While B2B SEOs understand the value in content marketing initiatives, we sometimes fail to understand the level of content commitment required to demonstrate success.
In the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council’s recent study, “The Content Connection to Vendor Selection,” researchers uncovered six distinct personas that all consume different types of content and share that content with other levels within the company.
According to the report, these various buyers consume a spectrum of content marketing assets in an effort to keep current on new technologies, glean insight and shape purchasing decisions, and (most importantly for B2B vendors) identify potential suppliers, partners and solution providers. Thus, B2B marketers should develop content across all of these personas for maximum exposure.
But, equally important was the fact that most buyers will seek neutral, third party, and fact-driven content when making purchase decisions. This means that vendor content also has to be distributed across third-party sites and social media platforms where buyers actively search and discuss needs. Search is still a critical first step in the vendor discovery process. According to the report, approximately 68 percent start their content sourcing at search engines and portals.
The importance of search was also validated in a recent report from Pardot, as discussed in a MarketingProfs column this past November. In that report, almost three quarters (72%) of buyers planning to purchase a business product begin their research with a Google search, specifically.
With all this in mind, how much content do B2B SEOs really need to demonstrate measurable success in their search engine optimization initiatives?
Here are three examples of B2B content marketing initiatives with an SEO focus in mind, that we’ve come across and / or have had access to the performance data for evaluating their campaigns.
An Enterprise Technology Publisher
An enterprise technology publisher, producing roughly ten news articles per day, was faced with the challenge of gaining additional online exposure for a fast moving promotional campaign (60-day time period). The goals were to show measurable improvement in traffic very quickly (a two month time-frame) with a focus on organic traffic growth and improved social media presence.
Content Production: In addition to the regular publication schedule, this publisher added the following elements to their online marketing program:
- 12 blog posts designed specifically for social media/viral marketing capability
- 2 infographics
- 2 interview-style videos
- 3 comprehensive feature articles, approximately 3,000 words or greater in length, with relatively extensive research
The production schedule occurred in coordination with regular publishing efforts over a two-month period. The content was heavily broadcast through the organization’s social media profiles (specifically Twitter and LinkedIn) and directly to a select PR list.
Over a two-month period, the following SEO performance results were realized from this organization’s content marketing focused efforts.
- 31% growth in organic search engine traffic from the previous two-month period
- 67% growth in third-party traffic in that same time period
- February organic search traffic was at the highest volume in site history
- Over 1,000 inbound links acquired (as determined by Google Webmaster tool data)
The Digital Marketing Software Vendor
Long-term organizational SEO KPIs vary, but they almost always include some combination of traffic, lead, and keyword improvements over time. In the space of “digital marketing,” where content marketing tactics are in focus across almost all competitors, the challenge was in making sure an ongoing content development program aligned well with keyword and organic search referral benchmarks.
Content Production: A commitment was made for creating no less than a blog post per week along with supporting content marketing assets to be leveraged for lead generation tactics surrounding bigger white papers and research material on a quarterly basis. Additional tactics included:
- Daily social media updates in Twitter and Google+, specifically
- Weekly “news briefs” were developed focusing on industry happenings and announcements
Impact/Results: Over a two-year period, the following SEO performance results were realized from this organization’s content marketing focused efforts.
- Over 150% year-over-year growth in organic search engine traffic from 2012
- Nearly 100% year-over-year growth in organic search engine traffic during the first three quarters of 2013
- Through the middle of 2013, over 200 lead opportunities realized through organic search channel, a 21% increase since the prior year
- First Page Google search engine results positions for more than half of strategic keyword targets
The Enterprise Technology Vendor
The previous examples contain a higher volume of production than many B2B organizations are prepared for, especially if the company is new to content marketing and SEO. What about a more conservative approach? In this example, an enterprise technology vendor put together a targeted and consistent ongoing approach to blog posts, lead-generation specific content marketing assets, and news releases — but through a significantly scaled down effort.
Content Production: While this organization did not have the resources for weekly blog post development, they made an internal commitment to developing no less than two posts a month. In addition, the organization supported lead generation with a similar content marketing plan as the digital marketing vendor previously discussed. They also maintained a social presence in Twitter, specifically.
Over a two-year period, the following SEO performance results were realized from this organization’s content marketing focused efforts.
- 36% year-over-year growth in organic search engine traffic in 2013
- 21% year-over-year improvement in conversion rate in 2013
- After nearly a year and a half commitment, first page Google search positioning for their primary keyword (a single-word target)
What did all of these examples have in common? First, keyword research always played a part in the process — at the strategic level when developing topical themes and at the tactical level with regular on-page optimization as content assets were developed. SEO goals were discussed and reviewed with scheduled content marketing campaigns on a regular basis.
Second, target audiences were also discussed and validated with analysis of the content types appearing in search engine results. Each organization wanted to make sure that the content they were producing would be relevant across various buyer personas and social media savvy professionals.
Some of the competitive analysis to consider when establishing content production requirements:
- Type and frequency of content produced
- Visible engagement metrics of content produced (social metrics, links acquired, etc.)
- Scale of content program (for example, our individual thought leaders producing content in addition to broader organizational efforts)
- Focus and frequency of activity in owned social media profiles
Finally, a consistent production schedule was critical. Regardless of scope, all three of these organizations made a commitment to producing content on a regular basis. They stuck to deadlines, often in the face of additional pressures in and around the organization’s marketing priorities.
Content development was not the only factor at play. Like many B2B organizations, event marketing, email marketing, and outbound sales all play a critical part of business success, as well. That said, quality content was at the foundation of all of these campaign examples and played a part in communication efforts across channels (online and traditional).
Lastly, while production expectations help in determining resource requirements over a set period of time, it is still important to reassess an SEO-centric content marketing program regularly. If your organization is not hitting broader marketing goals, it makes sense to re-review production and quality of content, in comparison to the competitive landscape, to determine if your targets and expectations are still accurate.
What level does your organization interconnect content marketing production and SEO strategy? I would love to read your thoughts and perspective via comments below.