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B2C and B2B: what are the differences?

SEO for B2B and B2C – what are the differences?

April 28th, 2017 – 18 Comments

Business to Business (B2B) marketing is often different from Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing thanks to the elaborate buying processes, narrow markets and more complex products and services of a B2B website. In this article about B2B SEO, I’ll compare the two and explain what that means for your B2B website and SEO.

When reading the above, you might think: “In both cases you’re selling products or services to a customer, and you want those products to be found and ordered, so what could be the difference?” While that might be true in the case of, for example, office supplies, there are instances of B2B products and services that do require a different approach, especially when it comes to more specialized, complex, technical and expensive products, ordered by larger organizations with multiple stakeholders, so you’ll have to adapt your website to take those distinctions into account.

Differences between B2B and B2C

So, what are the main differences between B2B and B2C trading?

  • The buying process can take much longer because it often involves more stakeholders and specific requirements;
  • The products and services can be more complex and more costly;
  • Professionals usually use jargon to describe their products;
  • Size of the market: the B2B market generally is much narrower;
  • Ordering scale: orders for businesses can be much larger.

How do these dissimilarities affect the goal of your site, your keyword research and the web content you present to your audience? Let’s take a closer look!

1. Buying process in a B2B market

In general, it takes longer to close a deal in the B2B market than it does to get a B2C order. The time between gathering information about the product and ordering it is at most only a few weeks, even for the most expensive B2C products like holidays or cars . When it comes to ordering products or services as a business, it might take weeks or even months before the decision to order the product is made. This is mostly because of the amount of money and the number of stakeholders involved.

Let’s take the example of buying a complex technical installation or expensive software: The user of the machine or software wants know the features and how it works. The technician has to take a look at the performance of the machine or the IT department has to evaluate how it will integrate with existing systems. Finance is interested in the costs of buying and maintaining the machine and the managing director wants to know if it will help his staff to perform better and will ultimately need to give his seal of approval too.

An extensive buying process like this influences both the goal of your website and demands more from your web content:

B2B and the goal of your site

On a lot of B2C eCommerce sites the goal is to get the sale done as fast as possible. People look for a product they’re interested in, find it, think about it, add it to their cart (or perhaps wait a day or two), and then decide whether to buy it or not.

A B2B website, especially when it comes to complex and expensive products and services, is much more focused on getting sales leads from a website. Customers won’t order a $25,000 machine or $300,000 medical gloves in a split second, so they’ll gather more information, and probably want to contact a sales rep or product specialist to get more details on the products or services as well. Perhaps they’d even like to order a sample of the product, or test it.

Obviously, you should mention all these options on your site, and make it as easy as possible for your potential customer. Display the phone number on a prominent place on every page of your site and create easy-to-use forms to request a sample, a trial or a quote. Perhaps customers can directly email product specialists or ask them questions in a live chat? Whatever possibilities you offer, make sure your prospect can’t miss them!

Read more: ‘What’s the mission of your website’ »

B2B sales and your web copy

In the B2C market, the buyer is usually the person who is going to use the product. This doesn’t always apply to B2B, because, as mentioned already, many people are involved in the purchase of larger B2B products. To ease the decision that has to be made you’ll have to address different stakeholders in your web copy. Define who your stakeholders are and make sure to provide all of them with the necessary information, whether that’s the staff who will use the equipment, the technician, IT, finance, the manager or the director.

So your site will need quite a bit of information. Remember that, compared to B2C purchases, there is less emotional involvement with the purchase of a product or a service. This means that you need to communicate solutions, rather than the beauty and the esthetic value of the product.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

SEO copywriting training Info

2. The complexity of products and services

Another difference between B2B and B2C is that, generally, B2B products and services are more complex. For instance, not many people use an X-ray machine at home. But your B2B customer doesn’t even have to buy a complicated machine or software to be interested in very detailed specifications.

I used to work at a company that sold medical supplies, like exam and surgical gloves. Even for a ‘simple’ product like medical gloves, requirements will be much higher than if you were buying disposable housekeeping gloves. Before buying, the hospital will want to find out: What material is it made of? What’s the exact thickness? Does it contain latex (in case of allergies)? What’s the texture like? Is it tested for use with chemotherapy drugs? Is it certified? Can you scientifically prove the claims you make about this product? And so on.

Complex B2B products and your web content

Tip: Show how it works!

