"Oh, I just love it when awesome prospects and potential customers can’t find my website!" said no one ever.
If you’ve been studying up on your Content Marketing 101 or you simply ask around, you’ll discover the number one priority for nearly all B2B marketers is finding efficient ways to steadily generate high quality leads. But what does a company need to do before they can begin raking in these new prospects? They need to attract traffic. And without a doubt, the first step to getting found online is to adeptly optimize your website for organic search.
For B2B companies, the most effective way to achieve this goal and increase chances of ranking higher on search engine results pages is actually fairly simple. The answer?
And you’re about to find out exactly how to blog like an SEO champ.
This post digs into three major concepts — why blogging is essential to B2B marketing, how blogging directly impacts SEO, and why the ways B2B companies approach SEO must differ from a B2C strategy. And of course, you’ll receive some handy tips and tricks for better optimizing your own B2B blog and hear a little story to illustrate the point. Still on board? Okay, here we go!
Why Should B2B Companies Be Blogging in the First Place?
According to the "2014 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report," roughly 76 percent of B2B marketers are now incorporating blogging into their content marketing strategies. Why? Because when conducted effectively, business blogging has become an all-encompassing solution for several B2B-specific challenges.
- Building trust – Because B2B sales cycles are typically much longer and more involved, developing a relationship between buyer and seller becomes critical. B2B buyers usually invest more time and research into the purchasing process than B2C buyers, and these buying decisions are often characterized by a perceived increase in risk. Blogging provides an opportunity to not only interact with target prospects, but to consistently prove your company understands and empathizes with customer pain points.
- Showcasing personality – Let’s face it… many B2B companies aren’t working in the sexiest of industries. Unless manufacturing shipping containers or refurbishing surgical instruments is your thing. But B2B doesn’t have to be boring! You can use your blog to show a little skin – putting your company culture on display, adding some humor into your website, and shedding some light on employee personalities. It’s about revealing the people behind the business.
- Establishing thought leadership – Blogging gives B2B companies the chance to position themselves as experts in their respective fields. If your business blog becomes a go-to source of valuable information, your company’s credibility increases, as does that of your products and services. People want to buy from companies that can articulate industry issues and subsequently provide the answers to resolve them.
- Generating qualified leads – Plain and simple, B2B companies that blog receive 67 percent more leads per month than those who don’t (source: HubSpot). By including a relevant Call-to-Action at the bottom of every blog post that links to a landing page, your business blog is another avenue by which visitors can be converted into leads. And hey, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than other more traditional marketing methods.
But let’s not forget... business blogging also has a profound impact on SEO. At the very least, regularly publishing blog posts fulfills the third requirement from Google’s one-page SEO starter guide – keeping your website up-to-date! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
How Does Blogging Impact SEO?
As Google perceives stale sites to be irrelevant — and consequently pushes them out of its SERPs — a business cannot leave its website unattended for months, no matter how snazzy or cool it may appear to be. Particularly for entrepreneurial B2B companies or SMBs that only sell one product or service and do not have a surplus of product pages to continually update, blogging is essential to a working SEO strategy.
Check out these five reasons business blogging packs an SEO punch:
- By consistently updating your blog (even if it’s only on a biweekly or monthly basis), you are generating fresh content for Google crawlers to recognize.
- A blog provides an easy opportunity to index more pages – and thereby increase the number of pages that can be organically found online.
- People like to reference valuable information in their own content. Hence, great blogging attracts those precious inbound links – or links from other websites back to your own pages. In fact, companies that blog receive 97% more inbound links! (source: HubSpot). And in terms of powering up SEO, the cumulative number of inbound links are ranked 3rd on Marketing Profs’ 2014 Top Google Search Rank Factors
- Blog posts can also be used to bump up the number of internal links on your site. In turn, these links enable Google to more efficiently navigate your domain, and the hyperlinked anchor text helps the search giant better understand the content on your pages. Internal links support building a roadmap for optimization.
- Social sharing also dramatically boosts SEO. When users share your content, Google deems that your blog is relevant and demonstrates authority on the given subject matter. Producing an awesome blog post motivates social savvy users to share it on their own channels.
How Should SEO Be Approached Differently by B2B Companies?
Although there are some key similarities between B2B and B2C optimization attack plans (i.e.: optimizing blog posts with priority keywords), the overarching goals are reasonably different. While organic search can often lead to an immediate sale for a B2C company, for B2Bs, being discovered is just the beginning. Instead of vying for a customer conversion, B2B companies are deploying SEO tactics in order to generate traffic and convert targeted visitors into invested leads.
This is, in part, due to the length of the average B2B sales cycle, as well as the evaluation process B2B buyers go through as they move through the funnel. B2B companies can’t afford to rank for a mere one or two non-branded keywords. Searchers may begin their research with broad, more generic initial search terms, but as they travel down the pipeline, the majority of serious prospects execute more in-depth, comparative searches focusing on issue-related content.
Despite being positioned well at the top of the funnel, if you can’t keep up as buyer assessments progress, your firm is likely to be knocked off the radar by a more problem/solution-based result stemming from a competitor website. B2B optimization for search is not only about being found; it’s critical to provide affirmation again and again during each stage of the buying cycle. As a result, these types of companies are obliged to target multiple keywords.
