SEO Mistakes B2B Marketers Must Avoid

I’m pleased to welcome guest blogger Brad Shorr to share his insight on one of today’s most important B2B marketing topics — SEO.


For B2B marketers wishing to use search engine optimization (SEO) as a source of qualified leads, the most crucial element to remember is to think long term. “SEO campaign,” a phrase we often hear, is a misnomer. While a campaign has a beginning and an end, SEO should be ongoing. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Organizations that commit to SEO long term with sustainable budgets are the ones that obtain the best results – as reported by Shari Thurow on her ClickZ post “Short- vs. Long-Term SEO.”

SEO ChartThe primary purpose of SEO programs for B2B marketers is to generate sales leads. Although this may sound obvious, many B2B marketing organizations lose sight of this purpose and instead focus on rankings or traffic. Both of these strategic goals are dead wrong.

In a Search Engine Journal article, “The Evolution of SEO Metrics,” Sam McRoberts explains that organic search has too many variables for rankings to have any meaning. Google and Bing evaluate a user’s location, his or her personal search history, and the type of search the user is conducting – video search, news search, etc. What this adds up to is that each user sees a different set of results; what ranks number one for me may be totally different from what ranks number one for you.

An interesting recent test – “Experiment Shows Up To 60% Of ‘Direct’ Traffic Is Actually Organic” – shows that search traffic is more helpful than rankings, but is becoming a rather fuzzy number. It can be misleading as an indicator of whether an SEO program is doing anything useful for a business.

More traffic does not always equate to more sales leads. For instance, a widget manufacturer could publish a blog post about a trending media story and experience a significant spike in traffic – with not a single one of those visitors having any interest in doing business.

When B2B marketers overcome this fundamental mistake and focus with laser intensity on lead generation, all of the other common SEO mistakes become obvious. Here are three of the most critical:

  1. Companies focused on rankings tend to optimize around highly popular keywords. On Search Engine Watch, Grant Simmons states that companies focused on lead generation optimize around specific keywords where the user intent to do business is high.
  2. Companies focused on traffic tend to have massive amounts of content on their websites to hit as many keywords as possible. Companies focused on lead generation have compact, structured content and powerful calls to action, giving visitors an easy path to take the next step in establishing a business relationship. Review this Hubspot post – “What Is a Call-to-Action? [FAQs]” – for a clear understanding of how to choose and communicate a good “call to action.”
  3. Companies focused on lead generation have the ability to track the sources of their phone inquiries and form inquiries (e.g., forms visitors submit on the company site). Unless a firm knows where its leads originated, it cannot evaluate how well its SEO program is performing compared to its other marketing activities.

One final mistake: Although few B2B marketers implement reliable form- and phone-tracking on their sites, fewer still have the ability to validate these inquiries. The key is to realize that not all inquiries are sales leads. For example, a contact form submission could be a sales lead – but it could also be a sales solicitation, a customer inquiry or spam. If the company considers all inquiries to be sales leads, it will overestimate the performance of its SEO – and probably any other Internet marketing activities it has underway.

Everything in the B2B world hinges on a sound strategy and attention to detail in the execution. SEO is not an exception – a strategic focus on lead generation makes it possible to distinguish important tactical activities and metrics from those that don’t really matter.

About the Author: Brad Shorr is the B2B Marketing Director of, an SEO firm headquartered in Chicago. Brad writes frequently on B2B marketing topics and his articles are regularly featured on Forbes, AllBusiness and Carol Roth.

1-Minute Quiz May Reveal Your Best B2B Marketing Tool

In the early days of this B2B marketing blog I wrote a post about social media called “Getting over our own marketing bias.”

In the post I clearly stated that I didn’t “get” social media. I couldn’t see what benefits it brings to B2B marketing. Of course, because I recognize my bias, I work hard to read about and understand the value of social media and be open minded about its value to integrated B2B marketing strategies.

DM BiasToday’s big bias on the part of most B2B marketers, however, is against direct mail marketing.

B2B marketers who do not properly test this channel for lead generation are being as narrow-minded as I was about social media. I’m here to help them get over this bias with this quick Quiz. It’s designed to help B2B marketers discover if their bias is getting in the way of their marketing success.

Answer these seven quick questions now and see the result at the bottom.

  1. My company sells B2B products or services into definable universes that can be classified using firmagraphics such as industry, number of employees, annual sales, years in business, etc.
  2. My marketing budget can cover a cost of $1 to $5 per contact to generate a direct response from qualified prospects.
  3. I want the opportunity to generate 1% to 2% response to my lead generation efforts.
  4. I am willing to spend more than $5 per contact for the opportunity to generate as much as a 10% response rate of qualified prospects.
  5. I can cover the cost of a $25,000 direct mail campaign by making just one or two sales.
  6. I have a list of respondents to my other marketing programs that I haven’t been able to reach via phone or email.
  7. Sales has identified a finite number of top prospects with whom they want to have a conversation.

