A successful B2B SEO strategy starts with accurately researching keywords. Good keyword research will lead to everything from better search engine rankings and click-through rates and overall conversions. Here are seven steps that can make a difference.
For B2B or niche topics, keyword research is often more complex. Search queries in these niches have lower search volumes and are very specific – making them hard to find. The effort of researching the terms, however, is well worth it! I’ll tell you how to create a comprehensive B2B SEO keyword research and use this information properly throughout your customer journey by creating relevant topic areas with content tailored towards each phase that customers experience when interacting with your company.
Step 1: Understanding user intent
Keyword research is important because it can help you hone in on what prospective customers are searching for. But before we delve into Google’s keywords, let’s take a step back and understand how to find them successfully – the key is understanding search intention (user intent), not just keyword density. This becomes especially pertinent when doing keyword research for Google since they only rank results that satisfy your search intents.
Why? Behind every search query, there is a specific intention: The user wants to get information, solve a problem or get an answer to his question. You may now be wondering why this fact needs to be described in such detail. The search intention is so important because it determines the content and also formats. This means that it is not sufficient to include as many relevant keywords as possible in a text. It is more important to structure the content and prepare it thematically to meet the user’s intention.
An example of search intent
If a user wants to visit a steakhouse in London and the search results only contain recipes and “how to cook a steak at home” instructions, his search intent is not fulfilled. The same applies to a user looking for a B2B SEO agency and obtains basic knowledge about search engine optimization.
Is the search intention for your keyword purely information-driven? Then it makes no sense to try to achieve good rankings with your product page. As in the example above, the user already has made a buying decision. Therefore, there is no need for explanatory content.
You can capture the information-driven search query with a blog post, for example. But, on the other hand, a user who already knows what he wants and has the intention to buy (consideration/decision phase) will find precise information on your product page.
How to determine search intent
The best and easiest way to determine search intent is to look at the top results on the search engine results page (SERP). Search engines strive to deliver the best results to their users and keep them satisfied so that they continue to use them. So you can rely on the top rankings to show you what the user wants to know about the keyword. Search intentions can be broken down into different categories:
- Informational: The user is looking for information.
- Navigational: The user is looking for something that he knows already exists.
- Commercial Investigation: The user knows the solution to his problem but not yet the appropriate product or provider.
- Transactional: The user has made a buying decision.
Google categorizes the search intent into Know, Do, Website, Visit-in-person and Multiple User Intent searches. You can find it in their guidelines.
Step 2: The roadmap
You need to know what the potential customer needs on their customer journey. As a result, you will be able to deliver the right content at the right time. Outline your buyer persona and map out which information they need at which stage.
The three stages of the customer journey include:
- Awareness: The prospect recognizes a challenge or opportunity for his business.
- Consideration: The prospect decides to master the challenge or to seize the opportunity.
- Decision: The prospect has already decided on a solution and is now looking for the right provider.
You can assign the categories of search intentions to the phases.
- Informational >> Awareness
- Navigational >> Consideration
- Commercial investigation, transactional >> Decision
Once you have created your keyword list, you can assign the keywords or topics to the individual phases based on the search intent. Then, determine which content format matches the search intention. Following content formats are most likely to fulfil the search intentions:
- Informational: Guides, articles, infographics and whitepapers
- Commercial investigation: Testimonials, case studies and references
- Transactional: Product pages with contact forms or appointment scheduling
Step 3: B2B SEO Keyword Research
You can do keyword research using some (free) keyword research tools like:
Google Keyword Planner: Gives you insight into search volumes of certain words and how those searches have changed over time: https://ads.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/
Answer the Public: A tool that shows you popular and frequently googled questions for your keyword. https://answerthepublic.com/
Hypersuggest: A free keyword tool that gives you related search queries, search volume and competition. https://www.hypersuggest.com
Gather all the terms in an Excel list. At this stage, the more, the better. This way, you can use the full potential and not miss any chance for good rankings. It is essential always to use a combination of several tools to research as broadly as possible. In addition, be sure ALWAYS to use Google Search itself – especially the auto-complete function.
Cluster your keywords
Now cluster your keywords by topic, search intent, and phase of the customer journey in one Excel column each. The easiest way to determine the topic clusters is to take a look at the search intent, i.e. the content of the top 3 rankings.
Consider running a B2B Google Ads campaign for transactional keywords in the decision phase. The user is therefore already searching for products and providers. If your service pages are relatively new and have not yet built up rankings, you can book these transactional keywords in Google Ads campaigns. This way, you can generate traffic without organic rankings.
At the same time, only users who are already ready to buy are directed to our products. In this way, you can avoid wasting resources and the phases within the customer journey can be well separated: Users who are ready to buy are led to the product page via ads. Users who first want to find out more can find all the relevant information through blog posts or whitepapers.
Step 4: Create content or improve existing content
You can now plan specific content based on the topic clusters. Also, take a look at keywords that can be grouped. For example, you can write a blog post on a topic that covers several keywords with the same search intent. You may also now realize that you have already published content on a topic, but it doesn’t meet the search intent or is missing important information. Use your keyword research to update and revise existing content.
To decide on the right content format, type the keyword into the search engine and look at the top 3 results or SERP features. If the top rankings include images or videos, you should include those in your content plan. On the other hand, if the top results deliver guides, tips, or a pdf checklist, that’s what users want to see. So choose this content format for your content.
Step 5: B2B SEO is an ongoing process
Achieving top rankings fast is almost impossible. Search engine optimization is about building trust and authority and proving your competence with the right content. This takes time – because it can take time for a post or article to rank. With this understanding and the certainty that SEO ensures long-term sales and a positive perception of your brand, it is immediately much easier to muster the necessary patience.
But if your rankings don’t improve at all, you’ll probably have to optimize your content again. Maybe your information is too thin or your text too short? Or perhaps you are using the wrong content format? Be aware that your content needs to be among the best on the web to be at the top of Google search results.
Conclusion: Is a B2B SEO Keyword Research worth it?
Comprehensive B2B keyword research is a lot of work. However, it is worth the effort because it is the cornerstone for b2b search engine marketing. You will not only learn for which keywords you should publish content. In addition, you know which topics are important for your target group, in which phases of the customer journey they are and how you can support them with content.