Meeting a client’s SEO goals typically requires far more than web site optimization. More often than not, new content development – and significant revision of existing content – is a necessary component of the process. With that said, content development for B2B clients is its own animal, and requires an approach that is far different from B2C SEO campaigns.
B2B Keyword Discovery
Before we can tackle SEO-centric content development or revision, we have to define what keywords we’ll be optimizing. Without a tight focus on a defined set of keywords that we want to dominate, search result gains will be middling at best.
Sadly, it’s here that many B2B campaigns are doomed from the start.
In many cases, especially when a company is involved in a complex or high-ticket sale, there is a vast discrepancy in the lexicon used by the company and its customers. For example, let’s imagine that Acme, a cloud-based technology company, creates a product that does many things related to tracking employee productivity at agencies that bill by the hour (law firms, spa services, etc). Those services include client tracking, task management, project management, time tracking, productivity reporting and automated billing. But because the product does so many things well, the company decides that no existing names in the marketplace do the product justice. They then decide to create a new category for the product, which they call an “Agency Workflow Automation System.” This decision alone creates a common pain point – the good people at Acme are the only people in the world who would describe their product this way, meaning that their product almost never appears in search results. This is something that is far more prevalent in the B2B world.
The SEO’s job is to unpack the product’s impressive feature set and try to match it with language that will drive traffic to the site. This means language that people will actually use when conducting search queries. More importantly, it also means using search terms that are accurate, ethical and within the company’s comfort zone.
Acceptable Entry Features – Does the product really deliver on all the individual things that it claims to do? For example, does the product really have solid task management features, or are those just “sideline” features? Because the SEO campaign will be responsible for much of the product’s lead generation, we need to consider whether consumers looking for a particular feature will be satisfied by what they find as a result of a keyword query. In the long term, this can also have serious online reputation management implications as well.
Once we’ve nailed down all the individual features that we want to promote, we have to figure out what potential customers actually call these features. In most B2B cases, customers use completely different keywords for products than the product providers. This is true in the case of Acme’s product – very few searchers would think to search for something called “Workflow Automation System.”
For Acme, we’ll conduct our keyword discovery in three ways:
- Internal Surveys – sales reps and customer service representatives are among the best sources for discovering what types of language real customers are using before they are “educated” with industry terminology. This pre-education lexicon often translates well to search queries.
- Customer Surveys – customer keyword acquisition can be achieved through online polls, or through perusing the online forums and reviews for competitor’s products.
- Keyword Tools – looking up customer keywords, searching for synonyms, and identifying keyword combinations that are both targeted enough but also have the highest possible search volume.
Narrowing the List
For Acme’s “Agency Workflow Automation System,” some of the resulting keyword queries – taking into account search volume trends and the language that customers actually use — might look like this:
- “track employee productivity”
- “project management software”
- “resource management tools”
- “quickbooks billing software for agencies”
Once we have this list, it’s essential to run it by Acme decision makers for final approval. Even though they realize that they might get a few dozen extra leads each month through customers searching for “project management software,” they may decide that this could ultimately harm their brand management. Whether it actually would do that is debatable, but brand considerations are tricky corporate decisions that SEOs should never second guess.
Ideally, the ensuing list of keywords should be tested using a Google or Yahoo search campaign. This way, keywords can be tested all the way through the sales pipeline, giving the SEO the ability to see which keywords not only lead to clicks, but to conversions as well. The downside of doing this is that many B2B cycles can take several months or years, making this an unacceptably long process to build into the cycle.
Organizing the List
The list should be organized into a spreadsheet with four columns:
- Page (the actual URL with keywords in the folder structure)
- Primary keywords
- Supporting keywords
There should also be a key. For example, primary keywords might be utilized whenever possible in H1 tags, including top level menu items, and used in text using bold or strong styling. Supporting keywords would be used in context and, if possible, repeated with synonyms, and so on.
Now that we’ve got a defined list and a usage key, content creation can actually begin.
If this work is delegated to a creative team, the SEO’s role will be in an editorial capacity, making sure that proper usage is employed without stepping into the realm of keyword stuffing, resulting in penalization.
This process, used in coordination with numerous other SEO strategies, should product competitive web pages in any given category.