In B2B marketing, everything starts with a lead.
Conversations, sales, clients, and revenues all begin with attracting businesses who may be interested in your product or service and nurturing their interest with the goal of converting them into paying customers.
So, as a business owner, entrepreneur, or B2B marketer, your ability to consistently generate new leads is key to driving sales and sustaining business growth.
However, Marketing Insider Group reports that 61% of B2B marketers say their greatest marketing challenge is generating leads. A quick google search on "how to generate B2B leads" will show you a smorgasbord of tactics, strategies, and formulas for lead generation.
Not even having all of these methods available has helped. This leaves us with a question that must be answered to turn your lead generation program around.
Why Do B2B Marketers Still Struggle With Lead Generation?
The answer is simple: a good number of B2B lead generation tactics are not sustainable as a standalone. Some of them do not deliver maximum ROI or generate qualified leads unless used in conjunction with SEO, but we’ll get to that later in this article.
For instance, paid advertising will only drive as many leads and sales as you can afford and that’s not long unless you are generating quality leads at a decent conversion rate. With cold emailing, you'll be reaching out to businesses who have never heard of or interacted with your brand, with no knowledge of whether they'd be interested in your offering - very intrusive. Your email could even end up in spam or not reach them at all. The situation is different with SEO.
Research has shown that B2B buyers use search engines as their #1 resource for research, and 71% of them begin their buying process with a generic query. Meaning the ideal B2B customer is already searching for you, your company, or services… if you invested in SEO.. Would you rather chase leads or have leads chasing you?
So, What Does This Mean For You And Lead Generation?
If you're investing in SEO and quality content, you can present yourself and your solution to B2B buyers and become a part of their conversation from the moment they begin their research until they're ready to make a decision. This way, potential customers can get familiar with your brand while you consistently generate leads for your sales team without a notoriously expensive ad spend.
However, generating B2B leads with SEO is not an easy feat. It requires investing time and resources into researching, developing, and implementing an SEO content marketing strategy that must be sustained over time.
This exhaustive guide will show you how your organization can employ SEO to target B2B customers and generate qualified leads, using a content strategy you can apply to your business today. As a bonus, we’ll teach you a simple tactic to use ads in conjunction with SEO to 7X the effectiveness of your ads.
But before we go into the details, let's lay out the basics.
Unlike regular consumers or individuals, B2B buyers are businesses, companies, or organizations. They are often business decision-makers in the c-level suite, such as the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and Chief Financial Officer.
Usually, when selling to B2B customers, you're selling to a team looking to use your product to solve a specific business need.
According to Seth Godin, B2B companies have a hierarchy of business needs on which they base their buying decisions. These needs include ( from primary needs down)
Unlike B2C buyers, who buy on impulse, B2B buyers make calculated purchases because they have to justify their purchase (which is actually an investment) with ROI.
B2B purchases usually involve larger deals, as companies are willing to spend money on solutions that will solve their core problems. The result of this is a long, slow, and more complicated buying journey or sales cycle, as multiple people or teams are involved in the purchase decision.
Like B2C, the B2B buying journey includes the awareness, consideration, and decision-making stages.
However, in B2B, this journey is more complicated. According to Gartner, B2B buyers have to complete six buying jobs before they can successfully finalize a purchase decision.
These buying jobs do not happen in a predictable, linear order. Instead, each team member may engage with these buying jobs at different times during a purchase, making the B2B buying process look something like this:
A typical B2B purchase process can involve 6-10 business decision-makers. With everyone contributing to the process, it may last anywhere between 3-12 months. During this time, your job as a B2B marketer is to provide all the decision-makers with as much education and value to help them progress through the different stages of their journey with ease.
And this is where B2B lead generation SEO comes in.With the right combination of keywords based on keyword intent, content creation, distribution, and technical SEO, your website will appear more on the SERPs and serve valuable, helpful information when potential B2B customers need them.
When this happens over time, you begin to drive leads, and your website becomes the most effective lead generation tool for your business.
Showing up in front of your customers and becoming a part of their conversations begins with targeting the right audience. And to do so, you need to know your ideal customers and what they're looking for.
Your target audience consists of people who fit into a particular demographic, e.g., HR managers in fortune 500 firms between 30 and 50 years old, looking for HR automation software to help them increase productivity, save time and automate manual tasks.
However, to better understand this audience and successfully serve beneficial content, you need to segment them using buyer personas.
A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. It goes beyond identifying people in a particular demographic ( target audience) to identifying the characteristics, habits, and behaviors of an individual who may be interested in your product or service.
When you take the time to research and create buyer personas, you discover important information that helps you relate to your customers and align your marketing message to their specific needs and unique buying journeys.