If B2B marketers answer “yes” to just one of these seven B2B marketing questions, I can pretty much guarantee that their company is missing what could easily be one of its most productive marketing tools.

Why B2B marketers must read this book on lead generation.

The title of David Scott’s new book “The New Rules of Lead Generation: Proven Strategies to Maximize Marketing ROI” is a bit misleading. It doesn’t just cover the new rules of lead generation marketing that involve LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. It covers all the channels and all the practices necessary to achieve successful B2B marketing lead generation.

As the CEO and founder of Marketfish, David Scott knows his stuff. When he tookScott Book marketing courses at the Wharton School, all he learned about was brand marketing. Thrown into a B2B marketing position when the CMO left the $3.5 billion publicly traded software company where he worked, he had to learn fast. Over the years he has discovered the value of data, testing and measurement for all channels. He now shares his knowledge and experience in this comprehensive lead generation marketing handbook.

B2B marketers must read and share this book if they:

  • Have been so focused on entering social media — or any other single media or tactic — that other necessary lead generation channels have been neglected.
  • Want a comprehensive refresher course on B2B marketing best practices to ensure that nothing valuable has been missed.
  • Have beginners on their team who need to learn what effective lead generation is all about.
  • Need to better understand the importance of data, brand, B2B marketing math and all the other elements that turn million-dollar companies into multi-billion-dollar companies.
  • Are worried that they’re missing one of the seven most successful lead-generation approaches that companies are using today.
  • Have budget limitations and want to focus lead gen dollars on tactics that can maximize the return.
  • Want a handy list of how-tos on any aspect of lead generation marketing.

Highly readable and very informative, this book doesn’t miss a beat. I recommend it for every member of every B2B marketing team — beginner or expert — wanting to maximize the success and the ROI of their company’s lead generation.

Steps #2-6 in creating ideal B2B lead generation copy.

My previous post covered the first and most important step in any B2B marketing copy for successful outbound B2B lead generation. That first step is the most important as it must contain the information necessary to make a connection with the prospect.

Once the B2B lead generation opening statement “gets the prospect” or “hooks them in,” there are ???????????????????six more copy steps necessary for moving that prospect to action — that is, generating a response.

Here are the remaining steps in order:

Step #2 — Make the B2B marketing offer, then immediately make the first call to action.
The reader is busy and needs to absorb the message in seconds. If the opening line says, “This message is for you,” then the next should present the content offer and the call to action. If the prospect does not read another line, the entire message has been communicated.

Step #3 — Expand on the benefit of responding to the content offer.
The next section is necessary for the prospects who want to know more before responding. This is the place to put a very brief or bulleted list of what they will learn from reading this valuable FREE information, attending this Webinar, accepting this private demo, etc.

The content of this section is often exactly what the product being sold can deliver. But, by not mentioning the product by name, the message does not come off as a sales pitch. If people think they are being “sold” and not “informed,” response rates will drop.

Step #4 — Repeat the call to action and then add a plug, if applicable.
If the information being offered is a published book or a report by an independent third party, that should be mentioned the first time the offer is made. However, if the information is compiled by the B2B marketing company, this is where that company can take a very brief bow. This might be, “This infographic has been compiled by XYZ Company, a leader in ….”

Step #5 — Close the communication.
Traditionally, in direct mail, the close would include a statement of what the prospect would lose by not responding. In the case of offering free information, what is lost is the opportunity to learn what the information covers. The purpose of the campaign is to get the prospect to request the offer. So the close should repeat the call to action and the main benefit.

Step #6 — Always add a P.S.
Since the opening line and the P.S. remain the most-read sections of personal communications, a P.S. should contain the offer or a secondary incentive to respond. Busy B2B prospects need to get the entire message as quickly as possible. Using this tactic in the P.S. helps accomplish that.

Keep B2B marketing copy simple; keep it short
Whatever is written, the message should eliminate any need for the prospect to have to think. Outbound B2B marketing should never make the prospect think — just react and act on what is being offered.

Step #1 in creating ideal B2B lead generation copy.

After a short stint writing copy at an ad agency, I discovered the world of B2B direct marketing. The difference that made me love it is that B2B direct marketing requires an action on the part of the prospect or customer — so every dollar that’s spent is trackable.

