SEO tactics for B2B: new benchmark data from MarketingSherpa

Great new chart from the smart folks at MarketingSherpa on SEO Tactics for B2B marketing. Their survey data helps prioritize how much effort to spend on SEO hygiene vs SEO charm in order to connect with more customers as you build next year’s marketing plan and budget.

Optimizing your SEO effort for B2B marketing

While SEO hygiene (title tags, XML site maps, metadata) is seen as important the big wins are improving your SEO charm with keyword research, content optimization and content creation. But as you can see below these marketing initiatives are also seen as the most challenging and requiring the most effort!

MarketingSherpa Chart B2B SEO Tactics

How to Optimize and Create Better Content

Great!  MarketingSherpa once again shares benchmark data proving that hard-work and content development pay-off.  But how do you put their best practice advice into practice?

A key strategy for optimizing and creating content for better SEO  is to focus on what your customer wants to know at each stage of their decision process. This is the most efficient way to connect with the long tail keyword strings prospects are searching, to develop the content they want, and to reflect the language they are using.

A second successful approach is to re-purpose, develop and test content in lighter formats like tweets and blog posts using an intelligent mud approach before you make a big investment in heavier content formats.  This is the most efficient way to test and learn what is working before you commit your content development budget.

But the best starting point is the development of a content plan.  See this post for a practical approach to content planning or better yet, contact us and we will help you build the right foundation for your B2B marketing.

B2B Lead Generation Best Practices: Reaching More Customers

The BrainRider blog often gets inbound searches looking for information on reaching more B2B customers, lead generation best practices, how to build awareness, get more customers, fill my funnel, create more customer demand.

These searches are the practical evidence of major changes in the B2B marketing mix. (see this post more data on this trend)

The truth is that B2B marketing and selling is quickly evolving. Across industries, the marketing and selling context has changed. Buyers are behaving differently, and the work required to make a sale is becoming more difficult. While tools like the web, search, social media, marketing automation and CRM solutions are driving much of this change the trend is not just about technology. (more…)

B2B Pipeline Marketing: 5 Questions Worth Asking About Your Pipeline

  1. What do buyers and customers find when they search for you?
  2. How many qualified leads visited your website last month and who were they?
  3. How many hand-raisers (ie buyers who are looking for information) are you connecting with and funnelling into your pipeline?
  4. What do your customers want to know at each stage of their decision proces and can they easily get that information from you?
  5. Which marketing tools are helping to nurture your leads and move them through your pipeline?

Please feel free to share this post if you think it is helpful or comment with missing questions, challenges, or examples.

And please check out our knowledge center for free B2B resources on how to optimize your pipeline.



“sharing what we know is what we do”

Basic search engine optimization in 5 quick steps

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a very complex, involved science. That’s why there are tons of firms that specialize in it.

With that said, here are five basic things you should do to optimize your website for search. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much your results will improve over a few months just by doing these simple things. Remember, they are cumulative. You’re essentially trying to score credibility points. So to optimize your ‘score’, you need to do them all, and you need to do them all of the time for all of your pages. (HINT: a content management system helps A LOT with this)

1. Keywords in your page <title> tags

This is one of the most important places to have a keyword because what is written inside the <title> tag shows in search results as your page title. The title tag must be short (6 or 7 words at most) and the keywords should appear most-to-least important (HINT: your company name is least important), left-to-right, separated by a single special character like a comma, pipe, or hyphen.  It should end up looking something like this:

<title>Specialty Area | Important Keywords | CompanyName</title>

2. Keywords in your page URLs

Keywords in URLs help a lot – e.g. –, where “Specialty Area” and “Important Keywords” are the keyword phrases you want to rank well for. Resist the urge to trim the URLs for brevity…don’t think of them as directory names that you’ll need to type into the command-line later. The title and body text on the page needs to also include sufficient reference to the same keywords though.

3. Keywords in headings (<H1> tags)

You should only ever have one H1 tag on a page, and that heading should include the same (or similar) keywords to your page title (<title> tag) and page URL. But your page must have actual body text about the particular keyword, too.

4. Keyword density on the page

You can quite easily have too much, or not enough, keyword density. Inside the range of 3-7% for your primary keywords is best, 1-2% for your secondary keywords. Keyword density of over 10% is suspicious and looks more like keyword stuffing, which will count against your ranking.

