5 Essential B2B SEO Best Practices
In competitive B2B niches, the competition for a top spot on Google is real. The good news, however, is that SEO can be the great equalizer, where talent and hard work can beat out large, well-funded competitors. From my early days as CEO of a B2B SEO firm, I’ve made outranking well-entrenched competitors a passion of mine. I’ve found that doing so is simply a matter of following the correct strategy, which can be harder than it seems, because there’s a lot of misinformation out there. In this article, I will outline the 5 best practices for B2B SEO that I’ve found to work in terms of increasing rankings and generating qualified leads. Here they are:
- Target transactional keywords
- Publish interesting content weekly
- Include clear calls-to-action
- Optimize your website’s user interface
- Implement proper lead tracking systems
Below, I elaborate on these practices so you can implement them in your organization. I’ll also give you specific examples to help you visualize what a successful B2B SEO campaign looks like.
#1: Target Transactional Keywords
B2B marketers have to be intentional about the keywords they target on every landing page and blog post. That’s because some keywords will attract the wrong audience. For example, if a keyword is too general, it could attract B2C customers or searchers who are just learning and not interested in buying anytime soon. Ranking for these keywords might look nice, but are ultimately fruitless; your time and effort are best spent targeting transactional keywords. These are the keywords that your B2B clients search for when they’re looking to invest in your services.
How do you know if a keyword is transactional for a B2B audience? Think about who might be searching for that keyword. As an example, let’s say your company produces *equipment* for small scale manufacturing of printed circuit boards (PCBs). A potential keyword you might look at would be “small scale pcb manufacturing.” While it’s true that someone searching for this phrase may be looking to buy your products, many searchers will instead be looking for a company like VSE who provides PCB manufacturing services. As a result, your conversion rates for visitors coming in through this keyword will be very low.
You can check your work in two ways: (1) think about the search and what a person would mean who typed in those exact words in that order; and (2) see what comes up when you search for the phrase.
The first method is where you should start. For this phrase, “small scale pcb manufacturing”, one possibility is that the searcher is trying to understand what the concept means. But since it’s both specific (“pcb”) and easy to understand (“manufacturing”), it’s doubtful this is a definitional search. A second, and more likely, possibility is that the searcher is interested in buying small scale pcb manufacturing services. If I were wanting that type of service, I’d either type that phrase exactly; that phrase with “services” at the end; or possibly “low volume pcb manufacturing [services]”. To me, that is the universe of possibilities for what a searcher might mean by that query.
In no case would I imagine that searcher was looking for equipment for their own small scale pcb manufacturing business. Given that that’s exactly who we’re looking for, we can safely discard this keyword. Sure, there is a possibility someone looking for these kinds of services would be interested in producing the PCBs in-house and therefore buying equipment, but it’s unlikely, which is why I say this keyword would have an extremely low conversion rate.
A quick peek at the actual Google results for this keyword confirm our conclusion: these results are geared toward companies looking for a PCB manufacturer to outsource work to, and not companies who wish to purchase their own equipment.
Now, what if we target what feels like the correct phrase, “small scale pcb manufacturing equipment”? Let’s take a look at the results for this new keyword, and see if Google is currently allowing other sellers of small scale pcb manufacturing equipment (i.e. competitors) to rank.
Indeed they are. These results target business owners and decision makers who want to manufacture their own PCBs and are actively looking for equipment to buy. So we should target it as well.
Keyword strategy is all about what each keyword tells you about its searcher. With 2-3 minutes of thinking per keyword, you’ll get more transactional, high-conversion-rate keywords on which to focus your website’s pages. The simple act of choosing the right keywords will give you an edge, given that your competitors probably aren’t thinking that hard about keyword targeting.
Of course, once you target the right keywords, you then have to put them inside pages that earn visitors’ trust.
#2: Publish Interesting Content Weekly
Publishing interesting content on a consistent basis is one of the most important best practices in B2B SEO. First, by publishing content weekly—ideally 2x per week to activate Google’s “News Website Bonus”—you build trust with Google, and increase your SERPs. Second, writing great content demonstrates your expertise and offers visitors something of real value, thereby building trust with them that can easily convert to business later on. I’ve found that genuinely great content correlates with higher engagement levels, more time on site, higher search rankings, and qualified leads.
So what does interesting content look like? First, make sure you start off strong and draw in the reader. Let’s compare the introductions for two writing samples from different B2B blogs:
There’s nothing seriously wrong with the introduction to this article; in fact, it’s packed with good information. But it’s dry and doesn’t get to its point quickly, so a busy decision maker could get bored and leave the page. If you want to engage with potential B2B leads, you need to make sure they’re interested right from the start. Compare this with the next example:
In the very first sentence, we have a statement that is both authoritative and original. It tells the reader exactly what to expect and it offers them an insight that they can’t get anywhere else. If they’re at all interested in the topic—and they will be, if you’ve targeted the right keyword—they’ll be sure to keep reading. Once you have your reader hooked, follow it up with the meat of your article: this will be your analysis of industry statistics, a comparison table of the pros and cons of various product options or strategies, or something else entirely. The specifics will depend on your business, but what’s important is to make sure you’re presenting a real insight, and giving the reader an opportunity to learn something new. Your audience will appreciate that you’re respecting their time and attention, and that appreciation makes them that much more likely to decide that they want to work with you.
Next, make it easy for your audience to know what to do once they’ve made a decision. That brings us to the call to action.
