The most significant difference between B2B SEO and B2C is the core goals and objectives of campaigns. By nature, the B2B buying process is more complex because of larger and more costly purchases, and a longer sales cycle.
While B2B SEO campaigns aim to increase brand exposure and generate quality leads that will eventually turn into sales through actions like demo requests, whitepaper download, newsletter sign ups, etc., B2C SEO campaigns must get visitors to make an immediate purchase on the website.
As you can imagine, these essential differences impact how SEO is applied across programs; however, there are certainly some strategies that can be tailored to both B2C and B2B SEO campaigns.
What’s the Difference Between B2B and B2C?
Before we jump into the specific challenges and discuss successful SEO strategies, let’s define exactly what B2C and B2B is and how online efforts relate to each.
B2C (business-to-consumer) is the practice of selling products or services to consumers directly.
If you’re selling products or services online in the B2C space, the process goes a little something like this – consumers somehow find your brand/website, browse products and information, find the products or services they are looking for, proceed to the checkout, and electronically pay for their desired products or services.
This all seems fair enough, right? Businesses need a way of showcasing products or services on a website, recording customer data, and checking out and accepting payments.
B2B (business-to-business) is the practice of selling products or services to other businesses.
When it comes to online transactions, the B2B space is a bit more complex. For B2C, a customer can see a post about a sale on shoes and go directly to the store or website and buy the pair that they’re looking for.
Often times, the B2B sales funnel is not such a short process. Because products and services are more intricate or widespread, it takes a longer time for someone to turn from a prospect into a lead, then into an actual paying customer.
It may take a few months from the time a business initially finds your brand, visits the website, and explores products or services until actually making a transaction. For this reason, B2B transactions normally require more advanced SEO strategies.
When it comes to B2B and B2C, processes like transactions, sales and messaging differ entirely from one another. This makes it especially important that marketers implement the right tactics for their customers (whether businesses or consumers).
5 Key Challenges of B2B SEO
Let’s face it, sometimes SEO is challenging, just like this extremely large cat trying to squeeze its way through a door that is way too small. Here we’ll take a look at the specific challenges that B2B marketers are presented with when it comes to SEO, and how each differs from B2C.
Language & Keyword Usage
The terms and phrases in B2B marketing are typically more complex than B2C. This is likely because most B2B buyers are looking for something that will solve a very specific issue their organization is facing and will integrate with their existing systems.
For example, Ziploc probably won’t need to explain the exact technology incorporated in each sandwich bag, as the customer just wants to know that their food will be kept fresh. A CRM technology provider, on the other hand, will need to disclose each and every feature, as potential buyers will need to know that the software will meet their existing challenges and integrate with other platforms.
You get the point – the language used for B2B SEO is typically more technical than B2C. This is why SEOs in the B2B space must focus on reaching their audiences with precise information and truly sounding like an expert in the industry.
Most B2C purchases are decided by a single person, while the typical B2B purchase is influenced by multiple decision makers. Each decision maker involved has the ability to easily research his or her options – whether it is a competitive product or service, or another solution entirely.
More importantly, each decision maker would likely search with a different intent based on their specific responsibilities, past experiences or concerns, how they are affected by the challenge at hand, etc.
This is why B2B SEOs must take into account the multiple searchers / searches that take place in the research process, and ensure that search terms being used are addressed on specific landing pages that speak to each decision maker’s concerns.
On the other hand, B2C search marketers face the opposite challenge – one searcher making multiple searches for the best fit.
The goal of both B2B and B2C search campaigns is to generate sales and increase revenue. However, most products and services in the B2B space are not actually acquired online, which is why the goal of B2B SEO programs are usually not to make a sale immediately but, instead, to drive conversions that will eventually lead to a sale.
Naturally, key performance indicators for B2B and B2C SEO campaigns will differ due to this. For example, B2B search marketers may want visitors to request a demo, take a free trial, download a whitepaper, etc., in effort to distinguish qualified leads. Sales will be of greater importance for a B2C SEO campaign since it’s possible for a transaction to be made within a single session.
Getting a landing page found by ranking higher in search results is just a start for B2B search marketers. The challenge is getting visitors to want more and convert.
The phrases used throughout on-page content have a significant impact on ranking within search results. However, in the B2B world, natural language is becoming even more important. The content provided on websites needs to be optimized for both search engine and B2B buyers.
As simple as it may sound, B2B search marketers need to remember that on-page copy provides a chance to convince future buyers to work with your organization. Of course, it should be optimized for search, but it should also be natural and aligned with potential buyer’s challenges and pain points.
For B2C SEO, information like product specifications, availability, pricing and promotions may be more important. On the other hand, B2B purchasers must do their research and avoid risk; therefore, just because you have the lowest price does not mean you are the best fit for the job.
When thinking about the conversion funnel in relation to search, user intent should stay top of mind for B2B marketers. Providing content that meets the needs of searchers, no matter what phase of the buying process they’re in, is essential.
Why is this so important? As mentioned before, the sales funnel in the B2B space is much longer. This means that marketers will be involved in multiple stages of the buying process before a sale is actually made.
For this reason, B2B SEO needs to focus on different areas than B2C. It’s important that B2B search marketers know what information buyers are looking for at each specific stage of the sales funnel, and are providing content in a way that is appealing for both users and search engines.
How to Leverage B2C SEO Strategies for B2B
If executed properly, certain tactics that have proven successful for B2C SEO could be equally as successful when applied in the B2B space. Let’s go over just a few.
Build Out Personas
This ties back to my previous point around having multiple searchers involved in a B2B purchasing decision. For this reason, it’s essential that SEOs understand each of these personas.
A great way to do this is by building out personas using worksheets. This will help you get a better idea of the roles and responsibilities of individuals you are trying to reach, concerns they have, key challenges they are facing, and determine the best ways to target them.
Once you have outlined more about your target personas, this research can be used to guide keyword research, on-site page optimizations, and new content development for a more advanced SEO campaign.
Focus on Social Customer Service
It’s no secret that social media can be used as an essential channel to improve the customer experience. 71% of consumers who have had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.
B2B marketers should keep this stat in mind when thinking about their social media strategy. While social media should be leveraged to support SEO efforts, B2B marketers will also benefit from using social to provide better customer service, engage target audiences, find out what information users are looking for and spike content ideas.
Display Thought Leadership
Consumers often turn to Facebook or Twitter when inquiring about the latest product announcements, hours of operation, company updates or other news. In the B2C space, this presents an immediate opportunity to gain visibility by quickly distributing these types of announcements across social media channels.
These tactics can be applied for successful B2B marketing as well. Stay on top of the latest industry news, company happenings, etc. While social media might be the first place customers check, make it easy for your audience to find the information they are looking for and drive them to a landing page with even more information.
Not only will this help gain organic visibility around the hottest topics in the industry, but it will also help position your brand as a thought leader in the space.
The bottom line? There are many differences between B2C and B2B SEO; however, there are also some common challenges and tactics that can be leveraged across industries.
As SEO trends evolve in 2018 and beyond, whether due to algorithm updates, changing user behavior, or new platforms, B2B marketers should constantly evaulate strategies for improvement. Sometimes, that means looking at successes in the B2C space and tailoring and replicating them for B2B SEO.
Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below, or reach out to me directly via Twitter!