Step 1 Lead Gen. Ltr.Early on in my B2B marketing copywriting career, a colleague recommended that I read Successful Direct Marketing Methods by Bob Stone (later Bob Stone and Ron Jacobs). It was from that book that I learned the foundation of B2B marketing lead generation best practices that I still use today. It still works and it’s a perfect formula generating outbound B2B marketing lead generation sent by email or snail mail.

There are six important steps in the perfect B2B marketing lead generation copy. Here is the first.

Step #1 — Open B2B lead generation messages with copy that addresses the prospect’s biggest pain.

In the B2B marketing lead generation world, testing continues to show that HTML-designed emails and direct marketing mailers that are heavily designed do not perform as well as text emails or traditional letters in #10 envelopes.

When using text emails or traditional letters, the opening line is the most-read part of any B2B lead generation copy. This opening sentence needs to focus on the most significant pain suffered by the prospect group in relation to the product or service being marketed. Basically, this is the approach that gets the prospects’ attention and lets them know that the message is for them.

As long as their #1 pain is being addressed, the context of the opening can take many forms, as Joan Throckmorton outlined in her book Winning Direct Response Advertising.

  1. Directly address the pain in a generic form: “Tracking labor hours for employees across the globe is a huge challenge.”
  2. Start with an invitation: “You are invited to discover how you can simplify the tracking of labor hours for your employees across the globe.”
  3. Use a quotation: “According to a recent Business Week survey of CFOs, ‘68% of global companies identify employee labor hour tracking as their biggest challenge.'”
  4. Identify your prospect: “As CFO of ABC Company, you know that tracking labor hours for employees across the globe is a huge challenge.”
  5. Take an if/then approach: If you’re looking to simplify the tracking of labor hours for employees across the globe, then . . . .
  6. Ask a question: “Are you feeling overwhelmed by the time and cost involved in tracking employee labor hours for employees across the globe?” I personally do not like this approach because questions force readers to think. As I’ve covered in earlier posts, B2B marketers don’t want prospects thinking. We want them to intuitively react to the message.
  7. Be negative and instill fear: The inability to accurately track labor hours for employees across the globe can have a huge negative impact on your bottom line.”
  8. Build a fantasy: Imagine gaining a 20% increase in revenue by being able to accurately track labor hours of employees across the globe.
  9. Open with an analogy: Find out how today’s financial executives are handling labor hour tracking more easily than putting on their shoes in the morning.
  10. Tell a story: “In November of 2012, John Smith, CFO of XYZ Company, discovered a painless way to handle the tracking of labor hours of employees across the globe.”

Which of these approaches to choose will depend on what type of content or information is being offered. Next week, I’ll cover Step #2 on how this opening can lead instantly into the offer of content with information to help the prospect see how they can overcome their pain.

Making B2B marketing landing pages something to CRO about.

The content in an online session I recently attended made me very happy. The session was about maximizing and tracking online conversions. These efforts are now referred to as CRO — for Conversion Rate Optimization.

What made me happy was that the session confirmed that the landing page best practices I know are still valid based on current and extensive testing.

Many of my B2B marketing clients have a prospect universe that is too small to run statistically valid testing. So I continue to recommend that these B2B marketers follow the tested learnings of others, as that is their best way to maximize conversions.

Here are the landing page best practices that were confirmed in this session, plus a few I learned during a session at the recent Direct Marketing Association‘s annual conference:

  • Having only one “call to action” on a landing page creates a 240% higher conversion rate.
  • Having the landing page take more than 5 seconds to load drops conversion by 47%.
  • Visitors have a 3-second attention span. Redirects on a landing page create a 37% higher abandon rate.
  • Forms must take way less than 45 seconds to fill out.
  • Every added field on a landing page form loses 6% more registrations.
  • Using the same images on the email and the landing page raises conversion by 20%.
  • Having the landing headline match the PPC ad headline is a must; otherwise, the B2B marketing effort looks like a come-on and not a legitimate offer.
  • The word “Click here” continues to substantially outperform the word “Submit” on the landing page action button.
  • Simplifying the messaging and the presentation lifts conversions. Copy and design should direct the prospect to what they are to do and not distract them with too much on the page.

It’s smart for B2B marketers with a large enough prospect universe to test various landing page approaches and designs for themselves. But following the above rules consistently shows the highest CRO. So, testing or not, I suggest that these are the best CRO practices to follow.

Outbound calling works in B2B marketing and I can prove it.

