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The Complete SEO Guide for B2B Tech Marketing

SEO Guide for B2B Tech Companies“Google it.”

How many times a day do you think that phrase to yourself or offer it as a solution to a co-worker or family member? We live and work by our online searches. It’s no surprise Google became an official part of our dictionary in 2006. And the online and search worlds have changed dramatically in the years since.

When your customers search online for answers to their questions, you want them to find your website, your blog posts, your rich content downloadables, and your demo. You want them to find you.

In "The Complete SEO Guide for B2B Tech Marketing," you will learn to:

  • Take an integrated marketing approach to getting to the top of search rankings.
  • Create content that feeds and supports your SEO.
  • Get an edge on your competition by knowing how to differentiate yourself in search
  • Automate many of the recurring tasks to give you more capacity for other marketing efforts.

Competition is fierce in the B2B tech ecosystem. Differentiating yourself is essential to your business. Dive in to the guide and you'll come out with clear steps for how to set yourself apart when your potential customers search for answers.

 


01

What is SEO?

The process of placing your company’s online resources

at the top of search results is called search engine marketing (SEM).
The popular term SEO—or search engine optimization—is part of SEM.

Search visibility is built on four key pillars: content, technology, backlinks/citations, and authority. SEM involves digital tactics that touch on each of these pillars with well-planned, focused efforts. These efforts range from content creation and content marketing to online partnerships and social. However, for the B2B technology space, one tactic makes up a large percentage of SEM efforts: search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of providing metadata, editing content, and writing code to focus a brand’s digital assets for the purposes of improving search visibility and driving relevant user traffic to the website. With higher web traffic,  the hope is more users will request information, download resources, or complete forms. This is the key quality of SEO: driving relevant, quality, in-bound traffic to your website from search and third-party websites.

Search visibility is built on four key pillars: content, technology, backlinks/citations, and authority.

SEO focuses on the art and work of optimizing web assets (onsite and off site) to influence search engines and increase organic traffic to a website for a targeted user base. Optimization positions web pages from your overall website in search results. It isn’t snake oil or digital magic. It is the complete opposite. Optimization involves investigating data, interpreting needs and opportunities, and then translating these elements into a real digital strategy involving site edits, social media, content creation, and more.

In summary, SEO is the process of taking the digital content your firm already has and making it discoverable, readable, and desirable to search engines. SEO increases the visibility of your content to your target customers. They will find you when they search for answers to their questions online (organic search).

What is SEO Good For?

Absolutely everything. Organic search optimization can:

  • Improve visibility in search engines (Not only Google, but Bing and Yahoo!, too.)
  • Increase sales
  • Grow visitor numbers
  • Build digital credibility
  • Foster industry authority

Organic search provides a thorough marketing avenue driven by consumer desire for the product rather than a shotgun approach that hopes to hit the target through scattered strategies. This focused approach is known as inbound marketing. The return on investment (ROI) for inbound marketing is often greater than other means. Your experience may differ due to many factors such as your conversion rate or cooperation between marketing and sales.

Understanding ROI from Organic Optimization

What to Expect from Organic Optimization

It isn’t about how much money you invest in your organic marketing; it's about the expertise of the service you select and how much time you are willing to dedicate to those efforts. We deliver each Golden Spiral client a customized strategy to meet their customers’ needs and company’s goals. It usually takes 60-90 days for SEO work to have an impact, after which, most businesses experience a steady increase in visits and leads, and start to meet other key performance indicators (KPIs). Some experience an increase sooner.

Determining the Value of SEO

There are several ways to determine the “value” of SEO. Value in this context indicates how much to invest in this area of marketing. For organizations that use paid search or consider it a viable option, the example below is a primary way of valuing SEO efforts.

It is easier for business owners and decision makers to invest in paid marketing because it offers clear ROI.

For every X dollars you spend, you receive Y visits/calls/completed forms.

Nevertheless, with proper tracking and reporting systems in place, organic optimization can offer clear ROI. Additionally, when SEO is done with the intent of matching the right consumers with the right pages of your website for the right results, your conversion optimization will be successful.

Paid Search Optimization ROI

Business X invests $2,000 per month.

It employs 20 keywords.

Those keywords receive a total of 10,000 combined impressions.

Those keywords’ ads receive a total of 400 clicks per month.

The investment in each keyword equals $100 dollars per month.

Based on this example:

• The cost per thousand (CPM) impressions is $200.
• The cost per click (CPC) is $5.00.
• The click-through rate (CTR) is 4%.

Baselines vary in the B2B space, but we’ve seen CPCs average between $6.00 and $15.00, and 4% is the average CTR across several industries.*

While this example focuses specifically on actual click throughs, most of the time, businesses combine a click campaign with an exposure or brand awareness campaign. They want to increase the number of users who know who they are and what they do.

The business is investing $2,000 in 20-30% of the search engine results pages (SERP).

That means it is leaving the other 70-80% of the SERP on the table. If we quantify the other 70-80% of the page with the same value ($2,000 x 1.7 or 1.8), the organization should be willing to invest $3,400-3,600 in the organic area of search. That same ratio translates to $170-$180 per keyword.

In the end, ROI on organic optimization and marketing depends on your business model, industry, and value proposition. If earning one new client per quarter justifies your marketing budget for the year, there is no good reason to ignore organic search or paid search. This type of ROI calculation allows you to determine what your budget should be. It can also help you justify the cost of SEO and a paid campaign when conversions are not included in the calculation. (We don’t advise the exclusion but some companies request an analysis without them.)

Key Takeaway

To take your company to the top of search rankings, spend time and energy on creating more and richer content, shoring up your technology, recruiting backlinks/citations, and, through everything, build authority.

For further reading on SEO ROI, visit:

*Based on data for our clients in B2B industries including health care IT, cybersecurity, web data harvesting, and data management solutions.

02

How Content Feeds & Supports SEO

Introduction to Content

Optimizing a website starts and ends with content. Content is, and will be for the foreseeable future, king. Your website’s content is its soul. No matter how you dress it up or how many bells and whistles you add to it, the content is what users—and robots—are looking for and looking at. Good content conveys your message, great content compels action, and excellent content motivates others to work for you. Invest effort into optimizing your content for crawlability, readability, and keyword opportunities.

Good content conveys your message, great content compels action, and excellent content motivates others to work for you.

There are 5 primary types of content:

  • Written
  • Visual
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Interactive

Written

Text on screen is the bread and butter of the digital realm. But, in many ways, it is being replaced by video as mobile engagement and technology continue to grow.

Combining visual elements with written content in the form of PDFs (e.g., white papers, stat sheets), slide deck presentations, and other types of digital materials, creates effective B2B collateral that can be used in marketing and lead generation and to cultivate both organic and intentional backlink efforts. These “rich content” materials have a high stickiness in the digital realm.

Visual

Including infographics, images, web graphics, and other static visual assets on your website is like turbocharged written content. We are an increasingly visual culture and a well-formed graphic that is memorable, downloadable, and is more likely to be shared by your users.

Video

Think for a minute about the four major TV networks and multiple cable providers. There is a reason the networks are going to battle against the online content providers producing original content (e.g., Netflix, Amazon Prime). Video is the currency of our cultural communication. Quality, targeted moving graphics, webinars, and informative, but short, talking-head videos work well in B2B verticals.

When planning for and producing video content, carefully consider your target audience’s position in the buyer’s journey. Content for content sake only hurts your brand—especially in video. Knowing how your targeted users will find your video content determines how you speak to them in the video and what you focus on. Are you addressing a need? Solving a common issue to assert your expertise? Simply introducing yourself? Each of these questions falls into one stage of the customer’s journey: awareness, consideration, or decision. It’s okay to touch on each stage as part of any piece of content, but each piece should focus in large part on one particular stage. This allows you to address your target’s pain points and provide your solution to them.

HubSpot Buyer's Journey Table

Audio

Voice and sound content like podcasts, radio, music, and recordings of live presentations have high value in our mobile society.