At Yoast, we want everyone to understand what our Premium plugin can do, so we recorded various videos and screencasts to show how easy it is to use these features.

The complexity of the products and services mostly affects your web content, so you need to clearly describe specifications and features in detail. Also, include information that helps your prospect understand how to use the equipment or software. How do you work with these features? Help potential customers understand your product by adding detailed descriptions, imagery and product videos. You need to show how easy it is to work with that complex machine you’re selling!

Potential customers who still have questions should be able to contact you easily through your website. So besides providing sufficient information on how to use the product, get your sales team and product specialists geared up to answer those questions. And, in case of complicated product and services, show how your support team helps your customers out if they have problems after a purchase.

Not only is well-written, explanatory content necessary to help visitors understand your product, if you write about the right keywords, it’s one of the most important assets that will get people to your website in the first place! This is closely related to the next characteristic of B2B: the use of jargon.

3. Jargon

Every field of expertise has its own language. And people in a certain industry might not even be aware that they’re using very specialized words. Nevertheless, often these will be the words they’ll be searching for when looking for products or services online. So make sure you know which search terms they’re using! This is crucial for your keyword research, as I’ll expand on below.

Jargon and B2B Keyword research

When you’re doing keyword research – whether that’s for B2B or B2C – it’s essential to get to know your customers. Don’t assume you already know them! Take the opportunity to speak with customers and prospects and find out which stakeholder does the most searching for the business when it comes to finding a product like yours. Is it the manager? The user? Or the purchase department? For your website to be found, you’ll have to write enough high quality content on your site, in which you speak the same language as this stakeholder.

A mistake that businesses often make is heavily promoting a product name, instead of using the search terms their prospects use. If your brand is really famous for a certain product, promoting the product name might work. In most cases though, your prospect will be searching for a type of product, so the search volume for that term will be much bigger. It does mean you’ll have to compete with your competitors to rank for the same search terms. But that’s when a great content SEO strategy can help you out.

One more thing on jargon: to be found you’ll need to use some specialized words, but don’t overdo this! Balance the use of difficult, industry specific words with the use of clear and easy to comprehend language. Keep your text readable – the readability analysis of Yoast SEO will help you here. You don’t want to scare away newbies to the industry!

Content SEO: learn how to do keyword research, how to structure your site and how to write SEO friendly content »

Content SEO Info

4. Size of the market

Most consumer goods are of interest to much of the population, so marketing these products is therefore aimed at a very wide audience. Specialized, business related products will only matter to the folks working in a certain field. This means you’re selling in a much smaller market, a so-called niche.

Niche products and SEO

In terms of SEO this does have some advantages. Your target group might be smaller, but there might be less competition too. To become successful in a niche you should write great informational content on the keywords your prospects use, as described above. Focus first on long tail keywords to increase the chance of ranking. Long tail keywords are keywords that include specifications or features of a certain product. The search volume for these terms is lower, but there’s less competition for them too, which makes it easier to rank.

Let’s go back to the example of medical gloves. Although a niche market, it is quite competitive. Ranking for the keyword [medical gloves] therefore will be difficult. Luckily there are plenty of opportunities to specify your product. You could optimize your copy for [blue non-latex surgical gloves] and [pink nitrile exam gloves]. There will be less web content on these search terms, so it will be easier to rank. On top of that, you could write copy that goes deeper into certain specifications of your product, like why a hospital should choose [non-latex surgical gloves].

The next step would be to create an awesome site structure that shows Google the connections between all the content you’ve created. You can do this by internally linking related content and defining and linking to your cornerstone content.

Keep reading: ‘The ultimate guide to site structure’ »

5. Scale

The last characteristic of B2B trading I’ll discuss is scale. Order quantities are usually much higher for businesses than consumers, therefore, total costs are higher for businesses. Often, they like or even expect to negotiate their own price or, at least, get bulk discounts. This means you should either present bulk discounts on your website or clearly show how they can easily contact a sales person, so they can get a quote or negotiate their own discount. Preferably, you would do both.

Conclusion

Building a good B2B website is hard work. When working on it, keep the following things in mind:

  • Think thoroughly about the goal of your B2B site and translate this into features on your website.
  • Write content that addresses all the stakeholders that are involved in the buying process, and speak the same language as they do. You really need to get to know your audience to do so!
  • Explain and show in detail how your products work.
  • Do your keyword research and write awesome content on the keywords your audience uses. Don’t forget to focus on those long tail keywords first.

