SEO can make the benefits of account-based marketing easier to reach.
By 2020, more than 70% of midsize to large B2B businesses will pilot or launch a full-scale account-based marketing (ABM) program, which means, chances are pretty high you’ve heard of ABM before. (Full research available to Gartner clients.)
In case you haven’t, ABM is a marketing strategy where you treat each lead as their own market and develop a plan to guide that hyper-specific market along the buyer journey.
Chances are also high that you’ve heard the term search engine optimization, or SEO—the phrase itself has been around for 28 years.
What you might not have heard about, however, is combining SEO and ABM. SEO, when properly utilized, can help increase the impact of your ABM strategy by leaps and bounds.
“But wait!” you cry, arms outstretched towards the computer screen. “ABM is about personalization, but SEO is about reaching a wider audience! How can SEO help?”
Read on—we’ll talk about how properly executed SEO strategies can help you with the main tenets of an ABM strategy, including moving leads through the funnel, pinpointing high-value channels, and focusing your marketing on all decision-makers within an account.
1. Use SEO to help target keywords for intent at different stages in the buyer journey
It’s no secret that account-based marketing is intended to move your leads through the funnel. You figure out every single touchpoint you can have throughout the buyer journey so you can market to that moment and that mind space for your leads.
For that to happen, your marketing material needs to be easily searchable. For example, an IT professional just beginning to think about buying project management software will have different questions and search for different terms on Google than one who is further down the funnel.
With a strong SEO system in place, you can figure out which keywords are most popular at these different stages.
For example, “what is project management software” could be a very popular keyword at the beginning of the buyer journey. You can generate marketing content—maybe an infographic or an article—that helps explain the fundamentals of project management software. This establishes you as a thought leader, provides useful information for the lead, and, most importantly, helps your site rank high for that search query, increasing your brand awareness.
Further along the buyer journey, though, the most popular search term might have to do with a particular product’s reviews. Here, again, you can shine. You can make sure that user reviews are readily available on your site and that your product appears in a wealth of reviews-based directories. You can also tweet about recent reviews or rankings on different reviews-based lists.
Key takeaway: As you build out your list of touchpoints, work with your SEO team to understand the most powerful keywords at different stages of the buyer journey. This will boost the impact of your ABM strategy and move leads closer to converting.
2. Manage your marketing channel mix using SEO analytics
A robust SEO strategy means tracking a lot of data—who’s visiting your site, how they found your site, where they go once they get there, and how long they stay there, to name a few.
I want to focus on that last one—how they found you. When you have an ABM strategy, you want to use the right mix of channels that are high-impact and populated by your high-quality leads. SEO can help you analyze which channels are pulling their weight and at what point in the buyer journey they’re doing so.
Once you have a deeper understanding of the channels that people are using at different stages of the funnel, you can focus your marketing towards that specific type of content and those specific channels.
Look at the previous example of the two leads for project management software—the one searching for a definition and the other looking at user reviews.
The one that’s earlier in their buyer journey might rely more heavily on social media for research, rather than long-form articles. This means that out of the article or the infographic discussed above, you’ll want to use the infographic as it’s easier to share and more digestible across social media. It’s also more likely to go viral.
Key takeaway: Make sure your SEO strategy involves tracking how your leads find your site and what channels they use. You can use UTM tagging, Google analytics, or a combination of those and other factors to determine which channels are high value, which you can then use to guide how you allocate your marketing resources.
3. Personalize your ABM strategy by using SEO to refine your understanding of buyer teams
ABM treats each account as its own market and personalizes its marketing efforts for that one lead.
However, where ABM can fall short is the fact that this practice groups all of the buyers at a single company into one large category. However, the team responsible for software buying at a company can consist of people from a wide variety of different teams.
SEO helps you track the behavior and search intent behind the different members of a buying team. In fact, Google has recently announced the release of BERT, a new neural network designed to better understand search intent. This makes previously less-understood words, such as prepositions, much more easy to decipher for the search engine.
A CEO might look up “free features of product X” while a project manager might look up “most useful features of product X.” If you’re working for product X, this gives you a lot of options in terms of what content to generate. They’re both at the same stage in the buyer’s journey, but their search intent is different.
You can also use the data you pulled from your analytics to see which channel will be most effective at reaching each of the individual buyers.
Because of these advancements in understanding human language, Google has made it much easier to implement an SEO strategy to better understand and personalize your marketing for the different members of your leads’ buyer teams.
Key takeaway: Make sure that the marketing material you have is rooted in the search intent of an individual user, rather than “a member of this account.” Your content should be dictated by a user’s search intent, in order to appeal to all members of a single account, which will make your ABM strategy all the more potent.
What else can help your ABM strategy?
If you’re looking for other ways to make your ABM strategy all that it can be, check out some of the articles below.