B2B companies often think in traditional terms when it comes to planning their marketing initiatives, taking the view that SEO and SEM (search engine marketing) is less relevant in the B2B space than it is elsewhere. As such, they rely on things like word of mouth, a direct sales force conducting cold calls, conferences and other networking events.
However, SEO is just as crucial in the B2B environment for lead generation as it is everywhere else.
- 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search, and 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases (Think With Google)
- 77% of B2B purchasers say they won’t even speak to a salesperson until they’ve conducted their own research (HubSpot)
- B2B marketers that blog generate 67% more leads than those that don’t (iMPACT)
See how all those stats are interlinked? Blogging, as a B2B marketing tactic, successfully generates so many leads precisely because B2B researchers, purchasers and decision-makers are researching their purchase decisions online – and a company blog is one sure-fire way to SEO optimise a website and ensure that it turns up in search.
Why More B2B Researchers are Turning to Search Engines?
The reason for this trend can be explained by a generational shift in the workforce. Research conducted and compiled by Social Media Today for a 2017 report reveals that between 2012 and 2014, the number of 18- to 34-year-old B2B researchers increased by 70% – and indeed, as the report points out, this number can only have risen since then.
(Image source: thinkwithgoogle.com)
More than half of the B2B researchers working today are millennials – a generational shift that is resulting in a change in the way that businesses find brands and products. Today, the growing cohort of younger researchers is far more likely to turn to digital channels – such as search engines and company blogs – to conduct their research than their older colleagues and counterparts.
Importantly, these younger researchers also have influence in the buying cycle. While they may not yet occupy senior positions, 81% of non-senior staff have at least some level of influence over purchasing decisions.
(Image source: bubblegumsearch.com)
So – do B2B companies really use search engines?
I think the evidence we’ve seen so far is definitive. Yes – of course they do.
However, when looking at SEO from a B2B marketing perspective, it’s important that we don’t get bogged down in using blogs and other content marketing efforts simply to improve positions in SERPs (search engine results pages). While that is of course important, and is indeed one of the great benefits of search engine marketing efforts, it nonetheless fails to recognise the true value of SEO.
The True Value of SEO in B2B Marketing
If all we think about is the numbers – how high our websites rank in SERPs, or how much traffic we drive from search – we quickly forget that content marketing should be about increasing thought leadership and delivering quality.
SEO should not just be used to dominate search, but ongoing industry conversations as well. The time and effort that a B2B company puts into creating content should pay off beyond improved rankings. It needs to capture the hearts and minds of all those B2B researchers, purchasers and decision-makers out there who discover the content online.
Indeed, when it comes to B2B, search engine marketing has two goals – 1). to drive organic traffic to the company’s website, and 2). to provide the necessary education and support to researchers and purchasers through aiding the discoverability of the most appropriate content that will help them make a purchase decision.
Increasing the Value of Content with SEO
SEO should not be primarily thought of as a tactic to simply improve the rankings of websites for keywords. Rather, it is about optimising the company as a whole to be found by its target audience. And this is done by creating content that answers the specific questions that B2B buyers are asking when they head to a search engine to conduct research.
When done correctly, the B2B marketing content you produce will help buyers build trust and confidence in your company, and will thus be more inspired and inclined to do business with you.
It’s vitally important, therefore, that your content is rendered discoverable for B2B buyers – for the more of them that do discover it, the greater the pool of potential new business leads you will create. In this way, SEO can be used to significantly increase the value of each and every piece of content that you’ve already created, as well as each and every new piece you create going forward. By combining solid and up-to-date SEO practices with high-quality content creation, the value of your B2B marketing efforts will go through the roof.
And you do need to think about keywords. Although keywords should not be the primary focus of content creation, they nonetheless still play a vital role in a piece of content’s discoverability. This means that when you create content to educate B2B buyers, you need to think about the terms and wordage they are likely to use in a search query, and build these keywords and keyword phrases into the quality content you create.
You also need to think about the types of content that you’re producing. Not every B2B buyer will have the time to read every blog or eBook or white paper that you write. Some will be more enamoured by a video, infographic, or webinar. Finding what type of content drives the most traffic and generates the most leads and producing more of it will increase the SEO value of your website, and better optimise your company to be found by the people you are targeting.
Over to You
B2B companies use search engines to find companies, services and products – of course they do. However, the use of search doesn’t stop there. For what B2B purchasers and decision-makers are really doing when they head online is research. They are researching companies like yours and pitting your solution and services against what your competitors are offering. The quality of the content you provide for them is what will differentiate your company from the crowd – and that, ultimately, is the true value of SEO from a B2B marketing perspective.