Every B2B or B2C business with an online presence needs to care about SEO.
Organic traffic is reliable and cost-effective, and Google dominates popular perception of the internet — if your site doesn’t appear in the results for relevant searches, then it might as well not exist for most people. But the best way to approach SEO for your business will depend on your circumstances.
Take the divide between the B2B and B2C worlds, for instance. Two companies that operate in similar ways and offer similar products and/or services but sell to distinct types of customers will have cause to adopt different strategies.
So what do you need to know about approaching SEO for a B2B company? Let’s look at 5 crucial things that set it apart:
It’s all about targeting niches
SEO for B2C companies can shoot for traffic volume over anything else. Here’s how that tactic works: you pick out all the keywords that could be relevant, optimise your website to have appeal spanning as many of them as possible, then hope to establish a large number of middling rankings across a large range of keywords.
This makes sense for two reasons: firstly, it’s all but impossible to compete with industry juggernauts (Amazon, Apple, eBay, etc.) for the top spots, and secondly, B2C interest can come together quite quickly without too much thought behind it. Someone searches for a product, clicks through an arbitrary selection of results, then happens upon yours. They won’t think about where specifically it ranked, and you’ll have a reasonable chance of earning a conversion.
B2B is different because the people responsible for choosing providers have very specific requirements. Their searches are calculated and precise, with the most relevant terms used to improve the usefulness of the results. Because B2B searches are often lengthy (and because B2B requirements are far more niche than their B2C counterparts), a B2B company is best served researching and targeting long-tail niche keywords, leading to fewer rankings and less traffic overall but more relevant traffic that could lead to qualified leads.
The customer journey is much longer
What happens when you want to order a new pair of sunglasses? You go online, type in “sunglasses” or “buy sunglasses online” and start clicking through results. When you find a pair you like, you go ahead and order them. You don’t worry about whether you’ve made the right choice. You don’t feel the need to look into where they were manufactured or what exactly they were made from. It’s a low-cost purchase, and there isn’t much at stake.
But B2B purchases tend to be major decisions, often forming business relationships that the parties involved hope will last for years, or even decades. They can’t be made lightly, which means leaving no stone unturned: checking absolutely every last detail, reading through all available materials, consulting colleagues, and considering all alternatives.
The practical significance of this is that you mustn’t rush people in B2B marketing. Any attempt to hurry people along, to use emotive arguments or make them fear missing out, is far more likely to push them away than anything else. It’ll make them assume that you’re trying to cloak shortcomings they would certainly uncover if given enough time to vet you. Good B2B ecommerce is all about the long game, value, and engagement.
Content must be more in-depth
Content marketing for B2C is often little more than an excuse to boost awareness of a brand and include links to specific product pages to pick up some impulse buys. Provided people are paying attention to you and not saying anything negative, that’s good press. Getting plenty of pieces of content in the SERPs is a net positive, then, even if they’re mediocre.
B2B is different because simply raising general awareness (as noted when talking about niches) isn’t valuable. It’s about reaching and impressing the right people, meaning no puff pieces.
Everything from the first brand touchpoint to the conversion must be detailed, targeted, and (where possible) personalised — this is reflected in the SaaS sector where the appeal of an ecommerce platform designed for B2B is its compatibility with account-based marketing (ABM), allowing vendors to serve customised landing pages and storefronts to distinct prospects.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone with an exact set of requirements about what they need from a product or software solution. You wouldn’t want flimsy promotional pieces, or fancy graphics, or misleading charts. You’d want facts, figures, and guarantees about performance, support, materials, design, certifications, standards, and anything else directly relevant. Consider using buyer personas — they’re far better for B2B than B2C.
Social proof needs to be more selective
In B2C, the aggregate review rating is the star of the show. Often, it’s the only element of social proof that gets seriously considered (especially when it shows up in the SERPs). Consider someone browsing Amazon listings and picking whichever product gets the best rating in its category, which is almost always the #1 seller. It’s a simple but profound piece of confirmation from fellow shoppers that they’re more likely than not to be happy with their purchase.
This won’t fly with B2B marketing, because the opinions of the masses aren’t significant to B2B buyers. They have uncommon requirements (often very specific ones), and need to know how well their prospective sellers can meet them. Think of a mechanical engineering firm looking for a company to provide 3D-printed parts — do you suppose the engineer put in charge of finding a supplier would care about what the average B2C buyer thinks about a company?
A mediocre product delivered with good customer service can be enough to earn the praise of a B2C buyer. B2B marketing demands meaningful proof of quality, which means sticking to social proof from industry experts and authoritative brands. Hearing that a respected company rates a seller very highly is entirely different from seeing 1000 reviews averaging out to 4.5.
Brand reputation is mission-critical
Good SEO goes beyond simple SERP listings to factor in how people will likely react to them, and how likely they are to lead to success. I mentioned the inevitability that a B2B buyer will look for points of comparison — searching around the web for alternatives — and that puts every suitable brand in the difficult position of being directly pitted against its rivals.
To return to that B2C example of buying sunglasses, most low-to-medium-cost purchases don’t warrant much research, so any given seller has a shot at being picked due to sheer luck. Not so in the B2B world. If you want your B2B brand to be picked, it has to stack up well against other options, and that calls for relentless work on brand reputation.
This calls for a lot time spent searching for competitor comparison queries such as “[your brand] vs [competitor brand]” to see what results come up, then creating content to help steer industry perception in your favour. It needs to be compelling, though, because a contrived page built for propaganda purposes is unlikely to rank — and if it does, it’s only going to make you look bad. It’s also vital to address negative press before it damages your brand too much, because negative comments from influential sources can rapidly spread throughout entire industries.
The differences between B2B and B2C SEO, as we’ve seen, can be quite complex, though they can largely be alluded to through one simple statements: B2C is about thinly spreading effort across as many prospects as possible, whereas B2B is about spreading it thickly across a selection of the most important and relevant prospects.
Marketing Labs are experienced SEO experts based in the UK. We work with a portfolio of clients in B2C and B2C industries. Give us a call if you want to take your search performance to the next level.
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