Some of the most common questions we field in digital marketing from B2B businesses include “What is SEO?” and “Why should I do SEO?” With enough experience as digital marketers these answers become second nature. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, the process of optimizing your website to rank high in Google search results. The why too is simple to answer.
Most people begin the journey to purchase with a Google search. Online research is an integral part of today’s purchasing process. And potential buyers can’t buy your products and services if they can’t see them. Did you know 97% of people doing a web search never make it to the second page of search results and 55% of all clicks are on the top three results? That’s a big piece of the B2B digital marketing pie your business could be missing.
The next point we often hear from B2B businesses is that SEO is for B2C brands. That their clients don’t buy things over the internet. If that’s true, then why have a website at all? The truth is, over 80% of B2B purchases start with online research. That is the paradigm shift that has happened in consumerism thanks to the internet. As consumers we research online our purchases from where to buy a coffee to which brand of multi-million dollar heavy industrial equipment should we purchase. And in B2B, where the path to purchase is so long being visible online is even more important.
All right, so SEO is important. Even for B2B brands. But, how does it work? Well, that’s a more complicated question and the answer is a moving target because Google is always refining the search algorithms. The easiest way to understand the basics of SEO is by explaining how Google search works.
Google’s Search Engine Goal
Google sorts hundreds of billions of web pages for the most relevant and useful results to your search. For Google to consider your website to show in the results page, it must learn about your website. Google employs spiders (automated programs) that search through the data of web pages to learn what they’re about and how useful they would be to different Google search users. Google then creates an index of the relevant information to pull for future Google searches. The spiders continually check indexed web pages for updates.
For your business that means having a website that can be found and understood by Google spiders. This is the foundation of Technical SEO, which ensures all your site is visible to the spiders, and that it functions well so they can accurately navigate and review your website.
How Does Google Rank Content?
Items on the result pages are ranked by Google according to 200+ individual factors. Those factors try to determine two things about your web page content: its relevance to search query and usefulness to the user.
Relevance can be broken down into two broad pieces. The first is how close the information on your web page relates to the search. At the basics it’s about matching keywords. Do common search terms appear in the domain name, page title, headings, and website text? What about any image or video information? That tells Google your web page focuses on that topic. It’s very relevant, at least on the surface. So if your consulting business wants to attract new leads your website should showcase language a business looking for consultants would use in an online search.
This may sound simple, but as digital marketers we often have to explain how specific trade language and technical jargon the client uses is not necessarily how most potential prospects search online. The simpler and more layman your website’s language, the more likely it is to capture the attention of interested prospects.
The other piece of determining usefulness is about user intent. What is the user trying to accomplish with the search? Google tries to account for misspellings and time-sensitive information. For searches like, “who is the best turnkey solution for supply chain logistics,” the answer may change multiple times a year. For evergreen searches like, “what is drop shipping,” not so much. In B2B digital marketing there are four basic search intent categories.
Google Search Intents
- Know, seeking information or conducting research
- Go, seeking a local destination or product/service
- Do, wants to try something or complete a specific action
- Buy, ready to buy or engage with a salesperson
Consider someone searching for “audit and tax preparation.” Is this a person looking for someone to prepare their personal taxes? Are they looking for specific instructions on how to prepare their company’s taxes? Maybe it is someone looking for employment opportunities as an independent auditor and tax preparer. Or, is it someone seeking an audit and tax preparation consultant for their business? That’s why the more specific you are in a Google search the better the results seem to be. Google is better able to read your intent and rank the search results appropriately.
For the best SEO results you should build the language and content on your website around the simple language keywords and intent. Including information from the above paragraph on your website helps to make your website site easier to appropriately index and increase visibility to your intended audience. A business finance consultancy website with that information tells Google it has a big focus on B2B financial services and will help the website increase online traffic and rank higher in Google.
In SEO it’s important to remember that Google looks at more than just website text. The spiders look at image information including file name, captions, alt-text, and an image’s title. It pays to be as specific with the information relevant to the web page in your image as possible. Intent and focus is key.
Keep in mind, Google is a big company filled with bright people and its algorithms are intelligently designed. You can’t just stuff nonsensical paragraphs of search keywords onto your pages and wait for the traffic to roll into your website. Not surprisingly, this practice is called keyword stuffing. It was all the rage in the ‘90s before search engines became more sophisticated. Now, the algorithms will punish your rankings if you try to cheat it. In extreme cases your website can receive an official flag or be de-indexed and unsearchable on Google. Not what you want.
Unethical methods like keyword stuffing and referral spam are referred to as “Black Hat SEO.” And if your business, or whomever your business hired, uses these sorts of methods you can be in for a nasty surprise. Avoid groups that offer fast, outlandish results. If they sound to good to be true, they are.
However, if you integrate keywords in your website’s copy using natural language you shouldn’t have a problem.
