24.11.2022

B2B, SEO

B2B Keyword Research: How to Find the Best Keywords
  • / Intro to B2B keyword research
  • / Three types of B2B searchers
  • / Step 1: Keyword research, research
  • / Step 2: Organise keywords (Free template)
  • / Step 3: Find keywords for your product
  • / Step 4: Find keywords for your content
  • / Summary

Keywords are one of the most important ingredients of the B2B SEO recipe.

And doing keyword research incorrectly will lead you down the wrong path.

You’ll produce the wrong content. Which will either…

(a) Drive no traffic, or
(b) Generate the wrong leads.

B2B companies want more organic traffic and keyword research will help you achieve this in the most efficient way.

It’s carried out at the beginning of a campaign and what you find dictates your whole SEO strategy.

In this guide, we explain:

  • What is keyword research?
  • How to organise your keywords
  • How to find the best keywords

Lets’ go! First up…

What is keyword research?

Every day, billions of people are searching online using search engines. Asking a wide range of questions, trying to find answers and solve their problems.

Keyword research helps you better understand this process.

Using certain tools and tactics, you can see all of the phrases potential customers are searching for to fix their pain points and find companies like yours.

And you’ll be able to see the average number of times this phrase has been searched on Google.

However, there is so much more to B2B keyword research than search volumes.

Good B2B keyword research will include:

  • How difficult to rank for the keyword?
  • What stage of the funnel it relates to?
  • How much of a priority it is for your business?

Keyword research dictates your whole SEO strategy.

Helping you uncover key insights to get the most out of your SEO efforts.

But…

What makes a good keyword for B2B companies?

The dream situation would be…

  • High search volume
  • Highly relevant (to your business and goals)
  • Low difficulty (low competition in search results)

That would be the dream keyword!

But it rarely ever happens like this. The second best would be:

  • High search volume
  • Highly relevant to your business (and goals)

One word of warning…

What makes a keyword good for one business, doesn’t make it good for another.

Your ICP (or personas), and your offering, will influence what makes a “good” keyword for you.

However, before you write off a keyword for having low search volume, think twice…

Zero volume keywords…

These keywords play an important role in B2B SEO. They don’t show up in SEO tools because the tool thinks they have a low search volume and are unimportant.

But, contrary to traditional SEO belief, this doesn’t make these keywords any less important.

Check out this amazing video on the topic to see why you shouldn’t ignore them:

Next, let’s understand the different types of searchers.

Three types of B2B searchers:

Before we dive into finding keywords, it helps to understand three types of B2B searchers.

These are…

(1) Problem aware
(2) Solution aware
(3) Product aware

(1) Problem aware

These searchers know they have a problem, searching online around their various pain points. Trying to learn more about the thing that’s keeping them awake at night.

Think of a marketing manager, wondering how to increase the number of quality leads.

A search on Google for this could be…

  • “How to generate more leads for B2B company”
  • “How do I build a website that converts?
  • “Why are we getting the wrong leads?”
  • “Why is my website not converting?”

The marketing manager is searching around their problem, trying to learn more.

They are problem aware. Next…

(2) Solution aware

After some research, problem-aware searchers slowly become solution-aware.

They are learning about the different solutions to their problem. Comparing options and trying to decide which is the best route for them.

Using the marketing manager example from above, they could search for:

  • “Is SEO or PPC best for B2B lead generation?”
  • “Are LinkedIn ads goods for B2B leads?”
  • “Is SEO good for B2B lead generation?”

And once they have decided on a solution, they become…

(3) Product aware

The searcher is now aware of the potential solutions and might have one or a few in mind.

Next, they’ll do some shopping to find the best product.

In the example above, the marketing manager may decide SEO is the best course of action for their company. So she starts to search for:

  • “B2B SEO agency london”
  • “B2B SEO service”

Or, she may realise that she only needs one aspect of SEO, so searches for:

  • “B2B link building company”
  • “B2B content marketing agency”

This will all depend on her initial problem and what she uncovered during the solution research. Which influenced her on what product to find.

(Read that sentence again and keep it in mind – we’ll refer back to this in a second.)

Okay, but…

Aware-this… aware-that… Why’s this important?

When doing keyword research, you need to find keywords for all awareness stages:

  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Product

Many B2B companies just try to product-aware keywords that map to the bottom of the funnel. Creating pages for their products or services and nothing else.

This will only get you so far!

Only a small percentage of customers are product aware. So if you focus your efforts here, you’re missing out on all of the problem and solution-aware traffic.

A well-balanced SEO strategy targets keywords at all stages. Especially the solution-aware stage.

(Remember the sentence we read twice, above. This is why it’s important…)

Because this lets you catch the user’s attention higher up the funnel. Educating them and explaining why your approach is best. You can control the narrative.

So, let’s get going…

Step 1: Keyword research, research

Don’t dive in just yet! There’s some important research you need to do before you begin your keyword research.

That’s right, keyword research, research 😎

There are three key steps to give your keyword research some direction:

(1) Speak to your customers

I know, I know. This suggestion gets banded about a lot… “Speak to your customers!”

But it can help kickstart and focus your research, I would ask them:

  • What are their biggest pain points?
  • What solutions are they aware of?
  • Why did they pick your product?

(2) Speak to other teams internally

Speak to your customer service team and sales reps. If you’re a small company, speak to the person who oversees this – it could be the same person!

These people are on the front line with customers and will regularly hear about the real issues they are facing.

