B2B SEO Strategy: Targeting Buyer Intent

B2B SEO strategy and, even more importantly, targeting B2B buyer intent can be a big challenge.  This post takes a look at recent B2B SEO strategy best practice, B2B marketing content best practice, and B2B lead generation best practice in order to provide some practical tips.

Technical B2B SEO Best Practice

For years the focus of B2B SEO strategy has been on keyword stuffing and volume of links. But Google is increasingly targeting more subtle ranking factors to deliver relevant vs optimized search results. Take a look – the chart below from SEO authority SearchEngineLand shows the complex mix of factors Google is believed to be using to deliver search results.

B2B SEO Strategy: SearchEngineLand Table

These “Success Factors” include traditional B2B SEO strategy elements such as copy, freshness, HTML tags including titles and descriptions, and links, as well as newer elements such as authority, trust, and social mentions.  Most of the technical elements can be managed by an effective content management system using best practice SEO tools.

B2B SEO Strategy: Content Best Practice

While technical optimization remains complex, the net result is that technical optimization (beyond good Google friendly hygiene) is becoming much less important than developing, publishing, and sharing relevant, useful, and valuable B2B content related to your subject matter expertise.  The starting point should be developing a customer-centric content plan that targets what your customers want to know at each stage of their decision process.  This model targets different stages of B2B buyer intent with different content approaches.

B2B SEO Strategy: B2B content ideas

Next, develop a keyword strategy that will allow you to describe your content using customer language, and target buyer intent searches.  For B2B SEO the focus is not keywords, for example “procurement”, but longer keyword phrases used by prospects at each decision stage, for example “procurement spend under management benchmarks” or “SAP procurement solution reviews”.  While the search volumes will be smaller, the quality of your traffic and prospects will be higher.

B2B SEO Strategy: Lead Generation Best Practice

Finally, attracting the right traffic using B2B SEO strategy is only the initial challenge.  Given the investment it takes to attract high quality traffic, you need to optimize your content, website, and lead generation programs to acquire new prospects using gated content and other tiered calls to action.

B2B Lead Generation Form Best Practices

B2B lead generation forms can serve as helpful marketing tools and can be highly beneficial to your business. If used correctly, they collect information about your website’s visitors, and ultimately turn anonymous visitors into identified prospects.

If you’re still unsure whether or not you need forms on your B2B website, here are a few benefits of using B2B lead generation forms. They help you:

  • Profile and get to know website visitors.
  • Generate better leads.
  • Understand visitors preferences, to better segment your database.
  • Get feedback from site visitors.
  • Qualify engagement and sales readiness.
  • Prove or disprove assumptions about target audiences.

There are 3 types of B2B lead generation forms:

  • STATIC FORMS (SF):

    These are the most basic B2B lead generation forms you can have. When using static forms, no matter how many times a specific prospect fills out a form, they will always get asked for the same information in the form fields. You can create static forms that include basic text, dropdown menus, checkboxes, or even file uploads.

  • PROGRESSIVE FORMS (PF):

    Progressive forms are a marketing automation feature that allow you to further qualify repeated visitors. These B2B lead generation forms allow you to select which form fields appear for a specific prospect, based on the information you already have about them.
    For example, if you’ve already captured a prospect’s full name and job title the first time they filled out one of your B2B lead generation forms, progressive profiling allows you to capture further information the next time they fill out a form. This means more valuable information for you in the long run.

  • MULTISTAGE FORMS (MF):

    Sometimes, if you’re working with a lengthy B2B lead generation form, it’s a good idea to break your forms up into 2 or 3 steps. That way, if a prospect starts filling out your form but doesn’t get through all the form fields, you can at least capture some basic information.
    This also means, if you’re creating a multistage form, you want to start with the most basic information first and get more specific in the next steps.

What B2B lead generation form is right for you?
It all depends on what your objective is!

USE

OBJECTIVE

TYPE

Gated Content (Download)

Putting high value resources behind a form on your B2B website is a great way to capture and identify qualified leads. As a rule of thumb, asking for “first name”, “last name”, “company”, and “email” is good practice.
If the asset you’re offering is of extreme high value to your prospect, you can ask for additional form fields. A great way to further qualify returning prospects would be implementing progressive forms.

(SF),
(PF)

Subscribe / Manage Your Preferences

These types of forms capture prospects who are interested in subscribing to your content as well as give you insights into each prospects needs and pains.
Create an Email Preference Centre to allow prospects to opt in and out of your lead nurturing mailing lists (“I’m interested in”).

(SF)

Event or Webinar Registration

If you’re running a webinar or any other event, don’t miss out on the opportunity to capture prospect information. This is where you can find out what they’re specifically interested in and follow-up appropriately.

