It’s no secret that B2B marketing and selling can be complicated, even more so for B2B tech companies selling technology-based products and services due to the lack of physical products to showcase.
Not to mention, B2B tech is a very fast-paced field where business pressures are constantly and rapidly changing. If the B2B tech company cannot adapt and reprioritize its marketing strategy, it’ll simply be left behind.
Even with newer marketing channels and digital technologies, SEO and search engine marketing, in general, remain the most important marketing pillar for B2B companies, including technology companies, especially due to their cost-effectiveness.
However, the actual implementation of SEO strategy in B2B tech companies can be easier said than done, and this is where this guide comes in.
In this ultimate guide for B2B tech SEO strategy, you’ll learn about:
- The up-to-date concept of SEO in 2022
- How SEO for B2B is different than B2C
- How B2B SEO works
- A step-by-step guide to planning and executing your SEO strategy
And a lot more.
Without further ado, let us begin right away.
What Is SEO?
Most people know that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, but what actually is SEO?
SEO refers to all kinds of strategies, techniques, tactics, and efforts performed to optimize the performance of your website and digital assets (web applications, social media profiles, Google Maps listing, etc.) on Google and other search engines.
The basic objective of SEO is to get your website to rank on top of Google’s and other search engines’ SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). However, SERP ranking should not be the end goal of SEO, but instead a means to an end.
Higher SERP ranking will provide free, organic traffic to your website, earning you that valuable exposure that, in turn, can help your business in:
- Building awareness of your brand and your product/service
- Generate more leads and prospects
- Attracting more customers to make a purchase on your website (for eCommerce websites)
- Stronger online presence for your brand
- Maintain positive reputation (online reputation management)
- Targeting a specific company (very important in B2B marketing)
And so on.
So, how can we optimize our website and digital assets to rank higher on Google SERP? To answer this, we have to understand how the search engines, especially Google rank their websites.
Google Search Algorithm and Ranking Factors
Google relies on a set of rules and policies to rank the content of different web pages, a thing we call Google Search Algorithm.
In reality, Google’s ranking system is made up of not just one, but many different algorithms. These search algorithms essentially monitor and analyze many different factors surrounding the content. There are actually hundreds of factors Google looks at before determining the ranking of content, but outside of Google’s insiders (and possibly just the higher-ups), nobody really knows the complete list of these ranking factors.
The secrecy of Google’s complete search algorithm is actually very important and beneficial for SEO in general. If the search algorithm was made public, then any business can virtually optimize their content just so that it ‘pleases’ the algorithm. This will actually be counterproductive and can hurt searchers/users who are actually looking for high-quality content.
However, with research and experience, many SEO experts have identified some of these ranking factors. Further below, we will discuss some of the most important ranking factors to focus on when developing an SEO strategy for your B2B tech company.
Yet, let us first discuss how Google actually ranks a web page.
How Google Ranks a Web Page
According to Google themselves, three key stages happen when a Google search happens:”
- Crawling phase: Google orders its crawler/spider bots to search the web, and the main objective of these crawler bots is to look for new or updated web pages. Google will then list the URLs of these new/updated pages in its database. Google mainly finds these new pages by following links from pages that it already indexed (and this is why backlinks are very important; more on this later).
- Indexing phase: in this phase, Google analyzes the crawled page’s textual context and attributes (i.e., alt attributes, images, title elements, etc.) and then determines:
- Whether the page can be indexed. Not every page can be indexed, for example, when the design of the website is not optimal. Website owners can also direct the robots.txt directives to disallow indexing on specific pages.
- Whether the page is a duplicate of another page published on the internet or if it’s canonical (original)
- Collect signals about the page (if it’s canonical) and its content, which will be used in the next stage.
- Serving search results phase: in this final phase, Google returns information (the search result) that is relevant to the user’s search query. Relevancy is determined by many (hundreds of) different factors, which are called ranking factors.
By understanding these three different stages, we can grasp the concept that SEO is technically about optimizing your website and its content according to these ranking factors.
