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SEO Strategy for Manufacturers and Industrial Brands: Components and Challenges

David Oltean | July 23, 2020 | SEO

Search engines are often the leading source of website traffic for B2B manufacturing and industrial companies, and a sound SEO strategy can offer lasting visibility, traffic and leads for your brand.

Manufacturers and industrial companies are often faced with complex offerings, narrow target markets and long sales cycles, and search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most effective ways to reach your audience digitally, no matter what stage of the buying process they’re in. By identifying your target audience’s needs, pain points and questions, and addressing those needs with your website content, you’ll be able to attract target customers, demonstrate your subject matter expertise and passively generate inbound leads.

One Google study found that 71% of B2B buyers start their research process using search engines, and in our agency’s experience, SEO is particularly valuable for deeper niches where potential reach through other channels is limited. A solid search strategy drives continuous inbound leads and brand recognition for your company, meets potential buyers on their terms and offers long-term, continuous benefits.

While you’ll have to invest time and resources to optimize your website’s content, layout and technical structure, the benefits of SEO are otherwise free. We’ve listed some of the major cogs that will get your SEO machine turning below.

The Components of a Successful SEO Strategy

Golden Gears on Black Background

1. Keyword Research

You can have a sleek, fast, well-optimized website with fantastic content, but if you’re not using the same terminology as your potential buyers, good luck with driving organic traffic to your website. Any successful SEO strategy starts with identifying the language your target audience is using on search engines, and that’s done by analyzing monthly search volume estimates.

With a subscription, SEO platforms like SEMrush, Ahrefs and Moz offer monthly search volume metrics and can show you the competitive landscape for any query. For an almost-free alternative, Google Ads Keyword Planner offers unlimited search volume estimates for any user with an active Google Ads account – even if they’ve only spent a few bucks.

2. Optimized Content

Once you’ve defined your keyword strategy, it’s time to map your keywords to your website’s pages and optimize your content for those terms. This process, often called “on-page SEO,” ensures your website’s copy is engaging, authoritative and aligned with your target keywords. Think from the searcher’s perspective here – does my page accurately and concisely answer or address the query I want it to rank for?

As a general rule of thumb, it’s important to have a landing page for any product or service your business offers. For example, trying to wedge multiple topics like industrial stamping, welding and plating into a single service page will likely be too convoluted for search engines and users to recognize any one service as the main topic. By having individual pages for each offering, you’ll better address users searching for a specific service, and you’ll have dedicated space to include target keywords in important SEO fields like metadata, URLs and page headers.

3. Technical Website Structure

High-quality content won’t rank at the top of search engines on its own if your website design doesn’t have a solid technical foundation. Technical SEO involves ensuring your website’s users have a fast, intuitive and secure experience navigating your website. Some of the major technical considerations include:

  • Mobile-friendly design
  • Internal link structure
  • Page load speed
  • HTTPS protocol
  • URL canonicalization
  • XML sitemaps

4. Well-Crafted Metadata

Metadata is the text that’s listed within search engine listings, also referred to as SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Standard organic listings on search engines will display meta titles, meta descriptions and the page URL. 

Meta titles, or title tags, have a strong influence over rankings on search engines, so it’s vital to ensure they are concise and include your target keywords. While meta descriptions won’t affect rankings, they can greatly affect the click-through-rate (CTR) of your listings, so you’ll want to include a concise description of the page and a compelling prompt to visit your website.

Metadata should be controllable through your website’s content management system or a third-party plugin, and it’s typically best practice to manually write metadata to ensure it’s compelling, keyword-rich and within the length limits in search results. For more on metadata length limits, you can check out our free SEO tools here to measure the pixel width of your meta titles and descriptions. 

5. Backlink Building

Search engines weigh rankings heavily on the amount of inbound links from external websites, or backlinks, your website has. From a search engine’s point of view, it makes sense – if other websites trust this brand and their content enough to link to it, then we can trust it too.

In the B2B space, backlinks can be hard to come by, but some of the primary sources include:

  • B2B and supplier directories
  • Trade magazines and industry publications
  • Event participation, sponsorships or speaking engagements
  • Trade shows and conferences
  • Partnerships, customers and vendors

6. Content Hubs

Whether it’s in the form of a blog feed or a glossary-style “content hub,” it’s important to supplement your core product and service pages with a section of your website that’s more informational in nature. This type of content is useful for ranking for information-seeking searches, question-based queries and long-tail keywords. It can also help to reach potential buyers higher up in your sales funnel through added brand recognition and generate early-stage conversions such as newsletter sign-ups.

