Search engine optimization has changed a lot in the past five years. Google has continually updated its algorithm to reward websites that produce great content and penalize those that try to game the system. It's not surprising when you consider what Google's business is: to give customers the content that best matches their intent when they undertake a search engine query.
One thing that hasn't changed is the fact that keywords are the root of any SEO strategy. There are many technical aspects of a keyword strategy. But the reality is that for most B2B businesses, you can create an effective keyword strategy without considering search volume, ranking difficulty and cost-per-click prices. A business that understands its industry and creates content based on experiences with customers and prospects can create a killer keyword strategy with minimal research. So here is a simple three-step process to integrate your keyword strategy into your sales process.
1. Choose your target short-tail keywords
Short-tail keywords are short phrases (one or two-words) that describe your solution at the very highest level. As an inbound marketing agency, short-tail keywords would include inbound marketing, online marketing, digital marketing, internet marketing and social media.
Short-tail keywords have two significant characteristics:
- It's extremely difficult to rank highly with short-tail keywords. In my case, it's basically impossible to compete with an industry leader like HubSpot for that short-tail keyword phrase.
- Short-tail keywords don't reveal the intent of the searcher. Someone searching for inbound marketing could be a student writing a term paper or a key decision-maker looking to gain conceptual understanding.
We will talk more aobut long-tail keywords below, but the first step in developing a keyword strategy is to choose the short-tail keywords around which you will build long-tail keyword phrases.
In our case, we chose inbound marketing, social media and content marketing as the primary short-tail keyword phrases we would use in our keyword strategy. We chose to focus on these three for a few different reasons:
- We are a HubSpot Certified Partner and HubSpot originated the term inbound marketing. It made sense for us to piggyback HubSpot's success by targeting inbound marketing.
- We didn't want to dilute our SEO efforts by targeting synonymic terms like digital marketing, online marketing and internet marketing.
- We target professional services and technology firms. Social media and content marketing are two aspects of inbound marketing that are used in those industry.
The root short-tail keywords we targeted were chosen based on business reasons, not technical SEO reasons. Once we choose the short-tail keywords to target, we built our long-tail keyword strategy.
Focus your strategy with long-tail keywords
Long-tail keywords are the long phrases we all use when we're searching on Google. Instead of inbound marketing, think of something like does inbound marketing work for government contractors? Long-tail keywords have two distinguishing characteristics.
- It's easier to rank highly with long-tail keywords. Because they are less competitive, you have a better chance of hitting the first page of Google.
- Long-tail keywords reveal intent. If someone searches does inbound marketing work for government contractors?, there is a high likelihood that the searcher is a potential buyer in a target market.
Building long-tail keyword phrases based on the way your customers talk and the questions they ask is the differentiator of a good keyword strategy. You really don't need to get overly technical with it. After all, 16-20% of the searches Google sees every day are unique - they've never been searched before! For each short-tail keyword phrases you target, develop 15-25 variations based on your business model.
There are several things to do with your target keyword list in your marketing function.
- Use your keywords to optimize the on-page SEO for your website.
- Use keywords to focus your content marketing, email marketing, social media and lead generation efforts.
We started targeting the phrase government contractor inbound marketing 3 years ago. Inbound marketing hadn't yeat made inroads into the B2G space, but B2G companies are a major part of our economy in the DC area and we know a lot of businesses in that industry. 3 years later, inbound marketing is becoming a hot topic in the B2G industry and we own some valuable real estate on Google. We have the first four organic results. This illustrates how targeting niches with your keyword strategy can bring success.
Embed your keyword strategy in your sales process
Most organizations get the marketing part of the keyword strategy in place, but don't take it to the next level by embedding it in the sales process. Just as you use consistency in your visual branding, it's important to promote consistent value messaging using your target keywords.
That doesn't apply only to your marketing collateral. You want your outbound and inbound sales messaging to incorporate your targeted keywords. Remember, we developed those long-tail keywords because they reflect what we hear in the marketplace.
There's another good reason to embed the keyword strategy in your sales process. Buyers use different communications modes in their buying journey. A buyer may read a blog post on your website, speak to a salesperson and then check out your LinkedIn company page. If you are consistent with your keywords in all of those interactions, you increase the likelihood that the buyer will use those terms when they peform search engine queries later in their buying process.
And if they search using your keyword phrases, they will find your content and your website. This reinforces your value messaging and shows the buyer that you are influential in your industry.
We don't ignore technical keyword research, but we advise a business-based keyword strategy as described above. Keyword research will help validate the strategy and identify potentially lucrative keyword niches to target. The key is to talk to your audience naturally the way they talk about their business issues. Want to learn how you can develop your keyword strategy? Schedule a free consultation with us.