Do you freelance or work in-house for a B2B company? Check out these smart SEO writing tips.

Is It Time to Refresh Your B2B Messaging?

This is going to be one of my “tough love” blog posts. You have been warned.

Right now, I’m hearing a lot of B2B blanket statements like, “All companies have eliminated their purchasing. There is no budget out there. We’re pulling back on our marketing until things are back to normal.”

Here’s the thing.

It’s true that many B2B businesses are taking a tremendous hit and pulling back on expenses — assuming they can stay open.

But, what’s important to remember is, things aren’t going to “go back to normal” next month — maybe not even next year. What’s happening now will have a huge impact on B2B buying decisions for a long time. 

In the meantime, companies ARE spending (some) money. Maybe even with your competitors.

Want some of that market share back?

It’s time to give your B2B messaging a much-needed facelift.

This popped into my brain when I saw the Search Engine Journal video, Why updating your messaging is the best strategy right now.

Brad Geddes and Michelle Morgan showed specific ways brands have shifted from “BUY OUR STUFF NOW” to a softer, more educational approach. One that reflects the current situation.

It doesn’t mean that the brands stopped marketing. In fact, one recent study found that 58.4 percent of B2B marketers planned to maintain or increase their marketing budgets during the COVID-19 crisis.

It means that they changed their overall approach.

You can do this too.

Refreshing your messaging is one thing you CAN do now that will help to drive dollars in your virtual door.

But if you want to do it right, you’ve got to do one thing.

Have an actual conversation with your customers (and prospects, too.) 

Why customer interviews are even more important in today’s world

Because refreshing your buyer persona and chatting with your customers is the only way you’ll understand what your customers need from you right now.

For instance, you may learn that your B2B prospects want a “pay over time” option, and that’s what’s been holding them back from making a purchase.

Or, they may need to know they can engage with you on a very small scale and can build on that engagement as their budget allows.

Or, you may even hear feedback like, “I want an extended product trial, additional freebies, or a short-term discount.”

Heck, you may even discover a new “type” of customer who purchases your services.

That’s all good information. Information that you’d never learn in an informal survey.

And it’s actionable information too!

You can change your messaging (and maybe even your keyword focus) to get in step with what your customers want now.

You can promote special sales, limited-engagement deals, freebies with every purchase, and installment plans.

You can listen to how your customers say what they say, and use their words (and fears, and desires, and information about what makes them happy) in your product or service content.

You can post educational content on LinkedIn and reach target prospects.

You can change your messaging to be more conversational and less hard-sell (and honestly, that’s something that should have been done ages ago.)

You can test your messaging and dial in on how to say what you say to your B2B prospects.

You can pivot and change and evolve.

You can make your content easy to read and more approachable. 

And you can bring more money in the door.

There’s no better time to tweak your messaging.

While it feels like every company is pulling back on their marketing spend, I’m working with multiple B2B clients who are charging forward.

They may not have the resources to change everything right now, but they’re doing the work and developing a re-messaging strategy.

They’re dialing it in for the new normal.

So, what should you do now?

If you work in-house for a B2B company, take this time to run customer interviews, tweak your customer personas (if needed,) and test your messaging. Yes, it will take time. Yes, it will be worth it.

If you freelance, know this is a fantastic opportunity. Your B2B clients may not have time to do the research, persona tweaking, and message testing. After all, how many of your B2B clients could use a messaging tweak right now?

What do you think?

Is it time to give your B2B messaging a little Botox? Or, does it need a full-on facelift? Leave a comment and let me know!

Does Your B2B Content Strategy Target All the Key Influencers?

I came across this great post on HubSpot the other day that answered and negated the commonly cited shortcomings of inbound marketing their sales teams often hear from site owners and marketing managers.

This section in particular really stuck with me:

Claim: Decision-makers don’t spend their time online researching products and services…The idea is that the typical C-suite executive doesn’t spend his or her time online reading blogs, conducting searches in Google, or participating in social media.

Rebuttal: Decision-makers are influenced by online channels when it comes to purchasing decisions…Even if a C-suite executive doesn’t spend a lot of their time reading blogs, using social media, and conducting research online, that doesn’t mean there aren’t others within their company who are doing those things. And chances are, these people have some level of influence on the decisions of those C-suite executives.

The B2B content marketing challenge: multiple influencers throughout the buying cycle

A lot of B2B companies struggle with content creation in one way another, whether it be coming up with topics to write about or having a hard time publishing a steady stream of content. Either way, most B2B companies realize the importance of content marketing but some still struggle with the actual implementation.

