Strategy & Planning

BSMS 35 - Getting started with SEO


 

Today Mike and Stijn discuss early stage B2B content marketing efforts, specifically how to tackle SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

They address how you can find your own priority keywords when you’re getting started, best practices, and Stijn shares a bit about how he built the inbound engine for T2D3, along with his typical strategy and approach.

Inside you’ll find information about tools like Google Search Console, SEMrush, and Ahrefs, and you’ll see what kind of data you should be looking at.

If you’re unfamiliar with SEO entirely, or want a more full picture, check out episode 6 first, where Mike and Stijn discuss how you can create your first content marketing strategy, and get your Inbound engine up and running.

Episode Transcript:

Mike:

Welcome to Episode 35 of B2B SaaS Marketing Snacks. My name is Mike, and today we are talking about SEO, or search engine optimization, if you're not familiar with the acronym, for early stage B2B content marketing efforts. If you haven't already listened to episode six, I would recommend going and checking that one out first. It's about how you can create your first content marketing strategy all up. Then after that, come back to this one and it will give you more insight into how you can now merge the content that you've created with a basic SEO strategy, so that you can start to build some organic authority and start to get your inbound engine up and running.

So in today's episode, we talk about how you can find the right top priority keywords for your own content effort, the general kind of overall best practices for SEO when you're just getting started, and then I asked Stijn to actually walk through the exact process that he used when he was building the keyword strategy for T2D3 and the content that we're developing on that side of things. So that is what we're talking about in today's episode. Thank you again for choosing to spend your time with us and let's get into it.

Stijn:

Following up on an earlier topic, Mike, when we talked about how do you optimize your website for multiple verticals from multiple industries, you touched on also thinking about SEO and content optimization in a similar way. What I find interesting… I only learned this in the last couple of years, I never really thought much about it and I'm not technical enough to give you all the details, but what I think I've concluded is that all the tools that you can use to do SEO research, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz, all these tools, they have one thing in common. They don't have real accurate data.

Mike:

It’s true.

Stijn:

Because Google keeps the real data to itself. If you're the owner of a website, of a domain, then you can get more data. But if you're not, things like Google Analytics information are estimates at best. They're not telling you the exact data. I think when you buy Google Ads, you get more data because you're now in a paid search environment and Google makes money off that data.

Mike:

It depends, yeah.

Stijn:

But if you just have Google Analytics and you sort of try to see where certain traffic comes from, you don't get a lot of data, especially when most of the traffic is going through encrypted SSL connections, you don't get much. You know that someone came from an organic search result, but you really don't know where they came from.

Mike:

:Right.

Stijn:

So now to answer the question, what were people actually looking for when they found me, you have to go to tools like SEMRush. What I understand, how this works, is SEMRush has just a whole bunch of servers, let's say a thousand servers, somewhere in, it's probably not St. Petersburg although I know it's a Russian company, but these servers are somewhere in the cloud and they don't do anything else but just running Google search queries and then scraping the results of the search page and putting those in a database so that you now have actual accurate data that when someone types in a certain search query, that your website, for example, shows up at the 5th position or at the 12th position.

And why is that data accurate? Because SEMRush actually does the query and they capture the results and they store it. What this also means is that they don't do this for every search query out there. So, when you are starting to do your marketing and you're focused on a niche audience, for example, the long-tail keyword phrase that you might be interested in, I think in the other episode you used accounts payable solutions for healthcare, I think was the example.

Mike:

Yup. Yup.

Stijn:

I'm pretty sure if you type in something like that in SEMRush or Moz or Ahrefs, that you likely don't get any search results. If the query is long enough, if complicated enough, at some point, SEMRush will just not have the data. But when you put that in and you tell SEMRush, especially when you have a paid subscription, "Hey, I'm interested in this data," they'll start, I think, running that query, and then you will get data over time. It will still probably be a very small search volume, maybe 10 searches a month, five searches a month, but at least you have something to work with now.

And if you are building a company, you're building a business, it's okay to start with something that's really small. To have just a couple of keywords that you're focused on early on. You can only create so much content, anyway. Let's say you're building 10 blog articles in your first week or first month, focus those on a long-tail keyword phrase that is really important to you that you think if someone would type that in, I really have the best of the best to offer for them. Then focus on that with your SEO focus even if a tool like SEMRush doesn't show you a lot of data. Because you don't know. Maybe it's just because they're not crawling that data today. If you win it, you can probably hold on to that search position for a long time as well.