While the full list of these ranking factors remains confidential, many SEO experts have determined pretty accurate lists of ranking factors, such as this one.
As discussed, there are hundreds of ranking factors considered by Google when determining a page’s ranking, but in this next section, we will discuss the most important ranking factors in B2B SEO.
Top 10 Most Important Ranking Factors for B2B Websites
1. Website security and indexability
Above all, your website or web page simply won’t rank if it’s not crawlable and/or indexable by Google’s bots, as we’ve discussed above.
Make sure Google’s bots can easily visit your web page’s URL and analyze the page’s content, and you can optimize the indexability of your web page by:
- Making sure your website is coded properly. Nowadays, if you are using reputable website builders like Wix or WordPress, this shouldn’t be an issue.
- An optimized XML sitemap that lists all the pages and their content
- A properly configured robots.txt file that makes sure all the important pages are indexable while preventing Google from crawling non-useful pages to maximize crawling efficiency
It’s also important to understand that Google highly rates whether the website is secure, especially whether the page has SSL security (HTTPS) enabled on it.
2. Mobile Friendliness
Since 2015, Google has prioritized web pages that are mobile-friendly to rank on its search results.
Meaning, if your website is not yet mobile-optimized, you risk getting ranked lower than it should, or worse, not ranked at all.
You can use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to assess whether your web page is already optimized for mobile user experience, but here are some key factors in assessing:
- Make sure your site is mobile-responsive (i.e., by installing a responsive theme on WordPress) so it can automatically resize to fit the user’s screen.
- Make sure content is not covered by ads on mobile devices (common due to automatic resizes.)
- Make sure menus are easy to navigate on mobile devices. If you are using forms, don’t include too many fields and make sure they are easily clickable.
- Use large enough fonts to ensure readability on smaller screens.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly for all pages, and test on as many devices as possible.
3. Domain age and authority
Many experts believe that Google tends to trust older domains (although there are experts that disagree.) Yet, according to a pretty recent study by Ahrefs, very few sites less than a year old are ranked in the top 10 of Google search results, and nearly 60% of sites that achieve that ranking are more than three years old.
Domain authority refers to how authoritative the site/page is in the eyes of Google, and while there are many different factors that may be at play regarding authority, here are some important ones:
- Relevance and quality of content. There’s no shortcut to publishing high-quality and relevant content for your audience (more on this later.)
- The authority of the content’s creator (content written by a famous influencer with a lot of followers will be deemed as more authoritative)
- Inbound links. The number of links to the page/content from other websites. The quality/authority of the source website also matters.
- Social shares and engagement. Pretty self-explanatory, social media mentions, likes, and shares, among others, can contribute to a content’s perceived authority.
4. Page Speed
Remember that Google’s main focus in ranking the search results is to improve the user’s (searcher’s) experience in surfing the internet. So, naturally, Google will prefer websites that load fast enough.
According to Google’s research, more than half of users will leave a website if it loads in more than 3 seconds. Also, in July 2018, Google announced a new search algorithm focused on mobile page speed. Meaning, if your website loads fast on desktop PCs but not on mobile devices, it can be penalized.
Make sure your website is coded properly and optimized for speed. You can also leverage Google Search Console’s Speed report feature to speed up your website.
5. Content Quality and Optimization
Google does consider the quality and relevance of your site’s content very highly when determining search ranking.
Yet, the question is, what kind of content is deemed as optimized by Google’s algorithm? This alone can be a very deep and broad subject to discuss, but here are some of the most important criteria:
- Readability: above all, the content must be readable and engaging. Think about the layout/structure of your text and whether the words you use are easy enough to comprehend.
- Keyword optimized: the content must include the target keywords the page is aiming to rank for. It’s important not to stuff your page with keywords but make sure keywords are included sparingly and naturally.
- Search intent: optimizing for keywords is one thing, but the content must also meet what the searchers actually want to read about. Is your content a good answer for the problem they are trying to fix that has led them to your page?