One of the most common issues I see is that B2B content marketing doesn’t take into account all of the possible influencers, nor each stage of the buying cycle.

B2B content marketing campaigns might be too heavily weighted at the beginning of the buying cycle, which is great for driving information-seeking visitors to your site, but not as good at actually converting them. Or, they are too heavily weighted at the end of the buying cycle, so companies are missing the opportunity to connect with potential customers early on.

For instance, say your company sold various enterprise software products. Your end decision maker is probably the CIO or CTO, right? But is that CIO the one actually doing the grunt work and investigating all the possible vendors out there? Probably not.

Perhaps the Director of IT is the one that does a lot of the leg work and presents the CIO/CTO with the top few choices. But is the Director of IT the only one involved in the research and information gathering process? Again, probably not.

A B2B content strategy scenario…

Say one of the products your company offered was a contact center software product. The CIO isn’t the one actually using that product, your enterprise’s contact center agents are. But they don’t have the authority to make a buying decision, so they turn to their contact center manager with their needs/complaints about their current system.

The contact center manager in turn might look up the chain of command to the Customer Experience Executive or the Chief Customer Office, and explain why/how a new contact center software solution can help improve the customer experience. They, in turn, have to get the okay from the CTO or CIO to make sure this new software will work within their existing system that in turn might have to check-in with the CFO to get the budget approved.

Each person, from the contact center agent all the way up to the C-suite, can influence the final decision in one way or another, and each individual is looking for different pieces of information.

The call center agent wants to make sure that your software will actually make their jobs easier, not harder. The contact center manager wants to know that your software will easily integrate and “play nice” with other applications already being used so their agents don’t have to waste time learning a new program.

The CCO wants to see how a software program can actually impact the customer experience and everyone wants to know how spending money on new software will help them make or save money in the long run.

Content marketing that targets all of the influencers

Does your B2B content marketing campaign hit each of those influencers and their needs? If not, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with and influence each member of your target audience.

In a large enterprise, unlike a small business, no one person makes a decision that impacts the rest of the company on his or her own. Many B2B sales and buying cycles are extremely long and involved, and require a substantial monetary investment from your potential clients.

You don’t want them to have any lingering questions or doubts regarding your product or company, and your B2B content marketing campaigns are how you answer those questions.

About the Author ~ Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a Boston-based search marketing firm that specializes in B2B SEO services. With over 13 years of industry experience Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.

5 Ways to Spice Up Your B2B Content

News flash: B2B content doesn’t have to be boring.

I know, I know. Writing for B2B sites isn’t easy. Products like lanyards and construction helmets aren’t necessarily sexy. Your competitors’ sites are probably just as boring. And the powers-that-be may feel more comfortable with “just the facts” feature-filled content.

Yet, for many (most) B2B sites, there’s room for so much improvement. By adding just a little bit of spice, you can connect with your readers and boost your conversion rates.

Here’s how to do it:

Use the word “you” in your copy

You are not selling to robots. Nor are you selling to a “company.” You are selling to people. And people (otherwise known as your target readers) respond to the word “you.”  Using the word personalizes your message and makes your content more compelling. For a great example, check out Basecamp’s homepage. Their line, “Our job is to help you do your job better” is a fantastic mission statement. It’s punchy, personal and implies a pretty big benefit. Plus, it makes you want to look more closely at their services – so the content is definitely doing it’s job.

Shorten your sentences

Many B2B companies are guilty of zombie run-on sentences. You read one endless sentence and BOOM you see another one. They’re everywhere. And they suck the life out of the content.  Guess what? Nobody wants to read your 35+ word sentences.  If you find yourself writing long, paragraph-like sentences, mix up your sentence structure, stat! Write one longer sentence and then follow it up with a shorter one. Experiment. Your copy will be much punchier as a result.

Get inside your readers’ heads

What is your reader really thinking? It’s not, “Hey, I’m going to purchase these firefighting helmets for our team.” It’s probably something like, “I need to find the safest, most comfortable helmets for the best possible cost.” You shouldn’t start writing until you have fleshed out what your unique sales proposition is, what’s driving your reader to make a purchase and what motivates them. If companies in your industry are known for poor customer service, play up the fact that you have staff on call 24/7. If your solution is high value (and more expensive,) overcome any price objections within your copy and show how paying more is a great investment. The more you know what your reader is thinking when he or she reaches your landing page, the more persuasive your content.

Boost your benefit statements

Have you ever wanted to scream “HOW DOES THIS PRODUCT HELP ME?!” Yeah. Me too. Features are nice but they don’t tell the whole story. It’s one thing to sell a hard hat. It’s another to discuss how your hard hat won’t slip off, is ultra comfortable and won’t cause headaches. Statements like that will cause your target reader to sit up and take notice.

