The Importance of SEO for B2C Businesses
Because of advances in digital technology in recent decades, there has been a significant shift in B2C marketing strategy from physical retail to e-commerce. Marketing messages can be channeled through search engine optimization (SEO) now. Customers are spending most of their time on the internet, which means search engines are the starting and ending point for most buyer’s journeys.
Given the number of sites, the amount of content, and the ubiquity of advertisements, the biggest challenge in B2C marketing these days is reaching and engaging your customers. Attention is the asset. Your target audiences are doing everything they can to break through the noise and distraction to find reliable sources of good information that solve their problems faster and more effectively.
SEO is partly built on comprehensive market research and the opportunity to get to know the search intent of your customers based on data from the keywords they utilize and the types of content they prefer to consume. This means you can engage with them at the right time with perfectly tailored, personalized messages that serve to educate, generate further demand for your brand, and ultimate yield conversions for your line of products and services.
Structured Data Markup Opportunities
Structured data is the preferred language of communication between internet content and Google’s Search Bots. When websites markup their content with this machine-to-machine learning language, Google rewards this action with a new organic search experience called rich results which embed features like FAQs, How-Tos, Ratings, and Reviews directly in the search results alongside the standard blue link. There are currently over 30 rich result types and almost all of them are applicable and valuable to B2C businesses.
Layering your website content with structured data markup and qualifying for rich results is one of the best ways to stand out from the competition in search results. These enhanced features help make your business the preferred option for customers to shop because you are effectively satisfying their queries faster and accomplishing more of the research and purchasing phases of their customer journeys directly on the results page.
Think about the value of showing smarter content like a list of frequently asked questions or product pricing and availability embedded below the blue link. Think of the benefit of capitalizing on user-generated content that does the marketing for you like ratings and reviews positioned similarly on the search results page. These enhancements significantly distinguish your results from other links that customers are scrolling through, generate more impressions, and encourage more click-throughs to your site.
SEO is such an interesting and special channel versus your typical paid media channels. You know, it drives the best new customers, it always has the highest ROI — I could go on and on about why it’s so important.Huckabuy Founder-CEO Geoff Atkinson
SEO for the B2C Conversion Funnel
A conversion funnel represents the process that consumers go through when making a purchasing decision and ultimately converting into a customer. Prospects drop off along the way, resulting in the funnel’s inverted shape. With B2C, your target customer is an individual, meaning the sales cycle is typically very short or even spontaneous, the products/services tend to be less expensive, and people are often looking to buy something to fulfill an immediate need. In general, there is a short window to influence an individual’s purchasing decision.
SEO is key to holding consumers’ attention and convincing them that your brand will fulfill their needs faster with better results. Below are SEO strategies for each stage of the B2C funnel:
Top of the Funnel: Awareness
At the top of the funnel, most B2C consumers are “window shopping” — they’re looking at a wide range of products that could fulfill their needs. You want your brand to gain visibility and get on your target audience’s radar. So how do you ensure that consumers will find you when looking for a product?
The SERPs are your first point of contact with potential customers. Start with keyword research to determine user intent around products/services that your business offers. Pay attention to the exact words consumers are using to search for things — make sure there’s no disconnect between what you are calling your products and what people are actually searching for. Optimize your URLs, title tags, and meta descriptions using your target keywords.
For local businesses, make sure that you have claimed your Google My Business listing and populated it with all relevant information including address, hours of operation, contact information, and product/service categories.
Middle of the Funnel: Consideration
Now that someone knows about your brand, this is the period where they are considering whether or not to purchase from you. Middle of the funnel consumers are extremely valuable — they’re eager to make a purchase, but not yet sure where to purchase from. This is where you really want your brand to stand out. What do you offer that’s better than the competition?
Ratings and reviews are key in the B2C consideration phase. Have you ever bought something without first looking at reviews? Most people wouldn’t. This is where structured data becomes a powerful tool for convincing users to buy from your brand.
