Regardless of industry, SEO campaigns have the same goal: to boost a website’s ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs) and drive organic traffic. However, the nuances of your specific strategy will depend on your ideal customer. Companies selling B2B need to consider the different approaches businesses take when making purchases.
In this guide, I’ll show you how to craft a solid B2B SEO strategy tailored to your customers’ needs and demonstrate how it’s different from a B2C SEO campaign. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear idea of how to optimize your website structure and content so you can reach the people making the buying decisions at your target companies.
What is B2B SEO?
B2B SEO improves a company’s website, so customers searching for its business solutions are more likely to see it in search results. B2B SEO campaigns use best practices for keyword research, content creation, and technical optimization but consider the unique buying journey of B2B audiences. It’s hard for companies to ignore the growing importance of B2B SEO in driving revenue, as the nature of business-to-business selling is rapidly changing. B2B companies once relied heavily on sales reps to nurture selling relationships, but modern buyers get much of their information online before even reaching out to an account representative.
According to Gartner, a typical B2B group of decision-makers spends 27% of their buying activities researching purchases independently on the internet. By contrast, they spend 17% of the time meeting potential vendors and just 5% or 6% of the time with any single vendor.
A strong SEO strategy is considered a crucial customer acquisition channel for B2B companies. Organic visability is a proven way that companies can see consistent and increased growth.
The bottom line: You have limited in-person opportunities to persuade a company to take action, making it critical that your website is optimized to reach customers and deliver relevant and high-quality information to support their purchasing decisions.
Some B2B customers have a less complex buyer journey that may not require meeting sales reps for product demos, customization, or negotiation. McKinsey reports that nearly 65% of B2B companies across all sectors offer ecommerce platforms so customers can complete sales transactions online themselves. Improving your B2B ecommerce SEO is critical to get your product and category pages to appear in SERPs as buyers search for your business solution.
B2B SEO vs. B2C SEO
How B2B SEO Differs from B2C SEO
B2B SEO strategies typically target a narrower audience than B2C SEO. These campaigns usually use more technical keywords, answering buyer questions throughout a complex sales journey. By comparison, B2C SEO targets a broader range of customers and aims to drive a shorter sales cycle.
B2B and B2C SEO diverge in their approaches because of their target audiences’ different motivations and buying behaviors. In the next section, I’ll take a closer look at the distinctions between B2B and B2C SEO.
B2B Keywords Are More Technical
B2B and B2C customers have different reasons for their purchases. Individual customers are usually motivated by branding, cost, or how a product makes them feel. B2B customers take a more systematic approach. Because their purchases must solve an existing business problem, they spend time ensuring a product or service meets all of their business needs — the more complex the problem, the more challenging the B2B purchase.
The keywords used in SEO for B2B and B2C reflect this difference.
- B2C keywords are typically generic, using words such as best, cheap, and newest
- B2B keywords are usually industry-specific and highly technical
B2B Content Is Designed to Educate
Successful B2B and B2C SEO campaigns rely on in-depth knowledge of customers’ desires, needs, and behaviors. Use this information to develop the type of content they find valuable and encourage click-throughs to your site.
- SEO B2B content helps prospective customers advance their purchasing decisions, anticipating questions and presenting the solution clearly and in-depth. It often takes the form of white papers, case studies, video demos, ebooks, in-depth guides, and thought leadership pieces.
- Companies selling to individual customers usually want to generate brand awareness and build relationships and loyalty. B2C SEO still needs to deliver the right information at each stage of the sales funnel, but content is often designed to engage and entertain. Popular types of B2C content include blog posts, videos, guides, tips, and quizzes.
B2B Sales Cycles Are Complex
Effective SEO campaigns are tailored to find customers at each stop in their buyer journey, whether they’re researching a problem, learning about your brand, comparing products, or making a final decision. You must have a solid understanding of their path to target the right keywords and create content that ranks well in SERPs, entering the discussion each time they turn to Google to find information.
The B2B sales cycle is longer and more complex than the B2C cycle.
- B2B customers make purchases that support a company’s operations, impacting efficiency, productivity, sales, profit, and growth factors. Products must often satisfy a rigid set of requirements, resulting in significant research and a longer sales cycle. Buying decisions are logical and deliberate and may involve stakeholders from different business functions.
- B2C customers are making purchases for personal use, resulting in a shorter sales cycle. The product only needs to satisfy the requirements of a single buyer and usually requires no negotiation or contract. While they may need to research larger ticket items, they can complete other purchases quickly, especially if a customer has a specific and immediate need or is driven by emotion.
B2B Purchases Involve More Decision-Makers
B2C SEO campaigns target customers choosing a product for personal or family use. These customers make solo buying decisions based on need or desire. In contrast, a B2B SEO campaign is tailored for multiple decision-makers at a company. This buying group works together to choose a product or service that meets the requirements of the business.
