Whatever product, service, and unique value proposition you offer, you can be sure that there are potential business clients out there looking for something in your field. B2B SEO is all about meeting these customers during their search process, being where they expect to find you, with the promise of the product or service they are looking for. When done properly, B2B SEO will form the foundation of your content marketing strategy. Through an analysis of years of professional-grade SEO experience, we have distilled best B2B SEO practices down to eight key steps to building a successful strategy.
1. Create Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional character designed to represent an individual who is most likely to seek out and purchase your product or service. In psychology, this is akin to what is called “theory of mind.” As human beings, we create theories about the thought processes of the people around us and use them to attempt to predict their behavior. The more accurate our theory of mind, the better we are able to understand and deal with others. In business, we create buyer personas to do the same thing, but our aim is to ensure they are accurate so that we can provide the customer with a value proposition and a marketing angle that they will respond to positively.
A good buyer persona will provide you with background information about the person, whether or not a specific persona tends to be male or female, their age range, profession, demeanor, and other identifiers. These will give you a general feeling for the person being represented. Perhaps the most important parts of a buyer persona are the person’s goals, challenges to those goals, and ways they would like to be helped in achieving those goals.
To create a buyer persona, you can begin by filling out the following five trait categories:
- Profession: Industry, job title, primary function
- Demographics: Age, gender, income
- Identifiers: Demeanor, likes/dislikes
- Goals: Closely related to industry and position
- Challenges: What stands in the way of achieving their goals?
- What you can do: Your plan for delivering the value the buyer persona is looking for.
2. Understand Your Sales Funnel
A sales funnel is a map or a story describing the journey a customer goes through as they move through the buying process. The reason marketing professionals call it a funnel is because the customer does not know where or how they will obtain what they are looking for. Sometimes, the beginning of the sales funnel is simply encountering a problem that requires a solution that you can provide.
If you were in the business of selling disposable pen dispensers, for example, your buyer persona might be an office manager in an office where writing utensils tend to get lost or broken. In this instance, your customer enters the sales funnel the moment he or she begins to look for an answer to that problem.
From this point, the buyer goes online to find out that many workplaces just like theirs have solved their pen attrition problem with well-stocked disposable pen dispensers. They have now officially entered the sales funnel.
The sales funnel is typically considered to be made up of five stages. They are;
- Need/Desire: A potential customer has encountered a need or dilemma which your product or service can fill or fix.
- Awareness: At this point, the buyer has become aware of your product or service
- Interest: In the Interest stage, they are aware that you offer a potential solution to their problem, but may not be convinced your solution is the best.
- Decision: This is the point at which the customer has decided to invest in your product or service.
- Action: At this final point in the sales funnel, the buyer purchases what you sell.
Understanding your sales funnel means having an accurate buyer persona and having a good model of their situation and their thought process in each stage of the funnel. Knowing these things helps you to make the desired outcome more likely, and it makes the customer much more likely to return to you the next time they want to fill the same need.
3. Conduct Keyword Research Around Your Personas
The purpose of any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy is to anticipate the words and phrases your buying audience will use to search online for a value proposition like the one you offer. For example, our office manager with the pen problem might use search terms like;
- “pen problem”
- “lost pens”
- “writing utensil shortage”
- “pen holder”
- “pen tether”
Your first job is to perform the necessary keyword research to discover whether or not these are the search terms your customer is most likely to use. You can begin by making a list of relevant topics based on your business. Then fill those topics out with keywords. With the four examples above, you might come up with a list of variations and compare their relative strength. Thinking back to our sales funnel, you need to try to understand how the intention of the buyer influences what search terms they will use.
Your SEO strategy should include creating content that covers specific need cases and includes the search terms that a buyer in a specific scenario will use. For example, if your buyer wants to make it easier to find pens that have been lost, he might search using “lost pens.” On the other hand, if he is more interested in preventing pens from getting lost he may be more likely to search the term “pen holder.”
Knowing what terms your buyer will tend to search and using the right terms inside content that answers their need/use case is what SEO is all about.
4. Map Out A Keyword Strategy To Target Buyers At Different Stages Of Your Funnel
Now that we know what a buyer persona, sales funnel, and B2B SEO are, we need to create a broad plan that fills in all the possible buyers and use/need cases that we hope to serve. You should begin by creating a buyer persona for every type of person who is likely to seek out and buy your product or service.
Every product or service should have at least five accurate buyer personas written up. Each buyer persona should have an accompanying tailored sales funnel and a specific set of keywords and phrases. Your goal should be to create content that appeals to specific buyer personas, that captures their interest and answers their questions in each stage of the sales funnel, and which includes the key search terms that they are likely to use.
Consider two rough buyer personas for our disposable pen container business.
- Middle Manager Sally: Sally’s mindset and demeanor make her likely to be focused on preventing pens from becoming lost. Therefore we have determined that she is likely to use the search term, “pen tether.”
- Middle Manager Bill: Research has lead us to conclude that Bill’s focus is more oriented toward making sure his staff have pens when they need them, but that he isn’t worried about pens getting lost. For this reason, he may be more likely to search the term, “pen holder.”
Furthermore, each buyer may use different search terms in different stages of the sales funnel. For each buyer persona, we need to create content that appeals to their personality, use/need case, and the stage of the sales funnel where we find them. Each piece of content should contain search terms the specific buyer persona is likely to use.
5. Create and Optimize Product or Service Landing Pages
Just as we have created content using buyer persona targeted keywords, we must create landing pages designed to attract the clicks of our buyer personas.
Begin by using easy-to-read headlines that contain your SEO search terms. Draft a compelling call to action tailored to the buyer persona you are targeting.
Keep it simple. Focus on the look and feel of your landing page. Written material should be spare. Your landing page should look good and appeal to your buyer persona. Don’t offer too many options here. The purpose of the landing page is to assure the buyer that they have come to the right place. Its implicit message should be, “Your search is over. The solution to your problem is here.”
Use testimonials if they can be incorporated in an aesthetically pleasing way. Above all, your landing page should look good and load quickly. Any animations should be smooth, and any images should be high resolution, beautiful, and selected to appeal to the personality of the buyer persona.
6. Build A Scalable Content Strategy
By now, our B2B SEO strategy has a lot of moving parts. With good metrics and research, you should be able to keep it well oiled and on target. However, as your operation grows, so will your list of target demographics. That means your content strategy has to grow with you. Here are a few ways to help make your content strategy better able to scale.
Writing is a slow and labor-intensive process. But you don’t have to create completely new content for every single buyer persona and use case. You can spin content that appeals to Middle Manager Sally into content tailored for Middle Manager Bill by changing headers, keywords, and other important points of language to fill out your content marketing needs. For best SEO results, you should change at least one in every four words used. Thesaurus, anyone?
Using the Right Tech
There are a lot of metrics monitoring packages out there. Make sure you choose a toolset that is tailored to your business model and your industry.
It may take time to get the hang of all these tasks. In time, you will find ways to streamline the process. Working with a B2B SEO professional is a good way to start.
Backlinks are an important way to boost your Google SEO ranking. Backlinks should be high quality and can be built or earned. There are many ways to do this, and most of them involve creating a network of partners who work with you to promote their business and yours.
8. Measurement and Refinement
Once your B2B SEO strategy is complete, you’re not done. Any good SEO strategy must be continuously analyzed, metered, and optimized for the best results. Keep in mind that 89% of potential buyers are searching during the B2B process for possible solutions. That is your opportunity to influence them and begin building trust.