These days, most people are able to do their shopping directly in the SERPs. When you search for something to buy, like “running shoes,” listings come up right away. Structured data powers these enhanced listings with things like ratings, reviews, FAQs, and other product information.
Structured data helps you stand out from the competition because you are able to satisfy consumers’ queries faster, providing them with all the information they need to make a purchase without them having to leave the SERPs.
Bottom of the Funnel: Conversion
At this final stage of the buying journey, customers are very close to making a purchase. They’ve narrowed down what they want to buy, looked at ratings and testimonials, and now they just have to buy it from you.
The customer is likely considering one or two other companies to purchase from. To ensure they’ll pick you, it’s helpful to look at your competition. What type of bottom of the funnel strategies are they using? Do they have videos for their products, or detailed blog posts?
Once the consumer decides to buy from your business, you want to make their last step as frictionless as possible. Maybe that’s reducing the amount of steps it takes to complete a purchase, ensuring there aren’t any intrusive pop-up ads, or incentivizing them with first-time customer benefits (free shipping, $10 off your first purchase, a 15% off coupon, etc.).
After a customer makes a purchase, you want to retain customer loyalty — and even better, have them become an advocate for your business. Whether that’s through a referral program, encouraging reviews, or signing up for a newsletter with offers and perks. Keep providing value, and they’ll keep purchasing from you.
B2C Marketing in a Pandemic
Adapt Your SEO Strategy for COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis is upending much of what we take for granted as “normal.” Business leaders across industries are doing their best to steer their organizations, big and small, through this tumultuous environment. While some B2C companies are seeing huge sales increases with the fluctuating spending habits of people in coronavirus lockdown, others are struggling with people limiting their purchases to essential items. Businesses need something that will help them now and later. SEO is the answer: it strengthens your brand visibility, develops customer loyalty, and delivers a great ROI as it brings in organic traffic and revenue over the long haul. Here are five things your B2C company can do to pivot its SEO strategy during the coronavirus era:
1. Embrace technical SEO
No matter how exceptional your content and website are from a user-experience perspective, all that effort may be wasted if search bots can’t crawl and index your web pages. Focus on adding technical SEO to your toolkit. Google-backed initiatives like structured data and dynamic rendering help search engines understand the content and context of your site. They are able to crawl and index your website quickly and gather the most relevant content to display in the search results. And there’s another huge perk: by implementing structured data, your web content qualifies for rich results like FAQs, product availability and price, ratings, and reviews. This makes your site stand out to customers making a purchasing decision, and entices them to click through to your site.
2. Optimize local SEO
While many brick and mortar businesses remain closed, make sure your customers can still find you. An easy first step is to claim your Google My Business listing and add as much detailed information to it as you can. New hours? Take-out and delivery? Appointment only? These will indicate to customers that while it might not be business as usual, you’re still open for business. Additionally, having a business page with Google sets you up for success in getting customer reviews, photos, and videos, which all help to increase your visibility in the search results.
3. Hone your keyword strategy
Revisit your target keywords. What are your customers searching for more that you can give them? With some adjustments to your content, you can capture more of your target audience’s attention. Realize that some people simply don’t have room in their budgets to purchase your product right now, but all that SEO work will help your brand stay relevant and encourage customer loyalty when we make it to the other side of this.
4. Help customers feel secure
Double-check the security of your website. Do you have an SSL certificate? When customers see that padlock on your website, they’ll be more at ease knowing that their information is safe. If you don’t have one, consider joining a content delivery network, which sends your information in HTTPs even if you don’t have SSL encryption.
5. Rethink your messaging
You don’t have to change your entire brand identity to adjust your content and messaging to be appropriate in the coronavirus landscape. The bottom line is to treat customers with empathy and avoid being tone-deaf. Think about how your products and services can help people in this time. Can they relieve some stress, or make staying at home more enjoyable? Are they reminders of a return to normalcy that can give people hope for the future? If you figure out what you can offer that no other business can right now, you’ll be positioned for success now and in the future.
