Keywords in practice: SEO for b2b marketing

So, anyone dabbling in the area of SEO knows that selecting the right keywords is an important, but first step in designing a kick-ass b2b search engine marketing strategy, right? (If not, here’s a useful primer)

There is a lot of duff SEO advice online. Get back to basics and use the right keywords optimally around your site. This is a digital fundamental. Here are some quick steps to making sure they help your site rise to the top in search engine results.

Using keywords in practice

It is widely acknowledged that the first 200 words on any web page (especially the home page) are generally the most important on your website. Make sure the keywords for your page are placed in the first few sentences and also in the first heading (h1) tag on the page.

Much of this is covered in the SEO chapter of ‘Brilliant B2B Digital Marketing’ , where I use global compressor manufacturer Atlas Copco and compressed gases supplier BOC to illustrate this technique to promote keyword positioning on compressors, mining and construction.

 

Headings and subheadings

Place your primary keywords in your headings and sub-headings as these areas of content are perceived to carry greater weight in search engine ranking algorithms.

Use key phrases not just keywords

Sometimes if there are words with more than one meaning, it makes sense to use additional words to clarify the intended meaning. To help the search engine bot establish the meaning, use a ~keyword search in Google’s search bar. The results will have the words in bold that the search engine believes are most related to that word. This turns keywords into key phrases or ‘long tail’ to use the common name.

Think about about your own search experience. To navigate an increasingly irrelevant landscape, Internet users are using three words to refine their search so your SEO should follow suit.

Keyword density and distribution

You don’t want to use keywords too much in your displayed ‘on-page’ content, but you do want to make sure they are used at least twice in the body copy as an absolute minimum. Reference needs to be natural and within context. A keyword in every sentence looks forced. Ask your copywriters to use synonyms.

Optimising your meta data

1. Keep meta descriptions short.

If your meta description is longer than 150 characters, search engines may omit some of it. Keep the summary brief and loaded with your most relevant and important keywords to give readers a sense of what they’ll find on the page. To save you counting, the BOC example below is 58 words long.

2. Develop unique meta descriptions.

Keep in mind that the purpose of the meta description is to set the visitor’s expectations about what can be found on that page. This makes meta descriptions for every page a requirement.

 

 

3. Page in a sentance

Write a sentence that encapsulates what the page is about and what it will offer the visitor rather than providing a list of arbitrary keywords. The messaging in the search results are often the first experience of the brand.

4. Reuse elements

Reuse elements throughout the page in links, anchor text and other titles and tags. This increases relevance in the eyes of human and search engine visitors.

5. Order meta data in priority to suit search engines.

Although it is widely held that Google places a low rank on certain elements of meta data, it is good practice to order data in the meta of a web page in the order Title > Description > Keywords.

Applying a diligent approach to your on page SEO gives you a firm foundation to kick on with your online marketing promotion before you spend on link building, pay per click and other forms of advertising.

 

How to ensure you use the most relevant SEO keywords in your B2B marketing

Rightly or wrongly, the Internet is still built on text based code. So making sure your site is optimised with the right text customers are using to inform their search is a critical part of your digital marketing strategy.

Keyword based SEO is critical as it drives your messaging, content and success in search marketing. It’s important that there is a relationship between how your site is written and what browsers are looking for but it is very common for businesses to either do too little or too much which leads to keyword stuffing.

Keyword research isn’t a dark art. Do your homework.

 

Keyword research involves mapping what your customers and prospects are looking for and what you can offer them. There is an abundance of data available within the Google suite of webmaster tools even before you need to access more sophisticated software. You can still access the Adwords Keyword Planner tool which offers insight into which words and phrases are used more frequently than others as well as the relative competition in trying to rank top on them.

As a result, keyword research can be an involved and complicated process especially if you are promoting a number of elements simultaneously. In b2b terms, think about focusing on the following:

1. Focus of the page. Are you providing information or overtly selling? This plays on the position and mindset of the visitor in relation to the buying cycle. The words, language and tone change markedly from informational pages to product selling pages.

2. Pick a primary keyword for each page. Consider using a small number of keywords across your website to start. Using too many on a page will dilute the impact of individual words and mean the page has little authority when assessed by search engines.

3. Assess the competition. What are the competition doing with keywords and are some more prevalent than others? A simple right click and View Source will display the company’s keywords included in their meta data. Consider, though, that they may have the mood very wrong and also competitors vying for rankings for the same keyword phrase.

4. Use a keyword analysis tool. Free tools like the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool are perfect for initial research and help to establish the relative relevance and value of keywords, giving an indication of searches over time and regionally (global vs local). Make sure you use ‘exact’ matching to give you better, more refined results.