Podcasts became a popular solution for connecting with C-suiters who need to multitask and learn/listen on the go. The Pew Research Center for Journalism and Media reports that in the last ten years, more than 44% of Americans aged 12 and up have listened to a podcast. Edison Research reports that as of July 2018, 17% of Americans—or 48 million—have listened to a podcast in the last week. Audio has always been a personal medium and broadcasters/podcasters build deeper relationships with their listeners than many other media. Podcasters who go the next step and provide show notes or a full or partial transcript in written form make significant gains in SEO.

Edison Research Podcast Listenership Growth Graph


Interactive

All of the previous elements can be combined into interactive displays. Digital applications, programs, calculators, quizzes, and other tools can be used to generate interest in a particular business or industry field.

No matter the form your content takes, carefully plan its deployment through all of your marketing channels and consider the SEO ramifications. Your content pieces can be used in marketing automation workflows, remarketing efforts, lead nurturing email campaigns, and more. Each tool you use in your marketing tactics should be optimized in order to be found in the first place and capture the user’s information for contact deeper in your sales funnel.

Content Discoverability

Content is king, but the best content on the Internet will see no response if it isn’t discoverable. Many companies pour human, financial, and time resources into creating content but spend little on SEO. In essence, they allow that content to be sucked into the black hole of the Internet. Not having an understanding of how SEO boosts the discoverability of your content will result in creating content that users aren’t searching for. Failing to optimize it prevents search engines from reading and then spreading it. Fundamentally, search engines have to be able to read your content in order to show it to people. It’s your job to optimize your content to make it visible.

Three Questions to Answer about Each Piece of Content

Is iT relevant?

When thinking about relevancy, think about key terms, core industry concepts, and sales keywords your target buyer uses when searching or talking to your sales team. Are you speaking their language in your content? If they can’t follow your insights and descriptions, they will get lost—literally. Your content needs to focus on a relevant and targeted audience that has some connection with your service or offering. Following the 70/20/10 rule is often the best choice for any form of content to ensure it resonates with your audience.

What is the 70/20/10 Rule?

70/20/10 rule in content marketingThis observational principle began in the discipline of business leadership. The rule states that effective executives gain wisdom through on the job experience (70%), engagement with others (20%), and learning from courses. The rule has expanded into other disciplines such as investment and content marketing.

In content marketing—primarily social media and PR, this rule is reflected as a division of content focus. 70% of your content should educate and support the user, help them grow, and solve problems. 20% of your content should be engagement- or lifestyle-focused; think of this as ways to connect on a personal level with your audience. The last 10% is centered on self-promotion.

Is it authoritative?

For the B2B buyer, credibility and authority are necessary considerations when choosing a service provider. Authority and credibility come through the voice used in content, directly influencing how the buyer “feels” about the content. This is where popularity and newsworthiness become a factor in search visibility.

Authority is a “trust factor” businesses grow for their domains, content, and brand over time as they build and curate content. Content syndication, similar to PR, supports authority when industry news or expertise is the core element. Content on a specific subject matter will leverage an expert’s wisdom (knowledge + experience) but it may not have many cited sources. Determining authority for these pieces results from the content’s general engagement and popularity.

Along with feeling, your content can only be considered authoritative if it’s accurate and supported with evidence. Digital content relies on internal and third-party backlinks to show credibility. Just like a teacher requiring you to cite your sources, search engines like Google and users alike look for references in the form of cited sources and embedded links. Part of this quality check is making sure that subject matter experts (SMEs) are consulted and cited, and share the content themselves. If you put yourself in the chair of your target audience or persona(s), would you read, trust, and share this content? If not, you have a little work to do—especially if you want it to be found digitally. Content is king, but only when quality is the cloak it wears.

Content is king, but only when quality is the cloak it wears.

Is it credible?

Building off of the authority cord, credibility is a metric determined from user engagement with the content. Credibility is conveyed by the quality of the language in the content, no matter the type of content, as well as the reference points used to show authority. Search engines evaluate content credibility based on: user engagement (i.e. time spent on the site, session duration, etc.), content references (e.g. internal links and external links), and consistency.

General popularity is part of search engine and user evaluation of the content, however general popularity does not directly correlate to credibility. As mentioned in the previous section, popularity is more of an authority factor. Several of the algorithm updates Google published  between 2012 and 2016 were focused on identifying credible content and determining if relevant industry connections pointed to any given piece of content. Once Google realized that optimization and content mattered to business owners who were investing in Google Ads, they validated SEO as a necessary component of digital content.

Who Creates Your Content?

If at all possible, craft all your content in-house. Businesses in the technology space are often addressing needs with revolutionary processes, applications, and technologies that their targeted audiences may not fully grasp. Only you can answer your audience’s questions well and deeply. Writing and producing content in-house allows you to be authentic and have a direct digital touch with your targets. You will feel the weight of ownership and when the results come in—good or bad—you will respond accordingly. Building content yourself also sharpens your ability to talk about your business with your customers. Everyone from customer service to sales to technical support will benefit from—and on some level, contribute to—the churn of content.

If you don’t have the bandwidth or your technicians struggle to translate the business solutions into your customers’ language, consider working with an agency. Strategic marketing agencies that know your industry and niche can fill those roles to support content creation. By allowing an agency or consultant to step into the content creator role, your organization can focus on what it does best while being the SME. The outside content creator helps align the digital content with relevant industries. Make quality your primary concern when outsourcing. To ensure quality, your content creator should know your brand, your audience(s), and industry, and have a great understanding of you marketing goals.

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How Long Should Content Be?

Long-Form Content

Currently, we're seeing an emphasis on longer pages and posts. Google’s crawlers have been updated to conduct smarter searches thanks to the contextual algorithm update “RankBrain.” This has resulted in Google now prioritizing and favoring longer, more informative content—with higher quality—over short-form content or blog posts less than 500 words.

Google favors 700- to 1,000-word articles primarily because it takes more than a few sentences to convey core concepts and ensure the content presented contains the material necessary to address the top issues. Google is also looking to see if the author’s authority comes through. Long-form content offers the needed “room” to work out your keyword focus and readability.

While keyword density has decreased in value, it's not totally a thing of the past; keep your buzzy headlines and a sharp first paragraph. However, Google is now weighted toward keywords at the front of the article. It also scores for joined association and complementary phrases. Just focus on making relevant, quality content. Don’t worry about stuffing your posts, videos, and materials with keywords.

Short-Form Content

Short-form content typically ranges from 300 to 500 words. These pieces of content, including 30- to 60-second videos, are best for news nuggets or topical bits that offer a quick update on a topic or opinion, or lead into a long-form, robust piece of content or resource. Because of this, they are often less valuable to search engines. Even so, short-form content is a great way to generate interest in deeper or older pieces on your website without completely redrafting the original post. Short-form content also helps when defining a newer term or concept to establish authority and credibility.

For example, when our team crafting a blog post for Connotate, a web scraping and data harvesting platform, content was built around the term “alternative data” to provide users with a reference point. The company created a short article to initially define the term, then later referenced the short post in longer articles for context and a richer definition of the term. This short article was designed to make  the company's posts the online focal point for the definition of its coined term. This positioned Connotate high in the SERP, so that when a user queried “what is alternative data?” they were provided a quick answer from Connotate. The longer article was informed by viewing the engagement data of other posts and pages as well as search query data accessible in Google Search Console (GSC).

Pillar Pages

HubSpot Topic ClustersPillar pages (like the one you’re reading) are 12,000–15,000 word pages that act as a comprehensive resource concerning a specific topic. What are the top handful of solutions you provide? Consider writing a pillar page for each. These pages can then link to and from your blog posts on subtopics, associated pages about ancillary topics, and main pages on your site.

