Search engine optimization – which everyone calls SEO – is hard. That’s particularly true for B2B companies, which need to find traffic from niche audiences.

But just because B2B SEO is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. There are a ton of benefits for companies and websites that attract sustained organic traffic. In this post, we’ll look at how to – and how not to – develop your SEO strategy.

First, let’s define a few key terms we’ll be using.

B2B SEO Glossary

  • SEO – Search engine optimization is the use of content to attempt to rank higher on Google, Bing and Yahoo SERPs. These rankings typically result in increased traffic, better brand visibility, leads and revenue.
  • SERP – Search engine results page. You can see one here.
  • Content – Anything you produce. Like, literally anything. We’re not just talking about the written word, though that’s the core of it.
  • CTR – Click-through rate. The percentage of people who see a result on a SERP and actually click it.
  • CR – Conversion rate. The percentage of people who visit a website that take a desired action.
  • Long-tail SEO – An SEO strategy focused on low-volume, high-specificity keywords.
  • Domain authority – A rough measure of a site’s authority, and subsequent ability to rank on SERPs. You can check yours here.
  • EAT – Expertise, authority, trustworthiness. The basic set of metrics Google uses to determine the authority of a page or post.

Want more definitions? We have a longer list of B2B marketing acronyms here.

B2B SEO Illustration

Benefits of B2B SEO

Why would you want to develop an SEO strategy? Because you want more people to see your stuff! Good search engine optimization can dramatically increase your website’s visibility, leading to more traffic, and – depending on your conversion rate – more leads. Some leads turn into sales. That’s good!

Without an SEO strategy, you’re counting on getting lucky. That’s bad. Companies that aren’t visible on search engine results pages need higher advertising budgets and are simply less well-known than their SEO-savvy counterparts.

Sounds good, right?

There’s a problem, though. Everyone wants these benefits, and there are tons of cheap “service providers” more than willing to take your money on unrealistic promises. Here’s how to avoid them.

Why You Need to Avoid Cheap SEO

We’ve seen it a thousand times. A company gets a cold call or email from an “SEO expert” promising a “free site audit.” They find a bunch of “problems,” then pitch a bargain-basement solution while promising the world.

Real life doesn’t work that way.

First, while SEO can be complex, it’s pretty understandable at its core. You put out great content on a solid website, you rank on Google, and then people check out your site.

SEO is a science, but it’s not rocket science. If someone is trying to sell you by using complicated jargon, it’s often because they’re trying to hide how they’re going to actually help you. If it feels like you’re on the receiving end of a lesson in nuclear physics, it’s a good idea to run in the other direction.

Another red flag that you’re on the wrong track is that there’s no meaningful discussion of content creation. Quality content is the absolute key to your SEO strategy. And it takes time to create.

Finally, be wary of promises and numbers detached from reality. Search engine optimization is fantastic, but it’s not magic. Watch out for unrealistic promises.

Knowing the difference between realistic and unrealistic goals can make or break SEO efforts. For example, a click-through rate (CTR) of 50% is average for branded terms, like a direct search for a company name. However, a 50% CTR on SERP results for broad terms, like a type of product or industry, is a fantasy.

Why Cheap SEO Doesn’t Work

Google is the dominant search engine for a reason. They’ve been around for over two decades, have about 100,000 employees, and are experts in their craft. You can’t fool or manipulate them.

Say it again: B2B SEO is NOT about tricking Google.

While cheap tactics and content might occasionally get some traffic or numbers initially, eventually, Google will catch on. And, when it does, its wrath can be pretty steep.

That doesn’t stop people from trying “black hat” SEO. They buy links, stuff keywords, use doorway pages, affiliate networks and click-jacks, and publish worthless guest posts.

Don’t worry what any of that jargon means. Worry about what it is – bad.

Low-end SEO practices don’t just fail to get results. They actively damage the brand and rankings. The price of shady practices is harsh penalties from Google. A violation of guidelines can result in getting blacklisted or buried deep in search results. This can take weeks or months to recover. Getting caught in the act of SEO sleight of hand will often leave you ranked lower than you were before.

For SEO efforts to thrive, they need to be linked to a comprehensive SEO strategy that is customized for the company. B2B SEO can’t be a quick one-time fix; it’s a long-term play that requires budget and mindshare for months and years.

The strategy needs to be crafted with insight into the company and industry. It should include a long-tail approach to keywords, what target key phrases are relevant and realistic, and what verticals should be targeted and when.

Additionally, bad SEO is just bad business. Cheap SEO often leads to cheap and poorly written content, which just looks embarrassing. In 2019, most people engage with a company’s website and content before making a purchase or going to a sales meeting. And when their first impression of your company is filled with typos, factual inaccuracies, and shady tactics, business and conversions will suffer.

Wait … What’s Long-Tail?

OK, quick aside now on our favorite B2B SEO strategy.

Long-tail SEO is a content strategy that focuses on leveraging low-volume, highly specific keywords to attract a specific audience.

Think about the keyword universe like a dinosaur:

Long-Tail SEO Dinosaur

“Head” keywords are generic, and thus are searched more often. This is your industry, or a broad description of your company. For Altitude, it’s “marketing agency.”

“Tail” keywords are very specific. For Altitude, one would be “B2B marketing agency Emmaus.” There’s a LOT less search volume for that. But that also means it’s easier to rank for.

The key is to craft content that helps identify where your website sits on the dinosaur. Can you realistically get your head keywords? Probably not. But can you get “body” terms, which are a little more specific than head keywords? How specific do you need to be to get on Page 1?

Once you’ve identified your spot on the dinosaur, you need to create content further toward the tail. This eventually pushes you up the dinosaur – we call him Littlefoot, by the way – and allows you to rank for higher-volume terms.

