Even though B2B marketing goals and objectives remain relatively consistent year to year, what’s changing are buyer expectations of marketing programs and communication.
In late 2012, Simon McEvoy of Tangent Snowball wrote about the influence consumerism was having on the B2B buyer. After all, B2B buyers are people, too. The exposure of dynamic communication and marketing campaigns at the consumer level ultimately influences their expectations of marketing as business buyers.
Similarly, we interviewed Michael Ni of e-commerce platform Avangate at the end of last year, discussing the idea of “business-to-individual.” Ni’s perspective is that “the new business-to-individual (B2i) sales model puts a greater emphasis on understanding customer needs and building customer relationships that grow over time.”
The B2B buyer simply has greater access and availability to information about prospective solutions — and it’s no secret that B2B buyers distrust vendor-driven communication at the start. As such, B2B marketers are reconsidering how they engage the buyer with a higher level of personalization, problem-solving information, and access beyond a traditional desktop browser.
But search still plays a critical component in the discovery process. Here are three examples of innovative B2B marketing programs that engage the buyer across a range of experiences yet keep SEO best practices in mind in their execution.
B2B Content Marketing: ExactTarget
At the beginning of the year, ExactTarget launched a comprehensive report, The 2014 State of Marketing. This report analyzed over 2,500 marketers’ responses to a variety of questions about their future strategies and how they’re gauging their success.
In addition to creating a traditional landing page designed to acquire lead information in exchange for download access, ExactTarget launched a flurry of supporting content marketing assets including:
- An infographic based on report findings
- A series of blog posts
- A SlideShare presentation
- YouTube video (auto play)
- Outreach across third-party site opportunities (including a review on MarketingLand)
What SEO Initiatives Did ExactTarget Do Right?
First off, ExactTarget’s outreach strategies were far reaching. A quick glance in search engine results based on the report title alone highlights inbound links from publications like Social Media Explorer, Forbes, and Convince and Convert.
From an inbound perspective, ExactTarget took the time to make their supporting content easy to share and distribute for visitors, as well.
- Their infographic included embed code for cut and paste inclusion
- All content assets incorporated share functionality across popular social media platforms
- Large, often consistent graphics made it easy and more impactful when sharing in social networks where images are seen more prominently (like Facebook and Google+)
While it’s true that not every organization will have the budget to build out all of the outreach and content marketing assets ExactTarget utilized, B2B marketers should take note of the attention to detail, consistency and quality this example presents.
B2B E-Commerce Experience: Quill.com
There is an increasing trend in B2B organizations adopting some form of e-commerce capability in their online marketing initiatives. According to BtoB Online‘s study, “The Emerging Role of B2B E-commerce,” 31% of B2B marketers are “strong” or “complete” adopters of e-commerce. And as highlighted in a recent report covered by Econsultancy, by migrating B2B customers online, companies have seen a 44% increase in Average Order Value (AOV).
In a recent article from eCommerce and B2B, they highlighted five examples of exemplary B2B e-commerce websites in terms of customer experience, account management and handling complex product catalogs. Out of the five examples, only Quill.com scored an “A” for their onsite SEO efforts.
What SEO Initiatives Does Quill Do Right?
Ease of navigation, effective search functionality and responsiveness are some of the top attributes demanded from prospective customers of B2B e-commerce sites. It’s easy to forget some of the SEO-specific details when developing e-commerce functionality because the “SEO factors” are not always as easily visible.
As I reviewed Quill’s website, I discovered these positive factors contributing to its “A” grade:
- Appropriate Use of Rel Canonical tag
- Use of keyword targets in HTML Title, document content, and descriptions
- Accessability to engines (sounds silly but I’ve seen a few sites that were inadvertently blocked via robots.txt because of development testing or some other reason)
- Use of structured data markup in product detail pages of the website
Page load times play a part in both user experience and influencing search visibility. According to Pingdom, Quill loads faster than 64% of all tested websites, at a page load time of 2.29 seconds. In comparison to Google site speed analysis, Quill’s website appears right in line with opt-in publishers sharing Google Analytics site speed data.
Regardless of how often SEO professionals use cliches like “build websites for users,” there are elements of search engine best practices that are just not as visible to the “human” visitor. B2B SEOs need to keep tagging elements like REL Canonical tagging and structured data in mind, as well as search engine relevant usability such as page load time.
B2B Mobile Site Optimization: Evernote
Many B2B marketers that have yet to experience significant mobile adoption percentages in site visit behavior. However, the trend in increased mobile adoption cannot be ignored and is another example of how consumer behavior (in this case, in how buyers consume personal information via smartphone and tablet) will influence a buyer’s expectation for web experience, regardless of browsing objective.
Mobile optimization stretches B2B marketing expertise to the a new limit because of its direct impact in multiple business layers: information technology, business strategy, creative, etc.
B2B marketers should take a look at Evernote for an example of mobile site and app development with SEO best practices in mind. As detailed in an article on GrowthHackers, Evernote is now a 75 million user application with a $1+ billion valuation. Over 19,000 new people sign up for Evernote every day.
On a personal note, not a day goes by that I don’t have Evernote open through some connected device.
What Mobile SEO Initiatives Did Evernote Do Right?
- First, Evernote uses responsive web design effectively, which we know is Google’s preferred mobile technology experience. (I used the desktop app MobileTest to view the site in different mobile browser experiences and it is handy for testing your own website’s device-specific browser usability.)
- As tested in RavenTools, Evernote uses semantic structure correctly, incorporating meta tags and markup for social sites.
- Finally, Evernote has a small file size with page load times faster than 68% of websites tested using Pingdom.
From a B2B conversion perspective, Evernote’s subtle mix of a conversion actions plays extremely well with user experience. Account registration is clearly defined along with easy to find calls-to-action for downloading the application and upgrading to a premium solution. There is even a small callout to premium upgrade on their blog.
Search Engine Land and Marketing Land have several columns worth reviewing on mobile search best practices and tactics. Here are a few worth reviewing immediately if you’re catching up on mobile site optimization:
- The Definitive Guide To Technical Mobile SEO
- New To Mobile SEO? 5 To-Dos To Help You Start 2014 With A Bang
- The Brave New World of SEO: Beyond Websites
B2B marketers are no longer able to dictate the message, medium, or even platform that buyers will use for exploring solutions. The influence of marketing at the consumer level ultimately influences our expectations of all vendors, B2B included.
But, search engines still play a pivotal role in buyer discovery and awareness and SEO best practices should not be ignored. How is your organization keeping up to speed with innovation and SEO best practice integration? I would love to read your perspective via comments below.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.