A fresh perspective on SEO for B2B companies

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There was a time when ranking No. 1 for a keyword was a victory wholly worth pursuing — a time when you could build a list of keywords, craft 300-word blog posts, and your site would drive new business.

That is no longer the case.

In 2017, we have a different search engine, and it’s critically important that B2B companies understand this.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is no longer how you can optimize your site to rank for keywords; instead, SEO is about how you can optimize your company to be found by your target audience for different queries and on various sites throughout the search engine.

This means that if you want to optimize your site for search engines, you need to be ever-present on paid search, organic results and digital placements. But why, you might ask?

Well, let’s unpack this with statistics and a hypothetical situation.

On average, B2B companies have a click-through rate (CTR) of 2.55 percent for search ads, according to HubSpot.

And, in a study done by Advanced Web Ranking, it was found that the No. 1 organic position has a CTR of 29.87 percent.

For the competitive marketer looking for their “next” opportunity, all of this data begs the question: “What about the other 67.58 percent?” The other 67.58 percent of the market is what you can capture when you change your perspective to optimizing for the entire page instead of just your own website.

Thus, I would like to introduce… share of SERP: a way for B2B companies to take more market share around their most profitable keywords.

Share of SERP starts with the careful analysis of the SERP for your most valuable keywords — you can start to understand what types of opportunities exist and what types of results Google is focusing on for that keyword.

For example, the keywords with the highest buyer intent in B2B are often “best + keyword,” “top + keyword,” or even “keyword + reviews.” In fact, do that for one of your own keywords for this sample query: “best erp software for manufacturing.” Below, I’ve provided a screen shot of the SERP to illustrate the importance of digital placements.

The only individual site that cracked the top six positions for this very valuable keyword is a blog post based around answering informational intent: “What Is The Best ERP For Manufacturing?”

If your B2B SEO strategy is based around ranking your own website instead of positioning your brand, you’re missing the bigger picture. The reality is that your own website is no longer the best answer in Google’s mind for the keywords that are lowest in the funnel. Google favors independent websites that allow visitors to compare and review their options (you can thank Yelp for this).

In fact, an Avanade study found that 61 percent of B2B buyers look to third-party review sites before approaching a business. Thus, to drive success (marketing-qualified leads or revenue) via your digital placements, it’s critical that you generate reviews. A study done by Clutch shows the value of the quantity of reviews and its correlation to profile views: “Each additional review added slightly less than 20 monthly views to a company’s profile.”

Thus, if you want to not only increase your B2B company’s visibility, but also drive leads, you need to think about how you can take share of SERP by getting exceptional reviews on sites like Software Advice, G2 Crowd, Capterra and more.

The harsh reality is that the line between an SEO’s role and a PPC strategist’s job is slowly blurring. It’s no longer enough to have SEO campaigns that don’t leverage data from your search terms report. And it’s no longer acceptable to have paid search specialists not looking at the entire search engine results page, managing PPC campaigns on channels like Capterra, or launching digital placements on sites within Google’s display network that rank in the top five for your most valuable keywords.

You need a comprehensive approach to successfully capture the entire value that Google’s search engine results page has to offer.

It’s time to rethink B2B SEO

In conclusion, the entire point of SEO has never been to rank websites. It has been to drive revenue from a marketing channel that has no ongoing cost per acquisition.

Most every other marketing channel since the beginning of time has forced you to continually pay for the leads it generates: Google search ads, social media ads (organic social is over), radio ads, television ads, print ads — all of these channels have an ongoing cost per acquisition.

The channels that do not apply here are content marketing and public relations. Both these channels, however, form the foundation of B2B SEO. Thus, SEO is simply the digitized 2017 version of digital PR and content marketing. And, just as these both drive their value from audience exposure and placement, so must your SEO strategy.

Caveat: Technical SEO and design/UX play a critical role in your SEO strategy as well, forming a tripod of SEO: content + links + technical/design.

Hopefully, this piece has helped you recognize that the age of isolated on-site SEO for B2B companies is over.

Understandably, if you still deem the role of SEO to be generating quality organic traffic, then you might be struggling with the above statement.

But, as an SEO myself, I am not claiming that SEO is dead by any means. Simply that it’s time we start thinking about SEO differently. It’s time that we treat B2B SEO as the art (and science) of positioning a brand at every stage of the buyer journey, throughout the entirety of a search engine results page.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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