HubSpot Topic Clusters CloseupProviding a pillar page and interlinking it throughout your site delivers a deep level of content and can establish your brand as an authority around your topics. Authoring pillar pages is one of our top suggestions for companies that request an audit of their marketing strategies and websites. We help these clients research the search volume around each service and solution and transpose that research into 8-10 topics that can be used to develop pillar pages. A deeper dive of pillar pages and examples can be found on HubSpot’s blog.

How to Future-Proof Your Content

Google has a reputation for making frequent changes to its algorithms that can make or break businesses whose sites are optimized for a previous algorithm. And let’s face it, RankBrain will be replaced at some point, too. In the past, Google would release details on how changes would affect your search results. That’s how a service like Moz could keep ahead of the updates. As of 2016, Google no longer publicly announces the updates or the algorithm adjustments. So no more fun names like Panda, Penguin, or Hummingbird.

This can leave you feeling like you are always on the brink of a change that will collapse your SEM efforts, but it is possible to understand the general direction of algorithm changes.

Google doesn’t want users to game the system—like any other B2B service. This is why it made algorithm changes like the de-emphasis of keywords and reduction of ad placements in results. Google’s future changes will likely be motivated by trying to:

  • surface the most relevant and quality content matching a search
  • preventing third-parties from pushing non-quality, non-relevant content to the top of search

If you want your business to have a content strategy that adapts and thrives amid algorithm changes, make sure it aligns with the general direction of Google’s approach. This is also a way to avoid bad SEO advice.

For example, you may come in contact with someone who recommends filling your image alt-text with as many keywords as possible since this metadata isn’t visible to the reader and  more searchers may find your content via the image on your page. On the surface, this may seem like a reasonable strategy, and it is possible this may have even worked for a short while for some firms.

However, if you assess whether that strategy aligns with incentivizing content creators to create quality and relevant content, the answer is clearly “no.” Tactics like this bloat image searches and makes the search engine less accurate overall. Employing these tactics is never a good choice. Because some companies bulk up their alt-text, it is a safe bet that changes will be (and already have been) made to make sure this keyword stuffing doesn’t benefit—and will actually harm—the SEO of those who use it.

Following this general thought process, you can avoid a future massive effort redoing all the image-alt text on your website and save yourself from negatively affecting your website’s SEO. So, even if you don’t want to dive into the full complexity of how SEO works, a content strategy that focuses on quality content, with SEO in mind, will set you on the right track in the long run.

Calls to Action

Every page exists to do something. Make that “something” clear and users will convert at higher rates.

A call to action (CTA) is a clickable item on a page that leads to a form for a site visitor to fill out. Your ultimate goal for each piece of content is a next click.

Search engines like CTA because they help them understand why a page exists and the next logical step(s) for users to follow. Depending on the amount of content, there should be one or two calls to action on every page or post in addition to any internal links to other pages or content links to the conversion form.

Most CTAs take on the shape of:

CTA Text: This can be a CTA paragraph which is used as  one of the last paragraphs of the post. You don’t want the CTA paragraph to become repetitive; one instance is enough.

CTA Form: A CTA form should be accessible on all pages, whether in the sidebar or header. Contact forms in the footer have historically not received many submissions.

CTA Buttons: These are graphical buttons found in HubSpot or used on websites to drive users through functions of the buyer’s journey and to downloadables. These are the most common CTA feature because they are dynamic and automatically change to fit the user's device or environment.

CTA Images: You can create a custom button using a branded graphic. You can hyperlink the image to your landing page.

CTA Links: These embedded links connect users from directly within the content. Examples include hyperlinked terms in text, links in YouTube video descriptions, and links in documents like PDFs.

Discover many best practices for writing and creating CTA here.

Keywords in Content

Since most content online contains words, keywords are essential to your content. Keywords also play a large role in your overall website presence. We will address critical issues for keywords on your site in chapter six.

When SEO got its start, there was a large focus on the volume, consistency, and placement of keywords. That was circa 2012 (although SEO has really been around since the first search engine began in 1993). This is where we got concepts like keyword density, keyword meta tags, keyword stuffing, etc. Understanding Google's focus on credibility and authority, you can tell why a strategy centered only on keywords now wouldn’t help readers or search systems align the content with queries. Does that mean that keywords shouldn’t be a concern when building a content strategy or planning your content calendar? Of course not.

Keyword Research

Keywords connect search users, B2B buyers, and content together. It would be a horrible idea to ignore keywords when planning content. However, keywords shouldn’t be the focus or lead to your content strategy; your community and buyers should be. Keyword research helps you determine how to align your content with how users search and offer insight into why they’re searching. Your business is providing a solution for problems, needs or concerns; the insights provided from research uncovers meaningful ways to craft content your targeted audience is likely to engage with.

There are key resources to use when evaluating a website for keywords. Visit Google Search Console (GSC) first to see what terms visitors are using to find your website and what pages are aligned to what terms. Other webmaster platforms, such as Bing Webmaster, provide the analytics to get a full view of what terms are referring to your website and how effectively each keyword is working for you. Second, make use of Google’s keyword tool (a Google Ads account is required). With the keyword tool, you can either dive into data provided around terms or discover new terms based on the category or categories you are researching. Then, if you want to check more tools, consider third-party platforms that scan, scrape, and algorithmically determine keywords for sites. We recommend SEMRush, Raven Tools, Moz, and BrightEdge.

Website and Search Engine Analytics

GSC and Bing Webmaster Tools are the only search tools that can be used to directly identify search terms that you can review to see what terms your website is showing for, what pages are gaining traffic, and how often the results are clicked. Many tools can connect to these platforms but these two are the “sources” for actual figures on impressions, terms, and clicks. Without these platforms to inform your research, you’re missing key data points. You need these statistics to help you validate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of your work. In some cases, you may have appropriately addressed the SEO issues on certain pages, but have no activity on others. These tools will show you where you need to spend more effort, money, or both to attract the traffic you need. 

[Not Provided]

If you’re using Google Analytics (GA) but not using and connecting GSC to your GA, you have likely come across a phrase in brackets: [not provided]. [Not provided] is the result of Google securing the search results and “protecting” the user data. It considers user search and data around it to be personal user data, not far off from personally identifiable information (PII). You will be able to see the data you need when you’re logged into the platform and accessing your website data.

Google Search Console Not ProvidedThis is why most agencies that deploy GA for businesses give you direct access to your website GA and allow you to control it. Google takes this same stance. There are several solutions for connecting the dots between Google Search Analytics and your web page traffic. Search Engine Land offers one version of data reconciliation that focuses on using landing page data with GSC to uncover major SEO opportunities. You can export the GSC data and GA landing page data to then align based on dates, page URLs or other connectors.

RankBrain

As of June 2016, Google’s estimates are a combined calculation of all similar search terms as RankBrain determines relevance between terms such as “SEO” and “Search Engine Optimization.” This is why SEO experts focus their paid search work on top level terms and point to contextual relevancy as the justification. RankBrain makes the search engine “intelligent” when it comes to determining where sites should rank for user queries that may not be a direct match for the search or the content on the website.

Personas

In our experience with personas, we know there are certain stigmas around this important content and keyword data point. Research shows that marketers don’t believe personas actually help them reach their target buyers. One survey found that just 15% of marketers judged their personas to be “very to significantly" effective. This means that most buyer personas, even if they are created, end up sitting on a shelf with only 44% of B2B marketers actually using personas.

So how does Golden Spiral Marketing use personas and how should you? If you’re writing content, personas help you answer the question: why? Content should have a purpose; personas help you ensure you’re crafting the right content based on data around needs—those of your ideal client and yourself—with a focus on the right audience, for the right point in their journey.

Key Takeaway

While content is essential, it requires time to build. Dedicate the financial and human resources you need to create it. Do so strategically. Put together a calendar for what pieces of content you’ll post when and determine a schedule for when each piece will be worked on so they don’t fall through the cracks of the rest of your essential work.