The usability half of Google Search’s rankings is more murky. Google keeps all the information about its rankings and algorithms secret. Overtime SEO experts can decipher trends and Google itself publishes SEO best practices. But, for us usability covers three areas: user experience, content quality, and domain authority.
User experience (UX) SEO is about having a website that is easy for users to navigate and find the information they seek. This includes technical SEO points like making sure your website loads quickly and uses SSL to protect user information. You also want to make sure your website offers responsive design and looks great on all devices. Google now practices “mobile first” indexing.Because so much online traffic is now done by phone, Google uses the phone version of your website for ranking. If your menus are difficult to use on a phone or your website doesn’t utilize responsive design you can expect to rank lower in search rankings.
If your website loads quick, is easy to use, and looks great on phones you should have no problems.
B2B Digital Marketing and Content Quality
By now you might have guessed that content has a big impact on SEO and ranking your website on Google. You’re right. How important is content to search rankings? Adding a regular blog to your B2B website can increase search engine ranking opportunities by 400%.
The key to content quality is creating in-depth, specific content that’s relevant to your industry. And to build a catalog of high quality content over time. To put it in perspective SEO experts suggest there is a serious uptick in Google rankings when a website passes 100 pieces of content. And the average content length for results on the first page of results? Two thousand words or more. That may sound like a lot. But, consider which you trust to have more authority on supply chain management, a 200 word explanation or a 2,000 word explanation? In-depth explanations often require an in-depth word count.
For 100 pieces of in-depth content at 2,000 words, that’s 200,000 total words of expertise. That’s not to overwhelm you, but to put in perspective the amount of data Google is looking to crunch with its 200 plus factors when ranking web pages. It wants your website to prove you have the knowledge and expertise to write 200,000 words. In-depth, quality content, updated regularly is the key. Google expects you to build that catalog over time. SEO is a glacial process. It’s not unusual for SEO changes to take 4-12 months to affect your rankings; even longer in some instances.
Google Domain Authority
Authority is the criteria that originally distinguished Google from its search engine peers and rocketed it into the internet search dominator it is today. Creating a catalog of quality content is the first step to showing your authority. Google search is a heavily automated process by necessity. Hundreds of billions of web pages remember? Well, that’s a problem because algorithms can’t decipher if content covering all subjects is factual and accurate, or not. So instead Google uses the spiders to see how many other web pages link to your specific web page. And how many web pages link to the first web page, so on and so forth.
This chain of link referrals is the way Google determines your content’s credibility and thus your website’s authority. Consider and inbound link to your B2B website as a recommendation from that website. It’s saying, “If you want to know more about this topic you should visit this site, they explain it really well.” This waterfall of website links is why inbound “backlinks” are a cornerstone of SEO. If a high-authority website links to one of your web pages, Google sees you as being more authoritative on that web page’s subject. This is sometimes called “link juice” by SEO practitioners. You receive even more link juice if the referring domain is relevant to the topic.
However, not all links are equal. One ranking factor is referred domain age. Google wants to see older domain links over newer domain links. This keeps black hat practitioners from creating an army of simple websites with referral links to boost authority. Google notes referring websites with poor authority. Making the idea of buying a thousand poor quality links from topofgoogleguaranteed.biz a bad idea. If your website is linked to by a less-scrupulous source you can disavow the link through Google Search Console. That tells Google you don’t want the link to influence your website’s authority. You can also practice no-follow links on outbound links to websites you don’t want to “recommend” by passing along your link juice.
Google also likes to see interlinking on your website. Especially when your embed the links in web page text. In a perfect SEO scenario you want to achieve a Wiki rabbit hole effect. And for B2B digital marketing it makes sense. There’s correlation between the more time a person spends interacting with a brand’s website and the likelihood of conversion. Having a linking strategy to keep interested prospects on your B2B website will improve your conversions.
SEO’s Goal & Future
Those are the basics of how Google Search works and how your website can rank with B2B digital marketing. The overall trend we’ve seen in Google’s algorithms is they gets smarter and smarter. The end goal is to simulate the efficiency of having a human sift through the hundreds of billions of web pages for every search. You can expect Google Search will continue to get smarter. The best tip for digital marketers on how to SEO your B2B website? Build it with your prospects in mind. Make it easy for them to navigate. Create high quality content specific to your industry that meets B2B prospect search intent. Cultivate your industry relations and get your content shared and linked by industry movers and shakers. And remember, while SEO is a slow moving process the sooner you begin optimization the sooner you will begin to reap its dividends.
There’s no rule that says you have to go it alone. If all this sounds great, but when it comes to B2B digital marketing and SEO you don’t know where to start, contact Bold Entity. We can help you develop a digital marketing strategy and plan to help you rise through the search engine ranks. Take a look at some of our past work.