5. Keywords in anchor text from external inbound links

If you have your keywords in the anchor text in a link from another site, this is regarded as getting a vote of credibility from this site not only about your page in general, but about the keyword in particular. Remember this when hyperlinking text in everything from URLs in your LinkedIn profile (change default “My Website” text to “CompanyName Specialty Area”) to links you include in blog post comments, forum posts, etc.

Inbound & Outbound Marketing Strategy – the Revolving Door

Don’t get your knickers in a knot about inbound and outbound marketing strategy.  The ‘revolving door’ metaphor isn’t suggesting that your prospects and customers will be coming and going.  It is a nod to the types of messages and tactics you should be using as a B2B marketer these days.  Your department’s revolving door should be spinning off its hinges with simultaneous inbound and outbound marketing activities to acquire and nurture new prospects.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re either:

  • already doing this to some degree, and stand to benefit from some smart, easy-to-use, well-priced marketing automation tools that would make your inbound and outbound marketing life easier; or
  • in the shoes of a B2B researcher/buyer yourself, and trying to find a marketing automation tool that will help you with both your inbound AND outbound marketing strategy and plans; or
  • a vendor in the marketing automation space doing your homework. (A for effort!)

Point #1: the market for marketing automation is shifting, and the vendors need to catch up

There are so many new marketing automation tools out there tackling pieces of the puzzle, and none that I’ve found are doing a great job of the entire picture yet. Given the sheer number of new and old tools out there, I know I haven’t seen all of them.  But I *have* done months worth of searching, so the ones I haven’t found yet aren’t doing a very good job of making themselves easy to find.  (As the avid Twitter users might say, #fail)

What’s more, pricing seems to be all over the map, and I think the industry is in for a bit of a shake-up as small and medium businesses become  key target market segments for these vendors.  For some of the long-time (i.e. 3-5 years) leaders in the space, sky-high implementation fees and per-seat user fees have priced them out of the SME business as they have built their revenue model around the enterprise customer opportunity.

This post is not  an evaluation of marketing automation solution providers.  That’s what we pay the industry analysts for.  This is one B2B marketer’s perspective on where the solution vendors should be aiming their product roadmaps and pricing strategies based on the needs of the small and medium business segments that have massive appetite for smart, value-priced, on-demand marketing automation tools.

Point #2: inbound marketing and outbound marketing strategies necessarily co-exist in B2B

The first important recognition is that most small and medium businesses that are marketing and selling to other businesses need to do both inbound and outbound marketing strategy.  In fact, doing one without the other usually doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Outbound Marketing Strategy

Outbound marketing strategy is essential for any company that needs to nurture leads as a key marketing activity.  There are very few companies that could successfully make the case for every new lead being a sales-ready lead.  The nature of B2B buyers is such that they do a lot of research and analysis prior to making a purchase decision, and the buying cycle can be weeks or months.  So if you’re doing a good job of capturing leads, you should be capturing them at various stages of the buying cycle, and probably 70-80% of them aren’t ready (or interested) in talking to a salesperson.  That means your salespeople aren’t interested in talking to them either.  Outbound Marketing is also critical for companies that expand their footprint and revenue potential inside existing customers over time.  Mining your accounts for new selling opportunities is something that can be executed far more efficiently with well-planned marketing campaigns that identify new revenue opportunities for your account managers to pursue.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing strategy feeds the funnel.  If you aren’t generating and capturing enough new leads, you have nothing to nurture.  Today’s business reality is that B2B buyers aren’t traveling to trade shows like they used to, nor are they answering their phones as much.  They aren’t even reading very many unsolicited emails, because many don’t make it through the junk filters, and the ones that do still sink to the bottom of the inbox.  So the lead generation tactics of old are far less effective than they were even 5 years ago.  Most buyers and researchers are doing their homework online. Forrester recently reported that 91% of B2B buyers are using social media tools.   Inbound marketing tool vendor HubSpot recently published an interesting report on the The State of Inbound Marketing [PDF] that digs into the shift in marketing spend towards more inbound lead  generating programs.   B2B marketers are looking for ways to participate and add value in the B2B buyer’s research process.  What tools, content, and advice will strike a chord with B2B buyers who are considering your offering?  How do you get in front of them, into the information stores that they consider credible?  Then, when you do, how do you turn them into leads.  That’s where the new Inbound Marketing tools come in.

Point #3: the solution vendors already know the deal – you can see it in their offerings

I think the solution vendors know deep down that they need to offer both inbound and outbound capabilities, and there’s some evidence of this knowledge in their existing feature sets.