03

Backlinks

Anyone with competence in SEO, no matter their experience or focus, will tell you that since the early 2000s links have been one of the most important factors when it comes to ranking well within search engines. They will also tell you that building new links and their associated relationships is time-consuming, mildly frustrating, and powerful. The idea behind link building is to create genuine online “popularity” in the eyes of search engine robots through hyperlinks, location citations on websites, and other digital website connectors. In other words, link building is the digital version of word of mouth.

As more websites link to your website, users and search engines alike will view your website’s content as a credible source for the topics your content covers and the links pointing to it from relevant—and some less relevant—websites. There are many theories, concepts, and schools of thought when it comes to the value and best practices of link building. No matter what you or your SEO believe, link building is a close second to content in its value to a complete optimization and digital marketing strategy.

As Aaron Wall and Andy Hagans state in their SEO Book post titled, 101 Ways to Build Link Popularity:

“…links are still the basic connector, the basic relationship, on the Web. And for the foreseeable future they’re going to be the easiest way for a computer program to judge the importance and trustworthiness of a Web page.”

Backlinks help support credibility (while also driving traffic) by pointing to the website as the answer to several topics, questions, and queries. Now you ask us, or any SEO/SEM agency: how do we do link building?

Without getting too technical or giving out our brand strategies, the answer is, it depends.  For every business there are a number of methods to “build” new links that are seen as appropriate and garner online credibility. They can be customized depending on the industry, needs, and goals. If an SEO or digital agency has a completely automated or secret way of building links, you may want to question their tactics and methodology.

Example of our link building methods include:

Natural Link Building

It is the best way. Great content, a compelling story or product, or a viral sensation are all examples of natural link building. This type of link building is “true” link building from the standpoint that the Internet community values your content, material, or media and links to you because of it. These backlinks—and the credibility that comes with them—are the payoff for creating quality material concerning a given topic. There is one down side to natural link building: you have little to no control over how the material is used or how users will link back to you. There is no guarantee that you will even receive direct backlinks from your content, even if that content is being widely shared. The practice of freebooting (repurposing viral digital content without citation) has become a common way for content to get spread virally without providing a backlink. Stay vigilant about where your content is being shared to avoid missing out on the SEO value of those links.

Build Relationships

We focus on establishing relationships with other companies, webmasters, and article publishers to build very useful links. Leveraging existing partnerships and vendors is a simple and powerful way to build links relatively quickly. If you are beginning the process with new relationships, this type of link building can be very time-consuming and may take weeks, if not months, before a single article or post with a link is published. Established relationships are more likely to link and will do so on a quicker time table. Be a good digital neighbor and provide links to others, and you will more likely receive links from them. Golden Spiral is active in this give-and-take dynamic.  We offer alternative strategies to link building through our relationships with a number of general, specific, and niche resources. Working with an agency affords you quicker and more effective access to these kind of relationships.

Social media

Social media is a great way to quickly connect with industry sources online and leverage partner audiences by way of their subject matter experts. B2B tech companies find social powerhouses Twitter and LinkedIn to be more effective than Pinterest, tumblr, Facebook, Snapchat, and more than sixty others. Your success with one or more social media platform will differ based on your core audience and personas. Links on social sites are becoming evermore powerful as search engines turn to them as real-time sources to provide up-to-the-second popular results. With social media links, you may see a dramatic increase in traffic followed by sharp declines, but ultimately, the traffic should be seen as an opportunity for new customers. This is why a website needs to be optimized for conversions. All the traffic in the world won’t do you any good if your website isn’t helping you convert visitors into buyers. It is important to know that most social platforms, such as Facebook and Medium, use “nofollow” links, meaning the links from shares on those platforms don’t generate direct SEO value. The true value of social media for link building is in the traffic a social platform can send to your website and the opportunity for other experts to see your content on social media and link to it in their own content.

Directories

In SEO 1.0, directory submissions were an easy way to get a new or undiscovered website links with relative ease and improve ranking. This type of link building is a dying trend, but services like Yext and manual inclusion by individuals and companies in their “preferred links” still offer an easy solution to help give new websites some link love. When implementing an SEO strategy with directories, make sure to keep an eye on the quality of your backlinks through tools like GSC. Some directories may be seen as questionable links by search algorithms and actually generate negative SEO. Simply monitor your backlinks regularly and click “disavow” on any questionable links that pop up.

Comment links

I mention this for one reason: there is nearly no value or reason to do this type of link building. I will say this: if you have something of value or frequently visit a blog, website, or forum and can constructively add to the conversation, having a complete profile and links will provide additional credibility–but only from a user/visitor standpoint, not your SEO. Check out this example where a number of the comments have merit and are therefore not spam. Despite the lack of link building value, this site, authored by Matt Cutts, former head of Webspam at Google, has a page rank of nine according to RavenTools, and others.

Matt Cutts on SEO value of comments

Local Citation and Backlinks

Citations are location listings on third-party websites, indices, and databases that provide users with information on a specific business location. These listings contain Name, Address, and Phone number (NAP).

In SEO, the NAP data should be presented with a link to either the main site or location page—and on all location citations, the information should be (read that as “must be”) consistent. When a link is present with the NAP, it adds another level of value for users  and your brand—more backlinks are always a good thing. This is less of a concern for national and global B2B organizations. However, if you are a B2B company with a local emphasis, it is imperative to employ NAP and Google My Business (GMB).

With the volatile nature of search and the need to continue to grow your backlink profile, these types of efforts must be ongoing. SEO isn’t website maintenance anymore. It is ongoing, essential digital marketing.

Internal Links

As valuable as offsite third-party links are for providing authority to website pages, internal links help align pages with keyword relevancy targets. Internal links show which pages are more valuable for a target/phrase/category than others, helping to ensure pages don't compete for several terms when one may be more appropriate than another. Here is where access to GSC is vital and valuable. Scrappers or rank trackers, such as SERPBook, use propriety crawlers to gather keyword, position, and page index details for thousands of result pages, without the SERP being influenced by geographical location, history, personalization, or device settings.

These technologies are useful when conducting a competitive analysis. Dig into them when determining ways to adjust internal links and content to ensure your pages are aligning with your search goals, but not competing for the same sets of terms. Ultimately, the page with the highest engagement wins, but as presented earlier, relevancy, authority, and credibility influence positioning in other ways beyond the value of internal links.

If content is king, links are queen. They provide signals of credibility, authority, and importance. Links are credibility by association. That is why it is important that businesses display their associations and partnerships through website linking versus any other type of “link building.”

Types of Internal Links and Best Practices

When checking internal links throughout a website, Golden Spiral looks for duplicate links on the page (same anchor text linking to the same page more than once), and anchor text links pointing to the primary contact, demo, or free consultation pages. Keeping these links within a respectable level is important. Over-duplication of links can negatively impact both the page the link is embedded in as well as the page it’s pointing to.

Contact and free consultation pages should be linked to without keyword-based anchor text, such as “contact form,” “contact us,” “schedule a demo,” and “free consultation.” However, pointing the same anchor text over and over to the same page could invoke the Penguin, which Search Engine Land defines as:

“Google launched the Penguin Update in April 2012 to better catch sites deemed to be spamming its search results, in particular those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.”

Links that take a user away from the website (external links) need to be evaluated for relevance. For example, links to relevant governing bodies, industry resources, sources, and other relevant websites do not require you to check “tell search engines not to follow this link” in your settings. On the other hand, links to news sites, non-industry websites, or other no-relevant sites should be set to “no follow.”

When optimizing a website for SEO or evaluating quick win opportunities, be on the lookout for broken links. You can also use a custom crawler like ScreamingFrog for a full evaluation. If the link is simply bad, meaning not configured correctly, then fix it. If the destination for the link no longer exists, select another relevant page to link out to. As mentioned with freebooting, it’s also important to keep tabs on where your content is being shared or used without citation. Identifying these locations gives you a chance to demand a backlink.