One of the simplest and most effective ways to evaluate the required content quality for your target keywords is to do a Google search for this keyword, then look at the top-ranking pages (at least the top 3, but try to evaluate all pages on the first page if you can.)
Analyze these top-ranking pages, and your goal is to develop better or more unique content than these.
6. User Experience metrics
Thanks to Rankbrain; Google’s AI-powered search algorithm introduced in 2015, Google can now measure various signals to determine user satisfaction when interacting with your page and/or content.
If a user is determined as satisfied after interacting with your page, your page’s ranking can go up, and vice versa; even if your page is already ranked pretty high, it can be demoted if Google suspects poor user experience.
To determine user experience, Google evaluates mainly these three signals:
- Dwell time: how long users stay on the website after they’ve arrived (the longer, the better)
- Bounce rate: the percentage of users who visit your page (click on a search result pointing to your page) and then quickly exit the page.
- Click-through rate: the percentage of people who click the search result pointing to your page
If, for example, a user clicks on a search result, lands on your site, but goes back to the search results page right away, Google will perceive that your site is not relevant for this searcher’s needs. If many people do this, your site will be demoted from the search results page for this keyword.
On the other hand, if a lot of people stick to your website after visiting your page from a search result, it can result in a boost to your search engine ranking.
7. Technical Optimization
Technical SEO is also a pretty deep subject that deserves its own guide. Yet, here are some key technical optimizations you should pay attention to:
- Optimal (and natural) keyword usage in page titles. Google and the other search engines will first look at keyword usage in a page’s title to determine which content is relevant to which search query.
- Add structured data (schema markup) attributes to your content so Google can properly understand different elements of your content. Include
- Write an optimized meta description that includes the target keyword naturally. However, make sure the meta description is also informative and attractive for human readers. Keep meta descriptions short and engaging.
- Optimize the usage of header tags (H1 for page title, H2 for first sub-headings, H3 for second sub-headings, etc.) Proper usage
- Optimize images with alt tags. Make sure the alt tags are actually informative so users with visual impairment can consume your content. Include keyword phrases in the alt tags naturally.
- Optimize your XML sitemaps to ensure indexability.
We’ll have a dedicated technical SEO section further below in this guide.
8. Link Profile
Even if you are relatively new to SEO, you should be familiar with how backlinks or inbound links are a really important ranking factor for SEO.
Simply put, Google analyzes links coming in and out of a web page to determine how the specific page should rank for a specific search query.
However, there are actually three different types of links that will determine search ranking: inbound, outbound, and internal links.
Internal links refer to linking different pages that are still under your domain within your content.
Maintaining a good internal linking structure helps Google understand your whole website better. Also, internal linking your pages can help drive traffic to these pages, improving your site’s overall authority.
Also known as backlinks, inbound links are arguably the most important types of these three different link types.
To explain the importance of inbound links, we can think of them as a vote of confidence in the online world. When a website links to another, this means this website vouches for the linked page’s content to be trustworthy and credible.
When more websites (and more authoritative websites) link your page, Google will perceive your page as credible, and will ultimately result in a boost to your ranking.
Getting more backlinks, especially from high-quality, authoritative sources, is one of, if not the most important focus in SEO.
Outbound links refer to links from your page pointing to other websites.
If your content has links to authoritative pages relevant/related to the topic covered in the content, it shows Google that the content is well-researched, so it may result in an improved authority.
9. Real and Consistent Business Information
This is an especially important ranking factor for local B2B businesses targeting particular local locations.
Google takes consistency and accuracy of information (especially business information) seriously, so you’ll need to focus on:
- Consistency in NAP (Name, address, Phone Number) information
- Optimized business listing on Google Business (and Google Maps), as well as other relevant platforms depending on your industry
- More (positive) reviews on Google Maps and other relevant platforms
10. Social Signals
In this social media age, it’s quite obvious that Google will also monitor how your page ‘performs’ on social media to determine ranking.
However, according to Google themselves, social shares are not a direct ranking factor. Inbound links from social media platforms (i.e., Twitter or Instagram) are dofollow links, so they aren’t counted the same as nofollow links from authoritative websites.
