This is a guest post by my Onetomarket colleague Erik-Jan Bulthuis. You’ll be seeing more guest posts from him and other people in the future!
Business to business marketing is a strange thing. In some ways, it cannot be compared to business to consumer marketing:
- The market is much smaller
- The products and services are more complex
- Sales take much longer
This is part 1 of a series of 3 about B2B SEO. I suppose that the reader has a basic knowledge on SEO and wants to broaden that knowledge to B2B SEO as well. The most important goal for this article is comparing B2B SEO to B2C SEO. A little bit of background in marketing is also quite handy.
This first article talks about the strategy of a B2B website. What are the targets and conversion moment and what do you want to communicate? First of all, we must understand that the lead time of a purchase in a B2B market is much longer than in a B2C environment. Even the most expensive B2C products like holidays only take a few weeks between gathering information about the product and ordering the holiday. The graph below (source: Enquiro Research) shows how long the lead time for a B2B purchase is:
As the graphs shows, it might take weeks or even months for someone decides to buy the product. In the same research of Enquiro Research, 85% of the respondents claim that they use online media somewhere in the buying process. This shows the importance of having a good B2B website for your products and services. Search engines do play an important role in the buying process:
The long lead time of a B2B purchase obviously doesnâ€™t apply for things like office supplies. However, it does apply for something like a complex technical installation. This has a lot to do with the money and people involved. The technician has to take a look at the performance of the machine, the economic man is interested In the cost of buying and maintaining the machine and if you arenâ€™t lucky, the managing director also has an opinion about the whole thing.
A B2B website contains information that eases the decisions that has to be made. There is a need for information about when to use the machine, the cost of the machine (purchase, maintenance and devaluation) and technical specifications. For most B2C markets, this information isnâ€™t that necessary.
Soft conversions and long lasting funnels
Al this desired information has consequences for the targets of your website. Most B2B websites donâ€™t offer ways to order anything online, because the products are too complex. The sales take place in a personal meeting or through a telephone call.
The way towards those sales however does lead through various interesting conversion moments of the website.
The download of a PDF with product specifications is a good sign of someone being interested in the product. Therefore, you would like to know how many of the people visiting your site download such a PDF. You also would like to know who these people are, where they come from etc. If the same downloader reads a text about the cost of the product a few weeks later, we can be quite confident that heâ€™s a serious interest in buying the product. Itâ€™s important to measure such â€˜softâ€™ conversions (i.e. conversions that canâ€™t be monetized immediately) as a funnel by means of long term cookies.
KPIs for a B2B website
The soft conversions just mentioned, lead us to the following question: What are the KPIs of our B2B website? A webshop has very simple KPIs: the number of sales, the number of newsletter registrations, etc. The KPIs of a B2B website are much harder to define.
The number of people sending you an email is an important KPI, as well as the number of people calling you by phone. Therefore, you would like to know how many people are calling you using a telephone number that they found on your website. It might be a good idea to mention a different phone number on your site than on other (offline) publications. In this way you can measure how many of your telephone calls are being delivered through the website (of course you donâ€™t know whether they came from paid search, organic search, referrers or some other source).
In most cases, the number of unique visitors on your website isn’t a good KPI. I worked for a company that produces industrial pumping systems. In The Netherlands, they rank in de top 3 for ‘pumps’ which does lead to a lot of traffic. Many of these visitors are consumers looking for a little pump for in their pond. They increase the bounce rate quite a lot. The unique number of visitors in a certain period isn’t a nice KPI, but they might use â€œnumber of unique visitors visiting three pages or moreâ€ as a KPI.
Expert knowledge at B2B SEO
Another problem of B2B SEO is the required expert knowledge. My overall knowledge increased a lot since I started working at Onetomarket. I now know quite a lot about industrials pumps, HR software, medicines and interim management. However, it’s still difficult for me to do a good keyword research for the industrial pump manufacturer. After a few weeks of practicing, I do know how to spell peristaltic pumps, mag drive pumps and progressive cavity pumps, but my knowledge about those things is still pretty limited.
This happens a lot at B2B clients. It’s important to make your B2B clients self-learning. Explain what they should do and train them. Have a brainstorm with your clients about determining keywords; let them write their texts; use their technical knowhow. Your client has also more experience in selling their products than you have. The client knows (if everything is okay) how their clients are calling their products and services and how theyâ€™d describe certain problems. Of course, as an SEO you should some basic knowledge about the products your client is trying to sell.
In the B2C market, the buyer is also the person who is going to use the product. This doesn’t apply for the B2B seller. The purchase department buys a technical installation that the technical department ordered. Therefore, there is not much emotional involvement at the purchase of a product or a service. This means that you want to communicate solutions, rather than the beauty and the esthetic value of the product.
As said before, many people are involved in the purchase of larger B2B products. In the report of Enquiro Research four types of buyers are distinguished;
- The economic buyer
- The technical buyer
- The user buyer
- The coach buyer
You have to offer information for each of them. It isn’t that hard to determine the information they need:
Information about the price, the maintenance cost and the depreciation of the product.
Technical information about maintenance, information about the installation of the machine, availability of spare parts, etc.
Information about how to handle the product, manuals, a support service etc.
The coach buyer is a manager with some influence. Tell him that your product is indispensible for the performance within his organization.
The list above has consequences for the information on your website. Your site will need quite a bit of information.
Building a good B2B website is hard work. Your role as an SEO is to train, coach and motivate your client, who will be doing all the hard work. Together you should define the information architecture and KPIs of your website. Please make sure that the visitors are climbing in their phone as soon as possible.