Another guest post by my Onetomarket colleague Erik-Jan Bulthuis:
In the first part of this series about B2B SEO, we spoke about an online strategy for B2B websites. We named some differences between B2B and B2C websites. We also determined the kind of content a B2B website needs. This article dives deeper into the content part of a B2B website. This topic also shows us a few differences between SEO for B2B and B2C. To show you, let’s start by showing you how we normally do a keyword review for the B2C market:
- We brainstorm about important keywords
- We use log files and analytics to find more of them
- We deepen the list by finding some synonyms
- We sort all the keywords on decreasing traffic by using tools like the Google Traffic Estimator
This doesn’t apply for a B2B website. Let’s take Verder.com as an example. They are producing industrials pumping systems. Which problems occur if we try to take the steps mentioned above for this company?
- Brainstorming about important keywords can be quite difficult if we don’t know how customers describe their problems.
- The determination of synonyms is quite nasty â€“ Please tell me a synonym of a peristaltic pump…
- The Traffic Estimator will not help us either, because there isn’t enough traffic on pump-related terms.
How do users search?
Not everyone needing a pump installation, will know or use the term peristaltic pump. Most of your clients will look on terms which describe their problem: pumping milk, sludge suction, etc. Other describe the solution they have in mind: fuel pipe, milk pump, etc. As you understand, this list can be lengthened quite easily. The more complex your product, the more people will search for their problem, their question or their challenge. They won’t use the name you or the industry gave your products. This is a large difference between B2C and B2B copywriting. In a B2C world, people know what they are looking for. Therefore, I totally agree with Galen DeYoung on Search Engine Land:
The key to B2B SEO is a complete understanding of the prospects, their issues, and their likely actions as they search for solutions. Good optimization considers all potential starting point of the B2B searcher.
Picking keywords for a B2B campaign needs another approach. We are looking for a way in which search quantity isn’t leading, just because the search quantity of many B2B keywords is pretty low. Tool won’t help you, so you need your own creativity to attract as much related traffic as is possible. It’s a important question if all the needed creativity should be delivered by the SEO. There is an interesting source which we didn’t mention yet: your client and the clients of your client.
Interview clients and prospects
Existing customers do know that he solutions they were looking for is called a peristaltic pump â€“ but perhaps they didn’t knew while they were searching for it. They’d probably remember the problem they had and how they named it. Ask a couple of customers these important questions:
- How would you describe your problem?
- How would you describe the solution you have/had in mind?
- Please name 10 words that describe your problem well?
Document all this information and combine this with the log files of your internal search function. Both the words and descriptions used by your clients as the log files contain words your client uses to find your products and services. Please understand this information and try to find some patterns in it: which branches do your clients come from, what kind of problems do they have, and which words do they use? Order your sales persons to ask the same questions to prospects. There is a big chance people will say things which aren’t correct. Keep in mind that these ‘dumb’ people are the ones raising your sales. It could be that a person is looking for a ‘sludge sieve’, while your products is being called a cutter. Remember: the client is king.
Using tools in a B2B environment
The contacts with your clients deliver a lot of good keywords. The next question however is to determine which keywords are important and which aren’t. Often, it’s not possible to question a lot of clients. The challenge is to extract keyword information for all your clients based on a questionnaire on just a small subset. It would have been easy to use traffic estimator tools to prioritize the keywords, but unfortunately, there is not much information on the more specific B2B terms.
polysemy and traffic estimations
Another problem with B2B content is polysemy, which means words having different meanings. As I already stated in the first article, there are large numbers of traffic on ‘pumps’. A problem is that most of this traffic is about consumers looking for a pump in their pond. Besides, some of our 18+ readers do know another meaning as wellâ€¦ Because the B2C market is much larger than the B2B market, we can’t use traffic estimations on words with multiple meanings. The same holds true for the term ‘sealing’. This word is used for packaging flyers and brochures, but it has also something to do with the dentist. polysemy also occurs in the B2C market, but on a smaller scale.
Polysemy doesn’t only disturb your keyword analysis, it’s also irritating within the SERP’s. If a large number of garden shops is trying to rank for ‘pond pump’, you won’t attract a lot of B2B buyers on that term looking for ‘pump’. Advertising on AdWords (where this article is not about) on ‘pump’ is also quite terrible if you only deliver industrial pumping systems. A solution for this problem might be the usage of B2B verticals, but not every B2B buyer uses those search engines. Another solution is aiming for the long tail. A disadvantage of using the long tail is that there might quite a high conversion on the long neck, because people don’t know exactly where they are looking for. You don’t want to forget the long neck.
It’s pretty normal for B2B content that it isn’t always placed in a normal text format. B2B content is often placed in tables or PDF content and you probably would want so. There are quite a few articles available about optimizing PDFs (take this article of Francis Marketing as an example). However, the questions remains if you want to choose for a suboptimal solution. The best way to deal with PDF content is not to optimize this PDFs, but to make a HTML version of the content. Of course, you could still link to the PDF page with a nofollow.
Optimizing tables isn’t that difficult, but you have to know the problem of using a table. Tables do contain small numbers of words but they have a high keyword density. Therefore, it’s a good idea to write some content above or below the table. In that way, search engines are more capable of determining the topic of the page.
Technicians vs. Marketers: Who will be writing the content?
Another challenge doing B2B copywriting is the question who’ll be writing the content. For technical installations, three situations can occur:
- The technician will be writing â€“ Knows everything on technical stuff, but nothing about SEO copywriting
- The marketer will be writing â€“ Knows half of the technical stuff, and half of SEO copywriting
- The SEO will be writing â€“ Knows nothing about the technical stuff, but everything on SEO copywriting
Of course we exaggerate a bit, but the problem is clear. There is not an ideal person to do the writing. The best solution depends from case to case, but it seems a bit of teamwork is necessary. Let’s propose a simple solution:
- The technician writes down the most important content of the page
- The marketer adds some KPIs he wants to communicate in the text
- The SEO determines the headings, based on the keywords
- The marketer writes the text and consults the technician if necessary
This won’t be the ideal solution in each situation. It’s much more important to face the facts, then to follow some kind of a correct procedure.
Content SEO for a business to business website can be a real pain in the ass. The most important challenge is finding the best keywords. Talk with your clients and prospects and listen to their word usage. This communication can be physically but you can also use log files of your internal search engine. Tools are less useful in a B2B campaign. Creativity, logic and the investigation of your clients are very important.
The third and final article in this series of articles about B2B SEO is B2B SEO: Link Building.