In the early spring, a MarketingSherpa article highlighting the 2011 SEO benchmark report revealed that 20 percent of organizations surveyed had no process for performing SEO and 46 percent of marketers only had an informal process they randomly performed for their SEO programs.
Fast forward to the MarketingSherpa 2012 report and the numbers actually declinedin SEO marketing maturity among organizations surveyed.
- 21 percent of companies had no formal SEO process.
- 48 percent had an informal process; sporadically checked.
- Respondents with a formal process, with guidelines and routine initiatives declined 5 percent (from 34 percent to 29 percent)
After reviewing marketer insights with respect to each SEO maturity phase, I would argue a significant percentage of the “informal process” respondents were much closer to the “no process” side of the scale as well.
The Benefits of a Formal B2B SEO Process
MarketingSherpa's survey results support what experienced SEO professionals have known for quite some time. Organizations with a mature SEO marketing plan experienced better results with common SEO tactics and higher quality leads from their SEO initiatives.
What is a Formal B2B SEO Process?
If your organization is struggling with the development of a formal SEO program, this article provides eight questions B2B marketers must answer when considering process implementation. These questions address critical components of SEO strategy, which need to be considered when developing a formal SEO process.
1. Do you have agreement on core keyword targets?
Key stakeholders must be in agreement with keyword strategy and core keyword themes that SEO campaigns will revolve around. Keyword research provides the basis for establishing effective keyword targets and eliminating (or at least compromising) on vanity terms, that aren't driven by data.
2. Do you have your arms around the online assets already developed?
It isn't uncommon to find stray domains, microsites, or orphaned pages on a website, when auditing SEO strategy for a new client. B2B search engine marketers need to take inventory of the following online assets:
- Web pages on primary websites (and SEO properties such as HTML titles, meta descriptions, etc.)
- Domains (and sub-domains)
- Marketing and media collateral online
- Microsites and landing pages
While organizations should have centralized internal resources for domain administration and marketing collateral, free and premium tools like Xenu, Screaming Frog, and A1 Website Analyzer help crawl and organize website page assets and SEO properties.
3. Does your team understand the competitive landscape?
It's critical to realize your competition for SEO is often a mix of traditional and online organizations. You aren't only competing with product marketing initiatives that add a competitive advantage in the sales cycle, but content marketing initiatives that help websites acquire links and establish keyword strategy.
4. Do decision making personnel understand how their role and department can impact SEO?
While the website development team is an obvious first start, don’t forget the impact other departments can have on a SEO formal process.
- Marketing communications and social media for link acquisition and traffic building.
- Product marketing integrated with competitive SEO analysis.
- Strategic leadership must support SEO initiatives and keyword strategies.
5. Do you have performance KPI’s in place?
Search engine marketing benchmarks are critical for establishing business value. B2B marketers need to consider a combination of metrics that should incorporate keyword visibility, organic search traffic, lead generation, and overall campaign productivity.
These metrics need to be measured on a consistent basis. My suggestion is a combination of monthly, month-to-month, and year-over-year analysis and review.
6. Are your reporting metrics universally accepted?
This might seem like a no-brainer but in larger organizations, with several sites and site owners, web metrics may be run under different programs and priorities. Be certain to review web reporting tools, and the KPI’s which will need to be derived from them, across departments and business units.
7. Do you have internal communication strategies established?
Communication needs to be set with applicable stakeholders with respect to:
- Performance check-ins and status meetings
- Developments in product marketing and communication strategies
- SEO program review and refinement
The best B2B SEO programs keep all applicable parties aware of ongoing initiatives and program successes (and challenges), and provide communication back for continued development.
8. Do you have the proper support structure internally and externally?
Lastly, an SEO program is doomed to fail without the right support structure, which may include upper management and outside vendors and partners. At best, it is “difficult” to run a comprehensive SEO program for even a small organization as a solo practitioner (let alone if other responsibilities are on one’s plate).
The last piece of MarketingSherpa data I will leave you with is that while 84 percent of organizations surveyed ran at least portions of SEO strategy in-house, 30 percent recognized the need to leverage specialized resources (agencies and consultancies) when internal SEO resources were exhausted. SEO for B2B organizations rarely falls on the shoulders of just one individual anymore.
While this list of questions should be a good start, it is difficult to cover every aspect of a formal B2B SEO process, since organizations have individual requirements and processes already in place, that need to be considered. For example, some B2B organizations blend lead generation and e-commerce in their website experience, which would necessitate a much broader set of requirements.
Hopefully being able to answer (or find answers) to these questions will be a good starting point however, in shifting your organization from running an SEO program that is largely hit or miss, to one that can impact long-term business results.