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Ranking well in B2B search – what makes successful content?

According to SiriusDecisions, 67% of the B2B buyer’s journey is now completed digitally, and this begins with being found through initial online searches. Achieving this is therefore critical.

At a basic level Google (and other search engines) are always looking for genuine quality content, and are increasingly smart at finding (and dismissing) pages that try to game the system. Here at Searchmetrics we’ve identified five key factors that B2B marketers need to focus on if they want to produce content that search engines will recognise as high quality:

1.    Comprehensive content
In the past, the strategy for SEO was to try to make the content of every web page focus around a single keyword phrase or search term. Now things are changing because Google’s Hummingbird algorithm means the search engine is now better able to understand the meaning and intent of a search query.

So rather than just matching the words in a searcher’s queries with pages that use the same keywords, Google tries to find pages that best answer the searcher’s intention (which means that old SEO tricks such as simply stuffing your pages with target keywords or creating single pages for specific keywords no longer work).

Our data indicates that content which comprehensively covers a topic tends to rank better and score more highly for a greater number of keywords at the same time. So you should think in terms of content clusters – a group of closely related topics that holistically cover the topic.

A good way of doing this is to look at content in terms of proof terms and relevant terms, as both have a strong positive correlation with high Google rankings. For example, for a search term such as “accounting software” proof terms such as “tax” or “financial management” are words that are strongly related to the primary keyword and highly likely to appear at the same time. Relevant terms such as “payroll” or “bookkeeping” are a bit more removed and part of a sub-ordinate topic cluster but still important. 

2.    Longer content on the page
When we analysed the factors that correlate with pages that rank highly in Google in 2012, we found that having a higher number of words on a page had a negative correlation. That began to change in 2013, and the trend continues; our most recent Ranking Factors study found that the average length of a top ranking result is now around 975 words/8,313 characters. Obviously this is not just a question of writing more words – search engines are looking for quality content that is relevant and contains content clusters, rather than unconnected, single keywords.

3.    Content that is easy to read
Google now considers how easy or difficult it is to read pages when delivering results. To test this we used the Flesch readability scale, which analyses word and sentence length, to assess the legibility of content. The scale ranges from 0 (difficult) to 100 (easy) and we found that the average Flesch score for high ranking pages is 73/74. For reference, the scale states that content between 60-70 is easily understood by 13-15 year old students. However if the search query is more specialist, as can be the case in some areas of B2B marketing, results may be slightly different. Therefore you need to understand who your target audience is, and to then create content that fits their specific search intention and needs.

4.    Reduced on-page advertising
According to our analysis, sites that rank in the top 30 positions generally include less advertising than average. This continuing change reflects the desire from people to find and read holistic content, rather than be distracted by advertising. While this is less of an issue for many B2B sites, as they don’t carry advertising, those that do need to bear this in mind.

5.    The importance of images
Google appears to view photos and videos favourably when it comes to ranking content. The top ten ranked sites in Google’s search results tend to have between 6-8 images on a page for example. Therefore, whatever sector you are in, ensure your content has relevant, high quality images or videos, which increase the time users spend on your site.

B2B marketers have long understood that good quality content is critical to being found online. Google agrees – meaning that if you want to achieve strong, long lasting search visibility then creating a regular stream of high quality content for your target audiences has to be a key part of your strategy.