10 Concepts Critical for Aligning SEO to B2B Marketing Strategy

Search engine optimization is a critical part of the B2B marketing mix. SEO ranked as the fourth most effective B2B marketing tactic overall on MarketingSherpa’s 2011 B2B Marketing Advanced Practices Handbook. Despite this, SEO may remain outside of the planning of an organizations’ marketing initiatives.

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One reason may be because many SEO professionals come from outside of the traditional marketing background. Ironically, we don’t speak the language. We understand the objective, but may not realize how to specifically tie SEO tactics to B2B marketing concepts.

In an effort to help bridge the gap, I’ve asked some B2B marketing colleagues how SEOs can better align with strategic marketing. Check out their answers, feedback, and helpful resources below.

B2B Marketing Communications from Dianna Huff

dianna-huffThe idea that makes me cringe every time I hear it is “writing content for search engines.” Done right, B2B marketing communications helps move prospects along the sales cycle. Spammy keyword-laden blog posts don’t do the trick, especially when the buying cycle can be months long and include people from across the organization.

SEOers can help their clients by understanding the marketing process, suggesting collateral and other content that helps people make purchasing decisions, and then optimizing this content. The days of SEO and marketing communications being two distinct silos are long gone. It pays for marketers to understand SEO and for SEOers to understand marketing and to work together toward a common goal: more sales.

A B2B web marketing expert, Dianna Huff helps B2B companies grow through SEO, marketing writing, and social media. A frequent speaker, Dianna has been quoted in numerous blogs, books, and articles. Follow her on Twitter @diannahuff. To receive her e-course on creating great B2B marketing content, subscribe to her newsletter, The MarCom Strategist.

B2B Marketing Communications From Kate Headen Waddell

kate-headen-waddellB2B customers are more than just eyeballs. Good SEO techniques will get them to your site, but once they arrive you have to engage their hearts and minds, too. How do you do that?

The following posts contain important concepts for B2B marketers to understand and use.

Kate Headen Waddell is a strategic copywriter specializing in web copy, white papers, case studies, blogging and other B2B marketing tools. You can visit her website at www.smartb2bmarcom.com.

Content Curation from Pawan Deshpande

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Content curation, the process of finding, organizing, and sharing online content, is rapidly becoming a preferred marketing tactic. Many SEOs have yet to effectively make use of it because they are laser-focused on creating original content that supports search marketing efforts.

Curation provides a far more effective way to support SEO by allowing marketers to take the most relevant and timely content from around the web, organize it in a logical manner, and then easily share it via microsites, email newsletters, and social media. Content curation builds inbound links and drives visitors back to their web properties by becoming the go-to source for a specific topic, and also provides offline benefits by also establishing thought leadership, building brand awareness and nurturing leads.

To better understand how content curation serves as a building block for SEO, check out the recap of my webinar with TopRank’s Lee Odden about the common myths about content curation as it relates to SEO.

Pawan Deshpande is the CEO and visionary behind HiveFire. HiveFire’s product, Curata, is an easy-to-use marketing solution for content curation and content marketing. Pawan has spoken at leading events including SXSW, Content Marketing World, the Online Media Summit, and multiple AMA webinars.

Content Marketing from Stephanie Tilton

stephanie-tiltonTo connect with today’s B2B buyers, you need to produce and make easily accessible a range of content that guides prospects through the buying cycle. Doing so means embedding keywords into every content asset and related web page on your site and others where you maintain a presence. For more guidance, check out B2B Search and Content Marketing: Getting Found by Prospects.

Stephanie Tilton is a content-marketing consultant who helps B2B companies craft content that nurtures leads and advances the buying cycle. Drawing upon nearly 20 years in the world of B2B marketing, she helps technology companies devise winning content strategies.

Creating the B2B Story from Elizabeth Sosnow

elizabeth-sosnowSEOs have an opportunity to become better storytellers, instead of appearing to be simply “link-builders” in the eyes of some of their clients. While every SEO understands that targeted and compelling original content is a requirement, I still see an opportunity to learn and explore the power of marketing stories.

You could call storytelling “PR,” but that’s not really what I mean. Candidly, keyword intelligence is good, but compelling ideas and narratives offer more value for the client. Here is a worksheet that might be a helpful starting point.

Elizabeth Sosnow (@elizabethsosnow) is a Managing Director at BlissPR and has 20 years experience in content strategy and marketing. She leads the firm’s Digital activities, including blogger outreach, influencer engagement, SEO benchmarking and social network analytics.

