What is B2B SEO?

What is B2B SEO?

The Definition and Objectives of B2B SEO

Whether it is a coffee shop, grocery store, or a multinational corporation, whatever business you are involved in, search engine optimization can become one of the key tools for its development. Regardless of the category of consumers, the Internet is the main channel for primary information search, market research, and is a competitive environment. Therefore, substantial representation, high-quality branding, and appropriately chosen communication will help you to get the most from any traffic source. For convenience, we have developed this B2B SEO guide and hope that it will help your business reach new heights! 

Before going into detail, let’s look at the possible issues that you will need to solve as a B2B SEO specialist. Any company that offers a product or service online wants potential customers to see the benefits of working with them. It is this impulse that is often the cause of pages that are overloaded with information and are difficult to navigate. On the contrary, if you create a perfect page or landing page, you will only need to attract enough people to it to launch the funnel. It is called working with cold traffic- that is, with a vast audience that might be interested in what you offer. 

For example, you would like to open a bakery. What your main products will be and how potential customers will find you will depend on at least one thing- who your business will be geared towards. If you are going to offer your services to private and retail customers, you need to take into account behavioral and search intentions, as well as competition. The query “bakery” returns more than 690 million indexed pages.

After refining the query a bit, we see that the number of pages in the search results has decreased by almost six times.

Now, let’s try to filter pages that are not located in New York.

We managed to reduce the number of results by almost ten times, and now we only need to exclude lists and reviews, leaving the actual pages of the establishments.

In this case, the difference between B2C and B2B will be in sales channels. By selling to retail customers, you will be working in the B2C segment. But then you need to take into account the specifics of what individuals can order from the bakery on the Internet. Birthday cakes or pie, of course! But croissants or your favorite bagel is unlikely; these products are better suited for sale via offline channels.

When you can, however, sell croissants and bagels with delivery, but then you may need to expand the offer with related products, for example, offer breakfast delivery. And baking alone will not be enough; you need to look for business partners or diversify your business. Let’s compare these options.

As you can see, the products we are interested in are not often searched for in combination with the phrase “to-go.” Let’s try to look at the popularity of delivery.

Delivery is exceedingly more popular. Also, the variety of geography in the second case indicates a more appropriate choice of a search query.

At the same time, as expected, cake delivery is the leader among the entered requests. What we did not guess was the popularity among breakfast delivery, it proved to be much lower in demand than cakes or pastries.

But the delivery of “meals” disproved our fears- there is a high demand for it across the country.

Thus, when working with retail customers, the results of market research and a competitive environment can strongly influence not only the B2B SEO strategy but also the structure of the offer itself. 

Now imagine that we still want to sell croissants and other baked goods, but we will have to use coffee shops and stores to distribution agents. At first, if you try to find B2B bakeries in a similar way to assess competition, the results might not seem very useful.

But, by searching for a more relevant query, we can find the information of interest.

By comparing the popularity of queries in Google Trends, we can see that there is a demand, but not for the products or keywords that we have chosen. Here is a useful article to read on the topic: How to use Google Trends for SEO.

However, by comparing the two original key queries, we can better understand the potential reach and geography of the audience.

Let’s go back to the search results and analyze the first few organic results using SEMRush. Out of seven companies, only one applies active SEO B2B marketing and advertises the corporate direction using banner advertising.

All companies use the contact form to collect information and pre-analyze the request for cooperation. We will also consider the main traffic channels.

As you can see from the graph above, only one company uses Google AdWords and search engine optimization. Otherwise, there are almost no channels for promoting online services. Thus, we have found not only a niche but also potential products, as well as channels for their promotion. This sample of market analysis included only the offer. Of course, more detailed business planning must also take into account any external factors, regulators, and demand. 

Now let’s look at the analysis of keywords used by florist companies when implementing B2B and B2C services.

As we can see, the competition is quite high because the same companies offer services for both retail and corporate clients. Let’s select the top five web pages containing descriptions of services for corporate clients from organic search results. 

