In every digital marketing team, a war is brewing. Content writers spend hours researching and writing insightful content. They aim to create engaging, fun and useful content that will build relationships and offer customers more value.
Then the SEO team step in.
They want subtitles breaking up all the sections. The introduction is optimised to stand a chance of getting a featured snippet. Images are plucked from nowhere and positioned throughout the article. Of course, they appear to have no relevance. Even the heading gets a dull make-under.
The primary goal of the SEO team is to get each piece of content ranking for a certain keyword. Yes, they want to answer questions that their target audience has about their product or business. But if that content isn’t ranking, what is the point?
There is a difference in opinion between the content writers and the SEO teams. Ranking in the search engine results pages (SERP’s) is a great way of generating organic web traffic and finding new leads. But content marketers want to add value and build relationships by creating engaging content.
When it comes to B2B content marketing it’s a different story. The SEO team and the content marketing team must work as one. In fact, to be a successful content marketer in a B2B environment you have to know your stuff when it comes to SEO.
Why is B2B content marketing so different? I am a B2B content writer at Quadrant2Design and in this article; I’m going to tell you exactly why writing content isn’t enough for my audience.
What Is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a digital marketing strategy that involves creating and sharing online material. Your mind might automatically jump to blogging but businesses produce various types of content to share with their audience.
The different types of content that a content marketer produces could include:
- Online Courses
- Blog posts
- Social Media Posts
- Downloadable PDF’s
The aim of a content marketing strategy is always to offer customers more value. Therefore, it should never directly promote a brand. Regardless of the type of content, its purpose is to stimulate interest in a product or service.
Three Reasons You Should Implement A Content Marketing Strategy
More than three quarters (77%) of companies have a content marketing strategy in place according to SEMrush. But if its purpose is not to sell, then why are so many companies investing in this strategy?
These are the top three reasons that you should implement a content marketing strategy:
Producing content that is relevant to your product or brand shows that you know what you’re talking about. For this reason, great content can help establish trust between you and your audience. By establishing trust, you are improving customer retention and building relationships.
By answering industry-specific queries, you position yourself as an authoritative voice on the subject. This helps establish trust between you and future customers; however, it can also have SEO benefits if search engines decide you have the authority to give information on that subject.
Increase Social Media Engagement
Frequency of posting is a key factor that influences social media engagement. A strong content marketing strategy will give you, and your audience, more things to share. If you create evergreen, share-worthy content then you could be reaping the rewards for some time.
How To Create Kick-Ass Content
If you are considering implementing a content marketing strategy, there is no short cut. The only thing you can do is create fantastic content. SEO guru, Neil Patel, spend weeks on his lengthy guide’s. I have been working on an eBook for over three months. Great content can’t be rushed.
To get you off to the best start, here are three secrets that should help you create kick-ass content every time.
Define Your Audience
Audience research is step one. If you don’t know who you’re writing for, then you won’t produce something relevant to that person. You need to know how knowledgeable they are so you can use the right tone of voice and formality. And you need to understand search intent so you can deliver the content in the right way. Understanding your audience is essential to creating great content, as Anthony highlights in this blog post.
The best way to do this is to combine the psychographic and demographic data that you have on your customer base. Combining this data is the best way to inform your marketing campaigns and help you set content creation guidelines. Your content will always resonate with the right audience.
Research Content Ideas
Once you know your audience, the rest will come easily. That doesn’t mean you should save time by cutting corners. It means that if you complete step one (researching your audience) properly, you are 90% of the way to creating kick-ass content.
All you need is some content ideas. What is it that your audience wants to know about your business, product or industry? Find out by using keyword research tools like Ubersuggest or following conversations on social media. You can even go old school and have face-to-face conversations with your audience.
Once you have a handful of ideas you can create a content calendar. All that you have left to do at this point is research. Read every blog post about your subject area. Watch every video. Complete every course. You get the idea…
Write The Best Content On The Web
Finally, you are in a position to write the best content on the web. Knowing your audience and the competition is the only way to make sure this happens. Make sure you don’t skip the first steps and you’ll find it easy to create engaging, evergreen content.
Once you know your audience inside and out you can build an understanding of search intent. The existing content that you have read will help you write better articles for that audience. By tailoring your writing for your specific audience and ensuring it is better than the available content, you will be creating the best content on the web.
Why does it make a difference if you’re writing for a B2B audience?
B2B vs. B2C Audiences
Once the content has been created, it is time to distribute. 94% of marketers use social media for content distribution (SEMrush, 2019). This is great because it gives you access to a large audience and encourages engagement.
Your social media following have demonstrated an interest in your business. You know they enjoy what you do. And if you want to reach a larger audience, you have the option to boost your post with social media marketing.
Overall, social media is a fantastic distribution platform if you are targeting consumers. The average person spends 144 minutes per day on social media (Broadband Search, 2020) so you are putting your content directly in front of your audience.
These rules do not apply when talking about a B2B audience.
A business audience is more likely to spend their work day at a computer, doing their jobs. That explains why 83% of traffic to marketing blogs comes from desktops (SEMrush, 2019). They’re not scrolling through Facebook on their phone and they want to switch off their work head when they leave the office. Therefore, social media isn’t the best distribution method for B2B content marketing.
Email marketing has proven successful when it comes to distributing content to a B2B audience. Business professionals check their emails all day. If you’ve written the best content on the web as per the instructions above, your audience will read your email.
But what if you don’t have a database of business professionals who want to receive your content?
