Keyword Strategy for B2B Blog Posts
Keyword selection is the prerequisite to all SEO. Whether you do SEO in-house or outsource it to an agency, someone should be thinking carefully about which keywords are most commercially valuable to your firm and how you can build pages around each one on your website. While we’ve dug into keyword selection on this blog previously, we’ve recently developed some excellent training materials for our editors, which I wanted to share with you.
Below is a step-by-step process for developing a B2B keyword strategy. Each step of the way, I explain what to do and why. Following this process will help you attract more qualified leads to your website.
Step 1: Start with Your 10 Most Valuable Keywords (MVKs)
When crafting a B2B keyword strategy, start with broad, high-volume, high-competition keywords that you’d be most excited for your company to rank for. To nail down your MVKs, ask, “What product does my company sell?” and “What is our most valuable service?” These answers will lead you to your most valuable keywords.
If you were running SEO for a localization firm, for example, you might decide on the following MVKs:
As you can see, these keywords are broad and similar to one another. They’re “container” keywords—phrases that are short, high-volume, high-competition, and incredibly valuable for lead generation. Use these keywords in your homepage, major landing pages, meta page titles, and in body text throughout your website.
You need a successful content campaign to rank for most valuable keywords (MVKs) and this will take time. You can’t just write a blog post on each of these phrases and expect Google to list you on Page 1. These keywords represent the ultimate, mountaintop goals that shape your entire content strategy. Focus your blog posts on long-tail variants of these MVKs. You’ll both rank faster for these narrower keywords and you’ll be appealing directly to readers who are ready to convert. Over time, this will boost your MVK ranking as well.
Step 2: Optimize Publishing Opportunities with Hubs & Spokes
B2B blogs should maintain a 2-posts-per-week schedule, which means there are only about 90 opportunities to target keywords in any calendar year (give or take a few posts for holidays). If you follow the best practice of “one target keyword per blog post,” you don’t have the time or the resources to go after a wide range of your keyword landscape. You have to prioritize.
At First Page Sage, we take a targeted approach to prioritization by identifying transactional, conversion-oriented long-tail keywords that stem from these broad MVKs. We create clusters of pages called “spokes” that all interlink and support a single “hub” keyword, with the aim of raising rankings for all keywords in the cluster. Calling back to the localization firm example, we used Google autofill to produce a content cluster that looks like this:
By creating a cluster like this for each of your MVKs, you’ll have an entire year’s worth of potential keywords ready to go. Your blog will also have a laser focus that would be impossible to achieve if you cast a wider net and hand-picked unrelated keywords from all over the landscape.
Step 3: Vet All of Your Long-tail Keywords for Overall Value
Looking at the cluster above, you could conceivably write a blog post for every single keyword on that list. However, not all of those long-tails are equally valuable. You might already rank for some of the phrases. The search volume and competition for each of these keywords should be carefully evaluated, as well as the transactional nature of each phrase—what we call the “bullseye” effect.
Some of these keywords imply a direct intent to purchase (e.g. “software localization service”) while others imply an intent to compare or shop around (e.g. “best software localization tools”) or an interest in gathering information (“software localization overview”). Looking at SERPs for each of these keywords will help you confirm search intent. If Page 1 is full of homepages or branded landing pages, you know people are looking to buy. If you see a list of blog posts, you know they’re looking to learn through thought leadership.
To find the most valuable long-tail keywords for your blog posts, use the vetting process below to narrow down your content clusters:
- Establish Commercial Value. Put yourself in the shoes of your most valuable bottom-of-the-funnel customers. Would they type this phrase into Google when they’re looking to buy what you’re selling?
- Identify Search Volume. Using trusted tools like Ahrefs or Google Autofill, judge whether or not this phrase has enough search volume to be useful as one of your 90 keyword targets. Choose your tools carefully—we’ve found that Keyword Planner numbers aren’t reliable anymore, and know that the tools we use today might not be useful tomorrow.
- Evaluate SERP Competition. Can your site compete with what’s already on Page 1 for this keyword? Consider the domain rating and backlink profile of sites that already rank to establish your own targets for success.
Step 4: Track Your Keyword Progress Over Time
Build out a process for tracking your keywords, with your MVKs on a separate list all by themselves. Start tracking these keywords now—before publishing a single post—so you can establish a true baseline from which to judge your campaign growth. Check your MVK rankings every two months so you can see the slow growth pattern begin to appear.
For the long-tail variants, start tracking as soon as you begin drafting each post and update your rankings on a biweekly basis. Be on the lookout for emerging patterns, including how long it takes new posts to rank, which keywords rank quickly, and which keywords never seem to rise. These data points will be crucial for necessitating strategy pivots and re-evaluating goals as the campaign progresses.
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When to Consider Outsourcing Your B2B Keyword Strategy
If developing a B2B keyword strategy seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is—and this effort doesn’t even compare to creating high-quality content and maintaining an ongoing campaign for months or years at a time. That’s why many companies choose to outsource their blogging efforts. With all of the specialization of roles needed to truly succeed in an SEO campaign, it’s worth thinking about whether your internal team has the time and training to do it on their own.
By contracting with a trusted partner, you essentially rent a portion of their keyword specialists, content strategists, and SEO experts, arming you with knowledge and experience you couldn’t get on your own.
First Page Sage is the premier thought leadership marketing firm in the U.S., with a portfolio of B2B clients stretching from the SF Bay Area to New York. We help each of our clients develop a powerful B2B keyword strategy designed to drive traffic and generate leads. Contact us to start your blog off on the right foot.
Evan Bailyn is a bestselling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.