Reciprocal Backlinks

Reciprocal links and link exchanges were all the rage in the heady early days of SEO. It seemed like simple science: you give me a link, I give you a link—bada bing. Well, search engines caught on to that game. Quickly. For a few years, reciprocal link farms and open directories provided a quick bump in the search visibility. But, while they nearly always resulted in temporary rises in search position, they did not increase referral traffic.

Are all reciprocal link exchanges bad?

Obviously noIn some way, most links are reciprocal. This is because the majority of any website’s third-party links are going to be from partners, brand profiles, and owned properties. In performing offsite SEO, the purpose of B2B reciprocal links is often citing partners or clients, or promoting the brand’s newsworthiness. SEO can also build on brand foundations, leveraging untapped mentions on these earned media locations.

Backlink Quality

We’ve touched on backlink quality several times, but it cannot be stated enough that not all backlinks are created equal. While backlinks are often talked about in terms of quantities (i.e., “we need 2,000 more backlinks to rank competitively on the SERP”), an even more important factor is backlink quality. The basic sign of a quality backlink is natural traffic. One link sending thousands of visitors to your website is much more valuable than 1,000 links sending no traffic to your website.

One link sending thousands of visitors to your website is much more valuable than 1,000 links sending no traffic to your website.

It is important to make sure your backlinks are relevant to your business. In order to determine your website’s credibility, Google’s crawlers will check to see if links to your website are related to the topics your website covers. In other words, if you are a website focused on B2B cybersecurity, search engines need to see that the websites linking to you are also discussing B2B cybersecurity in order to prove that your website has credibility in that space.

Backlinks from pages with many duplicate links, directories stuffed with links, and similar types of backlinks generate negative SEO. Avoid cheap backlink strategies that produce low quality backlinks in favor of building healthy and quality backlinks with relationship building and other previously discussed backlink strategies.

Digital Asset Optimization

Where possible, optimize all assets that are part of the website, including images, infographics, videos, audio files, and PDFs.

Image Optimizations

Image optimization has been around for years. There are two parts. First, name the image appropriately. For example, if you have a picture of flowers, the name should not be “IMG9487523908.” Call it what it is: “photograph of red roses on kitchen table.” To properly name a picture, imagine sight-impaired persons visiting your site and scrolling over the photo. What do you want them to hear? Secondly, add descriptive text in the “alt=" parameter that supports why the image is on the page  for when the image does not show properly. Although the alt is considered the most important on-page metadata for an image, the title and long description (longdesc) can be very useful as well.

<alt=“3-5 words defining the image” title=“good title, description of the image” longdesc=“description of image here”>

Do not stuff the alt attribute with keywords. A concise sentence that includes the main keyword(s) to describe the image is preferable. Equally, if not more important, is the image’s file size. As pointed out by the leading commerce platform, Shopify, all individual images on a page should be between 70-130 kb in size. With the prevalence of mobile and an emphasis on website page speed, everything you can do to decrease load time only goes to help your user experience. B2B buyers are consumers too. Several studies have demonstrated that a large percentage of users “bounce” if a page takes longer than three seconds to load.

PDF Optimizations

Similar to an image being optimized through the “alt=" feature, PDFs can be optimized with a title and description. PDFs have a high tendency to show up in universal search, so optimizing these documents is beneficial. They are truly seen as web pages unto themselves, so treat them as such. Embedded links should be present and contain relevant details (e.g. titles, _blank, etc.) to help align with your website’s content and provide relevancy to both the PDF and the pages it points to. When used as the final step in a buyer’s journey, a properly optimized PDF can work wonders in both search visibility and referral traffic. This is especially the case when sharing the PDF with others is encouraged.

Any link back to your site in the PDF should be tagged with Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) code, especially if you have GA installed on your site. This will help give you insight into how the PDF is being shared, as well as what sources are providing the traffic. There are several free UTM URL builders, but we always use the official Google UTM tool.

Link Best Practices

Now that you’re an expert on backlinks and internal links, here are best practices you should follow when optimizing links:

  • Common footer links (e.g., privacy policy, web development company, etc.) should be “nofollow”-ed
  • Common header links (i.e., social links) should be “nofollow”-ed and opened in a new window (target=“_blank”)
  • Anchors should be descriptive and relevant to the targeted landing page
  • Use titles in links to help give additional descriptive detail for users who hover over the links and to crawlers determining relevance

Disavowing Links

Have a backlink on a website you’d rather not? Someone doing some negative SEO to you or one of your properties? Some old links from the reciprocal link exchange days still sticking around? Once again, Google Search Console is your best friend. You can use the disavow tool in the GSC interface to “unclaim” and disconnect your website from backlinks that may be negatively affecting your visibility in Google’s index. You won’t find the disavow tool in GSC’s navigation. This is for your safety because you could do irreparable damage to your site by using it accidentally. The tool is only found by navigating to Google’s help area or by clicking this direct link.

Key Takeaway

Backlinks build your authority. Seek quality over quantity alone. Like content, backlinks will take time to develop. Like planting seeds in the soil, nurturing them will produce fruit over time. Be diligent but patient.

04

How SEO Affects Website Design

Another discipline within SEO is called SEO Onsite. Many of the same factors needed to optimize search traffic have applications for SEO Onsite. For example, content, keywords, and traffic analysis. Consider these same macro issues related to your overall site as well.

Four Keys to SEO Onsite

Use common sense with site architecture

Site architecture defines the importance of pages when compared to every other page on a domain. The architecture also shows users—and engine robots—the natural progression from top-level landing pages through secondary pages into silos or completion pages. Without a clear hierarchy, users and their search counterparts can get lost (literally) and that is never good.

Do Not Use Flash

Flash is for kids. Literally. Flash was designed for interactive games and applications. It is an antiquated system, it results in slow loading speeds for your web pages, it is not (and never will be) mobile-optimized, it is insecure, and it is all but useless on phones and tablets. Steve Jobs itemized these issues in 2010. If you need even more of a reason not to use Flash, Adobe will depreciate its support for it in 2020.

Design with cascading style sheets, not header hierarchy

Use style sheets instead of schematic markup or HTML page elements when you design your site. Mixing styling and code bogs down web crawlers and impacts mobile compliance. For example, only one “Heading 1” or “H1” should be on a page. Each page needs one because it denotes the main topic of the page. If the H1 has a specific style, the CSS sheet shouldn’t use “h1” to style it. You should use a class or ID to style your website’s tags, such as <h1 id=“h1-home”> for the H1 on the home page.

Set Up Google (everything)

We’ve described the benefits of Google’s tools, but for emphasis let us say, if Google has a product, you’d better use it. Google owns 90% of the search market and considers over 200 factors when indexing the web. Many of those signals come from Google properties such as Google+, Google Maps, GSC, YouTube, and crawling sites.

A Word on Titles and Descriptions

Titles and descriptions need to be optimized for SERPs; make use of the target keywords your content’s topic is centered on, along with user data from Google Search Console and analytics. Many B2B websites avoid customizing titles or the page titles on the site are sparse and lack vital keywords. The SERP uses character spacing versus character limits, so maximize your value by filling that space.

Working in conjunction with the page’s title, the page’s descriptions help explain what the user will find upon clicking on the page link from Google, directories, or other resources. As mentioned previously, titles tell readers (and search engine crawlers) what they are about to read and the description tells them why. The description is limited to 156 characters (to avoid truncation) and should contain keywords, phrases, and a relevant CTA not only to set the user’s expectation but to entice them enough to click your website result in the SERP over a competitor or alternative resource.

Titles tell readers and search engine crawlers what they are about to read and the description tells them why.

Key Takeaway

SEO Onsite can be overlooked, but these few, simple keys will boost your search results. Spend recurring time on SEO Onsite to maintain your upward trend.

05

Technical SEO

Technical SEO elements may take the form of:
  • 404 page creation
  • Redirecting links that have changed over time
  • Optimizing to improve page speed

Page speed optimizations may include image size reduction, caching, control of server calls, minifying scripts, and other optimizations. Deeper efforts, like mobile speed, offsite opportunities, heavy technical optimizations (e.g., JavaScript minification, adjusting server settings, HTTPS deployment) are not part of the basic setup in most B2B websites, but need to be implemented if search visibility is important to you.