Mike:

Yeah, a hundred percent. That's a really good point. And even Google, if you use Google Ads and you're using a keyword bid planner, they sometimes won't actually show any volume for a keyword unless it has an average volume above 10 searches per month. So there may be searches for something or a long-tail keyword or a query, but it won't tell you that. So it's always worth putting in the exact match keywords that you think that your audience would actually search for.

You can always ask your customers, too, like, "Hey, if you were to describe our solution or if you were looking for us in Google, what would you actually search?" And that's a great way to just understand how they perceive what your product is and your solution is, and to map that back to what kind of keywords you should be looking for. It's not always perfect because they may be coming at it from a certain frame of reference, but it's a good data point to have. Because the way that you think about your product might be completely different than the way that your customer does and how they describe it.

I also wanted to, while we're on the topic, Stijn, if you wouldn't mind sharing the story and maybe some of the steps that you took to do the keyword research and prioritization for T2D3. I know that you shared that story in the book. I think it's really important and I think it also brings up another topic, which is this idea of, a lot of agencies will sell SEO services as a kind of an end all be all for a lot of early stage companies, and it might not be the best thing for companies when they're first getting started. I think the first priority is really to get content up and not overthink your keyword strategy. Your plan is to just start with something really simple. Focus in on a couple of keywords and then expand out from there. But I'd love if you could share that story, if you wouldn't mind.

Stijn:

Yeah, I think it's fine to have a relatively low amount of people finding you early on if those are exactly the people you're trying to service.

Mike:

Sure.

Stijn:

In the T2D3 example, what is T2D3? It's a book that provides templates, guidance, lists, a starting point, a playbook, if you will, for founders and marketing leaders, and sometimes the investors that run venture backed startups that are about to go into scaling mode. The early blogging we did for the T2D3.pro website was all about those keywords. Playbook for B2B SaaS marketing, early stage startup playbook, things like that. T2D3, of course, the word. Because what you want is that people who find you because of those keyword phrases get exactly what they're looking for. Because in the first couple of months that a website is live, Google will be very sensitive to when it sends traffic your way. That those people actually get what they're looking for.

And so, if you're bidding on keywords that happen to have a really high volume ... or bidding on is the wrong word, but if you're creating content and you're focused on keywords with a really high volume but you're not necessarily servicing those people very well, that might not help you very much. It might actually dim your domain authority early on. So it's better probably to go after a couple of simple keyword phrases that really describe what you're doing, the content that you have on your website, and get authority for those. Even if they have very small volume. For T2D3, there were things like marketing templates for B2B SaaS startups, B2B SaaS startup budget, B2B SaaS startup launch plan. Things like that that don't have large volumes of search queries. But those that do search for that, they get what they need.

Mike:

And to do that keyword research, did you do that all in SEMRush?

Stijn:

I did, but I really use a tool like that only to get started. I basically say, “Hey, you type in, for example, B2B SaaS marketing playbook.” Then you find typically that there's no volume on that. But you can see some other keywords maybe that have a little bit of volume and then maybe you see “SaaS marketing playbook.” So instead of “B2B SaaS marketing playbook,” you see “SaaS marketing playbook” with maybe 10 searches a month, and that's a good way to start things. Okay, if I can cater to that question, if I have something to offer for people who type “SaaS marketing playbook,” then let's write a couple of blogs that have that specific keyword in the URL, for example, because that will really help with your Google rankings.

And then of course you have to have good content that actually talks about that topic. That gives that audience what they're looking for. And unless you're able to do that, unless you're actually able to write content that will be relevant for them, then you shouldn't be focused on that keyword. Because it's not going to help you. If you're trying to optimize your keywords by just putting it in the title of your blog or the URL but you don't have much to say to the question, then don't bother.

Mike:

You're probably hurting yourself more than you're helping yourself because Google will actually look at if they send somebody to your site and they jump off quick, then it will start to deprioritize your page's ranking for those keywords.

Stijn:

And the best, the top priority keywords for an early stage effort, are usually the things that are why you built the company in the first place, or why you're building your product. Because there is a need that is unmet. There is something that you're solving for that hasn't been solved either before or hasn’t been solved very well, so there's likely an opportunity for you to describe that in the way you think about search engine optimization in the sentence that people who would have that need would be looking for them.

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