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B2B Search Engine Optimization Strategies | Part 2
Obviously, getting your site to rank highly in the search engine results and getting searchers to click through to your site is one of the first objectives of B2B search engine optimization. But that’s just the beginning. You still have to turn the visitor into a customer or client.
In the first article in this series, we discussed some of the key differences between B2C and B2B search engine optimization. One of those differences is that of conversion. In the B2C world, conversion (turning a site visitor into a customer) can happen in a matter of minutes. In the business-to-business realm, however, conversion can take months or even years—and it typically doesn’t occur online. So how should you think about conversion in the B2B SEO environment, and what can you do both to accelerate and measure it?
Understanding the Goals
The goal of most B2B searchers is research. Who are the best potential suppliers? What experience do they have? What are the key issues I should be concerned with in choosing a supplier? How do I know I’m making the right choice?
Your goal, on the other hand, is to identify who the site visitors are and to develop a relationship with them—one that lets them get to know you, builds credibility and confidence in your company, and ultimately positions you as their preferred provider. But how do you do this in the anonymous environment of the web?
Using Site Analytics
First of all, you should be analyzing your web traffic; it can be a rich source of leads. While the specific identity of site visitors is not available (unless they have chosen to log in or otherwise identify themselves), you can often see the name of visitors’ companies. If there are frequent or deep visits from a particular company, it may be an indication that the company is considering buying the type of product or service you have to offer.
Now, you shouldn’t quickly begin making calls to find out the identity of the visitor. Doing so will backfire; anonymity is valued by the searcher. On the other hand, if the company is not an identified prospect of yours, you may want to determine the company’s likely buyers and include them in your regular direct marketing efforts. (Just don’t send them a high-pressure Fedex the day after their visit.)
Engagement is the Key to Conversion (and Leads)
While you likely won’t generate a B2B sale in a single visit, there are a number of strategies to help begin converting site visitors into customers. In business-to-business realm, think of conversion as a relationship building process, a process that requires numerous touchpoints and interactions. It takes place over time in a variety of online and offline encounters. Your job is to increase the number and quality of those encounters by offering opportunities for them to engage with you. Search engine optimization helps not only create the first encounter, but, ideally, it also creates multiple subsequent encounters throughout the buying cycle (see One Searcher. Multiple Searches. in the first article in this series).
The primary intent of business-to-business searchers is research and education—and you can use this fact to develop a rich relationship with them over time. Your site should contain a generous amount of optimized educational content. This helps prospects both find you and get to know your firm and your approach in a non-invasive, largely anonymous environment. As prospects learn more about your firm and its offerings, they will become more comfortable in letting you know who they are in exchange for more information.
While much of your web content should be open to all, you should reserve a certain amount of valuable content available by registration only. That registration will give you valuable lead information. Below are a number of tools you can use to drive engagement, accelerate conversion, create leads, and measure the return on SEO.
Create a careful balance between the publicly available information on your site and that for which you require registration. For sections requiring registration, don’t ask for too much information; you may scare people off. Finally, make sure the information you require for registration is commensurate with what you give them in exchange. Otherwise, people will feel cheated and begin forming negative perceptions about your firm.
Site analytics will let you evaluate your conversion efforts in terms of depth of visits, length of visits, and whether time spent on specific pages and the number of repeat visitors is increasing. If people keep coming back, spending material amounts of time on your site, you’re likely deepening the relationship you have with prospects and continuing to position your firm as one of their preferred choices.
In addition to continuing to convert visitors into customers, the number and quality of leads from each of the conversion strategies above can be used to evaluate return on investment for B2B search engine optimization. Site registrations are leads. In B2B, leads are expensive. While it obviously varies by industry and company, the average cost of a business-to-business sales lead is easily several hundred dollars. Sure, you still have to qualify and convert leads, but no other business-to-business marketing medium comes close to economically delivering the number of predisposed prospects as search engine optimization. After all, the mere fact that people are searching indicates they’re likely to take action in the future. That’s not true of most readers of the trade publication in which you placed your last ad.
SEO’s ability to meet prospects exactly when they’re forming the intent to buy (and throughout the buying cycle) makes it one of the most attractive marketing strategies for B2B. Yet most business-to-business companies have not begun to implement search engine optimization. For many, it’s not even on their radar—and that can represent a competitive advantage for your firm. If you understand B2B search engine optimization and how to engage visitors each time they find your site, you can create a rich pipeline of prospect relationships and sales leads.
Galen De Young is Managing Director of Proteus SEO, a Michigan firm specializing in B2B search engine optimization.