Dare to be different

I am so tired of people saying that their content has to be boring. Why? It’s “industry standard.” If they write it any differently, their target market may respond negatively. Look at companies like AppSumo, who encourages buyers to “hustle with confidence.” Their sales copy shows being different works and can truly differentiate your product line. Sure, I’m sure they’ve tested their results to confirm that the tone and feel is spot on. But at least they took a chance rather than following the herd.

Instead of making excuses, why not go out on a limb? Try one (or more) of these spicy techniques and see what sticks. Rewrite a landing page. Test new approaches via social media.

You may be surprised at the results. And you may make more money, too.

Want more B2B SEO writing tips? Sign up for my weekly newsletter. You’ll learn proven methods to improve your writing and boost your conversion rates.

Your B2B Site Doesn’t Need More Freakin’ Words

Hi. My name is Heather, and I’m pissed off (“Hi, Heather!”)

Here’s why.

Last week, an SEO agency called me. They represented a B2B company that was in need of content – OK, that’s fine.

And then, the prospect started talking about the gig…

“The client needs three blog posts a week, all an average of 500 words. That’s what Google wants, you know”

“The pages should have a keyphrase density of 6.7 percent.”

“We don’t want to spend much for this content – our budget is around $30/article.”

That was strike one, strike two, and strike three for me.

The client pointed me to an example page, and here’s what I found:

– The content was filled with grammatical errors

– There was no call-to-action anywhere. So, it was a content “dead-end” page that wasn’t helping with conversion rates.

– The post didn’t dovetail with anything that the client offered.

– The post drifted off and stopped making sense at about the 300 word mark. Obviously, the writer tried to “fluff it up” and added an additional 200 words because they were “supposed to.”

And who only knows how much the agency charged the B2B end client. I’m willing to bet that the $30 content “investment” turned into a $250-$300 content charge to the client.

I had a little fun with the agency person and started asking hard questions like, “So, tell me how X post is converting for the client? What’s the call to action here? Is this the right voice that works with the target audience?”

Sure, I was letting my inner bitch come out and play – but I asked nicely. And they were highly valid questions.

The agency person didn’t know what to say. He stammered and hemmed and hawed and finally said…and I bet you can say it with me…

“Well, the content is good for Google – so that’s all we care about.”

Here’s the deal:  Google doesn’t give a shit about your word count. Nor does it care how many blog posts you upload a week. And it really doesn’t care about keyword density.

What your site needs are the right freakin’ words. Not necessarily MORE words – the right ones. The ones that connect with your prospects, build trust and encourages a conversion.

Sadly, this attitude is extremely common with SEOs and agencies (not all of them – there are “good guys” out there. But the crappy ones outweigh the good ones.) They may talk a good game and say that “content is king.” And then they turn around and order cheap content that has nothing to do with the site’s conversion goals and pass it off as SEO gold.

What’s worse – the poor B2B client doesn’t know. They think that the SEO is looking after their best interests.

So, here are a few reality checks:

– If your SEO/agency is recommending daily blog posts (or any other kind of content,) ask them how that content ties into your conversion goals. If they say the content is “for Google,” – and that’s the only benefit – don’t do it. The world doesn’t need more crappy content.

– If your first concern is the content price – you’re having the wrong conversation. Good content makes you money, period. It’s like paying a higher salary to a sizzling-hot salesperson who closes big deals. That doesn’t mean that you have to pay $500 a page every time. But it means that you have to weigh the cost of the content against return on investment. The best writing firm (or writer) isn’t the cheapest writer. The best writer is the person who will make you more money.

– If your SEO/agency is pushing “more content” when your sales copy sucks, run away. You need to pay attention to where your money comes from – and that means taking a hard look at your sales and lead generation pages. I’m sure that your CEO didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Our new mission statement is to have our content +1’ed all over the place.” The name of the game is to make more freakin’ money. Shore up your sales pages first. Make sure that they are connecting with your customers and converting like crazy. THEN look at your other marketing collateral.

Sheesh…rant over. :)

4 Experts Share How They Rock B2B Content Marketing with LinkedIn

Are you cultivating relationships with colleagues and potential clients?

Have you built a solid company page?

Are you actively participating and posting your content in key LinkedIn groups relevant to your industry’s vertical?

Have you considered establishing your own LinkedIn group?

If not, you really should: LinkedIn is an ideal platform for B2B content marketing, as well as for boosting your brand’s visibility, forging valuable connections, and generating leads.