Moreover, while a higher percentage of their B2C counterparts have the luxury of ranking for branded searches and recognizable company and product names, B2B SEO strategies must place emphasis on ranking for long tail keyword phrases. With that said, B2B marketers also need to have a better handle on vertical-specific terms that more industry-educated buyers are typing into the search engines. When optimizing blog posts in the B2B sector, it’s that much more important to recognize the questions prospects are asking — and to be the best answer.
How Can B2B Companies Better Optimize their Blog Posts?
With all the content marketing mania out there, it’s no secret blogging has become an effective business tool. But of the B2B companies who are blogging, which ones are actually doing it right?
In many B2B industries, there are fewer online searches being conducted, but there is much less competition and therefore a lower barrier to entry into the organic search results. Although it may be challenging to climb up the SERP's ladder right away, it’s important to recognize that there is always an audience ready and willing to read about your business and find answers to pressing questions.
Here are 10 top tips for making your blog posts pop up in the results sooner than later:
- Focus on one target keyword per blog post – and include this keyword in the URL, the page title, near the beginning of the headline, and a few times throughout the body copy. However, avoid stuffing your article with keywords, as search engine algorithms are designed to penalize content that doesn’t prioritize the actual reader.
- When linking to a blog post from other pages on your website, use the keyword in the anchor text.
- Always include an image – and optimize it! Use the keyword again in the ALT text about the image, and make sure the original file name is short and descriptive, replacing any spaces with hyphens.
- Write a brief meta description (under 150 characters), and again, include the target keyword. This will likely accompany your blog post’s headline in the SERPs, so make it catchy!
- Blog regularly and consistently. As previously mentioned, search engines favor fresh content. Not to mention your audience is more likely to keep on clicking through if they can expect a post on a specific schedule. In a narrow B2B industry, your readership may be small, but it will be dedicated, so cater to your subscribers!
- In order to attract valuable inbound links, focus on generating blog content that is unique and useful. And write with a memorable voice. Evergreen content, or content that will always apply to your industry no matter how fast time is flying, typically acts as a great magnet for backlinks.
- Post stories that are inherently shareable. Whether it’s a client case study, a customer success story, some compelling stats or quotes, or a fun video post, appeal to the social audience and include social sharing buttons on your blog post pages to make it as convenient as possible for these evangelists to broadcast your material on their channels. Remember, social sharing scores you SEO points!
- Format posts to make them easily readable. Busy B2B professionals often skim blog posts for the answer they are looking for, so take advantage of bolded headlines, bullet points, numbered lists and eye-catching colors and fonts. If a user visits your blog post and immediately sees poor aesthetics, he or she is likely to bounce. And in the world of SEO, high bounce rates are VERY bad. Your job is to keep the visitor on the page for as long as possible, so ensuring your content is clean and easy to read is a must.
- Use keywords that are important to your prospects. Conduct interviews with customers who fit your target buyer persona. Does your content match what others in their position are looking for?
- Never forget to monitor and measure key performance indicators! Because the impact of SEO is harder to measure for many B2B companies, consider investing in quality analytics software and take advantage of Google Visitors Flow. This will show you how your visitors are navigating your website and if your blog posts are effectively providing conversion paths.
B2B Blogging Inspiration: Block Imaging
Sometimes, it simply takes a little success story to motivate a B2B marketer to get up off the couch and start blogging for their business. Here’s one for the history books…
Block Imaging – a small, 70-person company located in Lansing, Michigan sells pre-owned and refurbished medical imaging equipment to a worldwide market. Back during the summer of 2011, this tiny speck on the B2B map was losing sales, as well as hope and morale, as each department in the company was forced to scale back.
What did Block do to get back in the game? According to Marketing VP, Krista Kotrla, the entire team made the decision to embrace a “culture of content marketing.”
By empowering a Content Officer as the point of contact for all drafts, the team remained organized, and its content marketing mission was further supported by the flexible and inclusive atmosphere Block’s leadership promoted. With contributions coming from over 40 of the company’s 70 employees, the business blog has continued to be updated on a near-daily basis, featuring a wide variety of content and video posts.
Since revitalizing a dying blog, Block Imaging has seen a 150 percent increase in organic search traffic to their website, which has led to more and better quality leads and a higher sales volume. This may or may not have included a $70K order as a result of a single blog post. Minor details…
OK, sure, not every B2B company can blog as frequently as Block Imaging — but the message is clear. When dedicated to the cause, blogging can have a powerful impact on SEO, and ultimately on steadily growing a pool of new business.
To wrap up, I finish with a quote from SEO expert Rand Fishkin, the Wizard of Moz himself.
“Google doesn’t want to count links that you ‘build’ — Google wants to count links you editorially ‘earn.’”
Business blogging is, without a doubt, an effective strategic method to editorially earn those links from your industry peers, in addition to a higher rank from Google. By crafting wow-worthy blog content, B2B companies have a great opportunity to get found online, spark traffic and accrue new leads that would never have even heard of them otherwise.