9-Step B2B SEO Agency Playbook

Unsure where to start with your B2B SEO strategy?

Does your marketing strategy rely too much on paid growth?

Don't know what content to publish or even why?

Whether you market a SaaS offering or a cybersecurity solution, you have a complex product and some pretty demanding customers. This means you can't publish another version of the same "10 benefits of.." listicle and expect to generate organic traffic. 

If only online marketing were that easy.

Driving business-to-business (B2B) through search engine optimization (SEO) with content marketing is one of the most powerful and rewarding marketing investments your organization can make. Plus, put all the noise surrounding SEO aside for a second, and it's also surprisingly straightforward. 

To help you on your B2B SEO journey, I want to share our nine-step content-focused on-page SEO strategy that will help you:

  • Develop organic traffic and growth. 

  • Rank your product pages with on-page SEO.

  • Boost your conversion rates and convert qualified leads directly from your website. 

  • Use B2B marketing to reduce sales timelines and improve lead quality.

  • Optimize your content strategy for business-to-business SEO results.

What is B2B SEO?

B2B search engine optimization (SEO) is what happens when a business's website appears close to the top of a search engine results page for particular queries. This helps an organization capture organic search (unpaid) traffic and generate leads, inquiries, and, ultimately, sales.

At a high level, a successful B2B SEO campaign involves these five steps:

1. Your business publishes high-quality content on its website.

2. Google's bot crawls your business's website, and the Google algorithm decides your content is helpful for users entering particular search queries (keywords).

3. Google decides to rank you on its first page for particular keywords.

4. Potential buyers search online for solutions to their problems and see your content.

5. A buyer clicks on your content, likes what they see, and then gets in touch with your sales team or tries a product demo.

Note: B2B SEO can happen on any search engine, but for this article, we will be talking about B2B SEO on Google search.

Why You Should Make B2B SEO a Part of Your Marketing Strategy

As a driver of organic growth, B2B SEO is a digital marketing tool for generating long-term results. 

Unlike paid advertising, which stops working when you stop paying, well-optimized B2B content can drive traffic years after creating SERP queries (search engine results pages).

Most B2B SEO agencies will keep this information private. But you should know the best way to rank your site in-house too.

1. Understand your audience

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization but to start with, your SEO efforts should focus more on HO (Human Optimization). After all, at the end of every search query entered into Google is a real person. To win at B2B SEO, you must understand your target audience.

Understanding your buyers means knowing their pain points, past experiences, and ideal solutions.

B2B SEO buyer persona

Great SEO efforts start with realistic B2B buyer personas that answer these questions, not demographic guesses. It pays to have an idea of what a great day at work looks like for your ideal buyer, not just that they are between 35 and 50 and based in the UK. 

In this respect, marketing teams can learn a lot from the user experience (UX) world. To design for UX, designers rely on data from user interviews, survey data and, quantitative sources to construct detailed personas of fictional people ("users").

These personas are constantly updated and used through the UX design process to understand the impact changes to a product or experience will have in the real world.

Success at SEO means adopting a similar user-focused mindset.

Learn more: How SEO can deliver holistic benefits to your business

Before you start your SEO campaign, you should ideally interview your customers. If this is not possible, talk to sales reps who deal with long-standing and new accounts or review any customer case studies you have on file. 

At a minimum, you should be able to answer the following questions about your buyers:

  • What is a typical job title? 

  • What kind of responsibilities do they have?

  • What does your product help them do?

  • What did they do before they used your product?

  • What frustrations do they encounter in their job, and how does your product help them?

Answering these questions will help you:

  • Create buyer personas that help you understand your audience and aim your SEO content creation efforts directly at them.

  • Find the Bottom of the Funnel keywords your B2B buyers will search for online.

2. Find Bottom of the Funnel (BOF) Keywords.

The term "bottom of the funnel" (BOF) describes the point in a buyer's journey when customers are ready to buy whatever you are offering. BOF keywords are short- tail keywords that sum up what your business does.

For example, imagine you are a cyber security vendor that sells endpoint protection solutions that stop cyber threats on a business's laptops and servers. In this case, your BOF buyer will probably search for a term that includes "endpoint protection solutions." 

B2B SEO funnel

In this case, your primary BOF keyword might be "endpoint protection."

Here are three ways to find BOF keywords.

Use keyword research tools. Tools like Ahrefs, Moz, Semrush, and Google Trends can help you identify keywords that might lead buyers to your product. To start with, you can use Google Search's autocomplete feature to find what keywords are related to your primary keyword, i.e., "lightweight endpoint protection." 

Review your buyer research. Review your customer interviews and analysis to find keywords. If you have a transcript of a call with a customer, you can use a tool like Rev to see what words keep popping up. Your customers will likely search for these keywords online too. 

Do a competitor keyword audit. You can work backward from successful competitor SEO campaigns by using tools like SEMrush to analyze what keywords your competitors rank for. To beat them, you will need to do a better job at targeting these keywords.

