Keyword research is critical for B2B demand generation marketers leveraging SEO as a component of their digital marketing strategy. In establishing a comprehensive keyword plan, B2B marketers can further establish benchmarks for SEO traffic acquisition and lead generation.
This post is meant to provide further detail on why keyword research is so important, how the search results landscape has changed, and what factors go into the process. We’ll close the post out with insight into popular keyword research tools and next steps for B2B marketers.
What Is Keyword Research and Why Do We Need It?
Here is a simple definition of what keyword research is, and how we often explain keyword research to a new client:
“Keyword Research is the process of discovering words and phrases people might use when searching for your organization’s solutions and brand”
Why do we need keyword research? Because the performance of a SEO program hinges on its direction. But here are the three specific reasons keyword research impacts performance and the direction of a SEO tactics:
- Content & Keywords: Keyword research allows B2B marketers to understand the type of content that ranks well for particular keyword searches, thereby aiding editorial planning.
- Search Result Variation: Through keyword research we gain a better understanding of the types of search engine results that Google in particular will display when searching the particular keyword. It is no longer ten simple text links but images, news, maps, and more.
- Link Strategy: Lastly, keyword research guides understanding of the types of links and third party mentions that a web page or website has acquired which in turn help the web page rank well for a particular keyword.
What’s Changed for B2B Marketers In Today’s Search Engine Landscape?
As my colleague Kristen Vaughn illustrated in a recent blog post, strategies (including keyword research) are always subject to change. This is due to a variety of factors including algorithm updates, changes in the search result experience, changing user behavior, new platforms or features launching, industry findings, and more.
Some of the more striking changes B2B demand generation marketers are experiencing that are directly related to SEO include the following:
- Keyword Research Applies to the B2B Buyer Journey – From discovery to vendor validation, it is important for demand generation marketers to consider how keyword research applies to the objectives of the B2B buyers’ journey. In order to be successful with SEO, marketers need to understand what phase of the journey a buyer may be in when performing a particular search query.
- Buyers Want Personalized Content – According to the 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey conducted by Demand Gen Report, 69 percent of B2B buyers say the most influential aspect of a company’s website is content that speaks directly to their needs.
- Buyers Are Looking for Answers to Questions – According to Moz analysis, over 88% of their documented search results included related questions, or the “People Also Ask” function. By analyzing the People Also Asked sections around your core keyword targets, you can determine what information people are looking for. Then, use these insights to guide your content development efforts.
- Buyers Don’t Necessarily Need to Click – According to clickstream data provider Jumpshot as detailed by SparkToro, in Q1 2019 Google’s US web search engine solved 48.96% of those searches without a click. This means that Google is pulling information from web page content and trying to keep B2B buyers in search results as long as possible. Even though immediate SEO traffic may not be realized, Google still needs to uncover trusted content to showcase for targeted keyword searches.
The importance of comprehensive keyword research cannot be understated. An initial list of keyword targets is only the start. B2B demand generation marketers need to identify critical keyword themes as well as a range of potential, related terminology that can be connected (IE cross-linked) through a content marketing program
Keyword Research: Important Factors
Effective keyword research still involves four key factors.
- Relevance: How closely the search term matches the site’s products, services, and content. As indicated above, understanding relevance is much more related to the type of content found in existing search results.
- Specificity: How general or specific a term or phrases’ intent is. For example, singular keywords tend to have a wider range of search intent, which is reflected in a wider range of content objectives present in existing search results.
- Popularity: How often the search term is searched for on major search engines. Later on this post we list a series of free and commercial tools B2B marketers can use for benchmarking popularity.
- Competitiveness: How many companies are pursuing the keyword in advertising specifically. Google Ads provides benchmarks but the simplest way is to note the number of ads present for a particular keyword.
A combination of these four factors comes into play when B2B online marketers consider developing and then prioritizing keyword research for ongoing digital marketing campaigns.
How Do You Perform Keyword Research?
Three conceptual steps are involved in performing keyword research. The first step is keyword discovery. This means brainstorming as many keywords variations as possible or within a certain timeframe. Explore adjectives, extensions, synonyms, etc.