This type of content often has higher search volume and a broader audience than conversion-oriented search queries, making it great material for attracting and acquiring backlinks. With proper internal linking structure, content hubs can also support the rankings of related product and service pages.

7. Measurement and Analytics

It’s impossible to gauge the effectiveness of your search engine optimization strategy without a measurement plan in place. Having a properly implemented Google Analytics tag is crucial for observing organic traffic trends, and configuring Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager to track your website’s contact forms will provide an overview of leads generated through search traffic.

Another way to measure SEO success is by tracking changes in keyword rankings over time. This requires a subscription to a platform such as SEMrush, Ahrefs and Moz, which provide daily or weekly ranking updates on your target keywords.

Challenges of Industrial SEO

Stop Button in Manufacturing Plant

In our experience with SEO consulting for manufacturers and industrial brands, there are a few common challenges that companies in these industries struggle to overcome.

1. Internal Jargon

Industrial and manufacturing websites can be heavy on language used within the company internally, and it often doesn’t reflect the terms and queries used by target audiences and the industry as a whole. Between complex processes, branded offerings and the custom-crafted sales approach of many industrial companies, the lack of focus on keywords with consistent search volume can sharply limit organic traffic and lead generation potential.

For example, Google Keyword Planner estimates there isn’t any consistent search volume for “ferrous metal stamping” while “stainless steel stamping” has an estimated 260 searches per month and is more descriptive.

A screenshot of search volume from Google Keyword Planner

A screenshot of search volume from Google Keyword Planner

There’s still a way to work internal messaging into your content marketing strategy, but there has to be a balance with the language used by potential customers. It’s important to conduct keyword research ahead of writing website copy to ensure there’s consistent volume for your target term, or you’ll likely have to undergo some major editing to appease your SEO strategy.

2. Limited Backlink Opportunities

Even with great content on your website, backlink acquisition can be a challenge for industrial marketing managers. This is especially true for newer brands that don’t have a strong industry reputation to fall back on. However, your competitors are faced with the same challenge, and there are still plenty of backlink opportunities in industrial fields – they’re just tougher to find.

B2B manufacturing and industrial companies often have limited audiences on social media and email marketing lists, and especially in niche markets, industrial content typically doesn’t have the reach or exposure potential of your average B2C content campaign. Barring any major mergers, acquisitions or technological breakthroughs, press releases usually have narrow target audiences as well.

Using backlink analysis platforms can identify competitors’ inbound links, but at best, this approach only allows you to mimic their backlink strategy. To get an advantage over the competition, you’ll have to really demonstrate your subject matter expertise in your field. B2B brands that excel with backlink acquisition tend to have share-worthy articles and multimedia, relationships with industry publications and trade organizations, and are often very active with trade shows, conferences and speaking engagements. Partnerships and relationships with suppliers and vendors are also great sources of mutually beneficial backlinks.

3. Long Sales Cycles

Buyer research and the purchase process tend to be on the longer side in the manufacturing and industrial space, and your SEO strategy should reflect that. It’s helpful to have keyword targets focused on potential buyers early on in the research and discovery process rather than trying to convert new customers or drive quote requests with every page. An organic session is often the first step of many in lead generation, so some pages’ focus should be on driving initial brand awareness rather than closing a sale.

Creating a “content hub” that houses evergreen informational resources or actively publishing blog articles are a few ways to expand your conversion strategy – long-tail keywords and question-based queries tend to be more information-seeking in nature. It’s also helpful to provide softer conversion opportunities like newsletter sign-ups or whitepaper downloads that can add potential buyers early in the research process into your sales funnel.

Assembling Your SEO Strategy

Following the tips above should lay the foundation of your website’s SEO, but assembling all the pieces of a search strategy can be tricky.

Climb Marketing offers expert digital marketing services for manufacturers and industrial companies with specialization in search engine optimization, digital advertising, content marketing and analytics.  If you’re looking for some expert guidance on industrial SEO, please request a free consultation on our website.

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