How To – Data Driven B2B SEO Keyword Research

By Jonathan Beaton – Principal at 4eyes Marketing

Ranking for valuable keywords is competitive and takes significant resources. There are not many short cuts, if any, but making sure you are targeting the right keywords is crucial to any project’s ultimate success or failure. In this post you will learn –

  • The four most important keyword variables to analyze
  • How to use data to prioritize each variable
  • A step by step guide to obtaining your optimal keyword targets

keyword research

1, Relevance – Each time a user performs a search in Google, they have a specific intent. They may be doing research, looking up an answer to a question or looking for a particular good or service. Logically, you want your business to show up when users are searching keywords relevant to your business.

For example, I run marketing for a company that develops and sells motion capture software. Examples of keywords that are very relevant to our business are – motion capture motion capture software, mocap and motion capture systems. Many users searching for these specific terms are often actively looking to purchase motion capture software and are thus highly valuable and relevant to our business.

If you are looking for even more information on search intent, check out this post here.

2, Search Volume – Search volume is the average times per month that a specific keyword is searched for. Some keywords may be extremely relevant to your business but may also have low search volumes. This means that ranking for these particular terms could have very little impact on your web traffic and thus are not worth the effort.

For example, let’s say you sell “super widgets.” The term “super widgets” may be a very relevant keyword but what if it only has a monthly search volume of 30? That would mean on average, only 30 people per month are actually searching for “super widgets.” Even ranking #1 would mostly likely generate only 10-15 visitors to your site, per month. Ranking #2 or #3 would drop traffic all the way down to around 3-5 visits per month. This may or may not be worth the effort depending on how competitive the keyword is. Which leads us into our next factor…

3, Competition – Competition and search volume go hand-in-hand. What I mean by that is the competition for a specific keyword reflects how much effort/resources it will take to rank highly for that particular keyword. You must then make the decision if the effort/resources are worth it based on the search volume and relevance for the particular keywords.

Allow me to elaborate. SEO is not just about making a couple of changes to your website and then magically achieving high rankings. There is real inbound marketing that has to take place and it requires a lot of hard work, often months or even years worth. By evaluating the existing competitive landscape for specific keywords, a seasoned SEO can gauge how much time/effort it will take to beat your competition. Then based on the relevance and search volume of a particular keyword, a business decision can be made in choosing to go after it.

4, Economic Value – Keywords having varying economic values. What I mean by that is, some keywords are simply “worth” more than others. The “value” of a specific keyword can be obtained fairly easily. Using the Keyword Tool in AdWords, the average cost-per-click can be obtained for any and all keywords. CPC is the the amount of money advertisers are willing to pay each time an ad associated with a specific keyword is clicked. Obviously, every business is different and relative “worth” varies but this is a very easy and quick way to segment keywords based on their current market values.

Bringing it All Together

Step 1 – Create a keyword spreadsheet of all possibly relevant keywords and include columns for both their CPC and monthly search volume. I personally use SEMRush.

Step 2 – Create a  column labeled “market value” and enter a formula that multiplies search volume by CPC.

Step 3 – Sort your spreadsheet by market value, highest to lowest.

Step 4 – Create a column labeled “relevance”  and on a scale of 1-5, 1 being the most relevant and 5 being the least, subjectively rank each keyword’s relevance.

Step 5 – Sort your spreadsheet by relevance, most relevant to the least.

Step 6 – Create a column labeled “competition” and on a scale of 1-5, 1 representing little competition and 5 representing high competition, subjectively rank each keyword’s competition. This is challenging and takes experience but I find that Moz’s keyword difficulty tool to be very useful here.

Step 7 – Create another column called “diff+comp” and input a formula that adds together relevance and competition

Step 8 – Sort the spreadsheet by “market value” once again, highest to lowest.

Step 9 – Now sort the spreadsheet by “diff+comp” from lowest to highest.

keyword research example

If done correctly, the output should  be, in descending order, the most valuable keywords that are also the most relevant and have the smallest degree of competition. Above is a keyword document I created for a recent project of mine. The actual keywords have been modified to protect the innocent.

What are the best B2B lead sources to fill the top of the funnel?

By Jonathan Beaton – Principal at 4eyes Marketing

There are a million blog posts and comment threads discussing which channels are the most effective when it comes to lead generation and new customer acquisition. This results in many arbitrary discussions that lack the proper context for any meaningful dialogue to occur about choosing the right lead generation tactics to grow/scale sales and marketing.

In my experience, there are many factors that have a much heavier influence on the overall effectiveness of a particular lead source (as opposed to the lead source itself). For example, the characteristics of the specific markets you are attacking play a significant role when it comes to predicting the best marketing channels. Additionally, many people overlook the fact that there are huge fundamental differences between a product and a service company that greatly influence the role of marketing when it comes to new customer acquisition.

