If you work at a high-end B2B consulting or enterprise services firm, you know that new clients don’t just call you out of the blue because they find you in a Google search result. For sophisticated firms with complex sales cycles, new clients are more likely gained through reputation and word of mouth. A web content strategy, some would argue, is about demonstrating credibility and further engaging potential clients who already understand who the players are within their industry—not being discovered in search engines.
But if you think SEO isn’t important for high-end B2B firms, how do you reconcile that against the number of people who are, in fact, conducting very specific searches directly related to the products and services those firms provide?
A Hypothetical B2B SEO Example
Let’s consider an example of a hypothetical mid-market M&A advisory firm, XYZ Capital, who serves corporate clients with 10 million to 200 million in transaction value. I think it’s safe to say that nobody’s hiring XYZ Capital to handle a $200M corporate transaction simply because they were found ranking #1 in Google.
But what if a client of XYZ Capital, in the days following an introductory meeting to discuss planning for an upcoming merger, visits Google and searches for information highly relevant to the merger. I’m not an expert in the M&A space, but here are a few searches that seem relevant, along with the number of times they get searched in Google each month:
- “post merger integration” – 210 searches
- “m&a integration” – 170 searches
- “acquisition integration” – 110 searches
- “m&a integration checklist” – 70 searches
- “acquisition integration checklist” – 70 searches
What do you think? If you’re on the team at XYZ Capital, do you think there’d be any benefit appearing in the #1 position in Google with a result like this?
A result like this demonstrates expertise and shows empathy for the client. That’s powerful for relationship building. Not to mention the fact that XYZ Capital, having previously identified this potential client in their CRM/marketing automation system, gets instantly alerted to the fact that the client just found their article in Google. Powerful intelligence.
I think the flaw in the assertion that SEO doesn’t matter for high-end B2B services is the notion that SEO is only about discovery or generating leads. SEO can be highly effective for those things in the right markets, but the way people use search engines is far more complex than that.
When your clients are searching Google for information directly related to the products and services you provide, you’ve got to anticipate those searches and be ready with optimized content at the moments that matter most.
Let’s examine this further and consider some of the other reasons SEO is critical for high-end B2B companies.
Clients Don’t Browse Your Website
For all the effort you’ve put into designing a beautiful website and organizing its information, the reality is that most visits will be clustered around a small handful of pages—often your ‘About’ page to learn more about your company and your team.
When a client has a question, she won’t painstakingly browse through your entire website on the off chance you might have published something on the topic in question. She’ll go to Google and enter a specific query there. Maybe her question is general in nature, so she’s not expecting to find a search result from your firm. Imagine how impressed she’ll be if she does.
Which leads to the next important point…
Anticipate Need States Throughout the Buyer’s Journey
Long, complex sales cycles morph over time and can be influenced by a variety of external factors including what’s happening in politics, the financial markets, the environment, and more. Any of those factors can trigger the need for additional information gathering, which, if you’ve done your SEO homework, can result in additional touch points for your brand.
Your goal, then, is to be seemingly ubiquitous in search, anticipating questions and concerns that span the entire research and decision making process of your prospective clients. Even if your company is being considered because it was one of a small handful of firms recommended from within an exclusive circle of industry insiders, it’s going to be your consistent presence in search engine results that bridges key information gaps and ultimately builds the connection you need to win and retain the business.
You’re Targeting the Media, Not Just Clients
Where do journalists find subject matter experts to cite in your industry? While there are a number of great curation tools out there, industry journalists and writers of all kinds still use search engines to find new sources of information, just like the rest of us. Make it easy for them to find you.
Optimizing your client-targeted content helps ensure you’ll be found by the media and potentially receive valuable press coverage, but we recommend taking it a step further by including journalists as one of your target audience personas and writing content directly for them, rather than exclusively targeting potential clients. To do that, you basically follow the same steps as you would for a client: understand their needs, create search engine optimized content that satisfies those needs, and let them know about it.
Pro tip: journalists love to support their stories with data, so if you can publish the results of your original research or a commissioned study, including concrete data points pertinent to your industry, you’ll attract citations from industry journalists like bees to honey.
Understanding the many varied use cases and audiences personas interacting with your site and tailoring content for each of them will eventually position you as a seemingly ubiquitous influencer within your industry’s ecosystem of journalists, clients, and thought leaders.
Content that Isn’t Findable Generates Crappy ROI
Content is expensive to produce. If you use internal resources, then you already know how time consuming it is. If you hire a company like mine to help you create content, it’ll save a lot of time and produce excellent results, but it’s still going to be a non-trivial line item in your budget. Producing high-quality content is expensive no matter how you approach it.
So isn’t it a bummer when you spend all that time and money to publish content that nobody reads? Sure, well-written content can serve double-duty as great collateral for a sales team, but wouldn’t the ROI be dramatically higher if your clients could find it in search engines at the moment they need it?
One of the biggest benefits of building a comprehensive library of search-optimized owned media assets is that those assets continually generate a return on your investment as long as they exist on the web. If you’re going to spend the time and money to create content, you’ve got to make sure people can find it, and SEO is the key.
While I’m not suggesting that SEO should necessarily be the centerpiece of a high-end B2B marketing strategy, it is an essential component. SEO is simply the price of admission for all markets where brand exposure matters and competition exists. It’ll make a world of difference in your content marketing efforts if you take the time to understand how people use search engines at key points in their decision making journey.