As many of you know, I’m a columnist at Search Engine Land regarding B2B search marketing. In my column today, I focus on the issue of creating the proper site architecture for B2B sites.
To be found for a specific search term, there needs to be an optimized landing page on the website that revolves around that search term. And because of the lack of shared lexicons in most B2B verticals (i.e., there are several different words regular used to describe the same thing), this creates the need for content-rich B2B sites with expanded site architecture. That means more pages, organized in an intuitive, easily navigable architecture.
Here’s an excerpt from today’s article at Search Engine Land:
Five Steps To Successful Site Architecture For B2B SEO
A couple months ago, I noted that one of the 6 mistakes B2B marketers continue to make with organic search was inadequate site architecture-the fact that many B2B sites don’t have sufficient content to respond to desired search terms. The solution, however, isn’t simply adding more content. Proper site architecture is also critical. Here are five steps to success.
1. Identify potential keywords
Keyword strategy in B2B SEO is downright difficult. I talked about many of the reasons why in a previous Search Engine Land article about navigating B2B keyword strategy. Erik-Jan Bulthuis had a great post on Joost de Valk’s site in which he also describes some of the challenges and proposes a good approach to B2B keyword research. Your goal is this first step is not to make keyword choices or judgments, but rather to create the gross list, being as inclusive as possible of the potential terms actual prospects might use.
Focus on generic keywords; don’t get caught up in proprietary brand lingo. Think of the types of products and services you sell. What are your revenue streams? What do customers and prospects call things? Will their search string express the product/service sought, the problem they’re experiencing, or the type of company potentially offering solutions? Does geography play a role in the search string?
2. Determine relative popularity
Once you’ve created the gross list of potential keywords, you need to determine the relative popularity of those search terms. Often paid search keyword research tools (such as Google’s Traffic Estimator) won’t have data because traffic for these terms is low. In some cases, there will be data, but it will show very low activity. That’s okay. Don’t pay too much attention to that. Rather, use tools like Keyword Discovery to determine relative historical popularity of your keywords. This will give you some idea of which search terms are used more often than others on your list. The actual raw number of searches for a given search term really doesn’t matter much.
When you’re doing this work, remember to enter the root word(s) or root phrase, letting your research tool return permutations and long-tail options. Not only will this give you a larger list to consider, but the results will often lead you down a path you hadn’t previously considered.
3. Make your draft picks
Now determine for which search terms your site will be optimized. In B2B keyword research, usually there will not be clear-cut winners. Instead, for each B2B product or service, there will be one or two relevant search terms that rank highly, three to five more that place as strong “seconds”, and a host of others that have good potential. Click here to continue reading the article at Search Engine Land
By now, many B2B marketing professionals know the basics of content optimization and how to make a site search-friendly. With that complete, their focus turns to link building. While that’s an admirable pursuit, it may not yield the maximum results if unaddressed website issues aren’t resolved. Here are some of the most common mistakes we see.
Inadequate site architecture
I’m surprised how often even large B2B companies fail to have organic landing pages on their website related to key revenue streams (e.g., product or service lines). It’s usually not that they forgot key segments of their business, but rather that they failed to get specific enough. For instance, a leasing company promotes leasing of office equipment but fails to have a page focused on copier leasing. One of the reasons for this may be that many B2B marketers have often taken a minimalist approach to site architecture, incorporating only that which is necessary to establish initial credibility.
To be found for a specific keyword, there needs to be an optimized landing page on the website that revolves around that search term. Simply put, this means you need to review your business and ensure your site has at least one page that promotes each specific revenue stream. However, the complexities of B2B keyword strategy—which include the lack of shared lexicons in most B2B verticals—mean that you may have to create and incorporate several landing pages for each revenue stream. For instance, an accounting firm promoting litigation support services may have a page on expert witness services, but it may do well to also consider having a page on forensic accounting.
Simply put, most B2B websites need more content, both to respond to likely organic search and to be seen as being by the search engines as an authoritative site on a given topic.
Lousy meta descriptions
If any meta descriptions have been specified in the first place, that is. It seems like B2B marketers often leave meta descriptions blank or simply leave it to the IT department to fill something in. This leads to poor descriptions in the search engine results.