Schema

Schema is another application of behind-the-scenes information on your site. It is a vocabulary of tags or microdata. When added to your HTML, schema improves how search engines crawl your site then represent your page in SERP. Schema works alongside content. It bridges technical issues and the user experience. And it supports the SEO on your website by helping to connect additional pages with deeper data points and context. When you improve the user experience with breadcrumbs to help users as they navigate, schema helps search engines organize and provide deep links when relevant to the user search. Search engines use breadcrumbs and semantic markup to make relevant connections between content. This work produces site search options and/or sitelinks, depending on the SERP. Schema helps customize the sitelinks showing in the results. By employing schema throughout our site, Google displays Golden Spiral in this manner, giving users more links to our site and helping them find the answer.

Schema Google Search Example

Duplicate Content

Most of the time B2B websites have unique content on every page. However, there may be an instance or need to duplicate content for other SEM efforts, unique campaigns, email nurturing, or deploying automation through your customer relationship management software (CRM) like HubSpot. Duplicate content does not always refer to a complete copy of a web page. As Google outlines:

Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.

Nevertheless, you’ll find your web page or even the website in whole, receiving a penalty for duplicated content. The worst scenario is a “manual action” where a human in the Googleplex views the offending content and website, then manually removes a page or pages from the index. How can you avoid this? Don’t duplicate or plagiarize content. But, it is always best practice to use canonical tags on every page. This tag designates that two or more pages are essentially the same and which page is the source. If your content is often syndicated or copied, use of canonical tags with some content copy protection may be the best solution. For WordPress installs, there are several plugins that disable copy/paste functionality.

Go through your site and note any content similarities. Be sure to record the URLs. If third parties have copied your content, there are often several solutions for finding the offenders, but for the sake of SEO, the content originator that has been copied almost never sees a negative impact in results. GSC is good about sending notifications when something is amiss. Onsite duplications that cannot be removed can be addressed by “spinning” them to 40-60% uniqueness. But if you’ve removed duplicate content, make sure to complete the fix with a 301 redirect.

Older websites often use PHP which may lead a link to /index.php but with the same page verbatim also accessible at the .com (sub-folders also suffered from this issue). To avoid duplicate content issues like the above sitewide, add the following code to the .htaccess file. The code is as follows:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^[A-Z]{3,9}\ /.*index\.php\ HTTP/
RewriteRule ^(.*)index\.php$ /$1 [R=301,L]

 

This code strips out all /index.php files and redirects to the / that is common.

Also consider consolidating multiple domains for your site. When search engines crawl a website that does not enforce one version of a domain, they see the www and non-www domains as two different websites, which reduces your authority. Just as you may operate a client-focused subdomain, such as login.mywebsite.com, www and non-www could contain two very different websites. If they don’t, then it can be viewed as a duplicate content concern. This is only exacerbated with the recent push to secure domains using HTTPS, doubling the number of accessible domains if not properly managed. For example, your site may be represented as:

  • http://mywebsite.com
  • https://mywebsite.com
  • http://www.mywebsite.com
  • https://www.mywebsite.com

To solve this, you or your IT team has a few options. Like the code above, you can consolidate your domains with .htaccess or Internet Information Services (IIS). For websites using Apache services, .htaccess enables you to do a lot of server redirection. For domains the code is:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.yourdomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://yourdomain.com/$1 [L,R=301]

 

Server redirects are the best option for ensuring users are not impacted by the redirect and search engines do not penalize you for duplicate content. A second option is to do a meta refresh or on-load redirect, but these options do not redirect the domain; they redirect the user after the page loads. However, this means that, technically, the multiple websites still exist and could be accessible via the domains you are wanting to avoid being indexed.

SSL and Domains

When most business owners purchase a domain and hosting account, the concern for duration is a financial one. In the SEO realm, one of the quickest wins is domain registration and hosting structure. The site needs to be registered for no less than two years. The search engines view the registration and duration of the domain as signs of credibility and authority. If the domain is only four years old, registering the domain for five years or longer provides an indicator of long-term plans. Domains should be registered for five, 10 or 20 years with an automatic renewal at the two-year mark. If SSL is added, it should be registered for the same period as the domain.

SLL Insecure Page WarningThe digital environment has changed dramatically since the late 2000s. The search engines have moved to provide a more secure search experience. To support security, use of SSL is “highly” recommended for all websites and “nearly required” for any site collecting any type of user data. Google secured search in 2011, then recommended all sites do so in 2014. As of 2018, Google Chrome and Safari now shows warnings for websites that do not have SSL enabled and cautions for website pages that do not have SSL implemented correctly. If you have files, images, or resources used to load a page that do not route through HTTPS, users see the secured designation, but it is grey (rather than green) with details about the page not being “fully secure.”

Robots.txt

The robots.txt file is a simple text file with directives for crawlers. These directives define the functions and ways crawlers are allowed to scan the website. Generally, you want to give the search engine bots access to all the content on the site and reference any sitemaps. From an SEO standpoint, the robots.txt file works with the xml sitemap (or text sitemap) to manage indexing for search engines and block certain types of tools from viewing sensitive areas.

Be careful, however: on most websites, you want to make sure to allow all crawlers and NOT disallow the root (which would happen if you used the code disallow: / ). This can lead to preventing indexing. During development, Golden Spiral blocks crawling and indexing because we don’t want search users or crawlers visiting the site just yet.

Using the robots.txt, we can make direct references to any XML sitemap files. It is best practice to reference a sitemap for videos and a sitemap that contains the location of all content files (including blog posts). At Golden Spiral, we build many of our websites on WordPress and incorporate Yoast into our optimizations. Yoast facilitates many basic SEO needs, including constructing the sitemap.xml file with indices for the different webpage categories, and constructs a virtual robots.txt file that calls out the sitemap.

If you build your own robots.txt, a good robots.txt file example would be:

User-agent: *
Allow: / 
Sitemap: https://www.mywebsite.com/GoogleSitemap.xml
Sitemap: https://www.mywebsite.com/VideoSitemap.xml

 

Mobile-First Approach

If you aren’t convinced that we’re living in a mobile-first culture and that your marketing needs to be mobile-first, too, consider these statistics:

  • By the end of 2018, American adults are expected to spend on average 3 hours and 23 minutes on non-voice mobile media every day. That’s an hour more than American adults were spending on their phones in 2013.
  • 48% of consumers start mobile research with a search engine
  • Users invest 69% of their time spent on devices on their smartphones.

You must have a responsive, user experience (UX) friendly, mobile-optimized site. As of 2018, Google also optimized for mobile-first indexing. Google AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) was all talk in anticipation of the “mobilegeddon” in 2015 when mobile use on search began reaching 35-40% and search engines started making major changes to the SERP to accommodate.

The AMP Project is an open-source initiative helmed by Google, with Twitter and a few other social companies supporting it. The project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful, and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.

AMP will take a little time and effort to set up on your site, and your users may not recognize they’re actually using an AMP site. Nor will they necessarily care. Switching your framework will involve rewriting some content to fit your new needs. Because of its streamlined nature, AMP websites do not use advanced code or dynamic HTML which can eat bandwidth, impacting the “cool” factor.

What you need to know about AMP

AMP is executed by asynchronous JavaScript (JS). But, it is non-customizable, meaning it allows for iframes.

Sizing is done statically. All external resources must declare their size in HTML.

Extensions can’t block rendering. AMP allows embeds, lightboxes, and more but loads the site without waiting for an additional HTTP request.

Loads third-party JS outside of critical path. AMP pages allow third-party JavaScript but only in sandboxed iframes.

Forces efficient font triggering. AMP systems declare zero HTTP requests until fonts start downloading because all JS in AMP is asynchronous.

