Do you know what it takes for your team members to create a successful B2B SEO strategy? Can you give them direction and spot when they’re heading off course?
When you’re in a leading function, you might not be involved in the day-to-day work required to rank high in organic search results, but you do need to understand what the building blocks of effective SEO look like so you can make strategic decisions and adjust where necessary.
You also need to understand the role SEO can play in your digital marketing strategy. It can be an incredible tool for demand generation, lead generation, and even sales, but only if you invest in all three of its main components and follow best practices.
What those components are, and what constitutes a solid B2B SEO strategy is what we’ll discuss next.
Table of Contents
What is B2B SEO?
First things first: there is no special algorithm for B2B SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Just like “SEO in general”, B2B SEO consists of applying various techniques to make a company’s website rank higher in the search engines so that it can more easily be found by its target audience.
The reason B2B SEO deserves an approach of its own is because of the composition of that target audience: executives, decision-makers, and employees of other companies.
These people search, act, and buy as representatives of their companies, which means you also need to target them as such. Following general SEO advice in this case often won’t suffice.
1. Businesses make purchasing decisions with the goal of positively impacting their business in the long run.
That means the buyer cycle is often longer, with purchasers performing lots of research and sellers needing to build authority and trust over time.
2. You are (probably) not selling to the masses
Most SaaS and eLearning businesses have a specific audience. They’re targeting mid-size customer service teams, content marketers working for scaleups, or in-house human resource managers looking to provide ongoing education for their team members – just to give a few examples.
This specificity is reflected in the way B2B SEO is performed: targeting long-tail keywords that attract a certain audience, rather than high-volume, generic search terms used by a broad yet irrelevant audience.
Still confused? Perhaps the easiest way to define B2B SEO is by comparing it with B2C SEO.
B2B SEO vs B2C SEO
The general principles of SEO remain the same regardless of who you’re targeting:
- Have your website follow SEO best practices
- Figure out what your target audience is looking for.
- Create optimized content that answers their questions.
- Apply techniques to convince the search engines that your answer is the best possible one.
When we zoom in, however, the practical application of these principles looks a bit different for B2B businesses than it does for B2C companies.
While there are brands that sell high-value luxury items to a selected few, most business-to-consumer brands that sell online try to reach the masses and so they are targeting often highly competitive high-volume keywords such as “bagless vacuum cleaner”.
Business-to-business brands, however, try to reach a very specific audience of decision makers and key influencers within their industry. That means that the keywords they target will often have a much lower search volume.
On top of that, B2B buyers are less likely to buy impulsively. They perform thorough research before choosing a service or tool, and thus it’s more important for B2B companies to establish thought leadership and trust through SEO than it is for B2C brands.
Because of the nature of the offer (business products and services vs consumer products and services), B2B SEO content also tends to be highly informative and more serious than B2C content.
The Importance of B2B SEO
The benefits of SEO for software and eLearning companies are plentiful. A website that ranks is a website that brings in a steady stream of qualified leads and with every new optimized piece of content you publish, that stream becomes bigger.
From generating brand awareness to convincing those looking to buy now, B2B SEO allows you to get in front of your target audience at all stages of the buying cycle and to gain their trust as the brand that is always there to provide an answer when they google a question.
Because well-optimized content keeps performing long after it’s been published (and paid for), B2B SEO also frees you from the need to keep paying for ads in order to generate new leads.
Sounds good? Then let’s go over the three crucial components of a successful SEO strategy.
What to include in your B2B SEO Strategy
1. Technical SEO
Technical search engine optimization comprises all the things you can do to bring and keep your website in good shape:
- Having a solid site structure with clean and short URLs, a clear site hierarchy, and content pillars.
- Making it mobile-friendly.
- Optimizing it for speed.
- Fixing broken links, broken images, redirect chains, and other issues.
- Ensuring it’s secure.
As most software and eLearning businesses are relatively small content-focused sites, keeping the site in the best possible shape is important but it won’t make or break your SEO success. This is different for companies such as Airbnb and Amazon that have massive sites and relatively little textual content in comparison to the number of published web pages.
Look at your website setup as your foundation: it needs to be solid enough to carry your other SEO efforts. At the same time, as long as you don’t make any major mistakes such as deindexing all of your blog posts, you’ll see bigger effects from doing link building and executing a solid content strategy.
2. Link building
Link building is a type of off-page SEO that entails attempting to get other authoritative sites within or related to your industry to link back to your site. The more quality backlinks your site has, the more it’ll appear trustworthy in the eyes of Google, and the better your chances of ranking.
