Keyword Research for B2B, Part 1 – Mapping Keywords to the Buyer's Cycle
Published: July 12, 2018
Author: Colin Guidi
With internet user penetration projected to be at 54% worldwide by 2021, making sure your online offering is visible within search and found by users is imperative. Keyword research and mapping as an afterthought for your online offering simply won’t stand. More often than not, keyword research within the B2B industry is overlooked or seen as not as useful compared to its B2C counterpart.
While creative avenues within B2B for keyword research do seem fewer in total than what’s present within B2C, finding those niches or keyword pockets of online search intent can yield great bottom-line results. 71% of B2B buyers start their research with a general online search, which means that they aren’t yet looking for brands and are instead searching for products and/or services. When you think of B2B, you think of a brand trying to reach/influence another brand. What is often forgotten about is that on the other end of that ‘brand’ is usually a single consumer performing online research on behalf of the brand. Keyword strategies and mapping your content towards searcher intent within B2B is just as critical as it is with B2C.
One tactical way of making sure your B2B product or service reaches users is to leverage keyword mapping for the buyer’s cycle when thinking of your content strategy. Setting up your content efforts in this way will allow for connections between your online offering and what users are actively searching for — at multiple touchpoints throughout their buying journey.
Now, the buyer’s cycle (or buyer’s journey) can come in a handful of variations stemming from who your professor was in college, what textbooks you’re partial to referencing, or perhaps a recent online publication you’re leveraging with an updated perspective (buyer habits also show variances across industries).
For a high-level content strategy, we can build keyword mapping and content creation for 3 main journey phases (for practical application, I’ll include an example from the B2B software industry):
This is about attracting top-of-funnel search intent and casting a sensibly wide net for your online offering (think creatively and semantically). When we talk about awareness, the content here can really be two-fold. If your brand is relatively new to the market — or not well known — your content efforts here could be about raising brand awareness. If you already have brand awareness, then you’re looking to target users who are aware of their needs/pain points and are beginning to actively search for a solution. Creating a keyword strategy and mapping content pages to searcher intent will place your brand in the running for the next consideration phase of the B2B buyer’s journey.
- B2B Software Industry example: A great tactic worth leveraging in this space is the creation/publication/amplification of infographics. Speaking purely through the lens of content, this is an eye-catching strategy that can also be leveraged across social media platforms for heightened awareness. Since infographics are large visual images, it will be worth your while to create textual entry paragraphs (which should be crawlable text) on the landing page of the infographic to strengthen your content’s association with the searcher.
When users move into the consideration stage, they’re researching online and searching for features that will meet their needs. The consideration phase can be a long, drawn-out, and competitive area, which makes contextual coverage here important. Initially, users will be considering what features will solve their needs and perform online searches accordingly. The latter stages of the consideration phase will be continued research around a handful of brands who have been found to cover the user’s desired product or service features.
- B2B Software Industry example: With users really focusing on feature comparisons across brands, any type of comparison content you can publish will help to begin a conversation. Textual reviews always help to funnel users towards a decision point. Whitepapers are a wonderful way of getting a text-heavy piece in front of users. As whitepapers are more of a direct-download type of content, you can look to create a keyword strategy targeting feature comparisons between what you offer compared to competitors (promoting your value add as well), and look to leverage the direct-download whitepaper as a means of funneling users towards the decision stage. Also, look to promote how others have benefited from your product/service, as this helps to raise confidence levels in your B2B offering.
As all stages have overlaps, users are still performing brand consideration searches in an effort to make a decision. Users in this stage can either make their purchasing decisions quickly or linger on with continued online research — particularly for more expensive purchases. Content coverage is beneficial here, but this stage will also benefit from involvement of your sales team for interaction to help nurture the sales process.
- B2B Software Industry example: Factors that most influence purchasing decisions at this stage are total cost of ownership, whether the B2B solution supports the business goals of the client/brand, and potential efficiency and competitive gains. Useful content during this stage can be actual use cases of your B2B product/service in the form of case studies. Client testimonials also perform well and help potential customers to humanize your B2B brand. In creating a keyword strategy to map towards content, think about keyword themes including product cost comparisons, lifetime value, and competitive advantages. When your sales team gets involved, make sure they’re also able to reaffirm these purchaser concerns to help funnel them towards a decision.
The phases presented above for the B2B buyer’s journey are just one example of high-level content buckets for mapping keywords to user interest. The idea is to spark interest and improve strategies for B2B companies who can better set themselves up for success by reaching users at every stage throughout their journey.
In Part 2 of “The Importance of Keyword Research in B2B,” we’ll look to discuss additional avenues in which keyword research can be leveraged for the B2B industry.