B2C Predictions for 2021
Here at Huckabuy we’re keeping our eyes on the future. What B2C trends emerged out of the coronavirus pandemic that are here to stay? How can SEO help businesses ride out the uncertainty and build a strong foundation for the future?
Some aspects of stay-at-home will become habit
Over the past months, we’ve developed new interests and routines that may be in place for quite some time, especially as the world embraces work from home. We saw how everyone started baking bread, doing at-home workouts, and planting gardens. Lots of businesses have stepped up to make staying at home more enjoyable. From restaurants putting together DIY meals where people can cook their favorite menu items from home, to retail shops crafting care packages that they’ll deliver to your door, we’ve seen a lot of creativity and adaptability from B2C businesses. These innovative ways of delivering products and experiences to customers can and should continue in the future.
Customers value transparency and trustworthiness now more than ever
Anything you can do to make customers feel more safe, secure, and valued is critical. Adding SSL security and HTTPS protection to your website, making the refunds/returns process simple, and having a solid bank of ratings and reviews all contribute to customers’ feelings of security when they interact with your brand.
The growth of online shopping will only continue, and technical SEO can help
Businesses that aren’t already optimized for online shopping and ordering need to be. This is where technical SEO really comes in — by ensuring your website can be easily found and understood by Google, you’ll be rewarded with better organic search performance. Structured data markup, for example, qualifies your content for rich results, which are critical for B2C companies in the online space. Think ratings, reviews, product availability, FAQs, and pricing. Most shopping now takes place directly in the search results, and without rich results, your products simply won’t be as enticing to consumers.
Promotions and offers will be key in attracting price-sensitive customers
The full economic ramifications of COVID-19 remain unknown, but what’s certain is that many people are being forced to alter and restrict their spending habits due to employment volatility and other factors. Of course, your company can’t be running promotions for the rest of eternity, but you can strategically use deals and offers to draw in new customers and reward long-term loyalists.
Customers are paying extra attention to brand values and social responsibility
It’s a good thing for this world that people are holding businesses to a higher standard of accountability. Customers aren’t just looking for company-issued statements of solidarity — they’re looking for action, and they love to feel part of the action (say, for example, that part of their purchase goes to charity). Consumers may stay at the top of the funnel longer as they do more research to determine which company’s values match their own.
B2C Marketing Examples
Podcasts, Case Studies, and More
You can’t get anywhere in e-commerce without being an SEO ninja.Huckabuy Founder-CEO Geoff Atkinson
Podcast Talk: SEO and B2C
Huckabuy’s Founder and CEO, Geoff Atkinson, used to be the SVP of marketing at Overstock. In a recent podcast, Geoff told the story of how he used SEO to transform Overstock’s business and help drive profits:
As one of the first big ecommerce players, Overstock dramatically changed its marketing strategy to become the home and garden company it’s known for today. The shift happened when Geoff first heard the word “SEO” and realized that by making some technical changes to the website, Overstock would bring in a lot more organic search traffic.
Geoff spearheaded keyword research to figure out where there was unmet demand in various ecommerce categories. At the time, there were plenty of successful brick and mortar businesses like Crate & Barrel and Bed Bath & Beyond, but none of them were focusing on their online presence and digital sales. Geoff and his team figured out that there were tons of people searching for home and garden goods, and not a lot of competition in the search results. They realized the opportunity they had and quickly built product pages in the home and garden categories and developed a supply chain to support it.
Say you found a keyword with really low competition but high volume, that was my story from Overstock and why we moved into the furniture business — at the time, all the retailers were big box retailers that weren’t playing online, so Overstock became this home and garden company strictly based on keyword research.Huckabuy Founder-CEO Geoff Atkinson
Overall, SEO grew from zero to a $300 million channel, and Overstock’s entire business model moved into the home and garden industry. It’s a great example of how smart marketing research and SEO can transform your business.
Podcast Talk: Keyword Research for B2C
Recently, Geoff was asked a question: If you’re an e-commerce brand, and you’ve got some funding and are about to launch, what would be some of the SEO tactics you would immediately start to use? Here’s what he answered:
“So, first thing is always keyword research, which is lame to say, but good keyword research and understanding what people are searching for that’s relevant to your business is so important. And not only is it important, but it actually can change your business. So I’ll give you an example with Overstock.
