Many companies are deeply related to the online environment and the digital economy. Thus, making sure the target audience can find the company online is often the most important factor in determining the company’s success.
In this guide, we will learn about how we can use SEO strategy to improve organic traffic, generate leads, and ultimately, drive revenue. But first, let us discuss some key facts of why SEO might be relatively unique compared to other niches.
Whether it’s a B2B company selling SaaS (Software as a Service) solution or you are a direct-to-consumer company, ensuring you have a proper online presence can either make or break your business.
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SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is essentially a series of optimizations made inside and outside our website, so the site can rank higher in Google’s and the other search engines’ SERP (Search Engine Results Page).
SERP ranking, however, isn’t and shouldn’t be the end goal of SEO strategy. Instead, it’s just a means of an end in increasing organic traffic. More website traffic, in turn, will help us in achieving other objectives like generating more leads, building digital awareness, and getting more conversions.
We can divide SEO into two different categories: off-page SEO and on-page SEO.
On-Page SEO refers to optimizations that are done inside your website, which can include optimizing your content, the website’s technical (coding) performance, and other aspects.
Off-page SEO is optimizations done outside the website, which mainly involves building the site’s credibility, trust signals, and authority by getting more backlinks/inbound links (more on this later) and social signals.
To be clear, we need to implement both types of optimizations to achieve the desired SEO results.
How exactly? We will discuss it below.
How SEO Actually Works
To really understand how SEO works, we have to discuss several different elements:
SERP stands for Search Engines Results Page, which is, the page displayed by the search engine when we search for a specific query.
For example, when we search for “SERP” query, this is the SERP page:
The objective of SEO strategy is to achieve a higher organic search ranking, and if possible, the #1 ranking spot. In the above example, that is the spot right below the “People also ask” box.
Only after all of these elements, we are presented with the organic search result.
What will this mean? Organic ranking is now not the only available objective/priority for SEO strategy. We can also aim to get ranked as a featured snippet or to be featured on the “People Also Ask” questions.
The Anatomy of the Ranking Process
How does Google (and the other search engines) actually rank the websites as the search results?
Understanding the answer to this question can significantly help in really understanding the concept of SEO.
First, according to Google’s own statement, its mission is to deliver the most relevant and reliable information for the human audience. SEO strategy is, to put simply, a way to optimize our website and our content to align with this mission.
So, Google rank content based on its relevance and reliability in meeting the user’s search intent, and here is how the ranking process basically works:
Google and other search engines involve the use of web crawlers or search bots, essentially an automated software that will visit all the different websites on the internet. Thus, we often refer to this process as “crawling the page/web”.
Google then add the crawled pages to its index. This process is called the indexation process.
Based on its algorithm (more on this later), Google considers all the different ranking factors and shows the most reliable and relevant results from its index when the user enters a search query.
We will have a more in-depth discussion on the ranking algorithms and especially ranking factors/ranking signals below.
It’s important to understand that a website’s link profile is not only about backlinks, although backlinks are indeed the most important element of the link profile. Instead, there are three different types of links that will affect your site’s SEO performance:
Internal links: links from one page of your site to another page(s).
Outbound links: also called outgoing links, which are links from your pages to third-party websites
Inbound links: more commonly known as backlinks, links coming to your page(s) from third-party sources
As established above, inbound links are the most important of the three in determining your site’s ranking.
We can think of inbound links or backlinks as the vote of confidence in the digital world. When a website links to your content, they are saying that your page is reliable, credible, and trustworthy. When the link is coming from a relevant, high-quality website, it’s like getting a recommendation letter from a famous person in your industry (read: it’s very valuable).
Nowadays the quality of the backlinks is significantly more important than quantity. In fact, getting too many low-quality backlinks at any given time might get your site penalized by Google.
While inbound links are the most important of the three, that’s not saying outbound links and internal links are not important:
Outbound links and proper internal linking structure can help improve your site’s relevance. Linking to an authoritative site, for example, can tell Google that you are a legitimate content creator for a specific topic. A proper internal linking practice can also help Google with the indexation process.
Proper external links essentially tell Google about the niche/industry you are in, the topic you are covering, the potential competitors, and so on. In short, you are helping the search engines to index and structure the whole internet.
Linking to relevant content (that is already ranking) can provide additional value for your audience (which can indirectly affect ranking).
When you link to others, you let the other party notice your site and your content. In the future, they might return the favor and link your content. In short, this can be the start of a fruitful relationship.
2. Content Quality
The quality of your content is the center of your SEO strategy, period. No amount of SEO optimizations and state-of-the-art strategy can help low-quality content. Think of SEO strategy as a way to amplify the performance of high-quality and relevant content and not the other way around.