The benefits of low-volume keywords

Keyword volume describes how often a keyword is searched each month. Higher volume means a keyword is searched more often and will deliver more traffic to your website (if you can rank for it). 

However, targeting low-volume, high-cost-per-click (CPC) keywords is a powerful B2B SEO strategy.

You might notice that the market (your competitors) is paying a high dollar amount for low-volume pay-per-click (PPC) keywords. If you spot this situation, you should aim your SEO efforts at that keyword ASAP.

Low volume, high CPC keywords show you an area of strong search intent. The search volume might be small, but those searching those terms can be ready to buy. This is often seen in niche industries where there are only a handful of monthly searches for specific problems and solutions.

High PPC, low volume, and high search intent keywords are great starting points for B2B SEO.

Instead of paying a double-digit dollar amount for clicks on a niche keyword, you can use SEO to get paid traffic for free.

In B2B, low volume, high CPC keywords are ideal.

3. Optimize Web Page Content

The next step in your B2B journey is to optimize your onsite copy. You should start optimizing the service and feature pages for the BOF keywords you identified in step two. 

B2B SEO blog post optimization

Your service and features pages describe exactly what your product or service does and why that matters. They are landing pages for buyers at the bottom of the funnel.

The first thing you need to do is create separate pages for each of your product or service's features.

These pages are where your BOF buyers will go right before they purchase your product. Creating and optimizing them is an essential step for laying your B2B SEO foundation.

Learn more: How to optimize your web copy

To optimize website copy for BOF keywords, you can use a tool like Clearscope. This will highlight your keyword density (how often keywords appear) compared to similar pages on the web. Clearscope will also tell you how often you need to include keywords to beat your competitors.

Important note: Only optimize up to one page for the same primary keyword. Otherwise, you risk reducing your overall SEO performance if you have multiple pages optimized for the same keyword. 

Once you have optimized your web copy for BOF keywords, you can move up the funnel and focus on longer-term keyword planning. 

4. Find Awareness and Consideration Keywords

After you build a solid base of BOF keyword research, it's time to move up the funnel and find the long-tail keywords your buyers use during the consideration and awareness stages of their journey. 

Awareness keywords are the SEO equivalent of growth stocks. 

They are where you invest your efforts to boost lead generation and nurture buyers who are at earlier stages of their journey. These keywords have a higher risk of not converting, but if you can rank for them, you can gain endless traffic and supercharge your online presence.

Consideration keywords, on the other hand, are blue-chip investments. They can be used to direct buyers towards consideration content like whitepapers and case studies. Ranking for them is highly valuable in the short and long term.

To find consideration and awareness stage keywords, you need to think beyond your product or service. 

Consideration and awareness keywords will not directly relate to what you are selling. They do, however, have a strong indirect relationship to your business.

B2B SEO buyer stage keywords

To find keywords higher up the funnel and away from your primary keyword, zoom out from your business’s services. 

The higher up you go, the further away from your core offering your content will get.

It might seem odd to target keywords so far removed from your offering. But doing so allows you to capture buyers earlier in their journey. Targeting awareness and consideration keywords also helps build your brand and attract backlinks.

This is why many companies will create glossaries or other content that have almost nothing to do with their product or service.

Note: Search intent is critical in finding keywords. To check if you are targeting the right search intent, ask yourself, is this keyword something your buyers would search for? If not, don't bother.

Considering search intent can also help you avoid targeting a term that has a double meaning. Targeting a keyword like the cybersecurity term "sandbox" is not good if it is more commonly searched under a different topic, i.e., the kind of sandboxes children play in. 

Remember: An algorithm might organize keywords, but humans search for them. 

5. Create and Link Content for B2B SEO

You might have heard the expression "content is king." This expression has some truth, but it is a bit more nuanced than that. In our experience, "good content is king."

Learn more: Our five B2B blog best practices

An endless volume of mediocre and terrible content is published online daily. Much of it is aimed at the same keywords you are targeting. 

To break through this noise and get to your buyers, and Google's attention, your B2B SEO content needs to:

  • Be useful beyond just SEO. There is no point in creating unreadable blog posts just to rank on search. You might get a traffic boost for a while, but it won't last, and will damage your brand. For example, because online reading patterns differ from offline ones, blog posts on websites need to be easy to read and skimmable. Don't write content to a word count. Instead, create high-quality content that engages and helps users.

  • Link internally. Internal links can supercharge B2B SEO. However, they need to be content-led and make sense to readers. To do this, keep a spreadsheet of all of your content assets with their name, location, keywords, and topics, and list the internal links they have.

  • Hit the right keywords. The jury is out on the exact amount of times or places you should mention a keyword in a blog or other content asset. One essential rule is to make sure you insert keywords organically in a way that makes sense to readers. Do not stuff keywords into your articles. 