When I got there we were electronics, jewelry, and watches, and Overstock was a total hustle buyers place. But as we got smarter, we had SEO analysts that saw the opportunity in the home and garden category. Back in 2007, when it came to furniture, bedding, etc., all those brands that were participating in that space were big box retailers. They were retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, JCPenney, and Target, and at the time, they didn’t have much of an online strategy. And an online retailer was all we were. So we were like, “There’s a ton of people searching for this stuff, and there’s no one doing it right.”
And now if you think of Overstock over 100% of their profits come from the home and garden category — they’re known as a home and garden company. That transition of Overstock from electronics, jewelry, and watches to a home and garden company was based on nothing other than good keyword research. We figured out that we could take advantage of this huge opportunity. All these companies were basically ripping off the American public by charging just through-the-roof on furniture and stuff, so we moved into these categories and they just took off. So that’s kind of an extreme example of how important keyword research is. Everybody that’s shopped at Overstock probably has a piece of furniture or bedding in their house, and that was all done by SEO and good keyword research. After a while, whenever you would search for anything in the bedding or anything furniture categories, what would you see? Overstock, Overstock, Overstock all the time. If you do that hundreds of millions of times a month, people start to think of you as a furniture company and a home garden company. So that’s one kind of extreme scenario.
You can learn a ton about your business, and you can actually change your business based on keyword research. It’s so much easier to take demand that’s out there already, and then provide a product that suits that demand versus inventing a product and trying to stuff it down people’s throats. That doesn’t work as well.Huckabuy Founder-CEO Geoff Atkinson
Here’s another example. We saw this keyword called “black end tables.” That’s a really random keyword, right? We didn’t have any “black end tables.” So we told our partners to start painting some of their end tables black, and we created a $5 million category overnight just by finding that people are searching for it. So you can learn a ton about your business, and you can actually change your business based on keyword research. It’s so much easier to take demand that’s out there already, and then provide a product that suits that demand versus inventing a product and trying to stuff it down people’s throats. That doesn’t work as well. So call things what they’re supposed to be called — call things what people search for. Doing keyword research can change your business super fast. So once your keyword research is done, then it’s about architecting the site. Ask yourself, “What does the navigation look like?”
To speak to the e-comm community, if you’re not doing SEO, good luck. It’s near impossible. It’s so competitive. Almost every great e-commerce brand has been built on SEO. Like that’s how they got there. Amazon and eBay are arguably the two best e-commerce sites in the world when it comes to SEO. They just kill it. You could really argue that Amazon is built on SEO.”
Podcast Talk: Paid and SEO Work Together In Branding
Appearing at the top of a search results page is a fantastic branding opportunity and you can use SEO as a way to measure overall brand awareness.
Our CEO shared his thoughts on the Secrets of Marketers Podcast on paid channels vs. SEO and how the two can work together to form and measure branding:
“So paid advertising still works, right? Like the way that I view paid is twofold. One is branding, which is measured by how many people search for your brand or your brand name every single month. And that is such an important metric that no one tracks. Count up how many come through on SEO; how many come through paid — because a lot of people bid on their brand terms — and then how many people actually just type your name directly in the URL and just go directly to you. Add those three things up, and watch that number over time. That’s how we would measure branding: we answered “How relevant are we?” by first asking “How many people are searching for us a month?
Whether you’re doing TV, radio, print ads, display advertising or whatever it is, measuring your search traffic will give you a sense of how effective your branding is.”
B2C Case Study: Invited Home
Invited Home is a vacation rental company focusing on winter getaway destinations in the mountain west. They are a great example of a company leveraging SEO to improve their marketing.
When you visit the Invited Home website, one of the elements that really stands out is their header and dropdown navigation. It is very descriptive, robust, and intuitive to follow. It reflects the terminology their customers use when making searches.
