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(updated: May 17)
With a little work and a lot of commitment, you can achieve your SEO needs without digging too far into your budget.
SEO is a subject that covers a boatload of ground. For the purposes of this article, the discussion focuses on the narrow concern of online relevancy for a B2B company in a niche market. This distinction is important because the challenges are vastly different than a B2C company with a lot of competition and, perhaps a lot of product and several sales channels.
Even within that narrow concern, there is a lot of digging one can do. Since budgetary issues are always front of mind, things like paid ads and ‘sponsored content’ won’t be discussed. That is not to say paid content is not worth the money; particularly for a new brand or product offering. It can help. For the purposes of this discussion, we are talking about mid-market corporations with a marketing spend that’s roughly 10-12% of the overall operating budget. The assumption needs to be, “we don’t have a lot of money to play with”.
SEO for B2B: Identifying the need
If you don’t know it by now, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. An entire industry has grown around this idea of being ‘found’ on the internet. If you’ve ever been pitched by an SEO company, your head was probably spinning by the time it was over. SEO companies have invented more terminology and buzz words than some civilizations. The guarantees they can make are limited and those guarantees typically surround things you could do yourself with some education.
So, what if you are a B2B company in a niche market? How important is SEO and what is it you really need to accomplish to be ‘found’?
Well, first of all, SEO is important. Simply being on the web guarantees nothing more than being on the web. Just as a local business shouldn’t expect to grow by simply being in a community, a B2B company should not expect to grow simply from a presence on the web. In order to be seen, an SEO strategy needs to be developed that fits the needs of your business. So, you need to ask yourself some questions:
- What is the core product or service offering of the business?
- How large is the competitive landscape?
- Who is the target audience?
There are many other questions you could ask but these three, simple questions can help lay a groundwork for an SEO strategy.
Where should you focus your SEO efforts?
- Social Media
Social Media and SEO
There are many social media outlets, but if you’re trying to keep your SEO efforts in-house, the major players are probably obvious: Facebook, Twitter and of course, LinkedIn. The main concern for a business is simple: How much time and effort can be dedicated to each platform? The entire point of social media is being “social”; it requires constant attention. So it is better to focus attention in one area than have a weak presence in several. But let’s quickly evaluate the options.
Facebook: For many B2B companies who don’t have direct pipelines to consumers, Facebook can be a challenge. First of all, Facebook does not have a lot of industry data on its users (unless you want to go the paid ad route, then yes, you can mine that information). This is because Facebook isn’t geared specifically toward business (despite ‘facebook for business’). It’s also important to realize you are potentially opening yourself up to a lot of consumer opinion. This can be both a good and bad thing, but if you are trying to control your message, it could present a potential challenge. All of that aside, Facebook is still the number one social media outlet and that counts for something.
Twitter: With a 140 character limit and a rapid fire platform, Twitter takes a lot of dedication. If you are not posting several times daily, you can quickly lose relevance. Posting several times a day as a business could be seen as obnoxious or overbearing. However, Twitter is wildly popular and if you have enough to tweet about, Twitter is a very strong SEO tool. There are also plenty of tools available to schedule tweets to be released at particular intervals. It also integrates into other platforms well.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn has several avenues of strength. First and foremost, LinkedIn is a business platform, so it’s easy to see why it’s a likely candidate for SEO efforts. If you strip aside all the paid content, you are left with: posting content, sharing content and liking content. Clearly, posting original content has the strongest SEO potential because it’s created by you and search engines love original content. Sharing content does more to help others than it does your organization, but those shares (assuming they are not to your own content) demonstrate a commitment to industry information. Liking content is nice and should not be discouraged, but if it’s being done as part of a strategy, you may want to have a sit down with your marketing professional.
Website and Blog SEO
Your website can be your strongest SEO tool. Understanding “content is king”, it’s important that your website has content that not only relates to your industry and your offering but has a logical flow. Headlines need to relate to content. Marketing language is nice, but if it doesn’t relate, it can actually do more harm than good. There are other considerations like page titling, image tags, H tags and a laundry list of other actions you can perform to enhance the SEO strength of your website.
Blogging on your website is an extremely effective tool to enhance SEO. Search engines love original content and rank it highly. It says you are not only a subject matter expert (SME) but you are engaged and involved in your industry. Of course, this requires a lot of effort. Blogging needs to be done often. It’s likely you will need to engage several members of your organization to effectively pull it off and that’s asking staff to add to their work load.
Press Opportunities and your SEO
The thrust of this article surrounds low budget examples. Press releases via any outlet cost money. However, they are quite effective at helping your SEO. Using a press outlet like PR Web, Business Wire or PR.com (among several others) allow you to target your audience, region and industry and can distribute your content to a much larger audience than otherwise available. These tools also offer robust tracking software so you can see the effectiveness of your releases. The key to press releases is to pump them out on a regular basis. If your company can’t generate enough press opportunities, this may not be the investment for you. If it can, this is a spend you should consider.
How does all of this become a strategy?
Just identifying areas of opportunity is the beginning. If you have a relatively small marketing department, you probably won’t be able to tackle all of the subject material covered in this article. That’s ok. What is important is to identify your subject and then plan a prolonged attack.
The most important thing to keep in mind is no one knows what the search engine algorithms look like. Hiring a professional SEO company can costs thousands of dollars a month and they don’t know the algorithm either. Every search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, business.com, Baidu, etc..) is unique in how the collect and catalogue information. The good news is there are plenty of online resources to help you track and manage SEO efforts. There are also best practices and as long as you follow them and be persistent in your efforts, you will rise above the competition and give your company an edge in the marketplace.