Minimizes style recalculations. All DOM reads happen first before all the writes.

AMP controls all resource loading and prioritizes the most important resources.

Uses preconnect API. This allows a page to render before the user explicitly clicks a link. The page might already be available by the time the user actually selects it (but only pre-renders the content above the fold).

Why it does it matter?

Anything Google supports or promotes impacts the search and digital visibility of any website that uses the technology, solution, and/or program (think: YouTube, Google+, schema.org). The goal of AMP is to ensure your mobile site loads quickly and to present streamlined content and custom JavaScript code that loads asynchronously. The only caution to AMP adoption is that it generates an AMP link—not your normal user-friendly link—when copied and shared. These links can sometimes be confusing to users unfamiliar with AMP.

Mobile Indexing

Mobile-first indexing focuses on providing website results that are mobile-friendly. This does not mean you need to build a mobile version of your current website, but rather your current site needs to be mobile-friendly in load speed, touch points, and functionality. The mobile-first index on Google refers to the preference of mobile-friendly sites over desktop-only websites. Making sure your website is responsive in mobile while also optimized on desktop is key. During evaluations and audits, Golden Spiral leverages Google’s Pagespeed Insights to determine any major concerns.

Do not, however, neglect desktop because B2B-focused websites have a higher percentage of desktop visits compared to traditional websites. Just make sure that the content presented on mobile and desktop pages is the same. Our next trend will see more changes to mobile and in the way mobile content is presented.

Progressive Web Apps

You might be asking, “What is a progressive web app?”

Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of this before now. Google’s definition is:

“A Progressive Web App uses modern web capabilities to deliver an app-like user experience.”

Basically, we’ll be seeing mobile sites take the place of apps, and mobile sites will present more like apps. Theoretically, they’ll be great for any browser since they’re built with progressive enhancement. They’ll be responsive. And since they’ll appear like apps, they’ll feel fresh and exciting. App development will also be an interesting field to watch in the coming months. However, let me be clear: This is not something you need.

You may have a valuable use for a progressive web app if your business has already invested development into a great app and wants to use that functionality on your website as well. It is worth noting that PWAs are only viewable on Android, not iOS, and that they have seen limited adoption in the two years since their introduction. Google is also not entirely transparent about how PWAs affect search ranking, but know it’s a cool bonus and we’ll likely see them a lot more in the coming years, especially with the prevalence of mobile. Pete Watson-Wailes with Moz and Mozilla have even more information on PWAs if you’re so inclined.

Clean URLs

Quite often website URLs have characters such as %&? and many others. These are non-friendly URLs. Clean URLs have no special characters in the URL string and offer a chance to include keywords in the URL.

When using dashes to separate URLs, they should not be interspersed with underscores. So the following would be an example of a bad URL: http://www.domain.com/technology-app_solutions.

Key Takeaway

Of all the chapters, this one either read like a foreign language or sweet music. If these ideas are foreign to you, use online resources or an outside SEO expert to make sure your technical specs are up to the task. Technical SEO is worth the effort and will help you avoid simple pitfalls.

06

Keyword & Competitive Research

We touched on the importance of keywords when researching content in chapter three. Now, let’s explore keywords for your entire online experience as well as evaluating your competition.

High vs. Low Volume

Consider both keywords with high volume and keywords with low volume when conducting any research or analysis. Keywords with high volume may send traffic, but are they converting? Your ultimate goal is not the amount of traffic but the number of form submissions that lead to new business. Depending on your digital KPIs, you may also want to lock in more of the B2B marketshare for your niche in the industry from competitors. With the various SEO tactics integrated with other components of SEM, you are on your way. Perform competitive analysis now, and then repeat the process on a regular basis. The repetitive research will help you gain insights into trends. Keyword research on yourself and competitors will keep you on the bleeding edge instead of playing catch up.

The keyword research tactics below will help you identify important terms, topics, and searches for both you and your competitors. It isn’t uncommon to find innovative ways to overtake competitors or discover that competitors you thought were strong aren’t dominating online.

Derivatives

We have synonyms in our language. We have derivative keywords in SEO. They are terms which may mean the same thing but have the potential to drive more/less traffic. This is true with terms like “cybersecurity” and “cyber security.” Industry professionals use the single word version, while consumers and entry-level professionals may use the two term version. This shows user intent and user context in something as simple as their word choice.

We find the same experience with the term “SEO” itself. Thanks to RankBrain’s changes in Google’s algorithm, SEO is a synonym and acronym of “Search Engine Optimization.” In most B2B technology spaces, we know there are several examples of this. As you work on your research with competitors, industry, and buyers in mind, remember how your target audiences search.

Intent and context matter because both impact how you craft your content. Without knowing the “why” and “how” of your buyer’s journey from the search channel, you may misalign your content. This is where we find content that is highly trafficked or engaged with, but but does not result in conversions.

Alternatives

When looking at keywords for your websites, you should always look for both the B2B buyer professional’s and the layperson’s terms for an issue or question and compare the two for volume.

Using Google Suggest (the part of the search screen in Google that autocompletes/guesses your query as you’re typing and provides alternative searches) is a great way to get other keyword terms to consider. Google Suggest terms are derived from the popular terms searched for by other Google users and are listed dynamically as a search is specified. Find and test suggestions from Google and enter them into the Google Ads keyword tool or a keyword research tool of your choice, to determine volume, difficulty, and current environment.

 Google Suggest

Google Ads’ keyword planner is also a great way to get alternative suggestions for your main keyword. Depending on your organization, BrightEdge, Moz, Raven, and others offer keyword tools that can help you find alternative keywords with competitive metrics.

If Google is showing you that a keyword term may be popular, then it is always worth checking into. Likely your competition is doing the same.

Competition

When exporting information from Google Ads, the competition column should be exported along with the keywords. This competitive data is based on a number out of 1.00. Keywords with a rating of 0.85 and higher are the most competitive keywords. Google will present this information without giving a number format before the data is downloaded (low, medium, high).

Google Analytics Keyword Competitive Scores

Another way to tell if competition is high is to check the average CPC. If this amount is high, then we know that there are people wanting to be listed highly for the term.

Look at this data when evaluating traffic. If you're not sure how much traffic a keyword will generate, check the CPC data. If it’s a valuable source of traffic, or a potential revenue driver, then people will be bidding on it.

In such competitive, niche environments as the B2B technology space, checking on competitors’ websites directly can reveal a lot about their tactics and strategy. Discovering more about their keywords reveals a lot about what they’re trying to do.

Combine this strategy with a backlink tool, such as Ahrefs or Raven’s backlink explorer tool, to get more data on keywords the competition is focusing on now and in the past, plus their potential spend. SpyFu and SEMRush will give a rundown of both organic and paid keywords with anticipated current ad spends. However, no tool can access Google or your competitors’ websites nor can any tool tell you exactly what a competitor’s strategy is. This is where an experienced SEO expert takes over to help transform the data into meaningful insight.

Key Takeaway

Benchmark your keyword research so you can see the trends and the successes you will have as you work your SEO and paid search strategies. Don’t neglect low volume, especially in the B2B tech space. Your most important customers are searching for a niche solution. Your low volume keyword research and use may help them find what they need and find you.
07

Automating SEO

Digital marketers use the word automation all the time, but few are actually implementing it. CRM provider Marketo surveyed marketers about their top automation challenges. Marketers reported they struggled with:
  • lack of quality content (40%)
  • budget constraints (38%)
  • lack of an effective marketing automation strategy (38%)
  • complexity of marketing automation (32%)
  • lack of employee skills (31%)

Automation can be difficult, and "Marketing Automation" can be an amorphous term. However, in practice nearly everyone has some experience with Automation in a general form. Automation means taking a repetitive task and finding an easier, faster, and automated way to accomplish it. If you’ve ever set a recurring calendar event, you’ve performed an automation task (granted, a light one). Now, you don’t have to create that event or appointment every single time. Automation takes time-consuming tasks out of your hands so that you can focus on work that is really important.