If you hover over the section on Vail, as shown in the screenshot, you can view vacation homes for rent organized by neighborhood, as well as a long list of things to do in town during your stay.
Their team has done an excellent job mapping out this element of the site and building content that generates demand from their target market.
They have also done an excellent job targeting and claiming high search volume, featured snippet-applicable keywords and phrases their target market is using in search. As a result, for searches like “weekend in Lake Tahoe,” “Park City day trips,” and “vrbo vs Airbnb” they have captured position zero and positioned themselves prominently at the top of the funnel for these winter vacation-related topics.
They have also taken important steps to align with Google’s most important technical SEO initiatives. For example, they have leveraged structured data markup on property level content to qualify for rich results like ratings and reviews that help drive click engagement and conversions.
The E-Commerce Case for Structured Data Markup
Marking up content with structured data is one of the “low-hanging fruit” SEO tactics every e-commerce business should adopt. Structured data qualifies your content for rich results which eliminate friction in the customer journey and significantly distinguish your organic listings from the competition. This is critical in e-commerce settings where most shoppers have visual preferences and websites need to display as much imagery and interactive content as possible in the search results to increase the quantity and quality of traffic to their pages. Rich results help improve business credibility, set up user expectations, clearly identify the remaining content on the website, and resolve various questions and pain points in the buying process faster than ever before.
Shown below are excerpts of a test of Invited Home’s Property Management page using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool and the associated markup types that have qualified for rich results in search.
Invited Home indicates to Google the customer reviews that are present on their property management page:
Invited Home tells Google everything it needs to know about the property management service it offers:
E-Commerce schema is a specific class of structured data markup that informs Search Bots about all the important e-commerce-related details on a webpage and qualifies that content for rich results in search, which give shoppers the ability to research, rate, compare, and even purchase products and services directly on the results page. It is a serious competitive advantage for your business. Think about it. If a customer is scanning the search results page and sees your blue link enhanced by ratings, reviews, product information, and pricing while the following link for your competitor is generic, which one are they more likely to click?
E-Commerce schema encompasses a number of different structured data markup types including product, ratings, reviews, pricing, availability, logo, business name, address, and description among other elements. You want to be exhaustive in accounting for all of this information and including it in your markup to secure Google’s understanding of your website and to qualify for as many applicable rich results as possible as shown below.
Rich Results for B2C
- Product markup. Markup as much of your product content as possible to show information like dimensions, size, color, photos, and other applicable elements directly on the search results page.
- Ratings and Review markup. Selling a product without reviews and ratings online is difficult. Incorporating ratings and reviews in the search results signals quality and a good reputation.
- Pricing markup. Most customers are comparison shoppers determining what they want at the best possible price point. Prominently displaying this information in the search results demonstrates good faith and satisfies related queries faster.
- Video markup. Not everyone likes to read. That’s why it’s important to have videos showing tutorials, product or service demonstrations, and explainers directly on the search results page.
- FAQ markup. Having answers to the questions of your target audience readily available on the search results page raises your topical authority and increases qualified traffic to your website.
- Local Knowledge Panel Features. Elements like phone number, hours, address, maps, reservations, ordering, and photos of the business can be listed directly on the search results page. In today’s fast-paced world, displaying all of that information on the search results page offers instant visibility to your brand and obscures ads that would otherwise populate on the right-hand side of the page.
Frequently Asked Questions
B2C means business to consumer. A B2C company is one whose customers are individuals.
The strategies and tactics businesses use to promote products and services to individual people. One of the most important elements of a B2C marketing strategy is the use of search engine optimization (SEO) to reach, communicate with, and convert your target audience into customers.
In B2C marketing, there are fewer decision-makers involved, the sales cycle is typically much shorter if not spontaneous, the products and services tend to be less expensive, and customers are often seeking solutions to immediate needs. Overall, there is a smaller window to influence consumer behavior.
B2C SEO is the process of reaching target customers through organic search. The best B2C SEO fulfills a purchasing need directly in the search results.