If there’s one thing I’ve learned working at Demandwell, it’s the importance of having a healthy organic strategy in place. For context, Demandwell is an organic search coaching solution and our customers are steamrolling that elusive beast called SEO. I joined the team in April, and in subsequent months I have learned a few knowledge-bombs about SEO that I’d like to share with the B2B digital marketing world in the case that they’re news to you all as well.
Let’s make a bet: I bet you can learn something new about SEO in this post.
If I’m right, let’s talk – Demandwell can probably help. If I’m wrong – congratulations on being a guru, consider this your virtual high five, and let’s connect on LinkedIn and geek out about SEO strategy.
10 Things I Learned About SEO At Demandwell:
A common misconception with SEO for B2B companies is that SEO = good site infrastructure. That’s like buying sneakers and getting a treadmill set up in your home and saying “yep, I can now run a marathon.” Of course, sneakers and treadmills are essential parts of marathon training, and there are quick SEO wins in store, especially if you get the following sorted:
1) Sitemaps impact SEO
When I created a website for my music, this was the most impactful part of my website. The difference between 1st result and no result when you search “Jessie Isaacs Music.”
In a B2B context, you want to make it as easy as possible for search engines to see that you are the expert on your market category. A sitemap allows the bots to see that you have built a library of content and that you are, indeed, the authority on ___insert keyword here___. It also brings all of your pages one step away from your homepage, giving them a little importance boost in the eyes of search engines.
2) Page speed impacts SEO
Makes sense, right? If you own a B2B website with a high bounce rate, you’re probably doing something wrong…and Google reads into this and penalizes you for it.
The whole point of B2B is that we are creating solutions for more complex problems – solutions that can’t be bought with a single click. It’s why you’ve hired a bunch of lovely AEs like myself, right? And Page Speed is important because it impacts users’ experiences. This improves SEO because Google sees you providing expertise and good quality experiences to searchers, which increases your site authority (and proves that you’re not a shady con person spreading lies on the internet).
Note that page speed is not as high impact as a sitemap. While an important part of UX, page speed is not the only thing that impacts UX – chatbots and clear navigation paths can also positively influence your UX, and ultimately your rankings.
3) Backlinks are not the key to SEO
Yes, endorsements from reliable sources like review sites and relevant thought leaders absolutely help boost organic traffic. B2C and specifically eCommerce marketers rely heavily on backlinking as a strategy because the focus is to direct consumers to a buying page for immediate purchase. This is a key difference from the B2B buyer’s journey, where there are more touchpoints and buyers do more research before completing a sale. For B2B marketers, relying on backlinks only for SEO is like saying, “I bought cool shorts to match my sneakers so I look more pro at the marathon.”
There is also the dark side of backlinking, so let me tell you a story: I have a… friend… whose company got punished by Google. Their approach to SEO was building as many backlinks as possible. One day, Google updated the algorithm to stop companies from gaining traction on search using this approach because many of the backlinks came from shady sources.
How can one be a reliable authority on complex business needs when their endorsements are coming from unknown, low-authority sites? Google is no fool, they see right through that, and so do your buyers.
Back to my… uh… friend… she woke up one day and poof! No more inbound leads – radio silence. Even worse, the competition now had the lead on SERPs as the new subject matter expert. It took years to regain the traffic and online reputation the company had lost. Moral of the story: check your sources and take care when building and accepting backlinks.
Have I won my bet yet? Ok, on to the meat and potatoes of B2B SEO:
4. Content is the King of your SEO Strategy
This is the actual training part of your marathon preparation. When you run multiple days a week for many weeks in a row leading up to the race. Content is the way that Google understands your authority on a subject…many people know this. The thing that does surprise people is how much content you have to publish, what kind of content, and how consistently you need to be writing new stuff in order to dominate a space.
The short answer is: a lot of it, and all the kinds. Thought leadership, performance content, customer stories, product videos… it’s all important and relative to your buyers at different stages in the buyer’s journey. See this article by Betsy Koliba to find out more.
Missing demo requests? You might not be attracting the right people to your site, or your landing pages may not be fully optimized for conversion. Missing site visitors? Despite writing great content? Your content may not be optimized well for search and performance. Our friend Brad had the same challenge. There are different levers you can pull to improve your content performance, depending on where you’re stuck.
We recommend that people publish as least five pages of long form content (Demand Pages and blog posts) each week to truly assert your dominance over competitors. Like training for a marathon, it takes a great deal of commitment and perseverance, but in the end you’ll be glad you put in the work. Demandwell can help make that process more efficient if you’d like to give it a try!
5) You Need Performance Content
Saying “I only want quality content” is like saying “I only want peanut butter, hold the bread” – you’re missing your foundation and it’s messy. To set yourself up for long term success, invest in both – Performance Content and Thought Leadership.
