Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the process of improving a ranking on Google with the goal to drive relevant organic traffic, is one of the oldest and most well-known disciplines in digital marketing. SEO is particularly important in B2B because leads tend to have a higher customer lifetime value or annual recurring revenue than in B2C.
The ranking factors are the same for both B2B and B2C:
- A strong technical foundation that allows Google to crawl and index the website
- A library of relevant content to grow relevance for your core topics
- A collection of contextually relevant backlinks referring to your content to grow authority
However, in B2B you are targeting executives and decision-makers looking to make impactful business decisions. As a result, B2B SEO is about precise targeting, qualified traffic and being the best answer to a sophisticated search query.
In this article, you will learn the step-by-step process for creating a content calendar for B2B SEO.
The Benefits of B2B SEO
SEO allows you to generate visibility and touchpoints for your brand. You can reach customers and prospects at every step of the funnel. From top of the funnel informational content to sales enablement content and revenue-generating content, opportunities are everywhere. After all, Google processes over 5.6 billion searches per day.
The vast majority of those searches are not general inquiries: 91.8% of all search queries are long-tail keywords, meaning detailed and focused questions on a specific topic.
In B2B, search volume is typically lower. Think 250 searches per month for “enterprise project management software” vs. 3,600 searches for “thanksgiving stuffing recipe.”
B2B SEO is not about getting the most clicks; it is about attracting the right prospects to your website and leaving a lasting impression on them.
The Similarities and Differences of SEO and Content Marketing
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” (Content Marketing Institute)
Content marketing and SEO have many similarities. Which makes sense, since SEO is essentially a form of content marketing. When we talk about SEO content, we typically mean blog posts and guides — though different types of search queries (keywords) might require resource libraries, hubs or landing pages.
SEO and content marketing work best in partnership, a two-way street where SEO and keyword research inform the content marketing calendar — and successes in social media, webinars, white papers, etc. inform the SEO process.
But SEO Content Is Boring, Right?
If you are a content marketer, journalist or editor, you might have some prejudices against SEO. You think of walls of text, keyword repetitions and keyword stuffing.
Rest assured: There is a place for a unique voice. True, placing keywords remains a relevant part of the SEO process. However, it is the last step of a strategic process for choosing the right topics and creating the best and most relevant answer to that search query. Today, a well-optimized SEO article can rank for hundreds of queries — many of which you did not even have to write.
For example, this article on corporate culture by software Lessonly ranks on Page 1 for more than 130 keywords and is found on Google for 1,312 keywords in total:
If you create the same SEO guide as everyone else on Page 1, you might be able to meet the ranking factors and win the top positions. Your prospects, however, will likely not remember you. You are just another generic guide.
This is why you need to marry your SEO content with branding, a unique voice and thought leadership. Don’t be afraid to speak against industry truisms, voice a strong opinion or share stories. By doing these things your SEO article can become what it is meant to be: A piece of content that attracts the right audience and drives conversion.
As an example, this article ranks Position 1 for the keyword “social proof.” The piece explains what social proof is, how to use it and shows a number of examples. It also asks nine experts if social proof is really that important. Their answers vary, a reminder that topics are often complex and your work can be too.
The bottom line: If your junior marketer writes a piece of content based on what is already on Page 1 and then checks off keyword boxes, SEO content can indeed be deeply boring and horrifying to old school journalists. But if you interview experts, bring across a point of view and satisfy Google’s needs for ranking factors, you create a powerful driver for your B2B marketing strategy.
How to Create a B2B SEO Content Calendar
These are the steps to start your B2B SEO content creation.
1. Understand Your Audience
First, talk to your customers, sales and customer success to understand your ideal customer profile (ICP). Use this research as the foundation for your keyword research and content calendar. Among the questions you should explore:
- What type of company are you targeting? What size? Location? Industries?
- What type of role are you targeting within these companies?
- Who is making a purchasing decision in the company?
- What are the pain points of the decision-makers? What are they trying to achieve?
- Who are the main competitors in your category?
2. Perform Keyword Research With B2B Modifiers
Use an SEO tool such as SEMrush or Ahrefs to perform keyword research.
The keyword database for B2B topics is likely much smaller than for B2C. You might want to use both tools since they may have different results. If you are using Google Ads, work with their keyword tool as well for extra insights.
Bonus tip: Go to Google Search Console — Performance — Queries to review the keywords that you are already ranking for and include these findings in your keyword research.
Your keyword research should include the following steps:
- Enter your seed keywords (from ICP questions above) into the keyword tool and save all relevant queries to a list.
- Analyze your competitors within the SEO tool and add interesting keywords to your list.
- Add industry publications, blogs or influencers and find the best keywords to put on your list as well.
- Add B2B modifiers. To make sure that your keywords are focused on B2B, you can work with the following modifiers:
- Corporate or enterprise, e.g. corporate fleet management, enterprise project management software
- Startup, SME, small business, online business, e.g. accounting for small businesses
- Competitor name + alternative, e.g. Microsoft Teams alternative
- For business,. Whatsapp for business
- In the workplace, e.g. diversity in the workplace
- Employee, e.g. employee performance review
- RFP, e.g. marketing RFP
- Your target industries, e.g. trends in manufacturing, boosting sales in retail, employee engagement in hospitality
- Procurement, vendors, platform, software, app,, e.g. employee engagement platform
- Run your list of keyword ideas through a rank tracking tool to find out if you are already ranking for some queries.
