A while back we detailed several tactics B2B manufacturers and distributors should consider when seeking to improve their visibility in search engines and social communities. It is encouraging to note that all but one of those tactics remains relevant more than half a decade later, albeit with a few modifications to specific steps or updated resources.
Those tactics in summary:
- YouTube Integration
- Trade Show Appointments
- Generate Leads for Exports
- Local Optimization (Office / Dealer Locations)
- Leverage Technical Support
- eBay As An Additional Channel
The only recommendation no longer relevant was Google Base, because it is retired and no longer an option. That said, Google Shopping, which is what Google Base was ultimately merged into, is still alive and strong as an option for B2B e-commerce advertisers in particular.
In this follow up post, we’ll outline six more search engine marketing recommendations for B2B professionals working in the industrial and manufacturing industries.
Google Product Listings
Any company with a product catalog can create a data file containing their products and upload it to Google Merchant Center, free of charge. To gain visibility in Google Product Listings (IE, Google Shopping results) however, you need to connect your Merchant Center to Google AdWords, and pay (per click) for visibility in shopping results.
There are two key requirements for Google Product Listings.
- Product Feed – Run through Google Merchant Center, a product feed is a file uploaded to a Merchant Center account that contains details about the products being sold.
- Shopping Campaign – Run through Google AdWords, shopping campaigns provide tools to group and bid on products found in the product feed as well as reporting and benchmarking tools to monitor and optimize performance.
Per Google guidelines, your Merchant Center account lets you manage your product information, while your AdWords account helps you manage your ads and campaigns (in this case, of your product information).
Two key resources from Google for managing and optimizing this process:
- Products Feed Specification – details required and important to consider for integrating and optimizing individual product information.
- Setting Up Shopping Campaigns – a tutorial for setting up, optimizing, and managing a shopping campaign, as well as best practices and troubleshooting tips.
For industrial marketers managing e-commerce solutions, it is important to evaluate search engine results for primary and secondary keyword targets, to understand whether product listings ads (PLA’s) appear. If your organization finds a significant percentage of PLA’s, its worth investigating this initiative more closely.
Maximize Visibility of Technical Support Documentation
As we outlined in our 2014 B2B Web Usability Report, technical support information was the second most important “must have” for respondents yet also the fourth most lacking from vendor websites. It’s clear this recommendation needs to be revisited for both direct optimization and future content marketing initiatives.
Actionable tactics for marketers:
- PDF to HTML conversion – its okay to have both but HTML provides more flexibility in applying keyword strategy and optimizing the landing experience.
- Taxonomy-based navigation – organize material based on keyword-specific categories or tags so visitors can easily discover important material.
- Visualizations – support technical information with graphics, outlines, and other simple visualizations to aid in usability.
As detailed in a previous post, we use Snip and Jing to create simple screenshots and short videos of our computer screen to share with others. These free tools could easily be applied for support tutorials or examples.
Don’t forget the B2B SEO basics as well. Here are some of top-of-mind tactics.
- Keyword Strategy Development – Every new asset presents an opportunity to be found in search; don’t forget to apply a keyword target.
- Social Sharing Elements – Keep social sharing top of mind by adding relevant social media sharing buttons and link references.
- Form Submissions and Lead Tracking – create opportunities for lead generation initiatives through short forms when appropriate. Don’t forget to set the goals and conversion tracking as well.
Optimize Images and Video
The idea of utilizing visualizations easily leads to marketing with video and the integration of images and graphics. Be sure to maximize this effort with the proper onsite optimization efforts.
Earlier this week, my colleague Ryan Young presented the following video best practices for SEO and online marketing:
- Use keywords in the title of the video and make sure they match the title tag.
- Submit a video sitemap through Google Webmaster Tools.
- Include a link back to the site or an appropriate destination in the description of the video.
- Include a transcript of video.
For Image Markup
Image markup should be found in the HTML IMG SRC element of corresponding image assets. Additional markup can be enabled if appropriate/applicable based on presentation objectives (example: an image gallery or proprietary information). The following sections of image-related content could contain markup:
- The web address of the image.
- A related image heading (“name” property in schema.org).
- A related image description (description property).
- Publishing characteristics (date published, author, comments, etc. properties).
For Video Markup
Similar tagging vocabularies are used but wrapped directly around the embedded code used for the video. The following sections of address content could contain markup:
- The title, description, and web address of the video.
- A thumbnail image reference for the video.
- Publishing characteristics (date published, duration, etc. properties)
Showcase The Company
We often seen B2B marketers obsess over home page and solution messaging but leave the company overview page barren, outside of basic marketing collateral. When B2B buyers review vendor information online, one of the first places they review is the about section of an organization.
SPOILER ALERT: According to survey results from our 2015 B2B Web Usability Report (to be released in late March) thorough contact and organizational information is even more important for B2B buyers reviewing vendor websites than it was in our original report.
Bottom-line, they want to know more about the organization they are going to work with and have multiple options for establishing communication
In addition to important company information and general marketing messaging, consider adding the following assets to a company overview page:
- Information on key personnel and the leadership team.
- References to organizations, memberships, and industry affiliations.
- Insight into the organization’s mission, values, and company culture.
- Video assets such as executive interviews and product demonstrations.
- Testimonials, references, and key clients and / or partners.
- And most certainly: thorough contact information.
Kissmetrics has a great post highlighting information frequently found and illustrated in trustworthy websites. For more ideas on better “About Pages”, check out my post from a while back covering this topic.
Link Build Through Partners and Distributors
One of the more common dynamics with industrial / manufacturing vendors is that they often work with a wide range of partners, distributors, and dealers. This is an ideal situation for the creation of publishing opportunities throughout a professional online network already developed.
I’ve written about guest blogging as a recommendation for link building many times in the past and it is a tactic we’ve used with success for several years. The key is in broader marketing objectives accomplished. We’re not putting our clients (or ourselves) in a position where SEO is the sole reason for our efforts.
Search marketer Eric Enge’s summation of the indirect benefits of guest blogging reminds B2B SEOs why we should be applying tactics like this in the first place:
“There is nothing like building your reputation and visibility to cause people to want more of your content. You get to build up your own audience, and ultimately some of these people will find their way to your site, find great content there and link to it.”
Similar to Google Authorship, high quality contributions in trusted publications build authority – and hopefully inbound links and organic search engine presence as well.
Leverage LinkedIn Relationships
One easy way to accomplish guest blogging outreach is through LinkedIn. According to IHS GlobalSpec’s annual survey of technical professionals and their use of social media, 74% of technical professionals surveyed have LinkedIn profiles.
While the vast majority of those surveyed are not actively participating in discussions or sales-specific initiatives, a large percentage (69%) are looking for contacts and nearly half (47%) read product and industry news.
The point being is that LinkedIn is often the simplest channel for building connections that can ultimately lead to publishing and networking online. For our part, LinkedIn has become an invaluable platform for securing numerous guest posting and content collaboration initiatives and campaigns.
These tactics are only some of the many ways that manufacturing and industrial companies can gain a competitive advantage in search engine results, build brand awareness, and ultimately communicate better with customers and prospects.
Have you implemented some or many of these tactics in your own organizations? I’d love to read your feedback and perspective via comments below.