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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.

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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 www.straightnorth.com, 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.