SEO Essentials for B2B Companies

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the field of digital marketing that helps companies improve their organic search rankings by adhering to technical and creative best practices on their websites. Understanding the fundamentals of SEO can help B2B companies rank for relevant keywords, raise their visibility online, and turn visitors in paying customers.Tweet Thisvisiting optimized website

Leveraging SEO to Grow Your Business

Google is by far the most popular search engine in the United States. Over the past 5 years or so, Google has aggressively sought to improve its search results by refining algorithms to ignore low-quality content and suspicious websites. As these updates rendered questionable optimization tactics moot, SEO has required professionalism and expertise in order to get results.

SEO can touch all aspect of a business’s online marketing; search engines now look at how people engage with your brand online, through both your website and other online avenues. Targeting the right audience, branding your product, and getting a strong message out there can all help with your SEO and, by extension, help drive traffic to your website.

SEO Checklist for B2B Companies

Business owners are busy, and shouldn’t be expected to master SEO overnight. Fortunately, sticking to some best practices can go a long way to putting your website in Google’s good graces. Here are several fundamental SEO recommendations for B2B companies:

  • Pay Attention to Site Architecture

    Keep your URL structure clean and short – Google tends to rank clean URLs higher than long, multi-layered web addresses. As a rule of thumb, your URL structure should not go past 2-3 pages deep on a website. Work with your local SEO professional to clean up your website’s metadata, tags, and URLs as needed.

  • Localize your Business Information

    Maximize your online marketing with local customers. Make sure to set up your Google My Business listing with phone, email, and website information clearly noted. This can ensure your company shows up in Google Maps or in local knowledge panels that display on the right side of the screen. These panels provide helpful information such as your phone number, address, and business hours, but you want to make sure you’ve fed the right information into Google My Business so that everything is accurate.

  • Create Relevant, Helpful Content

    The key to your site’s success can depend heavily on the depth and quality of your content offerings. Great content on your site can help bring in traffic, build your business’s brand, and attract industry influencers for new opportunities. Google pays attention to language on the page and behavioral search signals, including how many people click on your search result, and whether or not visitors quickly abandon it. The most important thing is to provide content that answers your customers’ questions at every step of the purchase process, from initial consideration to clicking “buy.”

  • Link and Leverage Your Online Content with Keywords

    Use various keyword tools and Google Analytics to find the most relevant keywords for your business. If you are struggling to win traffic with highly competitive keywords in your industry, try focusing on lesser, long-tail keywords for better effect. Include these terms on your website to send relevance signals to Google, and to make sure that you’re using the right language for customers.

  • Get Optimized for Mobile

    In 2015, more Google searches were performed on a mobile device than on a desktop computer. That number is expected to keep growing. There’s no turning back – your business presence has to be optimized for mobile, so your audience can quickly find what they need.

  • Build Organic Traffic with Social Media

    Google “finds” content by following links around the internet. Sharing content on social media can result in people linking to your site. Depending upon your industry, it may not be necessary to post content to your social media channels every day.

    No matter how large or small your company is, you should make sure that you have a unique value proposition for your brand and website and that your product or service addresses your audience’s needs. In the past, SEO focused primarily on keyword targeting. Now, since engagement metrics are a more significant part of the search engine’s algorithms, there has been a shift in how knowledgeable SEO experts approach rankings.

    Google proposes that it wants to deliver the best answers to its users’ queries, and if your site can provide your audience with the best possible answer, the likelihood that you will be ranked is greatly increased.

Dun & Bradstreet recently convened a panel of SEO experts for a podcast on how small businesses can successfully use SEO to maximize their web presence. We recommend listening in for more insights.

The Importance of Mobile SEO

We’ve already mentioned that many people use mobile devices to browse the internet. It’s imperative that your business’s website incorporates mobile SEO in its design. In fact, Google is building a mobile-first index that will make overall ranking decisions (including where you stand in desktop searches) based on the quality of your mobile site, when one is available. Here are some things to consider as you plot your mobile strategy.

The first thing you need to decide is if you are going to develop a dedicated mobile site (m.yoursitenamehere.com) or a responsive site. A responsive site is one that is laid out on a fluid design grid and intelligently resizes to any browser or device the user is utilizing. A dedicated mobile site is an entirely new site that redirects mobile users to it. In SEO terms, both are equally valuable. You can work with your web developer to decide which is easiest to implement for your business.
Page speed takes on an entirely new meaning in the mobile world, as users are often passing through areas of constricted bandwidth on 3G or 4G networks. Carriers such as T-Mobile have had notorious difficulties serving up large websites. If your website is large and slow (get a free speed test at https://gtmetrix.com/ and/or http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/) consider developing a second mobile site with much less content, fewer images, and limited functionality compared to your utility-oriented desktop site. That way the mobile site loads fast. Your goal should be for the site to load in under 3 seconds since, when bandwidth limitations are accounted for, that time frame could easily turn into 10, 30, or even 60 seconds – enough to lose a potentially valuable customer.
Critical to page speed and mobile image search is the optimization of photographs and other image-based content on your site. Websites such as www.pushliving.com and other photo repositories have been groundbreaking in ensuring that their work is not only visually arresting but also formatted to work well on mobile screens. Size optimization, cropping images, and significant server-side solutions all act to capture Google Image traffic in a manner that is far more effective than just regular desktop search. Frequent browser and device testing through sites such as www.crossbrowsertesting.com will allow you to experience your site from other device and browser combinations to ensure optimization.
Mobile searches are far more likely than desktop searches to be local in nature, with people on-the-go searching to fulfill an immediate need from a nearby vendor. In order to best serve its users, Google utilizes the location settings on the phone or tablet in order to determine where the search has originated from and serves up local results pages based on geographic proximity. Whereas in the past local SEO meant showing up in the “top 7 pack” of red pushpins for your area, it has now turned into an ever-shifting landscape which in fact benefits the little guy. Even a lesser known business can now more easily be found if the search originates in close proximity to it. But to utilize this advantage you must ensure that you have all of your geo SEO ducks in a row. That means:

  • Having a physical office location or presence in the municipality you wish to target. If you are a virtual business, get a virtual office service, which can be obtained for as little as $45/month from services such as https://cloudvo.com/
  • Ensuring that your NAP (name, address, phone) data is featured prominently on your website in multiple places.
  • Getting a local phone number – not an 800 number – and featuring it on the site.
  • Integrating Google Maps into your contact page and ordering a Google My Business post card via https://support.google.com/business/answer/2911778?hl=en
  • Making sure that the Google My Business page issued to you has plenty of local reviews, photographs, and other rich data in order to further increase click-through rate.

Numerous businesses get so lost in the (sometimes) overwhelming amount of detail that goes into mobile SEO that they forget the underlining principles that caused them to get passionate about their business in the first place. Remember, you are selling to humans, not robots! That means your site must fundamentally be optimized for a human user. If there is ever a debate that involves reducing UX (user experience) in order to realize mSEO benefit, always side with the user. Make sure that your phone line is operational and a real person picks up on the other end of it. If you are not able to do this, you can purchase an affordable virtual assistant for this task. Ensure that your business has regular hours where customers can reach you.

Content Curation

Content marketing has become a staple in most businesses’ promotional strategies, doing its part to help generate high quality leads, boost web traffic, and spread brand awareness. In fact, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content than they did a year ago, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

Google puts a premium on unique, authoritative content when it comes to ranking URLs. This means you can’t just copy-and-paste a Wikipedia article on air conditioning in order to promote your HVAC business. That being said, writing blog entries or articles highlighting someone else’s insights can still be a part of your SEO strategy. The content you curate will most likely be tied to the keywords in which you are hoping to rank. In addition, you’ll be able to index content on a more frequent basis, which search engines like Google and Bing reward.

While content curation can help successfully sustain your online marketing strategy, there’s also a dark side. When done poorly, content curation can actually hurt your SEO efforts. If content is duplicated, for example, it could compete for search rankings. What’s more, too much outbound linking will ultimately send prospects away from your site, rather than back inwards to your other blogs or website pages. Follow these content curation do’s and don’ts to ensure that this tactic helps your content marketing strategy.

  • DO Be Selective: If you’re going to direct readers away from your site, make sure that you’re leading them to a high quality, relevant article. Remember, your goal is to increase the value of content you provide people, not diminish it.
  • DON’T Duplicate Content: Never repost an entire article on your site. Not cool. Not only will this hurt your company’s reputation, but it will also hurt your SEO efforts. Make sure that you’re adding your own commentary to the piece to ensure originality. Provide some context and put your spin on it.
  • DO Offer a Mixed Bag: One of the biggest benefits of curating content is that you get to offer your target audience a wide variety of opinions from industry experts. Therefore, don’t get lazy and repost from the same few sources over and over, no matter how great and reliable they are.
  • DON’T Solely Rely on Curation: Curating content from other resources can be a great supplement. But this doesn’t mean you get to publish just one original blog post a month. It’s all about having a healthy balance of both.

Negative SEO and Your Business

Unscrupulous business owners sometimes rely upon so-called “negative SEO” tactics to try and thwart the competition. This involves deliberately targeting another website with the purposes of tanking their Google rankings and possibly getting them delisted from the search engine altogether.

Common tactics include pointing spammy links toward a competitor’s website in order to devalue them, duplicating a competitor’s content on a number of sites to rob them of exclusivity, or writing negative reviews to damage the business’s reputation.

Despite Google’s assertions to the contrary, there may be no real way to defend yourself from negative SEO.

Tools that Google has built such as “disavow” are considered by many to be slow and bulky, and it can take months to successfully bring your site back from the damage that negative SEO can cause. Additionally, Google has no customer support line related to search; everything is 100% automated.

To help protect yourself, conduct frequent backlink audits, learn to use the disavow tool, and do not build a business that is 100% dependent on SEO traffic.

In short, negative SEO is very real and dangerous. If your business or website in anyway depends on search traffic for revenue, you should frequently review and protect yourself from this risk.

While starting down the path to search engine optimization may seem daunting, it is in fact just a new market opportunity for your business, no different than expanding into a new territory where thousands of customers are waiting to connect with you. Good luck!

Photo Credit: darby, Twenty20