Every marketer in possession of a budget wants search engine visibility -- a fact that is universally acknowledged. Search has long played a dominant role in the early, middle and late stages of the purchase process for retail products, but recently we have seen a huge uptick in spending from B2B CMOs as well.
According to our data, 72% and 50% of B2B CMOs intend to increase spend on search engine optimization (SEO) and paid search, respectively, through year-end 2019.
Unfortunately, our most recent benchmark report also reveals that B2B manufacturing brands are struggling to get their content seen by clients and prospects. Some of this is due to well-funded digital natives like Amazon and eBay, which aggressively compete for search traffic. But it's also true that B2B marketers are failing at the fundamentals.
Building a search strategy is complicated, but it doesn’t have to be hard. Brands that are new to search engine marketing (SEM) and SEO -- as well as brands that have been doing it for some time -- can improve their standing by following a search engine prep checklist.
1. Run an SEO hygiene test. Open-source tools like Google Lighthouse allow brands to assess their technical SEO health. Currently, 86% of B2B sites in manufacturing are ranked as “average” on measures of accessibility. Even more concerning, nearly all of those brands rank as “poor” when it comes to web development best practices (i.e.m presence of extraneous site code etc.).
Fixing this requires internal coordination by B2B marketing leaders. To begin, they prioritize discussions with their development team to address technical SEO elements such as clear HTML headings, meta tags and image alt text.
Improving those elements will help customers who use technologies that assist, such as screen readers, while also improving the ability of search engines to easily index their sites
2. Rethink your sitelink strategy (or think about it for the first time)
We examined Google data from over 520,000 B2B search queries, and found that 0.4% of sitelinks for Index brands direct to Where to Buy pages, and 0.3% direct to Product Selector pages. The overwhelming majority of the sitelinks direct to pages that speak only generally about what a company could do or who they are.
Google auto-generates sitelinks, so there is no quick fix for this situation. In fact, this is more telling of the need for B2B marketing leaders to better optimize critical pages of content for B2B buyers, like buyer guides, which can increase how the company's discovered through sitelinks on SERPs, as well as the efficacy of their content marketing and search budgets. Plan to schedule regular content audits to assess content performance and keyword density.
3. Commit to winning search traffic on your highest-complexity products
Companies like Amazon and eBay will continue to win on low-cost, high-volume products. As a result, B2B manufacturing brands should direct their paid search budget to high-complexity — and potentially higher-margin — products.
Brands doing this may face additional challenges due to the relatively low search volume for such keyword types. In that case, brands should supplement paid search budgets with additional brand advertising and media buys, which should increase customer-indirect ad impact metrics like brand or product search.
While search constantly evolves, basic best practices still apply. B2B marketing leaders should continue to monitor technical changes in search engine algorithms and competitive search performance, but also maintain focus on the things over which they will have the most control, such as site performance and content marketing.