When B2B marketers actually specify the meta descriptions for site pages, they often write from an internal standpoint, using corporate and internal lingo that doesn’t speak to the searcher. Typically, B2C marketers are much better at writing meta descriptions that promote click-through. When you write meta descriptions for B2B, think about what will entice the searcher (your prospect) to click on your search result versus all the others on the page. While you can write as much as you want, Google will only display about 165 characters. Make sure you use those characters wisely to create a keyword-rich, compelling message. You’ve only got a few seconds before searchers decide on which results they will click.
Not analyzing organic landing pages
Many B2B marketers don’t bother to evaluate, let alone manage, organic landing pages.
Recently, there was an article on MarketingSherpa (membership required) in which Martin Edic set forth 10 tips for optimizing PDFs for search. While access to the article requires membership, there was a posting on SearchNewz by Navneet Kaushal that summarized the ten tips presented, and the author appears to have posted a screenshot of the full article here.
While the tips mentioned in the MarketingSherpa article are mostly accurate (there are some inaccuracies regarding duplicate content, and stuffing meta keywords has been irrelevant for years), the article clearly missed some crucial factors in terms of optimizing pdfs for search. Among other things, the article failed to mention tagging content, specifying the reading order of PDFs, and how to influence meta descriptions.
Sure, it’s great if you can get PDFs indexed and perhaps rank well, but if you don’t know how to specify the reading order and influence meta descriptions, there’s little likelihood that anyone is every going to click on the PDF in the search results. If that’s the case, what good is a high-ranking PDF?
For a much more in-depth and illustrated article, read What you don’t know about optimizing PDFs can hurt you. It’s a substantial article that contains 17 tips regarding how to optimize PDFs and several screen captures to help you understand the issues.
I wrote about how B2B marketers can influence geo-specific search in a recent Search Engine Land article. Although Local search results are generally not as important for many B2B marketers as they are for a retail enterprise, some B2B companies serve a defined market and can benefit greatly from Local search.
In the recent months, there have been several changes in the Local search results. In January, Google started displaying 10 Local results instead of three, and it started embedding its Local search results into web search results (see Blended Search: Implications for B2B Search Marketing.) Yahoo has made changes as well. Recently, Matt McGee posted a great interview he had with Yahoo’s Brian Gil regarding Local search on Yahoo. Check it out.
A few weeks ago, there was a lively exchange on Search Engine Land about using the “nofollow” link attribute to sculpt PageRank. Shari Thurow, in her article You’d Be Wise To “NoFollow” This Dubious SEO Advice, essentially railed on SEO practitioners for employing this practice, which respected expert Stephan Spencer describes and advocates in his article Sculpting Your PageRank For Maximum SEO Impact.
If you do not believe that a page’s content is important, then don’t link to it. Better yet, remove the content. If you believe a web page’s content is important, then link to it and do it in a way that makes sense to your end users, your site’s visitors. I think it is very odd to put a nofollow attribute on pages within your own site. Essentially, you are saying that you cannot validate your own content—you advocate giving users one information architecture and search engines a different one?
Shari’s comments regarding the use of nofollow seem to imply some sort of bait and switch tactic that would not only fly in the face of search engines, but would be deceitful in some way to site visitors. So many people have cited Matt Cutts’ position that there is no problem with this practice that I won’t bother citing more. However, for those fearful of employing the practice, Matt indicated that employing such practice in no way even serves as a red flag to Google. Secondly, how could such a practice be deceitful in some way to site visitors? When the visitor is on the site, they have no idea which links have the nofollow attribute; they can go anywhere the navigation allows.
While it would be great if every page had the same high value to search engines and site visitors alike, that’s simply not reality for the vast majority of sites—even if it has been optimized for human usability. There are many pages that have real value to site visitors but marginal value to site owners in terms of PageRank or being included in search engine indices.
So what links should you nofollow?
I recently got back from SMX West in Silicon Valley, one of the premier events in search marketing. While there I attended many great sessions and also spoke as part of the session on B2B search marketing. Also speaking were Ben Hanna, Vice President of Marketing for the B2B search engine, Business.com, and Patricia Hursh, president of SmartSearch Marketing.
Many of the sessions on the first day focused on the implications of blended search on search marketers. Loren Baker of Search Engine Journal has a good wrap-up of the first session re blended search content at SMX West. Blended search (also called “Universal Search” by Google) refers to the practice of web search results including other types of search results, such as local, blogs, news, video, images, etc. We’re already beginning to see this in Google search results. The search engine Ask has multiple types of results on the search results page, but these results are clearly segmented into their respective sections on the page. On Google, however, you can see more images, news, video, local and the like actually embedded within the typical web search results.
