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B2B Website Best Practices, Part I: SEO

Friday, November 1st, 2013 by Stacy

In my recent post on how to survive long-haul projects, I promised to share some tips that I hope you’ll find useful as you’re creating or updating your company’s B2B website. (Pop quiz: which is harder, “going green” or completely revamping your corporate site? Just buy some divided trash cans, friends—one side for recyclables, one for trash excluding food waste, which you’re already composting or feeding to your hens, bien sûr—and you can check that one off your list. And now, back to web projects).

Here’s Part I, the extra-juicy installment on search engine optimization (SEO).

I promised to answer the following questions about SEO:

1. Whether? It’s a good question, one clients routinely ask us, and that we asked ourselves before we started our website update process. Does your B2B website need SEO, even if your business grows entirely through referrals, and you’re not expecting to land a single new customer via Google search?

YES, IT DOES.

Your website is your company’s most important source of information for those seeking it, let alone your most critical marketing asset. Customers, prospects, partners, and investors searching for your CEO’s name will expect to find your corporate site on page one of Google, before your CEO’s Facebook and LinkedIn pages, as a matter of professionalism and convenience (for B2C companies, however, it’s permissible for the brand’s Facebook page to rank higher than the corporate site).

In 2013, choosing to not optimize a B2B website is just plain selfish and unseemly.

And by the way, if a perfect new customer finds you through a Google search, would that pay for your whole SEO effort? SEO’s ROI can be massive.

2. When? It’s critical to build SEO into your web project plan, as it touches nearly all aspects of your site development—research, architecture, taxonomy, copywriting, design, development, and analysis. Hire a reputable SEO consultant before you start your web project, and involve that person in every step of the process. How to find this blessed individual? Ask several of your favorite marketing agencies to recommend the best SEO consultant they know. Extra bonus: the SEO consultant specializes in your site’s content and target customer.

3. Who? Optimizing your site should not be done exclusively by your SEO consultant, as important as this person is. To ensure the smoothest, most effective web project, it’s critical to establish each team member’s role up front with respect to SEO:

      • Your web project manager—usually from the creative agency you’ve hired to create or update your site—will work with your SEO consultant to determine how and when he or she should be involved in the process. I’d recommend that you get very involved here, to ensure roles are crystal clear.
      • Your content strategist and/or writing team will work closely with your SEO consultant to compile the initial list of keyphrases for him or her to research, then artfully write the chosen phrases into each page’s copy. Together, they’ll also write and edit each page’s metatags and descriptions. They may ask you to arbitrate. (Do you want clear, beautifully written copy, or a perfectly optimized page? We definitely recommend the former in cases where your SEO consultant and writing team really, truly cannot make both work. As our SEO consultant Andrew so aptly notes, “It’s great to drive traffic to your site but if your messaging is garbled and overwrought with SEO keyword phrases, your customers may be less likely to stick around.”).
      • Your creative agency will design for SEO. For example, fonts used with keyphrases should be optimizable—many are not. “Font substitution” via services such as Google Fonts allows for beautiful looking text that can still be crawled by search engines. Images and other design elements should be taggable. Your designer and SEO consultant may again present you with options, such as “look better, or be perfectly optimized?” Again, we tend to favor the aesthetic (beautiful design, beautiful copy) over getting the absolute maximum SEO benefit on each page.
      • Your production team will code each page for SEO.
      • And your marketing director will work with your SEO consultant post-production to review your web analytics on a regular basis—and continue refining your SEO for maximum results.

4. Where? Optimize all the pages on your site that you want people to find. If you’re unsure whether a page should be optimized, consider cutting it from your sitemap or moving its relevant content to another page. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Sometimes there are essential pages on a website which needn’t be optimized, such as a simple contact form page. For these pages, there are programmatic ways to tell search engines not to index the page. Consult your production team or SEO consultant for help here.

5. How (the heck)? Optimizing a website is art + science. It requires time and money. But the benefits can be absolutely staggering, and the opportunity cost of not optimizing even more significant. There have been volumes of articles written on the topic of how to optimize a website. My simple advice to you? Hire an experienced team, get them all working together nicely toward measureable goals, and establish clear guidelines that reinforce your priorities. (A final tip: When in doubt, choose your target customer and your brand over perfect SEO.)

Do you have questions or feedback about SEO? We’d love to hear from you on Facebook.

Read this blog series:

  1. SEO: Whether (it’s a worthwhile question!), where, when, how (the heck), and who. And why the Content Bureau site is growing from 12 pages to 50.
  2. Headlines: Writing them is art, science, alchemy. The Content Bureau tells all.
  3. Facebook for B2B: And how to fill your social media content pipeline with complementary, high-quality posts.
  4. Project Managing: How to get it all done without becoming an addict/insomniac/divorcée.

runs the Content Bureau, @contentbureau.

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