(SF),
(PF)

Contest

Usually, if you’re running a contest, your goal is to capture as many leads as possible, rather than further qualify prospects. Therefore, keep your B2B lead generation form fields to a minimum to maximize form submissions.

(SF),
(PF)

Get a Quote

This is a great way to nurture and further qualify the sales readiness of leads. Because these prospects are demonstrating an intent to buy, you can require specific information (beyond just full name, email, company). Ex. “Company Size”, “Number of Employees”, “Role/ Title”, etc.
A great way to encourage form submission is to use a multistage form, where you request more basic information on Step 1 and more detailed information on Step 2 and 3. Avoid creating more than 3 steps, as that might discourage form completion.

(SF),
(PF),
(MF)

Contact Us

Allow prospects to get in touch with you right from your B2B website. Variations include “Send Us a Message”, “Request a Call”, “Ask a Question”, or “Request a Demo”.
Keep form fields to a minimum. Create a dropdown menu to filter what kind of inquiry the prospect is submitting (sales, careers, customer support, others, etc).

(SF)

Survey / Poll

Collect feedback on your products and services. Offer a free download in exchange for the feedback.

(SF)

Sign-Up (Free Trial)

Collect all necessary information to sign-up prospects to a free trial of your product or services.

(SF)

User Registration

Create a members-only section on your website where you provide access to exclusive content in exchange for prospect information. Because you’re offering more than one resource, you can require more fields in your registration form.

(SF)

Marketing Automation data capture: what to collect and how to use it

I’ll be honest, our objectives with clients very rarely include automating much of anything. So we’re not setting up marketing automation content, forms and campaigns to capture data that would feed into being able to automate. We’re usually seeking to capture data that gives more decision-making insight for the marketers and salespeople involved.

More specifically, clients usually want to be able to perform qualification at the Lead-to-MQL (marketing-qualified lead) stage and the MQL-to-SQL (sales-qualified lead) gates. So the qualification criteria the client wants to apply feed into data collection and capture execution.

MQL qualification is really about whether it’s worth investing in further marketing to the prospect…are they in a situation/company/role/industry that would realistically make them a potential customer?

SQL qualification is determining if a salesperson should contact them. Every sales organization has a different threshold for this, so the criteria can differ quite a bit, but often involve some version of BANT and/or likelihood of a sales opportunity, in addition to stage of the buying decision and role in the buying decision.

So…then it becomes an exercise of deciding how to use the tools you have to collect and organize the data you need.  Here are some ideas for applying Marketing Automation features to enable lead qualification, and what you can discern from each data point:

  • Lead score is calculated based on activities, so it’s a good soft indicator for both MQL and SQL, but in itself tells you very little that’s definitive (my mom has a very high lead score in our database because she likes to read everything I publish).
  • Lead grade is a good accompaniment to lead score because it’s a) manual, and b) based on yes/no qualification questions. Also useful for both MQL and SQL.
  • In-depth activity data is where the real answers lie, and as you know, you really have to look at that one prospect at a time. So starting with prospects who have good score/grade combos, you then dig into what the other data tells you.
  • We have been so bold as to set up custom fields that ask prospects, with drop-down list choices for data consistency, which stage and role in the buying decision best applies to them. It’s amazing how many people will answer this question since they don’t consider it as confidential as name or phone number. That’s really helpful insight to have, obviously.
  • And if you’ve already figured out which content you offer aligns to which buying stage, then you should be able to eyeball someone’s content engagement (views & downloads) history to see where they’re most likely to be.

Add it all up, and you have information to help your sales team formulate an approach to contacting qualified leads in a highly relevant way.

Build some simple automation rules to manage lists of people against this field and activity data, and you can also compile some “segments” in your marketing automation tool and build more tailored campaigns (with appropriate content) for each.

Sadly there’s no one-size-fits-all out-of-the-box config for this, which I suppose is what keeps us in business. The best advice I can give you is to figure out your model first, and worry about automating it later. Automation is a useful tool, but as an objective in and of itself, can take you off track in your planning and execution.

B2B Lead Generation: Great Benchmarking And Best Practices For Lead Generation from CSO Insights 2010 Lead Generation Survey

CSO Insights has published their 2010 Lead Generation Optimization Survey Results.
And it includes some useful stats including:

And finally the top three program tactics as judged by quantity/quality of leads were:

  • e-mail marketing
  • tradeshows
  • web site registration/opt-in

But they share lots of other useful benchmarks in this free Marketo sponsored presentation:

Lead Generation Optimization 2010 Survey Results and Analysis Charts from Survey

View more presentations from Marketo.