How To Increase Qualified B2B SEO Traffic In 2016 & Beyond

How to increase qualified B2B SEO Traffic image.

Many B2B marketers — particularly those selling to enterprise companies and targeting specific job titles — struggle with the task of generating SEO traffic that actually reaches their target audience.

There’s often a perception that these types of purchases (big ticket items bought by large companies) aren’t something that key stakeholders are likely to search for. The thought is that they buy based on experience with the product, recommendations or familiarity with the brand — not based upon a transactional search result.

This is complicated even further by a few additional factors that can be obstacles in generating the right kind of search traffic for your B2B business:

  • Limited Relevant Search Volume. Frequently, if you sell a very specific product that solves a very specific problem, you won’t have massive numbers of folks searching for that item and may struggle to grow traffic. If I’m selling human resources software and targeting mid-to-large companies, variations of “HR software” and “human resources software” may send some really solid early-stage leads, but “niching down” to specific features of my product and specific challenges my prospects face around my product may start to offer very low search volume and diminishing returns.
  • High Competition. In addition to having a somewhat limited universe of possible searches to target, there’s also the challenge that SEO is a more mature industry, and many of my competitors will now at least be “checking the box” and updating title tags, trying to rank for some of the most obvious terms searchers will use to describe their product (which, again, may also be the most fruitful in terms of combined relevance and available search volume).
  • Evolving Search Results. Once upon a time, you could create a sales page about how great you were, load up on lower-quality off-site links to that page and rank really well in search results. Google is rewarding different types of listings these days, however, and the page you’d like to see ranking for your desired term may be tough to push high in search results (and the content you can actually get to rank may not convert as well as you’d like and may raise questions with your CEO as to why you have a page about human resources software that doesn’t talk about how great your human resources software is).

So how do you avoid a situation where you’re spending time and effort chasing high-competition, low-return rankings that won’t yield enough traffic, leads and sales to make your efforts worthwhile?

Let’s look at some specific strategies and tactics B2B companies can leverage to generate relevant search traffic (and great leads).

Think People First, Not Keywords

Like any marketing effort, you want to start with the question:

Who is buying my product?

This exercise is about identifying the person who you’d like to buy your software, not just the terms you think people will use to describe your product. Ideally, you’ve already spent time as a company and a marketing department thinking about this question.

For my fictional HR software company, my target will be HR professionals (say director level) in midsized to large companies.

I want to get these people to my website. Business buyers are still people, and people search for things, even if they’re not searching in the volume I’d like for the most intuitive way to describe my product. I need to start asking questions about these people who are buying software like mine and ask myself:

  • What problems do these people consistently wrestle with?
  • What content do they consume on other sites?
  • How can I solve those problems, and create that kind of content on my site?

The answers to these questions will unlock a ton of content ideas for topics that are highly relevant to your target audience. Frequently, these topics will also represent keywords and search terms that are significantly less competitive and easier to rank for in search results (since they’re less obvious and less likely to be targeted by your competitors). There are a number of great ways to get this information, including:

1. Talk To The People You’re Targeting

Novel idea, right? Talk to your customers and prospects (one-on-one or via survey) and find out, specifically: where are their biggest challenges, what do they spend the most time on on a day-to-day basis, what sites do they read?

An extension of this is to regularly meet with the sales and services folks at your company to learn what problems customers and prospects most often have, common objections they face and the language customers and prospects are using to describe different issues and feature requests.

2. Look At Conference Agendas

My company creates and promotes content on behalf of businesses. Sometimes this means doing content ideation in a niche we’re unfamiliar with. A great early step at fleshing out content ideas is to look at conference agendas.

Organizers here have a strong financial incentive to focus tracks and presentations around topics that are interesting to attendees. To help identify opportunities for my HR software company, I’d look at the agendas for events that HR professionals would be likely to attend:

Using conference agendas for B2B keyword research

In this example screenshot from the EBN Benefits Forum Expo agenda, I can quickly spot some interesting potential content topics such as:

  • Private Exchange (I could take angles like tips about implementing this, pros and cons and so on)
  • Individual Health Insurance
  • Private Exchanges vs. Self-Managed Plans
  • Health Insurer Consolidation

This was just the first agenda I looked at from the first conference; as I study a number of different conferences, I’ll start to see some common issues and different combinations of topics I can attack in different content assets here.

