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What To Look For In A B2B SEO Audit – The 6-Step Framework For Success

By Rachael Clark  |  August 11, 2021

For many B2B marketers, the logical starting point for their SEO strategy is an audit—after all how do you know what to fix if you don’t know what is broken, or how to prioritise content creation if you don’t know what the search landscape even looks like?

A B2B SEO audit should be both a pragmatic and strategic launchpad for your objectives, but how do you know if the audit itself is any good?

Here are our pro tips for what to look for:

1. The Three Key Areas

A good SEO audit will cover three key areas: on-page, off-page, and technical.

They of course have a lot of cross-over and the key is identifying which elements of each of these should be prioritised.

In a perfect world of unlimited time and resources, you would fix every issue—but sometimes you have to be pragmatic and consider the ease and impact of each of the changes being suggested.

What your audit may reveal:

  • On-page: are page titles and descriptions in place, unique and of the right length; primary keyword is in the H1 and in the page content; do you have internal and external sitelinks on the page; is the content not comprehensive enough to rank?
  • Off-page: what sort of page authority do you have? Where are your strongest backlinks and where is there more opportunity?
  • Technical: page speed issues, existence of 404s, whether schema is used correctly (or at all!)
SEO Venn Diagram

2. UX

UX and SEO are inextricably linked. Things like the information architecture and the navigation design are fundamental to both. You simply can’t achieve success with one without the other.

What your audit may reveal: Pages, posts, categories focused on the internal structure of a business, rather than that of the searcher’s intent.

A good SEO audit will also include pragmatic UX tips and advice on site performance (which has never been more important since the announcement of the Core Web Vitals criteria).

3. Understand the B2B Decision Maker and Influencers

Delivering the best SEO strategy requires an in-depth understanding of the audience. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are you trying to speak to?
  • What are their challenges, frustrations and goals?
  • How do your solutions/products/services help address or support the above?

Consider this step “the method acting of the search world” – get into character and think like they think in order to identify the right search terms for your business. If you have the time/budget available, then interviewing existing customers can help provide you with insights into the buying patterns to bolster your own efforts.

4. Focus on the Funnels

A good SEO audit will provide prioritised recommendations for keywords and content based on where in the funnel your prospects and customer are.

Depending on your business objectives and growth strategy you might need to focus on getting more prospects into the top of the funnel or more urgently require conversion optimised bottom of the funnel content and pages. Your SEO audit should reveal those key terms and opportunities and help focus your marketing resources in the right areas.

Top of the Funnel (TOF): the audit may reveal new opportunities for broader trends in your market, search themes or innovations.

Middle of the Funnel (MOF): the audit may reveal closely related products, services or even business challenges for which you could rank.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOF): the sorts of keywords that match your product or services and indicate strong consideration or purchase intent, e.g., product pricing, product recommendations—the sorts of keywords you may also be bidding on in paid search.

When identifying terms, it is vital to put yourself in the position of your prospect and recognise the key differences between B2B and B2C SEO:

B2B SEO B2C SEO
Low-Volume but High Value Keywords High-Volume but often Low Value Keywords
Complex & Often Long Sales Funnels Shorter Decision-Making & Simpler Sales Funnel
Smaller More Specific Audiences Broader Audiences

Low volume keywords do not necessarily mean they should be ignored. Consider this Ease/Impact Matrix when deciding what terms will be relevant for your business:

SEO Table

Examples of what may impact where a keyword/phrase is placed on the Ease/Impact diagram:

  • Keyword difficulty
  • The balance of optimising existing content or needing to create content from scratch
  • Overall business value of a lead/conversion
  • Credibility in that space

Understanding the competitive landscape is key for an SEO audit. But what is a competitor? In the SERPs, it’s whomever is ranking for the term you want to rank for – not just who you see as providing a directly comparable product offering.

5. Competitors

A thorough audit can even reveal new competitors as well opportunities that your competitors have missed, and help you gauge just how much work is going to be involved in moving your competitors out of a top position.

A really thorough audit will even look at your competitors off-page authority and make suggestions for backlinks and potential partnerships.

6. Remember, go back to basics

SEO isn’t rocket science. If users aren’t searching the terms you’ve focused, then it doesn’t matter how beautifully crafted your webpage is, they’ll never find it organically.

Steer clear of falling in to the trap of “we want to ‘own’ term X”. This is often a result of internal politics and can derail efforts that will actually deliver tangible business value.

That’s not to say that other “non SEO” content doesn’t have a place on your website. You may have pages on your site that won’t themselves rank but you drive to them from other channels, such as email, or you may want to “start” a conversation where one doesn’t currently exist – let’s face it, someone had to say “digital transformation” first. This page itself is an example of a blog that is unlikely to gain too much by way of organic traction but provides value to our existing clients, social followers and email contacts…plus a few internal links back to our main SEO page!

