Ecommerce has allowed for brands all over the world to reach their customers in new ways, and the same is holding true not just for Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) but for Business-to-Business (B2B). The B2B ecommerce space has been growing over the last few years, with more businesses opting to shift to digital as it increasingly becomes the preference for B2B buyers. With traditional B2B marketing tactics becoming less relevant, it becomes pertinent to those ecommerce stores with a B2B side to ensure they’re making the most of every opportunity for search engine optimization to stay relevant in the face of increased competition.
What makes B2B different to DTC with SEO?
At the end of the day, when it comes to SEO you’re trying to catch a potential customer when they’re using a search engine with a view to them purchasing your product. That element remains the same whether they’re B2B or DTC. However there’s a few key differences that make the B2B sales cycle a bit more complex and therefore requires a slightly different approach with SEO.
The primary reason is that the sales cycle is much longer than with DTC, and this is due to the fact that there are often multiple decision makers, more in-depth research, and you’re dealing with higher volumes of product and money. When a DTC customer makes a purchase, it’s often a personal one even if it’s a gift or on behalf of someone else. The risk and impact is lower, so it doesn’t require as much research. With B2B not only is the risk and impact higher for the end customer, but you’ve also got competitors targeting B2B buyers more aggressively than DTC because as we mentioned, there is the potential for a high volume order.
When your B2B customers are in that research phase, you want to do everything possible to stay ahead of the competition. With this in mind, businesses looking to improve their B2B search engine optimization must start with the basics - keywords.
Review your current standing with keywords and content
The best place to start with your B2B keyword research is by reviewing where your store currently stands. By understanding what your store is already doing to attract customers, you can better strategize for how to attract more B2B customers. There are three areas you will want to consider - existing keywords, store content, and potential search intent.
With these, you want to assess how successful your store is in bringing in more traffic from both your existing target keywords and keywords that your store is ranking for that may not be on your target list. Using a mix of tools such as Google’s own AdWords Keyword Planner and Search Console, and other SEO tools such as SEO Manager, piece together a picture of where traffic is coming from to your store. Are there any keywords that stand out as being potentially B2B related already? Are there any that could be adapted slightly to suit a B2B strategy? If you have a B2B landing page or content already, what keywords are leading search users to these pages?
Assuming you already have at least some B2B content on your store, review these pages alongside the keywords you identified earlier to determine what is already bringing search users to these pages. Are you creating any specific B2B content on your blog or other regularly updated pages? Look at your product pages, homepage, about us, and FAQ first - do you address B2B on these pages at all? If you better understand how you’re communicating your product and brand benefits across your store content, you will be able to identify areas where you could improve and speak more to your B2B customers.
Potential Search Intent
The last thing to consider before diving into further research is the potential search intent of the customers you’re looking to attract to your store. B2B search intent is different compared to DTC, so think about what terms your target audience may be using that could lead them to your store. Why are they searching? How will your store address that? Write a list of different terms that may be related to B2B searches for your business - this might be including words such as “wholesale” or “trade”, or specific details about your products that you’ve learned from your existing B2B customers are important.
Research your competitors
Reviewing the content and strategy of your competitors is a big part of any SEO related strategy. Seeing what your competition is currently doing well, and perhaps not so well, allows you to see where you could improve and spot any missed opportunities that you could capitalize on. Using your list of potential B2B keywords and browsing their stores, there are some key questions you’ll want to address:
- Which B2B related keywords are my competitors ranking for?
- Do they tailor any store content to B2B?
- Do they have any specific B2B content on their blog?
- Do they have a B2B landing page? What keywords stand out here?
- Where are they promoting their B2B business?
You should look to both comparable competitors who are more your direct competition, as well as larger brands that may be much bigger market players. This can help you see where you could feasibly compete, as well as taking notes from what big brands are doing in the B2B space within your niche.
Decide on keywords and brainstorm content
Once you understand your current position, what your audiences may be searching for and why, and what your competitors are doing, you’ll have a much clearer idea of what you want to do with your B2B search engine optimization. The next step is to narrow down some keywords that you’re going to target, and think about how your store will rank for them.
It’s best to start by focussing on a shorter list of keywords so you aren’t spreading your content too thin - anywhere between 20 and 30 is a good starting point. This ensures that the content you create for them is focused, and doesn’t run the risk of appearing like you’re keyword stuffing. If you can provide search users with content that clearly matches their intent, that’s much better for your ranking than trying to rank for as many keywords as possible.
When it comes to brainstorming content, you’ll want to again consider user search intent as well as the goals of the content. With new content you’re adding to your store and existing content to be updated, you want to ask yourself some key questions.
- What information will be most useful for B2B customers?
- What links will be included?
- Will there be a lead generation form anywhere on the page for B2B?
- Where can I include keywords in a way that’s natural and genuine?
Search engines want to provide users with relevant content, so asking these questions when you’re reviewing new content for B2B will ensure what you create will stand a better chance of ranking.
Bonus - Creating content for different stages of the sales cycle
A key consideration when creating content such as landing pages and blog articles is to think about what stage the customer is at in the sales cycle. The kind of information a B2B buyer will want will change depending on which stage they’re at and you want to try to target them throughout. For example earlier in the cycle they’ll still be in early research so their search terms may be more broad and general, whereas later in the cycle they’ll understand more specifically what they’re looking for. Consider what keywords will be most relevant at these different stages, and what topics and content you can create around these.
The key questions for your B2B SEO strategy are these - how can I address the needs of my B2B customers, and how can I do this better than my competitors? As with everything in search engine optimization, B2B keyword research is all about optimizing for opportunities to catch the attention of both search engines and subsequently your potential customers. By carefully paying attention to the needs of your target B2B audience, you can create relevant, useful content that improves your ranking and give your Shopify store a competitive edge in the B2B ecommerce space.