3. Forums, Support Content And QA Sites

I probably have some of my own support and forum content on my own site. This could be an unmined trove of great content ideas. What are my users asking frequently here? What are popular feature requests?

Even if I can’t build these for my customers immediately, detailing a great way to do this manually/outside my software could be a really popular content asset (and will probably map to a search term my prospects are looking for — if a known segment of your target market is struggling with an issue, it’s virtually guaranteed a bigger slice of folks have the same issue).

You can also use the same approach to look at your competitors’ forums and support content. If they’re featuring a specific support question on the main page of their support section, that’s probably because it’s a common issue their users (who presumably are either my direct prospects or have very similar issues to my prospects) have.

You can think similarly for hot topics on their forums, feature requests from their users and more. If Zenefits is a direct competitor for my HR software company, I can see at a glance in their help section how they categorize common questions and issues:

B2B competitor keyword analysis through analyzing support content.

Beyond that, I can plug that subdomain into a tool like SEMrush to see what search terms specifically are driving traffic to their help subdomain:

Example of using SEM Rush for competitive keyword research for B2B companies

Here there’s a treasure trove of possible content topics I know my prospects are likely to be interested in. As I dig into multiple competitors’ support sections, I’ll once again start to see common themes in topics being focused on and questions that frequently come up.

4. Content Your Customers And Prospects Are Consuming

What sites do your prospects read frequently? As with conference organizers, publishers have a strong vested interest in writing about topics that are interesting to their audience, so if you can identify the publications your prospects are reading, you can run those sites through tools like SEMrush (to see the terms that drive the most traffic to those sites), as well as tools like BuzzSumo (to see the content that gets shared most frequently).

This can often yield better ideas for keywords and content topics than traditional competitive keyword research, because your competitors are probably looking at other competitors and maintaining a narrow focus around obvious terms.

5. Tools Your Prospects Are Using

In addition to your product, what other tools are your prospects using? You probably haven’t solved every single tech problem your prospect has, so what other tools are they using?

These would be the types of companies you might target for partnership or co-marketing opportunities. This information can yield great content ideas in the way of:

  • A “best free tools for HR {directors, pros, etc.}” list.
  • A “best {category of tools}” list where you — as a neutral party since you don’t have an offering in this space — compare and contrast the different options your prospect may be considering.
  • A guide to buying {category of tools}, where you can objectively walk through some of the key considerations for your prospects as they purchase a specific type of software.

By helping your prospects identify useful tools and evaluate classes of tools that are tangential but not competitive to your offering, you can become a trusted source of information and can frequently rank well for search terms they’re looking for.

Frequently, these types of comparisons will actually outrank the individual tool companies themselves, since this is the type of content these searchers are actually looking for and will be more likely to click on, consume and share than an individual tool provider’s sales page.

“Traditional” Keywords Can Be Your Friend, Too: How To Attack Core Keywords And Get More Out Of What’s Already Working

Even if a core keyword like “HR software” is highly competitive, doesn’t have a ton of search traffic and is difficult to rank for with your product page, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to ignore it.

In a recent post, I detailed a number of ways to dig deeper with a core SEO keyword that’s working via both paid search and organic search, such as:

  1. Testing Your PPC Ad Copy Landing Pages
  2. Turning Searchers into Display Targets with Display Select Keywords
  3. Bidding More Aggressively on Return Visitors with RSLA Campaigns
  4. Using Similar Audiences Remarketing for the Landing Pages Driving Traffic for Your Keyword
  5. Using Bing Ads to Get Incremental Traffic for Your Keywords
  6. Fleshing Out the Page That’s Ranking for Modified Versions of the Core Term
  7. Reconsidering the Ranking Page’s Title Tag
  8. Creating New Content Targeting Modified Terms
  9. Mine The Search Result For Advertising Opportunities

You can learn more about each tactic in the original post.

