Search engine optimization (SEO) has long been a staple of the B2B marketer’s tactics menu, ranging from Web page optimization to external link-building strategies focused on increasing relevant site traffic. Yet, for anyone who has managed an SEO project, the catchphrase of the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield often defines these efforts: “I don’t get no respect.”

The key reason for this lack of respect is marketers’ inability to link SEO efforts with business results. However, with the increased focus on content and inbound marketing – the success of which depends on aligning efforts to buyers’ search for information – SEO is beginning to be seen as a strategic initiative. The difference is that, to better align to and support the buying process, SEO is now being utilized before content, messaging and Web experiences are being created.

Simply determining SEO keywords and phrases that resonate with buyers and using them to increase search ranking is not enough. Best-in-class companies use SEO to support the entire buying process in the following ways:

  • As a marketing planning element, leading to better alignment with buyers’ search for content by optimizing messaging and content (onsite and offsite)
  • To improve site design to maximize ease of use, relevance and site “stickiness” via SEO-driven navigation schemes
  • To integrate and optimize social media, public relations, advertising and search engine marketing, aligning awareness efforts with demand generation programs
  • To optimize for mobile search by considering the different needs of mobile search; for example, using long-tail searches (choosing a keyword phrase rather than one keyword)
  • By moving beyond top-of-funnel terms to include education, solution and vendor selection terms linked to stage-appropriate content – improving Web site conversion optimization for all buying cycle stages

Although SEO tactics have inherent value, companies will not realize the full benefits until they start thinking of SEO as a strategic imperative to significantly enhance their planning, campaigns, site experiences and content.