I’m just back from speaking at MarketingSherpa’s B2B Summits in San Francisco and Boston, where I was giving a joint presentation with a client on SEO. As part of that presentation, we talked about the role and impact of corporate blogging.
The client is a professional services firm operating solely in the B2B space. Theirs is a complex sale with an average sales cycle of 2-3 months from first contact to the time work begins. There are typically multiple people from different parties involved in or influencing the buying process, and the average engagement is in the low-to-mid five-figure range.
We had already optimized the professional service firm’s website. Early last year, however, we recommended the client also start a blog, both for purposes of positioning via thought leadership and fulfilling the rest of the SEO keyword strategy we had previously identified. The company is now about 15 months into blogging. They post once each week, and there are seven professional staff members who contribute to the blog.
We made sure the blog was integrated with the client’s site, not a separate domain or hosted blog. We chose WordPress and made sure to integrate plug-ins that would give us the proper optimization options. Then we worked with the client to develop topics, B2B blogging guidelines, and help educate those who would be contributing.
The ongoing work is largely handled in-house, by the client. On a periodic basis, we review the posts and make or recommend changes, both in terms of editing content for readers and better optimizing individual posts for search.
The results have been far beyond expectations. Today, while the blog accounts for 32% of the landing pages on the site, it accounts for more than 53% of the client’s organic traffic. The number of unique keywords for which the firm’s site is found has nearly tripled since the start of blogging. The firm’s website is responsible for more than 50% of its new business. They no longer have need for full-time people dedicated to finding new business; the firm’s new business activity is essentially responding to requests for work, not identifying and nurturing leads.
It should be noted, though, while the business results are good, it’s clear the results aren’t just about search; the quality and quantity of B2B content plays an equal, if not larger, role in positioning the firm and generating leads.
While the site optimization and corporate blogging has been successful, there were three key lessons learned along the way.
Multiple bloggers helps address diverse keyword strategy
In B2B, there is a diverse lexicon for almost every industry. Typically, there is no agreed upon, commonly used language to describe things. A given product, process, or issue may have four or five very different words or phrases used to describe it. This makes B2B keyword strategy particularly complex.
Even within the same organization, people will used widely varying terms to describe the same thing. We actually found this to be a benefit when it came to corporate blogging. Simply by having a broad range of contributors to the corporate blog, we continued to identify important keywords we hadn’t previously considered or found during keyword research.
The key, however, is not to squelch that by shoehorning blog contributions into previously established keyword strategy. Instead, you should embrace that diversity. Instead of changing copy to reflect previously established keyword strategy, optimize B2B blog copy for the newly found keywords. Make sure other on- and off-page factors are optimized for these keywords as well. This way, you’ll constantly be expanding your potential for organic search.
Let people write about what they love
Non-marketers typically don’t like to blog. Marketers, on the other hand, sometimes make the worst bloggers. Oftentimes, the people your clients, customers, and influencers find interesting aren’t the marketing people. They like to hear from the people in the trenches.
This creates a challenge for many businesses. A great question asked by one of the attendees at the San Francisco B2B Summit was, “How do you get people to want to contribute to the blog?”
Our client’s strategy was pretty straightforward.
Ask your people what interests them. What issues are they passionate about? If they’re having trouble, help them brainstorm. People have little problem writing about their passions and interests; it’s when they get forced into writing something else that things slow down.
Then together make a list of those topics and issues and see how they align with the interests of your key publics. Make your selections from there.
Schedule things out. Work with them to identify when each post works into their schedule and the overall editorial schedule of the blog.
Give them generous deadlines. Get their agreement on the dates for each post. Remind them of the deadlines the same as any another item in weekly workflow meetings.
Schedule internal deadlines at least a week in advance of the scheduled post date. This gives you sufficient time for any rework, any copy and headline editing, any necessary copy optimization for search, and for loading, formatting and optimizing the rest of the post (e.g., URL, title tag, meta description, image selection and optimization, etc.)
Follow up the day after the deadline if they don’t email their post to you. You need to hold people accountable through follow up and by making their blogging contributions as important as their other responsibilities. Make it understood it’s part of their job description and overall role.
Organic landing pages are important (and often overlooked)
In a well-optimized site and/or blog, people land everywhere. Yet often we do little, from a usability perspective, to help them with their next step. Landing page optimization receives a lot of attention in paid-search strategy, but we seldom give the same time and effort to organic landing pages.
After a while, it’s easy to see what keywords drive organic traffic to a given landing page. The first thing to do is to make sure that page is actually relevant to the visitors arriving there via organic search for those respective keywords. Is it relevant content in response to their query, or are you merely getting lots of unintended traffic (and bounces) because you happen to rank well for a given query?
Assuming your content is relevant, what are you doing to help further guide and nurture the visitor’s experience? If you know organic visitors are arriving on a given page because of a fairly narrow set of keywords, where do you think you should be directing them next?
The keywords responsible for organic traffic to a certain page should give you some idea of searchers’ intent. Rather than simply avail them of your standard navigation, you should be providing specific on-page links to other content relevant to the most popular queries for that page. Strategically selecting and placing links to other relevant content—not just automatically generated “possibly related links”—will drive deeper engagement and generate more leads.