In the past, ensuring that a website ranked for top keywords was as simple as stuffing pages with copy like “healthcare marketing services”, “aerospace consultants”, and other permutations of similar business-to-business (B2B) terms. However, search engines are much smarter in 2019 than they were then, and the game has changed. B2B search engine optimization (SEO) is confronted by many of the same issues that are present in B2C optimization, but, as we have seen at bfw Advertising, B2B marketers face particular challenges and SEO nuances that are not always anticipated.
Submit B2B SEO Recommendations as Early as Possible
For large B2B clients, it may surprise clients to learn that the inclusion or alteration of one word in a <H1> tag can make all the difference. If you are working with a business that functions in a highly-regulated or highly bureaucratic environment, having your on-page SEO recommendations submitted as early as possible will give branding and positioning discussions the ample notice necessary to ensure certain keywords are included in brand materials.
B2B websites are often a battleground where a client’s business strategy is put to the test against their competitors, and the statements that are made on a website must align with brand messaging and promotional strategy. These components are never conjured on the spot – they are the product of many hours of market strategy discussions that give a brand the chance to succeed.
As an SEO expert it is vital to provide SEO context for these discussions so that your clients have the chance to produce a statement that will be marketable in an SEO context. Ensuring that a client features an important keyword in their new product positioning statement will allow you the ability to include this keyword frequently as a built-in piece of on-page SEO. For example, if your keyword research suggests that pharmacists are searching for “savings card for <generic drug name>” you will want your client to label their coupon program as a “savings card” rather than as a “copay card.”
If you submit your recommendations with the copy that includes their statements, the battle is already lost because the branding and positioning discussions may have already produced a positioning phrase statement that cannot be changed due to regulatory concerns.
This scenario is also compounded for conducting SEO for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. When promoting a product in these industries, clients have to be especially careful when making superiority claims about their product and have to toe many regulatory lines with the claims they make in promotional materials. If you let them know that they may be eligible to earn 10x more traffic if they can get FDA approval to claim that their product lowers cholesterol rather than ‘treats’ cholesterol, their peer-review committee will be aware of the statements they should be approved to make.
Lastly, even if there is an opportunity to make a change that is beneficial to SEO, you may be out of luck simply because large companies take a long time to act. If you wait until the website’s copy is being written to recommend that a client should feature “yacht financing services” in their positioning statement rather than “maritime capital solutions”, it may not be worth the client’s time (in their eyes) to go back and re-discuss their positioning statements.
Pitch Content Production the Right Way
From Google’s standpoint, the authority your client possesses regarding healthcare is nothing compared to the authority of a site that has over 1,600 backlinks and wall of well-written copy about every drug known to man. In order to put yourself in the same ballpark as healthcare information sites like these, it’s crucial that content production is not only prioritized, but pitched in the right way.
It can be difficult to explain the benefits of content production and backlink outreach to CMOs and product managers. It can seem outlandish to marketing professionals that getting news outlets to pick up your article on the dirtiest airports in the country can actually help them get business, especially when you consider that it’s their brand that is on the line.
This is where it is important to have a person who is adept at addressing objections and who possesses experience turning low-traffic sites into high-traffic winners via content production. The latter is arguably more important because this individual will be able to discuss the website traffic effects that off-brand articles can have once they are picked up and linked to by high authority websites. They may be in possession of case studies (or simply have a good memory) that can help illustrate the difference between on-brand, industry-specific content, and link-building content devoted to news source outreach.
The core of the content issue is getting the client to realize that search engines use backlinks in a way similar to how people form ideas about brand’s trustworthiness. Your content person should have a firm strategy for helping clients realize that search engines rely on machine-based algorithms to do the same job that a person’s brain performs when it comes to choosing one brand over another. While a brand’s trustworthiness is based on the respective value that a person holds for it, search engine algorithms place a notable value on trust by acknowledging the number of ties that a property has to other trusted, authoritative resources. It really is like a primitive popularity contest, and both on-brand and off-brand content are the best way to build search engine trust.
Remember On-Brand Content & Question-Based Content is Still Important
Building a strong backlink profile is vital component of content strategies; however serving as a resource for industry knowledge is still an extremely relevant and important goal to consider. The most linked-to website on the planet will only rank for keywords that are included often enough to be deemed integral to a site. An easy way to make sure that your client’s site serves as a selling tool while also offering something of value to the audience is to determine what questions people are asking about the industry and answering these questions in the form of content pieces. This approach will help naturally add relevant, industry-related terms to your client’s keyword profile, and will also help provide a strong user experience for the audience and their potentially pressing questions.
