Inbound Marketing: How to own the informational search results

Once a potential client is interested in your topic, most of the time the first thing he turns to is Google. The informational search phase is probably your best bet (i.e. value for money) to channel the attention towards your company. The potential client will research your topic and the companies operating in that area. And now is your time to shine – in other words: To be in the top 5 results for every search. This creates awareness of your company and also trust – after all, you wouldn’t be shown in the top search results if your company wasn’t relevant, right?

There are two ways to be on top of the search results: By paying $$$ and being listed in the paid search results (booking the right keywords through Google AdWords), which most of your competitors do. Or by being smart and coming up in the organic search results. The amount of work is essentially the same, but the smart choice requires a bit more work in the beginning. And as a bonus, the smart choice does not cost you ongoing marketing $$$ – once you are start your search engine advertising (SEA) campaign, it’s really hard to let go and you just keep on paying.

You don’t really need to be an expert in search engine optimization (SEO) to be on top of the organic search results as B2B is not very competitive when it comes to SEO. Unless you try to optimize for “credit card” or “buy car”, a few simple steps will do to push you to the top results within in a couple of weeks.

Step 1: Identifying the right keywords
Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client: Which search phrases would you enter? It is important that you don’t take the keywords YOU think are relevant but the keywords YOUR CLIENT will use. Start off with entering your competitors’ names. Check the Google auto-suggestions, the paid search campaigns and the related search suggestions at the end of the page. Google basically offers you the right keywords on a silver plate. Then try more generic keywords (in my case e.g. “TV analytics”, “TV attribution”). Don’t go too generic as you need to focus on your niche. Important: If you are doing business in multiple countries, use the Google Adwords Preview tool to preview the results in the relevant geo-location and language as the keywords could differ a lot (e.g. in my case “TV Tracking” is a commonly used keyword for TV Analytics in Germany while in the US it means something totally different).
google-auto-suggestion
Google auto-suggestions

google-related-searches
Google related searches at end of search page

Step 2: Read, read, read
Once you have identified the top 5-10 keywords, read the top 10 results for each keyword to get a feeling on what others wrote on the topic. This helps you understand what the potential client is looking for when he searches for that specific keyword.

Step 3: Create informational articles
Write an informational article about the topic (which is different from the other top 10 results you just read). Just think of it as if you were creating a Wikipedia article on that keyword. Your goal is to inform the potential client, not to sell your product (yet). Make it easy to read: Not too short, not too long, add an image / a graphic, maybe a video, a catchy headline, a good meta description, sub headlines for structure, good cross-references for further reading (both to external sources and to your own website). Use the keyword in the headline, in the meta description, in the text, in the image name etc. to give the reader the impression that this article is exactly what he is looking for. If putting the keyword into your headline, text etc. does not fit / feels awkward, your article is not catching the topic. At the end of the article, add a short note that you sell product XYZ and add a contact person.
Remember: The client is still in the information phase, you want to position your company as industry expert.
Important: Make sure that your articles differentiate themselves enough – only one excellent article per keyword / keywords that are very similar.

Step 4: Links
While you might have heard that SEO is all about getting links (which is true), your B2B marketing niche does not need a ton of links (oftentimes even no external links) to get top-ranked. In fact, start with a good internal linking on your website first. Make sure your product pages point to the informational pages and vice versa and that there is good internal linkage between the informational pages as well. You should do this both within the text of a page but also at the end, e.g. by using a short list similar to Wikipedia “More information here: …”. As your articles are of informational nature (and not promoting your company or product), you can mention (i.e. link to) them in your guest posts, articles, comments, Quora posts or forum discussions as well. Every reader loves valuable background information through an additional link. If your article contains an infographic (example here) or a white paper for download (example here), this is a great way to link back to the original source as well. Promote your article with a tweet, share it on Facebook, LinkedIn etc.

Step 5: Wait
While SEA allows you to pay to immediately be visible in the search results, creating content and appearing in the organic search results will take some days, if not weeks. You can check whether Google picked you up by entering this in Google:
“[headline here without brackets]” site:yourdomain.com
This will show you whether Google has indexed your website (so that it can be ranked at all). To check your actual ranking position, use the Google AdWords preview tool as your browser history and your location will skew the results you see towards a better position for your website.

Step 6: Analyze and optimize
The best way to know whether you nailed it with your content is analyzing the user’s behavior on your website: What’s the bounce rate (the percentage of users who hit the back button on the browser), how long is the user staying, is he clicking on further links etc. In Google Analytics, you can see this in the “landing page” tab. While there are no exact rules to follow, use common sense.
A few examples:
– A 80% bounce rate is OK if the user stays 2-3 minutes on your website (he read the article and then went back to check on the other search results) while a 80% bounce rate with 5 seconds time on site tells you that the user hit the back button right away because he did not find what he was expecting.
– A 20% bounce rate with 10 seconds time spent on site probably means that the user did not really find what he was looking for but clicked on a link that seemed to better match his search. In this case you probably have two similar keyword topics and need to make sure to get your internal linking right and rewrite one of the articles to really distinguish between the two.
– 5 page visits might either mean that the user is confused and trying to find something else or really intrigued by your content, diving deeper into your website. Check the time spent on site and the behavior flow (what was the next link the user clicked?). If he went to products, then checked out the reference clients, it looks like you have a convinced reader. If he jumped between the informational articles, he might be confused.

When you are done with all of the above, don’t forget to tag the users for your retargeting lists.

Online Marketing Basics: Free Resources


I have put together a short overview of what I consider good free resources to jumpstart your online marketing expertise. You don’t need any prior knowledge of online marketing. This is not a complete list and leaves out several important parts of online marketing – so FEEL FREE TO SHARE YOUR RESOURCES IN THE COMMENTS.

A guide to online marketing:
http://www.seomoz.org/blog/the-noob-guide-to-online-marketing-with-giant-infographic-11928
This guide covers all aspects of online marketing including a 6 month plan of how to do it

Online Advertising on the Internet:
http://revenuemax.de/vermarktung/
A good introduction into how online advertising works. Only in German.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): How to get into Google’s organic search results:
http://www.seomoz.org/beginners-guide-to-seo
Great overview by Seomoz, a company selling SEO tools. Also have a great blog with regular, easy to understand updates.

Affiliate Marketing: Performance-based marketing through online sales partners (affiliates):
http://www.projecter.de/affiliate-ebook.html
A thorough guide about affiliates and merchants – how it works, what to expect etc. >200 pages in German.

Twitter for business – a beginner’s guide:
http://blog.bab.la/2011/07/07/twitter-business-guide-communication-and-marketing/
Based on our experiences at bab.la we have put together an easy step-by-step guide for people who have only heard about Twitter before.

Social Media Monitoring – what people say about your company/product on the web:
http://blog.bab.la/2011/04/11/social-media-monitoring-at-zero-costs/
It’s not only important to shout our your marketing message but also to listen to the users on the web. This guide helps you set up a free (but not 100% perfect) way of monitoring what people say about you.

Do you know any more cool free resources? Share them in the comments.

Best,

Andreas

Image credit: Noob.