B2B SEO: A Case Study
When I’m chatting with marketing VPs at events, they often ask the question: “So, what’s the best B2B SEO strategy nowadays?”
Even though there are many ways to answer that question, I can distill it to the following:
Identify your highest value keywords, rank them by transactionality, and then build a thorough page for each keyword, publishing at least twice weekly.
To elucidate this concept for you, I’ll now walk you through a case study involving one of our B2B clients, covering the initial analysis we performed, the SEO strategy we implemented, how we measured our efforts, and the results our campaign ultimately produced.
Detailed Analysis Informs Smart B2B SEO Strategy
To help us determine the highest value keywords for our client, we analyzed their brand, target customer personas, and website.
As a mid-sized B2B reusable plastic pallet supplier, iGPS has a product that many businesses need but few understand. From that, we knew educating potential customers about brand differences would be a top priority. Customers need to know why the type of pallets used matters for their business, and they need a reason to think of iGPS as different than other pallet providers.
To educate customers and increase their loyalty to their brand, iGPS focused on the following branding techniques, which we describe in our branding guide:
- Unique Voice
- Original Thinking
- Clear Value Proposition
- Brand Ethos
As we determined in our onboarding phase, the overarching branding objective for iGPS is to project value using informative content that prompted customers to think deeply about the brand’s advantages. With the brand ethos established, we then took a closer look at iGPS’s customer base.
With a clear sense of voice and value, we next turned to a close examination of the decision-makers in the industries that most rely on plastic pallets.
Establishing a customer persona is the process of truly seeking to understand the key decision-makers—and their motivations. This undertaking is more than just identifying their industry, though that’s a good place to start. For iGPS, top target industries include: produce, pet food, paper goods, pharmaceutical products, automotive, and dairy and eggs.
And it’s more than knowing their title, though that’s key too. For iGPS this ranged from CEOs, CFOs, and board members to transport, operations, supply, shipping, logistics, and warehouse managers, plus procurement team leads.
Instead, think of a customer persona as a detailed, semi-fictional guide to the individual “type” of customer you most want to target: identify their role, title, demographics, goals, and challenges—and articulate how your solutions can help.
Why are customer personas so important? Because they help you identify the kinds of pain points and challenges that send them to the internet to look for solutions to their problems. For iGPS, use insights from our audience research and customer personas to develop a list of relevant conversion-oriented keywords to target with landing pages and blog entries for each industry our client serves. We knew if their website ranked on the first page for these keywords, they would see a significant increase in their number of leads.
Which brings us to the next aspect of their business we analyzed: their website.
When this client approached us, they were dissatisfied with the number of leads they were getting through their website. We conducted an audit and quickly found several issues with their website, including:
- Site Speed: Their website was slow, which is an issue since Google ranks slower websites lower, automatically reducing the number of potential customers who see it. Then, if a customer does find the website and it takes too long to load, they skip it and go to the next one.
- Meta Page Titles and Schema Markup: Missing or haphazard meta page titles and schema markups are some of the most common issues we find on a website. Without MPTs and schema, Google doesn’t know how to categorize your web pages—so it doesn’t display them. This client’s website had no systemic meta page titles or schema, so it simply wasn’t ranking.
- Security: Google—and the people who use it—have security standards for websites, especially those which process transactions. Websites that don’t live up to these standards are penalized.
- User Experience: Customers need to find what they’re looking for in as few clicks as possible. Additionally, websites should be aesthetically appealing, not busy or loud. We identified several user experience problems with this client’s website that were increasing bounce rates and reducing conversion rates.
- Conversion Optimization: Each page on a website needs to provide a path towards conversion. We looked at this client’s website and decided it needed to both simplify and amplify its conversion channels.
- Thought Leadership: Prior to working with us, this client did not have a blog and was, therefore, missing out on many potential conversions. The addition of thought leadership articles that target conversion-oriented keywords is a highly effective way of attracting customers to your site. As we’ll explore next, we developed a thorough keyword strategy and began posting thought leadership content twice per week.
Let’s take a look at how we developed a custom SEO strategy and put it into action.
Turning SEO Insights into Implementation
We concluded that the best way to improve iGPS’s website was to replace it. So we moved their old website to a new platform—Wordpress—to take care of their site speed and security issues. We left the old site live as a placeholder while we built their new and improved site from scratch.
This gave us the opportunity to design a suite of branded landing pages specifically targeting top keywords in our client’s most important industries and written with our customer personas front of mind. We included another set of landing pages explaining the differences between various plastic pallet types and our client’s competitive advantages, again with careful attention to the particular needs and expectations of our customer personas. While we were writing and building these pages, we added accurate meta page titles and schema to let Google know how to identify them.