Now, let’s analyze their keywords, traffic structure, and advertising and compare them with similar indicators for the rest of the site’s B2C-oriented pages.

We can see from the comparison that only two companies show significant results when analyzing traffic channels. But, let’s compare individual results.

Three out of five companies use Google AdWords, but only one does it effectively. Organic search traffic does not exceed five thousand for three companies, while the other two receive twenty-five thousand organic visits from search services. We will focus on these two companies for analysis. To view results for a particular page, select “exact link” in the domain overview drop-down menu.

Now, by clicking on the number of organic results, we can see which keywords lead to this page and the corresponding results of its ranking in organic search results.

For the two analyzed pages, the average organic traffic results are as follows:

Now, staying on the organic results page, we will return to the overview of the entire domain by selecting the appropriate item in the drop-down menu.

From here, go to the “Pages” tab to select the most popular sections for analysis.

In this case, 90% of organic traffic goes only on the main page, so the site will not be suitable for us to continue the analysis.

As you can see in the second case, in addition to the main page, there are two popular pages with categories of bouquets. By clicking on the link of the page you are interested in, you will see its results.

The “Positions” tab contains information about the keywords in which we are interested.

After generating the necessary uploads and quickly analyzing them using standard Google Sheets filters, you can compare the average indicators, as shown in the table below.

With small differences in the average level of keyword competition, the overall results of ranking pages targeted at corporate clients are much lower. At the same time, the main keywords show a similar level of interest for the two segments.

The trend is explained by the fact that the number of B2B search queries is almost four times less than for similar B2C. In other words, the pool itself, which determines the ranking of results, is much smaller. It affects not only the position of the pages but also the average cost per click for the keywords used.

Having assessed the real situation on the market, we can recommend what you should strive for when planning B2B search engine optimization. The skimming strategy may not work, just as in the example above. Therefore, counting on the market volume and regularly updating the user pool is not the most far-sighted strategy. Corporate pages require more precise matches and the narrowest content targeting possible. Local search, reputation management, and high-performance snippet ranking will be among the main tasks. Thus, the depth of research and the frequency of updating data about the market and key search queries for search optimization of B2B pages should be several times higher than for retail counterparts.

The General Differences Between B2B and B2C Projects

The difference in audience between B2B and B2C projects is reflected in every aspect of planning, preparation, and implementation. Starting with the most basic intentions. Corporate clients are looking for service providers in a completely different way than retail clients. The main task is not so much to create content that best suits the search query, but rather the overall impression of your business. If when searching for a new coffee machine, one of the desired responses is “this is exactly what you need” or “this is exactly what I was looking for,” then, when working with corporate customers, two reactions will be the most desirable. The first is “They are everywhere!” Your presence in digital channels must be so convincing and professional that there is no doubt about the reliability and quality of the services provided. 

To do this, you need to focus less on search intentions than on reputation marketing and choosing channels for your presence. The factors that influence the decision-making of retail and corporate clients are entirely different. For example, a CEO might be interested in looking at your company’s LinkedIn profile, since this channel is familiar to them, and they work with it often. For a CMO, several social networks, reviews, high-quality content, and dealing with reputation and negativity can play an essential role in building your company’s image and credibility. The CTO will most likely pay attention to the technology stack, the reliability and smooth operation of the site, the use of trackers and pixels, and so on. You never know for sure what kind of people will take part in making a decision; therefore, the principle of necessary sufficiency will allow you to look professional and, at the same time, stay focused on your niche service. 

If this stage is completed successfully, the result and target impression for a potential corporate client should be “Why didn’t we find out about them sooner?” But, in addition to the reliability and quality of services or products, there are many more features that need to be communicated to potential customers. For example, the quality of sales funnels, their organization, and the lead magnets used will be different from what you can see in B2C. 

