how to optimize ABM with SEO

Whether you’re just getting started with account-based marketing or you’ve been doing it for a while, you may be looking for new ways to maximize your efforts. One effective way to amplify the results of your ABM approach is to make sure it’s incorporated into your SEO strategy.

A strategic approach to SEO as part of an account-based marketing strategy increases personalization, drives engagement, and enables data-based decision-making. For these reasons, SEO and ABM are a perfect pairing:

1. SEO Helps Target and Personalize ABM Content

The first steps of any ABM approach should be defining your list of target accounts and identifying their internal stakeholders. Completing these tasks is critical for success with the next step: defining a personalized, targeted content strategy.

SEO shines here because it provides insight into what types of content key players at target accounts are looking for. In one sense, modern SEO was doing this kind of personalization long before ABM became widely practiced. Keyword and user intent research—core components of modern SEO—are highly effective practices for defining the types of content you need to create.

An SEO campaign starts by building a list of target keywords and analyzing them for user intent. Keywords will include products and services that are core to your brand and your industry, those you are already ranking well for in Google Search Console, terms used in your search function on your site, etc.

Analyzing user intent means typing those keywords into Google and studying the organic search results. Look for insights that answer the following questions:

  • Are users looking for information or products? If the results for your keyword searches are mostly definitions of the term or industry “how to” articles, that means the target audience is looking for information. If the results are mostly product pages, users are probably looking to purchase a solution.
  • Who is most likely consuming this content? If the language/tone is speaking to executive-level readers and content is more philosophical, those keywords are most likely being used by the C-suite. If the content is mostly detailed instructional articles, those terms are probably being used by lower-level influencers and practitioners.
  • Where does this information fall in the buyer’s journey? If it’s early-stage information, like definitions of key terms, the keywords are probably being used by someone at the very beginning of the buyer’s journey. If the content is more late-stage, comparing vendors or offering free trials, those keywords are more likely being used by audiences who are ready to make a decision.

Here is a piece of a user intent research that shows some of the insights that can be gained:

Insights from user intent research

To perform user intent research for your organization, group keywords that produce similar organic search results into composite groups and analyze them for user intent collectively. These insights can direct strategic recommendations for the types and topics of content that should be created or optimized to meet the needs of your target account segments.

As you expand your keyword strategy to include long-tail keywords (keywords that are four or more words), add your industry, physical location, and/or target audience as appropriate. Building out a list of long-tail keywords can start by adding, “for the finance industry,” “in Los Angeles,” or “for CFOs,” for example.

As your account-based marketing team prepares to create targeted, personalized content, user intent insights can help identify the language that your target account leads are using in organic search. It can also help plot content along each persona’s buying journey so each piece of content answers the right questions and presents an appropriate CTA.

2. SEO is Always an Optimal Channel

Once you’ve determined your target accounts and have personalized content to engage them, it’s time to determine the optimal channels for your campaigns. Every organization will prefer different channels, but organic search should always be a priority:

  • 71% of B2B decision-makers begin their journey with a general web search.
  • Users perform an average of 12 searches before visiting a specific brand’s site.
  • Google recently experienced 91% growth, over two years, in B2B researchers using mobile search throughout the entire path (not just the initial stages).

If your campaign content and landing pages aren’t optimized for search, you risk losing your target accounts to competitors who excel in the search engine results page (SERP). Start by making sure your technical SEO is clean and set up properly. Then, focus on engagement: make sure your content is educational, engaging, and popular.

3. SEO Helps Execute Targeted ABM Campaigns

Once you begin executing campaigns, the keyword and user intent research you conducted earlier will be crucial as you start mapping your targeted content to specific buyer journeys.

If you were going to map SEO-related keywords to a buyer journey, for example, it might look something like this:

keywords along the buyers journey

These user intent insights allow you to coordinate targeted ABM campaigns—starting with organic search, but crossing channels to wherever your audience can be found. Good, targeted content can easily be shared on your website, in emails, repurposed for various social channels, etc.

Use SEO best practices to execute campaigns that drive target account stakeholders further into the purchasing path with every engagement—both on your website and through your inbound and outbound campaigns.

4. SEO Provides Valuable Metrics for Optimizing ABM Campaigns

The final step of an ABM implementation is measuring, learning, and optimizing. Measuring the effectiveness of ABM campaigns requires a different approach than measuring broad-reaching marketing campaigns. Valuable ABM metrics focus on engagement and penetration, and these can be more difficult to measure—and report—than reach and lead volume metrics.

By adopting standard SEO metrics strategies, you can easily track the effectiveness of your ABM campaigns and the engagement they are driving:

  • Tag URLs for off-site campaigns using a tool like Google Tag Manager. Tags can be used to segment traffic in your analytics program, so you can see exactly how much traffic targeted ABM email and social campaigns are driving to your site. As traffic from these campaigns grows, you can measure and report an increase in awareness of your brand, products, and services among key players at target accounts.
  • Review bounce rates and % exit values for ABM campaign landing pages and other targeted/personalized content. High bounce rates signify that the page content is not driving visitors further into the funnel, and % exit values allow you to measure the percentage of visitors who left your site without performing another action. Low bounce rates and % exit values indicate that targeted stakeholders are interested in your content.
  • Set goals to measure changes in awareness and engagement over time. Determine the path you want key stakeholders to follow when arriving from a campaign, and set that path as a series of goals to measure and report on your ABM campaign effectiveness. Over time, you should see an increase in goal completions; if not, it’s time to investigate the issue and optimize your content/funnel to sustain engagement.

Measuring ABM campaigns can be simplified with a comprehensive marketing platform, but standard SEO metrics strategies provide an effective means of tracking important metrics in lieu of more advanced tools.

Adopting SEO for Successful Account-Based Marketing

The best practices of modern SEO seek to provide audiences with informative, targeted, quality interactions. In that way, SEO and ABM share many of the same goals and are powerful when paired.

If you’re just getting started with ABM, consider SEO in each step of your implementation. If you’ve been executing ABM for a while without satisfactory results, take a step back and consider how you can adopt SEO into your approach. Conducting basic keyword and user intent research is a great starting point. It allows you to identify where your content is missing the mark and provides detailed information on how to resolve the problem.

Are you practicing ABM? What other strategies are essential to your success?