The foundation to any search marketing campaign is keyword research. However, in the B2B marketplace, there are a few additional factors and keyword intelligence can set you apart from the competition. Because of the long buying cycle, in-depth research is often conducted by your target audience, and because some terms are also used by consumers and targeted by B2C companies, you can get further ahead by taking the time to focus on keyword intelligence that can give you a competitive advantage.
Know What They're Searching for When
Because of the complex buying cycle in the B2B marketplace, you want to not only understand what people are searching for, but also know at which phase of the buying cycle they are searching for it – so that you can best target their needs and determine which pages you take the user to.
Years ago, I worked in research and development, and my research started very early in the game - often, 2+ years in advance. My job was to learn about a product or technology and figure out how it can be used within the company. I summarized the findings for VPs and engineers, who then did further research to determine if it was something we wanted to pursue.
When doing this initial research, I was searching for very broad terms, such as "rfid tags" and related terms that would result in useful information such as "rfid advantages" or "rfid problems". After my findings were published, the research moved on down the line. Executives wanting more information searched for "rfid" and "rfid companies" to find the shortlist and top providers, while engineers would search for "rfid standards" and "rfid systems" to see how RFID could integrate into our environment.
Your challenge is to understand who is searching for which terms, so that you can take the user to the page targeting their informational needs. Master this, and you'll be able to nudge users in the direction you want them to take, and gently guide them into submitting their contact information.
Be Listed in All Phases of the Buying Cycle
Just as each type of stakeholder searched for different terms, there are also variations in the types of searches people do at various phases of the buying cycle. Because it's easy, you may want to go after the tail terms. Unfortunately, many of the tail terms tend to fall later in the buying cycle, when the user is clearer about what they want. If your product has a complex buying cycle, with a lot of people involved in the purchase decision, it's vital that you be listed for the broader search terms that are used early in the buying cycle. Remember that it is very hard to be considered if you're found late in the game. Keeping this in mind can help justify the cost for going after head terms and investing the time to identify which terms are used when, so that you have ample coverage in all scenarios.
Keywords that are Both B2B and B2C
Some search terms are both B2B and B2C, by looking at the search term alone it isn't always obvious. Therefore, if you have any doubt, take the extra step of going out to the search results to see who is ranking for the term. If there are mostly B2C websites, it may not be the best term for you to go after in terms of optimization. You see, if a B2B user searches for this term and sees that the results appear to be B2C websites, they will realize that they used the wrong term and try again, or worse, they'll review the results but your website may get lost in the overwhelming amount of B2C websites, giving your website virtually no visibility.
If you find that these terms are highly relevant and you want to target them with your search campaigns, consider using vertical search engines, such as Business.com, who delivers only B2B websites for any given search term.
Know Who is Searching to Target Your Sales Pitch
Imagine being able to tell your sales team the likelihood of a sale, the quality of the lead and their phase in the buying cycle – all based on the keyword that drove the prospect to your website.
If you mine your analytics to know the search term that brought a visitor in, you could deliver the most vital information targeted to each lead. You could identify the type of person most likely to search for a given term (as in executive, junior researcher or engineer), which sets expectations of the discussion your sales person is about to have with the prospect. The RFID example above illustrated how three different people in the buying cycle searched for information; each had different goals and would have a different agenda when talking to a sales person. Consider investing the time to learn more about how to deliver information on each search term that drives a lead and you'll quickly build search marketing allies in the sales department.
Start improving your B2B keyword intelligence and you'll find less need for keyword refinements, enjoy greater competitive advantage and a search strategy that leads to success at a faster pace.
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