 

Q: How do you ensure you are using the right SEO keywords? Share your tips and tricks below.

Image: Crystal ball image 

Google Power

Assuming you have an array of profiles online, when did you last Google yourself?

You really should. It’s fascinating to see the changes in content. A few months ago you may have expected your Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter accounts to dominate. But in a short space of time, Google has taken this over dramatically with it#’s +1 and Circles roll out. Sites like Quora and Slideshare are fast improving, whilst WordPress and Twitter are holding their own.

The interesting change in terms of Twitter as you scroll through the first few pages is that specific tweets rather than just a profile are being collected too. Interesting because it is making you more searchable by what you are posting rather than just having a profile.

So personally, and professionally, it makes the notion of thinking before you hit ‘send’, ‘post’ ‘submit’ all the more important now, don’t you think? Footballer Joey7Barton might want to take note.

NB: No Foursquare or Empire Avenue in sight. Personally, I think that speaks volumes.

4 ways to drive web traffic with SEO

This fourth and final part of my SEO series considers how to drive traffic to the website ‘off the page’. This involves getting links to your website on as many other websites as possible, the ethical way!

1. Link building: Search engines place importance on incoming links and, as a result, ‘link building’ has emerged as a critical part of the optimisation process. Explained simply, 100 websites offering a link to your website collectively implies that your site is relevant and worth visiting. So start thinking creatively about where your target audience congregate online.

2. Indexing: Make sure your website is correctly indexed with the major search engines. Most search engines have an address like Google where you can input your website’s domain name for ranking.

3. Social media optimisation: If you haven’t already, you should consider setting-up profiles with major high traffic sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. They consistently feature on the first page of most searches alongside company websites.

4. Digital PR: In line with the thinking behind social media optimisation, often a top ranking position in a search belongs to a reference or article on a well visited news or media site. This could be in a specific b2b sector (for example, in the food sector – Food Navigator) or Yahoo! for more general, b2c searches.

Summary: An unrelenting global news cycle, the rise in self publishing and the ‘always on’ nature of the internet means there will always be somebody, somewhere interested in what you have to offer. Having content distributed more widely, with more back links, gives browsers a better chance of finding you when they need to.

Image: iPhoneMatters

An extended version of this post originally featured on the BDB Blog in October 2010. Click to read it in its entirety.

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Five ways to improve on page SEO

Visibility is everything!

In this third part of four posts on SEO, I’m considering the best ways to improve on page search engine optimisation.

1. Keywords: Keywords are critical as they drive your messaging, content and search. It’s important that there is synergy between how your site is written and what browsers are looking for. But there’s more to it than filling your web page content with keywords. Search engines have got wise to this and downgrade sites that don’t appear to read well.

2. Meta structure: Keywords need to be built in to your meta structure – the code that sits behind the website. Why? Placing relevant and targeted keywords in the meta description and tags indicates to a search engine bot that your website is genuinely serving content in relation to the keywords in question.

3. URLs: The titles you give to each page on your website should be presented clearly and simply. They should adequately relate to the content on that page to give the search engine bots the best chance of indexing the page correctly. This refers to both the domain (for example ‘www.website.com’) and the sub pages (for example ‘www.website.com/news’).

4. Alt and h tags: Images should have a text-based alternative (alt tag), again to help the search engine bot to index and display information about the image if it doesn’t load correctly. Check that you’ve built in alternative (alt) tags for all images used throughout your website. Copy on web pages should have heading (h) tags. Again, search engine bots place importance on headings and tags as part of the overall structure of a page and the serving of relevant content. Primary and secondary headings (h1 and h2) are generally the most important.

5. Sitemaps: Sitemaps are probably the most important but often overlooked element of SEO. Sitemaps act like a table of contents for search engine bots, allowing them to index the entire site from one convenient text-based resource.

Summary: Selecting keywords used by your target audience and feeding them through the content and code of your website gives it a greater chance of ratings success.

An extended version of this post originally featured on the BDB Blog in October 2010. Click the link to view.

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Content remains king in SEO

The old maxim that ‘content is king’ largely remains the case in internet marketing terms given the colossal amount of information available. Browsers now have unparalleled and unlimited choice.

Having a relevant and engaging website is key to both successful optimisation and your business prospering. We’ve already reviewed the key elements of design for SEO. But this needs to be matched by relevant content that provides a worthwhile and quality experience for website visitors.

1. Relevant: Because website content ages quickly. It might be that your company has entered new sectors and markets or left some behind. You may have new products or services to promote, or legislative changes to share. Or there may be a requirement to communicate with other stakeholder groups such as distributors, agents and investors, as well as customers and prospects. All these opportunities give rise to the concept of ‘content in context’.

