Is 2016 the year you take your B2B content writing campaign to the next level?
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:
- 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may have worked with multiple SEO consultants, all with their own process, best practice tips (many of which are outdated) and tactics.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.
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.