Driving traffic through search engines is often seen to be a ‘top of the funnel’ activity, however, you’ll find that your customers turn to Google, Bing or Yahoo at each phase of the buyer cycle. For example, a search engine is very likely to be the first port of call for those who have a problem to be solved and are looking for a solution. However, once they’ve found a potential solution (your product or service), they’re likely to search for more information around your company credentials, product or service reviews and other frequently asked questions.
Therefore, it’s very important that you consider how users are searching and the information they’re looking for at each phase of the buyers cycle – ensuring your content is the top ranking content so you can control how your brand, product or service is perceived in the market. We’ve listed each phase of the B2B sales funnel below and how you can use SEO to contribute, using the example of an accounting software company.
1. Awareness – the search for information
At this point, your potential customer is gathering information about a potential solution to a problem. They’re likely to type their problem into search engines, using what we call a ‘research intent’ keyword. For example:
– ‘Software to reduce accounting time’
– ‘best software for self employed’
Or if we take one step backwards, your potential customer may not even know that he or she would benefit from your solution. They could be searching for more generic terms such as:
– How do I outsource my accounting?
– How do I speed up my account?
– How do I reduce accounting admin?
These phrases are all ‘brand awareness’ phrases and indicate that your potential customer has a problem that you’ll be able to solve and make their life easier! Achieving rankings for these phrases will not only position your company as the experts in your field, but it’ll give you a chance to start the reader on your sales funnel journey. Make sure your company ranks for ‘long tail keyword phrases’ (keyword phrases that are often questions and longer than 3 words) that people are using at the top of the funnel and provide great content that will help to solve their problem (with a call to action to try your product of course!)
TIP: Start a blog and carry out keyword research around the problems your potential customers face. Produce quality content to help to solve these problems and try to get them ranked in Google. These blog pages will be invaluable when trying to gain exposure to your brand and provide your reader with value.
2. Interest – buyers look at reviews / how it works
You’ve successfully piqued the interest of your potential customer – this could be the product that they’ve been searching for and the answer to their problems. But they’re not likely to simply sign up at this point. Studies have shown that a user interacts with 7 different pieces of content before they’re likely to convert. They’re most likely to be looking for reviews, reading about how your product or service works and trying to understand in more detail how your business can solve their problem. So you’ll need to make sure you’re ranking for ‘reviews’ phrases as well as branded phrases. When your potentially customer ‘Googles’ your brand, ensure there is plenty of positive information.
They may search for:
- ‘Software x reviews’ -
– ‘How does software x work’
– ‘Does software x speed up accounting’
Ensure you’ve already created content to target these phrases and provide some great information about your product or service.
TIP: Create a reviews page or case studies page on your site and get this ranked for ‘x reviews’ or ‘x case studies. Fill these pages with genuine reviews and case studies that tell a story about how you’ve helped similar customers solve their problems in the past. This will help you to control the narrative when someone is reviewing whether your product or service is right for them. Also, ensure your Google My Business listing is well populated with detailed information and positive reviews.
3. Consideration – collecting research for other shareholders
After the initial interest, a potential customer is likely to want to know even more information as he/she may be presenting this to shareholders who will be part of the vetting process. It’s important to think about all the questions a potential customer may ask about your company or product offering at this stage. Make sure you have plenty of information and frequently asked question content on the site. For example, at this point they may be searching for
– ‘how much does ‘x software’ cost? Or
– ‘is X software any good?’
If your product or service is popular, there will be a number of third party sites ranking for these phrases, however, you want to be able to control the narrative by being the first search result. Also, make sure you have comparison content too. For example, a user may search for:
- ‘software x vs software y?’ Or
- is ‘software x better than software.’
TIP: Create an FAQs page, but for each question, create a brand new page design to rank when someone asks that particular question. If there is search volume, create comparison content with your closest competitors.
4. Intent – Encouraging a product demo / sales meeting
This one is fairly simple – you need to rank for when someone types in a ‘purchase intent’ phrase.
For example, ‘Free demo software x’ or ‘contact software x.’ Whatever your main call to action is, ensure your company is ranking in top positions, making it very easy for a potential customer to get in contact with you.
Also, a potential customer may simply be searching for:
- Accounting Software
- Software for accounting
It’s important that you focus on purchase intent keywords at this stage.
TIP: Focus your on page optimization efforts on ranking your service page for purchase intent keywords. Also, ensure your contact page is well optimized and easy to find if someone wanted to get in contact with you directly.
5. Evaluation – Buyer reviews terms and conditions
After your sales meeting, or free demo, your potential customer may be searching for a mixture of frequently asked questions about your company, double checking reviews and searching for terms and conditions related to your company service. You need to be ranking for each of these different aspects, making it easy for a potential customer to find the information he / she needs. If they can’t find this information, this introduces friction to the process which can reduce the likelihood of a conversion.
They may be very much convinced that your product can solve your problem, however, there are other ‘layers’ of consideration – especially with larger corporations who have a more stringent vendor vetting process. For example, they may want to know your company’s financials, know more about your management structure or simply want to be satisfied that you’ll be trading in a year’s time if they sign up for a yearly contract.
TIP: Create a terms and conditions page and as above, make sure your FAQs are well optimized and ranking. If you have a tool such as SEMRUSH or Serpstat, you’ll be able to enter your brand name and see all of the popular searches that include your brand term. Ensure that you’ve created content for each phrase. Also, create a page that is designed to rank when someone is looking for company information. Have a PDF download on this page to provide this information to reassure those in the vetting process that you’re a great, stable company to work with.
You’ve reached the end of the funnel and the potential customer is now satisfied that you’re the right company for him / her. That’s because you’ve put the time and effort into your content which essentially has done the hard work in convincing your potential customer that you are the company for them!
When you consider every possible phrase that your potential customer is searching for, you’ll find that SEO is needed for much more than generating new visitors. Well ranked content will help to control the narrative of your company all the way through the sales cycle. Quite often, B2B businesses rely on face to face interaction to communicate key information, however, by investing time in your content, Google or other search engines can almost act as a 24 hour sales person guiding users through your sales funnel and positioning your company in it’s very best light.