Whether you’ve hired a search marketing agency or are using in-house resources, how do you know if your B2B SEO expert is doing a great job? Three simple questions that all business marketers should ask about their B2B SEO program are:
- How does our SEO plan differ from a consumer-oriented (B2C) SEO program?
- Specifically what B2B SEO methodologies are you implementing?
- How does the SEO program directly contribute to my business goals and marketing objectives?
1. Unique Aspects Of Your B2B SEO Plan
Evaluate your expert’s understanding of your specific B2B market. Ensure that you are not getting a one-size-fits-all solution. While many fundamental elements of SEO implementation remain the same for B2B and B2C websites, make sure your SEO partner understands the ways in which you want to engage your business audience.
Specifically, do they understand your customers’ research and buying process? Ask your expert about how your SEO Plan and Keyword Map addresses searcher behavior at each phase of the buying cycle.
Typical B2B Buying Cycle Process
Is your SEO expert optimizing for the following types of search phrases:
- General market research terms
- Product/service evaluation phrases
- Purchase-ready queries
Here is a sampling of keywords from a SEO Plan that spans all buying cycle steps for an ERP software company:
|General Market Research Terms||Product Evaluation Terms||Purchase-Ready Terms|
|ERP softwareERP software whitepaper||ERP product comparison chart||ERP software pricingERP service agreement|
2. Review Specific Methodologies
While this may seem like a basic question, it is important to remain well informed as to specifically what your B2B SEO expert is doing on your behalf. Is their SEO implementation plan in line with the guidelines set forth by the search engines? Does the plan focus on the tasks which are most impactful to your business? Also known as “white hat”, strategies that do not violate these guidelines can be very effective.
Things like improving the quality of your site’s content, removing any road blocks to search engine access, ensuring appropriate page load speeds, creating compelling Title tags (note I use the word compelling – not “full of keywords”) all fall within the scope of acceptable practices. If your SEO professional is not willing to share their methodologies, that should be a major red flag.
In particular, you should ask about any link-building efforts they have underway. The search engines, especially Google, have taken steps in the last year to weed out sites that have used unfavorable methods for link-building.
I recommend that you ask your SEO expert these 4 specific link-related questions:
- Specifically where are the links being placed? Can they provide a list of URLs?
- Why are those websites/blogs/forums placing a link to your website?
- Is the content on the website directly related to the link?
- Does the link have marketing value or is it only there for a potential impact on rankings?
It is essential to know that you are in complete compliance with the search engine guidelines, specifically where links are concerned. Links should be on credible websites that are topically related to your own website.
Links should not be purchased (this is not the same as advertising on a website, which is fine as long as it is clearly defined as an advertisement). And a link from any website should provide assistance to marketing and branding efforts – not just to help boost rankings.
Search Engines take offense to anyone trying to “game the system” by violating their guidelines. Even Google had to penalize itself when a vendor violated quality guidelines to promote Google Chrome.
In order to protect your brand, reputation and organic traffic, it is imperative to have full disclosure from your SEO expert on their efforts. If they are unwilling to comply with this request, it is probably time to part ways.
3. Measurable Impact On Business Goals & Marketing Objectives
It can be easy to get side tracked by ranking for your “money phrase” and lose sight of the things that directly impact the success of your SEO efforts. While rankings are the means to an end (increased rankings should lead to increased traffic), the more important factor is whether or not the organic traffic is qualified.
Are they engaging with your website? Is your lead generation improving? It is essential to keep your “eye on the ball” by clearly defining what success looks like to your B2B company.
For example, user engagement on your website is likely a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). The amount of time a user spends learning about your company can directly impact their next steps in your buying cycle.
Here are some important B2B SEO metrics to consider:
- Amount of time organic visitors spend on the site when searching with branded vs. non-branded keywords/phrases.
- Volume of returning visitors using branded phrases in their search queries.
- Critical engagement steps such as viewing a case study or downloading a whitepaper.
- Organic conversion funnels, events and goals.
Due to the complexity of the sales process generally associated with many B2B websites, calculating ROI on a SEO program is far more difficult than with an ecommerce site with clear revenue tracking.
Businesses generally do not make “impulse buys”; therefore, they spend a lot of time understanding their needs, assessing possible solutions, and comparing options before engaging/purchasing.
By understanding the goals of your SEO program and clearly communicating what you consider to be the KPIs of your website in relation to the buying cycle of your service or product, your SEO partner should be able to demonstrate their success (or failure). If your SEO expert is a true pro, they will also constantly suggest ways to improve upon your KPIs.
Ensure B2B SEO Success
If your SEO professional can answer these questions to your satisfaction, you can be comfortable that you are in good hands. You are holding them accountable, understanding their practices for SEO implementation, and ensuring they are focused on the goals and objectives of your company. I recommend that you ask these questions of your SEO expert on at least a quarterly basis to confirm that your SEO program stays on track and is successfully meeting your business goals.