6. Build Topic Clusters

To rank on Google Search, it's not enough to just create great content. You also need to make sure your content knits together to create a smooth flow for users looking for information on your website.

This is because, as searchers use increasingly detailed search queries, Google prioritizes websites that help answer users' direct and indirect questions all on the same webpage.

Google's engine loves websites that cluster related content assets together and give users direct routes between them. This is why topic clusters have been described by Hubspot as "the next evolution of SEO."

Topic clusters are a powerful B2B SEO strategy for bringing users to your website and keeping them.

Cluster content

To build topic clusters, you need to create the following:

  1. Pillar pages. These web pages feature information on as many aspects of a particular topic as possible. Pillar pages often feature multiple content types on a single webpage, such as infographics, text, and video. They link to cluster content.

  2. Cluster content. Cluster content is a more in-depth look at something covered in a pillar page. For example, if a cybersecurity company created a pillar page about "healthcare cybersecurity," a piece of cluster content might be about "healthcare 2FA." This content (blog posts, infographics, and other resources) links to pillar pages.

Topic clustering is also sometimes called "hub and spoke" content. Pillar pages are the "hub," and cluster content makes up "the spokes."

7. Audit Your Content

If your website has lots of content, there is a strong chance you have multiple content assets going after the same keywords. Conduct a content SEO audit to deliver a quick B2B SEO win.

When your site has multiple pages focused on one keyword, Google can struggle to pick a page to prioritize for that keyword. 

This is called "keyword cannibalization" and makes your website its own worst SEO competitor.

To stop cannibalizing your own content, do an SEO audit of your website. List all of your content and look for older pages that are optimized (intentionally or not) for the same keyword and search intent. 

When you find older pages that cannibalize newer ones, 301 redirect them toward your more recent content assets. In some cases, you might need to do some rewriting to ensure that the search intent matches what visitors to your site will find on-page.

After you audit your content, don't forget to check that all of your published content has the following:

  • An appropriate meta description.

  • Title tags.

  • An SEO title.

  • A coherent structure using headings (H1, H2, H3, etc.)

  • Alt-text for all images.

8. Distribute Content and Get Backlinks

Before Google indexes your content, which can take anything from a week, and starts ranking it (something that can take months), you should have a system for getting human eyes on it.

In 2023, content distribution through email marketing and social media is a booster rocket for B2B SEO success.

Distributing content through channels like social media or a newsletter that goes out to your customers can help build backlinks and generate a rapid organic traffic boost.

Learn more: Our guide to creating a B2B newsletter

Tip: Social media results also rank in search results. This means that creating a piece of content that gets traction on a site like LinkedIn or Reddit can give a significant rankings boost to your original content.

Backlinks are critical for B2B SEO. Although recent Google updates appear to be de-prioritizing link building, it is still a big win to get other sites linking back to your content. This is especially true if you can get a trusted website with a high "domain authority" to link back to you.

But don't even think about buying backlinks. This can damage your site's entire SEO performance and leave you highly vulnerable to Google updates. 

The best way to get backlinks is to create high-quality data-rich content that other sites will link back to.

The second best way to generate backlinks is through outreach.

Pitch publications in your niche that accept guest posts. Find an angle on an industry topic and pitch an article from someone inside your organization. 

B2B SEO guest posting

You can get a ghostwriter to create the article and, where possible, link back to a relevant content asset hosted on your site. 

Learn more: 4 tips for creating a B2B content machine with executive ghostwriting

This kind of outreach-driven "white hat" link generation will boost your B2B SEO performance and help build your brand awareness.

9. Measure 

Metrics matter.

Unless you have a limitless budget for SEO, you need to know what works and what does not. Ideally, you need to know this as soon as possible.

Using a combination of Google Analytics and an SEO analysis tool like Ahrefs or Semrush can help you understand how your SEO campaign is doing.

B2B SEO Path exploration

Google Analytics can help you track user traffic and behavior on your site.

With Google Analytics, you can see how many users are landing on your pages and what they do next. Although web traffic is a lagging indicator (i.e., your traffic today reflects your SEO efforts in the past), it is still essential to understand the user flow.

By tracking how long users spend on particular content assets and where they go next, you can find new ways to optimize content for conversion and SEO.

Tip: The "behavior flow" tool in Google Analytics allows you to see what happens next after someone lands on your website through your B2B SEO content. 

Tools like Ahrefs show you how you are doing relative to your competitors.

With Ahrefs, you can see whether your ranking for specific keywords is improving and track changes to your competitors' performance for the same keywords. You can also monitor your domain authority and see which sites link to your webpage. 

Need Help from a B2B SEO Agency?

If you find it challenging to do all of the above in-house, we can help. We are a bespoke marketing agency that only works with B2B brands. Contact us to find out more about our B2B SEO services and hear some of our customer testimonials.

Written by Laura Martisiute