- Download your list into a spreadsheet.
- You will want to sort by:
- Pages that are already ranking: These pages make the best targets for content updates and SEO optimization. Google is showing interest. If you improve these pages with the process outlined below, you have the best chance of a strong ranking.
- Low keyword difficulty: Some keywords fit your business perfectly but are of little value for rankings. If you are doing SEO for the first time, look for the keywords with the lowest difficulty score. Once you find these keywords, go back to the SEO tool. Review Page 1: Do the ranking websites have the same domain rating as you? Only now do you have a realistic chance of ranking.
3. Map Your Keywords
Keyword mapping is the process of giving your keywords a home on your website.
The golden rule of keyword mapping: If you are already ranking, you always want to improve the existing page! Never create a second page for the same topic. They will compete for the same keyword and confuse Google. You are already competing with millions of websites, why would you want to make your life harder by battling yourself?
Second, one keyword cluster (topic) per page and one page per topic. You want to create one article for “attrition rate,” one for “employee career progression framework” and one for “fringe benefits.”
The reason is search intent: You want your article to be the best and most precise answer to a search query. If you are not focused on your answer, neither Google nor the prospect will find what they are seeking.
4. Create a Content Outline With Stories and Examples
Through the process of keyword mapping, you figure out the main topic for the page you are looking to create. However, there is still a long way to go to a full-fledged article. This is where a content outline can help.
First, make sure to assign not just the main topic but the entire keyword cluster to the page. For example, if you are creating the page on “attrition rate,” go back to your keyword research spreadsheet and find the keywords contextually related.
You want to add them to your content outline. Contextually related keywords (or supporting keywords) belong on the same page since they are meeting the same search intent. In this case, they could be:
- Attrition rate definition
- What is attrition rate
- How to calculate attrition rate
- Attrition rate calculator
- Highest attrition rate
- Attrition rate research
- Employee attrition rate
- Attrition rate formula
- Attrition rate vs turnover rate
These indicate the subtopics you want to cover in this article.
Next, review Page 1 for average word count. You don’t want to copy what everyone else is doing but if Page 1 is full of 4,000-word guides, a 500-word blog post is not going to do the trick. A word count range helps clarify your approach to the article.
Lastly, make sure to indicate stories and examples relevant to your ICP to the content outline. In this case, you might want to include a section “Why attrition rate matters for small businesses” or “Average attrition rate in retail.”
This is also your chance to include thought leadership elements, such as “Which types of employee attrition are the worst?”
Make certain your content outline features internal linking recommendations and, most importantly, a strong CTA.
In summary, a good content outline includes:
- Main keyword and topic
- Contextually relevant supporting keywords
- Word count range
- Content type, e.g. blog post, long-form guide, landing page
- Stories and examples relevant to your ICP
- Thought leadership elements
- Suggestions for 2-3 internal links to other relevant articles
- CTA to use after first and last paragraph
You can share this content checklist with your writing team, to help them meet SEO best practices:
- Main keyword in URL?
- URL short and without dates?
- Main keyword in the page title? At the start?
- Main keyword in the meta description? CTA added?
- Main keyword in h1? Only one h1?
- Main keyword in the first paragraph?
- Subheadline used in the right order and hierarchy?
- Supporting keywords in the body of text?
- Main keyword used at the end of the page?
5. Add the Right CTA
The goal of your B2B SEO content is to attract the right audience. Once you have their eyes on your website, you need to make the most of this opportunity.
Whether you choose a gated content strategy (where email signup is required) or an ungated strategy (where prospects can browse all resources freely), your CTA is crucial.
To create a compelling CTA, ask yourself: If this is the only time a user comes to this page and we can only get them to do one thing, what should it be?
You need to consider where visitors are in the funnel: What is meaningful for someone who has received 10 drip emails may not make sense for someone seeing your brand for the first time. Offer a benefit that is unique, meaningful and attractive to your target audience, with likely limited value for someone outside of it.
Use only one CTA per page to decrease confusion and increase conversion. Finally, to work effectively your CTA must be seen. Place it in a location where it will be visible to all prospects.
6. Content Distribution and Link Building
After your team writes, optimizes and publishes your B2B SEO article, you want to get some love for the piece in the form of third-party links.
There are many link-building techniques. These are all solid tutorials:
- How to Effectively Harness the Power of HARO
- Link Building for SEO
- Link Building Strategies on Steroids: How to Get Backlinks FAST!
Whether you are an established company or a startup with product-market-fit, B2B SEO presents a strong opportunity.
Remember, your focus should be on quality, not quantity. Don’t let yourself get blinded by search volume. Good B2B keywords are usually more targeted. The more precise you are, the better your chances for conversion, even if your overall traffic could be higher.
Give your articles an interesting twist and a clear style. Interview experts (from within your company or in your industry) to write meaningful content, so that a corporate decision-maker discovering your articles will recognize material worth reading and revisiting.
For lasting organic traffic in B2B SEO, remember these rules:
- Pay attention to your audience, particularly their specific needs and pain points.
- Have a clear message and point of view.
- Satisfy the Google ranking factors.
And with that — happy ranking!