Good luck! Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments!

Read on: ‘The ultimate guide to keyword research’ »


18 Responses to SEO for B2B and B2C – what are the differences?

  1. Tom B.
    By Tom B. on 10 May, 2017

    Very interesting article, I’ve had companies that do B2B come to me with questions about how they should use organic search to their advantage. I did keyword research for them and most of the time (especially in dutch) there is almost no search volume or competition. So they just need very good on page seo website with very good copy adapted at their target audience. Thanks for this article, I can share this now with potential clients.

  2. sitidiincontrionline.it
    By sitidiincontrionline.it on 10 May, 2017

    Those are some very valid points! For now I’m only focusing on B2C SEO but I plan on doing B2B SEO soon. Thanks Yoast team!

  3. Jim Garner
    By Jim Garner on 2 May, 2017

    That is a great distinction you made about how to create content for big ticket items as opposed to smaller online purchases. The process, as you point out is diffrent when a visitor is interested in acquiring a product that costs tens of thousands of dollars as opposed to twenty-five dollars.
    Great post!

  4. Patrick
    By Patrick on 1 May, 2017

    I think, one of the most important options for a b2b website is the possibility to subscribe to a newsletter. This will help you to stay in touch with your customers/visitors an get to know what content they are interested in the most, so you can write more SEO content for similar subjects. A newsletter is also an easy way to go back to your website for visitors. It is almost a necessary for the long buying process (stay in touch) and good for SEO (returning visitors/long time on site, etc).

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 1 May, 2017

      Agreed! Thanks for the addition, Patrick.

  5. Mike Sealander
    By Mike Sealander on 1 May, 2017

    Hi Willemien: I enjoyed this article. I am an architect, and most of my work is B2B. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on marketing services B2B, not just products.
    Some of your points resonated. Long time between initial contact and closing. Multiple decision makers. Specialized jargon.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 1 May, 2017

      Hi Mike, Thanks! Great to hear you recognize some of the points. As for services, it can be more difficult to market them, because they can be more customizable and more difficult to depict than products (although in architecture the end result is suitable for nice imagery). But it means you probably have to put extra effort in your writing. I believe the most important thing is to focus on the solutions you’ll provide for a company or organization. Try to find out what their wishes and worries are and and explain how you’ll help them reach their goals, and take work off their hands. If you can get testimonials of happy customers, explaining how you’ve helped them, perhaps even on video, that can greatly help increase trust in your service.

  6. Lee
    By Lee on 30 April, 2017

    Hmm, Nice to learn something informative about SEO for B2B and B2C.

  7. John
    By John on 30 April, 2017

    You mentioned “long tail keywords” in the above article. Can you please give me some examples of that? With long term keywords, do you want to say the keywords that are searched the most in search engines or something else?

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 1 May, 2017

      Hi John, Thanks for your question. We usually make a distinction between ‘head’ and ‘long tail’ keywords. With head keywords we mean very general keywords that are searched most for in the search engines. Like for example [marketing]. As lots of companies write about marketing and want to rank for this, it’s a highly competitive keyword. If we want to make a more long tail variant of it, we have to add more specifications. This could be, for instance, [B2B marketing agency Newark]. There will be less searches for it, but less competition on it too, which makes it easier to rank for. You can read more about it here: https://yoast.com/focus-on-long-tail-keywords/

      • John
        By John on 7 May, 2017

        Hmmm, ok thanks for that.

  8. David
    By David on 30 April, 2017

    A nice read (as always). Thank you

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 1 May, 2017

      Thank you!

  9. shashi
    By shashi on 29 April, 2017

    This article cover whole part of b2b and b2c market that good but somewhere this article miss to keep their points in easy and simple way. thank you

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 1 May, 2017

      Hi Shashi, Sorry to hear that! Could you give an example of a part that’s too complicated? Perhaps I can simplify some things for you.

  10. Lrers
    By Lrers on 29 April, 2017

    Nice guide and thanks for sharing BOB and BOC diffrence.

  11. Samme
    By Samme on 29 April, 2017

    I think it is the jargons, insiders knowledge and audience psychology are what make all the difference here. I think we will have to spend considerable amount of time to figure out the inner working of the industry before starting the marketing campaign.

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      By Willemien Hallebeek on 1 May, 2017

      Hi Samme, Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with this. Knowing the inner workings of a certain industry is essential to be able to market your products or services well.


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