For any business, consistently generating high-quality leads is often the biggest challenge hindering the business’s growth. However, arguably this lead generation challenge is even more prominent in B2B businesses targeting companies/organizations instead of individuals.
It’s natural for B2B businesses to have fewer leads/prospects than their B2C counterparts. Meaning, B2B businesses must pay extra attention to the quality of the leads and also must commit more efforts to win the prospect’s attention amidst the tight competition.
Unless you are a giant and established B2B enterprise like IBM or SAP, your prospects won’t automatically come to you, and you simply won’t survive without a clear and comprehensive lead generation strategy.
Despite all the newer marketing channels and techniques, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) remains one of the most powerful and cost-effective lead generation methods available, including for B2B businesses.
So, how should we use SEO for B2B lead generation?
In this ultimate guide to SEO lead generation for B2B businesses, we’ll learn together all you need to know about using SEO for B2B lead generation, including:
- What is lead generation? Why is it important?
- Unique lead generation challenges faced by B2B businesses
- The concept of SEO as a lead generation tool
- Key principles and best practices for developing a B2B SEO lead generation strategy
- A step-by-step guide to B2B SEO
Let us begin this guide right away.
Lead Generation for B2B: The Concept
What actually is lead generation?
To answer this question, we have to first define what a lead is for a business.
We can define a lead as an individual (or in the case of B2B, an organization/business) who has shown an interest in your product or service. The main indicator of interest is when this individual/business has submitted their contact information (i.e., email address) and gave their consent for your business to contact them.
Thus, lead generation is the efforts performed to convince people/businesses that might be interested in your product/service to submit their contact information.
While the basic idea of lead generation is relatively simple, in practice, lead generation can be a very complex process involving many different variables and channels.
Why Lead Generation is Important for B2B Businesses
Now that we’ve understood the concept of lead generation, why is it important, especially for B2B businesses?
Simply put, the more leads you can generate, the more of them that will potentially convert into actual purchasing customers. If you can’t generate enough leads, you won’t be able to move your prospects through the marketing funnel/buyer’s journey, and you simply won’t generate any new sales.
Even if your B2B business is doing well at the moment, if you don’t generate new sales, you are not growing, and sooner or later, your competitors will outpace you.
Yes, above anything else, it’s the quality of our products or services that will attract prospects, but it won’t do your business any good if your potential customers don’t know you exist.
Without a comprehensive lead generation strategy to target your ideal customers, you may direct your (expensive) marketing efforts to the wrong target audience, bringing in prospects that are not a good fit for your business.
In short, your marketing budget will go to waste.
If you want a successful and growing B2B business, having a sustainable influx of leads that are growing at a healthy rate is crucial.
What is SEO?
To really understand SEO’s role and effectiveness in lead generation, we have to first understand what SEO is.
SEO, as we know, stands for Search Engine Optimization, and in a nutshell, it is a series of optimizations made to a website and its content so it can rank higher on search engines’ (especially Google’s) results pages for relevant keywords.
When a user does a search for a certain query, Google and the other search engines will answer this search with pages they deem the most relevant for the searcher.
Google has its own search algorithm to determine the relevance of each web page for each search query. This algorithm will analyze the web page for hundreds of metrics (called ranking factors), and the more a web page fits these ranking factors, the higher it will rank.
SEO is simply optimizing a web page so it’s as aligned as possible to these ranking factors, so the web page can rank higher on the relevant search queries.
What Are The Ranking Factors?
We have discussed that SEO is optimizing a web page or website to align better with Google’s ranking factors.
So, to ensure an effective SEO strategy, we have to first know and understand what these ranking factors are.
It is believed that there are over 200 ranking factors considered by Google’s algorithm. Unfortunately, Google’s full list of ranking factors is kept secret, and only a handful of insiders really know this full list.
However, based on years of research and experience, the majority of SEO experts agree that the following ranking factors are the most important.
7 Most Important Ranking Factors for B2B Websites
1. Mobile-friendly website
It’s no secret that the majority of today’s internet users actively browse on their mobile devices, and many of them exclusively use these mobile devices to access the internet.
Google and the other search engines understood this phenomenon and are now prioritizing mobile-friendly/mobile-responsive web pages to rank higher on search results.
Meaning, if your website is not yet optimized for mobile, you risk getting ranked lower than it should or, in a worst-case scenario, not ranked at all.
You can use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to test whether your site is already mobile-friendly, but here are some general tips on how to optimize your site for mobile devices:
- If your site is WordPress-based, make sure to install a mobile-responsive theme that can automatically adjust to fit the user’s screen sizes
- Use large enough fonts to ensure readability on smaller devices
- Optimize the menu so that it’s easy to navigate on smaller devices
- If you are using forms, make sure it’s easy to fill them on mobile devices. Don’t include too many form fields
- Make sure the page’s content is not covered by ads when viewed on mobile devices. This is a common issue in automatic resizes, and you may need to test on as many devices as possible
2. Indexability and Security
Google will not rank websites they deem as not secure. Make sure the page is completely secure and not infected by malware. Especially make sure the page has SSL certificate (HTTPS) enabled.