Still not convinced? Then read what four expert B2B content marketers have to say about leveraging LinkedIn, in response to this question:

 What’s your favorite way to use LinkedIn for B2B content marketing?

 Miranda Miller

 Miranda Miller (@MirandaM_EComm), Founder of MEDIAau

As a content marketing agency, our clients are other business people, marketers and executives, so LinkedIn is an important tool for us. I syndicate content published on our blog, as well as columns we publish in industry publications, to my personal LinkedIn.

Each of your connections and subscribers receive a notification from LinkedIn letting them know you published a new post, so it’s far more effective than organic Facebook in exposing your content to the people with whom you’ve already connected. It’s also dead simple to use, with easy image uploading and very few formatting options. If you aren’t publishing on LinkedIn, you’re missing out!

Tom Pick

Tom Pick (@TomPick), Founder of Webbiquity

The first step to optimizing B2B content marketing efforts on LinkedIn is to build a great company page. LinkedIn actually provides some helpful guidance and resources around best practices for creating an effective company page.

Once you’ve created a great page, promote it and encourage people to follow it from your website, blog, email newsletter, at live events, and any other opportunities that arise. This won’t make your company awesome at B2B content marketing on LinkedIn by itself, but it’s an essential first step.

Next, find, join, and utilize LinkedIn Groups. Precisely “how” this is done is a moving target, as LinkedIn has made significant changes to how groups work over the past 18 months, and it continues to do so.

Just as Google has made changes to its algorithm to minimize spam in search results, so LinkedIn continues to evolve groups to eliminate unwanted, low-value posts.

While groups have traditionally been an excellent place to share content, abuse by some members (e.g., trying to pass off promotion for their upcoming webinar as “news”) has led LinkedIn to clamp down on discussion items’ submissions and exposure.

What’s most important to remember when contributing to groups, or using features like publishing on LinkedIn or integrating SlideShare with your LinkedIn profile, is to focus on adding value. Increasingly, thinly veiled promotion posts will be punished on LinkedIn, while adding value — helping others in your network and groups to do their jobs more effectively — will be rewarded.

Steve Rayson

Steve Rayson (@steverayson), Co-Director of Buzzsumo

I find LinkedIn is a great place to build relationships. My tip is to share content from people you respect and make a point of commenting on their posts. It is good relationship building, but I also really enjoy the debate and learn a lot this way. LinkedIn groups also have great potential for discussion but in my view, they work best as small private communities. There is little engagement in many large groups.

In terms of content, I find my LinkedIn audience is very interested in industry news, trends and current issues. In every industry there are points of debate or controversy that generate a lot of engagement. Thus I try to keep many of my posts focused on these issues. Overall I find my posts appear to have greater visibility on LinkedIn. I may have a smaller audience, but I get a lot more engagement on LinkedIn than on other networks.

Steve Slaunwhite

Steve Slaunwhite (@steveslaunwhite), Founder of Copywriting Training Center

My favorite way is posting strategically written, highly targeted articles. It’s competitive (there are thousands of articles posted on LinkedIn each day), but pays off big when done right.

An article on LinkedIn can get read by dozens, perhaps hundreds, of new prospects — some of whom will subsequently visit your profile or website. In addition, a well-crafted, optimized article can be repurposed in numerous ways: email newsletter, blog post, printed piece (as a handout), part of an ebook, etc. It’s a winning strategy no matter how you look at it.

Want to read insider tips and actionable strategies I only publish in my newsletter? Sign up for my newsletter today

Are You Reaching Your Target B2B Audience?

Greetings! Today’s SEO Copywriting video post is in response to a question put to Heather during her recent Inbound Writer webinar (7 Steps to SEO Copywriting Success):  “How do you address competing keywords where the keyword attracts multiple audiences?”

This is a very good question, and one that poses a particular challenge for business-to-business (B2B) copywriters.  Tune in to learn the common mistakes made by B2B writers in their keyphrase research – and hence, site optimization – and how to avoid (and correct) them:

Challenge #1: Using too broad a keyphrase

A big challenge is when a B2B company employs copywriters who may not be that savvy in SEO and keyphrase research: they may make the easy mistake of optimizing a webpage or entire site for too broad a keyphrase.

For example, let’s look at the screenshot of a chemical blender company and the search results shown on the right side of the page. Now, within that company folks might routinely refer to their chemical blenders simply as “blenders.” So it may be that the copywriter who is unfamiliar with SEO would optimize the product page for the word “blenders.”