Inbound Marketing from Kipp Bodnar

kipp-bodnarSEO doesn’t stand alone. SEO is a key component of a well-rounded inbound marketing strategy. Search engine marketers need to understand how the content and relationships they build fit in with other aspects of inbound marketing.

Think about how SEO content fits into marketing automation and lead generation efforts. Do infographics, custom content pages, or blog posts fit into a lead nurturing campaign? Content created to drive search traffic has the power to move leads through the buying cycle.

While it is great to see increases in traffic, that is only part of the picture. Take a step back and determine how your existing SEO efforts can be leveraged for other key inbound marketing strategies like blogging, ebooks, webinars, lead nurturing emails, etc.

Kipp Bodnar is Inbound Marketing Strategist at HubSpot, the inbound marketing software leader that provides integrated tools for marketers to generate and manage leads online and co-author of The B2B Social Media Book.

Lead Management from Ed Hadley

edward-hadleyLead management refers to the set of processes and technologies that help B2B marketers optimize demand generation and move potential customers down the funnel. It’s essentially everything that happens between when SEOs work their magic and when sales work theirs.

There are four main steps in a lead management process:

  • Capture – example: when someone arrives at a landing page via search and completes a form to download a whitepaper. 
  • Scoring – Lead scoring is a method of assigning points to prospects, so sales focuses only on highly qualified prospects who are ready to buy. 
  • Routing – Once leads reach a certain score, they are considered sales-ready and routed to the CRM/SFA system. The goal is to ensure that the sales team is pursuing only winnable opportunities. 
  • Nurturing – Leads that aren’t sales ready are funneled into nurture programs, a series of automated communications that help educate prospects and move them down the funnel.

With a well-defined lead management process and tight integration between marketing automation and CRM systems, it’s much easier to tie revenues back to the source.

Ed Hadley has more than eight years of marketing and communications experience with high tech B-to-B companies. He is currently Senior Marketing Manager at Neolane, where his primary responsibility is creating content that drives demand at the top of the funnel.

Lead Nurturing from Joe Chernov

joe-chernovIf there’s a “blind spot” in the SEO professional’s mirror, it’s lead nurturing.

I know what you are thinking: “Lead nurturing! What the hell is lead nurturing? Whatever it is, it sounds about as far removed from SEO as any buzzword I’ve ever heard.” But hear me out. Lead nurturing is the yin to the SEO’s yang.

SEO is ultimately about getting more of the right people to visit a website. Lead nurturing is about moving each of these visitors down the path to purchase. It’s a process designed to supply prospects with relevant, timely content based on each individual’s unique profile and interests.

Simply put, lead nurturing is the perfect complement to SEO because while search fills the “big end” of the purchase funnel, nurturing helps move prospects down to the “small end.” For more information on this subject, download Eloqua’s free guide to lead nurturing.

Joe Chernov is VP of content marketing for Eloqua. He is best known for developing, in collaboration with JESS3, The Content Grid, The Blog Tree and The History of SXSW infographics, The Future of Revenue animated video, and The Social Media Playbook.

Public Relations from Larry Kim

larry-kimThe most important B2B Marketing skill an SEO should master is by far Public Relations. For example, this summer we created a study about the most expensive keywords on Google AdWords – it was our biggest SEO initiative ever, and the success of the effort relied on good old-fashioned media outreach to outlets like Wired Magazine, CBS and The Guardian (etc.) in order for it to get picked up.

And of course both PR agencies and SEO copywriters are always trying to place contributed articles. I truly believe that SEO and PR go hand-in-hand and that an SEO can’t really be successful without help or buy-in from the PR team to help operationalize big SEO projects.

Larry Kim is the Founder and CTO of WordStream, provider of the AdWords Grader .

Strategic B2B Marketing Planning from Anna Barcelos

anna-barcelosSEO is one of several marketing channels that B2B organizations utilize. According to the 2011 B2B Outlook, a survey conducted by Ipsos OTX for Google, B2B marketers allocated 5 percent each of their budgets to SEO and search engine marketing last year. A large portion of B2B marketing budgets are still allocated to traditional media channels, while investment in online marketing channels is expected to increase in upcoming years.

As B2B marketers look to both offline and online channels for lead generation and customer retention, SEO firms need to take a more holistic approach and find ways to leverage SEO efforts across all channels.

Anna Barcelos is the Director of Client Solutions at ten24 Web Solutions, a web development and content marketing services firm. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.