However, getting more social shares and other social signals will indirectly help your page’s SEO performance.
More social shares, likes, and engagements will generate more traffic to the page itself, which can result in generated backlinks and other benefits.
SEO for B2B Tech Companies: Why is It Unique?
When compared to B2C businesses, SEO for B2B businesses, including tech companies, is unique due to several different factors:
- Customer/client expectations: B2B tech products are developed to provide a tangible value for the client’s business. For example, helping the client generate more leads or grow their revenue. Before making their purchase decision, typically, the decision-maker must be convinced in a logical way with data-driven proof that your tech product can indeed help their business. This can affect how you should develop your content and approach SEO.
- The sales cycle of B2b tech products: in B2B businesses, especially with tech products, the sales cycle is typically longer than in direct-to-consumer B2C businesses. Also, there can be multiple decision-makers with different roles involved in the purchase decision. Meaning, marketers may need to develop more content targeting different decision-makers and stages of the buyer’s journey.
These two phenomenons, in practice, would translate into another two unique challenges we’ll face in implementing B2B SEO:
1. More difficult keyword research
It’s natural that there are more consumers searching for B2C keywords than B2B-related keywords.
For example, obviously, more people search for information related to the latest iPhone than those searching for a keyword like “best tax software for small businesses.” Combine this with the longer and typically more complex sales cycle in B2B tech companies, and we can expect a more challenging keyword research process.
When implementing SEO in a B2B environment, it’s crucial to explore the different target audiences’ (i.e., different decision-makers in the target company) search intent and preferences when searching.
It’s common in B2B SEO to target low volume and long-tail target keywords instead of solely focusing on popular target keywords common in consumer businesses.
2. Lower expected conversion rate
When implementing SEO in B2B tech companies, it can take longer to see tangible results.
Not only can we expect a longer sales cycle, but click-to-sale conversion rates are also typically lower on B2B websites. In B2C SEO, it’s quite common to expect users to click on a search result, land on the company’s website, and make a purchase in a matter of minutes, but it’s much rarer in B2B SEO.
Yet, it’s also important to remember that each sales conversion in a B2B tech company typically translates into a much higher value than selling a B2C product.
In B2B SEO, the focus should be to consistently publish relevant and high-quality content to convince readers about your brand’s thought leadership to demonstrate that your company is the best possible solution for the target client’s pain points.
In short, in B2B SEO, you should be patient and expect long-term results.
SEO for B2B Tech Companies: Best Practices and Tips
1. Know your target audience inside out
If B2C SEO is about bringing as many people as possible to the website, in B2B SEO, we should put more focus on visitor quality.
B2B keywords typically have lower search volumes, which will translate into lower organic traffic, so it’s very important to make sure we are getting the right people to visit our content.
As discussed, there are typically multiple decision-makers involved in a B2B sales cycle, especially in B2B tech companies with relatively expensive products. However, typically there are one or two individuals who are more likely to influence the purchase, called buying influencers.
For example, if you are selling POS software for small businesses aiming to sell your product to a restaurant business, the end decision-maker can be the restaurant’s CEO or CFO. However, the restaurant’s operational manager suggesting your product to the CEO can be the main buying influencer.
When developing your SEO strategy and especially your content strategy, you should consider these nuances. Different buying influencers and decision-makers can have different needs, preferences, and pain points, so you may need to personalize your strategy accordingly.
The better you understand your target audiences inside out; the more effective your SEO strategy will be.
2. Perform a thorough audit to assess your site’s current SEO performance
Before developing your SEO strategy, it’s advised to first perform a thorough SEO audit on your website and online assets to evaluate its current SEO performance.
You might want to check out our guide for SEO audit here, but here are some crucial high-level aspects you should audit as early as possible:
- Indexability: you can use Google Search Console or other tools to identify crawl and indexation issues. Make sure Google bots can crawl and index your site properly, or else you won’t get ranked.