B2B content marketing is still content marketing. Just with a different audience. It still aims to answer a question and provide useful, engaging information. How does a business audience find information? They Google it.
To be a successful B2B content marketer, you have to optimise your content to ensure it ranks in search engine results pages. You have to work with the SEO team or, better still, become the SEO team.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimisation. It is the art of creating websites or web pages that rank in SERP’s.
To do this, they have to be crawled and indexed by search engine bots. These bots read the code and content on a web page. Different factors help them to identify what the page is about and then put them into the correct category, known as the index.
SEO experts understand some of these factors. According to Google, they look at over 200 factors to help them index a web page and they have never revealed the list. We know things like headings, meta descriptions and links have an effect. But the rest is all trial and error.
It is much easier to create content that is optimised and already formatted to rank than it is to edit or update someone else’s work. And in B2B content marketing, when your audience is actively seeking information, your content has to rank. Search engine optimisation is essential for distributing content to a B2B audience. If you plan to adapt your B2B content marketing strategy in any way, SEO should be the first thing you think about.
How To Implement SEO Into My B2B Content
If you’re panicking because metrics and analytics aren’t your thing then stop. One of the only clues that Google has ever given us about ranking is that it relies heavily on user experience. We can guess that this takes things like page speed, mobile interface and broken links into account. But it is also obvious that the quality of the content has a huge role to play.
You’re a content marketer so you already know how to create high-quality content (plus, I told you earlier in this article).
You already have the foundations for a top-ranking piece of B2B content marketing. All you need to do is make sure the indicators are their so that search engines properly index your page. You’ve always written for your readers. Now it’s time to write for the bots as well.
Here are three ways to ensure search engine bots understand the content on your site:
To ensure your content ranks, you need to target a specific word or phrase that people are searching for. This is no different to your normal content research. Instead of finding out what questions your audience is asking, find out what questions your audience are Googling – there is your keyword research.
Whatever the word or phrase is, you need to make sure you are using it throughout the content. This is NOT keyword stuffing. Remember earlier when we mentioned user-experience? Stuffing your content with your keyword doesn’t enhance the user experience and will not improve your SEO.
Instead, scatter your keyword throughout the body of your content where it is appropriate to do so. You also need to make sure it is present in your heading and used where appropriate throughout your subheadings. Finally, but still important, your keyword should be used in your URL, SEO title tag and meta description.
Content writers tend to ignore the images. But they shouldn’t.
Search engines like to see many relevant images to back up the content and provide a better user experience. Nobody likes pages and pages of text. But search engine bots can’t actually see. So how do they determine the relevancy of the images?
Images should be properly optimised to help search bots know what they are showing. This gives you another chance to use your keyword or related words or phrases. Firstly, to improve the speed of your page you should reduce the file size to minimise loading time. This helps user experience but doesn’t help the search engine bot know what the image is of.
That’s why you need to be smart when saving the file. Give your image a file name that would help a robot understand what it is. Use hyphens to separate words. For example:
As opposed to:
The final thing you can do is attribute ALT tags to each image on the page. This is one final clue that lets search engines know what the image is of and whether or not it is relevant to your content. If you are using WordPress, adding ALT tags to your image is easy. And they give you another opportunity to use your keyword.
This is where content writers tend to get a bit touchy. There is nothing wrong with your writing. In fact, I’m sure it’s pretty good. The problem is, search engine bots can’t read. They don’t know whether your writing is great or not. Therefore, they need some help to work it out.
People engage with web content differently. Because of the amount of content available at their fingertips, they tend to skim read and pull out the information they need. Content writers have a challenge when it comes to capturing and keeping a reader’s attention.
And remember how much emphasis search engines place on user experience.
The Flesch Readability Score tells you how easy the text is to read. Based on factors like word and sentence length and variety, a score of 0 means that your content is extremely difficult to read whereas a score of 100 means that it is extremely easy to read.
If you think about traditional journalism, newspapers produced content at different levels on Flesch’s Readability Score. The same can be said for books. Web copy is different. Because of the quantity and the way we read content online, it has to be easy to skim read.
Search engine bots look for the same things that the Flesch Readability Score looks for to get a better understanding of the text. They recommend having a score above 60 to ensure that the majority of people can read and understand, but the higher the better.
The B2B Content Marketing Dilemma, Solved!
Stop arguing with your SEO team. Learn from them and join them. It is the only way to maintain a successful career in B2B content writing.
In this article, you’ve learnt the purpose of content writing. That includes why it’s a great tool for businesses to build relationships and grow their customer base. You also know that great content comes from a lot of research. Research your audience – who are they and what do they want to read. Then research your competition – what have other people written on this subject? Then, simply write the best content on your chosen subject.
Finally, I’ve told you why SEO is more important if you are a B2B content marketer. Distributing via social media is almost pointless because your professional business audience aren’t scrolling through Facebook in the middle of the day. Improving your SEO and ranking for chosen keywords is the best way to get in front of this audience.
Finally, we covered some of the things that you can do to your content to help it rank in SERP’s. Improve your readability, include more images and optimise them and scatter your keyword around anywhere that it makes sense.
I’ve given you the tools you need to be a great B2B content writer. Off you go and do it.
Natalka Antoniuk is a content writer at Quadrant2Design. Usually, you’ll find her at exhibitions or sharing her knowledge with B2B marketers in publications such as G2. She is passionate about content marketing and helping people improve their skills.