For professional services firms, SaaS brands and other business to business operators, search engine optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing task that requires full-time dedication to keep up with. Add to that the advancement of AI, automation, measurement, and ad tech, and you can see why the marketing team’s job can feel overwhelming.
This article explores advancements in ranking algorithms, and solutions available to the modern B2B SEO professional to help improve and scale optimisation efforts. It looks at the concept of programmatic SEO and whether it should be used in a B2B context, and how AI technologies such as natural language processing and automated content generation could be used to optimise web pages for higher organic search rankings.
Furthermore, this article explores the practical steps firms need to take to see quicker returns on an investment in B2B SEO strategy and implementation.
What is B2B SEO?
B2B SEO is an essential component of a robust digital marketing strategy for businesses to business sales. It involves adapting code, copy and creative to help companies optimise their websites with the aim of achieving higher organic search rankings on Google, Bing, Baidu and other search engines.
The process typically starts with keyword research, which helps identify relevant terms related to the firm’s products or services. Keywords should be incorporated into all aspects of content optimisation, including page titles, headings and body copy.
For businesses who deliver services at the client’s location, or those who serve smaller businesses, local SEO can be an important activity to drive awareness and traffic from people searching for a local service provider.
Optimising multimedia content – especially video – can be a great way to raise awareness and build trust during the awareness and consideration phase of your customer journey. Well-optimised video can appear as an enhanced listing on Google search, attracting more attention to the brand.
Digital PR is an important part of any SEO campaign, as it contributes to building high quality links to the site, which is still an important ranking factor.
Investing in all aspects of SEO can help B2B firms improve brand awareness and increase leads generated from organic search results. This approach requires ongoing maintenance but provides long-term benefits that will pay off well beyond the initial investment.
Why is SEO important for B2B companies?
Business purchases tend to involve more research, more decision makers, and more consideration. This results in a longer buying cycle with more convoluted customer journeys.
Advertising on top-of-funnel (discovery) terms could quickly become expensive. Media budgets might be put to better use elsewhere. Organic search listings are free, making them a great alternative to position a company’s website in front of users searching for information at the early stages of the buying journey.
SEO enables B2B firms to grow quickly by offering a number of advantages. These include:
- Increased visibility in online searches for a wide variety of queries ranging from research about a topic to questions about a particular issue;
- Cost savings compared to pay per click search advertising, and the longevity of organic search rankings;
- Engaging potential leads earlier in their buying journey rather than only when they are ready to make a purchase.
The last point is an especially important one for B2B, as a competitor that’s present throughout the evaluation process is more likely to build trust than a brand that’s only present at the end of the decision-making process.
Organic search shouldn’t be seen as just a top-of-funnel activity. Implementing effective SEO strategies can unlock new markets and audiences while also increasing sales over time. The ideal strategy combines both paid and organic placement at various stages.
How is SEO evolving?
Search algorithms have evolved in recent years to better understand what users are searching for and provide information in multiple formats to answer a user’s query. The biggest changes that impact how search works include:
- Using natural language processing (NLP) to understand content on a web page. This enables search spiders to determine context beyond individual keywords.
- Identifying expertise, authority and trustworthiness (EAT), and rewarding sites that demonstrate these traits with higher organic visibility.
- Taking into account user intent and signals to rank pages that searchers respond to most favourably for a given purpose.
B2B marketing and content teams working on SEO must adapt processes and methodology to keep up with the new ranking factors search algorithms consider. The evolution of search optimisation methodologies must encompass:
- Creation of helpful content – not just text that’s thrown together for search engines, but informative, genuinely useful content for customers.
- Use of structured data – to organise and label information – whether it’s office locations or podcast episodes – on the website in a format that’s easier for search spiders to understand.
- Mobile-first design – so that the majority of searchers, who happen to access Google on a handheld device, can view your content easily.
- Building authority – through PR, link building, mentions on reputable sources of information, academic citations, and so on, in order to establish credibility.
- User experience – not only page speed and security, but also visitor retention and conversion. Low bounce rates, more time on site, and visual stability are all contributing factors.
- Better analytics and testing – that keeps up with changes to data use and tracking is crucial for success. And using accurate measurement for testing and improvement is a B2B SEO best practice.
Components of a successful B2B SEO strategy today
Marketing strategies for B2B firms that offer professional services will obviously differ from those selling business consumables or SaaS. However, the following core components of a successful B2B SEO strategy remain the same for all sectors:
- Technical SEO: Creating a search-friendly site is fundamental. This means ensuring all your content is tagged semantically, can be indexed and categorised appropriately, and is delivered in the right language and currency.
- Capabilities needed: Strong HTML & CSS knowledge, experience working with XML and JSON, familiarity with the content management system.
- Keyword strategy: The biggest advantage of SEO in a B2B context is the ability to target a wide range of search terms at relatively low cost. For example, CPCs for ‘enterprise cloud backup’ keywords can go over £50. Ranking organically for upper-funnel terms in this case could save thousands. Identifying the most important keywords in each market and optimising content to rank for these terms can make the difference between rapid growth and insolvency.
- Capabilities needed: Native-language fluency for each market targeted, familiarity with local trends, experience working with Google Keyword Planner and other keyword research tools.
- Content creation: Once the keyword strategy has been determined, existing content must be optimised or new content created to provide helpful information for potential customers. Scaling content creation for SEO is often a challenge for B2B companies, especially large enterprises operating in multiple countries, and finding solutions that facilitate this is critical for the success of the SEO strategy. There may be a temptation to use AI for content generation, but this should be handled with extreme caution, as modern search engines can also detect content that’s generated by AI.
- Capabilities needed: Copywriting in each language, understanding of SEO fundamentals, video / image / audio production where multimedia content is involved.
- Link growth: Acquiring high quality backlinks from authoritative sites at a steady pace can significantly improve the chances of ranking organically for competitive keywords. This requires an on-going digital PR strategy, and cannot just be a one-off exercise. For multinational businesses, it’s often important to run link building campaigns in each local market, alongside the always-on campaigns.
- Capabilities needed: Connections with local journalists, bloggers, and thought leaders, copywriting in each language, email marketing, networking to build and maintain connections.
- Measurement: Organic search impressions and clicks, keyword rankings, and core web vitals are some of the most important metrics to measure the SEO strategy’s performance. This data will help identify areas of improvement.
- Capabilities needed: Expertise with GA4 (see our top 10 GA4 reports for SEO) or other visitor analytics tools, familiarity with Google Search Console.
Successful implementation of B2B SEO today needs familiarity with coding, AI, privacy, security, and potentially copywriting in multiple languages. Small marketing teams often struggle to find all these skills in-house, and enterprise marketing teams may have sufficient resources in some market but could be severely lacking in others.
While SEO tools and automation may help with scale, to an extent, they cannot replace human copy writers, analysts, and technical optimisation specialists yet. It’s important to identify the appropriate resources and capabilities needed for a successful campaign, and we can supplement capacity and capabilities where you’re lacking.
When implemented properly, SEO can be an invaluable channel for digital marketing in the B2B industry.
B2B marketing teams should skill-up and plan an organic search strategy that takes advantage of modern technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and automation to put them ahead of the competition in this ever-evolving landscape.