TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Identify seed keywords
- Expand seed keywords
- Keyword prioritisation
- Search intent
- Identifying quick wins
What is B2B keyword research?
The goal of effective B2B keyword research is to build a list of terms that will inform a search strategy, aimed at driving B2B buyers to a website from search engines.
Once you have a library of strong keywords, you can use these to inform your content strategy and write regular blog content that will boost your position in search for these key terms.
It’s helpful to ask yourself these three questions as you do B2B keyword research:
- Is this keyword of interest to my target audience?
- Does it relate to pain my prospects have which my product or service can solve?
- How easy will it be to generate relevant traffic from this keyword?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to all three questions, you will have hit the keyword ‘sweet spot’ of audience and pain alignment with good traffic generation potential.
A tried & tested B2B keyword research process
In the keyword research process outlined below, I’ve suggested some steps you could take to build a library of keywords that will align with the right AUDIENCE, their PAIN, and ultimately generate TRAFFIC.
The process can be summarised in the following five steps:
- Identify Seed Keywords
- Expand Seed Keywords
- Keyword Prioritisation
- Search Intent
- Identify Quick Wins
Here’s a spreadsheet showing an example of applying this process to the seed term business accounting.
The final output is on tab 5, where we have sorted the list of keywords into a format we can use in a search strategy.
Let’s get started!
1. Identify seed keywords
Seed keywords are the terms you use to initiate the research process. They tend to be short tail (2 or 3 words) with high search volumes and broad in topical relevance.
An example of a seed term for a business selling accounting software might be business accounting.
Seed terms are generally too broad (and too competitive) to be commercially valuable to a business. However, the keyword research process I outline below, will help you to find keywords that are more targeted.
Before you get started with your keyword research, it’s important to undertake a first phase of research to gather a list of potential seed keywords.
So where should you start?
Customer research – your first source of truth
Customer research should be the foundation of any B2B SEO strategy and will be the starting point for your keyword research process.
Interviewing customers helps you to understand what motivated them to purchase from your business in the first place, and can provide insights that may be missed by solely relying on keyword tools.
Here are examples of questions you can ask your customers to help you draw up your seed keyword list:
- What search terms would you type into Google when looking for our product/service?
- What problem were you looking to solve that motivated you to seek information on Google?
- How has our product helped you in your job role?
Internal teams, such as sales and customer success, could also provide valuable insight into what motivates prospects to become customers. This information will give further ideas for highly relevant seed terms that can be used for keyword research.
Other sources of truth
Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) is a free tool that provides information needed to ensure there are no technical issues that could be negatively impacting the ability of a website to be visible in organic search.
GSC contains a useful report called ‘Performance’ which will reveal a sample of queries that people who visit your website have typed into Google.
Head over to Google Search Console and select ‘Performance’ from the left hand menu.
Next select ‘Queries’ to see examples of organic keyword impressions and clicks that users have typed into Google.
This will provide you with some helpful keyword ideas that your visitors think are relevant, but may not be picked up by SEO tools.
If you have been running Google Ads campaigns, the Search Terms report will provide you with actual keywords visitors have typed in prior to clicking an ad.
This information can be found in the left hand menu of your Google Ads dashboard, under ‘Insights and reports – Search terms’.
This is another valuable source of keyword data used by people that actually visit your website.
Internal website search terms
In Google Analytics, the Site Search Report will give you the terms your website visitors type into your site search bar. This will provide further information on what your potential customers are searching for when they visit your website.
The Site Search Report will only be available if you have set it up. Otherwise you will need to do this first before you start to see the data.
Another way to gather seed terms for your keyword research is to see what your competitors are doing. However, bear in mind they may not be following the right keyword strategy, so be sure to do your due diligence before using their keywords!
Another way to look at the competitor angle is to look at the gaps in their strategy and target keywords that your competitors might not have thought of or started writing content about yet.
2. Expand seed keywords
Now that you have a list of seed keywords it’s time to pick one and expand it to find related and long tail terms. If you are unsure what seed to start with, pick the one that is closest to what your business sells.
The aim of this step is to expand the seed keyword to find a list of related phrases. This results in an extensive library of terms that you’ll then need to organise, prioritise and use in your content plan.
There are three methods you can use to expand your keyword list.
There are a number of keyword research tools on the market and – each with their own pros and cons but two of the most common are semrush and ahrefs.. There are free versions you can use but they do have limitations so it’s worth investing in a paid subscription.
All keyword tools ultimately work the same way – you enter a seed term and it produces a list of related keywords.
Each tool will have its version of keyword difficulty which is a rough measure of how difficult it is to rank in search and they will also provide an approximate monthly search volume.
