Life’s hectic.  Sometimes though it’s sensible to take a step back.  To contemplate whether the things we’re doing are the right things; that we’re working not just hard, but smart.

With this philosophy in mind we’ve partnered with B2B Marketing Magazine to compile a series of benchmarking reports.  Reports which explore different marketing activities and give an insight into questions that we’d all love to know.  How are my peers allocating their budgets?  What tactics deliver greatest success?  How are they tackling key challenges?

The latest in the series concerns B2B Search Marketing and in this post I’d like to share some highlights.

A more detailed exploration can be found in a webcast featuring Circle’s Andrew Dalglish and SEO expert Gifford Morley-Fletcher here – B2B search marketing webcast.

One of the most striking findings from the research is how digital has altered the marketing landscape.  The two most commonly used techniques in the modern B2B marketer’s armoury are now Email and Search.  Ten years ago Trade Shows, Direct Mail and Print would have topped the list.  It would be a mistake though to assume that ‘traditional’ techniques are dead.  Rather what we’re seeing is an integrated approach with 75% of B2B marketers using five or more channels.

Within the digital mix, the importance of Search is clear with two fifths (41%) expecting it to become significantly more important in 2011.

The primary driver of this growth is commercial.  Search is being used to drive interaction via the web rather than through more expensive, resource intensive channels.  This approach is also likely to be a reflection of the growing preference amongst B2B buyers to use the web for certain types of activity and increasing interest in online communities.  One note of caution though.  The web is clearly a valuable tool but most B2B markets have one defining feature; relationships.  To build these there’s no substitute for personal interaction.

The growing role of the web in B2B buying decisions is also reflected in the second growth driver.  Search is seen as core to brand visibility and for many their goal is quite simply being seen.

The third driver is confidence.  B2B marketers report a better understanding of Search and, now they’re suitably equipped, have bigger plans.

How then are search profiles being enhanced?

Core is content optimisation for keywords, an activity undertaken by three quarters (76%) in the last 12 months.  Interesting is the flip side to this.  One quarter (24%) have adopted keywords but haven’t reviewed optimisation recently.  This could suggest one of three things.  New content is carefully designed with keyword ratios in mind, new content is being added without keyword density checks or content is simply not refreshed.  The latter two of course may well negatively impact search rankings.

The use of content to build natural links emerges as the second most frequently deployed tactic (used by 61%).  Here the value of thought leadership becomes clear.  It not only supports brand positioning and engagement but also provides valuable ‘link bait’.

Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) thought leadership and PR research.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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