Many B2B marketers — particularly those selling to enterprise companies and targeting specific job titles — struggle with the task of generating SEO traffic that actually reaches their target audience.
There’s often a perception that these types of purchases (big ticket items bought by large companies) aren’t something that key stakeholders are likely to search for. The thought is that they buy based on experience with the product, recommendations or familiarity with the brand — not based upon a transactional search result.
This is complicated even further by a few additional factors that can be obstacles in generating the right kind of search traffic for your B2B business:
So how do you avoid a situation where you’re spending time and effort chasing high-competition, low-return rankings that won’t yield enough traffic, leads and sales to make your efforts worthwhile?
Let’s look at some specific strategies and tactics B2B companies can leverage to generate relevant search traffic (and great leads).
Like any marketing effort, you want to start with the question:
Who is buying my product?
This exercise is about identifying the person who you’d like to buy your software, not just the terms you think people will use to describe your product. Ideally, you’ve already spent time as a company and a marketing department thinking about this question.
For my fictional HR software company, my target will be HR professionals (say director level) in midsized to large companies.
I want to get these people to my website. Business buyers are still people, and people search for things, even if they’re not searching in the volume I’d like for the most intuitive way to describe my product. I need to start asking questions about these people who are buying software like mine and ask myself:
The answers to these questions will unlock a ton of content ideas for topics that are highly relevant to your target audience. Frequently, these topics will also represent keywords and search terms that are significantly less competitive and easier to rank for in search results (since they’re less obvious and less likely to be targeted by your competitors). There are a number of great ways to get this information, including:
Novel idea, right? Talk to your customers and prospects (one-on-one or via survey) and find out, specifically: where are their biggest challenges, what do they spend the most time on on a day-to-day basis, what sites do they read?
An extension of this is to regularly meet with the sales and services folks at your company to learn what problems customers and prospects most often have, common objections they face and the language customers and prospects are using to describe different issues and feature requests.
My company creates and promotes content on behalf of businesses. Sometimes this means doing content ideation in a niche we’re unfamiliar with. A great early step at fleshing out content ideas is to look at conference agendas.
Organizers here have a strong financial incentive to focus tracks and presentations around topics that are interesting to attendees. To help identify opportunities for my HR software company, I’d look at the agendas for events that HR professionals would be likely to attend:
In this example screenshot from the EBN Benefits Forum & Expo agenda, I can quickly spot some interesting potential content topics such as:
This was just the first agenda I looked at from the first conference; as I study a number of different conferences, I’ll start to see some common issues and different combinations of topics I can attack in different content assets here.
I probably have some of my own support and forum content on my own site. This could be an unmined trove of great content ideas. What are my users asking frequently here? What are popular feature requests?
Even if I can’t build these for my customers immediately, detailing a great way to do this manually/outside my software could be a really popular content asset (and will probably map to a search term my prospects are looking for — if a known segment of your target market is struggling with an issue, it’s virtually guaranteed a bigger slice of folks have the same issue).
You can also use the same approach to look at your competitors’ forums and support content. If they’re featuring a specific support question on the main page of their support section, that’s probably because it’s a common issue their users (who presumably are either my direct prospects or have very similar issues to my prospects) have.
You can think similarly for hot topics on their forums, feature requests from their users and more. If Zenefits is a direct competitor for my HR software company, I can see at a glance in their help section how they categorize common questions and issues:
Beyond that, I can plug that subdomain into a tool like SEMrush to see what search terms specifically are driving traffic to their help subdomain:
Here there’s a treasure trove of possible content topics I know my prospects are likely to be interested in. As I dig into multiple competitors’ support sections, I’ll once again start to see common themes in topics being focused on and questions that frequently come up.
What sites do your prospects read frequently? As with conference organizers, publishers have a strong vested interest in writing about topics that are interesting to their audience, so if you can identify the publications your prospects are reading, you can run those sites through tools like SEMrush (to see the terms that drive the most traffic to those sites), as well as tools like BuzzSumo (to see the content that gets shared most frequently).
This can often yield better ideas for keywords and content topics than traditional competitive keyword research, because your competitors are probably looking at other competitors and maintaining a narrow focus around obvious terms.
In addition to your product, what other tools are your prospects using? You probably haven’t solved every single tech problem your prospect has, so what other tools are they using?
These would be the types of companies you might target for partnership or co-marketing opportunities. This information can yield great content ideas in the way of:
By helping your prospects identify useful tools and evaluate classes of tools that are tangential but not competitive to your offering, you can become a trusted source of information and can frequently rank well for search terms they’re looking for.
Frequently, these types of comparisons will actually outrank the individual tool companies themselves, since this is the type of content these searchers are actually looking for and will be more likely to click on, consume and share than an individual tool provider’s sales page.
Even if a core keyword like “HR software” is highly competitive, doesn’t have a ton of search traffic and is difficult to rank for with your product page, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to ignore it.
In a recent post, I detailed a number of ways to dig deeper with a core SEO keyword that’s working via both paid search and organic search, such as:
You can learn more about each tactic in the original post.
You can also focus efforts on getting more out of the content on your site that’s already working (assuming that content exists). In my post on how to squeeze more value out of your most important SEO landing pages, I walked through several ways you can capitalize on pages that are already working, namely:
A full breakdown of each step here is outlined in the initial post.
By following the process outlined above, you’ll likely have a ton of ideas for new relevant content that can drive qualified B2B SEO traffic, as well as a number of ideas for getting more value out of core SEO keywords and pages that are already driving quality SEO traffic.
The bad news is, you still have a lot of work to do.
First you need to triage what’s likely a large list of possible opportunities. Here you’ll want to consider the possible search volume, relevance to your prospects and the realistic likelihood you can actually rank for these terms.
From there you need to work down the list of potential keywords and topics to map specific types of content you can create for each of your topics. There are a number of different ways to map compelling content types to targeted keywords, and the asset you use will have to do with the keywords you’re targeting. Some examples might be:
Finally, you need to create the content, promote it and map a specific offer to your content.
Your content creation efforts should have been executed with promotion in mind (Try to make each asset as fail-proof as possible), and you should have a specific plan for who will link to and share your content (and why). If you’re not sure of how to execute on outreach and promotion, there are lots of different resources on link building and tons of great information about content promotion.
You also need an offer strategy. Having a specific informational offer or “content upgrade” mapped to popular posts can be a major help in turning the relevant traffic you’re driving to content assets into actual leads. If you’re not sure of how to execute or what types of offers to use, there are a lot of different places to find inspiration and learn the nuts and bolts of setting up a content upgrade.
Generating qualified B2B SEO traffic isn’t “easy,” and it definitely requires more in the way of research, strategy and content creation and promotion than it did as recently as a few years ago.
That said, there’s still a lot of valuable organic traffic to be had for business-to-business marketers, and the assets you now have to develop to be able to drive relevant SEO traffic also have tremendous additional value outside of driving search traffic, which likely wasn’t the case back when you were building links from forum signatures to your product pages.
Additionally, with the proper execution, that traffic will compound over time, frequently driving leads more efficiently and scalably than many other marketing channels.
So if you have the budget and resources, consider taking another look at your topic ideation, content creation and content promotion processes. You may still be able to drive valuable B2B SEO traffic after all.
The post How To Increase Qualified B2B SEO Traffic In 2016 & Beyond appeared first on Search Engine Land.