Since you're targeting the B2B audience, you'll have more than one ideal customer because multiple people are involved in the B2B purchase process. Meaning you have to create multiple buyer personas. You can segment your ideal customers by their company roles to address the different teams/departments involved in the buying decision.
When creating your buyer persona, you should include information like:
Your persona doesn’t have to cover every point mentioned here. But with this information, you can gain insights into each customer's buying journey to understand their problems, desires, motivations, and frustrations.
Understanding your buyer personas and journeys will help you create the right marketing message that will resonate with them and guide them through their process. It will also set a solid foundation for your content marketing and SEO success.
With your buyer personas in place, you can start creating and serving the right content to your customers at the right time, and in the language they understand.
Now that you've identified your target audience and created customer personas, it's time to target those customers using keywords specific to their pain points. The pinnacle of keyword research is keyword intent. Keyword intent is figuring out what they are actually searching for and why based on the keywords they use. This information is also broken down to the point where you can easily understand what stage of the buying process each person is in when visiting any specific content. Here’s a short example of keyword intent.
If someone does a search for SEO, they are likely in the beginning stages of the buying cycle, where someone searching for how to generate B2B leads using SEO are likely further into that cycle. One is generic, the other a long-tail keyword that shows an interest in both SEO and B2B lead generation. We will cover this topic in more detail below.
Long-tail keywords are specific keyword phrases with three or more words. They usually focus on a niche and are used when searchers know what they're looking for and are closer to making a buying decision.
Most B2B buyers use long-tail keywords because they are more specific to their problems. Even though these keywords generally have lesser search volume, they generate better, more qualified traffic and leads.
Because customers searching with long-tail keywords are already shopping for the solutions you provide, you have a better chance at securing their attention and converting them into paying customers.
For instance, say you're a software development company building apps. Your primary keyword would be software development. But it would be nearly impossible to rank your pages at the top of organic search for the keyword because of the insane competition (especially if you're a startup or small company). But suppose you specialize in the medical industry. In that case, keywords like "medical app development for hospitals" will target customers looking for your particular service, making it easier to get in front of them.
When you find long-tail keywords relevant to your buyers and business, it would be worth your while and more profitable to laser-focus your SEO lead generation strategy on them even if they get only 50 searches a month.
There are many keyword tools on the market today, some free, some paid, but a great way to start is by speaking to your existing customers.
Talking to your customers will help you know how they understand your business topic. As you interact, take note of keywords and phrases that seem relevant. Then, proceed to plug them into Copy.ai's free keyword generator to gather more long-tail keyword ideas.
Another fantastic way is to put yourself in the customer's position. Think about and write down the phrases or words you would use if you were searching for your service, then use google autocomplete to expand your list.
Start typing a general term related to your business into the Google search bar. But instead of hitting enter, take a look at the suggestions that come up. Then, take note of the keywords that are relevant to your topic and include them in your list.
You can also gather long-tail keyword ideas by looking at the "people also ask" and "related searches" sections in google SERPs. Here’s a quick tip for finding more long-tail keywords in “people also ask”. You should have 3 to 5 questions displayed. Open one and then close it, and you will notice more questions appear. You can repeat this until no new ones show up.
Keyword research tools like Ahref, SEMrush, Answer the Public are also very useful for keyword research. They'll not only show you possible long-tail keywords you can target, but they'll provide data on critical metrics like search volume, search intent, and keyword trends.
When it comes to generating qualified B2B leads, nothing beats quality content. It’s the equivalent of printing money.
As B2B buyers are business executives who make company-wide decisions, they place a premium on high-quality content that is specific to their purpose or pain points. Therefore, to win more B2B leads, you need to focus your marketing efforts on providing customers with valuable, relevant information.
However, creating this kind of content is not the easiest thing to do. It requires considerable investments in money, time, and effort. But the upside is that your investment will differentiate you from the competition and deliver benefits in the form of traffic, backlinks, and leads over time.
You can optimize your content for search engines without sacrificing quality by following SEO best practices such as:
Your goal should be to create content that is so good, it naturally attracts backlinks and makes your customer's journey 3x easier. This way, you'll have a consistent inflow of B2B leads with higher chances of winning them over.
Your website is a marketing funnel, and your job as a B2B marketer is to ensure that its structure fits the journey users take in the buying cycle.
The basic marketing funnel has 3 parts — the top, middle, and bottom. Website visitors at the top of the funnel are researching and looking for educational content. At the middle of the funnel, they are looking at specific solutions and considering different options. When they get to the bottom, they're ready to buy.
Understanding how this cycle works helps you align your website's design and content to the visitor's goal at every stage.
If you do your SEO correctly and target the right industry keywords, you will drive traffic to the top of your funnel. Meaning visitors will find your website during research if it pertains to their problem. But once they get past the research stage, you need to help them continue their journey with the middle and bottom of the funnel content.