2. Accurate: As web content can sometimes come from a number of sources, it’s important that it’s accurate. This means checking it’s technically correct, with no spelling or grammatical inaccuracies while also ensuring that there’s a prevailing format and tone. Key messages and preferred vocabulary should be consistently used.

3. Engaging: To retain interest and encourage deeper involvement, website content should be ‘sticky’. Video, for example, offers a powerful way to demonstrate product features and benefits and  bringing a corporate entity to life. And with video search accounting for 50% of online search (Bruce Daisley, YouTube, speaking at SAScon, April 2010), featuring embedded video from YouTube or Vimeo on your website will improve site visibility, ranking and inbound traffic.

4. Connected: It’s important that all links within your site are checked regularly, particularly as the site grows. Updating or removing content leaves the site at risk of being littered with errors and broken links.

Summary: Delivering relevant and accurate ‘content in context’ gives you the best possible chance of attracting, engaging and retaining visitors. It is, after all, the main reason they searched for a supplier like you in the first place.

An extended version of this post originally featured on the BDB Blog in October 2010. Please visit to read in its entirety and have your say.

Image: Positiverealestateprofessionals

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Why SEO is not just about keywords

Contrary to popular belief, comprehensive search engine optimisation (SEO) starts with your website, not with your keywords. Though there’s no magic formula, focusing on design, content, on-page and off-page will have a positive impact on ranking in search engine results.

Well optimised websites have a number of design considerations at their core and are critical in delivering the right impression, information and experience to stimulate future traffic and drive conversion. Search engine bots, just like human visitors, place a high degree of significance on whether (and how quickly) the site works, how easily it can be navigated and ultimately how accessible it is.

Here’s my quick take on which design considerations are important and why:

1. Functionality / usability: Website visitors are short on time and have bewildering choice, so they expect a site to work. This means ensuring it loads quickly, that all pages display correctly and links to pages both within the site and to other websites work. Enquiry forms, email and sign up functions need to be easy and quick to use too. Automated email confirmation and data validation should be in place when anyone elects to make contact.

2. Navigation: Your site has to be easy to navigate. If in doubt, test it on people removed from what you do. Ask them to complete a number of search and enquiry related tasks and watch how they go about it.

3. Aesthetics: Your site should be clear and attractive. Cluttered pages disrupt flow and confuse visitors. Colour palettes, fonts and images should deliver an experience that encourages visitors to stay and return.

4. Accessibility: It’s important to consider the needs of different browsers in your site design. This is especially relevant to settings that help the visually impaired and users affected by motor neurone, learning difficulties or deafness. The Disability Discrimination Act and WC3 international compliance standards for good web design should be consulted.

5. Hygiene factors: Finally, ensure that legal, data protection and privacy policy statements are included on your site. These can relate to the smooth running of technical content, the collection and use of personal data (through logins or forums) or assist with queries and concerns. Statements or downloadable policies should be comprehensively signposted and easy to find.

Summary: These elements might initially appear to have little role in SEO but actually they are important for optimisation and impact the overall website experience. And they are critical in building a durable, future-proof website.

An extended version of this post originally featured on the BDB Blog in October 2010. Please visit to read in its entirety and have your say.

Image: Tendou86 on Blogspot

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Searching for the SEO pot of gold

In a recent B2B Marketing magazine article (Feb 2011, Best Practice) SEO experts in the b2b marketing sector mused on the forthcoming changes in this space. Here I lay out the essence of what they said and discuss why I agree and disagree with some of it.

Mobile, undeniably, is the growth area. Smart phone use in particular (which asa device is slated to outstrip the computer in providing Internet access by 2013), is growing at phenomenal rates. Companies need to reconcile the importance of search to business customers in tandem with understanding how search is conducted differently ‘on the go’.

Google Instant Preview, was slated as the biggest change in search, completing search strings when browsers entered terms. I’m not sure. Doesn’t this take more time and need more clicks, just like when predicative texting was first introduced?

The main point about Social Search focused on how the recent tie up between Facebook and Bing could mean more search activity takes place within Facebook meaning more people stay within the site longer. Though important, social media optimisation is more than just Facebook based.

Sitemaps are undeniably crucial in directing visitors to relevant web content, and their role is growing as more rich content is used by website owners. And having greater visibility over incoming and outgoing social media links will make them more relevant.

New generic top level domains like .eco .sport and .music are going to fuel a goldrush scramble by existing domain registrants to secure the new variants that might impact on their business. Whether they will become mainstream remains to be seen.