Obligatory Sales Pitch

And of course, we’d love to help with you with an SEO audit and even provide training and support to your internal teams, just get in touch to find out how we can help!

You can find out how we’ve helped other B2B organisations by having a look at our case studies.

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Constant Contact Acquires SharpSpring

What does this mean for your company?

By Dan Winter  |  June 28, 2021

Last week it was announced that SharpSpring has been acquired by Constant Contact – an established leader in online marketing technology.

As many of our valued clients are currently using, or in the process of implementing, SharpSpring, we wanted to give you a quick update on the latest news.  

In a session for agencies late last week, SharpSpring’s CEO Rick Carlson assured us that the fundamentals of the software will not change – Constant Contact and SharpSpring share the same values and vision. The acquisition provides the opportunity for further investment in the platform – meaning more great features for you and us!

What happens next?

Well, mainly, it’s business as usual. Constant Contact and SharpSpring will spend the next couple of months completing the legal necessities, and at Sharp Ahead we’ll continue to drive growth for our clients through the SharpSpring platform. 

We’ve been informed there will be no major changes for the foreseeable future. There are, however, a range of exciting new features already in the pipeline for this year, including: 

  • An SMS marketing tool
  • New integrations
  • New navigation
  • New opportunity manager
  • An updated mobile app

Any questions?

We’ll keep you updated as and when we hear more about the acquisition and any exciting new features, but if you have any questions, or if you’re interested in becoming a SharpSpring user please do get in touch!

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Digital Spring Clean - 3 Quick Tips

Spruce up your digital marketing and stay top of mind with your customers

By Jennifer Esty  |  March 24, 2021

This past weekend marked the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere, so we thought we’d give you a few quick tips for your digital spring clean.

1. Tidy up your SERP (search engine results page)

This is a key part of the experience for your prospects, customers and other important stakeholders interacting with your business and if you haven’t Googled your brand name in a while, now is as good a time as any.

Here’s how to check your SERP the right way. 

First, use an incognito window so you’re not biasing what you see based on previous search behaviour. Then check for these signals:

  • Are you in the top position (P1)?
  • Is anyone running an ad on your brand name?
  • Is your Google My Business / Knowledge Panel listing up to date with accurate contact details (phone, website, opening hours etc.)?
  • How are your reviews looking? Are there any that you could respond to? These are people in close contact with your business and they deserve your attention.

What if things are looking a bit dusty?

This is your shop window – if it looks unloved, you’ll be losing out to other businesses. Run a brand ad. It might seem wasteful to bid on your own brand names, but for most B2B companies, those searches are relatively low volume but very high value. Plus, those ads will keep the competitors out of your P1 spot, enable you to curate and quickly update your SERP and align it with your current campaigns and brand messaging.

Pro tip: for most B2B companies, applying a few negative keywords, for example around jobs and careers, can keep costs down and focus the campaigns on your key prospects.

2. Refresh your website (inside and out)

44% of B2B marketers say the main reason they abandon websites is that there’s no contact info immediately visible*. Unless you are selling something that can be purchased on your website, your prospects will need to speak to someone in your sales team at some point.

Make it easy for visitors to choose you with a quick look at the following:

  • Make your phone number clearly visible – Make it easy for visitors by clearly displaying your phone number or at least an email address in the header of your site. Or go one better and enable live chat on your site like 11 out of the 50 fastest growing B2B companies**!
  • Does your copyright notice still say 2020?? It’s March already and I’m still finding websites without an updated copyright notice footer. With the upheaval of the last year, if your website doesn’t have signs of recent activity, prospects could be forgiven for thinking you might not be around anymore. Update that copyright, refresh your COVID-19 message, and make sure you have a recent blog or news story prominently displayed. These are all important signals to your customers that you’re open for business and ready to help them.
  • Get the LinkedIn insight tag, the new Google Analytics 4 (GA4) tag and Google Tag Manager (GTM) in place – These tags each have a role to play in best practice digital marketing and if you’re not using them, you’re missing out on key insights, future analytics and easy tag management. These are all ways to learn more about your customers and how to delight them on your next interaction.

3. Welcome new visitors (and then look after them)

You’ve done the hard work by getting someone who doesn’t know you to choose your website. Whether the onsite experience is perfect or not, you now have a chance to be remembered and convince your prospects that your business is the right choice for them.

One of the easiest ways to be remembered is with remarketing campaigns: even if you’re not using paid search or social for lead generation, you should run remarketing ads. 

