20 Oct B2B SEO Series Part 1: The 5 Key Variations You See Between B2B and B2C SEO
Companies trying to drive B2B sales from search engine traffic need to adapt their SEO strategies, websites/landing pages, and optimization practices if they hope to get the conversions they’re looking for. Past the basics, although the two marketing strategies are trying to accomplish the same thing – capture relevant potential customers from search engines – the most effective ways to do just that vary greatly between the two.
This page will cover the top five things you need to keep in mind as a business selling to other businesses through search engines. Just like you wouldn’t take the same approach with consumers and businesses in any other channel of marketing, you can’t with search engine marketing, either. Read on.
Customers have much longer buying cycles
First and foremost, recognize the primary difference in dealing with businesses vs. individuals – how they behave when they spend their money.
A consumer is typically interested in all of the buzzwords you see describing popular retail marketplaces like Amazon.
- Low prices
- Fast shipping
- Good selection
- A “done for you” experience with comparison charts, product reviews, and more (no further research is needed)
To hook a regular consumer, things like the top SERP position, a trusted, known name, and a easy checkout process will get you the traffic and quick conversions you’re looking for. While the consumer is certainly looking for the absolute best he or she can get, there is only so much time in the day… a consumer won’t do too many searches if it’s a quick sale.
A B2B search starts off in the same way, but goes on for much longer. Effective B2B SEO means you’re in the eyes of business searchers through the entire search buying cycle below.
- Generation: The first search will likely be with generic terms to generate a short list of potential candidates for the product or service being purchased.
- Evaluation: The searcher will begin to delve into the specifics behind each of the products and services of the companies on the short list. During this step, the searcher will find new websites with new information and add/remove potential candidates to and from the list.
- Confirmation: As B2B buyers are much more vigilant than B2C buyers, our B2B searcher will start a brand new round of trying to confirm the chosen company is a safe bet that won’t land him or her in high water (either financially or reputation-wise).
- Conversion: After confirmation (or potentially backtracking to other, more suitable businesses), the searcher decides to reach out to the company and whoever answers the phone has the opportunity to start the process of the sale.
Throughout the entire buying cycle, the keywords being used to search will vary greatly, and if a business wants to have the greatest chance of getting the sale from the searcher, it has to ensure its name is always front row in center.
The need to appeal to different types of people within an organization
As the types of keywords within a B2B buying cycle will vary, the actual categories of keywords will vary depending on who the searcher is, too.
- Someone in a finance department might be looking at pricing, provider comparisons, etc.
- Someone in a tech department might be looking at specs, compatibility, etc.
- Someone in HR might be looking at reputation, reviews, etc.
So not only does B2B need to cover everything a buyer could be searching for – it needs to cover everything that every buyer within a company could search for, too.
Website copy rules SERP positioning
The nature of B2B means that any purchase is going to have an effect on some aspect of the purchasing business. B2B searchers need – and want – to be sold.
The copy needs to convince, not just tell. Writing copy for B2C is a little easier. Sure, persuasiveness is preferred, but if you have a clear advantage in features, price, or even something as simple as search engine visibility, you will get sales because the sale is quicker. Writing copy for B2B is much more difficult – since purchases might be more complex and product/service specs might not be readily available, most of your copy will mostly rely on convincing the other person your company is the right one for the job. Even if your products and services are superior, you will have trouble relying on that if you can’t give any specifics to the buyer in the copy.
SERP position isn’t as utterly important. The difference between #1 and #4 for B2C keywords is enormous. But again, because B2B searchers are doing more searches and spending more time on each one to really consider the candidates, search position is still important – you have to be on the first page – but being #1 isn’t as important as it usually is.
Keywords are more complex and less suggestion-based
B2C searchers are a more simple folk. They pretty much always know what they want – for example, something like a new electric shaver – and they are just looking for the best source of a product or the best product within a certain category. Add in the fact that consumer products usually aren’t as complex and you have one or just a few keywords dominating any particular product or service search.