Local focus will continue to grow in 2011 as the various geolocation services incorporate offers, benefits and other time sensitive and loyalty affirming promotions. Google already returns local searches, integrating mapping functionality. Ensuring your business is correctly indexed with Google Places, Yell, FreeIndex and other online directories is key to this, but often overlooked.

But without giving marketers to0 much to think about, I’d also add the following to the mix as critical in 2011.

Long tail search involving the use of longer, more specific phrases rather than overused, but increasingly generic single word terms garner more targeted results. Each of the main search engines has a keyword tool which can be used to inform your SEO efforts. Use them. And check them regularly.

Links are still strong currency, and it is an important strategy to build a credible bank of incoming links from related and high traffic sites to boost your own visibility and overall search rank. Linked to social media, it makes sense, in this respect to create profiles with back links to your website to support this.

Integration remains central to any and all marketing effort. Only when all your marketing activities are joined up, pointing in the same direction, formed around the same messages and using a consistent vocabulary can truly effective SEO have the right conditions in which to thrive. Remember that the visitor who has arrived at your site through search has probably been influenced by advertising, direct marketing, email, a trade show, editorial, a forum posting or other reference elsewhere online OR offline.

Interestingly, the article also made no mention of multi language SEO and regional domain hosting, presumably because no b2b companies operate abroad…but that is a point for another day!

Best b2b social media tools: Slideshare

Slideshare is one of my top b2b social media tools because it has a vast 25 million strong community which views and shares 75 million presentations, PDFs and other documents every month. Slideshare as a social media tool is significant because the content is easily shared to a multitude of platforms with simple embedding code and is relatively quick and easy to use.

Slideshare provides an outlet for material that is probably sat gathering dust somewhere in your organization. Perhaps most importantly, Slideshare was added to Linkedin profiles early in 2010 meaning all your contacts can now view your material together with anything you recommend. This opens up your content to a potential audience of millions. Which means a business profile on Slideshare can also have a dramatic effect on search engine optimisation.

Why?

It really is more a case of why not when it comes to Slideshare. Think about all the material that exists within your business in Word, PDF or PowerPoint format that could be made to work harder for you online? Can hosting information about your company online aid prospect self-selection and provide warm leads?

The only challenge with Slideshare has traditionally been the need for material to be able to work on its own, without human presentation. But the recent launch of the SlideCasting function – where pre-recorded audio can be quickly added to slides – has removed this concern. Click  on the image to see it in action.


Remember the numbers: 25 million users and rising. 75 million views a month. It is now a free addition to Linkedin profiles – potentially accessing another 65 million people. Slideshare is a very high traffic, active site.

How to get started?

Simply create an account and upload a PowerPoint. A short one about your business, what you do, your key people and what drives them, your values, the three problems you solve – whatever it is, keep it simple. Remember it has to work on its own. It has to be short and snappy. Keep the copy to a minimum and use some high impact titles and images. Use keywords and quotes to deliver your messages.

Once it is uploaded, promote the fact it is available through other social media tools like Linkedin status updates and groups, Twitter, Facebook, email your customer base, add the Slideshare button to your email footer and the URL to your business cards. Direct your prospects to these presentations rather than sending them documents by email, or worse by post. It shows that you are forward thinking and embracing new technology.

Examples

Here is Espresso’s thought provoking agency credentials presentation.


Here is Velocity’s B2B Content Marketing Workbook presentation.


Summary

Everyone writes presentations and every company has a ‘standard’ credentials presentation. Put it online with Slideshare, promote it, and see where it takes you.

What do you think?

Clicks that convert

Fast access to relevant to information is critical if you want to entice visitors when they visit your site and encourage them to engage. Think about your own online habits and preferences. Visitors to your site haven’t got time to sit and wait for the site to load, work out where to go or schedule time for an unstructured browse.

Your site needs to follow the mythical but effective three click rule. Ensure nothing is more than three clicks away (forwards to new content or back previous pages) by developing a site built on a four tier navigation structure as a maximum. In-built signposting to get people back to a category, specific page, search or back to the home page are now the norm rather than a nice to have.

Visitors browse in different ways. Some like menus and drop downs, other like action buttons. Cater for both by positioning all your  ‘call to action’ buttons (such as LiveTalk, Register, Contact, Sign up, Download, Buy now) prominently in left hand or right hand navigation bars and ensure they remain on every page. Duplication of content is an issue, but duplication in navigation is not.

Websites cost money to design, build and maintain. Looking nice is one part of it. Providing a useful experience is another. Ensuring it can be found on the search engines is another. Above all, your website needs to sweat 24:7 for your business. The Internet is always on – give your site the best to make clicks convert.

So road test your website today. Parking the need to redesign, what you could streamline now, quickly and inexpensively, to make it easier for visitors to access important information?

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