Consideration cycles for high end B2B products and services usually take months, or longer, and remarketing is the most efficient way to keep in touch with those decision makers during that time. Remind them of your brand, tell them something they might not know about your business and show them why you’re the right choice. 

Pro tip: Don’t wait a year to refresh the creative and mix it up with different ad formats.

What next? - The BIG clean!

If you're looking to go a bit deeper, here are three things that are vital to digital marketing success in the coming year.

Say goodbye to Broad Match Modifier

We discussed this in a blog article back in February but if you haven’t had time to sort out your match types, you could be wasting valuable media spend. In short, Google is combining two existing match types, phrase match and broad match modifier. This means that with nuanced search terms that are standard fare for B2B search marketers, it would be very easy to bring in a lot of irrelevant clicks and quickly reduce the ROI on your campaigns. Read our top tips for sorting this out as soon as possible!

Core Web Vitals

This was another new development from Google that we flagged back in 2020 but the deadline is approaching faster than most digital marketers would like. If your site doesn’t meet Google’s criteria, or you don’t have a plan in place to make sure it will, you’ll need to think now about making a reasonable investment in speeding up your site—or risk losing valuable search rankings to better prepared competitors. If this is the first you’ve heard of CWV, read our previous blog article and then get yourself over to Google Tools for measure them!

Mystery Shopping

And last on our list of big cleans, a plea to B2B marketers everywhere. Check that your customer and prospect contact channels work. Does someone answer your phone during business hours? How quickly do you respond to lead enquiries? Is your online chat staffed consistently? I know what you’re thinking, this is ridiculous of course the answer is yes. But when was the last time you checked? Do some mystery shopping and find out for yourself. In the high end B2B market, one missed phone call or a few days’ delay on replying to a form fill, could be the difference between a successful or failed campaign.

We work with intelligent marketing managers to make budgets go further and cut your cost per lead. 

If you have any questions on your own digital spring clean, get in touch for a free 30-minute B2B consult. 

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Google confirms timing for bringing page experience to Google Search

By Jennifer Esty  |  November 11, 2020

On Tuesday Google confirmed that page experience signals in ranking will roll out in May 2021.

The news follows the May 2020 announcement of a new set of standards for measuring “page experience”. That is, whether a particular web page delivers its content in a way that gives a positive experience for the user.

The new signals will combine Core Web Vitals with existing search signals, including: mobile-friendliness, safe-browsing, HTTPS-security, and intrusive interstitial guidelines.

What does this mean for you as a website owner?

If you have started already, you need to ensure that your site, and landing pages, meet the new standards or risk seeing your search engine results penalised for poor performance (and higher performing competitors given a boost).

Fortunately Google has put in place clear guidelines for how they will measure page experience. And they have provided a suite of tools to help site owners identify and fix issues.

Search Console: use the report for Core Web Vitals for an overview of how your site is doing and a details into any issues.

Page Speed Insights: get your CWV score and suggestions on where to make improvements (also helpful for ongoing testing as you make changes to your site)

For the full suite of Google tools, visit Google’s Tools to measure Core Web Vitals.

For more detailed information, check out our previous blog post on the announcement back in May.

If you’d like help understanding the impact of page experience on your B2B digital marketing strategy, or with any other aspect of B2B digital marketing, contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.

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Google is bringing a big dose of science to web user experience…and it matters to anyone with a website

By John Woods  |  June 9, 2020

Google has announced a new set of standards for measuring “page experience” – that is, whether a particular web page delivers its content in a way that gives a positive experience for the user. These new standards provide a specific, pass or fail benchmark for three aspects of page experience that Google’s research has identified as particularly impactful for users.

Many websites currently fail to meet these new standards. Google is allowing a period of time before enforcement, but site owners are now on notice: they will need to improve their websites to meet these new page experience benchmarks, or face penalties to their SEO rankings.

In this article I’ll give an overview of the new standards, discuss their implications for B2B digital marketers, and highlight some immediate next steps you should be taking to ensure you are not left behind as Google rolls out its implementation of these standards.

Introducing Core Web Vitals

Google is calling the new standards “Core Web Vitals”. You’ll start to see them appear in various Google tools and reports. For example, here’s how they show up in Google Search Console:

There are three separate measures in Core Web Vitals:

• Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): a measure of how long the page takes to display, when first loaded

• First Input Delay (FID): measures how quickly the page becomes interactive

• Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): measures what Google calls “visual stability”, in other words how much the page elements flicker and move around during the initial loading process.

Each of these measures has its own specific benchmarks on a traffic light system. For example the LCP needs to be below 2.5s to score as “good”. Between 2.5s and 4.0s LCP means “needs improvement”. And LCP above 4.0s means “poor”.