B2B searchers are going to have a much wider vocabulary of search terms because of how much more complex B2B products and services usually are. This range will lead to a more varied keyword strategy targeting a large number of smaller keywords over just a few big ones.
B2B keywords need to cover things like:
- Every single query for every part of a product or service
- Industry-specific terminology and lingo
- Acronyms and abbreviations
On top of the keyword range, B2B SEO needs to consider the variations within each potential search, too. “Widgets”, “where to find widgets” and “best places to get widgets” are all different keywords that will return different results… imagine a B2B product or service consisting of dozens of “widgets” and other components. That product or service might have literally hundreds of keywords that are all based around finding similar information.
Conversions don’t happen online with B2B
If you’ve ever performed a B2C search and landed on a website optimized for B2B conversions, you probably got bored and left pretty quickly. The two conversion paths are nothing alike. They both end in the sale, but they start and continue in almost completely opposite paths.
A B2C conversion with keywords is almost always going for the direct sale (checkout) or immediate conversion (email opt-in, etc.) right away. As the buying cycle is so short and the consumer doesn’t usually need much convincing, a direct approach is best.
A B2B conversion is different – remember, B2B searchers are taking a long time to search. They’re not focused on being sold right away, and if you take this direct approach with pages ranking for B2B keywords, you’ll come off as a company that doesn’t sell to businesses.
So, although businesses may be dropping CTAs to prompt the phone call or contact form submission (like we will at the end of this page), they need to give the searcher room to explore more, too. (We do that, too.)
- Give more value. Don’t give the searcher the information he or she needs and not invite him or her to stay on your website. Assuming you’re putting out helpful content that the searcher is impressed with, link to other content and promotional assets to help and impress him or her even further and move the sales process along.
- Provide easy info about the company. A soft conversion in B2B SEO is moving the reader from general information (for example, the specifics behind one feature of a product) to brand information (for example, your About Us page). Overall, B2B SEO is mostly research – a visitor on your brand information means the research is at least being done. Feel free to include smooth plugs for your company within your content to get recognized without a click, too – a CTA isn’t always necessary.
- Get a clean, modern, well-designed UI. The searcher’s job is to knock companies off one by one until only the best remain. Don’t get taken off the list of potential candidates just because the searcher couldn’t navigate through your site to find the information he or she needed. (This is one aspect where B2B and B2C SEO are similar.)
Analytics programs can be of enormous help when trying to optimize a site for conversions without hard conversion (sales) statistics. Any visit to a second page can be a conversion, any visit to a company-related page can be a conversion, and of course, any actual conversion – like entering an email to receive a detailed report on something – can be considered a conversion. (Here at MezzoLogic, for most B2B SEO campaigns, each one of these conversion events is assigned a value to assess the overall performance of a campaign.)
B2B and B2C SEO: The 5 Differences
- Your customer isn’t buying right away. The buying cycle for B2B can span for weeks, months, or years. At every point, potential customers will be doing searches, finding candidates for a product or service, and removing candidates from the list. Your business has to be there at every step of the way if you hope to be there at the end of the selection process.
- Your “customer” might actually be a handful of different people. Keywords may vary in type and the copy on your SEO assets will need to appeal to whoever is searching for the particular keyword. (In the meeting, everyone has to have a positive perception of your company and your products/services.)
- Copy is more important than ever. With so many searches being performed, your business has to stand out in every way possible. You can do that with content that stands out and copy that makes the reader realize you are the right one to choose.
- Keyword strategies are more complex. Variations in product/service components, industry-specific lingo and terminology, and type of person performing the search will result in a wide array of different keywords that can all be addressed with an expansive SEO strategy.
- Bigger picture when it comes to conversions. Instead of looking at just one or two conversion points, you’re looking at everything. Things from About Us page visits to requests for product material can all be assigned conversion values.