#3: Include a Clear CTA
If you want to convert leads into sales, you need to make each conversion step crystal clear to your audience. It would be a shame to put all this work into generating leads only for your potential clients to leave before taking the next step. Always assume that visitors need a clearer path than expected, even for simple conversion actions like downloading a white paper or inputting their email address. The less work it is to find the next step in the process, the more likely your leads are to follow through with the sale.
Let’s focus on blog posts for a moment. To effectively convert leads, it’s best to include at least one CTA on the side of every page and at the end of every blog post. Visitors should know exactly where to click to move down the content marketing funnel with minimal effort.
The sidebar call-to-action is fairly common, and works best when it travels down the page with the visitor rather than remaining static at the top of the page. It’s the end-of-page CTA that companies often get wrong. Below is a good example of what not to do: Notice how the CTA appears abruptly at the end of the page, disconnected from the content of the article. In that way, it comes across like banner advertising, which gets automatically ignored.
A CTA at the end of a blog post should blend organically with the article’s content, feeling like a natural conclusion to the piece. Here’s an example from a company that offers plastic pallet rental to grocery supply chains. The article is a comparison between two different ways of obtaining pallets—exchange and rental—that comes to the conclusion that rental is the best option.
Within landing pages, button CTAs work particularly well because they’re eye-catching. They should also logically flow from the text surrounding them. Here is an example of a colorful and interesting graphical box on a manufacturing company’s website that has a nicely contrasting CTA button:
Finally, it can be a good option for landing pages to have a form right on the bottom or side of the page so visitors don’t even have to click to a new page to start the conversion process.
The value of an easily findable CTA cannot be understated in a sales environment as easy to exit as a website.
#4: Optimize Your Website’s User Interface
Creating a B2B website to generate leads is a lot like wrapping a gift. What’s inside is important, but so is the overall presentation. Your UI and graphics are the very first things visitors see and interact with when they click on a link, so they have to be inviting in order for you to achieve a high conversion rate.
B2B UI Best Practices
A good website is:
- Simple and consistent in design
- Easy to navigate and read
- Strategic in its use of color, graphic placement, and font to move readers down the page and encourage clicking
You can optimize your website to generate leads in different ways. Here are two examples of successful UIs that look very different but both follow each of the rules above.
This first example is a direct sales landing page. It’s designed to drive leads from financial executives seeking an anti-fraud / identity verification system for their customers:
The page works because the UI follows a logical flow. The main graphic instantly hooks visitors in while simultaneously giving them an overview of how Cognito’s services work. The next thing visitors will look at is the large text to the left of the graphic. This explains in more detail what Cognito does. Lastly, visitors will look at the bold Get Started buttons that encourage them to move down the conversion funnel. Everything is laid out clearly and no element feels gratuitous. That makes for a great user experience.
The second example is a more researcher-targeted (as opposed to buyer-targeted) sales page meant to move executives along in the conversion funnel who are in the exploratory phase of thinking about customer service platforms.
There’s a balance here between simple graphics and detailed descriptions. The most important information is right up at the top and this information grows more detailed as your eye moves down the page. Breaking information into bite-sized pieces like this is a great way to help visitors digest what you’re trying to say.
#5: Implement Proper Lead Tracking Systems
When you’ve done the work of proper keyword research, thought leadership content production, CTA placement, and UI design, you’ve essentially created an automated SEO system for generating leads. But how do you know that it’s working? That’s where the need to implement lead tracking systems arises.
Your marketing stack should include at least one quantitative tracking tool and one qualitative tracking tool. Combining the insights you learn from each of these will not only help you track new leads, but also eventually convert those leads into sales.
This system tells you quantifiable information like:
- Which pages visitors land on
- How long visitors spend on each page
- Which actions visitors took on the website
I recommend looking at the provenance of the marketing platform as a good best practice to start. Tools that have large user bases and reliable customer support are ideal. Whatever marketing platform you use should also provide you with accurate and actionable insights. Google Analytics and HubSpot are both viable quantitative marketing platforms.
This refers to customer relationship management (CRM) software. This tool analyzes how your company interacts with customers and includes data like:
- Customer retention rates
- Customer preferences
- Lead routing and workflow
This isn’t just about how many leads your company gets, but how effectively you handle those leads. The best practice for choosing the right tool for this task is to look for a software that offers predictive tools and automated tasks. HubSpot and Salesforce are both excellent options.
Maximizing All Five B2B SEO Best Practices
These B2B SEO best practices aren’t a secret or even difficult to understand. They simply take a great deal of time and effort to implement correctly. If yours is a more technical industry, your most knowledgeable team members may not be the best choice for researching keywords and writing engaging content for a corporate blog. Whether or not they have the ability to find the best keywords to target, write a great article, and make sure the CTA flows naturally, doing so every week is a significant time commitment. And even in those businesses where your team is already filled with great writers—if you’re in a content industry, for example—refining your website’s UI and analyzing your tracking systems’ data are disciplines unto themselves.
One way to solve this problem is to outsource your SEO needs. There are many dedicated SEO agencies to choose from, each offering a different level of service, but at a minimum, make sure the one you choose has the expertise to handle every aspect of B2B SEO for you. They should have a team of skilled web and graphic designers, content managers, keyword specialists, editors, and writers with a deep understanding of these essential best practices. That way, your team can leave the work to the SEO agency and focus on your company’s core business.
And, of course, if you’d like to know more about working with our SEO agency, feel free to get in touch.