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A Complete B2B SEO Strategy Guide for 2022

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A Complete B2B SEO Strategy Guide for 2022

If you own a business that offers goods and services to other businesses (like we do here at Ahrefs), then you’re probably wondering how to get your products/services in front of your customers organically on Google.

Luckily, we’ve been doing this for years, so we’ve learned a thing or two about B2B SEO strategies. Today, you’re going to learn how to implement your own SEO strategy step by step!

In this guide, we’ll cover the following:

B2B SEO (business-to-business search engine optimization) is the process of creating and optimizing pages on your website to rank for keywords on search engines like Google.

How does B2B SEO differ from B2C SEO?

As you can tell from the definition above, B2B SEO doesn’t really differ that much from B2C SEO (business-to-consumer search engine optimization). While the reader may be different—you’re talking to executives and managers—the process is pretty much the same.

Any SEO strategy is simple:

  1. Find keywords (related to what you’re selling) that your target customers are searching for on Google
  2. Create search-optimized pages that best answer those searches
  3. Build links to those pages

And that’s exactly what you’ll learn to do in this guide.

Our three-step B2B SEO strategy

We currently get an estimated 1.3M monthly visits from organic search:

Overview of Ahrefs' website

Data from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Here’s the simple three-step B2B SEO strategy we used to achieve that:

  1. Find keywords your target customers are searching for
  2. Plan, create, and optimize content for those keywords
  3. Get backlinks to pages

Step 1. Find keywords your target customers are searching for

You can’t have an SEO strategy without knowing what your customers are searching for. Good keyword research is the difference between getting a positive ROI and wasting your time and money on rankings that don’t net your business any profit.

There are many ways to do keyword research. But the simplest starting point is to look at what your business competitors are ranking for. Here’s how:

  1. Find competitors invested in SEO
  2. See what they’re ranking for

First, think of “seed keywords” to get you started. These are keywords you think your customers may be searching for to find your products/services or solutions.

For example, if you sell software that helps business owners create beautiful designs easily (like Canva does), here are some keywords you can start with:

  • Photo editor
  • Logo maker
  • Graph maker
  • GIF maker

Think of the most basic words your customers may type in Google to find your offerings.

Once you’ve brainstormed a list of five to 10 seed keywords, plug those keywords into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Then click the “By domains” tab under Traffic share. This is how you find your search competitors.

Traffic share by domains report results

It looks like Design Hill, Graphic Springs, and Tailor Brands are all potential search competitors for Canva.

Who comes up when you plug in your seed keywords? Put these search competitor URLs into a spreadsheet. Repeat for each seed keyword.

Next, use Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool to find keywords your competitors are ranking for that you can also target. Plug your website into Ahrefs, then click “Content gap” in the sidebar.

Overview of Canva's website

Plug your competitors into the tool, like so:

Content Gap tool

Hit “Show keywords,” and you’ll see a list of all the keywords that your competitors’ websites rank for, but your website does not.

Content Gap report results

If a keyword looks promising, open a new tab and search for it on Google to see the current search results. This will give you an idea of what kind of content is ranking for that keyword.

For example, if we search “discord logo” from the list above, it appears this won’t be a good keyword to target. It seems to be mostly just people looking to download Discord’s logo:

Google SERP for "discord logo"

However, if we scroll down, we see a competitor ranking for the keyword with a guide to creating Discord logos:

Google SERP result

This signifies two things:

  1. People may be searching for a logo maker when they search for “discord logo.”
  2. If we create a similar landing page, we can potentially rank for this keyword as well.

Based on this information, I’ll add this keyword to my list of potential keywords to target. Here’s how to create a list on Ahrefs: On the “keyword overview” page, click the “+ Add to” button, hover over “Keywords list,” then click “+ New list.”

List of keywords

I recommend creating three lists based on importance:

  1. High importance – Keywords that are likely to earn you a high profit. Target these first.
  2. Low importance – Keywords that are not likely to earn you a good profit or will take longer to earn you a profit. But you may still want to target these in the future.
  3. Link building – Keywords that receive a lot of natural links, such as statistical keywords or informational pages that other articles may link to as a resource.

The keyword “discord logo,” for example, is a low-importance keyword, as we aren’t sure how many people searching for it are actually searching for a tool to make their own logo versus how many just want to download Discord’s actual logo.

Another way of determining the profit potential of a given keyword is the CPC column. A high CPC can signify there is a lot of money being made from a given keyword. “Discord logo” only has a CPC of $0.70, so it’s probably not very profitable.

