It goes without saying that individual consumers require completely different sales tactics than businesses. That’s pretty obvious. The specifics of exactly how they differ are a bit less obvious, however, particularly where search engine optimization is concerned. Let’s see if we can’t clear the air a bit.
There’s a difference between B2B and B2C. You already know that. It’s obvious that selling to established organizations requires a different approach compared to ordinary consumers.
What you might not know is the extent to which B2B Search Engine Optimization differs from its B2C counterpart. Let’s talk about that. Because to be frank, if you’re trying to market your B2B brand with B2C tactics, you’re doing it wrong.
Let’s start with what we (presumably) already know - that a business audience has different objectives in mind compared to a consumer audience, and those differences require a different approach.
A consumer who arrives at a digital storefront is typically looking to make an immediate purchase. They’re interested in buying a tangible product or service, and that intent is usually reflected in their search behavior.
A business customer, meanwhile, usually seeks a solution to a particular problem or challenge. Because there are usually multiple decision-makers involved in the purchase process, a B2B purchase decision usually has far less immediacy than a B2C purchase decision. B2B searches are usually far more informational in nature and only rarely carry the intent of an immediate purchase.
It’s also important to note that B2C purchase decisions are often made with far greater emotion than you’d find in B2B. Consumers are just as interested in how a brand makes them feel as they are in buying the right products.
Performance Indicators/Core Goals
It’s not just audience goals that differ between B2B and B2C SEO. Your own KPIs will be different as well. With a B2C website, your goal, in broad strokes, is twofold. First, you want to move visitors through your sales funnel as quickly as possible.
Second, you want to generate traffic and drive awareness of your brand across multiple channels, including search and social media. Metrics you’ll want to measure as performance indicators include traffic, clickthrough rate on email and ads, customer acquisition cost, traffic, shopping cart abandonment, and bounce rate. With B2B, it’s a bit more complicated.
While it’s still important to monitor things like traffic, clickthrough rates, and bounce rates, B2B marketers should place greater focus on customer retention, percentage of returning customers, customer satisfaction, online order frequency, and average order value. They also need to pay attention to marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads, lead velocity, and customer lifetime value.
As you may have surmised, B2B campaigns go for quality over quantity to a much greater extent than B2C campaigns. Traffic is generally lower, as you’re marketing a solution to a much smaller audience.
With B2B, the purchase process tends to be much longer and more involved. As we’ve already mentioned, B2B transactions often include multiple decision-makers, often with their own ideas about how to solve the challenges their organization faces. As they move through the sales funnel, B2B customers are interested in a few key factors.
- What benefits does this product offer over the competition?
- How difficult is the implementation process? Will it significantly upset the status quo at the customer’s organization?
- Is your organization a thought leader in their industry? Do you have a solid understanding of their core needs and objectives?
- What is your business’s history? Do you have a good reputation in your field?
- How credible and complete are your product details? Have you provided honest information, or are you simply trying so hard you’re overselling your product.
B2B organizations will usually be working with more complex, industry-specific keywords and key-phrases. You need to consider what specific problems your products help a customer solve, and then consider how a business user might perform research on those problems. With that in mind, the more information you can provide about your products and services - and the more accurately you’re able to predict how people will search for them - the better.
Thought leadership also carries greater importance with B2B campaigns
Lastly, B2B keywords generally only apply to the top of the sales funnel. By the time a B2B customer reaches the decision or action stage, they’re no longer searching for your business. They’ve either shortlisted it or chosen a competing product.
Last but certainly not least, in 2019 we’d be remiss to not mention social media in the context of SEO. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are, in broad strokes, important for any brand, regardless of whether they operate in the business or consumer space.
Many organizations would also do well to establish themselves on Instagram - it’s a more valuable tool for B2B than you’d expect.
So...how do B2B and B2C differ in the social space?
First, professionalism. While it’s all well and good to show a more human side to your organization and demonstrate an established company culture, B2B brands generally should present a far more polished front than B2C brands.
Second, there’s the value of LinkedIn from a B2B perspective. While most consumer-oriented brands probably don’t need to bother establishing themselves on that social network for marketing purposes, B2B brands will find it invaluable when it comes to both networking and lead generation.
The one thing that B2B and B2C share in common is the importance of the customer. You need to understand who your audience is, how they’re looking for you, and what will drive them to work with you. That’s the real foundation of SEO, no matter how you look at it.
How does B2B SEO differ from B2C?
- Audience Intent
- Performance Indicators/Core Goals
- Buyer’s Process
- Social Networks
About the Author: Terry Cane is the COO at SEOHost.net, a reliable and supportive SEO hosting partner