If your website is not indexable/crawlable by Google’s bots (and the other search engines’), the page simply won’t rank.
Optimize the indexability of your website by:
- Make sure the website is properly coded. This shouldn’t be an issue if the website is built via reputable website builders/platforms (i.e., WordPress or Wix, etc.)
- Make sure to write a comprehensive XML sitemap listing all the pages on your website
- Make sure to properly configure your website’s robots.txt file to ensure all important pages are indexable. Also, configure robots.txt to prevent Google from crawling non-useful pages to maximize crawling efficiency.
3. Page Speed
Google prioritizes pages that load fast on both desktop and mobile devices.
It’s no secret that today’s internet users simply expect fast loading speed, and according to Google’s research, more than 50% of typical internet users will leave a website if it loads more than a mere three seconds.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to determine your website’s current state regarding speed and optimize it accordingly. Again, remember that your site should be fast on both desktop and mobile devices.
In 2018, Google launched a new algorithm focused on mobile page speed, so if your website is fast enough when loaded on desktop devices but not on mobile devices, it may be penalized.
4. Domain Authority
Although there’s still an ongoing debate regarding this factor, most experts believe that Google prioritizes older domains.
Meaning, if two websites, one is 1year old and the other is five years old, the latter tends to rank higher, assuming the other factors are exactly similar.
This is also supported by a recent study by Ahrefs that discovered how nearly 60% of sites that are ranked in the top 10 of Google searches are more than three years old, and very few sites that are less than a year old achieved that position.
Besides age, there are also other important factors that affect domain authority:
- Relevance and quality of content.
- The authority of the content’s creator (content written by a famous influencer with a lot of followers is perceived as more authoritative)
- Inbound links (or backlinks). The number of links to the page/content from other websites. The quality/authority of the source website also matters.
- Social shares and engagement. Social media mentions, likes, and shares, among others, can contribute to a content’s perceived authority.
5. Content Optimization
Google ranks the relevance and quality of your site’s content very highly when determining your page’s ranking, and here are some important things to pay attention to:
- Keyword optimization: the content must naturally include the target keyword(s) the page is aiming to rank for.
- Readability and structure: the content must be readable, attractive, and engaging. Make sure the structure/layout is optimal and use words that are easy to comprehend.
- Search intent: the content must also meet the searcher’s intent when they made this specific search query.
6. User Experience/Satisfaction
Since 2015, Google has utilized Rankbrain, its AI-driven search algorithm capable of analyzing various metrics to measure user experience and satisfaction when interacting with a web page.
Google especially analyzes three key metrics:
- Click-through rate: how many people click the search result pointing to your page. A high percentage of click-through rate means your META description is relevant to the searcher’s intent.
- Bounce rate: the percentage of users who quickly leave your page after they’ve clicked on a search result pointing to your page
- Dwell time: how long a website visitor stays on your web page/website. If they stay longer, it means your website is relevant to them.
If your page’s user experience metrics are high, then Google may boost your page’s position in the search rankings. Vice versa, if your page is already ranking relatively high but has a high bounce rate, its ranking can be demoted.
7. Link Profile
Google and the other search engines analyze links coming in and out of a web page to determine this page’s ranking.
Links are like votes of confidence in the digital world: when a website links another page, it’s saying that the linked website is credible and trustworthy.
As we can see, links coming to our website (backlinks or inbound links) are the most important when it comes to SEO. The more pages linking to our page, the higher this page will rank.
However, it’s crucial to also understand that the relevance and authority of the link source also matter. A link coming from an authoritative website in your industry will be worth more than ten links from low-quality, brand-new websites that are totally irrelevant to your niche.
With that being said, there are actually three different types of links that will determine your page’s search ranking:
- Inbound links: have been explained above. Getting more backlinks, especially from high-quality, authoritative sources, is one of, if not the most important focus in SEO.
- Outbound links: links from your page pointing to other websites. If your content is linking to authoritative sites with relevant content, Google will recognize these links and perceive your content as well-researched.
- Internal links: internal links refer to linking other pages that are still under your domain. Having an optimal internal linking structure can help Google understand the website’s structure and context, which can help improve the site’s overall authority.
SEO’s Role in Lead Generation
With that being said, SEO’s role as a lead generation tool is as follows:
- As a direct lead generation tool: When a web page ranks high enough (i.e., on the first page of the search results page), it will get more traffic. The more traffic a website gets, the more of them may potentially convert into leads.