Sidenote.

While a high CPC can signal potentially high-profit keywords, it shouldn’t be the only determining factor. For example, the keyword “seo services” has a $25 CPC. But we won’t target it for Ahrefs’ website because Ahrefs doesn’t offer SEO services.

Before we move on to the next step, let’s look at an example of a high-importance keyword and a link building keyword.

The keyword “fitness logo” is potentially a high-importance keyword. It has a good search volume (4,700) and a fairly high CPC ($3.00).

Keyword "fitness logo" and its data (search volume, CPC)

If we look at the SERP, we’ll see tools that let you design your own fitness business logo. If Canva builds and optimizes a landing page targeting “fitness logo,” it will likely rank for this keyword and make a decent amount of extra income.

Google SERP for "fitness logo"

Finally, an example of a link building keyword is “font pairings.” Canva created a guide to font pairing that has links from more than 2,300 referring domains:

Of course, it may have done some outreach to build these links (which we’ll cover later). But the majority of links are naturally from other bloggers and websites linking to Canva’s guide, which serves as a resource for their readers. I know this because if we look at the guide’s backlinks, we see lots of natural ones.

Backlinks report results

Note that link building keywords are a long-term strategy and should be of a lower priority for newer sites. This is because you typically need decent domain authority to rank for these keywords.

Next, go through all the keywords from Ahrefs’ Content Gap tool and try to find at least five to 10 keywords for each of your three lists.

Still need help finding keywords?

If you feel the keywords you’ve found aren’t good enough or you need more help, check out this in-depth guide to keyword research. It goes into more detail about finding the right keywords.

Step 2. Plan, create, and optimize your content

Now that you know what keywords to target, let’s make a spreadsheet to help you plan and execute your SEO strategy. You can use this spreadsheet template as you follow along.

To begin, export your three keyword lists. Then copy the Keyword, Search Volume, KD, and CPC columns, and paste them into your spreadsheet. It should look like this:

List of keywords with corresponding data

Let’s begin understanding and filling in the other columns. First, the Priority column shows which category (high, low, or link building) each keyword falls under.

The next three columns are the three Cs of search intent:

  1. Content type
  2. Content format
  3. Content angle

Search intent is the why behind a search query. In other words, why did this person do this search? Did they want to learn something? Were they looking to make a purchase? Or were they looking for a particular website?

If you don’t know the search intent of a keyword, you may end up optimizing a page for that keyword and not ranking for it.

I’ll go over the basics of how to determine search intent. But for a deeper understanding, read our full guide to search intent.

1. Content type

The content type can be any of the following:

  • Blog post
  • Product page
  • Category page
  • Landing page

In the case of “fitness logo,” the search results are all landing pages. Here’s what I see when I search for “fitness logo” and click on the first result:

Fitness logos in grid format

This page displays premade fitness logos you can edit and download. If you scroll down, you’ll see a write-up about fitness logos and the company’s services and software.

Now let’s go back and look at some of the other results. Here’s the result in position #2:

Excerpt of webpage. Few paragraphs of text and text field at bottom

This company has a slightly different approach. Its page shows a form and some text above the fold (the area you see on the screen before you scroll down). But if we scroll down, we see samples of logos and some text about its services.

The third result on the search page is mostly similar to the first two:

Excerpt of webpage. Short paragraphs. Majority of page is fitness logos in grid format

The goal of this SERP research is to see what kind of content Google wants for a given keyword so that we can create something similar. 

This doesn’t mean we should copy the content entirely. But if Google ranks pages that show examples of logos and logo designs that users can edit, we should take some inspiration from them. This is as if we create a page that is just text without logo examples, we may not rank for this keyword because it’s not what searchers want to see.

2. Content format

The content format only applies to blog posts, so “fitness logo” won’t need to be categorized. But to give you some ideas, these six formatting styles are the most common for a blog post:

  • How-to guide
  • Step-by-step tutorial
  • List post
  • Opinion piece
  • Review
  • Comparison

So, for example, the keyword “font pairing” that we discussed in Step 1 will be a list post because it lists 30 font pairings that go well together.

3. Content angle

The content angle is the unique selling point of the top-ranking posts and pages. It can provide insight into what searchers want to see when they search for a given keyword.

For example, when you search “fitness logo,” you can see two common angles:

SERP overview for "fitness logo"
  • Fitness logo maker
  • Fitness logo ideas

Here’s what the above tells me: To rank, I either need a page that provides a fitness logo maker tool or a list post about fitness logo ideas. The angle isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. But it gives you some insight into specific wording you may want to include in your title tags and meta descriptions.