- XML sitemap: evaluate whether your site’s sitemap is properly optimized and formatted as
- SSL certificate: assess whether your site’s SSL certificate (HTTPS) is enabled and working properly
- Mobile-friendliness: assess whether your site is already mobile-responsive, test on as many different devices as possible
- Page Speed: page speed and mobile page speed, as discussed, are important ranking factors. Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights and other tools to evaluate your site’s page speed and identify potential issues related to load speed.
- Robots.txt: check your robots.txt configuration to ensure your site can be optimally crawled and indexed
- Keyword opportunities: evaluate whether there are keywords your site already ranks relatively high for (i.e., 2nd page of search results.)
- Cannibalization: check whether there are two or more pages on your site competing with each other for the same target keyword
Again, this list is non-exhaustive, and you should refer to our complete guide to SEO audit for more thorough tips you can follow.
3. Proper keyword research for B2B tech companies
A huge part of any SEO strategy is to identify and target the right keywords.
Again, it’s crucial to always remember that there is typically more than one decision-maker in a B2B environment, so we might need to do multiple keyword research for different buyer personas.
Nevertheless, there are three basic principles to follow when performing keyword research:
- The target keyword should be relevant and frequently searched by your target audience. We assess this by measuring the search volume for each keyword.
- The target keyword should align with your business’s SEO objectives and overall business goals. Not all popular keywords frequently searched by your target audience will be relevant to your business.
- Based on your available budget and timeline, the competition for this target keyword should be manageable. Even if a keyword is very popular, if it’s too competitive, it might not be worth pursuing.
Once you’ve identified your target keywords, the next step you should do is to identify the potential search intents behind these keywords, and you should consider:
- The unique value proposition (UVP) of your software product and its key features
- What problems/pain points your target audience is currently facing
- What kinds of queries may they use when they are searching for information related to these pain points?
- How does your product fit as a potential solution for this specific pain point?
As you can see, keyword research can be quite a complex process, and it’s best to leverage keyword research solutions (i.e., SEMRush, Ahrefs) for this purpose.
4. Develop relevant and high-quality content
In any SEO strategy, content is king.
Specific for B2B tech businesses, the main purpose of content creation is to establish credibility in the form of thought leadership, so it’s very important to consistently develop high-quality and valuable content.
Plan a content calendar as soon as possible, listing:
- Target keywords of the specific piece of content
- Working title
- Who’s responsible for content creation
- Who’s responsible for publication and promotion
- The current status of the content (work in progress, published, revised)
- Timeline (when the content is going to be published)
- Where and how the content is going to be published
- Promotion plan for the content
5. Link building
As discussed, maintaining an optimal link profile, especially for backlinks, remains one of the most important ranking factors in SEO, including B2B SEO.
So, how can you get these backlinks to your pages?
Above all, the secret is content quality: if your content is relevant and valuable, sooner or later, other people will mention and link it. Vice versa, no kind of tactic and strategy can help bad content to get links.
However, after you’ve ensured your content quality, you can amplify its linkability by including link hooks within the content, such as:
- A new, unique insight regarding a certain topic
- An interesting story worth sharing
- A piece of unique information/data, for example, a research result, white paper, round-up of information, etc.
- Aesthetically pleasing assets (i.e., images, photos, infographics)
Once you’ve ensured your content’s quality and its link hooks, you can use various link-building strategies to get more links. We can generally categorize various link-building strategies into three major types:
- Outreach strategies: individually contacting potential backlink sources, building relationships, and then asking for backlinks.
- Broadcast strategies: broadcasting your requests for links to as many potential sources as possible, with the hope that some of them will give you those inbound links.
- Paid channel strategies: leveraging various paid channel strategies to promote your content, so it reaches more people. By amplifying its reach, we can increase the potential for this content to get linked.
While implementing SEO for B2B tech companies can be challenging, the result can be worth it, as you’ll get a sustainable source of high-quality leads for your business.
It’s crucial to remember that B2B SEO is a long-term strategy, and you may not see any significant results from your SEO campaign for several months. This is why it’s important to monitor your SEO progress regularly so you can adjust your strategy when needed.