SEO for B2B: a BS-free inside look with B2B SEO expert Viola Eva – ep 33

In conversation with Viola Eva, a B2B SEO veteran and SEO consultant at Flow SEO. These are the insights from the conversation with her, let’s dive in:

Selling (and buying) in B2C is so different from B2B. You need shampoo. You look it up online, read a few reviews, add to cart and violà (pun intended), you have a shampoo that solves all your hair problems (hopefully).

If selling in B2C followed the same trajectory as B2B, things would start getting a little weird. 3-6 month long sales cycles, getting on call with shampoo vendors, discussing and negotiating on prices. And then, a 5-people team sitting together and discussing the best shampoo. That’s where I draw the line.

There’s a difference between B2C SEO and B2B SEO, and you can’t really copy paste strategies that work for one onto the other and hope they’ll stick. Buying B2B software can mean a lot to companies, sometimes it also changes how the entire organization runs. This demands a mindset shift when you approach SEO in B2B.

So how do you excel at SEO in B2B?

SEO in general is made up of 3 components:

  1. Technical content and links – This determines your ability to be crawled and indexed by the search engines. Anything to do with URLs, internal links and website structure — all related to the tech side of things. Basically, this is the bare minimum you need to meet in order to even participate in the SEO game.
  2. Content creation – This component is made up of the relevant keywords and search intent. In an ideal world, buyers search for ‘best CRM for large enterprises’ and not ‘good customer data management tool top 10’, but obviously, that’s not how things go. Irrespective, figuring out the search intent takes care of it for you. The real problem here is SEO tools that get clunkier the farther you venture into the B2B world. More on this later.

When you’re starting your SEO journey, there’s 3 types of research you want to be doing:

  • Keyword research – think of this as market research. You type in seed keywords and see what comes up, it’s not definitive. Right now, you’re just looking at what’s popular.
  • Content audit – this helps you understand what sort of content you need to produce and where the opportunities lie (even within your existing content).
  • Competitive research – as the name suggests, it’s about finding out what your competitors are ranking for.
  • Search console – this shows you how many people see your article in the search results without even clicking on it.

Even when SEO tools suggest that what you’re trying to rank for has no searches, looking at competitors and articles already ranking on search engines can validate your ideas.

3. Link building – The more people that link to your website, the more of an authority you are. This can also be a slippery slope since if you get too many links from unrelated sources, you’ll most likely be flagged.

Ranking for a keyword and showing up in the first few search results is expensive & competitive. So what do you do when you don’t think it’s worth it/it’s too expensive for you/if it’s not the right time?

You move up the funnel.

You create content for your buyers even before they start looking to buy. When you come in contact with your audience before they realize their needs or have made a solid opinion about you, you have higher chances of sealing a deal when they do need you.

The never-ending debate about ungated vs gated content.

Away from the tangent of ethical vs unethical, gating content from an SEO perspective may not be the best thing. Gated content can’t rank too well, so all your best pieces that you have spent gruelling amounts of time over aren’t being discovered.

If you insist on gating your content irrespective of this, consider publishing parts of the elaborate content and teasing it in those short content pieces. This way, your gated content has higher chances of discoverability.

I agree with the demand gen people when they say marketers have pushed lead generation too far and how it’s sending poor quality leads to sales. But from an SEO perspective, since gated content can’t rank, it’s best to publish all of the resources (after changing them up) in the next few quarters when they’re not all that fresh anymore.

How soon is too soon to invest in SEO?

Early stage startups should focus on finding the right product-market fit and validating their product. SEO should come later. Someone with some content already being produced in-house with the resources available to get off of PPC and shift to SEO is ready.

You’ll know it’s time to jump into SEO when your primary keywords haven’t drastically changed in the last few months or years and you as a company are sure of who you are, who you serve and what you make. You also need to have the capacity to produce one SEO driven piece of content a week, at least. A domain rating of over 30 is a good fit, anything under 20 needs more time.

Here’s what you can do in the meantime: Set up your website with a tool that allows you to make quick edits to the website without the help of the dev team.

What about non-text SEO?

In the last 5 years, trends have changed to accommodate SEO in a non-text context too. When you search for something, the first 10 results are never just text links — they include a few videos and images too.

People love visual content. They’d love to see a Beyonce song or her last photo with Blue Ivy pop up when people look her up, but not so much with B2B software. Jumping on the trend bandwagon without understanding if it’s the right thing to do for your industry is almost always a bad idea.

Is link building a thing of the past?

A lot is being talked about how links are becoming less and less important. For content ranking for long-tailed keywords, that is partially true. But for the more competitive terms that have a bunch of content ranking on page one for years, it might be worth giving link building a go.

Link building might’ve been a passing fad to some people, but Google says otherwise. It places a lot of importance on expertise, authority and trust (EAT) and flags content (especially in the health & finance domains) as untrustworthy if it has lower EAT. Some suggest that it has a lot to do with backlinks.

The idea is to allot a few resources to backlinking but not let it be the only thing you focus on.

Case Study

We asked Viola about one of her recent successes and she told us about Beekeeper, a workforce management tool being shortlisted for the European Search Award for a campaign FlowSEO created for them.

Creating and implementing the content strategy took them a while, about 12-15 months. The first year included going a lot of back and forth on ideas, cleaning up existing pages, creating new briefs, link building, the usual SEO procedure. Once the process was set in place, it had to be scaled up to meet their needs.

The process was long, as SEO processes usually are. But now they have a content strategy in place, one that might just win an award for. And this isn’t simply about how brilliant the strategy was, but also about the press and inbound leads it’s going to bring with it.

In conclusion, the difference between SEO in B2B and B2C is everything and nothing. Although the same rules apply to both, finding the search intent and volume in B2B can be more of a challenge. The key is to manually look on page 1 and use alternate techniques to understand SEO when the SEO tools return zeroes for the search volume. Ideally, creating content in TOFU, MOFU and BOFU will maintain balance in your content strategy.

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