Read the full guide to search intent to learn more about how to use content angles.

Fill out your spreadsheet

Now that you understand what all the columns in the spreadsheet mean, finish your SERP research. Then fill in the missing data for each keyword.

It should look something like this:

List of keywords with corresponding data

Outline, draft, and publish your pages

Once you know all the keywords you’re going to target, the next step is actually creating the pages on your site. Rather than walking you through that entire process in this article, I’ll refer you to our guide to creating SEO content.

It covers our entire writing process:

  • Find a proven topic
  • Analyze search intent
  • Write an outline
  • Write a draft
  • Edit your draft
  • Make your content visually appealing
  • Write a compelling title and description
  • Upload your post

Step 3. Outreach and link building

After you’ve published your pages, the third and final step of our B2B SEO strategy is to build backlinks. A backlink is a link from another website pointing to a page on your website.

Reaching out for these links is called link building, and backlinks are arguably the most important Google ranking factor. In our study of over 1 billion pages, we found that the biggest reason a page doesn’t rank is due to a lack of backlinks.

There are many ways to build links. Here are a few to get you started:

Rather than explain each of these here, just click on the links above to learn more. If you want to dive deeper into link building and what makes a good backlink, read our full guide to link building.

Final thoughts

At this point, you’ve seen the entire strategy from beginning to end. However, you haven’t seen a B2B SEO strategy in action yet.

I recommend checking out the websites and blogs of the B2B businesses below that have used SEO successfully. Hopefully, these can give you inspiration and guidance. I also recommend plugging them into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer for a deeper understanding of their strategies:


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5 Questions Answered About The OpenAI Search Engine

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5 Questions Answered About The OpenAI Search Engine

It was reported that OpenAI is working on a search engine that would directly challenge Google. But details missing from the report raise questions about whether OpenAI is creating a standalone search engine or if there’s another reason for the announcement.

OpenAI Web Search Report

The report published on The Information relates that OpenAI is developing a Web Search product that will directly compete with Google. A key detail of the report is that it will be partly powered by Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. Apart from that there are no other details, including whether it will be a standalone search engine or be integrated within ChatGPT.

All reports note that it will be a direct challenge to Google so let’s start there.

1. Is OpenAI Mounting A Challenge To Google?

OpenAI is said to be using Bing search as part of the rumored search engine, a combination of a GPT-4 with Bing Search, plus something in the middle to coordinate between the two .

In that scenario, what OpenAI is not doing is developing its own search indexing technology, it’s using Bing.

What’s left then for OpenAI to do in order to create a search engine is to devise how the search interface interacts with GPT-4 and Bing.

And that’s a problem that Bing has already solved by using what it Microsoft calls an orchestration layer. Bing Chat uses retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) to improve answers by adding web search data to use as context for the answers that GPT-4 creates. For more information on how orchestration and RAG works watch the keynote at Microsoft Build 2023 event by Kevin Scott, Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, at the 31:45 minute mark here).

If OpenAI is creating a challenge to Google Search, what exactly is left for OpenAI to do that Microsoft isn’t already doing with Bing Chat? Bing is an experienced and mature search technology, an expertise that OpenAI does not have.

Is OpenAI challenging Google? A more plausible answer is that Bing is challenging Google through OpenAI as a proxy.

2. Does OpenAI Have The Momentum To Challenge Google?

ChatGPT is the fastest growing app of all time, currently with about 180 million users, achieving in two months what took years for Facebook and Twitter.

Yet despite that head start Google’s lead is a steep hill for OpenAI to climb.  Consider that Google has approximately 3 to 4 billion users worldwide, absolutely dwarfing OpenAI’s 180 million.

Assuming that all 180 million OpenAI users performed an average of 4 searches per day, the daily number of searches could reach 720 million searches per day.

Statista estimates that there are 6.3 million searches on Google per minute which equals over 9 billion searches per day.

If OpenAI is to compete they’re going to have to offer a useful product with a compelling reason to use it. For example, Google and Apple have a captive audience on mobile device ecosystem that embeds them into the daily lives of their users, both at work and at home. It’s fairly apparent that it’s not enough to create a search engine to compete.

Realistically, how can OpenAI achieve that level of ubiquity and usefulness?

OpenAI is facing an uphill battle against not just Google but Microsoft and Apple, too. If we count Internet of Things apps and appliances then add Amazon to that list of competitors that already have a presence in billions of users daily lives.

