How to improve your SEO research techniques

B2B marketing professionals know search engine optimization is one of the best ways to increase brand awareness and generate leads. However, just implementing an SEO strategy is not sufficient. Marketers need to ensure they spend a considerable amount of time doing the necessary research to know which SEO terms rank highest on the search engine results page and which techniques provide the highest return on investment.

By performing the right kind of research before embarking on an SEO campaign, marketers can tailor their terms and target their strategy to the niche market they need to reach. Jumping into the SEO game blindly can not only be a waste of resources, but it can also be detrimental to your online marketing campaign, since search engines will penalize your site's ranking due to thin or shallow content, keyword stuffing or using hidden text.

Research the industry
Take advantage of sites that establish industry averages so you can create guidelines for starting your SEO campaigns. These sites can provide valuable statistics on things like metric comparison by keyword, link location and type of site.

Spend time in industry-specific forums to increase your knowledge base of the particular jargon and phrases being tossed around and incorporate those into your content.

Research the competitors
You need to understand exactly who your competitors are and what kinds of marketing strategies and techniques they employ to drive customers to their site and generate leads. This research should be strictly for information gathering. Do not copy your competitors' strategies. This can result in SERP ranking penalties that downgrades your online presence.

Dig around on competitors' pages to find out how they're using keywords in title pages and meta descriptions. There's different ways to conduct this market research: through their content, links and social media usage. By understanding how and why your competitors use these tools, you can improve your SEO strategy and capitalize on your online marketing campaign.

Research the content
Incorporating the correct key phrases is crucial for optimizing SEO. Check to see how your competitors' SEO strategy involves content marketing, as well as what keyword phrases are being used and how B2B marketers are using them. You can also play around with the Google search box suggestion. Type in phrases related to your industry and see what words Google predicts will come next.

Start creating a list of keyword phrases based on search volume and how these words are driving traffic. Instead of focusing primarily on generic words that a casual Internet browser would search, ensure you use the correct words to capture the long tail of keyword searches. The long tail of the search represents the chain of words customers use when they want to find and buy specialized product or service.

Break down the content in quantifiable ways, such as word count per article, postings per week and month, and how many keywords are being used. You can mimic these or surpass them; just remember, sheer volume does not necessarily make for a good marketing content campaign. Customers want informative and interesting content that is relevant to their needs, not incoherent ramblings. Ensure your content has valuable data and directions so that other companies and marketing teams share it.

Research the links
While links were once the prime determinant in a successful SEO metric, their overall value has diminished. Despite a dip in importance, links remain a key component in any SEO strategy.

Several sites exist that can show you a particular webpage's link profile. You can use these tools to discover the links used on the top 10 Google hits. The links for these top 10 pages indicate what the search engine considers valuable, so by including them, Google will reward your site by ranking it higher.

As mentioned, however, do not use the exact same link profile as your competitor as this will most likely end up penalizing your website. Instead, use the profile as guidance for how to tap same sphere of customers and tailor your site to capitalize on the niche market.

Research social media
Although Google does not use social media signals in its ranking algorithms, it does not mean social networks are unimportant.

Delve into your top competitors' social media presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other sites to discern how often they post status updates, how many followers they have and how they engage their customers. You can use this data to determine whether you should be more or less active in this areas.

Spend time analyzing how your competitors are gaining traction and social shares. Different sites can show you how many shares a particular site has on a social network. Take advantage of these tools to discern what your competitors are using to increase their brand awareness with these sites.

Sheila Kloefkorn (1029 Posts)

With more than 20 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing,, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.