Address Mobile-First Indexing Discussions with Statistics
Another common tension point of B2B SEO is the fact that business-to-business companies are targeting professionals searching for products or services and want to “wow” them with an impressive, stylized, heavily java-scripted website that is an adventure to browse on an office desktop. Your client will be less interested in the speed and mobile responsiveness of a website when, as far as they are concerned, their audience will be using an office computer anyways. The point that you can’t let them forget is this: Google doesn’t know, and mobile-first indexing is here to stay.
Google has created its ranking algorithms with the goal of matching users to websites that can help them find their content and that offers an easily-navigable and quick experience. Their algorithm applies to all sites equally, and therefore follows web browsing statistics when deciding which algorithm configuration will best serve the largest number of people. Because of this, business-to-business companies must address mobile-first indexing by making sure that their site is mobile-responsive and fast.
Make sure that clients know that mobile Internet use has surpassed that of desktop use, and that this statistic has been used to guide the decision to give ranking priority to sites with better mobile experiences. Marketers understand better than most that statistics guide actions, and if they can see that Google is trying to serve their own audiences by acting on this data then they will realize why they are required to tailor their digital offerings to fit into Google’s scheme.
Leverage Existing or Past Clients to Build a Backlink Profile
One major advantage that B2B companies have is that their customers are typically businesses that have their own websites. Reaching out to clients and asking them to provide links to your website is a great way to build your backlink profile and increase your domain authority.
Another benefit of leveraging these relationships is that, depending on the quality of the relationship with the client, you may be able to have the link they place on their site include a vital keyword in the anchor text to better describe your client’s business. Anchor text that reads “<client company name> <keyword>” rather than just your client’s name will build a stronger association between your client’s core services and their website. As long as the keyword is relevant to the site’s content (which it should be if you have built that keyword into your page’s copy), you will be able to pass better ranking strength for the targeted keyword than you otherwise would.
Leverage Existing or Past Clients for Reviews
Make sure either your agency or your client reaches out to satisfied customers to have them leave reviews on Google, Yelp, or any other online review hub. Word-of-mouth is just as important to B2B companies as it is to B2C companies, and positive online reviews are the simplest way to have your client seen in a positive light. People simply trust other people more than they trust marketing messages, so why not take advantage of that and get some bonus ranking flavor on top of that? Ranking benefits aside, reviews are a great way of putting your client’s excellence on display and can go a long way into raising their online conversion rate and overall esteem in the eyes of their consumers.
International B2B SEO
If your business-to-business client offers services internationally, make sure that you have a version of your website created for each major country where your client does business. These website versions need to be delineated based on their URL structure as well as their language, and there are a few different ways you can do this:
- Use a country code top-level domain (ccTLD). ccTLD’s are the two-character extensions at the end of the URL, like www.example.fr for France and www.example.de for Germany. One thing to note about this method is that each country has specific requirements that registrants must adhere to in order to use the code.
- Use a subdomain & gTLD for each country – assigning a country abbreviation as a subdomain for the targeted country is also an acceptable practice. For example, you could use fr.example.com.
- Use your path structure to target particular countries – for example, your home page for French users could be example.com/fr and www.example.com/de for German users.
Remember to signify the language that each site serves by featuring the ‘hreflang’ attribute for each page on each site. If you are unaware of the benefits of this attribute or its implementation, we encourage you to check out this Moz article on the hreflang attributes in order to properly incorporate this important SEO component on your B2B client’s website.
This recommendation less about B2B SEO than it is about branding, but it must be said: if your company handles multi-million dollar transactions, would you want to risk doing business with a company that won’t do everything possible to protect users browsing their website? Make sure your client’s website is HTTPS-encrypted. Yes, employing HTTPS encryption is a slight ranking factor, but, more importantly, it is a sign that your client values their customers’ information security.
Remember that B2B SEO can only get your client so far. B2C companies have the luxury of a shorter consideration period before their audiences buy their product, so improving their rank on the search engine results page will likely lead to an increase in sales simply because audiences don’t have as much time invested in such purchases.
B2B companies, on the other hand, are usually vetted by committee and from many angles. If you walk the walk SEO-wise but can’t talk the talk, then all your client will be doing is showing a larger pool of potential leads that they are not the right company to go to. Make sure that they are ready to rank on the first page, and that their services can bear a surge in leads. Otherwise, all of their B2B SEO efforts will have been in vain.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, I encourage you to browse our other advertising topics on our blog.