For a long time, I’ve been requesting a guest post from Leeann Raymond, Director of Operations & Sales at Business to Business Marketing (B2B), but she’s been way too busy to fit it into her schedule. So I finally got wise and asked if I could just interview her. She agreed and now I’m pleased to share with everyone something I’ve been wanting to illustrate in this blog for years — that outbound calling campaigns (done professionally) are powerful and productive in B2B marketing.

I started the interview by mentioning to Leeann how I regularly see posts on LinkedIn or on blogs that calling, especially cold calling, is dead (along with direct mail, email and everything else marketers did before social media).

She then related a story of a sales call she had made to a CEO to sell her company’s outbound calling services. When she got him on the phone, he said, “I don’t want to do it because calling doesn’t work.” Her response made for rather a “duh” moment when she replied, “I just called you and you’re the CEO of your company. If our outbound calling services didn’t work, we wouldn’t be able to stay in business.”

I then immediately asked, “Does it always work?” She responded, “In 12 years, I can count on one hand programs that didn’t work. In each case the problem was primarily oversaturated markets.”

So here are two of the 12 years of case studies she shared. She asked me not to name the actual companies because we’re including specific data from their campaigns.

Case Study #1 involved making calls to physician practices and medical testing centers on the part of a leading provider of healthcare technologies. During the process of the campaign, the client sent regular call reports with input on leads so the direction of the calling message could be shifted as necessary.

Engagement: 90 days

Goals: Determine if there was enough demand to support a sales force focusing on a non-hospital market for their products, and also to generate incremental sales.

Calling List: Provided by the client


  • Conducted 675 hours of calling in 3 months, making a total of 9112 calls
  • Reached 2047 individuals, with 22% of reached prospects resulting in conversations
  • Generated 161 sales-accepted leads, i.e. leads that were validated by the sales team as workable, with 7% of the conversations resulting in qualified leads
  • Created a pipeline of over $5.5 million in sales in the 90 days, based on a typical sale of $150,000
  • Total campaign cost: $29,722
  • Total cost per qualified lead: $134; sales qualified leads were defined as having the name of decision maker, a company with a stated need, budget, and time-frame to purchase

Case Study #2 was for a company selling a cost-saving financial technology tool marketed to CFOs or VPs of Finance at companies with $1 billion or more in revenue. The B2B prospects were at companies where one would think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to reach a decision maker by phone. These included Nike North America, Sony Music Entertainment, Verizon, Dell Computer, Southwest Airlines, Motorola, Whole Foods and the list goes on.

Engagement: 12-month program

Goal: Set up five to 10 appointments per month for individual sales people, including managing the sales person’s calendar, sending out Outlook® meeting invites, getting confirmations and updating the sales person’s calendar. These additional steps were all necessary, as sales people were on the road non-stop traveling to appointments.

Calling List: Obtained by Business to Business Marketing to match the client’s selected criteria.


  • Made 29,078 calls
  • Calls resulted in 332 appointments — meeting and often exceeding the monthly goal
  • Made 914 presentations, of which 17% turned into appointments
  • Client did not share actual sales data; however, they tracked results and, in over a year of working with them, the client reported that a total of only 17 appointments were not qualified

Leeann says that, even when callers are reached and are not immediately productive, the call can still be used to gather important information such as the name of the decision maker. She recalled one prospect that was spending $100,000 a quarter to send out a fancy mailer and getting nothing. B2B Marketing suggested that the company let B2B call in advance of the next mailing to find out why. The calls revealed that 50% of data was wrong. The company had been wasting half of their budget.

She said, “We generate 70% of our business from cold-calling.”

There’s virtually no limit to the options available in this channel:

  • List building or list clean-up
  • Lead generation
  • Appointment setting
  • Event attendance confirmations — advanced calling has proven to increase attendance by 20% to 30%
  • Research
  • Nurturing
  • Following up leads from trade shows — post-event follow-up
  • Qualifying SEO leads, customer touch
  • Upselling and cross-selling
  • Marketing new offerings
  • Just keeping in touch with customers

I can hear some readers responding to this blog with, “We don’t have the money or time to make thousands of calls to get the results we want.” But that’s not the point of these examples. The point is, B2B decision makers can still be reached via phone and it’s still well worth the effort to include calling in the marketing and sales process.

About Business to Business Marketing: Business to Business Marketing has been conducting outbound calling for complex business-to-business offerings since 1999. Their second division MedContacts specializes in outbound calling for companies selling products to the healthcare market.

B2B marketing: How B2B marketers can maximize open rates.

My colleague, James Pennington of Anderson Direct Marketing, a full-service direct marketing agency, was recently helping a B2B marketing client build their marketing strategy for a new product. In the process, he related this story, which some readers may not find amusing. Yet it’s true.