If retail clients allow you to focus on coverage and low repeatability, then the limited pool of corporate clients will dictate a different approach. When setting up retargeting, leads that come in contact with your tags will see ads much more often, which is normal. For retail consumers, it is advisable to keep the frequency of impressions to two. When working with B2B, indicators above four may be considered normal. Lead-magnets, texts used, and calls to action will also have their characteristics. For example, the values of average management may differ significantly from the interests of business owners, the self-employed, or managing partners. Thus, the narrower your audience, the more accurately you need to study it.   

Another important aspect will be relevance. It is critical to not only offer a product or service appropriately- that is, in the exact words that a potential customer is looking for but also to do it in time. Depending on the environment in which you would like to meet potential customers, domestic or professional, the content placement, semantic load, and targeting when using paid promotion will change. For example, you can try advertising the SaaS platform to the responsible business manager during business hours through search services, and outside business hours through social networks and other channels. Also, the same product can be presented literally- focusing on its competitive advantages, profitability, and terms of cooperation, or through alternative value. For example, advertising the same SaaS platform after hours through social media, taking advantage of such advantages as saving working time and the opportunity to spend more time with family, simplicity, and reliability, which you do not need to think about when the employee is already at home, and so on. The more accurately you predict the factors that are important for the decision-maker, the more effective the project will be. 

We also recommend using the two most common conversion calculation models, gross and progressive. Gross shows the overall ratio of all users to those who completed the target action, and quite often, this value is small. For projects that target retail customers, the gross conversion is a useful and easy way to track performance without unnecessary information. In the case of corporate orders, where the average receipt is and decision time is much higher, the progressive conversion is key. The most important and useful information will be about the movement of users along with the product or service lifestyle so that you can accurately track the bottlenecks where you begin losing the most leads. The high lead price and conversion margin determine a much more attentive attitude to the actions of potential customers at every stage of your interaction.

Where to Start

An Analysis of the Competitive Environment

As we mentioned earlier, high-quality preparatory work will be the key to future success. When researching a potential market or audience, it is important to distinguish between what your potential customers will consume- products or services. For example, let’s look at the difference between cleaning services for commercial premises and selling household chemicals for companies that fulfill such orders.

Even when entering the most general query, we see a lot of ads, including through local Google services.

The request for products yielded completely different results and no ads. Is it correct to assume that search engine optimization is more typical for products in this case, and PPC campaigns are more typical for services? Quite possibly. To answer this question, we will need more detailed market research using the analytical tools we are familiar with. Read the latest article on the topic: SEO vs. PPC.

Indeed, most of the search traffic is organic, but let’s look at the comparison of sources for the top three companies from organic search results.

No more than ⅓ of the search traffic was accounted for by Google AdWords for two of the three selected companies. But the segmentation of traffic is not everything. In a competitive analysis, it is important to choose your competitors correctly. The fact is that for search engine optimization, your competitors are any sites that also participate in the ranking by the same keywords. Thus, the competitors might be Wikipedia, Yelp, or Amazon. For this purpose, there is a special indicator: the coefficient of compliance. It reflects how much the profile of all the site’s keywords matches yours, and the higher the number, the more likely it is that this site can be attributed to your “Competitors.”

To go to the list and the built-in filters, you will need to scroll a little lower.

The same procedure can be repeated for paid keywords. It is important to note that the statistics provided as columns will differ.

Another useful tool available in SEMRush is the Market Explorer. To open it, select the appropriate set of tools- competitive analysis- from the drop-down menu on the left.

Thanks to this tool, you can get comprehensive and high-quality data about your real competitors, as well as some segmentation opportunities for the industry as a whole and individual areas.

Additionally, you can analyze traffic for the industry as a whole, which is quite useful for the initial analysis, when you also need to determine the growth rate and prospects of a particular sector.

But that is not all. The availability of information about the traffic of industry or sector participants allows you to compare the indicators of an individual site with the average trends of competitors. More information can be found in the article: SEO Competitive Analysis.