Leading inbound marketing automation solutions focus their features on SEO and SEM marketing activities with tools for keyword analysis, page ranking analysis, link analysis, and content optimization.  The good tools also include a lead capture capability that sits on top of a marketing database.  Once that’s included, it is a no brainer to also include on-site activity logging for prospects such as pageviews, form completions, search history, and more.  Secondarily, the inbound marketing focused solutions typically include some very (VERY) basic outbound functionality.  They may have a notification email blast feature so that prospects can ask to be notified by email of new content and resources that become available.  They may have a rudimentary broadcast email function that allows the administrator to send a generic, untargeted message to all prospects in the database.  So there is clearly recognition that the marketer using their system has the need to a) build a prospect database, and b) communicate with that prospect universe after Lead Capture and prior to passing to a Salesperson as an Opportunity.

On the other hand, leading outbound marketing automation solutions focus their features on profiling and segmenting prospects that are loaded into the marketing database, then running very targeted outbound campaigns to nurture, activate, or cross-sell/up-sell those prospects.  There is significant feature overlap of some outbound marketing solutions with inbound marketing solutions in the areas of lead capture and activity tracking.  Secondary features for these outbound marketing solutions consist of basic keyword analysis from your website data, sometimes integrated with a web analytics tool.  But there’s very little in the way of useful reports, metrics, or tools for identifying SEO and SEM opportunities, or for optimizing your existing and new content to win those SEO and SEM results.  It’s largely up to you to sift through other tools like web analytics and SEO analytics software to figure out for yourself how to get more new leads into the database so you can nurture them too.

Point #4: the agencies and service providers are further behind – you can see it in their offerings

There are a handful of service providers and agencies who have listened to the market and evolved their engagement models to better meet the needs of B2B marketers in search of expertise and outsourced manpower.  The big PR firms have started to roll out Social Media practices, some more productive than others.  Some boutique PR and marketing shops have beefed up their content creation capabilities and added social media and search engine expertise, but their industry-specific experience is limited to that of their client roster since it is expensive to bring in good content producers before you win the business.

Some of the marquee agencies seem to have more holistic offerings, but  they’re far too overpriced for most small and medium businesses.  Many of them won’t even pick up the phone for less than $100k/month over a minimum 1 year period.  They have tooled themselves to serve the big budget B2C clients who need to interact with millions of target customers who will each spend $1-$10,000, not the B2B clients looking to build relationships with hundreds or thousands of target customers who will each spend $10,000-$1,000,000.

However, the majority of agencies and service providers I’ve come across so far are still focused on one or two pieces of the puzzle and have yet to pull it all together in a meaningful way: SEO, content creation, interactive development and design, traditional PR, social media monitoring and participation, etc.

Point #5: this is what a B2B marketer wants to pay for

In a perfect world, I would be able to find all of these tools and services playing nicely together with a minimum number of vendor relationships to manage.  Perhaps one technology vendor and one service provider, but even more ideally would be a service provider who has done the homework on the tools and comes to me with an informed recommendation.

Inbound marketing components

  • keyword analysis to identify SEO and SEM opportunities and feed my content/activity/editorial strategy
  • content generation services of varying degrees of client participation (depending on available internal resources and expertise) to create multi-format content (blog posts, digital/physical documents, presentations, videos, podcasts, web seminars, etc.)
  • social media monitoring to identify opportunities for participation, engagement, and moderation

Outbound marketing strategy & components

  • lead scoring and segmentation based on both implicit and explicit criteria
  • automated campaign rules
  • email and direct mail fulfillment (with necessary whitelisting, deliverability measures, etc.)
  • full integration with popular CRM systems for bi-directional data transfer and reporting

Common components

  • progressive/conditional form fields for initial and subsequent visit lead data collection
  • multi-user content management tools for creating, storing, merchandising, distributing, sharing, and measuring interaction across all relevant content distribution channels (website, blog, social networks, media dissemintation networks, email campaigns, etc.)
  • marketing database that syncs with sales CRM
  • individual-level activity tracking (web visits, email actions, forwards/referrals, file downloads, etc.)
  • system-wide metrics and analytics so that measurement can span the full marketing and sales lifecycle
  • low/no up front costs — small and medium businesses test-then-invest
  • no long term commitment — retention should be value-driven, not contractually obligated

What have I missed?

Please add your thoughts in the Comments as to requirements and factors I have overlooked.  The sooner these tools and services become readily available, the sooner we can get back to focusing on marketing programs.