In the past, SEO content is solely about optimizing the content for the target keywords, and thus we aim for a certain keyword density. It’s very important to understand that today, SEO strategy is no longer solely about keyword optimization.
Instead, the most important thing to focus on is whether your content can meet the user’s search intent. In general, there are four different types of search intent:
Informational intent. The user is simply looking for information. For example, a user might look for information about SEO by using the “what is SEO” search query. In this case, we can provide educational or informational content to meet this user’s needs.
Transactional intent. Here, the user is searching for a product/service with the intention to buy. Nowadays, however, people might search directly on Amazon when they have transactional intent. This intent is usually identified when the user uses “buy” in their query.
Comparison and Investigation. The user has the intention to buy in the future or is considering to make the purchase by comparing different products/services, check for online reviews, etc. When a user uses queries like “compare” or “review”, it is a strong sign they are having this intent.
Navigational intent. Users with this intent are trying to get to a specific website. For example, we might type “Instagram” in the search bar for convenience’s sake.
In a software company environment, the user can have all four of these search intents with various queries, so it’s very important to develop a wide variety of content to cover all of these intents.
Google is getting better and better at recognizing how content can cater to a specific intent. Google BERT, the latest algorithm update, allows Google to better understand the context of long-tail, complex queries.
Content optimization for SEO is a very complex subject, but in general, it’s about being better than the other ranking content. Do a quick Google search of your target keyword (more on this later), and analyze the top-ranking pages (if possible, analyze all pages featured on the first page of the SERP). We generally have two options:
Develop a better, longer, more in-depth content than these competitors.
Be different, and cover the keyword from a unique angle.
Which one is easier? In most cases—if the opportunity presents itself—, being unique is relatively easier, but not saying it’s easy.
Content quality and relevance are extremely related to backlinks (as discussed above). Good content will always get linked, sooner or later. On the other hand, no amount of promotion can help low-quality content that is not relevant to get authoritative backlinks.
3. User Experience Metrics
To reiterate, Google search’s mission is to provide relevant and reliable search results for its user, and the Google search algorithm is constantly being improved to achieve this mission.
One of Google’s major improvements in accordance with this objective is the introduction of Google RankBrain. RankBrain is Google’s first AI-based algorithm that is launched in 2016, and with its machine learning capability, Google is now getting better at measuring and recognizing these user-experience metrics in real-time:
Bounce rate: the percentage of visitors that leave your site after viewing just one page (single page visit). It can be after one second or one hour, what matters is they leave after just a single page.
Dwell time: that is, how long a visitor spends on your site. They can view just one page or 100 pages, but this metric is about the total time spent.
Click-through rate (CTR): the percentage of users that click on SERP results and visit the website
These three metrics combined, essentially provide Google with the information whether your site is relevant for the user, according to the user’s search query and search intent.
Summary: It’s All About Content
To summarize, all three metrics above are centered on one thing: your content quality and relevance. As we will discuss in the rest of this guide, content optimization will be the center of B2B SEO strategy.
Step By Step Guide To SEO Strategy
Step 1: Define SEO Objective
It’s very important to remember that SEO is not a cheat engine or holy-grail tactic to beat the search engine algorithm, but as established above, it’s a series of optimization to align our site and our content with the search engine’s mission to provide more relevant information for the users.
Organic traffic: referring to unpaid website traffic coming from clicks on SERP results. Even if organic traffic is not your end goal, you simply can’t get anything on your site without any traffic. So, in most cases, organic traffic should be one of your main SEO objectives.
Brand presence: with more people visiting your website and consuming your content, you can improve brand awareness and (perceived) credibility.
Generate more leads: the website is still the most important lead generation device. The main idea is to convert some of the organic traffic into qualified prospects.
Sales conversion: pretty self-explanatory, generate more sales on the website. Especially important for eCommerce sites or sites with an affiliate marketing objective.
Online reputation management (ORM): maintain a positive online presence, mainly by ranking well on branded keywords.
Customer support and education: publish and promote informational content that can help educate your audience about your product/service or your niche/industry.
You can chase more than one SEO objectives, but make sure that all your goals follow these important principles:
Specific: the objective must be clear and comprehensive, and can be communicated easily with your team members
Realistic: that is, attainable. If necessary, break down big goals into smaller milestones to give yourself (and your team members) a sense of achievement with each milestone
Measurable: define KPIs and measurable metrics for each objective. We should be able to measure the SEO campaign’s performance and progress in accordance with the target objectives.
Make sure to define and list proper objectives that align well with your marketing goals and overall business objectives. For example, if your company’s marketing objective is to generate 30% more leads, then your SEO campaign should aim to help this objective.