- As an indirect lead generation tool: synergize with other marketing channels to generate even more leads from other sources beyond organic traffic.
For the rest of this guide, we will discuss direct and indirect lead generation for B2B businesses through SEO.
I. Direct B2B Lead Generation through SEO
As discussed, the objective of SEO as a lead generation tool is to drive new visitors to your website so that you can convert some (ideally, all) of these visitors into leads.
To achieve this objective, we have to optimize the website and its content to align as close as possible to the ranking factors, especially the eight we’ve covered above.
You can follow this step-by-step guide on how:
Step 1: Identifying your target leads
If you don’t know who your target audience is, you won’t be able to establish a clear SEO strategy.
As soon as possible, build a comprehensive buyer persona. A buyer persona is a semi-fictional model of your target audience, and you should try to gather as much information as you can about this target audience: behaviors, needs, interests, demographics data, interests, online habits, and so on.
Remember that as a B2B business, we are targeting companies/organizations rather than individuals, and most likely, there are multiple decision-makers with different roles involved in the purchase decision of each company.
You might need to build multiple buyer personas for each of these individuals. Ideally, you should also develop different models of the buyer’s journey for each of these buyer personas.
Step 2: SEO Audit
Before developing and executing your SEO strategy, it’s best to first perform a comprehensive SEO audit on your whole website to assess how it currently fares regarding SEO.
You can check out our full guide for SEO audit here, but you should especially evaluate:
- Indexation/crawl issues: use Google Search Console or other tools to identify any crawl or indexation issues.
- SSL certificate (HTTPS): evaluate whether your site’s SSL certificate is enabled and working properly.
- XML sitemap: make sure your site’s XML sitemap is properly formatted and optimized. Make sure it includes all your pages.
- Mobile-friendliness: use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to check whether your site has been properly optimized for mobile. Test on as many devices as possible.
- Page Speed: use Google’s PageSpeed Insights and other tools to evaluate your site’s page speed and identify potential issues related to load speed.
- Keyword opportunities: check whether your pages have ranked relatively high for certain keywords (i.e., 2nd or even 1st page)
- Robots.txt configuration: check whether your site’s robots.txt file has been configured properly. Make sure all important pages are crawlable and indexable, while you should also block non-important pages to maximize your site’s crawl budget.
- Cannibalization: assess whether there are two or more pages on your site that are competing with each other for the same keyword. Consider merging them.
Step 3: Keyword research
Once you’ve identified who your target audience is, the next step is to conduct keyword research.
The objective of SEO keyword research is to identify the search queries your target audience is searching for that your website can rank in.
There are three main principles to follow when performing keyword research for SEO:
- The keyword must be searched often by your target audience (or target audiences in a single company). You can determine this by measuring the monthly search volume.
- The keyword must be relevant to your B2B business. Obviously, not all keywords that are popular with your target audience are going to be relevant for your business.
- Based on your available budget and timeline, the competition for the target keyword must be manageable. If the competition for the keyword is too tight and pursuing it will be too expensive, it might not be worth it.
You can leverage various solutions and tools to assist your keyword research process, like the free Google Keyword Planner or premium tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs. Create a comprehensive list of the keywords you are going to target, and identify the potential search intent for each keyword.
Step 4: Content planning and creation
Once you’ve identified the target keywords you are going to pursue, you can start planning to develop content to target these keywords.
Content creation is obviously a pretty deep subject on its own, and there are various approaches you can use in developing SEO content.
Yet, the most basic approach is to do a Google search for the target keywords you’ve listed in the previous step and then analyze the top results. At least do an in-depth analysis for the top-3 results: length of the content, the topics they are covering, structure, etc.
Your job is to develop better content than these pages, and there are basically two main approaches you can try:
- Develop something better, more in-depth, more informative than these pages, or
- Develop something unique by covering the topic from a different angle
For competitive keywords, aiming to create unique content can be more accessible, but you can try both approaches depending on your timeline and available resources.
Based on your research, plan a comprehensive content calendar (ideally 1-year worth of calendar) that includes:
- Target keywords of the specific piece of content
- Topic and working title
- Who’s responsible for content creation
- Who’s responsible for publication and promotion
- Publication channel
- Development status (work in progress, published, revised)
- Timeline (when the content is going to be published)
- Promotion plan for each piece of content (for backlinks purposes and to drive traffic)
Focus on producing high-quality, informative content that is valuable for your target audience, and leave technical optimizations and promotions for the next steps.
Step 5: SEO optimization
Once you’ve successfully developed high-quality and relevant content, the next step is to optimize this content (and the website) to align with the Google search algorithm’s preferences.
Technical SEO optimization is a deep subject on its own, and you can check out our full guide to have a clearer picture. Also, remember that each piece of content is unique and may need unique optimization approaches.
