Pardot recently announced the launch of their 2013 State of Demand Generation Report, surveying 400 B2B buyers and 138 B2B companies to get insight into their demand generation habits and best practices.
As the concept of demand generation takes greater hold in online marketing discussions, here are critical points B2B SEO professionals need to consider, based on select research highlights and evolving trends.
What Is Demand Generation?
Demand generation as a concept is meant to cover all marketing initiatives that drive awareness of a company and it's products and solutions. Demand generation is sometimes confused with lead generation, but the latter is more focused on building the sales funnel and arguably places less relevance on initiatives that are not directly related to that effort (such as brand development).
image Credit: Online Demand Generation – Strategy and Metrics
Here are a few popular definitions of demand generation:
- Demand generation covers all marketing activities that create awareness about your product, company and industry. It includes a mix of inbound and outbound marketing. via LeadFormix
- Focused on targeted marketing programs, demand generation drive awareness and interest in a company's products and/or services. Predominant in BtoB marketing, demand generation marries marketing programs and structures sales processes. via DemandGenReport
- Create, nurture, and manage buying interest through campaign management, lead management, marketing analysis, and data management. via Eloqua
SEO plays a key role in demand generation initiatives because of the significance of organic search traffic and leads as a percentage of total inbound marketing efforts. I would also argue that a B2B SEO strategy can gain even more traction when marketers take into consideration link building and social media impact in outbound sales efforts as well (example: link placement in tradeshow sponsorships or 301 redirects when using "marketing friendly" promotional links).
In Pardot's launch of their demand generation Report, three key findings highlighted the announcement and should catch the B2B SEO professional's attention.
1. Search Engines (Google) Dominate First Phase Research
Finding: 72 percent of product research for a future business purchase begins on Google.
While this finding is a major boon for B2B SEO professionals a critical component to continued strategic buy-in for SEO is performance metric development. As illustrated in a recent MarketingSherpa article, even though organic search can be a significant contributing channel for lead volume, a fair percentage B2B marketers are skeptical of SEO in particular. Google's recent move to encrypted search by default, rendering all keyword traffic "(not provided)", certainly complicates measurement as well.
Ray "Catfish" Comstock just wrote a column on moving forward with SEO in a "(not provided)" world and I've also talked about performance measurement late last year.
At a high level, evolving benchmarks SEO professionals need to consider include:
- Developing multiple levels of conversion goals
- Integration of lead scoring universally and specific to SEO leads
- Web traffic performance measurement and comparisons between channels
- Integration of Google and Bing Webmaster Tools report evaluation, especially when considering significant "(not provided)" traffic percentages.
Bottom line: inbound marketing analysis of search engine performance is an even greater component of significance for SEO professionals. "(Not provided)" is an inconvenience but doesn't really restrict our ability to demonstrate impact of SEO initiatives.
2. Content Must Be Optimized Across Buying Stages
Finding: 76 percent of buyers prefer different content at each stage of their research.
I've been a proponent of content marketing for quite some time, but content solely for the sake of SEO is short-sighted. Marketers have a better understanding of the fact that content marketing assets need to be built with multiple goals for lead development in mind.
SEO professionals can be more valuable in the research and measurement components of content marketing development, regardless of its place in the sales funnel.
For example, Google Webmaster Tools report on search queries provides SEO professionals with insight into phrases visitors used to find content marketing assets on site. This data can be used to make more informed decisions on new content assets to create and SEO performance of optimized pages as well.
Coupling this information with conversion metrics in Google Analytics or marketing automation solution provides a more complete picture of SEO, content marketing, and ROI.
For content assets meant more for brand awareness, SEO professionals can tie in inbound link reports (such as Google Webmaster Tools) and reporting data from social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. I wrote about the advancement of reporting elements in social media platforms in a recent blog post as well.
3. Technological Innovation Creates Opportunity & Challenges for B2B SEO
Finding: 76 percent of the top 17 SaaS companies are already using marketing automation.
While this finding might not have significant face value to B2B organizations outside of this industry niche, what's important for B2B SEO professionals to takeaway is that marketers are gaining greater access to information related to buyer behavior. Technological innovation puts every marketing program into the spotlight for scrutiny in effectiveness.
B2B SEO professionals need to stay aware of the vendors developing new resources for marketing performance management, gaining at least high level understanding of features and functionality. Destinations for research directly related to Search Engine Watch include ClickZ's Stats and Tools section, ClickZ Intel for white papers across marketing disciplines, and the Online Marketing Institute.
Demand generation is a concept B2B SEO professionals need to understand because of the impact (or lack of impact) we can have in the process. While tactical SEO is a given, taking ownership of performance initiatives around the success of demand generation initiatives, with an emphasis on organic search, is also important.
Are your SEO initiatives coinciding more closely with broader demand generation initiatives? I would love to read your perspective via comments below.