesses vs. selling to consumers, and it lies in how the decision to buy is made.
Despite this difference, both B2B and B2C companies need SEO to drive traffic to their website. SEO for B2B requires different tactics and a deep understanding of how buyers make purchasing decisions.
How is B2B SEO different from B2C SEO?
Both B2B and B2C organizations need SEO to nurture prospective buyers through the sales funnel, but that process looks different for both types of businesses.
B2B SEO Targets Multiple Decision-Makers
B2B buyers are investing in products and services for their business in hopes of generating a return. Their purchases are often big-ticket buys and require the approval of multiple decision-makers within the company, including executives, department heads, and more.
Each of these people may have different goals, concerns, questions, and pain points, all of which you need to answer to make the sale. Because of this, you need segmented audiences and personas with content targeted to each of them.
B2B SEO Depends on Low-Volume Keywords
Keyword research is a little different for B2B companies. Each audience and persona enters into the buying process with different intent and perspectives, so keyword research needs to focus on them individually. Because they’re searching for highly targeted and niche information, they’re likely to have low-volume keywords with less competition.
B2B Sales Conversion Is More Difficult Than B2B Sales Conversion
Consumers have all the purchasing power when they buy products or services individually. They don’t need to discuss the pros and cons with a bunch of people, they don’t need to consider the impact on a whole department, team, or business.
They’re also typically buying in lower amounts than B2B buyers and can make impulse purchases. In all likelihood, more people are searching for a novelty mug or a watch or home décor at any given time than those searching for niche-specific software, products to resell, or business services like graphic design or marketing.
B2B buyers can’t afford to make impulse purchases or buy something on a whim. B2B products and services are often large investments in a business and multiple decision-makers need to be involved and persuaded.
With so much involved in a B2B purchase, B2B buyers aren’t likely to convert quickly. They need to be nurtured and guided — it’s a long game. These buyers need to be driven to landing pages, articles, blog posts, webinars, whitepapers, and other content that gives them the information they need to seek more information, and ultimately, consider a purchase.
Authority and Thought Leadership Are Vital to B2B SEO
For many businesses, a B2B product or service purchase is the start of a long-term relationship. They want to work with someone they trust, and your B2B content can nurture that trust and establish authority in the industry.
The more your prospects search for information and see your brand come up in the search results, the more they will feel that they can trust your company and its products or services. For most B2C buyers, trust isn’t a priority, especially with small and inexpensive purchases.
Three pillars of SEO
No matter the business type, SEO has three main areas of focus to improve rankings.
1. On-Page SEO
On-page SEO is the optimization that takes place on the visible portions of the site and the technical backend — technical SEO, which is covered in a separate pillar.
Optimizing on-page SEO is about organizing content to allow search engine crawlers to recognize its usefulness and relevance to search users.
This requires an understanding of how users type keywords into a search bar. It’s not enough to find the best keywords, but provide content that outperforms content on other sites. Here’s how:
- Take the keywords you identified and conduct a search on your own
- Evaluate the pages that are coming up high in the rankings
- Consider what makes them unique or what value they provide
- Consider what you can do better
2. Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO is optimization that focuses on your brand’s reputation and authority — backlinks. Building backlinks takes time and effort. You have to ask other authoritative sites to link to yours, so it doesn’t happen quickly. But the more high-quality links you have directing users to your site, the better your ranking will be.
There’s no magic pill to more links. Buying links or using underhanded backlink building tactics will do little to help your site — in fact, it may even get you penalized by Google. You can convince other websites to link to your content by providing high-quality information and value.
3. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is all about the site experience for users. You can optimize technical SEO by:
- Ensuring your pages load easily and quickly
- Developing an internal linking structure that shows website crawlers what your site is about and its layout
- Inserting target keywords into the title, URL, meta title, and meta description
- Leveraging follow and no-follow links appropriately to direct users where you want them to go
- Fixing or updating any broken or low-quality links
- Eliminating duplicate content
- Ensuring site security with HTTPS
- Using structured data
- Optimizing your site for mobile devices and user experience
Develop Your B2B SEO Strategy
1. Define Your Customers
Nearly all marketing strategies begin with defining the customer or audience. You need to understand who you’re targeting and what they need from you, whether it’s an individual customer or a B2B buyer who has to convince multiple decision-makers.
Once you understand the buyers, positions, or concerns of those making the purchasing decisions, you can develop in-depth buyer personas for all of them. For each persona, you can fill in details like:
- Industry information
- Company size
- Job title and responsibilities
- Pain points
- Tools they need for their job
- Who they report to
- Preferred contact method
- How they use the internet
2. Define Your Sales Funnel
Your sales funnel is important for understanding how to go about keyword research. Essentially, you’re defining the steps your customers take to purchase a product to understand their buyer journey.
Speak with the sales team to learn more about the funnel and the touchpoints they think are most important. Then, dive into the analytics yourself to learn more about how customers interact with your brand, their lifetime value, customer retention, and more.
3. Conduct Keyword Research
Keyword research aims to identify the search queries your personas are using to find products and services. It’s important to understand the keywords related to buying intent, vs. just searching for information (buy, deal, promotion).
Ask questions like:
- What are the pain points?
- How are customers searching for solutions?
- What are the features of the product or service?
- How does the product or service offer a solution?
- What keywords send traffic to competitors?
Once you have the keywords, you can target your content to different stages of the buyer journey.
4. Develop a Scalable Content Strategy
You have defined personas, a defined funnel, and top keywords. Now it’s time to assign content to each of the personas and their funnel, incorporating the keywords. Some content is better suited to different stages of the funnel. Here are some formats to choose from:
- Blog posts
- Research papers
B2B SEO is similar to B2C SEO in that it drives traffic to your website, but since B2B buyers have longer relationships and more complex needs, B2B SEO strategy needs to be developed differently to convert. Once you understand your customer, you can address their needs at each stage of the journey and improve your ranking.