Driving conversions in B2B marketing requires content that caters to multiple decision-makers at every stage of their unique buyer journeys. It’s not just executives who make purchase decisions: 81% of mid-level managers and individual contributors also have a say. This makes the development of B2B buyer personas critical, yet 47% of B2B organizations do not have them.
The complexity of persona development causes many B2B marketers to do a “good enough” job, or abandon the exercise altogether. For each product, service, or even feature, multiple personas must be defined to account for numerous decisions-makers with different titles and various goals. That complexity is further amplified by the processes commonly used for definition: interviewing customers and team members, mining databases, and monitoring social media.
Research methodologies used by marketers when defining buyer personas.
Using strategic SEO research, marketers can simplify and improve persona development. The insights gathered during SEO research lead to detailed buyer personas that, in turn, guide engaging and revenue-generating content strategies.
Make sure to get a copy of our B2B personas worksheet at the bottom of this post to help you organize and implement your new insights!
The SEO process of keyword and user intent research provides valuable insights into who B2B decision-makers are, what role they have at their companies, what types of information they’re seeking, and how they’re searching for that information. Those insights can then be used to create detailed buyer personas for each company offering.
Your initial, or existing, keyword list can already provide general insights into who is searching for your product and what they’re seeking to do with it, if you know how to look.
For example, keyword research for the term “content management systems” provides a variety of related keywords:
These keywords tell a marketer which industries active prospects may work in. Additionally, the initial list of keywords provides insight into common use cases for content management systems:
Just an initial scan of keywords gathered in the research process provides valuable insights, but remember to Google them for user intent before you spend much time on them. Some of the above result in a lot of organic listings for CMS newsletters and discussion forums — not necessary relevant for a CMS software provider.
A company that sells CMSs may have prospects that come from industries such as education, SMB, media and entertainment, and retail. And those customers may be looking for solutions to build and manage websites, publish content online, send newsletters and marketing emails, and build forums and communities.
The next step is segmenting the keywords into groups based on which product, service, feature, task, or industry they relate to:
Keywords that apply to the overall business and not a specific aspect should be placed in a general group. Additionally, it’s fine to include a single keyword in multiple groups if it applies to more than one.
The next step is to turn to Google to gather valuable insights about who your decision-makers are, what types of information they’re interested in, and what words they’re using to find that information.
At a minimum, there are three types of decision-makers in the B2B purchasing process: researchers, influencers, and final authorities.
Nearly one-fourth of managers and individual contributors have the final say in purchasing decisions. Almost half of all B2B purchases are either heavily influenced or made by decision-makers outside of the C-suite.
Start with one persona for each of these decision-makers, and then conduct depersonalized searches for each keyword on your list.
Because 71% of B2B researchers start the process with a generic search, the keyword group of general terms is a good starting point.
After searching for a keyword, review content of the page-one results Google provides. A search for the general term “content management systems” populates introductory content and lists of different CMSs. Most likely, this is a keyword used by a researcher seeking to learn more about the topic and find potential solutions.
A search for “cloud content management systems” produces blended results—some system comparisons and some landing pages that use highly technical language. This suggests that the keyword is used by both researchers and influencers.
The keyword “cost content management system” results in pricing guides and thought leadership pieces, suggesting that it’s used by final authorities.
The results for the keyword “light content management systems” all use technical language, so it can be attached to the influencer persona.
Conduct this exercise for all keywords on the list, and then filter the list by decision-maker. The final list provides significant insight into what information different decision-makers are interested in, and how they’re searching for that information online.
For example, let’s assume the list of general keywords that you assigned to influencers were as follows:
This tells you that influencers who are comparing solutions are interested in learning more about different CMS technologies, understanding how a new CMS will integrate with existing services, and finding a CMS that is built to handle specific programming languages.
That information can be used to develop a detailed, and accurate, buyer persona.
Then, take it a step further and conduct the same exercise for the group segmented by industry to define more details about researchers, influencers, and final authorities in different industries—or who are interested in specific products, services, and features.
With personas defined, content can be catered to the individual needs, pain points, and goals of the real audience. The keywords you researched and segmented can be used as the basis for generating ideas for new content, and the personas can be reviewed to ensure all content — new or existing — speaks to the right people.
If you pulled your list of keywords from Google Search Console, you can review the content that those keywords point to and make sure existing content speaks to the right audience. If not, take time to update the content and address the appropriate audience.
With SEO research, B2B marketers can gather data-driven insights to create buyer personas and validate the findings of more traditional research methods. With detailed personas in hand, new and existing content can be targeted and personalized to engage the appropriate audience.
Even an initial exercise to develop three personas—the final authority, researcher, and influencer—with general business keywords is a great starting point for personalizing content. Then, expand those personas over time, using both keyword research and traditional methodologies.
Get started by using the form below to get a copy of our exclusive B2B Buyer Persona Worksheet. It will help you track and organize your insights, and turn them into highly targeted, effective content ideas.