As a B2B brand owner, you might have some hang-ups about taking your business online. After all, the way businesses buy from other businesses isn’t the same as the way individual customers buy from businesses.
Right? Wrong. At least, not anymore.
In fact, 89% of B2B marketers use content marketing to attract and convert their audiences. This is due to a shift in recent years toward more businesses buying goods and services online.
Is that because online shopping is becoming easier and safer in general? Or because more younger people are moving into positions where they’re responsible for business buying decisions? Most likely, it’s both.
According to Forrester, US B2B ecommerce revenue is forecast to grow to $1.2 trillion by 2021, which equates to 13.1% of total US B2B sales.
As a B2B business owner, that presents opportunities for you. But only if you’re setting yourself up for success with the right foundations in SEO and customer experience.
In this article, we’re going to look at five misconceptions, opportunities, and general talking points. Each will be related to B2B commerce, and we’ll cover how to start addressing them (or taking advantage of them) as part of your SEO strategy and tactics.
Those five things are:
- You don’t realize you’re selling B2B
- B2B customers don’t like to order online
- Your site is outdated or not mobile-friendly
- Ordering online is cold (long live the sales rep!)
- Get behind omnichannel selling
That first one’s a shocker, right? Let’s get right into it.
1. You don’t realize you’re selling B2B
If you’re already selling online, it might not have occurred to you just how much of your traffic is B2B. It might not have occurred to you how many of the people who buy from you are business customers.
If you think that a customer is just a customer, and you’re not segmenting or optimizing your online presence in order to match how they’re moving through your funnel, then you’re cutting yourself way too thin a slice of the pie.
Remember, a B2B business can do a variety of things, including:
- Distribution relationships with large or chain retailers
- Selling to organizations (schools, businesses, non-profits)
- Supplier selling to resellers
The SEO opportunity
Site navigation and segmentation are important to both user experience and SEO.
Optimizing your navigation experience to better cater to the type of people you’re selling to will not only make customers happier. It’ll make it easier for Google to figure out what you’re all about.
Take a look at the front page of Restaurantware’s website.
They’re primarily aimed at the catering industry. They’re a B2B brand, but their navigation is set up just like a B2C site. And when you click through to a product, the experience is an unmistakably B2C one, with “‘Buy it Now”’ options and pricing information displayed right there.
There’s a temptation sometimes with B2B sites, to make the navigation and buying process complex. It’s 2018. Online shoppers appreciate and respond best to a straightforward user experience. Do the opposite.
2. B2B customers don’t like to order online
Remember how we mentioned that B2B marketers were both responding to and shaping the way businesses buy online?
B2B buyers do want to shop online, and they want to do it as easily and quickly as they do when they’re shopping for themselves.
You’ve read in almost every single article about customer behavior from the past few years, that the way people shop is changing — and it’s true.
More younger people are moving into the kinds of positions where placing large, expensive orders online is normal. Those people are used to shopping online, and they expect to be able to do it.
If they can’t do it with you — or do it easily with you — what’s to stop them from going elsewhere?
Traditional models of B2B selling say that a sales rep is the first point of contact with a potential client. Once that potential client decides to buy, they can either contact their sales rep, or, if the company has a website, go to the website and request a quote.
It’s still fine to offer the “Request a Quote” option. But more and more, the way people want to buy from businesses, is to add the items they want to their carts, and go.
The SEO opportunity
Product pages are where most of your conversions happen. So incorporating them into your B2B site can mean more quality traffic to those pages, and more opportunities for you to optimize them for relevant keywords.
According to BigCommerce, your product descriptions should be optimized with the product page keyword and speak to your branding at the same time.
Check out this page by Freund.
It’s a B2B product page.
Which doubles as a keyword-rich product description page.
3. Your site is outdated or not mobile-friendly
Endless stats are available showing the continued growth of mobile usage, and this is no different for B2B business. B2B buyers use mobile to conduct business and expect to work flexibly and seamlessly across multiple channels. If you’re not there, you’ll get left behind.