There are many ways in which you can build links and the ones that are right for you largely depend on your resources and type of business. For software and eLearning businesses, creating link-worthy content is a successful strategy. Link-worthy content can be:
- An ultimate guide
- A resource page
- A glossary
- Original research
- A helpful free tool
- An expert roundup
While you can never be sure that other sites will link to these types of content, they are valuable assets that will improve your authority and on-page SEO if nothing else.
3. Content Strategy
Content strategy or content SEO is the part of B2B SEO that is all about content creation and organization. It includes blog content, but also feature pages, glossaries, and any other type of page on your website that is indexed and able to rank.
At the base of each solid content strategy lies extensive keyword research. When you conduct keyword research, you’re looking for the terms your target audience uses to find more information about something you can help them with – about something that’s related to your core offer.
Some things you’ll want to take into account when researching these terms are:
- How competitive they are
- How high their monthly search volume is
- What the search intent behind each term is
Search intent is often related to where someone finds themselves in the buyer journey. Simplifying that journey, you could say there are searchers who are
- Looking for information around a problem (top-of-funnel)
- Looking for solutions for their problem (middle-of-funnel)
- (As good as) ready to buy a solution to their problem (bottom-of-funnel)
Someone who’s at the top of the funnel might do a Google search for “sharing an inbox with team members”.
Someone who’s in the middle of the funnel might look for “shared inbox solutions’.
And someone who’s at the bottom of the funnel might google “Gmelius pricing.”
This is a clear example of how there is a certain search intent behind each keyword that tells you how ready someone is to buy. When creating content, you want to target people at all stages of the funnel and create content accordingly. Don’t just write content about what you sell. Provide value so you can capture leads at the top of the funnel and guide them on their journey down.
Some of the most helpful tools for performing keyword research are Ahrefs, Semrush, Ubersuggest, Seed Keywords, and Google Autocomplete specifically for finding long-tail keywords.
Stuck on keyword ideas? Try one of these content brainstorming techniques.
Once you have your initial batch of target keywords, or whenever you’re researching new ones, it’s crucial to structure them into a keyword map and organize them into content pillars. The goal of this structure is to make it easier for both the search engines and users to find information on your site and learn what it’s about.
One way to achieve this is with a clear URL structure. Here is just an example of what that could look like:
- All of your feature pages go under domain.com/features/…
- All of your blog content goes under domain.com/blog/…
- All of your glossary entries go under domain.com/glossary/…
But that’s not enough. The best way to signal that one piece of content is related to another is through internal linking. Say you have a large hub page on team inbox management. This page would link to more specific blog posts on how to create a shared inbox, shared inbox management, assigning tasks via email, and so on.
When you have added your keywords to your keyword map and have organized them into content pillars, it’s time to start writing. Regardless of whether you do your content creation in-house or work with freelance writers, you want to make sure each piece is optimized.
At Flow, we have our own checklist of on-page optimization best practices. A checklist like this makes it easy for you or your editors to verify each article has the best possible chance of ranking high in the search results.
Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is crucial when developing a content strategy as who you’re writing for will affect your keyword research, the angle you choose for your articles, the style you write in, and so on.
Say you run an inbox management tool for enterprise customer service teams. Targeting CEOs of enterprise companies won’t get you far. Instead, you’ll want to target customer service managers. They are the ones whose problems you can solve, and who you need to convince of the value your tool can bring.
The specification “enterprise” is important in this example as well. Your content shouldn’t just target people with a certain role, it should target people with a certain role at a certain type of company.
Customer service managers at big enterprises deal with different problems than customer service representatives at a startup, and so the content you’ll create for them should be different too.
In summary, the customer you’re targeting with your B2B SEO strategy isn’t just a person, it’s a person with a specific role within a specific type of company.
Use B2B Keyword Modifiers
Since you’re targeting a highly specific audience, it only makes sense to use targeted keywords as well. More specifically, you’ll want to add B2B modifiers to the keywords you research.
Say that you run a team collaboration tool and you want to write an article on improving team collaboration. B2B modifiers could be:
- Team collaboration for small businesses
- Team collaboration for marketing teams
- Remote team collaboration
- Enterprise team collaboration
- Customer service team collaboration
The results you’ll get will have a lower search volume than if you’d just target “team collaboration”, but the audience you’ll attract will be much more targeted and – if you chose the right modifier – relevant to your business.