Sales reps will understand the customer’s pain points, know about other solutions, and what objections they have. All of this can feed into your research:

  • What customers do we help?
  • What industries are they in?
  • What other solutions are on the market?

Customer service will have key information on the problems customers face with your product. Which can feed into your keyword research and the content you create.

  • What problems do customers have with our product?
  • Why do customers leave us or cancel?

(3) Create a seed list of keywords

Taking the research results from above, you can then create a seed list. This essentially outlines all of the areas you’re going to dive into when doing keyword research.

Brainstorm some different areas to look at. In B2B, this is quite often:

  • Product-aware (service or product page)
    • “Link building agency”
  • Solution-aware
    • “Is SEO or PPC best for B2B lead generation?”
  • Problem-aware
    • “Why are we getting the wrong leads?”
  • Industry
    • “SaaS link building”
  • Location
    • “B2B SEO agency london”

I’ve added a screenshot below. In short, it’s a tab on the first page of your spreadsheet that lists out areas to look at, a tick box, and then notes.

You will add to this document as you go through the keyword research.

A screenshot of a free keyword research template for SEO.

Step 2: Organise your keywords (Free template)

One of the most important steps, as you build out your keyword research, is organisation.

Do this as you go along and you’ll save time in the long run.

You can access our free keyword research template here.

Seed list:
This is to keep our keyword research on track. All of the keyword ideas we found during the research stage, they get listed here.

Search volume:
The reason we’re all here… how many times a month is your keyword entered into Google?

Keyword Difficulty (tool):
Different tools (such as Ahrefs and SEMrush) will give you a number on a scale of 1 to 100 for how difficult it is to rank for a keyword. Take these with a pinch of salt, it’s always best to manually review the search results yourself.

Keyword Difficulty (manual):
I’d score this on a scale of 1 to 10 – how difficult do you think it will be to rank for this keyword? Things that come into play is the authority of the competing websites ranking in the top 10 positions.

Search intent:
This helps us understand the purpose of a keyword. Is the user wanting to learn more (informational) or do they want to buy now (transactional)?

SEMrush checks this automatically for you now, they assign each keyword to a category: Informational, Navigational, Commercial, and Transactional. You can read more on that here.

Stage of the funnel:
Closely related to search intent, what stage of the funnel does the keyword relate to? This could be top of funnel (TOFU), middle of funnel (MOFU), or bottom of funnel (BOFU).

Hub and spoke (clusters):
This is an essential part of keyword research, assigning keywords to certain categories (hub) and subcategories (spoke). You can read more about that here.

Notes:
A section to make notes for certain keywords as you progress through the research. I find this helpful as you may notice that Google returns the same search results for two different keywords.

Step 3: Find keywords for your product (service)

In this section, we’ll run through how to find keywords for your product or service.

These are bottom-of-the-funnel keywords, to target product-aware users. In short, people who are looking to buy.

This works for all B2B companies, even if you have a niche cybersecurity product, for example.

You’ll be able to find keywords using these two methods:

(a) Keyword-first method
(b) Search results method

(a) Keyword-first method

This method works for broader topics that you dig down into.

In short, you add a keyword directly to a tool and then go down the rabbit hole.

In this video, I run through it in more detail:

  1. Take a broad keyword topic from your seed list (e.g. “cybersecurity”)
  2. Add it directly to the Keyword Explorer tool in Ahrefs
  3. Explore sub-topics related to you (e.g. “cybersecurity for banks”)
  4. Add this subtopic to your seed list and explore it further

(b) Search results method

Works best with specific topics.

In short, put a keyword into Google and then find all of the keywords the topic ranking URL ranks for.

In this video, I run through it in more detail:

  1. Take a keyword topic from your seed list
  2. Type it into Google
  3. Copy the top result’s URL (not the featured snippet)
  4. Paste this URL into Ahrefs (in video) or SEMrush

Step 4: Find keywords for your content

This step will let you find keywords to then produce content for your website. This is an essential step for B2B companies.

Content plays a key role in B2B marketing to help raise brand awareness and bring users into your ecosystem.

These tend to be top and middle-funnel keywords, targeting problem and solution-aware users.

I run through one way you can find content keywords related to your business.

(a) Steal your competitor’s keywords (Quick)

I’d recommend all B2B companies do this. It’s a great way to uncover the keywords your competitors are ranking for.

You can then use this information to inform your own content strategy. However, don’t just follow it blindly. Some of the topics they rank for may not be relevant to your target user.

Next word of warning, your direct competitors may not rank well for any content keywords. So you may need to look further afield and at a variety of websites.

For example, an industry publication may rank for good content keywords so you can dig into their website for ideas.

In this video, I run through how to steal your competitor’s content keywords:

Summary

Keywords are one of the most important ingredients of the B2B SEO recipe.

And doing keyword research incorrectly will lead you down the wrong path.

Follow these steps to find the best keywords and use our spreadsheet to help organise them.

Done correctly, B2B keyword research is one of the best investments any marketing team can make to help give their SEO efforts guidance.

If you have any questions about this topic, please reach out to me using the form below. Or connect with me on LinkedIn.

Post Author
Stephen White, Director

Stephen started his career as an SEO, learning his craft at web design agencies and multinational media agencies. Working on household names such as Huggies, Old El Paso, and Birkenstock. In 2018, he took those years of experience and founded Spaced. A B2B marketing agency that helps marketing teams generate more qualified leads, to fill their pipeline, and ultimately grow revenue.