The most enthusiastic adopters of search engine optimisation have been Business-to-Consumer (B2C) companies operating an e-commerce business.
However, as Business-to-Business (B2B) marketers have searched for every opportunity to maximise lead generation online, an effective B2B search engine optimisation strategy has become essential.
But there are some critical differences in SEO to attract consumers versus business prospects into your sales funnel…
Firstly, you have different Goals
Yes, in both cases it’s ultimately about creating sales. But SEO’s goal with consumers is usually to generate an online sale in a single visit. Ideally, searchers find a high-ranking site in the search results and navigate through a carefully prescribed pathway, and ultimately to the shopping cart and checkout process.
For most business-to-business purchases, the goal of search engine optimisation is to get the supplier business onto the Client’s short-list for consideration.
Conversion in B2B marketing typically occurs offline, so getting found in the search results is just the beginning.
How Page Stickiness Leads To Evaluation…
On a B2B web site, the focus should be on “stickiness” i.e. getting visitors to STAY on the site, and dig deeper into other relevant, confidence-building content.
Often, one of the primary motivators is fear of making the wrong decision. So one of the key objectives of B2B searchers, after they click through to your site, is to evaluate both your company and its offerings.
Whilst prospects are ultimately seeking to purchase a solution to a problem, their predominant behavior during the research phase is to identify and vet serious contenders.
Companies that make the initial cut move on to the next round of consideration. And it’s here where some specific ‘on-page’ strategies make their contribution, and will set you apart from your competition.
A Seamless Journey
Make sure that your landing pages have carefully chosen and appealingly worded links to other content that will build credibility, and get you though to the final stages of selection.
In addition to creating strong content, a good Web analytics program will allow you to measure stickiness factors, such as length of total visit, time spent on specific pages, number of pages viewed, and whether the number of return visitors is growing.
Greater Importance of Copy
The words that you use both on-page and off-page, have a major influence on your rankings in the search engine results. Not only does Web-page copy need to influence ranking in the search engine results, it must also persuade the business prospect to take the next step in making an enquiry.
The typical consumer prospect will be evaluating things like product specs, available colors, pricing, and perhaps a short description of the product. As noted earlier, however, business purchases are most often driven by risk avoidance. Just because you offer the product or service, or have low pricing, doesn’t mean you’re the best solution to their needs.
B2B purchasers do much more research as part of the buying process. Your ability to establish confidence and credibility by writing intelligently and persuasively about your product and your company — and your ability to clearly articulate complex selling propositions — will determine whether you continue to be considered as a potential supplier.
Therefore, not only the landing page copy needs to be compelling– so does copy on every other page.
One Searcher, performing multiple different searches
In B2C, the typical sales cycle may be as short as 10-20 minutes from search to sale. In the B2B world, the buying cycle may last months or even years.
That’s because B2B purchases undergo much more scrutiny throughout all phases of the buying cycle—and in those phases the same person may perform multiple searches, each with a different intent.
In the first phase (research), the purchaser is seeking alternatives, seeing who’s out there to potentially satisfy their need. During this phase, generic search terms may be used to form a short-list of potential providers.
Later, in the evaluation stage of the buying cycle, the purchaser’s focus turns to researching specific issues related to the product or service, such as performance, efficiency, maintenance, ergonomics, whitepapers, etc.
Later in the process, just prior to the purchase decision, the searcher has by then a thorough understanding of specific needs, wants, and issues affecting the purchase decision. Final searches may be done to reinforce favourable perceptions, and seek out other businesses who have already purchased the solution on offer.
In B2B search engine optimization, it’s important to understand the search terms your prospect may be using in the different phases of the buying cycle. If you have a good understanding of this, you can use SEO to ensure that you not only get found initially, but also get confirmed at every search in the buying cycle.
One Prospect. Multiple Searchers.
While most B2C purchases involve a single decision-maker, the typical business purchase is influenced by multiple parties throughout the buying cycle, each with the ability to easily research and evaluate purchase alternatives.
The user wants to know how the product will improve day-to-day operations. The technical buyer is charged with ensuring the product meets established specifications. The financial controller is concerned with ROI and other matters.
Each of these parties may use varying search terms depending on their role and their specific concerns. Although one person may have spent weeks doing purchase research, a Director who spends only 10 minutes on Google can raise enough questions to dramatically alter the organisation’s purchase decisions.
Good B2B search engine optimisation considers the different influencers and the search terms they are likely to use—and has landing pages that speak to their specific needs.
More Complex Keyword Strategy
B2C searchers often use well-known brand names, and merely want to find the best source for it.
But B2B search engine optimisation is a bit more complex. A person searching for material handling solutions may search for “material handling,” “conveyor systems,” “conveyor technologies,” “systems integrators,” “warehouse management systems,” or dozens of other related or more specific search terms.
Next, there is variation in what to call things. Take, for instance, the subject of this article. Is it B2B SEO, B2B search engine optimization, business-to-business SEO, BtoB search engine optimization, or some other combination? You’ll get different search engine results for each of these queries.
Keyword strategy is critical to successful business-to-business SEO. Make sure that you take the time to fully explore and select the potential terms that searchers are likely to use in the purchase process, and design your site accordingly.
PLEASE NOTE: This article has been adapted from one that originally appeared in http://www.marketingprofs.com/7/young47.asp