Search engine optimization (SEO) is all about improving your website’s organic visibility. And it starts by targeting the right keywords. Here’s how to conduct B2B keyword research that aligns with user intent and feeds your content strategy.

To show up on Google’s search engine results page (SERP) higher than your competitors, you need to conduct B2B keyword research to understand what your prospects are actually searching for. Then, you can create content that will (hopefully) be shown as the best answer.

Google indexes that content and ultimately decides where that content deserves to be on the SERP – whether it’s the first, tenth or hundredth page.

While other technical website factors and issues like domain authority come into play, the basics of SEO come down to one thing: consistently writing content that comprehensively addresses questions people ask through search.

To do this effectively, you need to know what keywords you want to rank, what keywords your buyers are actually searching, and what they actually want (the intent) when they make that search.

That’s where B2B keyword research comes into play.

What Is B2B Keyword Research?

B2B keyword research is the process of qualitatively and quantitatively coming up with the terms that prospects are using to conduct a search that you want to show up for.

At a basic level, this research begins with understanding your audience’s drivers and language.

Once you have that background in hand, turn to technology – like Google Keyword Planner and Keywords Everywhere – to gain an understanding of volume and competition around keywords you want to rank for.

Now that you have that list, how do you actually decide which ones to go for?

How to Choose the Right Organic Keywords

During your B2B keyword research, consider these three steps to select the right keywords:

  • Qualitative analysis   
  • Long-tail keywords
  • User intent analysis

Tip #1: Qualitative Analysis   

Effective B2B keyword research must begin with your own list of terms you want to rank for based on who you are as a business.

Take a look at your internal marketing functions. You likely have some combination of strategy, research, content, website, digital, public relations and social media. All of these efforts are inextricably linked. This allows for a critical qualitative analysis of keywords and content topics that flow through these channels.

Particularly in technical B2B spaces, quant-only analysis (e.g., search volume and keyword difficulty) falls short. Selecting the right keywords ultimately requires nuance and a deep understanding of your business.

Tip #2: Long-Tail Keywords

To refine your keyword research, we recommend a “long-tail” keyword strategy.

This requires a mix of “head” keywords – the ultimate goals – being propped up by “body” and “tail” terms, which serve to build relative authority.

For example: Altitude is a marketing agency. That’s our head term. But it’s also wildly competitive. To contextualize it, we support the head by going for body terms (“B2B marketing agency”) and tail terms (“How to run a B2B marketing campaign”).

These long-tail terms allow you to get some smaller-scale wins and build to the higher searched (and more competitive) terms.  

Tip #3: User Intent Analysis

Finally, and most importantly, your keywords need to align with user intent.

In general, user intent is tied tightly to the audience itself.

This requires both the quantitative and qualitative research into their wants, needs and desires.

Who are you trying to sell to? What kind of language do they use to find solutions? This requires critical thinking about your audience based on conversations with your sales team and analyzing the qualities of your existing clients. How did they find you? What questions did they ask during the sales process? Why did they select your business?

Developing a buyer persona is a great place to start if you need a better understanding of your audience.   

It is important that your B2B keyword research truly takes the perspective of the audience. Approaching it with your goals in mind leads to biased data and sub-optimal results. Instead, focus on their needs, and hone your content strategy toward it.

The ultimate tell, however, is what Google returns on the SERP.

If a topic yields eCommerce results, for instance, it needs to be tweaked unless you can sell something on the spot.

If all the top results are from academic journals, you need to write similarly – or again, tweak the topic.

Google’s results are based on literally trillions of queries per year. It has learned what users want, and you can let it be your guide.

Conclusion

Successful B2B keyword research is driven by an innate understanding of the audience’s drivers combined with Google’s preferences.

The thought exercise is at once simple and complex: “Is this the perfect result for that search query?”

Answered honestly, this is an extremely powerful guide. For instance, someone looking for a how-to within a piece of software will inevitably want a video, or at least step-by-step screenshots. A result lacking those is not the perfect result, and thus won’t necessarily rank high.

And before you can write the perfect result, you need to be targeting the right keyword.