If you're able to provide a seamless website experience with sufficient education and conversion-optimized landing pages, you'll be able to retain a good number of your website's visitors and convert them into leads.
A significant part of optimizing your website is improving your site's load time. If your website's pages load slowly, customers will bounce and move to your competitors. So, make sure that all your pages load in less than 3 seconds.
Content mapping is the process of plotting out your content assets within the different stages of your revenue or marketing funnel. To map your content, you need to understand
At the top of the funnel, your customer is in the awareness or interest stage of his buying journey. Here, he's facing a problem, his interest is piqued, and he's trying to learn as much as he can about this problem.
At the middle of the funnel, he's in the consideration stage. At this stage, he has become familiar with his problem, and he's looking at possible solutions to solve it.
At the bottom of the funnel, the customer is reviewing different solutions and is ready to make a final decision.
Once you define your buyer personas and identify their unique buying journeys, the next thing to do is serve them the right content in their preferred formats and on their channels of choice.
It's time to map your content to the different stages of your marketing funnel and buyer's journey to achieve your B2B lead generation SEO goal.
As I mentioned before, when customers are at the awareness stage (top of the funnel), they've just realized they have a problem and are looking to learn more about it. So, naturally, they'll turn to search engines like Google or Bing for research — the reason why you should prioritize SEO.
This stage is where customers make first contact. So, your content should focus on addressing customer pain points, educating them about their problem, and providing actionable solutions they can take away with them. You'll introduce your brand here but without the intention of promoting or selling your product/service.
The awareness stage is about educating and providing value with digestible, informative content. Trying to goad users into a sale at this point may make them leave your funnel.
At this stage, they'll search with broad keywords like "marketing automation," "customer experience," "conversion rate optimization." Clearly, these keywords signify informational intent. So, it would help if you focused on creating the following types of content.
Ebooks are long-form content that users can download and read offline. Usually, they're gated behind a form. So, customers have to provide their contact information in exchange for access. This gives you a fantastic opportunity to capture customer emails for lead nurturing.
When creating ebooks, focus on serving authoritative and engaging content at a very high level. Remember that your target audience are key decision-makers who are pressed for time. So, you want to make sure they get maximum value from reading your content.
To make your ebook effective, keep the following key points in mind:
Ultimate guides are best for providing extensive information on broad topics. They can be 3000+ words or longer and usually include lots of sections, headings, explanations, examples, and actionable steps.
When creating guides, it's essential to pay attention to structure in order to present your information in a cohesive, digestible manner.
Usually, your guide should have a title and summary. The summary explains the value the users will derive from reading.
The main content should be written in a simple, clear manner and divided into several chapters and sections with headings. You should also include clear in-page navigation to help users jump to particular sections within the page.
Don't forget that most of your readers will be skimming, so your content should be scannable and include relevant visuals to help them visualize the message. After creating and publishing your ultimate guide, promote it on social networks and your email list to reach a wider audience.
Taking the time to create educational, helpful content on topics important to your target audience demonstrates your brand's expertise and helpfulness. Moreso, it establishes your credibility with potential buyers, increases awareness, and positions your business as the go-to resource for intelligent, valuable information.
With thought leadership content, you focus on helping your audience and providing so much value that you influence their opinions and inform their decisions.
When you present yourself as an expert worth listening to, you begin to generate leads down the road and build online engagement that ultimately turns into business for your brand.
Thought leadership content can take different formats, from blogs to articles, social media posts, podcasts, videos, quotes, guest posts, even public speaking at conferences.
When creating white papers for B2B decision-makers, write authoritatively to show that you understand your audience and their problem. Focus on building trust by drawing on your expertise to provide extensive education about your customer's problem. Then, include actionable solutions backed up by research data and statistics.
Because B2B white papers are lengthy, detailed content pieces, professional structuring and formatting are non-negotiable.
Your white paper should have a distinct beginning, middle, and ending that resonates.
Divide your paper into sections. Use subheadings and bullet points to make the content easy to read and digestible. Avoid creating large walls of texts. Instead, write in paragraphs and short sentences. Employ lots of white space to make the content easy for your reader's eye.
Make sure to keep your white papers professional but conversational and use catchy titles to grasp their attention.
When you conduct primary research for your B2B business, you focus on pinpointing your audiences' challenges and providing a direct solution based on pure, unadulterated data.
You can conduct primary research by going out and speaking directly to your target audience through in-person or telephone interviews.
Interviews are a personal way to gather deep insights into your audience's problems and how they'll perceive your solution. You can take note of their body reactions, tone of voice, and moods as you ask questions.
