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How To Build a Strategic B2B Keyword List

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How to Build a Strategic B2B Keyword List

B2B marketing online is difficult because you’re dealing with multiple buyer personas in a variety of stages.  The process is longer, there are multiple touch points and sales can take several months. As digital marketers, we here at Red Caffeine embrace the challenge and actually find it fun! Before we begin, it’s important to cover the basics. You need to:

  • Define your online business goals. Before we dive into keyword research, we need to agree on one thing: you have to be clear on what you want to measure. This is the foundation to measuring online business objectives and tracking key performance indicators with Google Analytics. Without some concrete goals, it’s impossible to show growth either online or offline.
  • Next, you need to create several buyer personas since you’re dealing with multiple personas throughout the buying funnel. This is where you identify key influencers in the buying process. This could be an end user such as a machine operator, product engineer, purchasing manager all the way up to a C-level executive. This will help you better understand their role, pain points or drivers, what and how they search, along with the content they’re most likely interested in.

Create Buyer Personas for Your Business

Buyer Persona Template

Keyword Selection Tools 

Now that you have a better idea of who your target audience is, it’s time to get started with your first keyword list. A good place to start is with sales and marketing collateral. You could also find keywords from your company’s website, which hopefully has some copy that communicates the key benefits and value of your products or services.

If not, then it doesn’t hurt to see what keywords your competitors are using online. Also lean into your team and ask for their input. If your budget allows, you could also survey your customers to extract valuable feedback from them. Any one of these should be enough to start building your initial keyword list.

Start with at least five to ten keywords and plug them into the following keyword tools: Google Keyword Planner, WordTracker, and SEM Rush. You might be wondering why you should use three different tools, but I’ve found that some tools are better than others in different areas. I’ll explain more below.

  • Google Keyword Planner is mostly for advertisers, but it’s still a good tool to get keyword ideas from. Based on what you put into the tool, it will show you other keywords that are relevant to it. In Keyword Planner, you can get historical search volume for keywords and see how competitive they are. You can also see mobile trends and breakdown searches by device and location, which can be helpful for companies doing business in multiple states. Add keywords that are relevant to your plan and export the spreadsheet.

Keyword Planner

  • WordTracker is a great tool to uncover long-tail keywords for SEO. It provides important competition and KEI (keyword efficiency index) information, which lets you know how difficult it will be to rank for a particular keyword. Typically, you want to find keywords that have high search volume (more than 1,000 searches) with medium to low competition (pages already optimized on the web for each keyword). Select the keywords that are relevant to your business and export them into a spreadsheet.
  • I prefer to use SEM Rush to find related keywords. It seems to be more semantic in my opinion. Export these into a spreadsheet as well. We’ll use these in the next step to come up with a list of short- and long-tail keywords.

Understanding What Your Keywords Mean

Depending on how many keywords you selected, you may have hundreds of keywords when exporting your spreadsheets. This is where you separate the good from the bad. Find the keywords that are obviously irrelevant to your business and start deleting them. Keep the ones that are relevant and group them into themes. Then do some searches to better understand the user intent behind them. For example, “mold” can be used in different ways, such as “bathroom mold” or “mold cast”, so it’s important to know your keywords. Remember your goal is to come up with one or two keywords per webpage.

Why Short & Long-Tail Keywords Matter

An important part of this process is to build a list of short- and long-tail keywords. I’ll start by explaining what they are and why they matter. Short-tail keywords or “head terms” usually consist of two or three words (between 11 – 25 characters) and generate roughly 60% of impressions, clicks and conversions. For example, prototyping, rapid prototyping, and 3D prototyping are all examples of head terms.

Long-tail keywords have three to six words (usually 26 – 40 characters), but convert much better when compared to short-tail keywords. Here are some examples:

  • rapid prototyping services Chicago
  • 3D rapid prototyping create a model
  • features 3D scanning systems for rapid prototyping

Short Tail vs Long Tail

*Thumasathit, Thi. “Head vs. Long Tail Keywords Analyzed: Impressions, Clicks, Conversions & Profitability.” Search Engine Watch. Adchemy, 4 Oct. 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2015.

Now that you’ve shortened your keyword list, better understand them and have a decent mix of short- and long-tail phrases, it’s time to sort them using the guidelines mentioned above. Create a few columns in your spreadsheet and start sorting them by relevancy, search volume, competition and ability to generate leads or sales opportunities.

Find Trending Search Topics

Once you’re finished, you will have enough information to determine the right keywords to use in your strategy, but I recommend you don’t stop there. Let’s take things further and use Google Trends to see the interest over time for your keywords. Is interest going up, down or sideways for a particular keyword? Where is the most regional interest? What news headlines were published related to our keywords? All these questions can be answered using Google Trends.


Find Conversations Relevant to Your Business in Social Media

Next, let’s take our keywords to social media. Let’s use some awesome tools to see how they’re being used in conversations on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. For starters, Twitter provides a free search tool where you can use different operators, such as hashtag, @mentions, or “phrase match”, with keywords to see trends. If you want ideas for content, use a tool like Topsy or BuzzSumo for content development.

Social Keywords

Hopefully, by now you’re starting to see the big picture. You’ve defined your goals, created buyer personas, have a list of keyword tools, and created your first keyword list. You sorted them by relevancy, search volume and competition. You discovered online search trends on the web and in social media. Now it’s time to polish your list. Select your primary and secondary keywords to use on your website or blog post and start benchmarking your efforts.

Let us know if you have a favorite keyword tool or if you gained some new insights today in the comment section below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

About The Author

Dan Mantilla
Dan Mantilla - View more articles

Dan Mantilla is the Online Strategist at Red Caffeine. He’s passionate about helping manufacturers, professionals, and tech companies generate new lead or sales opportunities online. Dan gets great satisfaction out of improving clients’ web presence through paid search, search engine optimization, and analytics. Connect with Dan on LinkedIn.