As described by Gartner, a typical B2B buying process involves the following tasks:
- Identifying the problem
- Exploring solutions
- Determining requirements
- Selecting a supplier
- Confirming the product meets requirements
- Arriving at a consensus
However, they don’t necessarily perform these tasks sequentially. A buying group often revisits and moves between tasks, or performs them simultaneously, which adds to the complexity of B2B sales.
Gartner also notes that a typical buying committee for a complex purchase can involve up to six to 10 employees. Each member does their own research, often bringing four to five options to the table. It can be challenging for the group to come to a consensus — in fact, 77% of buyers say that the B2B purchasing process is difficult.
Part of the difficulty stems from the presence of so many competing companies and products online. A top B2B SEO campaign streamlines the decision-making process by ensuring they present customers with the information they need when they’re searching for it. If you can do so clearly and concisely, they can easily take your information directly to the buying group and make a case for purchase. This is especially important if your business operates in a highly competitive niche such as SaaS, where new services and technologies are constantly being introduced.
Your Go-To B2B Strategy
Google and other search engines use complex algorithms to decide where web pages should appear in SERPs, giving the most visibility to trustworthy pages that best answer search queries. As Google explains, these algorithms weigh factors such as keywords, content, and the source’s expertise to help “deliver the most relevant and reliable information available.”
Thus, an effective business-to-business SEO strategy consists of on-page and off-page SEO activities working in tandem to:
- Provide content that matches user queries and supplies useful, valuable information
- Present content in a format that’s easy for search engines and users to understand
- Demonstrate your site’s authority and trustworthiness
On-page SEO involves optimizations made directly to your website structure and content to help improve the site’s position in search engine rankings. Here are the essential components of on-page SEO for B2B companies.
A solid B2B SEO marketing campaign is built on the search terms your buyers use when looking for your business, service, or product. The keywords need to be naturally integrated into your content to help search engines understand which pages to serve for specific queries.
Keyword research is the process of identifying potential keywords, evaluating them for search volume or competition, and prioritizing them according to how well they help you to reach your business goals. You may find search volume low for a specialized product, for example, but you may also be targeting a very narrowly defined customer that is easy to convert.
Make use of keyword research tools to select your keywords, as customers may be plugging in different words and phrases than you think. As you conduct your research, you may decide to discard a keyword because it doesn’t support your goals or uncover new keywords that create additional opportunities to rank. An SEO strategy is an evolving, living thing, and as you go through your keyword research discovery phase, you may be surpised by how much you end up changing or refining.
Always use buyer personas to conduct keyword research, so you’re using the same keywords and phrases that your customers do. For example, individual members of a B2B buying group may have different pain points when looking for a software solution. Your SEO campaign should be tailored to each persona. You can help Google deliver the right content to a manager looking for specific product features, a department head considering pricing and affordability, and an IT professional looking for compatibility with existing systems.
Search terms also change depending on where your customer is in the buyer journey. This should map to the search intent of the keyword, or the “why” behind a search phrase. Essentially, the words used when someone is gathering information in the discovery phase are different from those used when they’re close to converting. As keyword use also changes over time, it’s prudent to review them regularly. A keyword research service can provide expertise during this process.
A site audit is a systematic review of your site’s structure, content, and technical performance. It’s an assessment of how it’s currently performing in search engine rankings. A comprehensive audit identifies obstacles preventing your site from ranking well by examining:
- The keywords you’re ranking for and the ones your competitors are using
- Site speed, page loading times, and mobile-friendliness
- Content quality, including originality and value to the reader
- Use of titles, meta descriptions, internal links, descriptive URLs, sitemaps, and other tools that help a search engine understand your site
- A link profile showing links to your site from external websites
You can use the information gathered in the audit to inform your B2B SEO strategy, tackling the most critical items first and eventually bringing all aspects of your site in line with optimization best practices.
Once you’ve implemented basic search engine optimization practices and are seeing your pages rise in search engine rankings, you can move toward advanced SEO strategies to boost traffic even more. For example, you can optimize how your snippet appears in SERPs, aiming to land the featured snippet for a keyword, or create rich snippets to encourage more clicks.
Technical SEO , a subset of on-page SEO, is the process of optimizing the technical elements of your site so search crawlers like Googlebot can efficiently crawl and index the pages. This helps search engines gather the information needed to accurately match your content to the search queries your B2B customers are performing.
Here are some best practices for technical SEO:
- Create a logical, hierarchical website structure
- Ensure clear navigation and internal linking
- Use simple and descriptive URL structures
- Fix broken links and error pages
- Remove duplicate content or stale content
- Set up redirects for merged or deleted pages
- Indicate canonical URLs
- Add a sitemap
- Ensure anchor text is logical
- Check core web vitals such as page loading speeds
- Ensure site is mobile-friendly and responsive
A technically sound website also positively impacts user experience, ensuring prospective customers can easily locate the key information they need.
