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Why SEO is Relevant When It Comes to B2B Thought Leadership

Posted on Jun 10th, 2013
Written by Lee Odden
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    b2b thought leadershipI’ll start this post off with my point: Dismissing search is ignoring demand from buyers & the media.

    A digital marketing exec I follow on Twitter shared a CMI article that posted this weekend: “Why SEO May Be Irrelevant When It Comes to B2B Thought Leadership”. As a long time realist about the role of search in online marketing, I wasn’t sure if this was simply linkbait or a well reasoned, data-informed argument.

    It’s a cliche to respond to “SEO is dead” articles because those writers are almost always uninformed or have an agenda unrelated to optimization. However, this post was on CMI, a highly respected site.

    The article does offer some great tips on building thought leadership including advice on academic and professional journal publishing, publishing on client-facing media outlets and public speaking opportunities.

    After that, it gets interesting starting with this logic: “getting found online is not an important objective in large, strategic B2B sales. And then, “the GTAA president’s job depends, in part, on knowing how to find an answer to the question”.

    Ironically, the article is about building thought leadership and credibility. Unfortunately  contradictions like the one above doesn’t help the author’s credibility.

    The author’s point: “…it’s not about “getting found.” It’s about “looking good” and “looking credible” to clients that are assessing the expertise of potential service providers.”

    I understand the value of creating great content relevant to the context of a particular buying experience. But how can you “look good” if no one involved in the buying cycle (or the media for that matter) can find you?

    Even in niche B2B scenarios like a category mentioned in the article, “remediation of contaminated soil”, has an audience using search to find information that can benefit companies and thought leaders in that industry.

    For example, search Google for “remediation of contaminated soil” and there are over 1 billion search results. The first page is a cornucopia of useful information from scholarly articles to videos to industry press. At the top are companies in the business of providing soil remediation services.

    If search visibility is in no way important to establishing credibility with niche B2B industries, then no one would be searching, right?

    A quick check of Google’s Keyword tool shows demand for hundreds of variations on “soil remediation and testing” for queries at different stages of the buying cycle:

    • soil testing 110,000
    • what is soil remediation 14,800
    • soil testing companies 1,000
    • soil remediation companies 200

    Even using simple data to identify search demand for niche topics seems a more reliable decision making process than dismissing a tactic out of hand based on – a contradiction.

    Another consideration is the effect of search visibility for members of the media doing research. Discovery of subject matter experts and story sources via search is a daily occurrence.

    “I begin every day at search engine. It doesn’t matter what story I’m working on, it always starts with a search.” Jason DeRusha, WCCO (CBS) TV News Reporter

    Inclusion in industry trade publications is highly credible as suggested by the author in their suggested tips for building thought leadership. Why not make it easy for the media, peers and even bloggers to find thought leadership content? The credibility of being “the best answer” is priceless – especially in combination with visibility in industry publications and public speaking.

    In fact, many B2B buyers will read thought leader content in trade publications and then Google people, companies and topics to drill down. Optimized content can play a role in all aspects of where and how niche B2B content is discovered.

    Search connects people with information at the moment they need it most.  Deciding to ignore that seems perilous.

    The article did have some good advice on building thought leadership for niche B2B markets, but why invest in thought leadership content and then dismiss making that content easy to find?