A strong online presence is a must to reach B2B decision-makers.
Just as consumers turn to search engines like Google to inform purchasing decisions, the same is also true for companies looking for solutions to fulfill specific needs.
SEO (search engine optimization) is a key marketing channel for B2B companies. It lets you position your products or services in front of interested prospects.
A B2B SEO strategy that covers the buyer’s journey helps move prospects down the sales funnel and closer to making a decision.
It’s easier said than done, of course.
So how do you put together a B2B SEO strategy? How can you improve your visibility in the search results and reach key decision-makers?
This article will cover everything you need to know about B2B SEO: what it is, why it’s important, and how it differs from B2C SEO. We’ll also cover the steps to creating and implementing a B2B SEO strategy that works.
What is B2B SEO? Definition and examples
B2B SEO is the process of optimizing your website to improve its visibility in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Ranking on the first page for relevant keywords means more targeted traffic and sales for your business.
A solid B2B SEO strategy will help you reach and connect with key decision-makers looking for the products or services that your company offers.
Examples include a business owner looking for accounting software, a facilities director looking for an HVAC system, and an IT manager looking for solutions to manage company assets.
Online channels are a crucial first step in the research process. In 2021, 56% of B2B buyers used web search when researching potential solutions.
There are three main aspects of B2B SEO:
- On-page: On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing aspects of your website to improve its relevance — title tags, meta description, header tags, images, URL structures, and the content itself. Optimizing these factors is key to ranking for your keywords.
- Off-page: Off-page SEO is everything you do outside your website to increase its rankings. It includes link building, brand mentions, and social media engagement. These activities help Google see your website as trustworthy.
- Technical: Technical SEO deals with the technical aspects of your site. It involves creating an XML sitemap, improving loading speed, adding structured data, and more.
B2C vs. B2B SEO: What’s the difference?
B2C and B2B SEO are fundamentally the same. Both aim to improve your rankings in the search results and drive more organic traffic to your pages.
However, there are some notable differences between the two.
Search volume for B2B keywords tends to be much lower than B2C terms.
The reason is simple:
B2B firms have a much smaller customer base, whereas B2C companies can potentially market to millions of consumers.
As an example, the phrase “window air conditioner” gets about 135,000 searches a month.
However, the phrase “HVAC system for commercial building” only gets about 110 searches a month.
B2B SEO relies on long-tail keywords like this to reach interested prospects.
The former appeals to a larger audience, while the latter is only applicable to a small group of people. This means you may only generate a handful of leads a month for some B2B search terms.
The implications here are clear:
You absolutely NEED to nail your keyword research to ensure you’re reaching the right prospects.
Sales cycles for B2C purchases tend to be short.
If you’re searching for a coffee maker, you’ll likely only spend a few hours (or less) researching your options before making a decision.
However, sales cycles for B2B purchases tend to be significantly longer. One reason is that buying groups for B2B solutions typically involve 6 to 10 decision makers.
The following chart shows how buying groups spend their time:
A longer sales cycle can also mean a low conversion rate after prospects reach out, but the average sales value is a lot higher than in B2C.
Finally, content types and distribution channels differ for B2C and B2B SEO.
Content for B2C audiences tends to be more fun and even downright absurd.
As an example, Blinds.com posted a video to its Facebook page where its blinds survive a battery of tests (including one where they get run over by a pickup truck!):
The durability test video makes for great entertainment. But it’s not exactly the type of content that B2B decision-makers are looking for.
B2B buyers are looking for more informative content like articles, white papers, and case studies — the kind that demonstrates expertise and thought leadership.
Here’s an example of a case study that FreshBooks published targeting small business owners:
While not as entertaining as the durability test video, this is exactly the kind of content that B2B decision-makers are looking for.
How to create a B2B SEO strategy
Ranking for your target keywords in Google is far from easy. You can’t just publish content, sprinkle in a few terms, and expect it to rank (if only things were that easy).
Follow these steps to create a B2B SEO strategy for your company.
1. Create a buyer persona
One of the first steps to putting together a B2B SEO strategy is to create a buyer persona — a detailed description of who your prospects are. These are the people who you want to reach.
Determining buyer personas is generally more straightforward for B2C companies. If you sell video games, then your target customers are gamers of all kinds.
However, things are more complicated for B2B companies.
You need to figure out who you need to reach within the businesses that fit your ideal customer profile. For example, if you offer IT management software, then you’d create a buyer persona for an IT director or other decision makers.
Gather as much information as you can about your prospects. What are their demographics? What are their pain points? What platforms or channels do they use?
Then create multiple customer avatars that represent different segments of your ideal customers.
This will come in handy as you start researching keywords and creating content.
2. Conduct keyword research
Keyword research is crucial for B2B SEO. It helps you identify the terms that your prospects are searching on Google to inform purchasing decisions.
Here are a few ways to find relevant keywords.
Google is a good place to start. Start typing your seed keyword, and you’ll see a list of autocomplete suggestions.
You can even search for each letter of the alphabet to get even more suggestions.
Next, review the SERPs (search engine results page) and look at the “People also ask” section. Here you’ll see a list of common questions that others have asked.
Finally, scroll down the page for a list of additional search queries.