Step 2: Site Audit For SEO
The next step is to assess the site’s current state in relation to SEO performance.
We do this by performing an SEO site audit to figure out current on-site and off-site optimizations, as well as technical SEO factors.
Site audit for SEO is a very broad subject on its own, and we won’t give it much justice discussing it here.
However, here are some of the important areas to check in this step:
1. Check Your Site’s Crawlability and Indexability
As we’ve established above, not indexed by Google=your site won’t rank at all, period.
So, make sure Google can crawl your site properly, recognize all of your content pages, and index all of the pages properly. Here are some important things to focus on:
Make sure to use canonical URL on your original content to avoid duplication issues
Make sure your URL is readable, short and to the point. Ensure both the search engines and the human audience can properly understand the URL. Include your target keyword when you can, but do it naturally
Make sure your SSL security certificate is valid
Check all your pages and your content, and make sure they are all secure
3. Title Tags and META Descriptions
Title tags and META descriptions are the information displayed on the SERP search result.
For example, for the query “what is software company”, here is the top result
“Software company – Wikipedia” is the Title Tag of the page, and below the URL we can see the META description of the website as the snippet.
As you can see, this information will ultimately determine whether or not the user will visit your site (click-through rate). As discussed, CTR is now an important ranking factor. Various SEO tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, and Screaming Frog, among others, can help us analyze all the various page titles and META descriptions.
The main principle in optimizing these titles and descriptions is to include your keyword(s) as naturally as possible and focus on delivering comprehensive, valuable, and engaging information for the human audience.
4. Content Structure and Optimization
Use proper header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc. ) to ensure easier indexation by Google. A proper structure will let Google know which aspect of the content is the most important or least important.
Check whether embedded images are properly optimized, such as:
A comprehensive, descriptive filename
Properly compressed so they don’t slow down the page
Have proper alt texts or alt tags, to provide information about the image to the search engine
Links to the images should work as intended
Again, SEO tools with audit features like SEMrush or Ahrefs can help find and troubleshoot image optimization issues.
Use Google’s mobile-friendly test tool to assess whether your site is already mobile-friendly. We will discuss how to ensure your site is mobile-responsive further below as we discuss on-site optimizations.
6. Load Speed
Your page’s load speed will affect dwell time and bounce rate (as discussed above, both are ranking factors). According to Google, if your site loads longer than 3 seconds, more than half of mobile visitors will bounce.
There are various factors that can affect your site’s load times, from image sizes and compressions, proper usage and amount of scripts, server response time, and so on. Again, we will further discuss how to improve our site’s load speed in the on-site optimizations section below.
You can use various tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix to help assess your page’s current load speed and identify potential issues.
7. Structured Data Markup
Structured data or schema.org markup is essentially a practice of assigning properties and attributes to all the different elements in our page/content, to provide Google with the relevant information about your site’s content.
The main advantage of implementing structured data markup is that your site is now eligible to be ranked as a featured snippet. However, proper structured data markup implementation can also help with crawling and indexing purposes.
Again, SEO site audit is a very broad subject, and this shouldn’t be an all-inclusive list. The main idea is to figure out our site’s current state in relation to SEO performance, so we can plan our SEO strategy ahead.
Step 3: Keyword Research and Keyword Optimization Plan
One of the key aspects of SEO strategy is finding the right keyword(s) to target. Although we have mentioned that SEO today is no longer solely about keyword optimization, the right keyword research is still very important.
With that being said, here are some important considerations for proper keyword research:
Understanding your target audience: their needs, behaviors, pain points, and especially, the search intent. The better you can understand your audience, the better you can find your target keywords.
Always refer back to your SEO objectives and goals. That is, these keywords must help you achieve the objectives and not the other way around. For example, if your SEO objective is to generate more leads, then, in general, you’d want to aim for keywords targeting informative intent to attract potential prospects.
When trying to find your keyword opportunities, here are the important principles:
The keyword must be relevant and valuable for your target audience, according to their search intent(s). We can usually evaluate the monthly search volume for the keyword to measure this aspect.
The keyword, no matter how popular/relevant for the target audience, must also be relevant for your business/industry.
Based on the available resources and your objective’s timeline, the competition for the target keyword must be manageable. Some SEO tools might be able to measure this aspect via metrics like keyword difficulty or similar ones.
There are various keyword research tools that can help you in this aspect, from free ones like Google Keyword Planner and UberSuggests to premium, all-in-one SEO tools like Moz Pro, Ahrefs, and SEMrush, among others.
Make a list of all the possible target keywords and set your priorities. If required, divide them by your SEO objectives and possible search intents.