The Overlapping Benefits of Comprehensive Landing Pages
These landing pages accomplished two goals: boosting keyword rankings and improving customer experience. Let’s explore how we accomplished this in turn.
First, we set out to craft uniquely insightful landing pages for each industry. On each of these pages, our goal was to outperform the competition by offering more comprehensive, valuable, and meaningful insights to iGPS’s readers. This quality content gave Google a reason to put iGPS on the first page.
Secondly, we ensured a seamless navigational structure. To achieve this, we linked each of these landing pages from a clear and visible menu on the website’s top navigation bar. No matter if it’s the potential customer’s first or fourth visit to the iGPS website, it is now easy for them to find their way around the site. All the information they want is readily available—and so is the “contact us” page.
As a result of these improvements, our landing pages both increased traffic to the client’s site and helped keep clients on the site longer once they were there. When customers were ready to purchase, we made it easy to do so.
Supplementing Landing Pages with Targeted Blog Posts
On top of these landing pages, we also wrote more than twenty blog posts before we took the new site live. These blog posts targeted more niche transactional keywords than the landing pages. This keyword strategy allowed our blogs to more easily compete for Google’s attention since there weren’t as many other pages targeting them. We knew they were still valuable keywords, however, since we could see that large numbers of customers searched for them regularly.
Since our blog posts were positioned to rank quickly, they brought in new customers and increased Google’s trust in our client’s website overall. Because of this trust, our landing pages had a stronger ability to compete for higher-volume, “holy grail” keywords.
After our new website went live, we continued to publish blog posts and new landing pages as necessary. Each new post targets a unique search term, widening and strengthening the reach of our client’s site.
Next, we created a conversion funnel strategy to make it easier—even inevitable—that visitors would contact the iGPS sales team.
Moving Visitors Down the Conversion Funnel
Catching a fish only counts if you reel it in. So too, attracting a potential customer to your website only counts if you see a conversion action—whether it’s downloading a demo, contacting a sales rep, or making a purchase. Let’s explore the two-prong approach we used with iGPS to move visitors down the conversion funnel
First, we piqued the interest of new visitors who just arrived on the website from a Google search. Many of these visitors landed on a targeted blog post. To move them down the conversion funnel, we included two details in every blog post:
- Internal links: We linked to other related blog posts and landing pages throughout the articles. Specifically, we chose links that fell under the same broad container keyword as the longtail keyword used in the blog. We also linked to pages that would lead visitors further down the conversion funnel. For example, in a blog post about static vs. dynamic loads, we linked to a landing page related to iGPS’s plastic pallet durability because visitors looking for information about loads probably also wanted to know how much weight the pallets can carry before making a decision.
- Clear calls to action (CTAs): We created unique CTAs at the end of every targeted blog post to directly move visitors down the funnel. If the blog answered all of the questions visitors had, they could immediately call or email iGPS. If they needed more information, we also gave them a link to the homepage to discover more resources.
Second, we used landing pages to convert visitors who were further down the conversion funnel. These landing pages centered around the most transactional keywords, i.e. those that potential customers type when they’re ready to rent pallets. We created:
- Industry-specific landing pages to answer industry-specific questions visitors had
- Super long landing pages that offered solutions to the most common challenges customers faced
- Landing pages specifying the types of pallets offered and what their capabilities are
As with the targeted blog posts, every landing page included a clear CTA and additional internal links. We wanted visitors to feel empowered by the information we provided and excited to take the next step.
With the conversion funnel ready, we then set our sights on measuring the success of the B2B SEO strategy.
Measuring the Success of the SEO Campaign
To ensure we were on the right track to get iGPS the qualified leads they wanted, we implemented a detailed strategy to quantify our progress. This included tracking keyword rankings, analyzing organic traffic and engagement, and calculating conversion rates.
Keyword rankings play an important role in any B2B SEO strategy. They’re like the canary in the coal mine that signals to us whether our keyword strategy is effective. First page search results also get more eyes on our client’s pages.
To measure the success of our keyword choices for iGPS, we built a custom monthly keyword tracker that contained:
- Ranking position by month for every page and the keyword it targeted
- Changes in ranking from month to month
- Overall monthly domain ranking changes according to Ahrefs
Using this information, we could see which pages were ranking well and which were not ranking as highly as we expected. From here, we could make adjustments to our keyword strategy to ensure that every keyword we targeted ranked at the top of the search results.
However, keyword rankings weren’t the most important measurement for success. To get a realistic sense of which types of visitors we were attracting, we also had to look at visitor engagement and organic traffic coming to the website.