You can also focus efforts on getting more out of the content on your site that’s already working (assuming that content exists). In my post on how to squeeze more value out of your most important SEO landing pages, I walked through several ways you can capitalize on pages that are already working, namely:

  1. Determine What’s Already Ranking  Driving Traffic
  2. Run Your URL Through The Keyword Tool
  3. Get Google Suggest Data For The Primary Topic Of The Page
  4. Update Your Page’s Title Tag, Meta Description Alt Attributes
  5. Flesh Out The Page With Additional Content
  6. Add Different Content Types If Applicable
  7. Create A Specific, Customized Offer
  8. Layer Outreach On Top Of That Page
  9. Do Some Social Promotion For The Page
  10. Link To The Page Internally With Different, Useful Anchors

A full breakdown of each step here is outlined in the initial post.

Executing Against Great Topics: Choose the Right Assets And The Right Offers

By following the process outlined above, you’ll likely have a ton of ideas for new relevant content that can drive qualified B2B SEO traffic, as well as a number of ideas for getting more value out of core SEO keywords and pages that are already driving quality SEO traffic.

The bad news is, you still have a lot of work to do.

1. Determine Priorities

First you need to triage what’s likely a large list of possible opportunities. Here you’ll want to consider the possible search volume, relevance to your prospects and the realistic likelihood you can actually rank for these terms.

2. Map Topics To Content Types

From there you need to work down the list of potential keywords and topics to map specific types of content you can create for each of your topics. There are a number of different ways to map compelling content types to targeted keywords, and the asset you use will have to do with the keywords you’re targeting. Some examples might be:

  • Core Keywords. For your core keywords, you may want to get really aggressive and just talk frankly about yourself and all of your competitors, but most companies may want to take a different approach here. You can target core terms by baking them into an expert roundup or group interview format, you can list out the relevant conferences for your topic, or you can list off a lot of tips, quotes or resources for learning more about a core keyword (e.g., “best tips for evaluating HR software,” Human Resources Conferences and so on.)
  • Hot Topics. This might be a good opportunity to round up a lot of great tips and quotes about something that you found in your research of popular sites and conference agendas or a nice open-ended question to pose to thought leaders in your niche (e.g., “What are some common misconceptions HR pros have about private exchange versus self-managed plans?”).
  • Valuable Tools And Resources. Creating a really comprehensive “best of” list that helps prospects find useful resources (blogs or conferences on topics they’re interested in) and/or compares tools can be a great way to target a lot of different terms and topics you may uncover in your research.
  • Low Competition, Specific Terms. For modified versions of your core keywords or just very specific lower competition terms, you may not need a massive resource (shorter content can win sometimes, too) — just a brief glossary-style overview of a topic could be well-positioned to rank for the term and may be precisely what searchers were looking for (Bonus points if you can get your content into the answer box).

3. Create, Promote And Get Leads from Your Content

Finally, you need to create the content, promote it and map a specific offer to your content.

Your content creation efforts should have been executed with promotion in mind (Try to make each asset as fail-proof as possible), and you should have a specific plan for who will link to and share your content (and why). If you’re not sure of how to execute on outreach and promotion, there are lots of different resources on link building and tons of great information about content promotion.

You also need an offer strategy. Having a specific informational offer or “content upgrade” mapped to popular posts can be a major help in turning the relevant traffic you’re driving to content assets into actual leads. If you’re not sure of how to execute or what types of offers to use, there are a lot of different places to find inspiration and learn the nuts and bolts of setting up a content upgrade.

Final Thoughts

Generating qualified B2B SEO traffic isn’t “easy,” and it definitely requires more in the way of research, strategy and content creation and promotion than it did as recently as a few years ago.

That said, there’s still a lot of valuable organic traffic to be had for business-to-business marketers, and the assets you now have to develop to be able to drive relevant SEO traffic also have tremendous additional value outside of driving search traffic, which likely wasn’t the case back when you were building links from forum signatures to your product pages.

Additionally, with the proper execution, that traffic will compound over time, frequently driving leads more efficiently and scalably than many other marketing channels.

So if you have the budget and resources, consider taking another look at your topic ideation, content creation and content promotion processes. You may still be able to drive valuable B2B SEO traffic after all.

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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