In the SEO world, there are no shortage of tactics to drive more organic traffic to your B2B website. But there’s often so much emphasis placed on keyword research and generating blog posts that it’s easy to lose focus on answering the single most important question to any SEO strategy:
What is your audience searching for?
Whether you’re selling software or positioning yourself as a thought leader in a particular industry, satisfying search intent should be your number one priority. It’s a strategy that focuses on understanding what your audience truly needs and then making them happy by providing the solution that (ideally) resolves their most immediate pain point. By optimizing for users rather than search engines, you’ll be able to design a strategy that attracts more users — before and after the click.
Because businesses rely on multiple decision makers with diverging needs, this approach is a must for an effective B2B SEO strategy. Here we’ll discuss what you need to build your own plan.
Understanding how audiences search in B2B
If your business sells automated packaging machine systems, you should rank for “automated packaging machine systems.” That much is clear.
However, if you’re truly going to grow your organic traffic and increase revenue from search, your B2B SEO strategy needs to go beyond that. It needs to show a full appreciation for the different ways that your audience evaluates their buying decision. And that starts with understanding the people in your market and how they might be searching on Google.
Unlike B2C, B2B SEO isn’t dictated by chasing keywords that thousands of people search for every month. In the B2B world, the monthly search volume for a particular keyword is likely to be a small number. It could be 30. Or it could be as few as 10.
The reason is that B2B SEO is focused on targeting a small group of decision makers with an extremely specific problem in mind. Depending on the B2B company, this group could include the CMO, operations manager, a business analyst or other stakeholders. These individuals have unique needs and unique search habits — and that leads to low search volumes.
Creating an online experience
What this means is that a killer B2B SEO strategy isn’t based on search volume; it’s more dependent on truly understanding your target market and all the individuals who play a role in the buying process. The strategy needs to consider the different pain points of these individuals and focus on how to resolve those challenges. Failing to address a pain point for a segment of your market could be a significant oversight.
From that standpoint, your goal needs to be focused on creating an online experience where your audience can go to learn what they need to know. It should be educational when the searcher is researching different solutions, and it should provide a full level of detail to help that person make a decision about what you’re offering.
And that comes down to understanding intent.
Types of search intent
It may seem obvious, but search intent leads to higher rankings and conversion rates.
If you deliver exactly what your audience wants and perhaps even exceed expectations, your audience will come back again and again.
If your content doesn’t match what the user is looking, they’ll be gone in seconds.
The best way to ensure you’re delivering the ideal experience is to consider where the audience is in their journey. And the best way to do that is to recognize that there are four different types of search queries:
- Informational: The user wants to learn something (Example: How does a 3D printer work?)
- Investigative: The user wants to evaluate their options (Example: What is the best 3D printer?)
- Transactional: The user is seeking a specific product or service (Example: Buy a 3D printer)
- Navigational: The user is searching to go to a specific page on a specific website (Example: Plastic 3D printers at 3D systems)
These different types of search queries often determine how Google will present information in search results. For example, if someone types “buy a 3D printer,” it’s highly likely that the top organic search results will link directly to product pages — and will compete with Google Shopping ads. However, if the searcher asks, “how does a 3D printer work?” they’re more likely to find a blog post that explains the inner workings of a 3D printer. That means the top results in Google are focused on addressing the searcher’s intent — and yours should too.
So before rushing to update your site or writing your next blog entry, the first step is evaluating your keywords for intent and what the searcher might be trying to accomplish. If you’ve created a list of keywords but haven’t considered the different ways that your audience might be searching around those terms, here’s a list search intent modifiers that can help you adjust your strategy.
Best practices for B2B keyword research
B2B searchers aren’t impulse buyers. They evaluate long-term investments and rely on input from their colleagues before making a decision. That means that the odds of turning a cold visitor from Google into a buyer is slim.
The point of mentioning this isn’t to reinforce what we’ve already stated about B2B buyers. Instead, this drives home the need for ranking for the different types of intent-based search queries as mentioned above.
B2B searchers are likely to spend weeks or even months evaluating different options by using different search terms. If you’ve optimized your product pages and created unique content to target each stage of their evaluation process, your prospective customer is likely to come across your content and products regardless of the terms that they’re searching for. That builds trust.
So how do you find the intent-rich keywords that you should be targeting?
1. Check rankings
For starters, it’s important to have a keyword research tool like SEMRush, Ahrefs or Conductor to help determine which keywords you’re already ranking for. These tools will highlight where you’re ranking on the search engine results page (SERPs) and allows you to see which pages on your site are ranking for certain terms.
If you find that you’re ranking on the second page for a targeted keyword, it could be just a matter of improving the content on that page to help you rank higher for that query.
2. Analyze competitors
From there, take a look at which terms are driving traffic to your competitors. If one has created an informational piece or blog that is garnering a ton of traffic for buyers at the informational stage, it might be worthwhile to do the same — and steal that traffic by creating better content.
3. Consider CPC
From a B2B SEO perspective, the other challenge is identifying terms that have value. It’s great to find terms with a healthy monthly search volume. However, given the low monthly search volumes in B2B, it’s not always easy to find those. Instead, take a look at cost per click (CPC).
CPC shows you how much advertisers are bidding on for a specific term. As you can probably guess, a high CPC is a good indication that buyers tend to search for that word. Why else place a bid on a term that has a low monthly search volume? The keyword research tools mentioned earlier can tell you the CPC for terms that may be related to your business.
It’s worth going after these keywords because, if you can rank high enough on the search engine results page, you’ll have an opportunity to garner traffic for a term that others are paying for. And while paid search is a great tactic for quickly acquiring traffic and bypassing your organic competition, 80% of searchers still ignore paid search results.
Optimizing your site for search intent
The last part of the equation is arguably the most important: Create content and digital experiences that actually align with the searcher’s intent.
In the past, adding target keywords to your existing content may have been enough to drive more organic traffic. But with Google placing a greater emphasis on user intent, it’s imperative that the page where you’re directing searchers to is actually helpful to them.
Creating content for intention
Going back to the example of 3D printers, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to use intent qualifying terms such as “best” in a product description to target users who want to know, “what is the best 3D printer?” The search intent here isn’t to shop. They’re more focused on evaluating their options and learning about what they need to know before purchasing a 3D printer.
From that angle, it would be better to create a blog post or share a comparison tool that helps the prospective buyer evaluate all the factors that they should consider before determining which product is the best fit for them.
The point is that you need to create a single content piece for every intention that you’re aiming to address. Your product page can’t be a catch-all for everything that your potential customer is searching. Compile the keywords queries that you’re going to target and group them by intent. Once you’ve done that, then consider how you can meet their needs by better leveraging your existing content or creating something new.
Creating content that aligns with the intent of every searcher isn’t easy — especially when considering all the decision makers in the B2B space. So prioritize the topics that have the most potential value. If a term has a high cost per click, focus on creating valuable, quality content there first.
Remember: Understanding what your audience is searching for and the intent behind it is the most important aspect of building a B2B SEO strategy.
If you’re focused on understanding your user’s unique needs and creating content that addresses those pain points, the traffic — and revenue — will follow.