Organic Traffic and Engagement
We didn’t just want iGPS to rank highly for valuable keywords—we wanted visitors to click on these links, stay on the website, and become customers. Here’s how we measured our progress:
- Overall non-branded organic traffic: Using Google analytics and other tools, we tracked changes in organic traffic (visitors coming from search results, not paid ads) from the start of the campaign to the present. We also filtered results to remove traffic coming from typing in the iGPS name or its branded products. We were then left with an accurate number of visitors coming to the website from organic longtail keyword searches—new potential customers who were interested in our content.
- Page-specific traffic: We tracked which pages received the most traffic and analyzed what made these pages so effective.
- Engagement metrics: We looked at unique visitors, returning visitors, pages per session, bounce rate, user actions, and session duration to determine what most visitors were doing after they clicked on a link to iGPS from an organic, non-branded search.
Using these metrics, we could prove that we were attracting potential customers to the website and that these customers were interested in our content. Next, we had to measure whether we were effectively converting these visitors into customers.
Keyword rankings, traffic, and engagement helped us track our progress on a monthly basis, but higher conversion rates was the ultimate end goal for this B2B SEO strategy. To calculate this rate, we tracked the number of qualified leads that we could attribute directly to our campaign every month. This included customers who discovered iGPS through the blog, landing pages, or an organic, non-branded search result.
Next, we divided the total number of qualified leads by the number of new organic visitors the website received in that timeframe and multiplied this figure by 100%. From the start of the campaign to the present, iGPS’s conversion rate has grown from .04% to 0.22%. An impressive 484% increase.
The Best B2B SEO Strategy Gets Results
Using a quantifiable, ROI-driven B2B SEO strategy, we got iGPS the results they desired. We generated a number of qualified leads, improved customer engagement, and established the company as a thought leader in the pallet industry. Here are just three of the most impressive results we achieved in this campaign:
New Qualified Leads
From the start of this campaign to the present, we’ve helped iGPS gain hundreds of new qualified leads worth many millions of dollars. We attribute this success to our detailed keyword research, ranking strategy, targeted content designed to convert visitors, and our clear CTAs. The site we built and the quality content we published will yield great results for iGPS well into the future as well. New qualified leads usually become loyal customers that continue to do business with the company for many years to come.
Leads were the end goal, but we also wanted iGPS customers to engage with the company on a deeper level. Customer engagement increases brand loyalty and enables iGPS to promote cross sales and additional services customers might be interested in.
We knew we were on the right track when we saw high organic traffic, unique and returning visits, multiple average pages per session, and increased total session duration. We also helped iGPS reduce overall bounce rate. It was clear that customers were not only visiting the website but also carefully considering the content and interacting with our CTAs.
Becoming a leader in a competitive industry isn’t easy. This is why we centered our B2B SEO campaign around thought leadership content—original ideas and research potential customers can’t find anywhere else. As a result, customers would return to the website again and again for new information and advice. They viewed iGPS as an expert that could help them solve some of their biggest pain points. This level of trust is invaluable, and it’s a large part of what’s made this campaign so successful over the years.
What You Can Learn from This Successful B2B SEO Campaign
We researched, wrote, and designed from March 2018 to August 2018, then pushed the new iGPS site live. At that point, we had 12 landing pages and over 20 blogs. In the words of one of our team members: “Like Athena, we popped out of Zeus’ forehead full grown.”
Here are some of the improvements we tracked since we launched the new site:
- 87,936 new users gained
- 368 keywords on the first page of Google
- 230 leads worth approximately $15 million in lifetime value
Of course, we keep working to bring in even more users and leads to the site. Evergreen content on blog posts and landing pages will endure for years, maintaining and capturing market share all that time. After the first year, we also found that blog posts would not rank for their most competitive keyword, “plastic pallets,” so we created a hub page that all future posts would link to. Since fall 2019, this page on plastic pallets has achieved a spot on the first page. Since it is such a competitive keyword, however, it takes ongoing effort to keep it there, so we are enhancing our linking strategies and promoting this page when possible to maintain its visibility.
As we write new pages and update old posts, we work to define our client as the foremost authority in the industry. Whenever a potential customer asks about pallets, we provide iGPS the opportunity to answer first. As they develop new products or enter new industries, we’re there to ensure their message is communicated as widely and effectively as possible.
The exact same SEO strategy probably won’t work for your company, unless you happen to sell pallets, too. But if you’re interested in finding out what the best SEO strategy for your B2B firm is, get in touch with my team. We’d be glad to learn more about your business and your website to create an SEO strategy that will get results.
Evan Bailyn is a bestselling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.