Step 4: SERP Analysis
More than 40% of search queries now involve a featured snippet in their SERPs, positioned above the top organic spot. There’s also the “People Also Ask” box just below it, and the knowledge panel on the side.
In short, it’s quite possible that the top organic spot is not the only available ‘target’ for your keywords: while being featured as a rich snippet might not guarantee organic traffic (zero-click search), it might provide various benefits in achieving your SEO objectives. For example, being featured as a rich snippet for key questions and definitions related to your niche can be a really good branding opportunity.
On the other hand, it’s also important to find keywords with a high potential organic click-through rate (CTR)s. They should be your main priority in generating organic traffic to achieve your SEO objectives.
So, do a Google search for your target keywords and analyze the SERPs (or you can use various tools to help you). This practice will be related to the next step.
Step 5: Competitive Analysis
SEO is, by nature, a competition where you try to rank higher than your competitors, so competitive analysis should be an important part of the whole SEO strategy.
The most basic thing to do here is to Google your target keywords, as discussed in the previous step and check the ranking competitors. Check at least the top 3 competitors for each keyword, but if you can, check for all the sites featured on the first page of the SERP.
Check how the content pieces are structured, how optimized (SEO-wise) the content is, their approach for the keywords, and so on. Imitate and improve upon what they already did well, and fix what they did wrong. Our job is to beat these competitors, and there are generally two different ways to do it:
Create a (significantly) better content: more in-depth, longer, and better than all of these competitors’.
Be different: take a unique stance and cover the keyword from a different angle.
Being unique—when the opportunity presents itself—, is generally an easier approach (but that’s not saying it’s easy). When you are targeting a very popular and competitive keyword, creating just a slightly better content simply won’t do the job.
For example, when the target keyword is “best software company in India”, the first page of SERP might be filled with pages with lists covering the top 10 to 30 software companies in India. In this case, would creating another “top 10” list cut it? Probably not. Your list must be significantly better, or you might need to create a really big list covering 50 or even 100 different companies. Pretty hard? In most cases, yes.
On the other hand, if you can find an opportunity to use a unique angle to cover the keyword, you might get more attention, get more backlinks in the process, and climb the SERP faster.
Step 6: Content Strategy and Planning
Content is the core of SEO strategy, period.
This statement is even more relevant today: Google’s ranking algorithm is getting better in understanding the quality of your content, and its relevance to the target keyword and the search intent.
To be frank, there’s no shortcut in getting the desired SEO results besides actually having high-quality and relevant content. SEO optimizations will only amplify the performance of an already performing content and on the other hand, no amount of tactics and optimizations can help a low-quality content.
The overall tone of the content, its quality, how it compares against the competition
The content’s performance according to the objective(s)
The overall execution of the editorial calendar
Depending on the performance, you might want to adjust your content plan according to your SEO objective.
Also, remember that it’s about your content quality and relevance to your human audience. Include your target keywords naturally, but don’t focus on keyword density. Focus on delivering comprehensive content with good readability.
Step 7: Link Building
It’s no secret that backlinks are the most important ranking factor in SEO. As we have established above, the quality of these backlinks is more important than quantity.
The quality of your backlinks, in general, directly proportionate to the source site’s authority. You can use various tools like Moz’s Domain Authority checker to check the authority of the source sites.
Again, the secret of getting high-quality backlinks is the quality of your content. If your content is good and contains relevant information, you will get linked sooner or later. On the other hand, no amount of effort can help low-quality content without substance—at least, without getting penalized—.
There are, however, tactics and methods we can use to amplify the performance of your quality content, such as:
1. Promoting Your Content
Yes, the quality of your content is extremely important in getting these backlinks. However, no matter how good your content is, it won’t bring any value—SEO or otherwise— when nobody actually knows about it.
Content promotion is arguably even more important than the content creation process:
It obviously helps in generating organic traffic to your website, which can help in achieving your SEO strategy goals and marketing objectives.
Proper promotion can also help in generating more backlinks in the process. More backlinks will improve SERP ranking, which in turn, will also generate more organic traffic.
Thus, promote your content via all the available channels, and whenever you can, aim to get inbound links or backlinks in the process. For example, when you work with influencers to promote your content via influencer marketing, you might also ask them for a backlink from their website.
To summarize, use all potential channels to get high-quality backlinks.
2. Create Linkable Content
Think about it, what’s the reason to provide a backlink to another site? Typically, here are the most common reasons:
Citing a source site when we make an informational claim (i.e. 30% of surveyed users are…..)
