It’s no secret measuring the success of a B2B SEO program can be tricky. B2B buying cycles can take up to 18 months, multiple touch points can occur, and on top of all of that, many businesses don’t have the right tools in place to measure marketing efforts.
While SEO isn’t alone in feeling the pain of proving ROI, it does face some unique challenges. For example, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been directed by the C-Suite to put our focus on a specific set of keywords that have no visibility. Why? Because it’s important to their brand. OK, but here’s a question: What is the ROI of nothing?
Obviously, every case isn’t like the one mentioned above. There are certainly ways we can prove ROI and, even better, there are ways we can improve ROI. We just have to know where to look. Let’s dig in.
1. Analyze Your Content Funnel
One of the things I’m very proud of at KoMarketing is the team’s ability to write really fantastic content for our clients. We take the time to understand the brand, understand the audience, and understand what content is needed to build a strong search presence. We have seriously good writers. Which is why I’m amazed when we don’t see the results we need to see.
A couple years back, I was analyzing results for a client and just couldn’t understand it – we were in top positions for our core keywords, traffic was rising at a killer rate, but leads weren’t keeping up. What did we need to do?
We started by mapping content to the corresponding keyword targets:
- What was driving traffic?
- What was driving leads?
- Were there any trends?
We also started mapping the content to the buyer journey. For each of our keyword themes, where did the keyword fall within the journey and what content did we have to support it? Most importantly, did we have the right content to support it?
It turned out that while our content was performing well overall, we were missing a pretty significant piece – content for the end of the buyer journey and content for existing customers. Doh!
While it seems so obvious looking back, it was easy to overlook. After all, we were doing the right things and seeing results. We just needed to dig deeper.
Any sort of content analysis will take time but I can assure you that time will be worthwhile. Here are some additional resources on analyzing your content funnel:
- How to Uncover Actionable SEO Opportunities with a B2B Content Audit
- Finding Content Gaps: Moving Buyers Through the Funnel
- 4 Steps to Map B2B Keywords to Landing Pages
2. Think Beyond SEO
My first SEO job afforded me a number of opportunities – a lesson in all things SEO, exposure to some of the best in the business, and a chance to focus on UX and conversion optimization.
When I look back, I’m thankful for all of those things but what I’m especially thankful for is the early realization that SEO is about more than just rankings or traffic. It showed me that SEOs are marketers and as such, we have to think about the customer and what it is they want.
Now, that’s not to say I didn’t do some less-than-user-friendly things along the way (hello keyword stuffing) but as it stands today, the user experience a big focus of our SEO programs. When we create content, we are thinking about how the customer will react and what their next step will be. We must ask ourselves:
- How can we guide them?
- How can we give them the information they need?
- How can we get them to take an action?
Let’s take blog posts for example. Blog posts are a fantastic resource for answering customer questions, showcasing thought leadership, driving search and social visibility, and growing a site.
One of the biggest problems with blog posts, however, is their inability to keep people on site. They tend to have high bounce rates and less overall engagement. What should we be doing?
For many of our clients, we make “next steps” easy. Depending on where the piece of content is in the buyer journey, banners are created to drive the reader to related posts, whitepapers, case studies, or in some cases, demo pages. In other instances, we include forms right on the page.
Using a platform like Evergage or Monetate? Swap out those banners with resources you know that customer might be interested in based on their previous browsing history.
The key is to think beyond SEO and focus on the next step in the buyer journey. And if you really want to improve ROI, make sure you’re tracking your banners or links or whatever else. Create internal tracking URLs to see where your customers are going and if they are moving through your content as desired.
3. Go Multi-Channel
Who gets credit for a sale? Is it the person who spoke to the customer on the phone? Is it the content marketer who wrote the whitepaper they downloaded? Is it the paid search team who drove them to the whitepaper they downloaded?
When it comes to attribution, we could ask these types of questions all day. In this new world where customers can be reached in any number of ways, attributing a sale to only one touch point in the journey makes no sense. But it’s what we do and in some cases, it’s how we as SEOs must measure our performance.
It’s time to focus on multi-channel attribution.
I know this is a much larger topic that is still being figured out by experts in all facets of marketing. There isn’t an easy solution and even when companies move to multi-channel attribution, there are various models they must decide upon.
All of that being said, we can start at the most basic level – using Google Analytics. GA’s multi-channel functionality can show you how organic is impacting overall conversions.
Yes, perhaps the customer filled out the form after coming in through PPC but it turns out, their first click was actually through organic.
Want to see what type of content is influencing purchases? Add the landing page dimension to Assisted Conversions to see what type of content is driving users through the funnel.
It’s not perfect but it’s a start and it’s also a great way to show the overall value of SEO. Sure, you aren’t exactly improving ROI in the most classic sense but we are showing there may be more value than initially thought. Good enough in my book!
A Good SEO is a Good Marketer
What makes so many of the SEOs I know good at their jobs is their ability to think beyond the search engines. They focus on the business, the customers, and ensuring they are showing the true value of the SEO program.
As B2B SEOs we are always tasked with upping our game and continuing to improve but, as you think about what’s next, consider what I just covered and focus on how you can improve the ROI of your SEO program. It will make you a better marketer and it will help your business grow.