Search Marketers Pack ‘Em In at BMA Gathering

It was a packed house last week at the BMA Minnesota monthly breakfast meeting to hear three local B2B pros talk search marketing. Clearly there’s interest in what can seem like a mysterious black art. (relevant infographic from Webmarketing123 below)

The local BMA team has the balance right here with two marketers sharing real-world experiences and one consultant-side specialist to go deeper into the science. In this case we had Nina Hale bringing the consultant perspective, paired with Heather Hayes, interactive marketing supervisor at Stratasys, and Craig Berdie, search marketing manager at 3M.

Hale observed that paid search marketing and natural SEO are great complements to each other. We all like the credibility and lower cost that comes from great natural search placement. On the other hand, when people click on those search results, we can’t control as well where they go, while with paid – while more expensive – we can set up campaign-specific landing pages to track ROI and optimize campaigns more effectively.

I found it interesting that Hale believes B2B buyers don’t want to see B2B ads on Facebook. I’m not sure it’s true. I would say, however, that you probably do need to be promoting a different kind of content to be effective in that more consumer-oriented “entertainment” environment. I believe it’s less effective for straight product or service promotion but could be quite effective for promoting engaging thought leadership content. But of course, that’s not as lead-gen-oriented, and thus the ROI is harder to assess.

All that said, Hale notes that having a good social presence – even without a huge number of followers or a lot of engagement – is quite important to the search engines. At this point, it’s probably the primary reason to consider a Google+ presence.

Hayes then shared the Stratasys approach. Stratasys makes 3D printers, ranging from lower-cost desktop models to huge systems that can “print” pieces several feel long. (disclaimer: Stratasys is a public relations client of ours) She talked about the need to balance keywords that generate lots of clicks with keywords that convert to leads, which is a great point.  A click is not an end in itself.

The other key part of Hayes’ effort besides the science of keywords is a detailed multi-channel content calendar. This builds in discipline to generate consistent content and also ensures that the content is aligned with the keywords. She confirmed what Hale said about the value of having a good social presence, claiming that engineers (her target audience) don’t engage well on social media but they effort improves their search results. She did note correctly that younger engineers use these channels more. (I saw that last year with our work with IEEE.)

The final presenter was Berdie from 3M. That company has really stepped up its commitment to search optimization, and in fact, they have an SEO Council in place to serve as a center of excellence.  Berdie observes that SEO was “once seen as shady” and is now seen as “a legitimate practice.” They get C-level support now because they have been disciplined about detailed analysis about which pages are getting exposed to search and how they are doing. Because they are able to show a significant potential financial pay-off, they are getting some funding and staffing increases to expand what they do in search. They expect every piece of content they produce to consider keywords.

All of the panelists said personalized search presents a new challenge. Personalized search refers to the way companies like Google give you personalized results to your search queries. Just because your company is listed first when you search on key terms yourself doesn’t mean the same will happen when your neighbor does it. Personalized search reduces access to information about how your search efforts are doing. For instance, Berdie says he has no access to information for the approximately 30 percent of searches on Google from logged-in users. On the other hand, the whole point of personalized search is to improve the relevance of the searches people do. That means that search should be working better. But it’s harder to track and assess.

I’d like to see more collaboration between folks focused higher up on the marketing funnel – like myself – and those farther down – like most marketers in lead gen roles. It’s great to see how we can benefit each other by producing the most compelling content that generates lots of engagement and conversation but that also motivates the right people to take action and move towards purchase interest. A healthy marketing communications program is carefully balanced across these phases.

SEO Captures Biggest Share of B2B Digital Marketing Budget

SEO or social search: What’s a B2B communicator to do?

This story is interesting and one to think about: Is social search now more important for B2B companies than SEO? I’m not sure I agree. Most B2B companies are not huge content generators at the moment and social search in my opinion services two purposes:
How do you stand out online? Are your customers and influencers finding your content?
  1. Monitoring your brand and reputation. We all know the value in not only tracking what is being said on traditional media sites, but the rapid growth of social sites now makes it easier to track a number of topics and key words in near real time.
  2. Pushing content. Whether it’s the latest news or research of a video, distributing content via social networks has quickly become a great resource for B2B companies. The new channels allow us to reach a larger audience and give us the ability to become news sources ourselves.
While I’m an advocate for using these channels, I don’t feel that prioritizing social search over SEO is prime time for B2B companies…yet. Search is still vital and important and remains a cornerstone of marketing, and I would encourage B2B communicators to understand the integration of social search before giving up any efforts on SEO. What do you think?
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More Reasons to Like Posterous, especially in a B2B setting