Rather than shouting about how one particular lead source is better than another, I am going to do my best to overview the major lead sources and speak to when they tend to work best and when they do not. Keep in mind, I am specifically commenting on these sources’ ability to generate leads and fill the top of the funnel. A well rounded marketing strategy involves an integrated approach and considers branding as well as lead generation.

Inbound Marketing/Content Marketing/Social Media/SEO

When it works –

This is a particularly hyped marketing channel at the moment but in many cases justifiably so. If you are a technology provider going after a large market that is actively searching for a solution to a problem you solve – inbound marketing is fantastic. The marketing automation software market is a great example of this. Thousands upon thousands of marketers are actively searching each day for ways to improve and track marketing performance. Companies such as Marketo and HubSpot went to work creating educational content on how their technology (marketing automation software) can play a significant role in this process. Marketers bought in and a whole new market was born.

When it doesn’t –

Creating useful and educational content is useful 100% of the time. However, marketing that content to a narrow market will not do much to fill the top end of the funnel as it does in the example I used above. Markets that are very small/narrow are hard to attack using just inbound marketing. There are simply not enough prospects actively searching, sharing and/or consuming information to actively engage. At my existing company, Organic Motion, market research determined our product to be a great fit at large game development studios. We also were determined that the best entry point at these companies was the Director of Animation. This information greatly limited my potential market to around 50 different individuals. Inbound marketing can still be used to create a buzz and get the word out within the industry itself, but I certainly could not sit back and expect those 50 animation directors to come find us.

Search Marketing – PPC and SEO

When it works –

Search traffic can do wonders when it comes to filling the top of the funnel. These leads are active and often are already in an active buying process. However, search marketing works best when a significant volume of prospects are actively searching for an already-defined solution. Therefore, if the market you are going after is of reasonable size and most likely already aware of your product or service category, then the search volume for the main keywords is usually rather significant. For instance, if 10,000 people a month are searching for “marketing wizardry” then you can expect a significant lead volume from that particular keyword.

AdWords – 10,000 Search Volume X 3% CTR X 10% Conv. Rate = 30 Leads/Month

OR

SEO, Top 5 Organic Ranking – 10,000 Search Volume X 8% CTR X 40% CTR X 15% Conv. Rate = 48 Leads/Month

When it doesn’t –

The opposite of what I mentioned above applies here. If you are marketing a fairly unknown product or service, there will certainly not be that many people searching for it. Also, if the market you are targeting is tiny, the search volumes will be too. That being said, that is usually the BEST time to invest in SEO so that as your category gains notoriety, you will be in a great position to capitalize on it. For instance, if only 1,000 people a month are searching for “marketing wizardry” you could expect similar results to the ones demonstrated below.

AdWords – 1,000 Search Volume X 3% CTR X 10% Conv. Rate = 3 Leads/Month

OR

Top 5 Organic Ranking – 1,000 Search volume X 8% CTR X 40% CTR X 15% Conv. Rate = 5 Leads/Month

Paid Online Advertising – Newsletters, Publications, LinkedIn, etc.

When it works –

Paid online advertising works best when your target prospects share common interests amongst each other. When this occurs, it is usually easy to identify niche publications, blogs, newsletters, etc. that have the attention of your most desired prospects. For instance, if your company develops HR software, there are plenty of publications that cater to HR professionals. These are great places to promote white papers, research studies, webinars or any other educational content to fill the top of the funnel.

When it doesn’t –

Paid online advertising falls down when you have not properly researched and defined a target market. For instance, if you are advertising within a HR publication, your product and messaging needs to be custom tailored to get the attention of the correct decision makers.

Appointment Setting/Cold Calling

When it works –

Appointment setting and cold calling can still be a very effective technique when it comes to filling the top of the funnel. Most lead sources have a ceiling when it comes to lead volume. Appointment setting tends to be one of the most costly channels but still cost effective; especially if your other channels are maxed out. Cold calling is a numbers game so for it to work effectively you need a large and well defined target market that bites on your value proposition. Understanding the demographics such as job titles, company size, etc. and matching them with the right value proposition is key to making this work.

When it doesn’t –

I mentioned in the intro that there are differences between generating leads for a service versus a product company. Generally speaking, margin/profitability is much less for service companies. Additionally, win rates on lead generation channels are usually lower at service companies then they are product companies. Service companies differentiate themselves based on their reputation and the trust they establish. Their sales lifeblood traditionally comes from referrals and word of mouth. It is very difficult for a service organization to generate enough revenue from cold calling to justify the costs associated.

The above channels are certainly not meant to be an exhaustive list but are definitely ones that can be used successfully given the right circumstances. Generating leads that turn into revenue is a very difficult thing to do. Trial and error is a big part of sales and marketing. However, I hope this list at least gets you going in the right direction.

*This post was originally published by Jonathan Beaton as a guest post on Heinz Marketing