What is Account-Based SEO and how is it different?
Google Analytics 4. ChatGPT. Helpful Content Update. User intent. Voice search. The recent leak of Yandex search ranking signals. There’s no doubt that the SEO landscape continues to be ever-changing, and with greater velocity.
A lot has already changed since we published our priority list of B2B SEO tactics and strategies in November of last year and these top SEO fixes for 2023 in December. All of those recommendations are still important for continued SEO success. But for Enterprise B2B organizations who are embracing account-based marketing (ABM/ABX) as the strategic lens for their 2023 digital marketing programs, there is even more to do.
That’s why BOL is pioneering a new set of SEO strategies to complement ABM programs that we refer to as “account-based SEO” or “ABSEO.”
If you are unfamiliar with account-based marketing, check out our articles on how to build an ABM strategy and the benefits of ABM for an overview that will allow you to appreciate the value that ABSEO brings. At its core, ABM is focused on serving the right content, to the right audience, at the right stage in the buying journey.
ABM prioritizes interaction with a target group of companies that are referred to as the target account list (TAL). These have been preselected based on the ideal customer profile (ICP). The ICP is a list of criteria defined by your company that embodies the attributes of target organizations most likely to be your best potential customers.
Unlike traditional demand generation campaigns, which cast a wide net with the hopes of attracting as many leads as possible and then picking through that list to find the best matches, ABM campaigns are like spearguns that are aimed at the big fish you really want to catch. The difference between these two marketing styles has a profound effect on SEO strategies and what defines success.
Account-based SEO (ABSEO) is the prioritization of SEO activities based on which tactics and strategies will drive the most traffic and engagement from your target account list. This flips the classic SEO script on its head, in which the pure volume of monthly searches (along with funnel stage) for a given keyword are the north star for content creation and measurement.
ABSEO starts with measurement
In order to prioritize SEO activities and make data-driven decisions, you have to be able to measure the data that is specific to ABM interaction. In other words, who are the companies that are landing on your website or using your app from search, and what content are they consuming? Which content is the most effective at creating engagement and driving potential customers through the buyer journey?
Usually, there are two main sources of company information that can be leveraged for this purpose: CRM data and ABM data (usually from an ABM tool like 6sense). These platforms generally have some reporting that is specific to SEO that can be leveraged to answer ABSEO questions. Integrating those platforms with analytics platforms like GA4 can add a lot more flexibility and granularity to your reporting that will produce better outcomes.
This integration will allow you to use SEO analytics to see which content drives the most valuable traffic (as opposed to merely the most traffic). For example, page A might get a ton of traffic from accounts that are a bad fit, or who have no intent to buy. Meanwhile, page B might be getting a modest amount of traffic, but it’s traffic that is ultimately more valuable – because it’s from accounts on your TAL, or accounts that are lower in the funnel. Because GA4 can track traffic on both website pages and apps and distinguish unique users across multiple devices based on logged-in Google profiles, it can tie together activities across individuals and organizations.
Understanding which companies are interacting with various pages on your site can significantly personalize your messaging to the value propositions that will resonate with those companies. Leveraging CRM data against your ABSEO content and messaging strategy creates a perfect feedback loop that allows you to measure how well you’re doing with the accounts and profiles you’ve targeted. This is the core of the ABM value proposition.
ABSEO identifies content that targets influencers and decision-makers
Google’s Helpful Content Update was good news for agencies like BOL: We’ve always been focused on B2B SEO techniques and tactics that lend themselves to user experience. And it’s good news for account-based SEO, which can help organizations target their content to the audiences that matter. In other words, the cornerstone of account-based marketing is creating extremely granular and helpful content for specific audiences in order to meet their needs. Any updates made by Google rewarding that content and making it more prominent for its intended audience will benefit our approach.
Of course, when you are talking about enterprise B2B audiences, you are often talking about multiple people within the same organization who are involved in a purchasing decision. There are plenty of differences between B2B and B2C SEO, but the number of people involved in decision-making might be one of the biggest. According to Gartner, the typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision makers and each brings four to five pieces of their own information to the table. These influencers and decision makers spend 27% of their time researching independently online and another 22% meeting with the group – and likely presenting their findings.
That means it’s time to put your personas to work. In addition to creating content that targets specific groups of organizations, there is a further segmentation of content specific to personas that is also needed to maximize the effectiveness of ABM campaigns.
Using ABSEO measurement to understand where those interactions are happening on your site is critical for messaging, understanding which pages are getting the most valuable traffic, and personalizing CTAs for digital assets that accelerate customer velocity.
Leveraging ABSEO measurement to move buyers down the funnel
One of the dichotomies of SEO is that broad, top-of-funnel (TOFU) content tends to be what ranks for the keywords people are searching for. Popular, broad-based but highly competitive keywords have a lot of potential volume, but only a small subset of potential customers. However, the content that can be traced to leads and ROI – the content that clients want most – is typically bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) and is more likely to rank for long-tail keywords. To leverage the traffic potential of the more popular terms, you need to capture the interest of TOFU searchers with powerful thought leadership.
Your TOFU content is inevitably going to capture traffic that doesn’t lead to sales. Many people may not even be potential customers. The key is to capture those who are and pull them deeper into the funnel with your content marketing strategy.
Employing account-based SEO measurement to top-of-the-funnel pages like blog posts and pillar pages and using that understanding to personalize calls to action is a critical function of ABSEO. This approach to personalization through an ABM lens maximizes the value of search traffic, which then colors how we value that traffic and prioritize SEO activities.
Within any B2B enterprise SEO campaign, there is always more to do than budget and resources will allow. Being able to make the best data-driven decisions on what initiatives to prioritize is often the difference between failure and success. Using an ABM lens to evaluate and triage those priorities simply delivers better ROI and business value.
A new emphasis on brand-specific keywords and content
Brand-related searches constitute the majority of traffic for many B2B enterprise organizations. Conversely, these organizations often place a higher value on non-brand traffic for their SEO campaigns because it is often indicative of new awareness, which has a higher perceived value in a demand generation campaign.
However, with ABM campaigns, which focus on a much smaller set of potential customers, brand-related traffic has a higher value because it often correlates to the target account list – since your other digital marketing channels, which may have driven that traffic, are targeting those same companies.
Therefore, measuring brand-related terms and applying personalization for content and CTAs for that traffic is of particular importance. Additionally, since so much work is done to try to get the right people interested in your brand, reputation management across brand-related terms (and especially long-tail brand terms that are specific to clients) has a higher priority in an ABSEO campaign.
That isn’t to say that those tactics aren’t also important for demand generation, but because ABM campaigns are focused on generating more focused traffic (often at the expense of the overall number of users), each visit becomes more important, and potentially more valuable.
Take advantage of the changing tides in B2B SEO
Account-based SEO is the natural progression every B2B business should be making as tools and capabilities continue to get smarter and potential B2B buyers move more and more of their research online. Keep an eye out for future blog posts on ABSEO and how we orchestrate ABSEO campaigns.
In the meantime, be sure to check out this recent interview with Catfish on the topic (near the end of the presentation):
Or, if you’re in the Pacific Northwest, make sure to catch Tim’s ABSEO presentation at SEMpdx on March 14, 2023.
If you would like to learn more about our approach to ABSEO at BOL and how it can help you optimize your performance – then contact us with your questions. We’re excited to be leading the pack in this brave new account-based SEO world.