I’ll drill into these three measurements in a future article. For now, it’s enough to say that they measure separate and largely independent aspects of user experience: so for example a page that scores very highly on LCP could still score badly on FID or CLS. So each measure will need individual attention.

Why Core Web Vitals matter

Page experience has been important for SEO for a long time. Google and other search engines naturally want to feature pages that will provide a positive experience for users. But to date the exact impact of page experience on SEO rankings has been hard to understand.

This is great news for all of us when we use the web: by providing an explicit incentive to avoid poor page experience, Google is helping to encourage higher standards for user experience across the web.

It is also good news for site owners: with Core Web Vitals, Google is making the impact of page experience on SEO much more transparent. A website owner can use the Core Web Vitals benchmarks as a reliable guide to whether their page experience is good enough to avoid SEO penalties, and can target specific improvements if they are needed.

But there is some bad news for site owners: the Core Web Vitals benchmarks are pretty demanding! It is likely that many websites will need to make significant technical changes to meet the new benchmarks and avoid SEO penalties. This is especially true for niche B2B websites which have often been designed and implemented with relatively little concern for page experience.

Although Google haven’t said so explicitly, I predict that page experience will become a much more significant ranking factor for SEO as Google rolls out these standards. So B2B marketers who pay attention to Core Web Vitals and who take action to ensure their websites meet the new benchmarks will be rewarded with higher levels of organic search traffic. And those who do not take action are likely to see their organic traffic decline.

Google’s announcements so far only relate Core Web Vitals to organic search. But I would not be surprised to see Core Web Vitals quickly becoming a factor in quality score for paid search (PPC/SEM). Google Ads already has a component of quality score for “landing page experience”, so it would be entirely logical for Google to take Core Web Vitals into account in the future. If that happens, Core Web Vitals scores will have a direct bearing on PPC costs: because a higher quality score reduces the amount paid for each click, and vice versa.

There’s time, but the clock is ticking

Google acknowledges that website owners will need time to improve their page experience. Their announcement says that the new measures will not be incorporated into SEO rankings until 2021 at the earliest, and that there will be a minimum of 6 months’ notice of the specific date.

Google has introduced similar policies in the past designed to encourage improvements in user experience. In particular, Google encouraged site owners to move from non-secure http: to secure https: connections, and pushed for mobile-friendly page design. Both of these were introduced gently with a small SEO impact at first, increasing over time. I predict we will see the same with Core Web Vitals: a small penalty for sites that don’t meet the benchmarks at first,  but rising to a much more substantial penalty over time – to the point where, like https and mobile-friendliness, it will become inconceivable to attempt any meaningful SEO strategy on a site that does not meet the Core Web Vitals benchmarks.

What to do now – find out where you stand

You can see how your web pages score against the Core Web Vitals benchmarks right away. Check your website with Google’s free Pagespeed Insights tool. You’ll see your current scores highlighted with a blue icon, like this example:

Some things to consider when using this tool:

• Each page will have its own scores. You should check more than one page: important pages like the homepage and the “contact us” page, for example, and any pages that you have built specifically to bring in organic traffic.

• Pagespeed Insights ranks mobile and desktop versions of your page separately. Make sure to look at both. Many B2B sites are built primarily for desktop, a great set of Core Web Vitals on desktop won’t help you much if you fail every measure on mobile.

• The report shows both “Field Data” and “Lab Data” – concentrate on Field Data if it is available. If your page has small numbers of visitors (like many niche B2B pages) there may not be enough data for the “Field Data” report to show. In that case you can use the “Lab Data” report as a backup.

What to do next – plan to pass the benchmarks

You may be lucky enough to find that all of your important pages already pass the Core Web Vitals benchmarks. If so, congratulations! You should still remain vigilant, especially if you plan any technical or design changes to your pages, but it’s unlikely you will need to do any major work.

But it is much more likely you will find that your pages fail at least some of the benchmarks. This is especially true for B2B websites, where page performance and user experience are typically not given high priority in the design and implementation stages. In that case you’ll need to plan and budget for technical or design changes, or brace yourself for an eventual SEO penalty and consequent loss of organic traffic – and perhaps other negative implications too.

For some B2B website implementations it may be impractical to meet the Core Web Vitals benchmarks even with very large amounts of work. If your site is one of those, it may be time to consider a redesign or a complete replatform – with compliance with Core Web Vitals benchmarks an explicit goal for the project.

If you’d like help understanding the impact of Core Web Vitals on your B2B digital marketing strategy, or with any other aspect of B2B digital marketing, contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.