Tracking B2B SEO
B2B SEO done well keeps delivering results, but that doesn’t mean it’s a set-it-and-forget it marketing strategy. It’s necessary to track the results of your efforts in all three areas of your B2B SEO strategy so you can figure out what works and improve the things that perform less well.
1. Tracking technical SEO results
To know whether your site is in good shape and where it can be improved, it’s best to use a tool that can run a complete site audit for you. Ahrefs is great for this and when you have an account, you can set it to run an audit every week so you always have up-to-date information on possible issues.
2. Tracking link-building results
To know whether your link-building efforts are successful, you can track, within a specific timeframe:
- How many outreach emails you’ve sent.
- How many new links you’ve built.
- What the domain authority or domain rating is of the websites you’ve built links from.
- Which types of content tend to get the most links.
- If you can correlate links built with an increase in rankings for the pages those links were built to.
Some SEO tools that allow you to track built links are Ahrefs and Semrush.
3. Tracking content strategy performance
Generating organic traffic is just the start of what you want your content strategy to do for you. That traffic needs to consist of qualified leads that interact with your brand and eventually convert into customers.
Check out our list of content marketing KPIs to track whether your content is doing all it can for you.
Examples of Great B2B SEO
To give you an idea of what an effective B2B SEO strategy can look like, we’ve selected some examples from our own clients and from brands we think do a good job. After all, at Flow we walk the talk and B2B SEO is our jam.
Beekeeper: detailed SEO content
Workforce management SaaS Beekeeper is great at producing highly detailed, high-value content that addresses the needs of its audience at various stages of the funnel.
This guide on operational excellence is meant to rank for a top-of-funnel keyword so it can put Beekeeper on the radar of companies looking to achieve operational excellence. Its main objective is to create awareness and form one of the first touchpoints that are often needed to convert a B2B lead into a customer.
If we look at its Google rankings, we see the blog post reaches its goal, ranking for 170+keywords on page 1:
This blog post on internal communication trends also targets a purely informational keyword but it plays the additional role of lead generator. There is a link to a webinar signup form at the top of the page and at the bottom of the page, readers can leave their details to download the trends report.
Beekeeper’s piece on enterprise collaboration software is very different. It targets a bottom-of-funnel keyword and is written as a buying guide to convince companies that they need collaboration software, and that Beekeeper is the perfect choice.
All three articles are detailed pieces of long-form content that make it easy for the brand to target long-tail keywords, but they each have a different goal, and they target leads at different stages of the buyer journey.
MailCharts: 10x content for an emerging field
This pillar page by MailCharts is an interesting one as it’s a hybrid: it functions both as a hub page, linking to MailCharts’ many pages with examples of specific types of eCommerce SMS, and as a 10x pillar page that provides detailed information on SMS marketing.
This strategy allows the brand to clearly present and link to other important content on the website while targeting many long-tail keywords. And it works. In just 5 months’ time, the page managed to rank for 100+ keywords on the first page:
Personio: the power of the glossary
Creating glossaries for B2B SEO purposes is one of the newest B2B SEO trends and an increasingly popular tactic for producing SEO content at scale. Glossaries usually consist of a hub page that links out to a long list of industry-specific terms or glossary entries, each of which has been optimized to rank.
A brand that applies this technique well is Personio. Here’s what their HR Lexicon looks like:
If you think a hub page like this is hard to rank, think again. Personio’s HR Lexicon hub page ranks for close to 66,000 keywords, with more than 8,000 of those ranking on the first page at the time of writing.
But what might be even better is the backlinks a page like this can gather. Personio’s HR Lexicon has backlinks from 645 different domains. That shouldn’t be too surprising, as glossary entries are perfect to link to when you want to offer your readers an explanation for a specific term.
B2B SEO, a Layered Marketing Strategy
If you want your target audience to find you on Google, there is no way around making B2B SEO one of your primary marketing strategies. Not only is it a great tool for generating brand awareness, it also provides an accumulative way of bringing in leads through organic traffic.
An effective B2B SEO strategy consists of three pillars:
- Technical SEO: keeping your website in good shape.
- Link building: building authority by having other websites link to you.
- Content strategy: ranking posts and pages through conscious keyword research and content organization.
While you may decide to dedicate more time to one of these three components depending on where you’re at in your SEO journey, all three need some of your attention for your SEO efforts to be successful. After all, ranking won’t do you any good if the ranking page doesn’t load and a fast site isn’t of much use if it doesn’t attract any visitors.
Sounds like a lot to handle? We’ve got you! Here at Flow SEO, we specialize in creating effective B2B SEO strategies. Get in touch to discuss how we can help you.