  • The challenge is, in Google’s world, when you type the word “blenders” into the search query box, what you come back with are consumer results – not B2B industry results. The consumer results aren’t focused on mixing chemicals, they’re instead talking about how to mix smoothies.

So copywriters who do not understand SEO end up optimizing their webpage or site for too broad a keyphrase (or a single keyword) that fails to reach their intended audience and drive that targeted, quality traffic.

Challenge #2: Not understanding SEO keyphrase research results

A second B2B challenge (and common mistake) comes from not understanding keyphrase research results.

  • The inexperienced copywriter might be using keyphrase research tools, but upon seeing that “chemical blenders” isn’t returning that much traffic they may make the mistake of going with the more generic keyword, “blenders,” because, it get greater search volume. Again, the problem is that while “blenders” may be far more heavily trafficked, those folks searching the term “blenders” aren’t looking for “chemical blenders” – they’re looking for consumer blenders. So again, the copywriter ends up optimizing the webpage or site for the wrong term, and the business doesn’t get the target traffic and sales they need to see.

Tip: Quick keyphrase research reality check 

For a quick reality check of your research results, one of the things you can do is to feed your keywords/phrases into Google’s search query box and see what kind of results come up.

For example, using the word “blade” in the I.T. world, that word can mean “blade server,” but in Google’s world, it can mean something completely different.

So, if you see those kinds of mixed results, then you’ve a huge opportunity. By looking at your keyphrase research through a search engine’s literal eyes, you can start targeting those folks who are actually looking for your products or services.

Think “specific” when choosing keyphrases

In the “blade” example, you can see how changing from “blade” to “blade server” dramatically alters the search results.

  • If you’re in B2B copywriting, think “specific.” Go into Google and double check your keyphrases and be sure the results returned are relevant to the webpage you’re optimizing for and don’t have a lot of consumer results mixed in.

photo credit to: cliff1066™

 

 

Think CIAO for B2B SEO Copywriting

Whenever I chat with in-house and freelance SEO copywriters, I’m typically asked “the B2B question.” It goes something like this:

“I think I understand how to write optimized Web copy for B2C sites. But what about B2B SEO copywriting? Isn’t it different?”

It’s true that B2B SEO copywriting often has a slightly different tone and feel than its consumer counterpart.

After all, if you’re targeting executives with buying authority, the copy will read differently than if you’re writing about pet accessories or Pilates mat classes.

But that doesn’t mean that B2B copywriting has to be straight, dull and “just the facts.” Nor does B2B copywriting have different SEO copywriting “rules.”

If you’re confused about writing for the B2B market, just remember one simple acronym: CIAO. Here’s how it breaks down.

C – Customer focused copy

Your first step before you start writing is to develop a customer persona:

  • Who will purchase this product or service?
  • What are her pain points?
  • What objections does she have?
  • How can you help?

Just like in B2C SEO copywriting, every word you write should be laser-focused towards your audience’s needs. Consider how your product or service helps to shave expenses, provide peace-of-mind, improve profits or somehow simplifies a process. Specific benefits sell in the B2B market – so make sure you tell your prospect exactly how you can help them.

I – Interesting copy

B2B copy doesn’t have to be boring. Spec sheets, product features and case studies are important. However, the information doesn’t have to put people to sleep (really!)

In fact, one way to instantly differentiate from competitors is to write engaging copy that speaks directly to the prospect while providing benefits in an easy-to-read manner.  It’s true that you won’t necessarily be able to use a “peppy” tone and feel like you could with a B2C page. But you do you have more creative room to move than you think.

A quick rule of thumb: If you’re bored by the copy, it’s time for a rewrite.

A – Action-oriented

It’s scary to see product or service Web pages without a call-to-action.

The last thing you want to do is frustrate your prospects when they’re trying to make a purchase or contact you for more information.

– If you want folks to make a purchase, make the purchase link prominent.

– If you want folks to contact you, make sure you tell them and make it easy for them to take action.

See? Easy!

If your prospects have to hunt around your site just to figure out how to buy from you, there’s a good chance that they’ll boogie away and find another vendor.

O – Optimized

The B2B world can be highly competitive, and optimization can make the difference between a nice site that gets a little bit of traffic – or a huge powerhouse site that gains massive market share.

The same “rules” apply when optimizing a B2B site.

  • Hire a content marketing strategist to help plan your campaign.
  • Choose topic-specific keyphrases and related words.
  • Create a clickable Title and strategically insert your keyphrases within the copy.

Remember, just like a B2C SEO copywriting campaign, skipping a step (like creating strong, keyphrase-rich Titles) can decimate your campaign, rendering so-so results rather than stellar.