Best Practices for Good SEO

With all that said, what makes good SEO?

Bad SEO focuses on search engines. Good SEO – often called white hat – focuses on users. Search engines want to give users what they want.

Now that SEO is so competitive, what ranks isn’t specific product pages, but rather reviews, articles, informative content and blogs that show people what they’re options are. Creating this content is what drives successful rankings.

Another critical factor that influences SEO is domain authority. It provides a useful framework for understanding how well a website will rank. The higher the domain authority score, the more likely content from that website is to rank. Domain authority is a critical factor for search engines. Only high-quality content can earn high domain authority.

While domain authority is useful, it is not a metric Google uses to determine rankings. They use a similar metric, EAT – expertise, authority, and trustworthiness.

What both of these metrics have in common is that they measure the credibility of a website and how it will perform in search engines. And the way to earn a higher score is to earn the trust of search engines by creating high quality content that solves peoples’ problems.

Count on Technology Changes

In addition to a comprehensive long-term strategy, a good SEO agency or firm will account for how search engines and technology will evolve.

While it usually sticks to its core guidelines, Google changes its technical approach to search engine ranking pretty frequently. Because of this, many SEO tactics from just three years ago are outdated.

Search engine optimization used to be all about maximizing keyword density and focusing on just one primary keyword. Now, semantic search is taking over, placing a large emphasis on the intent of search traffic and the use of related keywords.

For example, Google views the key phrases “B2B SEO strategy” and “B2B SEO tactics” similarly, as they both speak to the same intent of a user searching for insight into deploying SEO for B2B marketing.

Similarly, a comprehensive approach should also consider how other search engines, such as YouTube, Bing, Amazon and Yahoo, factor in. Yes, Google’s 75% share of search traffic is by far the most dominant. However, Bing’s 8.42% share and Yahoo’s 3.26% share lead to 134.7 billion and 52.2 billion searches per year, respectively. These numbers are nothing to scoff at.

Additionally, new technologies such as voice search and artificial intelligence are already a key part of the search engine puzzle and will continue to grow in significance.

An Integrated Approach to SEO

What causes many search marketing providers to fall short is that they work in a vacuum. Every part of your digital marketing is intertwined with SEO.

Often overlooked is how branding and messaging impact Google rankings. If you don’t follow good conventions naming your company, you’re probably not going to be able to rank for your own name. That’s an uphill battle you don’t want to fight.

A big-picture strategy and messaging plan will shape and guide your SEO efforts and what keywords to go after.

You also need your site to be fast. If your website takes 30 seconds to load and isn’t available 24/7, then your SEO efforts will fail. Why? A slow-loading and clunky website will make visitors so bored they click off when it doesn’t load. This hurts metrics that are critical to SERP rankings.

(You can check your website’s speed on PageSpeed Insights.)

Additionally, if your website’s hosting fails or you have a breach but no plan to recover, you won’t have anywhere to drive traffic to.

For the last three years, more than half of all search traffic came from mobile. Because of this your website needs to be optimized for mobile. This isn’t negotiable in 2019.

If you have all of these in place and your SEO efforts work, you still need to do something with that traffic for it to mean anything. The website should have pillar pages for all of your company’s verticals and primary services. These pages, in addition to serving as SEO goldmines, are the place where you drive traffic from blogs, moving more readers deeper into the buyer’s journey.

Also consider your website’s information architecture and sitemap. Does it make sense? Will your users understand how to navigate the site and discover what your company does?

Finally, think about conversions. Without a means of converting SEO traffic into leads, the traffic won’t mean much in the long run. It doesn’t matter how many visitors organic B2B SEO gets you if you don’t have a website, premium assets, marketing automation, contact forms and calls to action in place.

Starting Your SEO Strategy

Generating organic traffic takes time. It can take months or even a year to get serious results. It’s a long-term investment. That said, there are a few quick things you can do before diving into long-term content creation.

  • Make sure your website is up to snuff. If it’s been a few years since your last website update, take a look at its inner workings and make sure everything is running smoothly and won’t present any challenges. Remapping information architecture, adding alt. text to images, and editing old copy are quick fixes that can go a long way.
  • If you’re going to be investing your time and resources in SEO, it’s important to set up analytics that track your progress. Assigning numbers and data traffic is critical to ensuring your efforts achieve an ROI.
  • Social media is another piece of the puzzle. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter contribute to driving traffic just like SEO does. Social shares also contribute to getting pages to rank. Plus, it has a low barrier to entry and is a great way of engaging with people in your industry.

With those smaller fixes in place, the next big part is content creation. However, it can’t be low quality content.

Low-quality content that somehow manages to rank won’t be able to convert. People are smart and have an idea of what they’re looking for and can’t be tricked, only helped. Content shouldn’t just be filler for the search engine.

In 2019, it’s high-quality content that ranks on search engines, solves readers’ problems, and generates leads. The standard for content length and quality is constantly changing, but, generally the longer a blog is, the more comprehensive it is, and the more Google and readers will like it. Quick 300-word blogs that don’t fully answer questions won’t cut it. Five-hundred words is often considered the starting point, with many of the best performing blogs weighing in between 1,000 and 1,500 words.

(You can read our tutorial on creating B2B content here. And here’s how to start a B2B content marketing program.)

Conclusion

The benefits of SEO are obvious, but only if the optimization efforts are implemented in a deliberate and strategic way. For most B2B companies, the best approach is usually an integrated one.

Need a hand with SEO and content creation? We’d be happy to help. Drop us a line or call 610-421-8601 x122 to chat with one of our search marketing experts!