When we use a term that is related to the content but might not be understood by all of your visitors. For example, in this content covering SEO, we might need to provide a link to another site when we first mention “ranking factor” or “backlink”
When we include images, infographics, etc.
So, we can simply include these types of information and data in our content:
Original, previously unpublished information like an original research report, datasheet, case study, etc. is very linkable
Visually aesthetic images, infographics, and photos
Data roundup content, when done properly, can generate a lot of backlinks
Remember that you don’t need to be too aggressive in getting these backlinks. Focus on quality, not quantity, and in general, you’d only need to build 3 to 5 high-quality backlinks for each page.
Improve server response time (might involve changing to a better hosting service or a dedicated server.)
Minify CSS and remove render-blocking sprit
Make sure your site is mobile-responsive.
Ensure your site is indexed faster and properly by Google. You might want to follow this guide.
Implement proper structured data markup. This can provide Google with more information to index your site and allow your site to be viable for a featured snippet.
Optimize the content structure
Optimize your site’s structure and interface (layout, navigation menus, etc.)
Test everything regularly on as many devices as possible.
Optimize your site so both Google and the human audience can recognize the contained information properly, and also make sure to maintain content quality.
Step 8: Evaluation and Re-Optimization
The last but not least step is to evaluate and monitor your SEO campaign’s progress.
It’s very important to understand that SEO is a long-term game and not a get-rich quick scheme. In general, it would take 6 to 18 months of continuous efforts before we can see any significant result (i.e. featured on the first page of SERP).
Thus, it’s very important to monitor your SEO performance by evaluating these key areas:
SERP ranking for each keyword. It should climb progressively overtime. If there’s a sudden decline, you should adjust your strategy.
Organic traffic. Should also increase steadily according to ranking performance.
Conversion rate, especially when the page involves lead magnets or CTAs.
User experience metrics: dwell time, bounce rate, organic CTR
Page load speed
Link profile, especially backlinks profile, but also outbound links and internal linking structure
Content structure, layout, readability
Evaluate your site and your pages according to these key metrics (and more, depending on your SEO objective), and adjust your strategy accordingly.
SEO FAQs and Tips
What Is SEO
Stands for Search Engine Optimization, is essentially a series of optimization of your website (both on-site and off-site) to rank higher on organic SERP by optimizing three key areas:
Making sure your page’s content is valuable and relevant for your human audience
Optimizing user experience and engagement, to keep site visitors for as long as possible
Ensuring Google can properly crawl and index your site by optimizing the technical factors of your site
The main objective of SEO strategy is to improve organic traffic to the website.
What is SERP
Stands for Search Engine Results Page. The page displayed by Google and the other search engines after you enter a search query.
SEO VS SEM
SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, which includes both SEO and PPC (Pay-Per-Click) search advertising.
PPC VS SEO
PPC advertising is paid ads displayed on the top of SERP for a certain keyword/search query. The term PPC stands for Pay-Per-Click, referring to the pricing model for the advertising where the user only needs to pay for the ad each time someone clicks on it.
Why SEO is Important?
Getting more website traffic remains one of the most important goals to pursue for any business, and SEO remains one of the most effective approaches in generating more (organic/unpaid) website traffic. You might want to check this article on the importance of SEO for a more concise answer.
Are SERPs Personalized?
In some cases, yes. Google does track various things related to your online activity from your device’s location to your search history to browsing and purchase history, and can provide a personalized search result for the user. You can search in a private browser window or incognito window to get the ‘original’ SERP.
Is SEO Dead?
Seemingly every year, there are always news and articles proclaiming the death of SEO, but in truth, SEO is alive and well.
It’s true, however, that SEO has significantly changed over the years, and some SEO strategies, tactics and practices are really ‘dead’, that is, used to work but don’t work anymore. For example, keyword stuffing used to be the common practice in pre-2011 SEO, but can get us penalized nowadays.
There are, however, SEO practices that still work effectively in 2020, including those we have discussed above.
Whether you are a B2B company targeting professionals from other companies, or a direct-to-consumer B2C company, SEO should be the core of your digital marketing strategy.
Getting website traffic is very important in a tech-embedded software environment, and hiring an SEO expert remains one of the most effective ways of generating organic traffic. In turn, more organic traffic can translate to more converted prospects and ultimately, more sales conversions for your website product.
I'm an SEO Consultant with over 10 years' experience, including both SEO agency-side and in-house SEO expert. I work predominantly with B2B, startups, SAAS, IT, technology and software companies who are looking to acquire new customers and add zeros to the revenue with SEO and content marketing. If you are looking for someone who is results orientated and has experience in growth marketing and sales pipelines, then connect with me on LinkedIn and schedule a free SEO consulting session!