Julien - Lead Generation

How To Do Keyword Research For B2B Business

Whilst B2C companies can rely on keywords pulling in thousands and thousands of potential users a month, B2B companies are faced with a different paradigm. Indeed, B2B companies are often working on niche topics which generate few monthly searches and consequently have to double their efforts when it comes to creating content and optimizing for SEO. That’s why today we are going to look at how to properly run a keyword research for your B2B companies to help cherry-pick your keywords wisely and make your research actionable.

What is keyword research?

Keyword research aims to align your business messages with your customers’ interests.

On one hand, it consists of identifying which words or phrases your buyer persona research in their browsers (Google, Bing, Yahoo…) for a specific topic and, on the other hand, it helps retrieve statistics on those queries like, for instance, search volume per month, complexity to position your brand for the query, and ranking of your competitors.

Keyword research (or keyword study) is not a one-shot exercise. To make sure your business and your buyer persona are as aligned as possible over time, you need to run a keyword research whenever:

  • you add/modify a product line in your business (e.g. a new feature in your SaaS)
  • a new trend or external factor is impacting your business or customers (e.g. COVID-19)
  • you work with different languages – direct translation is not enough. People have different concerns and different ways of researching according to their culture and surroundings.

Depending on your resources, we recommend updating your keyword research once a year to identify new trends on the search behaviour of your users.

Why is keyword research so important for B2B Companies?

Keyword research is a core element of your SEO strategy as it basically defines where you should focus your effort based on your buyer persona’s search and intention. However, it is also key to your overall digital marketing strategy:

  • CONTENT STRATEGY – We all know that content is key to your marketing strategy in order to attract, educate and convince your audience. Keyword research allows you to:
    • Get an idea of what your audience is looking for.
    • Prioritize your content calendar on topics with the highest search volume.
    • Increase your content strategy ROI by optimizing your content and focus your time and resources on the right keywords.
  • PAID STRATEGY
    • Identify opportunities for new campaigns and therefore generate more leads.
    • Improve your ROI by bidding and spending money on the keywords that are worth it.
    • Benchmark the complexity and price of your keywords before starting to work on them.
  • PRODUCT DISCOVERY
    • Identify product, features and business opportunities from customer searches.
    • Identify fixes or improvements from searches on your product brand.
Keyword research is a core element of your SEO strategy as it basically defines where you should focus your effort based on your buyer persona’s search and intention. However, it is also key to your overall digital marketing strategy: CONTENT STRATEGY – We all know that content is key to your marketing strategy in order to attract, educate and convince your audience. Keyword research allows you to: get an idea of what your audience is looking for. prioritize your content calendar on topics with the highest search volume. increase your content strategy ROI by optimizing your content and focus your time and resources on the right keywords. PAID STRATEGY Identify opportunities for new campaigns and therefore generate more leads. Improve your ROI by bidding and spending money on the keywords that are worth it. Benchmark the complexity and price of your keywords before starting to work on them. PRODUCT DISCOVERY Identify product, features and business opportunities from customer searches. Identify fixes or improvements from searches on your product brand.

How to do keyword research?

Many tools are readily available on the market to help you with your keyword research, with some of the most popular being:

  • Google Keyword Planner – This tool is free to use and gives you even better insights if you invest money in Google AdWords.
  • Moz – one of the most well known SEO tools which starts at 99$ per month with a 30 days trial.
  • SEMrush – the other leader for all-in-one SEO tools with a monthly fee of 99$ and a 7 days free trial.
  • And many more…

In this article we have chosen examples from SEMrush, but the methodology is valid for any tool you will choose.

1 - Get a deep understanding of your buyer persona and product offering

First things first: you need to have a (very) good understanding of

  • YOUR BUYER PERSONA: What are their goals, their concerns, their challenges, their interests? You can then easily put yourself in their shoes when it comes to looking for keyword ideas (Step 3).
  • YOUR PRODUCT and COMPANY: What are the features, the needs it meets, the roadmap and the topic that will be covered in the mid-term, the technologies used?

You asked for the most efficient way to tackle this?
I would say that the most efficient approach is to organize a 1–2 hour workshop with stakeholders from different departments (Sales, Product, Customer success, IT…) and ask targeted questions to try to gather as much vocabulary as possible. Remember that your goal here is to take note of all possible keyword ideas you will research afterwards.

Another source of inspiration would be any product documentation available to you.

The output of this exercise should be an Excel or Word document with a list of keywords ready to be investigated.

2 - Benchmark your competitors’ strategy

Before jumping into keyword hunting, have a look at what your competitors are doing. Crawl their website and extract the keywords they are positioning for. This will give you an invaluable source of inspiration for keywords.
Be careful – depending on the notoriety of your competitors, the list of keywords they are ranking can quickly become overwhelming and counterproductive. In this case, try to filter down on the highest ranking keywords (e.g. #1 to #20) which should be the most relevant ones

To do so in SEMrush, simply go to Domain Analytics > Organic Research and then crawl your competitor’s site. Here you are: in a matter of seconds you’ve got the list of keywords they are positioning for, ready to extract.