SEO is an area that is ripe for automation because many SEO tasks are already performed in digital tools that have the capacity for automation. Instead of taking valuable time to do these tasks manually, explore tools to automate your SEO reporting, auditing, and more.

Effective Automation Tools

Google Analytics

As always, one of the best ways to optimize your SEO workflow is with Google’s own tools. Google has extensive options in tools like Google Analytics to create custom reports and have those reports emailed regularly to your team. Instead of diving into GA every time you have to build an SEO report for your team, you can create a custom report with only the statistics you need and distribute it automatically.

Zapier

Zapier is a web service that connects other platforms with web APIs, allowing you to build automated workflows that connect multiple services you use together. These workflows, called “Zaps,” are triggered from the service of your choice and launch a series of actions in other services. For example, if you use both HubSpot and Slack, you could set a Zap to trigger a private Slack message any time a new lead fills out a form in HubSpot.

Google Sheets

Google’s spreadsheet app has a powerhouse of third-party plugins that can optimize for SEO. Browse through its plugin library to find the tools you need, both free and paid, that can dynamically update your spreadsheets with important SEO information.

Web APIs

Many of the most popular SEO tools (such as SEMRush, Moz, and RavenTools) already have an API that can be plugged into your automation services such as Zapier. If you have the means, a small amount of custom scripting can put them to work for you.

Other Tools

If you are in the Apple ecosystem, look into tools like Keyboard Maestro, Automator, Workflow, Drafts 5, Hazel, and IFTTT to build custom automations. These tools, and many more, may not be custom-built for SEO, but can drastically improve the speed of your SEO efforts. For example, you might use Keyboard Maestro to built a custom keyboard shortcut that will launch all the websites you use for a session of keyword research and fill in important keywords copied from your clipboard.

SEO Automation Roadblocks

The biggest roadblock to SEO automation is cost. The tools listed above are largely either free or affordable, but some tools can be too expensive to justify the time saved with their use. For instance, SEMRush and Moz offer API access, but only for a considerable extra cost to their normal base subscription. Secondly, an automation is only valuable if it ends up saving you time in the long run, so don’t spend weeks building an automation that will only save you seconds.

Key Takeaway

Automation helps you save time so you can be more efficient and invest time in other efforts. Automation doesn’t replace vigilance. Keep watch on your scorecards, your KPIs, and the upward trend. Your results are your responsibility. Stay focused.

 

08

Social Media

Social media is a big focus and makes up a necessary component of SEM. Social media is a way to extend the reach of your brand’s message to potential clients, existing clients, and the general public to help increase awareness. Leveraging your content on social platforms also allows you to associate subject matter experts (SMEs) with the content you produce by tagging them and/or their agencies when sharing content.

Social profiles should be established on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for most B2B enterprises. Your posts should intermingle self-promotion with partner content and industry updates, helping you connect with new audiences. Remember the 70/20/10 rule and leverage hashtags to join conversations your target audiences are part of. Many B2B entities discount social media's potential to influence their market, but as more millennials take the decision-making reigns, social has become increasingly relevant and strategic.

Woman checking Social Media on Mobile PhoneAs mentioned in our post from early 2016, LinkedIn is the most-used social network among B2B advertisers — and for good reason! As the leading professional networking platform, LinkedIn keeps you in front of targeted decision-makers, clients, and prospects. These numbers help demonstrate why B2B marketers should be quick to adopt LinkedIn as part of their strategy:

  • There are over 400 million LinkedIn members worldwide.
  • There has been a 150% increase in B2B leads generated on LinkedIn since 2010.
  • Every second, two new members sign up.
  • 50% of members are more likely to buy from a company they engage with on LinkedIn.
  • 80% of LinkedIn members want to connect with companies on the platform. 
  • 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content. 
  • 80% of B2B social media leads come from LinkedIn. 

Depending on your bandwidth, you can also make use of social listening to help inform your competitive insights, identify buyer concerns, and learn about problems facing your target verticals . These insights help inform your deeper strategy while also helping inform your SEO efforts. By understanding the buyer’s needs intimately, you are able to better position your content for success online.

Also, by locating websites and resources your buyers frequent—based on their social activity and sharing— you can position your organization as an inbound, in-stream resource for them.

Key Takeaway

Be strategic and focused on Social Media. With over 60 to choose from, businesses are tempted to spend too much energy and money with lackluster results. Choose your outlets on purpose and fill them strategically.

09

Should You Hire an Agency to Help with SEO?

You’re convinced that constant vigilance of your company’s SEO efforts through your website, content, social media, and PR efforts is essential to your future success. You know that attention needs to be given to SEO sooner rather than later. You believe that SEO will aid your marketing efforts to achieve your business goals.

Consider these issues when deciding whether to add SEO capabilities in-house or hire an agency to do this work. Agencies like Golden Spiral can come on board with an integrated SEM strategy or provide a la carte SEO services. Which is right for you? Understanding the value of these tactics helps any business manger or owner determine if the estimated results and ROI are accurate.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

All of your marketing efforts should have a cohesive strategy. This includes analytics, lead nurturing, branding, and SEM Be sure to keep your SEM efforts focused on KPIs and results. Below are some key concepts to consider:

  • pillar page (anchor content for efforts)
  • buyer journey tactics (e.g. awareness > consideration > decision)
  • reporting insights on key consumer activities across all marketing efforts connected to sales activity
  • CRM integration of all marketing efforts, including landing pages, forms, calls to action, email, and more through HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, etc.
  • A\B testing for ads, landing pages, and keyword targeting (e.g. broad match modified versus broad match)

Pay Per Click (PPC)

Tactics should include remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA), as well as implementing negative keywords, ad extensions, customized landing pages, UTM tracking, and conversion optimizations. Successful PPC focuses on quality scores to maximize budget while reducing CPC. Product listing ads (PLAs) should be a key tactic in PPC, where applicable, along with properly structured campaigns and ad groups.

Display

Efforts should connect with GA and GSC to generate a remarketing list. An SEO-capable agency will target display ad placements and ensure they are tightly managed to support brand awareness and drive conversions on key product pages.

SEO

SEO efforts are focused on optimizing existing content, supporting content creation that answers questions users are actively searching for (in-bound), and providing the optimal user experience with search algorithms in mind. This means that the SEO work is centered on maximizing the value potential from brand assets that impact visibility in relevant searches. These assets are not always listed in the search engine result pages (SERPs) but may impact the SERPs. Everything from PDFs, images and social profiles to websites and hosting settings can impact search visibility.

The Golden Spiral Advantage

We are an integrated marketing agency. Our diversified team of experts works daily to sharpen each other in every area. We have all-stars at every position—strategists, SEO experts, public relations professionals, graphic designers, coding developers, and writers. You will be hard-pressed to find all of these disciplines on one team elsewhere. Some agencies may have a specialty, but will hire subcontractors and consultants for the tasks outside their core. Our team can supply all of the marketing strategies and tools from under our own roof and work as a team to bring your solutions to market.

Golden Spiral B2B Technology Marketing LogoOur integrated nature also gives us flexibility. Some clients hire us to be their marketing department. We help them with strategy and provide all of their services. Others come to us because their team is missing SEO as a specialty. We plug in right where they need us. Plus, these clients also benefit from our integrated behavior and our industrywide knowledge.

Our clients appreciate that we are a very focused as a company. We don’t take every potential opportunity that walks in our digital door. We are laser-focused on B2B companies with technology solutions.

SEO—and marketing as a whole—isn’t a short game. It’s a commitment. We’re ready to help you accomplish your goals. Discover the Golden Spiral advantage for yourself.

Fill out the form below, and one of our team members will be in touch with you.

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Chris Turner

Chris Turner, Golden Spiral’s Digital Strategy Director, manages and monitors the strategy for our clients’ digital efforts related to pay-per-click (PPC), social media marketing, and digital optimization (SEO & content).

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