These keywords are all worth targeting.
Your competitors are another great source of keywords.
Type in your seed keywords and look at the sites that are ranking on the first page. Then with our free Rank Checker Tool, you can see the terms that your competitors are ranking for.
As an example, we typed in “used office furniture” and entered one of the top results into the tool.
The tool will pull up hundreds of keywords that you can consider targeting.
The HOTH Google Keyword Planner tool
By now, you should have a list of relevant keywords. But with so many keywords, how do you know which search terms are worth targeting?
The HOTH’s Google Keyword Planner tool.
Simply enter your keywords into our free tool to view data like search volume, CPC, number of search results, and more.
Here’s an example for the term “commercial freezer:”
Pay particular attention to CPC when evaluating keywords.
Because a high CPC indicates high buyer intent — it means that companies are willing to spend more money to advertise for those specific terms on Google Ads.
3. Optimize your product or service pages
Once you’ve identified promising keywords, it’s time to optimize your pages.
Follow these tips to optimize your on-page SEO:
- Include your keyword in your title, header, and subheader tags
- Write a compelling meta description
- Add descriptive ALT tags to your images
- Use short and SEO-friendly URLs
- Include internal links to important content
Of course, make sure that you optimize the content itself. We’ve provided everything you need to know in our SEO content optimization guide, but here’s a short breakdown:
- Satisfy the user’s search intent: Search intent is the goal that a user has when searching for a keyword. Types of search intent include navigational, informational, transactional, and commercial. Examine the search results for a chosen keyword to identify search intent.
- Publish long-form content: Long-form content (anything over 1,000 words) generally ranks better than short-form content. Aim to be as comprehensive as you can with each piece of content. Of course, don’t add fluff to your content just to increase the word count.
- Format and structure your content: No one wants to read large blocks of text. Break your content up with headings and subheadings to improve readability and user experience.
- Don’t stuff your content with keywords: Finally, don’t use the same keywords over and over again, as it will make your content sound robotic. Include semantic keywords (variations and related words) in a natural way, but don’t go overboard.
Need help optimizing your content?
Then check out HOTH Optimization. We’ll help you figure out the best keywords to target and optimize your pages to get them ranking in Google.
4. Create content for the entire buyer’s journey
In 2021, 79% of B2B buyers indicated that a winning vendor’s content had a significant impact on their buying decision.
Sales cycles for B2B purchases tend to be quite long. If you want to drive results with your B2B SEO, then you need to consider the entire sales cycle.
A solid B2B content marketing strategy that covers each stage of the buyer’s journey will help bring your prospects one step closer to making a decision.
Here are some types of content to create for every stage of the buyer’s journey.
Awareness: Prospects realize they have a problem but aren’t aware of your solution yet
- Blog posts
This guide on coil thread inserts offers an excellent example of content that targets prospects in the awareness stage.
Consideration: Prospects are considering different solutions, including yours
The following video from Slack offers a good example of a video that targets prospects in the consideration stage.
Decision: Prospects are ready to make a purchasing decision
- Case studies
- Vendor comparisons
- Landing pages (free trials, demos, etc.)
Here’s a chart that Pingboard made comparing its organization chart software to other vendors.
Creating amazing content that reaches and engages your target audience is tough. If you need help with content creation, then check out HOTH Blogger.
5. Promote and build backlinks to your content
Backlinks from other websites are one of the most important ranking factors.
Think of them as a vote of confidence — more backlinks tell Google that your content must be valuable and worth ranking in the search results.
Here’s how you can promote your content and get backlinks.
Reach out to any suppliers or partners that you work with and request a link.
Here’s an example of a partners page from Viseo, an IT consulting firm:
Guest blogging is when you publish content on other websites. Building backlinks in this manner requires more effort, but it can improve your rankings and drive more traffic to your site.
Tik Tok and Snapchat aren’t exactly ideal for B2B companies, but you can still use networks like LinkedIn and Facebook to identify link partners.
Build a resource
Finally, another way to build quality backlinks is to create a helpful resource. An interactive app or calculator is often a good choice.
Here’s an example of a freight calculator from Freightos:
6. Optimize technical SEO factors
To quickly recap, technical SEO helps Google crawl and index your B2B website. It also provides a better browsing experience for your visitors.
Here’s a quick checklist to optimize the technical components of your website:
- Improve loading times
- Ensure your site is mobile-friendly
- Create an XML sitemap
- Fix any crawling errors
- Add structured data markup
- Fix or remove broken links
- Remove duplicate content
- Use canonical tags
Want to see how well optimized your site is? In the past, you’d have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars to an SEO firm to get an audit.
Today, you can use our free SEO report tool instead and get comprehensive feedback in seconds.
Simply enter your name, email address, website URL, and phone number, and the tool will generate a detailed report for your site.
In addition to checking your technical SEO, the tool will also check for issues with usability, security, and accessibility.
There you have it — a complete B2B SEO guide to improve your visibility in the search engine results.
Following the steps outlined here isn’t easy. But it will help increase your rankings in Google and drive more prospects to your landing pages.
If you need help with creating and implementing an SEO strategy for your business, then check out our fully managed SEO service called HOTH X.