Search engine optimization or SEO is exactly what it sounds like: a digital marketing strategy that aims to increase a web page’s presence, or rank, on a search engine platform.

SEO is always changing. Evolving searcher behaviour and updates to search engine algorithms keep SEO strategists on their toes and on the lookout for new tactics to stay ahead of the competition.

Continual performance monitoring, keyword and competitor research, and a robust content strategy are all important elements of a strong B2B SEO strategy, but don’t expect results right out of the starting gate–climbing the ranks takes time and consistent effort.

The basics of B2B SEO

Search engine pages are a dominant marketing channel from sheer traffic alone. There are roughly 3.8 million Google searches per minute on average across the globe, amounting to more than 2 trillion searches per year.

Each of those searches represents a consumer want or need asking to be fulfilled by a search engine result. The results and the order they’re displayed is determined by a complex mix of algorithms, artificial intelligence and SEO marketing.

“SEO is ultimately how well a search engine can serve up your website, your product or your initiative to someone who is searching for that specific thing,” explains Giles Lino, PPC and SEO Strategist at Motum B2B.

SEO has been under the spotlight in the digital marketing world recently. Buyer and consumer behavior has shifted focus from disruptive marketing channels such as pop-ups to more content-based approaches.

“SEO’s rise in popularity ties into the shift in marketing,” says Rachel Cravit, Copywriter at Motum B2B. “The old school interruptive pop-up ads and commercials you’d see on TV don’t really work anymore. They’re not as effective. People want content that's helpful for them and helps educate and inform. SEO connects your brand and its offerings with people who are searching for a solution to a problem.”

Research, research, research

SEO for B2B and B2C marketing may differ in terms of target audience, but the underlying foundation and processes are largely the same. The first step to a sound SEO strategy should be comprehensive research on competitors, keywords, searcher behavior and other SEO-impacting factors.

“You have to know how your product or service appears on searches before starting any kind of SEO effort, because you want to see the associated keywords to help ensure that it populates in any kind of search engine results page,” says Lino.

There are some ways B2B SEO research differs from B2C SEO research, as the target audience for B2B products or services tends to be smaller and more niche.

“There are best practices that you need to follow regardless of whether you're in B2B or in B2C, but I think one of the biggest differences is B2C brands are trying to reach as broad of an audience as possible, whereas B2B brands are targeting the key decision-makers looking for your product or your solution,” says Cravit.

Since you’re competing with a variety of competitors for the top spot on a search engine results page, or SERP, competitor research is another important consideration before embarking on an SEO campaign.

“We need to look at what competitors are doing, looking at their URL structure, looking at their meta description and seeing how the search engine serves up results when you search something specific,” says Lino.

It’s all in the algorithm

No one truly understands exactly how a search engine’s algorithm serves up results – even the engineers who built it. That’s because with each and every search or click, the engine’s algorithms learn and adapt based on a large number of metrics and variables.

That doesn’t mean it’s a total mystery. Search engines measure things like scroll length, time spent on page and other metrics to determine which results are the most relevant and rank them accordingly.

“Google will rank your page and score it based on how effective the page is at delivering the information to satisfy the search engine query,” says Lino. “For example, if you land on a page and then you leave it after 30 seconds, Google's going to say, ‘Okay, that page didn't have exactly what that person wanted’ and score it lower accordingly."

Many marketers have attempted to manipulate their webpages to take advantage of the algorithm with tactics like keyword-stuffing or “cloaking,” but be warned: the punishments for these tactics can be harsh and sometimes irreversible.

Google’s algorithm has also been known to occasionally penalize rule-abiding web pages in error. A mobile-friendly page, quality content, monitoring updates and a dedicated SEO strategist can help prevent these penalties.

The role of content in SEO

The relationship between content and SEO must be nurtured if you want your page to be in a favourable position on the SERP. It’s not enough for an organization to simply create good content. As the adage goes, if a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Well-written and useful content contributes to a higher click-through rate and a better user experience, leading to more favourable metrics such as scroll length and time spent on page. It’s also a great place to plant popular keywords chosen with the help of a keyword planner.

Quality over quantity should be the general rule when creating blogs and articles.

“Everyone got on the content bandwagon a few years ago, causing an over-saturation of content,” says Cravit. “That’s why it's so important to invest in high-quality pieces. People have come to expect very high-quality content, and you won't be able to play the SEO game without it.”

Strong content pieces position your brand as a thought leader, helping build brand credibility and authority in your industry, which can benefit SEO. Thought leadership pieces may also lead to other websites using your content and linking to it, a practice known as backlinking.

Walk, don’t run

As the ocean of content on the web and the number of companies contributing to it grows, SEO will only become more important. Using SEO best practices and tools and leveraging content is the best way to stay ahead of the competition and put your page in the spotlight.

“SEO is only going to become more competitive as we see more companies fighting for a piece of a very small pie,” says Lino. “It’s becoming more important to use every kind of SEO trick, method and best practice you can implement to ultimately help you in the long run.”

Because SEO isn’t a set-and-forget strategy, results need to be continuously monitored to ensure long-term success.

“SEO is always an ongoing effort as search intent changes and associations with certain keywords change,” says Lino. “I don't see SEO as a campaign with a start and stop.”

“SEO is a marathon, not a sprint,” adds Cravit.

Having trouble getting your site to reach the top of the SERP? Get in touch with one of SEO experts, they can help.