And why some don’t know what love is...
For the longest time, many of our B2B clients did not feel attracted to SEO. More recently, however, something has happened in the dynamics of our clients’ customer relationships. There has been a switch in B2B buying cycles, and in tandem with increasing responsibilities for ‘Buyer’s Journey’ excellence, our client marketers have also fallen in love the concept of SEO.
B2B marketers’ infatuation with high rankings is understandable since 90% of B2B researchers who are online use search specifically to research business purchases (ThinkwithGoogle). Stats like this highlight that there are plenty of ‘fish in the sea’ (i.e. B2B stakeholders to be reached through SEO). What it does not reveal is the brutal reality that search engine algorithms are not pro bono matchmakers between B2B companies and their could-be clients.
SEO should be and is driven by a desire to dominate one’s industry. The goal is to gain more customer exposure, and through this, to gain more affinity than the competition. Still, I see that many B2B marketers are passionately driven to explore SEO by – what I would consider to be – misconceptions about how to establish and maintain healthy, long-term relationships with customers.
To many, SEO is just data-driven copy writing – a quickly, a one-off, and a linear process aimed to satisfy marketers who yearn for endless, free-of-charge streams of genuinely interested website visitors that easily convert to become customers. Such a simplified notion of how and why to do SEO is like thinking that love in real life works as in Hollywood RomComs.
It can be a slightly awkward conversation to have with clients who are overly smitten by the SEO love bug. But the talk is crucial to have, because it can be harmful to them if they operate outside the realities of modern digital marketing. What I often end up concluding with clients at the end of such talks is fairly basic (customer) relationship advice: “Get to know yourself, who you like, and what you both enjoy. Then, plan how you can both come together and get what you want. Don’t rush in!”
Regardless of how experienced and comfortable you are in a customer relationship, some much-needed spice can be added in the form of up-to-date data about audiences’ digital behavior. Re-thinking their relationships has revealed to many of our clients that over time they had come to have a stereotypical and outdated understanding of who they were trying to do business with. A first step in succeeding with SEO and taking customer relationships to the next stages is to acquire search data that yield insights into what captures the interest of relevant people within one’s industry. This reveals in great detail what topics marketing communications should address to be appealing to suitable partners.
A lot of B2B marketers tend to over-complicate matters when they try to spice up customer relationships. Many end up spending excessive amounts of resources on giving customers what they want, but self-forgetting tactics rarely result in any sustained competitive advantage.
B2B marketers who know what tickles the fancies of their intended partners are best off by not just giving it to them straight away. Of course, a content creation and -distribution plan should be generous in terms of meeting stakeholder needs, but marketers who wish to get to the ‘SEO zone’ should also define what they want before changing anything in their operations. When the aim is SEO, it is best to connect the short- and long-term tactics for customer courtship. It requires focused persistence to make a good thing last.
Most will agree that just buying exposure is short-lived thrill compared to having a long-lasting top-rank position for one’s industry’s best keywords. But experiencing ‘the real thing’ has become noticeably harder in recent times. As Google’s algorithm now employs E-A-T, BERT, and YMYL, the majority of B2B websites are now incapable of reaching their full SEO potential, because they simply do not live up to the standards by which Google determines what is good enough for their search engine users. Today, successful SEO of a B2B company’s corporate website requires B2B marketers to rise to the challenge of optimizing all touch points of their digital ecosystem so that they profoundly and meaningfully entangle with customers. Only then will customers start loving a company back in equal measure.
Although I won’t claim to know that much about love, I’ve been involved in enough B2B marketing to see the similarities: both love and SEO can be complicated; both take an immense amount of courage and effort, and both are totally worth it every single time.
Smart marketers recognize that there will be a distinct “before” and “after” in consumer behavior as a result of the pandemic. You must start now to create the digital tools needed to embed your brand in the customer’s post-COVID life.
Take the time now to identify and understand the new expectations of your customers, and how have their habits and priorities shifted during this time