Whichever tool you decide to use, the process consists of entering your seed term into the tool and exporting to a spreadsheet to create a list, something like tab 1 in the spreadsheet.
Enter your seed term into Google and make a note of the autocomplete suggestions for more keyword ideas.
There are tools you can use to help you in this process such as https://keywordtool.io/ and Ahrefs has a feature called ‘Search suggestions’ that will provide a list of autocomplete suggestions for you.
Much easier than having to manually do this in Google!
The goal of this step is to produce another tab in your spreadsheet that provides a list of all the autocomplete suggestions for your stem keyword.
People Also Ask & Related Searches
When you search for something, you’ll often see the ‘People also ask’ feature.
This shows related questions people have searched for, and is another great way of expanding the original seed term. Here’s an example:
Related searches which are displayed at the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP) works in a similar way and provides more ideas to consider in your research.
Add a third tab to the spreadsheet to list the ‘People also ask’ and ‘Related searches’ keywords.
3. Keyword prioritisation
Keyword data is only helpful when it provides actionable insights on what to focus on for SEO or PPC activities. Most businesses have limited resources so it’s important to have a system that classifies keywords so that terms which drive the most business value are prioritised.
The system of prioritisation I find works best groups keywords as either Priority, Supplemental or Emerging.
These include terms that are directly related to the product or service the business sells. They can be keywords that have high buying intent or terms further up the funnel that reflect prospect pain.
If your business sells accounting software for example, priority keywords for you might be accounting software or how to do small business accounts.
Priority keywords are closely tied to revenue as they connect the business’ product with the challenge the customer is trying to solve.
Supplemental keywords, on the other hand, are relevant to your customer but aren’t directly related to the product or service being sold.
Returning to our previous accounting software example, a supplemental keyword might be how to motivate employees. Although this topic isn’t related to the product, it could be of interest to the CEO of the business, a potential customer of business accounting software.
Supplemental keywords are great for generating brand awareness amongst target prospects that may not be currently in-market for your solution.
Emerging keywords reflect future trends. They are likely to have low search volume but with the potential to become more popular (and competitive) over time. In our accounting software business example, an emerging keyword could be crypto accounting software.
Being visible in search for emerging keywords shows that the business is a thought leader in its space, which generates trust with your audience.
I recommend a mix of 75% priority, 20% supplemental and 5% emerging to ensure there is ample content to address the audience’s pain (priority) , reach people that may not be currently in-market (supplemental), and cover new trends in the industry (emerging).
4. Search intent
Search intent is the goal the searcher has in mind when they type a keyword into Google. It’s a very important ranking signal, and can help you further prioritise and organise keywords
For the sake of simplicity, organise keywords into two broad search intent categories that reflect whether the searcher is looking for information prior to purchase, or is ready to buy.
- Informational (top/middle funnel). The searcher has a problem that they wish to solve. They are carrying out research to find out more about the problem and various solutions to address it. They are not ready to buy.
- Buyer (bottom funnel). The searcher now has the information they need in order to make a decision to purchase and are actively looking to buy.
The search intent will determine the type of content needed to rank for the keyword. Blog posts, ebooks and reports, and video are examples of content formats that align well with informational terms, whereas product landing pages and customer stories are suited for buyer keywords.
Categorise each keyword in your list as having informational or buyer intent, along with an appropriate content format you can use to answer the query, as I’ve done in tab 4 in the example spreadsheet.
5. Identifying quick wins
Quick wins are high impact, but require low effort!
To find terms that are potential quick wins for driving organic visibility, you’ll need to identify keywords that are relevant, have good search volume, and a low difficulty score.
If you have been using Google Sheets to do your keyword research, applying some conditional formatting to the search volume and difficulty score columns will provide an easy way to visually identify quick win terms.
I like to use colour coding according to how good the opportunity is.
|Colour||Opportunity||Keyword Metrics||Effort Needed to Rank|
|Green||Good||High volume/low difficulty||Low|
|Amber||Medium||Medium volume/medium difficulty||Medium|
|Red||Poor||Low volume/high difficulty||High|
This will enable you to easily spot quick wins from your list of keywords, as you can see in tab 5 of the example spreadsheet.
Process, process, process!
As with any type of data, keyword research is only useful when organised in a way that makes sense.
Following this 5-step process when conducting your keyword research will help you define your search strategy in the most effective and efficient way, and will ensure you’re prioritising the keywords that matter most to your customers — and your business.
Although your greatest area of focus will be priority keywords, supplemental and emerging keywords will help ensure you’re catering to your wider audience (even if they’re not ready to buy), and will help you future proof your content strategy.
As you go through the process, remember that keywords should always be viewed through a customer-centric filter, to ensure your search strategy is reaching the right audience.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your search strategy, please get in touch for a consultation.