7 Search Marketing Strategies for Manufacturers & Distributors

A recent success we had with using Google Base (Google’s product search) to drive traffic to one of our manufacturing client’s website made me consider how companies that make, market, and sell industrial goods can take advantage of search engines and social communities to enhance their online presence.

Here are some online marketing strategies that manufacturers and distributors can leverage:

1) Google Base

Any company with a product catalog can create a data file containing their products and upload it to Google Base, free of charge.

Products that are submitted to Google Base are populated to Google’s Product Search. Some users go directly to Google Product Search to find items, but the majority of traffic generated on this portion of Google’s platform comes from the integration of Google Base feeds into the traditional Google.com search results page.

For example, the image below shows how a search for used lawn mowers yields “Shopping results for used lawn mowers” right below the Sponsored Links results at the top of the search results page:

A Search for \
(click on image to enlarge)

As a manufacturer, or distributor, of industrial goods, you may say something like “but lawn mowers are primarily a consumer item, so how does this relate to goods purchased by other business’ (B2B)”? The image below shows similar results for a search for “hydraulic presses”:

Search for \
(click on image to enlarge)

2) YouTube

Video content is a great way to provide complex information to customers, prospects, and users. And, while video content has benefits that stand alone, there are also very valuable search engine benefits as well.

Videos can encourage people to link to your website, lifting the site’s overall link popularity, and helping with keyword rankings across the site.

Videos are now being increasingly integrated into traditional search engine results. Google’s ownership of YouTube, and its increasing efforts to integrate varying content types into search results, has now made this more common.

By clicking on the image below, you can see an example of how a search for “remstar carousels” generates 2 results for YouTube videos, directly on the first page of Google’s results:

A search for
(click on image to enlarge)

Here is one of the “remstar carousels” videos that were shown in the Google search results:

Manufacturers and distributors of any kind of equipment can produce videos of product demonstrations, manufacturing facilities, technical tips, new product introductions, etc., and use the videos to establish a presence on YouTube. And, with attention to detail & execution (and some luck from the Google Gods), those videos could show up in traditional organic search results.

Here are some good resources on how to leverage YouTube:

3) Set Trade Show Appointments

Industry trade shows are often THE place to demonstrate products, launch new products, and network. Participating in trade shows can be expensive. One way to enhance your chances of success at a trade show is to use your website to encourage visitors to your booth, and to set sales appointments.

Many companies use their websites to list the trade shows that they will be attending. I would encourage you to take that a step further and create a registration page for each trade show in which you are participating. The goal here is to help your sales team set appointments at the booth.

Assuming you have a page on your website for “Trade Shows”, and that you can create a separate registration page for each show, here are some tactics to consider:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Apply basic SEO principles to optimizing your main trade show page – research the best keywords phrases, apply page tags, use keywords in the overview copy on the page, and link to the page from other pages on your website.

For example, you might discover that “machine tools trade shows” is a decent keyword to target. You would ensure that your HTML page title used something like “Machine Tools Trade Shows – ABC Company“, and that you wrote a concise, description Description Meta Tag. You would have a short paragraph at the top of the page, highlighting how “ABC Company participates in a series of trade shows for the machine tools industry throughout the year. Below you will find a calendar of machine tools trade shows where you can visit the ABC Company booth to learn more and meet our team.”

Each individual show would be listed on the page, with a link to a customized page highlighting your participation in the show – along with a registration form where people can sign up for an appointment at the booth (a demonstration, a face-to-face meeting, lunch & learn, etc.). Each of these pages would incorporate keywords related to the specific show in the HTML Page Title and the body copy of the page. For example “International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS)”. Because most trade shows are planned months in advance, your would have a shot of having that page come up in organic search results prior to the show.

Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) – Use PPC to promote your participation in the various trade shows. Google AdWords is your best bet for this kind of audience (as opposed to Yahoo! and MSN).

Bid on a set of keywords related to the show (e.g. international manufacturing technology show, IMTS, IMTS show, IMTS 2008, manufacturing technology show 2008, IMTS chicago, etc.).

Create search engine ad copy that delivers the right message. Here are some examples:

Pay Per Click Ads for Tradeshow Registrations

Always remember to have a good web analytics package installed, and that you are tracking show registration forms as conversions. In addition, put a process in place where show registration form information is pushed to your CRM database (e.g. Salesforce.com), and that the show sign-ups are treated as leads.

4) Generate Leads for Exports

Companies that export products can use search engine marketing intelligently to develop export relationships.

Here are some considerations & tactics that exporters can use to generate international leads via their websites:

  • Translate your content! It probably goes without saying that, if you are going to market to countries where English is not the native language, then you should have website content in that language/those languages. However, for many companies, the cost of translating an entire website worth of content can be prohibitive. An alternative to translating an entire website could be to simply create a single page in each of the target languages. That page would provide a brief company overview, outline products/capabilities, discuss specific export issues/mission, and provide a contact name (preferably someone who speaks the language!).
  • Optimize localized content for SEO. Any content that is translated into foreign languages should also be optimized for search engines. This requires keyword research in the language and using the appropriate keywords in HTML page titles, META tags, page headings, and cross-links within the website itself (e.g. if you have a page in German that is promoting used tractors, then there should be links on other pages of the website, even on English-content pages, that point to the translated German page and use keywords/variations of keywords as the link text, such as gebrauchte traktoren).
  • Use video as a powerful way to connect with prospects and customers who speak other languages. This adds a personal touch, and can be a cost-effective means of conveying more than any translated page copy.
  • Use Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) to generate export leads. It is a fairly easy task to use Google AdWords for this, while Yahoo! Sponsored Search and MSN AdCenter have less foreign market exposure/capabilities. It will be important to determine the optimal time of day to advertise in each country, develop a solid keyword list in each language, write ad copy in each language (multiple versions to conduct testing), and direct users to pages on the website that are translated/localized. As with any PPC campaign, track conversions!!! You will need to know which keywords (and ad copy versions) are generating contact forms, quote requests, and even phone calls (there are a number of companies that provide tracking/reporting for phone numbers and broken down by search engine & keyword – Voicestar is one company that we have used and found valuable).

5) Be Found Locally

Industrial/manufacturing companies can benefit from using website copy, technology, search engine optimization techniques, and PPC advertising to attract prospects in specific locations.

Companies that have locations and/or distributors in specific regions can create region-specific web pages with content targeted at prospects in those areas.

For example, if a company that sells forklift trucks has physical locations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New York, web pages can be created targeting keywords such as “forklift trucks massachusetts”, “forklift truck dealers massachusetts”, “forklift trucks for sale massachusetts”, etc. (a separate web page would be created for each state). The content of each page would not only use keywords related to forklift trucks (and variations such as fork lift trucks, lift trucks, etc.), the content would also detail the address of each location, provide directions, describe the capabilities/unique attributes of the location, etc. Google Maps (or other interactive mapping technologies) could also be used to provide users with a visual and interactive context of the location.

In conducting a local SEO strategy there are many other factors/techniques to use such as acquiring regional link relationships, using regional press releases, cross-linking content within your own website to the regional pages, participating in local trade associations, etc.

Once regional pages have been created on the website, PPC advertising can be used to target specific regions and keyword combinations, and direct the search advertising traffic to the appropriate regional page. Google AdWords Local and Yahoo! Local Search both have good local PPC programs. There are also many local search engine advertising venues such as Yahoo! Yellow Pages, Yellowbook.com, Verizon Superpages, etc.

6) Leverage Technical Support Content

Companies that provide technical support materials on their website can use this content for SEO benefit.

Here are some considerations/tactics:

  • Make at least some of the support materials public. Many companies provide a fantastic service to customers by giving them a password-protected area on the website to access support materials. Even when this is necessary (to protect proprietary information, or for another strategic reason), it can be beneficial to put a portion of the support materials in a public area on the website. This provides excellent content for search engines to index, additional keyword content that users may find in conducting searches, can generate in-bound links to the site, and can be used to cross-link content to product pages on the site.
  • Convert PDF materials to HTML. If you have support materials such as manuals and specification sheets, it is worthwhile to consider providing those materials in both PDF format and HTML pages. As with the suggestion above about placing support content outside of password-protected areas, this HTML content will provide you with flexibility in terms of getting content indexed & found in search engines, as well as giving you the ability to cross-link to product pages on the site.
  • Create additional support content. Adding HTML pages for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Glossaries of technical terms can add rich content to a site. Creating videos is also a great way to connect with customers, and provides content that may receive links. Video content can also be posted outside of your website to other channels such as YouTube, or websites that are specific to your industry.

For additional thoughts on how to generate valuable content for manufacturing site check out Diana Huff’s recent post – B2B Manufacturing Sites Don’t Have to Be Sexy.

7) Use eBay As An Additional Channel

eBay is not only a marketplace, it is also its own search engine (i.e. it’s a place for people to search for products). In addition, eBay pages often rank well in the primary search engines themselves.

Manufacturing & Industrial companies might consider either adding their own products to eBay (preferably through an eBay store, instead of just listing items), or provide a way for dealers & distributors to post their products on eBay. The latter, providing a means for dealers/distributors to list equipment, can have advantages such leveraging centralized dealer-inventory systems to make the process simple for dealers, and has the advantage of giving dealers another reason to stay satisfied with their relationship to the manufacturer (and sell more equipment). Another important factor to remember if you choose to sell on ebay is that you find a reputable and reliable ebay courier such as this one here, whether an item sells on ebay isn’t just down to whether the buyer wants the item as you’re no doubt not the only one selling that item on ebay which is why good feedback is very important. The majority of buyers check a sellers rating before buying an item, if a seller doesn’t have a very good ebay rating because of poor feedback it can cause sales to be lost, an easy way to get poor feedback is if a delivery is made later or even not at all, it might be completely out of your hands and be the couriers fault but buyers don’t see that, you are the one that hired the courier so you are the one at fault, so make sure when hiring a courier that you do so with caution.


The 7 tactics described above are only some of the many ways that manufacturing and industrial companies can leverage the Internet to gain competitive advantage, build brand, satisfy customers, and sell more.

The key is to try something new, and don’t stay stagnant. It is also advisable to stay reasonable when analyzing the potential of a particular tactic. By weighing the high-level costs/benefits, and avoiding paralysis-by-analysis, you can select the appropriate tactics to test out, and manage your risk by limiting expenditures until you see tangible results from the tests.

Sounds easy, right?

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— Alexis Karlin, Digital Marketing Specialist, Neolane (Acquired by Adobe)

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