With Google also beginning the rollout of its mobile-first indexing in March, there’s no excuse for waiting - Google is already using your website’s mobile version for indexing on their search engine.
“Mobile-first indexing means that we'll use the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they're looking for.”
These are pretty big incentives to make sure your website is optimized for mobile.
Cargill is a B2B business that has embraced mobile-friendliness, even though most of their products aren’t tangible things that can be bought online.
Restaurantware, on the other hand, does sell products online. And their mobile experience, while aimed at caterers and buyers, is optimized for the individual buyer experience.
Mobile optimization and selling online are no longer the sole domain of the B2C business owner, B2B businesses need to make sure their mobile presence is as effective as their desktop one.
The SEO opportunity
Make sure your site looks good and works well on both desktop and mobile devices (both phones and tablets). For those who run B2B ecommerce, it might also be a good idea to create a mobile app.
4. Ordering online is cold (long live the sales rep!)
It’s true, great sales reps are awesomely effective at closing even the coldest of opening pitches. And while there will always be a place for the face-to-face buyer/seller relationship, the idea that selling online is cold and ineffective just isn’t true.
When you buy a new pair of sneakers or a new razor online, do you necessarily need to speak to someone beforehand?
Not usually. You need to know that the site or brand you’re buying from can be trusted. And therein lies the opportunity for you as a business owner, to max out on your SEO.
Because great content is the online equivalent of you sending out a sales rep to build a relationship with a potential customer.
A sales rep’s job is to go out and sell your values to a potential client, and to build a relationship based on trust and benefits for that client.
Content marketing is now largely responsible for that same job.
Your blog posts, videos, and social media channels all factor into how much trust people place in your brand. And how likely they are to buy from you.
If you’re a B2B commerce brand selling online, and you’re ignoring your content marketing, it’s time to change.
The SEO opportunity
If you have the opportunity and the resources to make videos, boy are you in for some ranking and traffic love.
Wyzowl’s State of Video Marketing 2018 reported that 76% of marketers questioned said video helped them increase sales. The key here is being strategic—not just haphazardly creating video content for the sake of it.
But a blog can be just as valuable. It doesn’t have to be anything incredibly complex, either. You have a product to sell, and a certain set of skills, and your customers want to see you use them.
A blog is a great way to build trust with your customers and warm up that buying process. it can also simultaneously be doing wonders for your SEO. Check out The Quick Start Guide to Ecommerce Content Marketing on the Wordtracker blog for ideas on different types of content that work well for ecommerce businesses.
5. Get behind omnichannel selling
Omnichannel selling is becoming more important for both B2C and B2B brands, as the customer journey evolves to cover more than one channel.
Shoppers are no longer tied to a single platform when it comes to making buying decisions. They can browse on desktop and mobile devices, as well as in store. And when checking out reviews of your products, they might visit a site like Yelp or even Reddit.
Omnichannel selling is about serving up the right, most relevant content to customers, wherever they are in their journey.
DuPont is a behemoth company with over 7,000 complex products. They’re B2B, and while most of their traffic and sales are likely direct, they take into account where else their customers might be, in order to get in front of them before the competition does.
They make sure they have a great presence across multiple channnels:
Including being active on Twitter:
The SEO opportunity
When it comes to SEO, having a strong and consistent presence across multiple channels is key to making sure you reach your potential customers in the places they use.
Consistent, helpful messaging and content that spans your own website, partner websites and social media helps push your brand up the rankings. And, as more people discover you, you’ll begin to be recognized as a business to be trusted.
The final word on B2B SEO
B2B buyers might always have different needs when it comes to the amount of money they’re spending and who they’re buying for. Yet the journey they take to find you, and the way they want to shop –– that’s something we know.
They want to shop the way they do for themselves.
That means you need to provide B2B shoppers an experience similar to B2C. Adapting to meet those needs means better optimized sites that are more user-friendly and packed with useful content.
That’s the secret to B2B SEO, which really isn’t a secret at all. People just want comprehensive information on sites they can navigate about products they want to buy. And that’s how you capitalize on the market opportunity ecommerce presents for B2B brands.