OpenAI does not have the momentum to launch a search engine to compete against Google because it doesn’t have the ecosystem to support integration into users lives.

3. OpenAI Lacks Information Retrieval Expertise

Search is formally referred to as Information Retrieval (IR) in research papers and patents. No amount of searching in the Arxiv.org repository of research papers will surface papers authored by OpenAI researchers related to information retrieval. The same can be said for searching for information retrieval (IR) related patents. OpenAI’s list of research papers also lacks IR related studies.

It’s not that OpenAI is being secretive. OpenAI has a long history of publishing research papers about the technologies they’re developing. The research into IR does not exist. So if OpenAI is indeed planning on launching a challenge to Google, where is the smoke from that fire?

It’s a fair guess that search is not something OpenAI is developing right now. There are no signs that it is even flirting with building a search engine, there’s nothing there.

4. Is The OpenAI Search Engine A Microsoft Project?

There is substantial evidence that Microsoft is furiously researching how to use LLMs as a part of a search engine.

All of the following research papers are classified as belonging to the fields of Information Retrieval (aka search), Artificial Intelligence, and Natural Language Computing.

Here are few research papers just from 2024:

Enhancing human annotation: Leveraging large language models and efficient batch processing
This is about using AI for classifying search queries.

Structured Entity Extraction Using Large Language Models
This research paper discovers a way to extracting structured information from unstructured text (like webpages). It’s like turning a webpage (unstructured data) into a machine understandable format (structured data).

Improving Text Embeddings with Large Language Models (PDF version here)
This research paper discusses a way to get high-quality text embeddings that can be used for information retrieval (IR). Text embeddings is a reference to creating a representation of text in a way that can be used by algorithms to understand the semantic meanings and relationships between the words.

The above research paper explains the use:

“Text embeddings are vector representations of natural language that encode its semantic information. They are widely used in various natural language processing (NLP) tasks, such as information retrieval (IR), question answering…etc. In the field of IR, the first-stage retrieval often relies on text embeddings to efficiently recall a small set of candidate documents from a large-scale corpus using approximate nearest neighbor search techniques.”

There’s more research by Microsoft that relates to search, but these are the ones that are specifically related to search together with large language models (like GPT-4.5).

Following the trail of breadcrumbs leads directly to Microsoft as the technology powering any search engine that OpenAI is supposed to be planning… if that rumor is true.

5. Is Rumor Meant To Steal Spotlight From Gemini?

The rumor that OpenAI is launching a competing search engine was published on February 14th. The next day on February 15th Google announced the launch of Gemini 1.5, after announcing Gemini Advanced on February 8th.

Is it a coincidence that OpenAI’s announcement completely overshadowed the Gemini announcement the next day? The timing is incredible.

At this point the OpenAI search engine is just a rumor.

Featured Image by Shutterstock/rafapress

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Warning: Unpopular SEO writing opinion

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Warning: Unpopular SEO writing opinion

Unpopular opinion alert: Adding new blog posts may not help your site.

(No matter what that content marketing company told you.) 🙄

So many of my new clients — especially subject matter experts — don’t need new content (immediately).

They HAVE content — scads of it scattered across various platforms.

(Maybe that sounds familiar.)

What they DO need is someone to review their content and customer persona, pinpoint opportunities, and develop a baby-step approach to leveraging those older content assets.

Because there are always opportunities. 🔥

Before writing another word, ask…

  • Are you repurposing the content you have? Or are you writing it once and forgetting about it (which is so common)?
  • Is your customer/reader persona still accurate, or has your target audience changed post-COVID?
  • Do your sales pages showcase your benefits and speak to your customers’ pain points? Or are they flat and dull?
  • Does your content sound like YOU with a point of view? Or is there a massive disconnect between how you talk to clients and the words you use on your site?
  • When did you last take a peek at your old sales emails and email welcome sequences? Could updating those assets make you more money?
  • Isn’t it time to save time (and budget) and leverage your existing content?

If you need help untangling your content and messaging, let me know. I love creating content order out of chaos.

After all…

 

Warning Unpopular SEO writing opinion

 

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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Google Bans Impersonation In Ads

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Google Bans Impersonation In Ads

Google bans impersonation and false affiliation in ads, enforcing policy changes in March.

  • Google bans impersonation and false affiliation in ads.
  • Policy enforcement starts in March.
  • Violators will be banned from Google Ads.

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