Performance content relies on keyword rich content weaved throughout landing pages optimized for conversion. We call these “Demand Pages” because these pages are built to capture demand from search. Our customers produce Demand Pages at scale as part of a proven method to attract buyers and convert them into leads and revenue. For more info, check out What’s a Demand Page and Why Does it Work.
6) Keyword Density is a Must Have
This is a huge opportunity that most content marketers miss out on.
In the words of the great Kyle Lacy, CMO of Lessonly and Pavilion member, “You can make the coolest brand experience in the world, but if you don’t get eyeballs to it, it doesn’t matter.” In a study of 1 billion landing pages, Ahref’s found that 91% had 0 – ZERO – traffic from Google. Ouch. It’s also no coincidence that many pages lack keyword density (like I said, it’s a common error).
A healthy keyword density is around 2-3%. Anything below that and you are not setting yourself apart as the subject matter expert to search engines. Too much of the same target keyword, and it looks like you’re gaming the system.
To measure Keyword Density, you can use some free tools online (there are plenty to choose from), dump the text in a word doc and manually count, or you can use the Demandwell platform, which automatically scores content and provides recommendations to improve optimization.
Additionally – using the same target keyword over and over again won’t get you the results that you want. Your content should contain your target keyword and all of the keywords most related to this target term. This is how search engines know that your page about “bark” is about the delicious holiday treat, not trees. More on the use of related terms in SEO copywriting here.
7) Short, Medium, and Long Tail Keywords have varying impact on SEO
If I had a dollar for every marketer who said “I want to own my category on search” I’d be writing this post from a private yacht near a remote Grecian Island. Alas I’m still in Texas, so let’s dig into the challenges with the “category owner” mindset:
- Everyone else in that category wants to own the SERP too. It could take a lot of hard work and valuable time to get there.
- Ranking for a category term (i.e. “conversational intelligence”) does not always result in leads. MBA students, for example, do a ton of research on that category, and broke college grads likely aren’t your ICP.
Medium and long tail keywords typically indicate a very specific search with lower volume. Short tail keywords are typically generic terms with a high search volume.
For highest ROI, try ranking for long tail keywords. While they have lower search volume, you can usually target a more specific audience with these terms, resulting in higher buying intent and are better qualified leads for your sales team. And that brings me to:
8) Consider the Search Intent
We are called “Demandwell,” not “Searchwell” because we focus on shoppers, not searchers.
An example of low intent search that I run into a lot in the SaaS world is when a company ranks high for “__________ template” or “_________ guide.” I once got an MQL from a funeral home. They were searching for a pipeline management guide… to fix literal pipes in the home. Not at all relevant to the pipeline management software I sold at the time, and frankly it made for a very awkward cold call.
Point is: anyone can be a searcher, but in B2B marketing it’s the execs who own a budget that are most worth your time. So how do we get the attention of those people?
The trick is to identify what business execs are googling for when they are in software-shopping-mode, and meet them in their search by ranking first on Google.
An example of a higher intent search term is “App to sell homemade food.” Searching for this long tail keyword is an indicator that your visitor is looking for a specific solution to solve a particular need – in this case, an app. The buyer further qualifies themselves as your ICP by adding “homemade food” to their search. When Castiron organically ranked #1 for this term they saw an influx in qualified leads.
9) Leverage Keyword Topics and Keyword Clusters
You know keyword research is important. Did you know that for every keyword you want to rank for, there are 15 additional keywords you should be putting in your content?
Google knows that just about anybody can type “SEO Strategy” fifty times and still not be an expert on the subject. You also need to write about “B2B SEO Strategy” and “SEO Strategy in Digital Marketing” and “SEO Content Strategy,” etc. to give context and stand out as the expert.
To build a cluster, take 1 overarching keyword – the Keyword Topic – and then find all the related keywords to form a cluster. To optimize content for your chosen topic, use at least 15 keywords from your cluster. This helps Google see that you understand the topic at hand and how it’s related to lots of other topics that searchers care about. See this article by Betsy Koliba on Keyword Research for further info.
10) Google is probably all you need
A favorite question I get sometimes is “What about other search engines?” Usually my response to this is, which search engine do the majority of your buyers use? And then we will share a chuckle over the original question.
It’s a funny idea to think there are people running around out there thinking their buyers are all out on Bing and terrified of losing traffic by only focusing on Google rankings. If you are one of those rare souls who does not believe Google owns the majority of search traffic, the good news is that most search engines follow the same algorithmic criteria as Google. By investing the time to rank organically on Google, you simultaneously invest in rankings on alternative search engines. Everyone wins.
So how’d I do? Learn anything new? If you’ve made it to this point I hope you’ve taken something new away. If you’re thinking “Oh snap, I need someone to guide me on executing an effective SEO strategy,” you’ve come to the right place! Click here to connect with our team today, or feel free to shoot me a note on LinkedIn.