If the last 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that the bar has been set higher than ever when it comes to B2B digital experiences.
Research we carried out through the FINITE Community at the end of 2020 found that 70% of B2B marketers felt their website had become more important for them since the start of COVID. 39% of B2B marketers believed that SEO was the channel that had grown in importance the most since the start of COVID.
The stark reality is that in March 2020, many B2B marketers were caught off guard, particularly in the enterprise space. An over reliance on field marketing and conferences which no longer existed had left many marketers out in the open, wondering how they could drive pipeline amongst an endless sea of generic webinars.
The COVID boost
If there is one digital channel we’ve seen increased interest in since COVID, it is organic search.
We saw a marked increase in enquiries coming in through the SEO side of our agency, many leading with the question ‘how long before we see results?’ in the vain hope that we might give them the answer they were hoping for. Unfortunately, SEO takes time.
Fundamentally the reason so many B2B marketers were (and still are) behind when it comes to organic search is an out of date mindset combined with a lack of understanding and insight around how their buyers begin their purchase journeys.
The decision making unit in B2B can be large and complex but as B2B marketers we often fall into the trap of over optimising around the C-Suite buyer. Buyer personas are heavily weighted towards CXO roles as we obsess over their challenges and paint points, whilst we undervalue the role that more junior (and often therefore younger) members of the decision making unit play in the early stages of B2B research.
Whilst a CXO towards the end of their career might not turn to Google as their first choice, the reality is that younger buyers turn much more naturally to an organic search at the start of their purchase journey or when tasked with research. Whilst it’s the CXO that might sign on the dotted line, they’re often not involved in the earlier stages of the buyer journey. It’s often these younger and more junior roles that are tasked with early stage research and vendor shortlisting. And so if you’re not visible, you’re likely missing out. This is nothing new – research from Think with Google found that 71% of B2B researchers began their research with a generic, unbranded search. And that research was published in March 2015! So we can only imagine what the number must be now.
I used to speak to marketers who would regularly say something along the lines of ‘people don’t really search on Google for what we do’ or ‘we’re too enterprise for SEO’. I haven’t heard that from a single B2B marketer in over 18 months now. Moreover, the amount of opportunities we’ve uncovered for clients has been staggering. I’ve lost count of the number of client sites we’ve looked into and found them lurking on page 2 or 3 for some very valuable search terms.
At the same time algorithm changes from Google, such as Core Web Vitals, have meant that the disciplines of design, user experience, development and SEO have all become much more closely intertwined. A wide range of specialist skills are now needed to build and optimise digital experiences inline with performance outcomes, and so marketing teams have had to up-skill and expand internal teams, or have more support from agencies – often both.
A few years ago I would have conversations with CMOs who described their website as ‘just a shop window’. Now the website project briefs we receive are from marketers who recognise that their website needs to serve as a piece of digital marketing machinery. Not just a static nice-to-look-at shop window, but instead a dynamic experience platform that supports modern, digital first B2B buyer journeys from end to end and is delivered inline with performance focused outcomes.
Within our B2B website projects, we’re often spending lots of time focused on content rich areas of the site. Knowledge hubs, content hubs, resource hubs – dynamic and centralised locations for content to be consumed regardless of the stage of the buyer journey. These content experiences need to be supported by the ability to search, sort and filter quickly and accurately, frictionlessly guiding a range of personas to the content that’s most relevant to them. Again SEO, UX and development all converge heavily for any B2B marketer investing seriously in content.
We have the ability to track customer journeys on a website using tools such as Google Analytics, and to track attributions and touch points through to sales using tools like HubSpot. This data means we can attribute significant success to an SEO strategy, like the campaigns we ran for Kadence International, which generated a 2209% increase in ranking positions for target keywords. This led to a 310% increase in lead generation and a win at the Global Agency Awards for Best SEO Campaign!
Any B2B marketers who are yet to seriously consider SEO within their wider website and digital strategy might want to start – and chances are, they might also be surprised at the size of the opportunity they’re sitting on once they start to dig into the data.
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