Add the more relevant ideas to your brainstorm spreadsheet – you’re all set to go hunt!

3 - Look for keyword ideas and retrieve their statistics

The fun part starts here.

It’s time to put yourself in your customers’ shoes, take your brainstorming and start building your own Keyword Database. To do so, input the ideas you’ve gathered (one by one – I know…) into the tool of your choice. Not only will this give you statistics for this keyword, it will also, and overall, display a whole range of related searches that you should consider including in your database (along with their statistics).
Depending on the topic you are working on, you may find quite a lot of suggestions. That’s why I always exclude keywords below a search volume of 10 per month – this will already filter down the choices.

Cherry-pick all the keywords that look relevant for your business. Remember that you don’t want to limit yourself to keywords directly related to your product and should also include more generic topics that could catch the attention of your audience and enable you to gain visibility.

For example, if you are a booking management software for hairdressers, you don’t want to look only for keywords like “booking management tool” or “hairdresser booking system”. You will also want to include “how to open a barbershop”, “increase sales barbershop”, etc., so you can build your expertise at the industry level and create brand awareness among your target persona.

Spoiler Alert: this exercise is fun at the beginning BUT it quickly becomes tedious. Don’t be lazy, this step is SUPER important and remember that it will guide your marketing strategy for the following months. So, it’s worth those few hours (~10 hours) you’ll spend on it.

Once you’re done, export your keyword in an excel sheet.

4 - Organize your keywords

You should now be sitting in front of 2K, 5K or 10K+ keywords – just how actionable is that? Not at all! But don’t panic, here’s what we’re going to do: cluster your keywords.

In order to better understand your database, you should now group your keywords under similar categories. The idea here is to look at the strength of a topic rather than isolated keywords.
For example, if you’ve got one keyword on a topic with 700 monthly searches, and then 40 keywords on a topic summing 5000 monthly searches, you’ll surely want to have a look at this latter group of keywords – something is telling you there is interest around this topic.

Either by filtering in Excel, or using tools like Dupli Checker or MonkeyLearn you can organize your keywords by topics. It is up to you to narrow down your groups – we usually don’t go over three groups.
You should also try to avoid being too specific and make up groups of just three keywords.

Now your list looks a bit more interesting but let’s cook it a bit more.

5 - Qualify the intent for each keyword group

To have a good mix of content in your strategy and prioritize your topics, you will have to define the intent for each keyword group.

We usually group them into:

  • NOT RELEVANT: Yes, some keywords will just seep through your keyword database but be nonsense at the end. Bye-bye.
  • AWARENESS: These are the keywords that will help you reach your target audience on a wider subject not necessarily directly related to your product, but yet interesting for your target audience. In general, these keywords have a bigger search volume.
  • CONSIDERATION: These are keywords that are not directly pointing to your service or product, but are very close and will eventually enable you to introduce your feature.
    For example, imagine you are selling task planning software and someone is looking for a “project plan excel template”. While they are not directly looking for your product, you’d better position for this keyword so you can introduce your solution to those users.
  • CONVERSION: These are your golden keywords – searches exactly related to what you offer.

The output of this exercise should be an Excel or Word document with a list of keywords ready to be investigated.

6 - Order your keyword research by search volume

In order to quickly analyse your keyword database and gain insights from it, you should now create a pivot table and organize your keyword database by groups and search volume.

  • Organize the rows like this: Group 1 > Group 2 > Keyword
  • The value you are looking at is the “SUM of Monthly Search Volume”
  • Order your rows in descending order by the sum of search volume
  • And eventually filter on the intent field

This should look more or less like the image above.

As a result, you should now be able to quickly identify which keywords are worthwhile for your marketing strategy and how to prioritize them.

7 - BONUS TRACK

If you fancy some more excel formulas, you can easily check your competitor database (Step 2) and retrieve how they are already ranking for the keywords you selected. This will help you define your strategy to fight the right battle for traffic (and beat them).

How do you manage keyword research in different languages?

As we mentioned above, direct translation is just not enough if you are really keen to tackle a market with a different language.
Indeed, people are not necessarily looking for the literal translation of your content. They may have other words, concepts, cultural references, or local market factors which will influence the way they browse.

So, sorry for the bad news but yes, you have to run the keyword study in each and every language where you want to position. But hey, you already have a wonderful starting point which will tremendously speed up Steps 1 and 3 🙂

It is also highly advisable that the person who runs the keyword research is either a native speaker or very proficient in this language so that they can really capture all the subtleties of the semantics that they are investigating.

Is it a good idea to externalize your keyword research?

If you are lacking internal expertise or resources this is definitely a good option. However, do bear the following in mind if you opt for external providers:

  • They will plan to dedicate time with you to understand your business.
  • They can show you an example of the deliverable you are going to obtain, and then you’ll feel comfortable to work out your content strategy from there.

Now it’s over to you – go run your keyword research, we want to see you up there in Google’s top rankings 🙂
Share your experience of following these simple steps with us and, of course, drop any doubts in the comments below.