See? SEO copywriting for the B2B market is easier to create than you think! Just follow the same “rules” you would for B2C SEO copywriting (keeping in mind that you’ll need a different tone and feel) and you should be fine.

Ciao, baby!

How Good Pick-Up Lines Can Help You Write Great B2B Copy

When you were single, did you use the same pick-up line every time?

If you were talking to the smart guy (or girl,) you probably led with a brainy comment.

If a hockey fan caught your eye, you’d chat about the Stanley Cup and the Bruins.

If you thought an outdoorsy-looking person looked hot, you may mention your love for everything REI.

The key is, you’d change what you’d talk about depending on your, um, target audience. I bet it even came naturally. You’d do it to make a a better connection, faster – and move him or her to your next conversion step (asking them out.)

Why don’t we take the same care with our web copy?

Many B2B websites use the same pick-up line, expecting it to work with every audience they serve.

Rather than personalizing the reader pitch, their copy is the equivalent of “Hey, baby. How YOU doin’?”  It’s general. It’s untargeted. It’s all about them. And it doesn’t show that the company understands anything about their target audience.

Sure, this approach may work some of the time. But it won’t work most of the time. Here’s what to do instead:

I’ve talked before about creating vertical-specific landing pages for B2B copy. This gives companies two distinct advantages:

  • You can speak specifically to what’s important to a defined customer persona. For instance, dental offices and real estate agents buy mailing lists. However, the benefits to a real estate agent (finding possible home buyers within a certain demographic group,) is different than dental offices (finding families within a certain zip code.)
  • Splitting your pages up by vertical allow you to capitalize on less competitive (but still highly targeted) keyphrases. For instance, it could be tough to gain a competitive ranking for the phrase “mailing list.” It’s a heck of a lot easier to position for “real estate agent mailing lists.” Plus, searchers entering your site off that phrase would be highly targeted.

For instance, let’s look at this example from Constant Contact:

You can see how the company was able to customize the copy (and the application list) for the target audience.

Compare this to another Constant Contact page targeted towards consultants:

See what they’re doing? Their pick-up lines are personalized for the audience. They know what real estate agents and consultants want to hear – and it’s addressed in the copy. The “voice” is personal and friendly, not the B2B equivalent of “How YOU doin’?”

In short, the way they wrote their copy helps them make a better connection, faster, with their audience.

And I bet their copy converts like crazy, too.

What do you think? What’s your favorite way of connecting with your target audience?

Does Your Web Copy Go Over Your Reader’s Head?

Is your site’s web copy “too advanced” for your  readers – and you’re losing easy conversions because of it?

Here’s why I’m asking…

Once upon a time, I was chatting with a gentleman who felt that his site’s B2B conversion rates were too low. After I asked about his target audience (highly technical folks in the medical industry,) I asked if any other audiences surfed his site.

“Well yes,” he said. “We tend to get questions from administrative assistants. They’ll say that they’re gathering information and wanted to clarify a few points. They’re not our market. We ignore those people. We want to talk to their boss. Not them.”

In my head, red lights flashed and warning bells clanged. Because what this person was telling me was:

  • They get inquires about their product
  • Many people (the person didn’t have a percentage) didn’t understand something on the site and had questions.
  • In response, the company ignore the inquires because the person emailing “isn’t the right person to speak with.”

Doh!

It’s very common for companies (especially B2B) to create highly technical web sites filled with spec sheets, graphs, charts and very little copy (or so much technical copy that it’s impossible to understand unless you’re in the industry.)

As an example that hits a little close to home…how many SEO companies talk about things like “advanced keyword strategies” and “algorithms” when all the small business owner wants to know is: “How do I increase my Google positions?”

Or, another scenario is a company thinks that highly technical copy makes them sound “smarter” and more “cutting edge.” They figure that they’ll baffle the reader with B.S. and figure the person will say, “Wow, I have no idea what you’re talking about! You must be good!”

Really?

If this sounds like your company, think about this: Writing for your readers isn’t “dumbing down the copy.”  You’re actually making your content easier for your readers to read, understand and enjoy. And that can make your conversion rates skyrocket.

