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If you run a B2B (business-to-business) company, you may feel somewhat excluded by most SEO advice. The majority of SEO guides and strategies are firmly targeted at B2C (business-to-consumer) companies and are built around keywords like product names, competitors, and generic terms.

While the fundamentals of SEO are the same for B2B and B2C companies, there are some slight differences that make the strategies suitable for one form of marketing less effective for the other. In this guide, we will look at the unique strategies that B2B businesses can use to find great keywords for their SEO campaigns.

Aside from keywords, is anything different?

Effective keyword research can make — or break — an SEO campaign. Image: IvanWalsh.com

As a B2B company, your goals from online marketing are likely different. While a company that sells its products to consumers can focus on direct sales, you’re far more likely to have a more drawn out, customized sales process that qualifies and sorts your prospects into different categories.

This means that you’ll want to change your strategy from seeking sales to seeking leads. Because of this, business-to-business SEO campaigns should have a slightly different structure – one that, rather than targeting ‘buying keywords,’ instead is targeted around ‘interest keywords.’

What are interest keywords?

Some marketing experts call interest keywords ‘question keywords.’ In simple terms, they’re keywords that relate to solving a problem or finding an answer. “What is the best accounting application?” is an interest keyword, whereas “accounting software” is a buying keyword.

As a B2B business, you can achieve great results by targeting interest keywords that are closely related to the needs of your clients. For example, you could use Google’s paid search advertising to target questions related to your competitors’ products – keywords that, in this case, prove that the audience is open to using your product.

Another great option is to target questions for which your product or service is the best solution. “How to find new customers” is a great interest keyword for a company that offers marketing services. “Cut power bill” is an excellent keyword for an office energy-saving services company or energy efficiency consultancy.

Harnessing interest keywords can be the different between success and failure for your SEO (and in many cases, pay-per-click) campaigns. Take them seriously, as a single interest keyword can often be a lucrative source of fresh sales leads for your business.

How can you use Adwords to assess a keyword’s value?

Adwords is a wonderful tool for pay-per-click advertisers and SEOs. One of Google’s most helpful tools, the Keyword Planner, can be used to calculate both the amount of searches that a keyword receives and the average value, as paid by advertisers, of each keyword.

Next time you’re using the Keyword Planner to calculate traffic volume for common search keywords, take a look at the ‘Average CPC’ column. In most cases, a keyword with a high average cost-per-click has generated good results for advertisers and is a potentially lucrative target for your SEO campaign.

Looking at the average value of each keyword is an important part of workout out which keywords to target and which keywords to ignore. A keyword with minimal traffic volume but a high cost-per-click can be a great target, while a high-volume, low-CPC keyword can often generate nothing more than worthless leads.

How can you use Adwords to find profitable SEO keywords?

With a small budget, you can use Adwords to test keywords for commercial value before adding them to your Search Engine Optimization campaign. Create a test campaign targeting your primary keywords, set modest but appropriate bids, and allow the campaign to sit for a few weeks and start generating traffic.

After a month, provided you’ve budgeted and bid appropriately, you should have a reasonable amount of data on which of your target keywords convert into helpful sales leads, and which produce nothing but tire-kickers. Using this strategy, you’ll avoid spending time and resources pursuing popular but worthless keywords.