Market Research

Regardless of the direction of the project, information about the market can be obtained from several sources. The first thing that can be useful is the analysis of demand and segmentation within the category of interest. For example, the market for floral services will generally characterize the volume of all related requests, and its segmentation will be defined by individual types of flowers, bouquets, and or services. Google AutoFill can serve as a good hint to find the search queries that are as close to your interests as possible. In general, when analyzing trends, we recommend trying to find and compare topics. A topic in Google Trends includes all related queries in different languages, so you can get the most accurate perception of a trend, without worrying about localizing queries.

As you can see, floral services are the most common theme uniting both bouquets and flower design. In this case, we can conclude that requests for bouquets and design make up about half of the weighted average volume of demand. One of the main issues at this stage will be the addressable market size, and most often, this is the difference between the indicators of the total demand, represented in this case by the floristry trend, and well-known segments, for instance, bouquets and floral design. It is also useful at this stage to analyze data about the geographical popularity of queries.

The correct selection of keywords will play a crucial role since, in our case, it is not possible to say with certainty that the graph shows a potential market. Floristics includes many things apart from bouquets, such as potted plants to living walls, and home gardens. Therefore, research and understanding of the industry always help to draw qualitative conclusions and correctly compare data. Also, try to avoid comparing topics and search queries in Google Trends- the data in the sample is correlated differently, and you might experience a large error. 

One of the most difficult problems in the early stages of market or niche research is the portrait of the target audience. You can turn to case reports or research, but we try to work and make decisions based on the live data that we have access to. It is important to clarify that demographics are important for both B2C and B2B projects. For example, if you know the average age of the management team that the service will target, you will be able to select communication channels more accurately or develop more effective content or advertising. To get a general idea of the possible portrait of your audience, let’s turn to two points again: competitors and SEMRush. Choose the most suitable site based on two criteria- the volume of traffic and the availability of banner ads. When you have decided on a suitable candidate, open the appropriate analytics section.

In this case, we will be interested in the target audience of banner ads. To get the best results, try to select sites that provide only B2B services. 

The second useful tool will be a familiar industry analysis from SEMRush. Go to the appropriate tab, and at the very bottom of the page, you will see a summary of the demographics of the site audience of the selected focus.

Here it is important to clarify that Google distinguishes between three categories of user interests when collecting data: general, market or consumer, and others. All this information is available in the corresponding section of Google Analytics on your site. Shared interests can help you learn more about your audience: what they are looking for, what their categories are, and so on. It is an indispensable tool for improving cold traffic conversion. Market or consumer interests are what users are looking for with a specific intent to purchase. Such information will be invaluable in business planning and finding areas for development. Google will practically tell you what users are missing. The third category is all interests that were not included in the previous two. It can include dog or cat lovers, those who stay-at-home, tourists, and so on. But you will be able to work with this data after you launch the site and start receiving traffic. Let’s return to the analysis of competitors’ indicators since SEMRush can offer a gender and age breakdown of visitor data.

When working with corporate clients, search engine optimization is a necessity, not one of the possible business options. A successful combination of paid advertising in the form of PPC campaigns and well-designed and curated content will allow your project to yield long-term stable results. Organic traffic, work on reputation, and brand awareness is critical since the main channel of your development will still be in the narrow circles of the business community that will become the target audience. For clients to become brand advocates, it is crucial that the implementation of the project at all levels, from social networks to the main menu on the site, is at its best. You will be more likely to be recommended not only because of outstanding results but also if working with you will be a source of pride for clients and the envy of their competitors. And, therefore, you will need to present yourself accordingly.

About author
George is a freelance digital analyst with a business background and over 10 years of experience in different fields: from SMM to SEO and development. He is the founder of Quirk and a member of the Inspiir team, where he is working closely with stakeholders from many popular brands, helping businesses grow and nurturing meaningful projects. George writes regularly on topics including the technical side of SEO, ranking factors, and domain authority.