So, here are some things to think about when you’re planning your content:

  • If you know you have “technical” and “non-technical” people reading your content, develop content targeted for each market.  In the case of the earlier example, the admin assistants could read information targeted to what they wanted to know – and may even have a different call-to-action (“download our PDF outlining our capabilities.”). At the same time, the assistant’s supervisor could read the more “technical” content (with “contact us” being the main call-to-action.)
  • If you are in the medical profession (surgeon, dentist, psychiatrist) know that customer-focused content could covert at a much higher level than “typical” medical professional copy chock-full of technical information. Yes, information about specialties and schools is important – but so is the warm, fuzzy aspect of acknowledging where your prospect is emotionally and how you can help.  For instance, I rewrote the copy for a surgeon’s Web site, focusing more on the customer’s needs than the technical aspects of conditions like “hyperhidrosis” The new content converted so well that his site was paid for in less than a month. Not bad, eh? You can do that too.
  • “Speaking your customer’s language” is also something to consider from a keyword level. Technical folks will search for highly technical terms. Non-technical people will search under different terms. Both audiences are important – you  just need to use the “right” keyphrases on the “right” client pages.

What happened with the gentleman with the low-converting site content? He added landing pages targeted to his different target audiences and saw an immediate increase in phone calls. He stopped ignoring questions from admin assistants (and noticed that the number of questions went down after they launched the new, improved content.) He stopped talking over his readers’  head – and was seeing more sales because of it. Sounds like a win/win for all.

10 B2B SEO Copywriting Tips for 2016

Is 2016 the year you take your B2B content writing campaign to the next level?Need some SEO writing tips for your B2B company?

If your answer is, “I don’t have time to take it to the next level. I’m barely holding on as it is,” consider these statistics:

94 percent of B2B companies research online for purchase decisions, according to the Acquity Group. Plus, according to the Corporate Executive Board,

  • 57 percent of the buying journal is digital.
  • 82 percent of companies reviewed at least five pages of site content from the winning vendor.

Upping your B2B SEO copywriting game can provide your business with an incredible ROI. Unfortunately, many companies are still trying to get their SEO content act in gear. These companies may have worked with multiple SEO consultants, all with their own process, best practice tips (many of which are outdated) and tactics. Or, the company tried to DIY without a set plan.

The result is typically a mishmash of old, keyphrase-stuffed pages, writers who are barely keeping up and a patchwork strategy.

This isn’t good.

If this sounds like your company, here are 10 B2B SEO copywriting tips for 2016 that will take your site to the next level.

Create (or revise) your buyer persona

Creating a solid buyer persona should be your first SEO copywriting step. Unfortunately, it’s a step many companies decide to “get to later” — or they may have no idea how to create one. In fact, a study by Tony Zambito found that 60% of respondents, “had no to very little understanding of buyer persona best practices.”

If you haven’t created your buyer persona, do it now. If it’s been awhile (say, over a year) since you checked our your buyer persona document, revise it. Don’t forget to share your new or revised buyer persona with everyone involved in the content generation process (which, yes, may mean sharing with other teams or different departments.) The more everyone is on the same page, the more consistent the brand voice will be.

Understand the core content issues

So, why aren’t you positioning for your main keyphrases? Is it because your content sounds like every other vendor? Is it because your team hasn’t mastered keyphrase research (more on that below.) Or does your company have unrealistic expectations (no, you’re not going to get a #1 position for the keyword SaaS no matter how hard you try.)

Yes, this is a back-to-basics step — but one that’s extremely important. I challenge your B2B company to run an SEO content audit before writing another word. Stop what you’re doing RIGHT NOW and run one. If you don’t have time, find a consultant to help. The insights you’ll learn will help you develop a smart, data-driven SEO content process.

It makes sense to review your keyphrase research document and confirm the phrases are still on track. Many companies are still optimizing for old keyphrases that don’t perform, sound clunky in the copy or are otherwise subpar. A keyphrase research refresh can help you find new opportunities and cut out any dead keyphrase weight.

Train your content team

Many in-house writers have little-to-no knowledge of SEO copywriting best practices. For instance, I worked with a B2B publisher who employed super-smart print copywriters — but they didn’t “get” SEO copywriting. Although their content was semantically rich, their Google positions left a lot to be desired. My job was to show the writers the SEO light and bridge the gap between print and online copywriting.

Unfortunately, your writing team isn’t going to magically understand SEO writing without some sort of intervention. Your best course of action is gathering all your writers in the same room, training them on best practices and following up with additional mentoring. I’ve seen remarkable “a-ha” moments when writers received a little keyphrase research training — and those “a-ha” moments transformed their web traffic.

Here’s Eric Enge’s great take on training your in-house team.

Review your analytics

You can learn amazing things from analytics. For instance, I once worked with a company that was extremely proud of a resource-rich page they created. When I checked out the analytics, I found that people were only spending 30 seconds on the page — not enough time to read the page, and far below the company’s usual page metrics of over two minutes.