“I was attending a social media presentation in which the speaker spent time bashing traditional direct mail marketing by stating the fact that 44% of direct mail was not opened and got tossed directly into the trash. After hearing this statement, I raised my hand and asked, ‘Does that mean that 56% of it does get opened? That seems pretty terrific to me. What’s the open rate on email?’ The presenter answered 10% and there was some serious buzz kill in the room.”

In the B2B marketing world, direct mail marketing is still the most effective channel for generating leads and it is still cost-effective for companies selling higher priced products with long buy cycles.

Although it has a valuable place in integrated marketing, email marketing typically cannot produce the lead generation, open rates and response rates of direct mail.

Here are a few of those stats:

  • Prospecting emails to fresh lists typically get open rates of 9%-15% and click-through rates (CTRs) of 2.8%-3.2%. Marketo views open rates of 16%-20% as top performers. The average CTR per Marketo is 2.1%-5% with 5.1%-10% viewed as top performers.
  • A newsletter to a B2B house list is getting open rates of 18%-22% and CTRs of 3%-11%. This is consistent with MarketingSherpa‘s 2010 Email Marketing Benchmark Report in which 1,500 survey respondents reported an average open rate of 23% for B2B newsletters and an 11% CTR.
  • Follow-up emails to webinar or event attendees get an open rate of 31% and CTR of 55%.

B2B marketers looking to maximize open rates and fill their pipeline with qualified leads might want to include the still very powerful and productive direct mail marketing channel.

How to spend your B2B marketing summer.

Are B2B buyers making buying decisions in the summer? Surveying my network of B2B marketers and vendors the answer is generally no, with the possible exception of industries that have deadlines tied to government regulations.

Some B2B marketers may have different experiences, but summer has always been a historically slow time due to vacation absences. In that light, should marketers reduce their efforts in the summer because response rates to B2B lead acquisition and nurturing offers will tend to be a lot lower? Or should efforts increase in the summer because it takes more effort to generate more demand?

It’s been proven that companies that increase their marketing efforts during economic downturns recover faster and gain a larger share of the market when the economy does recover. With that in mind, here are the issues B2B marketers should consider in relation to marketing during the summer months.

  1. Increased summer efforts are likely to boost visibility and response rates in the fall. For B2B marketers needing to produce a steady flow of leads, marketing more in the summer may be a necessity.
  2. For B2B marketers with long buy cycles, less effort in the summer could result in producing a few months of poor sales months down the road.
  3. Increasing spending to generate a constant flow of leads and sales through slow summer months will result in a higher cost per lead and cost per sale. It’s important for B2B marketers to do the math and make sure those increases are acceptable.
  4. Added buyer incentives during summer months may help increase summer sales.
  5. Increased summer efforts are likely to boost visibility and response rates in the fall.
  6. If other B2B marketers are doing less, those doing more should get better visibility and attention.

With the 2012 summer more than half over, B2B marketers may not be able to take any action one way or the other this year. However, this is the time for B2B marketers to determine if they are experiencing seasonal slow-downs and be ready to respond appropriately for the summer of 2013.

Great B2B content deserves greater B2B marketing.

As a B2B marketer trying to pay attention to what other marketers are doing, I see so much stuff that it’s hard to really grab my attention, but someone did today and I’m excited to share it with you.

It’s not a new idea, but I rarely see it used — and in this case it was done so very well. The offer is educational content. There’s nothing new or exciting about that. What was so well done, though, was how they got me to download it.

The sender was Symantec, which now owns VeriSign. The B2B content offer was a white paper on “Best Practices and Applications of TLS/SSL.”

The email grabbed me at the subject line by saying, “Take the trivia challenge. Get an 8GB USB.”

Sorry, but that’s a temptation I can’t resist — the challenge even more so than the flash drive. The headline in the email tempted me further with, “Think you’re smart about online security? Prove it.” How could I say no? How could anyone in IT not take this opportunity to prove to themselves, once again, how much they know?

After completing the challenge (I missed only two answers, which is probably pretty good for a non-techie), I receive a second email inviting me to download the white paper. The gift incentive made it more agreeable to fill out the short “who am I” form required.

The design was upbeat, the message short and clear, plus the campaign included an opportunity to generate an immediate inquiry by stating, “If you have any questions about online security, feel free to contact us at 1-XXX-XXX-XXXX or 1-XXX-XXX-XXXX, option 3.”

I don’t know how this campaign performed, but from my perspective, it followed most best practices. It effectively used the strong B2B marketing tactic — interaction. B2B marketers who can get their prospects “involved” in an activity with them and their brand are one step closer to building a connection and a relationship. It’s good marketing.