Another personal approach for conducting primary research is using small focus groups to learn about a specific problem. You can also use online surveys and observations to collect information.
The data you gather during primary research is yours and should be used to inform your intended solution.
B2B organizations can conduct primary research through interviews and online surveys. Apart from developing solutions for your buyers, you can use primary research to create content for your audience by turning your research data into blogs, guides, whitepapers, social media posts, digital ads, content for speaking engagements, etc.
With press releases at the top of your funnel, you're trying to inform your B2B buyers, not push them to buy your products. So, use it to get your audience excited about your business offering and encourage them to go further down your funnel.
You can publish press releases on your website or submit them to news aggregators like Google News, Yahoo News, and Feedly.
Interviewing subject matter experts on issues that concern your audience and creating content based on those interviews show the prospects at the top or middle of your funnel that you genuinely care about helping them.
Expert interviews can drive significant traffic to your website when transcribed and published as blogs. They can also spark engagements on your social media channels and increase traffic to your website from email marketing.
To increase trust and authority, you can also use the interviewee's quotes in content assets like white papers, case studies, guides, and ebooks.
At the middle of the funnel, customers are in their consideration stage. They've become familiar with their problem, learned about possible solutions, and are now considering their options.
They're probably reading content from other businesses, so now is a great time to start incorporating your products/solutions and showing how it solves the customer's problem.
Possible keywords your customers will search with at the consideration stage are "best productivity apps." They may also use branded keywords at this stage.
Examples of content you should focus on creating at the middle of your B2B lead generation funnel include:
Pitch your solution and show them why it's the best option for their problem. You don't have to paint your competitors bad, and it's okay if their products trump yours in some ways.
However, comprehensive product comparisons that show how your product or solution will help prospective buyers avoid risk or hassle, save time, or solve their particular problem will help drive them to the bottom of your funnel. You still shouldn't push too hard for the sale at this stage. Just focus on your USP.
When a business stakeholder sees how your solution improved another client's business, it creates an emotional connection and encourages him to view you as a possible solution. The effect of a case study is even more significant when it relates to your prospect's industry or line of business.
Case studies help establish your credibility and reinforce your authority. They validate your claims by showing real-life proof of how effective your solutions are.
Ideally, your case study should include the name and website address of the business your solution helped improve. It can also include a testimonial from the client to lend weight to its credibility.
When writing case studies, use storytelling to take your prospect on a complete journey of why your solution works, how it works, and what it can do for them.
Remember to focus on the main points and save intricate details for your white paper.
The purpose of gating your content is to capture emails that your sales team can follow up with and nurture.
If you satisfy your customers at the top of the funnel, they'll be more than willing to give you their emails when they get to the middle of the funnel. However, ensure that the gated content you're offering in exchange for their contact information is valuable and relevant to their journey.
Try to keep your form fields short and simple, and use a compelling CTA to convince customers to take your offer.
Also, it's important to not gate all the content on your website; else it will turn your customers off.
Internal links are also essential for SEO. They help google crawl, index, and better understand the context of your pages. Plus, they give your ranking a significant boost as top-performing pages can pass link equity and topical authority to other pages.
However, you can't just link any website page to the other. Your internal links must be relevant so users can get more value when they click through to the next page. It's also essential to use descriptive anchor texts that include your keyword so Google can understand the context of your pages.
In this guide, Ahref explains how to build an internal linking strategy for SEO.
Remember we promised you that we would show you a great tactic for people using ads? Once your site is established and your content is getting a lot of visitors collectively, you can start a retargeting campaign via ads on search or social media with amazing results. It’s best used at the top and middle of the funnel.
Cost Bonuses: Retargeting ads are generally 7 times cheaper than running ads to first time content to any particular person. Statistics show that once someone hits a page or post on your site, they need to see your brand and benefits 7 times over the following 7 days. Keep the content in the respective funnel.
Here’s a few stats to show you the power of retargeting.
These are just a few of the statistics that show the power of retargeting. You get a huge benefit in conversion rates at a fraction of the cost of basic ad placements. If you want more customers and low cost retargeting, SEO is now a priority. This is just one side benefit of doing SEO at a professional level where you can combine tactics and strategies in digital marketing to multiply quality inbound leads and educate potential clients in the mid to upper levels of your sales funnel.
SEO lead generation is not a one-off activity. Instead, it's an iterative process that delivers satisfactory and game-changing results in the long term.
As a B2B company, if you focus on and invest your time and resources in SEO content creation and distribution, you'll stand out from the competition, drive consistent traffic and leads and become an authority in your industry.
Remember, SEO is the most effective B2B lead generation strategy because it thrives on building relationships and helping your customers. And customers will always go to where they're helped and taken care of.
Want to learn more? Check out our guide on content marketing funnels
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