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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.

B2B marketing SEO meets the keyword monster.

Back in the old days (like childhood), being found was not a good thing. It involved the game of “Hide and Seek” and required finding imaginative hiding places that would confound your fellow gamers. Today, the game has turned into “Find Me, Find Me, Pleeeeease” or Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It’s a lot harder to play and not nearly as much fun — until you get found, that is.

I was optimistic the day I hired a team of pros to build and maintain SEO for my company Website. Their first step was to research the top search terms for my type of B2B marketing service business. When they sent me the list they had found, my response was “yikes.” It wasn’t anything like the keyword ideas I had sent them initially.

Who knew that people could conduct strange searches, use such off-the-wall wording, or have completely forgetton how to spell?

So how can a B2B marketing team put these strange, convoluted keyword phrases into the language on their Website copy without looking uneducated or downright sloppy?

Add connective words
Fortunately, it’s my understanding that Google and other search platforms ignore small words. So adding the words “in”, “to” or “the” inside a search term should not diminish its effectiveness and can turn an awkward phrase into something that can be placed comfortably into a sentence.

For example, a search term such as “sales training San Diego” can be more easily placed in a sentence by changing it to “sales training in San Diego.”

Hiding awkward SEO phrases.
Awkward phrases may be just fine for searching but they’re a bit of a nightmare in marketing messaging if the company wants to appear to have any brains. Sometimes, however, awkward SEO phrases can be bunched together in a less prominent paragraph and not appear to be quite so out of place:

“Whether you’re looking for donations direct mail political, a direct mail sample political campaign, political direct mail portfolio samples, donations direct mail political, or campaigns direct mail political — ABC agency has the experience and success you can count on.”

If a B2B marketer’s business includes keywords that are commonly misspelled and generate traffic, it’s important to include those in the site text as well. Fortunately, Google helps reduce the number of searches using misspellings with their familiar “Did you mean ______” generator. However, this does not correct 100% of the searches.

Many companies add “footnotes” or blocks of copy under the call to action on a Web page that incorporate misspelled words. They can first be presented spelled as the searcher might spell it, then correctly in parentheses afterwards as in this example:

“ABC Company is your best resource for interim buisness (business) managers . . .”

Maximizing SEO positioning does require longer copy on a page. But if the main points are highlighted in subtitles and communicated early in the copy, B2B marketers can help deliver effective communication and successful SEO.

The dollars and sense of inbound vs. outbound marketing.

The economic downturn over the past few years has driven many talented yet unemployed people to start their own businesses. These folks take their years of experience and offer it to other businesses through their own specialty consulting or service firm — a firm that they must then market.

Just such an individual contacted me last week. He wanted to generate leads and business via outbound email marketing; however, after learning that he has a few clients, a relatively short buy cycle and a very limited budget, I recommended that he use inbound marketing and supplement it with personal outbound phone calls to his highly targeted B2B market.

OUTBOUND
Email marketing is relatively low cost when a company has built a pipeline of leads and handles its own email distribution via marketing automation. But for outbound marketing (that is going to a targeted B2B list) the costs add up fast.

Quality outbound email marketing lists (those that are made of real subscribers to an online publication and are therefore fully opt-in and have been profiled) cost from $400-$700 per thousand. Most of these top-quality lists require a 5000-name minimum, which raises the list cost to $2000 to $3500. Marketing professionals, including me, recommend testing more than one list at a time. Testing allows marketers to learn which list performs best and gives them the insight to improve the success of each subsequent marketing effort. Testing just two lists brings the cost up to $4000-$7000. If a marketer wants to maximize the success of the program, the message should be written and designed by professionals, which adds to the cost as well.

As a result of these higher upfront costs, many marketers avoid the outbound direct mail channel. Yet it is still one of the most powerful channels for B2B lead generation if done according to best practices. That means that, for lead generation, the mailing quantity must be large enough to deliver a response rate that is statistically valid so the results are repeatable on future mailings. In the B2B world this could be a minimum of 10,000 prospects at a typical cost of $1 each and up. For companies selling high-end enterprise systems, this approach is affordable and productive. But not for small start-ups.

INBOUND
Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is very affordable for the small and start-up business. Good-quality Web site SEO can be obtained for as little as $250 per month. Pay-per-click ads — depending on the market, keywords, etc. — can range from as little as $250 to $1000 per month or more. The same general costs apply to content syndication. Social media costs little in dollars but can cost much in time for a one-person business if done properly. There are many other elements in a comprehensive inbound marketing program, but, for small start-ups, it’s a cost-effective option.

OUTBOUND AGAIN
In addition, however, I recommended that this new business owner not wait exclusively for inbound efforts to make his phone ring. I advised him to identify companies that meet his very targeted profile and pick up the phone and call them or send them individual letters.

As I’ve said many times before, no single marketing approach can stand on its own, B2B marketers. That’s why dollars and sense enter into our marketing decisions.

Two simple B2B marketing ideas I wish I’d thought of.

Sometimes I find the simplest things the most impressive. Maybe I’m just surprised that, because they are so simple, I hadn’t thought of them before.

the idea!I’ve come across two simple marketing ideas lately that I thought I would pass along as others may not have thought of them, either.

Simple Idea #1:
I discovered the first one when I was doing some online research and came across the Delivra site. Under “Getting Started” on the top navigation bar is a drop-down menu. One of the items on that menu says “Everything in one PDF.” When you choose that menu item, you are taken to a page with this headline:

Everything you want to know in one download.
Save it. Print it. Share it.

Then there’s a link entitled “Download the Delivra All-in-One Fact Sheet (PDF) >>.” This is so smart and so simple, it’s brilliant. I wrote a white paper about “Reaching Purchase Influencers” and suggest providing influencers with a one-sheet they can pass along to help influence decision-makers. But this 5-page PDF is significantly more powerful because it is not only well written, but it delivers a full sales story in one convenient package. Plus, Delivra tells just what to do with it — Save it. Print it. Share it. This device is not an afterthought deep in the Web site. It’s there up front, right on the first navigation tab.

I’m not personally familiar with Delivra, so this is not an endorsement of its services. But I think this one device shows excellent insight into how a marketer can make it easy for business people to get and share information, and I applaud them for it.

Simple Idea #2:
Many apologies to whoever wrote about this on a blog post or on LinkedIn, but I read this idea over a month ago and didn’t make note of where. The idea is to put an FAQ page on a BtoB Website to enhance SEO. FAQ’s are more typically used on consumer product Web sites to present product information in an easy-to-use, accessible format.

FAQs are not as frequently used in the B2B world, but offer two strong benefits to business:

  1. FAQ’s provide a long, copy-heavy format that allows for the insertion of keywords that might be awkward or too repetitive on other informational pages.
  2. The questions on an FAQ page can be answered in a friendlier, more casual tone that adds a personal touch to a B2B Website and makes the company seem more human.

My next Web site enhancements? The addition of FAQs and a “Save it. Print it. Share it.” doc. They’re both great, but simple, ideas. I wish I had thought of them.