I recently wrote about using Posterous as a tool for social media marketing, and I wanted to take some time to comment on why it’s a great tool specifically for the B2B space.  Three of the nine reasons I had given really stand out to me:

  1. SEO. Whether you’re a cutting edge research firm that only transacts with other businesses, or you’re in a more traditional industry like manufacturing, there are just plain fewer opportunities to really leverage SEO… people aren’t necessarily searching for you in the ways that B2C organizations get searched on.  The concept of outposts comes into play heavily here, and the simple fact that having more places for people to search for content related to you – and ideally from you – the more opportunities you have to associate that content with your website, and the more qualified traffic you can drive to your site.  You can very appropriately (and deliberately) assign keywords to your content that is directly linked to your website, and thus your company.
  2. Inbound linking. Many B2B companies also don’t have a lot of opportunities for inbound linking, especially in the more traditional industries  or instances when you may be just one piece of a long supply chain.  Inline with SEO opportunities, Posterous allows a pretty easy inbound linking opportunity….and one of high authority.  If you’re on a fledgling website strategy and need to boost that inbound link count quickly and effectively, Posterous is a great way to do that.  Additionally, these types of young or underdeveloped websites may have a low authority, and supplementing that with Posterous inbound links can do a lot for your organic SEO.
  3. That means more thought leadership potential. See, it makes a nice little equation, doesn’t it?  With higher SEO, more content sharing opportunities and more inbound linking, it means all of your valuable content is all pointed back to your brand.  If you’re good at what you do – which you probably are – and you identify effective internal content to share, this could mean the start of some great thought leadership opportunities.  And this is where people in more traditional industries can have a big advantage…. if you’re among the first to start really thinking about this equation, you can make huge and long-lasting strides ahead of competitors who aren’t as “up-to-snuff.”

I also wanted to throw out a technical note on calls-to-action.  Again, in the B2B setting, calls-to-action can be a lot more difficult to achieve.  It’s not like someone wants a new pair of running shoes from you.  By using outside content on Posterous, and providing a link of some sort – preferably in the form of “For more information on X systems….” – you can still drive people to your own products or services related to the content you’re posting.  As long as the content is relevant to your company, this is still a good way to be found by qualified leads.

So, a couple To-dos for B2B Posterous users:

  • If you have a blog, post every post up on Posterous, with a link back to the original.
  • Think about calls-to-action, and make sure that every post has one that brings your products/services to the readers’ attention.  These don’t need to be overt (and really shouldn’t be), but can be very effective.
  • In some of the more traditional industries, it may actually be better to have your call-to-action right at the top.  If someone is searching for “copper tracer wire” and really just wants a quote or a price (which is usually the case with a purchaser behind the desk) and they come to your Posterous page in their search results, make it really easy for them to get that done…. through you. They may not have the patience to read through your entire post….
  • Use outside content, and find a way to incorporate an association to your company.  This is an easy one, as the fundamental goal of content production is to provide valuable information to your audience.

What else have you found helpful about Posterous in the B2B setting?  Are there any other To-Dos you have? Do you have a Case Study you’d like to share with us?

How to use Google Adwords as more than just a way to pay the two-hour parking meter

I normally don’t like to repeat content, but I wrote a post earlier this week over at Other Side Group on when to start using Google Adwords for their B2B company website. Since some sort of pay-for advertising is pretty run-of-the-mill in many B2B industries, this ends up being an interesting topic.

The case company had a very old, static, and simple website that hadn’t changed in five years, has old and weak SEO, had no metrics or analytics installed or was any web activity being tracked….. yet they were still paying a large hunk of money each month for PPC ads.

So what do they do while they’re redoing their website? Do they stop Adwords?

I use the following analogy:

They’re simply paying the meter to reserve a parking spot, and hope they don’t have a cop come around and write them a ticket or tow the car away. Because that’s what would happen the minute they stopped paying the meter if they’d relied on their existing website.  The Adwords are only giving them short-term benefits while they’re still paying.

What we’re working towards is building their own parking lot where they won’t have to worry about paying the meter: An architecturally strong website, with sophisticated SEO, continually updated content, metrics in place to determine how people are accessing and using the site, and developing more paths for people to get there.

It’s about creating a strong, long-term foundation through an architecturally sound website (SEO, keywords… all that good stuff) and only then supplementing it with the short-term gains felt by PPC.

You can find the full discussion here, and I’ll be sure to update you as we move through the process.

What have been your experiences with Google Adwords?

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