No longer will the top ten Google search results always be ten links to the typical web page. If Google deems a video to be of strong importance and relevance to your search term, you may find a link to that video showing up as perhaps the third search result when doing a web search.
This represents both increased marketing competition and opportunity for B2B companies. Nothing really changes for PPC, or paid search. However, blended search results have significant implications for organic search. On the one hand, often there may not be 10 organic search results for web pages. It may no longer be good enough to be in the top 10 web search results. You may have to be in the top 8 to get on the first page, because you may also be competing with news items or video.
On the other hand, this creates opportunity for smart B2B search marketers. If you’re having trouble getting high rankings in Google for web search results, you may have far less competition creating highly relevant and authoritative content via video, images, or news that could get embedded in the top search results for your keywords.
This isn’t to say that just creating a B2B video geared to a specific keyword will get you a top result in web search. If only marketing were that simple. Google’s goal is to deliver relevant and authoritative content for a given search term. Therefore, the content needs to be good, and it will help if other respected, authoritative sites link to that content. Finally, you’re also going to need to optimize this alternate content properly. For instance, unless you encode and optimize a video asset for search, Google won’t be able to tell exactly what that content is.
Search engine optimization continues to evolve. It’s on to a Search 3.0 world. And there’s plenty of opportunity in that world for B2B marketers.
The B2B world is wrestling with how to effectively harness “word of blog” marketing—let alone the glittery new world of social media marketing. How can we use social media sites to create that viral buzz that sends awareness and sales soaring? We see what occasionally happens in the consumer market, and we want some of that.
Let’s be real, though. While that’s a great objective, the B2B world is still struggling with basic blogging, let alone creating something that goes viral on some social media site. Last year, Forrester Research found that only 29 of the Fortune 500 firms sponsored business-oriented blogs.
B2B blogging brings up a bunch of questions. Who’s going to write for the blog? Do we have enough content to support it? Will we continue to support the blog after a couple months? How do we control the brand in that environment? Will we publish negative blog comments? Who’s responsible for the blog? Public relations? Marketing?
Sometimes you just have to wonder, what were they thinking?
All of us who write articles and blog postings have had our work stolen by others who pass it off as their own. But the brilliance of this thief is stunning. So dumb, it’s funny. Nothing like leaving your business card at the scene.
A pingback came through on an article on this blog entitled, “B2B Search Marketing: Loose the Lingo, Remember the Buyer.” You can see the comment on the article by clicking here.
The pinkback was a verbatim excerpt from the article to which the comment related. Of course, there’s the link to the website of the person who commented on the article.
When I clicked on the link, I was taken to the person’s blog where my blog posting appeared verbatim, in its entirety, with just a few words added. Of course, there was no attribution or reference, and the link to my posting was buried in body copy with anchor text of “b2b marketers.” Below is a screen capture.
Of course I wondered whose blog this was, so I click on the “About”,
that told me it was a blog run by Dinkum Interactive, a Philadelphia search marketing company.
I really got a kick out of their tagline, “Genuine Search Engine Marketing”. I never new what “dinkum” meant (actually never heard of the word), but their website points out that it’s Australian, meaning genuine, real.
I think not.
In the pursuit of boosting traffic, B2B marketers often search for the most popular keywords, those that will drive a large number of visitors to the site. In doing so, one often fails to recognize (and optimize) obscure, high-value keywords that can lead to a long-lasting stream of ongoing business from customers. Many of these keywords may not be available for PPC, due to their low search volume. However, they potentially represent millions of dollars to be captured via B2B search engine optimization.
Local search results are great for B2B if your physical location is in the middle of the city you serve—and your prospects actually use search terms that include the name of your city. But what if you serve a broader region (e.g., Northern California)? Or what if your office is in a smaller town and serves the B2B needs of a larger city nearby (e.g., located in Gary, Indiana, but primarily serving Chicago)? With either, chances are you’re not going to show up in local search results because the geographical search term your prospect enters won’t match the physical location of your business.
Many B2B companies are business service companies and professional service firms that largely operate on a regional basis. Also, many manufacturers and distributors serve a limited geographical region because transportation costs prohibit economically shipping their products to locations further away. For many of these regional B2B companies, the majority of their revenues come from part of a state or from a multi-state area. How do you capture geo-specific search when local search won’t work for you?