Once you’ve completed your keyword research and determined the search terms you want to rank for, start building a content strategy. Map content to meet B2B clients at each stage of the buyer journey, addressing pain points and guiding them through to the next stage. The goal is to ensure you have stellar content that matches relevant queries and that this content displays in SERPs when your customers google those search terms. Content should also establish your expertise and authority and help to build trust with your target audience.
SEO B2B marketing content is critical if you’re selling technical or innovative technology that buyers may not fully understand. You can use a variety of high-quality written or visual content to demonstrate your solution and differentiate it from competitors.
Planning a Content Strategy
Before you create content, perform a content audit of your site to ensure your keywords are covered. Identify content gaps and make sure multiple pages aren’t competing against each other for keyword ranking (i.e., keyword cannibalization). It’s better to have one strong page ranking well rather than multiple pages ranking lower. This is a good opportunity to update poor-performing pages, merge pages, or remove those that aren’t serving a purpose.
Once you’ve planned your content, create a calendar to keep your content creation on track. Take the time to produce rich, useful, and well-written content that B2B customers will want to read. Then, implement SEO best practices to optimize the content for search crawlers: use properly formatted headers, meta titles, title descriptions, and alt images.
Landing Page SEO
Landing pages contain a clear call-to-action (CTA) to persuade visitors to complete a desired action, such as downloading an ebook, subscribing to a mailing list, or signing up for a free trial. Marketers often use these pages as part of campaigns that involve email marketing, social platforms, and pay-per-click ads.
But while businesses tend to design landing pages to bring in visitors from digital marketing campaigns, they can also serve double-duty. Don’t forget to optimize your landing page for organic search so you can tap into another traffic source. An SEO-friendly landing page is still laser-focused on conversion, but it also contains additional content of value to users to rank well. Be sure to optimize titles, headers and images, and add internal links to bring visitors from other pages of your site.
While on-page SEO strategies ensure your site can be easily understood and navigated by search crawlers and users, off-page SEO strategies are tactics you carry out external to your website. These activities establish your site’s authority and help it rank higher.
The quality of your content plays a big role in search engine rankings, demonstrating that you meet the needs of users searching for information. Another piece of the puzzle when it comes to B2B search engine optimization is the trustworthiness of your site. Sites that Google considers authoritative and credible are more likely to rank higher.
Google evaluates your site’s credibility by analyzing links from external sites to your site. It views these backlinks as a vote of confidence in the quality and authoritativeness of your content — that you’re providing information others feel is worth a link. The caveat is that the referring domain must also be authoritative. Ideally, the backlink should come from a respected publication, association, or another resource in your industry. The higher the quality of your referring domain, the more respect — or link equity, in SEO terms — your site receives in return.
As you publish valuable, high-quality content to your site, you create new backlinking opportunities. You can sometimes get unsolicited links when you announce a new product or someone publishes a review, but usually, you must actively pursue a link-building strategy. You can publish guest posts on a blog, look for opportunities to join resource lists, or offer your link as a replacement for a broken link.
In an ideal world, your B2B audience finds the information they need to complete a purchase right on your site. In reality, customers will look for feedback from other businesses before finalizing a decision. Like a consumer checking a product review on Amazon or travel reviews on Expedia, you can expect B2B buyers to seek input from third-party review sites, especially for SaaS and other software programs.
Positive reviews can be a powerful sales tool. According to the Spiegel Research Center, a customer is 270% more likely to purchase a product with five product reviews than one without reviews. Reviews also carry considerable weight for higher-priced products, helping customers overcome the risk of buying expensive items. Lower-priced products with reviews have a 190% conversion rate, while more expensive categories have a 380% conversion rate.
User-generated reviews provide validation from customers about the quality of your product or service, the level of customer service, and your overall professionalism. Positive testimonials on a review site can:
- Demonstrate other businesses use your product, boosting your credibility
- Help customers finalize a purchasing decision and encourage conversion
- Improve search engine visibility by providing another opportunity to appear in SERP
- Expose your product to customers who may be looking at competing products on the site
Some users may independently submit a review, but you can also ask a particularly satisfied customer to provide a review. G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, Capterra, Manta, Clutch, and Good Firms are a few examples of B2B review sites.
B2B SEO for Businesses of All Sizes
A strong SEO campaign can transform your website into a high-performance calling card for your business. With the right strategy, your site can appear in search results for the keywords your buyers are using and provide the content they need to complete their B2B purchasing decisions.
As I’ve explained in this article, a thorough SEO campaign requires a significant investment of time, but it’s an essential digital marketing strategy for any business seeking online visibility. B2B SEO helps new companies gain a foothold in the market and provides mature businesses with the boost they need to stand out from competitors and position themselves for further growth.
The best place to start with SEO is at the beginning. Download our SEO checklist to see the essential tasks you need to complete to rank well, and reap the rewards of improved visibility, traffic, and conversions as you build out your strategy over time.
SEO Checklist & Planning Tools
Are you ready to move the needle on your SEO? Get the interactive checklist and planning tools & get started!