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B2B SEO vs. B2C SEO: How Different Is It?
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Original Post on ASK Enquiro: B2B SEO vs. B2C SEO: How Different Is It?

I’ve been asked a couple of times about how B2B SEO differs from B2C SEO. Is there a difference? Well there is a difference and it depends on how you look at SEO. If you are looking at SEO as strictly a tactical tool, B2B SEO can be quite similar to B2C SEO. From a strategic perspective, B2B SEO can be quite a bit different than normal B2C SEO. The fact is that when someone is ready to purchase a cell phone that person moves through the buying funnel fairly quickly. There is limited research conducted, there is quick consideration and then the purchase is made. Sometimes there is post purchase remorse or questions, but all in all the consumer walks through the buying funnel fairly quickly. Now consider a business looking to purchase CRM software. For one, there is probably more than one person making the ultimate purchase decision. In fact there is most likely a committee that will make the purchase decision. Secondly there are users and there are buyers. These are two entirely different audiences. The end result is a longer buying funnel that is nowhere near as linear as the B2C process.

So how does this affect SEO efforts? Well we know that, quite often B2B transactions take longer. Therefore, Search will be used at different stages of the buying funnel, especially during the research phase. In addition, search may be used at different intervals by various people contributing to the ultimate purchase of a solution:

  • Searching to identify consideration sets
  • Searching to research additional information about potential vendors
  • Searching to find case studies and testimonials
  • Searching to find solution comparisons
  • Searching to find demos and pricing

What this means from an SEO perspective is that you have to understand your target audience. You need to know who will be searching for your solution. You need to speak their language not yours and you need to help them find the information that they are looking for in a quick and efficient manner.

How Different is B2B SEO from B2C SEO?

The fact that B2B SEO is devoted to business to business search engine optimization and B2C SEO focuses on the consumer is one of the more obvious differences between B2B and B2C SEO. At the heart of everything the SEO fundamentals are not that different in B2B SEO and B2C SEO. In order to understand the difference between the two, let’s look at a couple of fundamental SEO areas.

  • Keyword Research
  • On-Page Optimization
  • Content
  • Inbound Linking

Keyword Research for B2B SEO

At the heart of any SEO campaign is keyword activity. The difference between B2B SEO and B2C SEO when it comes to keyword research is that keyword selection in B2B needs to cover a longer buying funnel and as a result needs to be more diverse than with a B2C keyword basket. Keyword strategies then become more robust. Identifying the proper head, torso and long-tail keywords that will engage the searcher at the longer stages of the buying funnel. Keyword research is a more repeatable process with B2B. Remember we’re talking about SEO, so the identification and selection of keywords needs to adapt to the language of your target audience. At different stages of the buying funnel, you will have different types of searchers looking for your information (users vs purchasers). With B2B SEO, an effective keyword strategy can be even more critical than what we would find in a typical B2C keyword strategy. The main difference is in scalability of the keywords and the ability to select and optimize keywords for multiple audiences at multiple touch points.

On-Page Optimization for B2B SEO

The fact of the matter is that when you compare on-page optimization options for B2B SEO and B2C SEO, there is not a whole lot of difference. After all there is only so many ways that you can optimize meta data, page titles, page headings, your URLs and your page copy. As a fundamental component of SEO, on-page optimization is often overlooked by large business. Addressing on-page optimization for B2C vs. B2B sites does not differ greatly if at all. The difference is really in the page copy that you provide on your web properties. For all intensive purposes on-page optimization is pretty much the same for a B2B site and a B2C site.

Content Development for B2B SEO

Content is the key to your online success. It’s not about the look of your site (although that may help) and contrary to popular belief it’s not about the number of links that you get for your web properties (although that will help too), without content that speaks to your target audience you are not going to do well in the algorithmic results of the search engines. While B2C sites feature content focusing on a product or series of products, content on B2B sites has an entirely different purpose. A B2C site may in fact have conversion triggers to guide the user to making an actual purchase. Conversions on a B2B site are more in the vein of building a relationship with the users and will consist of items such as case studies, demos, newsletter signups and the like. As a result content on B2B sites may need to be in different formats (think video demos vs. traditional web pages, downloadable case study PDFs vs podcasts etc.). Remember, the majority of B2B purchases are not quick decisions. It can take months before a purchase decision is made. Information is being gathered and decisions are being made, so providing the right type of content and making it available at the right time is key.

The content that you feature on your site needs to help you build a relationship with your audience. You need to earn their trust by providing them will all of the information that they seek. Especially knowing that competition may be fierce and the purchase decision may be months away.

Inbound Linking for B2B SEO

Yes, still in 2009 links are still important. Building your inbound link inventory does not differ for B2B SEO that it does for B2C SEO. If you produce unique and informative content on your site, you are going to build your link inventory. No question. This is not unlike what you would do for B2C SEO. Should you choose to purchase links (while we do not recommend this) this is no different than what many in the B2C arena are currently doing. In this respect, inbound linking does not vary for B2B SEO vs. B2C SEO.

So how different is B2B SEO from B2C SEO? Well at the fundamental level, there does not appear to be a lot of major differences. Yet with SEO aspects such as keyword research and content development there are great differences between B2B and B2C SEO. We might argue that the stakes are a little higher in the B2B arena and that B2B SEO is not just an option, but a mandatory piece of your overall marketing pie.


posted by Jody @ Tuesday, March 10, 2009  
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Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
About Me: SEO guy by day, family man 24/7.
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