We organize keywords by “theme” for clients and our own organizational efforts. In keyword theming, more competitive, strategic keyword phrases are centered around a series of “long-tail” opportunities, often extensions and more specific variations.
High priority but more competitive keyword themes may get focused on a pillar page, that in turn is supported by ongoing content marketing development.
Need help creating lists of keywords? Excel formulas can be handy in this process but my colleague Casie Gillette also wrote a blog post outlining how to generate new keyword lists and ideas a few years back. We also created a Keyword List Generator to help in organizing keyword ideas as well.
Keyword analysis comes second and always review keyword-specific search engine results for applicability.
Potential Questions To Consider:
- Do I understand the TYPE of search results that appear for a particular keyword opportunity?
- What are the elements of web pages found in search engine results that resonate most or appear to offer a competitive advantage?
- How COMPETITIVE are the sites that rank well for a particular keyword?
- Do I understand the VALUE PROPOSITION of my web page and more importantly, does the content on the page resonate with the intent of the search engine query?
For more information, here is another blog post we wrote highlighting “12 Questions to Ask When Performing SEO Keyword Research” for B2B online marketers to consider.
Finally we reach the point of keyword decisioning, which doesn’t always mean the most competitive or highly search terminology. It is important for B2B online marketers to analyze keywords that will provide the BEST VALUEfor the particular page being targeted.
While the right keywords bring visitors that interact and convert actions within your website(E.G., fill out forms, make purchases, email, etc) they also provide a good opportunity for your web page to ACHIEVE prominent search engine visibility in a REASONABLE amount of time and effort (and budget).
Don’t lose sight of the competition you face for strategic keywords and ability to outperform their current (and potential) SEO initiatives.
Keyword Research Tools
In Casie Gillette’s post referenced above, she identified a select group of keyword research tools that we recommend for performing research and background on how and why each resource can aid in the process. Here is that list tools and resources B2B marketers could consider leveraging.
- Google Search Console’s Search Performance Report
- KeywordTool IO
- Google Ads Keyword Planner
- Google Ads Search Query Reports
- Site Search Data
Internal site search gives you actual visitor data. It shows what information people can’t find on a site that they actually want and think is important.
- Customer Support / Live Chat
Connect with the individuals who are directly in contact with your customers: customer support! In addition, if you are running live chat on your site, be sure to check the logs. This is another way to find questions from customers and prospects.
In leveraging these tools, remember that the overall goal is to find all of the phrases around a particular topic. Once discovered, the next steps are analyze keywords for viability and make decisions on which terms to prioritize first and ongoing in a content marketing roadmap.
What’s Next for B2B Demand Generation Marketers
Once keyword research has been completed and a list of priority themes with supporting phrases have been defined, it is time to execute a plan of action. This involves the following phases of SEO initiatives.
- Implementation: Develop a content marketing plan and set of tactics designed to maximize visibility for target keywords. This can include on-page optimization efforts for existing assets and new content development for material such as blog posts and landing pages.
- Evaluation & Reporting: Use reporting tools such as Google Analytics, Search Console, and / or commercial SEO resources like SEMRush and Moz to track performance of web pages associated to target keywords. It’s important to determine if positions for specific keywords improve and if the brand begins to resonate overall for particular keyword themes.
- Analysis & Next Steps: Always revisit search engine results and keyword research to determine how to continue to improve performance of web pages associated to target keywords.
We’re oversimplifying the process a bit with these three bullets but there are plenty of resources available to learn and develop tactics around SEO content marketing, link acquisition or technical SEO.
What is important for B2B demand generation marketers to realize is that keyword research is both the first step and an ongoing part of their digital marketing campaigns. The changes in search engine results and demands of the buyer require constant and consistent review to ensure content marketing efforts align.
Contact KoMarketing Associates to Learn More
If you have questions or would like to talk with us about how our organization executes keyword research in coordination with ongoing digital marketing campaigns, call us at 1-877-322-2736 or use our contact form to get in touch with our leadership team.