B2B marketers may have felt the transition to a purely digital buying path a little more than many other marketers. With a heavy reliance on in-person sales, the move to digital has meant disrupting high-quality decisions that can take weeks, months, or even years to complete.
Blog post by blog post can be good, but blog post by video by infographic is better for search engine results – much better.
What’s worse, business buyers are likely to change their habits over the long term. With the search to be the leading pre-pandemic channel, it’s now a must-have for B2B marketers. While many already have some search strategies in place, now is the time to reach for the next level.
Search becomes more important
Business customers spend 27% of their time doing independent research online – more than any other activity on the buyer’s journey – and it is likely to increase due to long-term changes due to COVID-19. Many business decision makers do not find it necessary to speak to a salesperson in order to make a purchase. In fact, 97% said they will shop online without sales assistance and most would find it very convenient to spend up to $ 50,000.
Depending on how well prepared B2B marketers were for the rise of the digital in 2020, the past year could possibly have revealed gaps in their digital marketing approach or helped them win new business from brands that lag further behind. Going forward, a safe bet to maintaining competitive relevance on the internet is to focus on improving both search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) tactics. Without a good search engine marketing strategy, many other parts of online marketing are missing.
Build a strong search base
Search is a complex animal. Partially paid advertising, part content strategy, and B2B marketers need to ensure that both SEO and SEM practices are enhanced and optimized in order to collect the highest possible amount of real estate on a given search engine results page (SERP). Search is not an afterthought should be pinned to a site design or given to an agency. It’s the glue that connects every single customer touch point, including social media, blogs, webinars, and white papers.
In many cases, I see a scenario where SEO and SEM are not viewed as part of the overall customer experience and therefore marketers deal with them differently and through different marketing groups (or sometimes from separate agencies).
Paid search is actually an effective testbed for news, links, and content that should also be used for organic search (and by the way for the e-commerce website, social media, and other marketing channels).
A / B testing with Google AdWords is a quick and effective way to identify the best messaging and landing pages for various keywords. However, many B2B marketers don’t apply these insights to their organic results, let alone anywhere else. Similarly, Google’s Keyword Planner isn’t just a good tool for finding competitive keywords to bid on. It can also shed light on what keywords can be used on an ecommerce website to make the website’s user experience more relevant.
Find the A +
There is always a competitor that seems to be everywhere. The reason for this is that they have prioritized search engine marketing in everything they do. The good news is that when done well, this becomes a natural part of business. Search isn’t just about algorithms and bid strategies (although this helps). The best search strategies are built on a solid foundation of really relevant and helpful content. For top search engine marketers, this content has a few key attributes:
- Timeliness – Creating evergreen ebooks is great, but it won’t move the needle on the most relevant or competitive keywords. However, a timely blog post about a new innovation or big news not only helps with the search, but is also relevant for business customers.
- Diversity – blog post by blog post can be good, but blog post by video by infographic is better – much better. Videos offer more real estate on the SERP and are very engaging. Infographics can be easily shared and viewed when searching for images. For searchers and seekers, diversity really is the spice of life.
- Connectivity – Links to and from content on an ecommerce website aid in search results and are helpful. Point to a great guide with a link, credit sources and link, share big news – and add a link!
Sociability for success
Speaking of connectivity, search and social networks should be linked – activity factors for social media in search rankings. Social marketing follows many of the same patterns as search engine marketing – and has the benefit of better targeting – so the lessons can be applied to the two channels for everyone.
Marketers can also use social media to build relationships with customers, thought leaders, and partners, and to remain active communicators and stakeholders. It’s important to make an effort to foster mutual engagement on social media and try to avoid the robotic push of content every time something new comes out. Comment, like and share other posts. Include as many people as possible in the company.
With that in mind, partners can be a great search element in other ways. Guest posting on a partner site or speaking for a webinar increases social mentions and improves natural search rankings.
Ultimately, the 2021 A + search strategy is about creating the same welcoming, communicative, and helpful environment that marketers have been perfecting in person and over the phone for so many years. Sure, great technology can help with scale and automation, but the foundation is on quality output and real participation in market dialogue.
Mo Awad is Vice President Search at the digital marketing agency MeritB2B. Follow him on Twitter @MoAwadMarketing.