Yet, here are some important optimizations you should focus on:
- Mobile-friendliness: again, remember that Google prioritizes sites that are mobile-friendly or mobile responsive.
- Page speed: make sure your site is properly optimized and loads fast.
- Indexability: make sure there are no crawl and indexability issues on your site.
- Keyword optimization: use your target keywords throughout the content. Make sure they are included naturally and focus on providing value for your human readers.
- Title tag: Your title should stay below 160 characters. Use your target keyword upfront if possible, but again, keep it natural.
- META description: again, include your target keyword upfront if possible, but focus on keeping your META description attractive and informative. Your META description will be the one displayed on the search result, and will affect the click-through rate.
Step 6: Link building
Again, the quantity and quality of backlinks (inbound links) pointing to your content will be one of, if not the most important ranking factors affecting the content’s ability to rank.
So, a key aspect of your SEO strategy should be about getting these backlinks.
First things first, the most important thing in getting backlinks is your content’s quality. If your content is high-quality and relevant, sooner or later, more websites will link it. Vice versa, if your content is weak, no amount of strategy and tactics can help it in getting high-quality backlinks.
During the content development process, however, you can include elements that may increase the linkability, such as:
- A new, unique insight into a specific topic
- Unique information/data not available anywhere else (i.e., original research result)
- A unique and interesting story worth sharing
- Aesthetically pleasing assets (i.e., images, photos, infographics)
Once you’ve ensured your content’s quality and linkability, you can then try the following link-building approaches:
- Outreach tactic: individually reaching out to potential backlink sources. Building relationships, then asking for backlinks. There are variations to this tactic, including:
- Broken link building, finding broken/dead links, and then offering your content to replace these broken links.
- Offering to write guest posts.
- Creating high-quality infographics and offering them to relevant sites.
- Broadcast tactic: broadcasting your request for links to as many potential link sources as possible, with the hope that some of them will give you those valuable backlinks.
- Paid channel tactic: leveraging various promotional channels to promote your content so more people will be aware of it. The more people consume your content, the more chances some of them will link it.
Step 7: Developing lead magnets
You may have great content that attracts enough website visitors. Yet, it is not counted as lead generation until you can convince these visitors to submit their contact information.
This is where the lead magnets come in.
A lead magnet is, in a nutshell, offering something perceived as valuable by your target audience for free in exchange for their contact information.
There are many different forms of lead magnets available, but here are the most common/effective ones for B2B Businesses:
- Gated content: an in-depth piece of content (ebook, case study, white paper, research report, etc.) typically related to the content consumed by the visitor. For example, if a visitor visits an SEO article, we can offer an eBook about in-depth SEO strategies.
- Free trial: a very common form of lead magnet for businesses selling software products
- Webinars: a free webinar covering a topic that might be interesting for the target audience.
- Discount: for example, a limited-time discount for your product. It can be effective for certain types of products, even in B2B, when done right.
- Tools: for example, if you sell fitness products, you can offer a free TDEE calculator
In general, your lead magnet offer should be relevant and related to what you offer as a brand (your product/service.) The key is your target audience must see the lead magnet offer as valuable according to their search intent when consuming your content.
So, the secret to successful lead magnets is your understanding of your target audience’s needs and preferences.
II. Indirect B2B Lead Generation with SEO
Above, we have discussed how SEO can be a direct lead generation method in essentially three stages:
- A target audience stumbled upon your content after searching for something. SEO optimization allows your content to be found by this specific searcher. This brings organic traffic to your website.
- This website visitor consumes your content and is now aware of your brand as a credible solution for their problem.
- You offer them a lead magnet, and they submit their contact information in exchange for their contact information.
In addition to being a direct lead generation method by attracting organic traffic, SEO can also support other lead generation channels to generate leads indirectly.
Here are a few examples:
- Supporting email marketing: at the center of SEO is content, and you’ll always need high-quality content for effective email marketing. On the other hand, SEO via lead magnets can help you build your mailing list.
- Supporting social media marketing: you can promote your content via social media, which will produce two-fold benefits in building your social media presence while at the same time increasing the exposure for the content (and generating inbound links.)
- Building awareness: by establishing your position as a credible thought leader in your industry via high-quality content, it can open the door to opportunities for being featured on other websites, podcasts, YouTube channels, and so on.
- Events: SEO campaign, again, can help elevate your status within your niche, which can help you when it’s time to host your own event, secure sponsorships, and so on.
SEO is one of, if not the most effective lead generation methods available for B2B businesses.
In concept, using SEO for lead generation is fairly simple: publish high-quality content, attract website visitors by optimizing this content’s position on the search engine, and then capture the visitor’s contact information. However, in practice, it can be easier said than done.
By following the step-by-step guide and the actionable tips we’ve shared above, we believe you now have a solid foundation for developing your own B2B SEO strategy for lead generation.