Why create content in a vacuum when the data is right there? Having just a little analytics knowledge can go a long way. After all, there’s no reason to spend hours creating content your target reader doesn’t want to read.

Be fascinating

People don’t want to read your press releases (your site has a press release section for that.) Nor do they want to read a soft-sell article extolling the virtues of your products. Instead of using your blog as a promotional tool, use it as a way to connect with your prospect. Answer common questions. Provide useful information. Be fascinating.

One company’s most popular blog post was written by their in-house programmer. He scribbled some code on a couple of napkins, took photos of the napkins and wrote a blog post that described the code in-depth. Analytics-wise, this post blew the others away. Why? Because the author (and the company) wasn’t afraid of fascinating content. They knew such a nerdy piece of art would resonate with their audience. And they were right.

Understand how to “write to sell.”

First, let it be said that technical writers should never write sales copy. Ever. You’re not saving money by having your lead programmer write the content. You’re costing yourself conversions (and search positions), instead. Just say no.

Smart sales writing doesn’t sound like a car salesman wearing a plaid suit and a Donald Trump toupee. Instead, it warms your reader up to your product or service and gives them the exact information they want to read. Yes, that involves using some traditional sales-writing tactics. But by doing so, you’re answering your reader’s questions and moving them ever closer to a conversion.

To be clear: having internal subject matter experts (SMEs) write content is a good thing. Having them write sales pages is not. Save the sales writing for someone who specializes in it.

Speaking of SMEs….

Get your SME to contribute…somehow

Your company’s internal subject matter experts are a fantastic source of information. Remember the earlier story about the programmer’s scribbles being the company’s top-trafficked blog post? Your SMEs have a lot to say — and readers typically enjoy their perspective.

But here’s the thing…

Many SME’s aren’t good writers and/or, they don’t like to write. That means your requests like, “please write a blog post about something…anything…” will be ignored. It’s not that your SME doesn’t want to help. It’s because she’s busy — and if she doesn’t enjoy writing, she probably isn’t going to prioritize your post.

One smart solution is to have someone interview the SME, record it and then transcribe the transcript (of course, this could also turn into a podcast, too.) That way, the SME won’t get trapped into a writer’s block dark hole, and you have the great content you want.

As a pro tip: consider editing (sometimes, heavily editing) the transcripts before taking them live. That way, you can smooth out any speaking bumps and make the interview even better.

Be aware of reader overload

Information is good. Including every benefit, technical specification, sales sheet, video, newsletter signup, comparison chart and photo on one page is not.

I type that like it’s a no-brainer, but we ALL know companies that break that rule. Every page makes your eyes bleed. You don’t know where to look or what to do.

If this is what your sales pages sound like, know that analysis paralysis is real. Giving people too many options will cause your readers to overwhelm and do…nothing.

A simple way of conquering overload is to ask yourself if the information needs to be on the page — or could you include it on a supporting page, instead? For instance, the technical specifications could be a downloadable PDF. That way, the information is still on the site. You’re just not making your readers’ eye bleed anymore.

This is a good thing.

Related to this tip is…

Be clear on the desired conversion step

If you want people to sign up for your newsletter, do not put your “newsletter” link at the bottom of your web page (and in 10 point font.) Similarly, do not crowd the page with seven other conversion opportunities like, “download the PDF,” “watch the video,” or vague ad copy asking if a company “wants gains of 212% or more!”

Ask yourself what you want your reader to do. Is it make a purchase? Is it to sign up for a newsletter? Request more information? Make the call-to-action easy to find — and easy to take action.

Create a sustainable editorial calendar

The “experts” will tell you to publish multiple times a week and promote every post. While this is a good solution for a larger company, it’s the content kiss of death for a smaller one. If the content workload isn’t sustainable, your team members won’t hit the deadline — no matter what the editorial calendar says.

As an example, one of my clients is the CEO of a small consulting firm. Like many experts, he travels, he works with clients and he’s the chief SME — so all of the good information is in his head. In a perfect world, we’d create a myriad of content assets every month. Is that workable for his schedule? No (and yes, we’ve tried to make it work.)

Having said that, creating a sustainable editorial calendar has made all the difference. Blog posts are getting written, podcasts are being recorded, and a couple of larger content assets are in play. More importantly, prospects call my client and say, “I keep seeing your information online, and I finally got around to calling you.”

May 2016 be the year that prospects pop out of the woodwork and call you because they “keep seeing your information online.” It’s a very good feeling.

Photo thanks: ID 32073442 © Stuart Miles | Dreamstime.com