There are a few things about SEO that frustrate many manufacturing companies.
Many newer industrial companies trying to make a dent in the market don’t understand what search engines are looking for.
When you’re a newer manufacturing company, and you see inferior products ranking above yours, it makes you want to pull your hair out.
This is probably what you’re thinking.
Why doesn’t Google rank our products higher? Our products are obviously better. This other company is ranking above ours, and I don’t understand why.
If you are competing against incumbent brands that existed decades before the internet, it’s likely you already have an uphill battle. Newer companies that started after the recession of 2008 generally don’t have as strong a brand as older companies. But by improving your website in the ways I’m going to tell you about, you stand a much better chance of winning the long-term battle for search results, rankings, and search traffic.
I think it’s very important for manufacturers to continue to do real world marketing. This includes activities like building distributor networks, going to trade shows, joining local Chambers of Commerce, and being involved in their community. But, where most industrial equipment companies need help is realizing how search engines evaluate the quality of a website.
#1: Understanding Searcher Intent
There are three factors that get overlooked most of the time when it comes to building websites and working on SEO.
Number one is focusing on searcher intent.
Some search terms are focused on the intent to buy a product. Other search phrases are usually typed with the intent to collect information.
The key is to identify what type of site you are building, then creating pages that match the search intent of your customers. Here’s what this means.
If many of your target keywords and search phrases are rooted in a buying intent, then your site must give people the ability to buy your products.
Look at the top ten search results for your target search terms. Are most of them shopping sites, or are they marketing sites focused on the company? My guess is, if you’re in B2B, that most of the top-ranking competitor sites are primarily e-commerce, shopping, or marketplace sites. People search certain phrases with the intent to buy a product.
Your web design company should anticipate what type of site you are trying to build, before any design takes place. SEO isn’t a garnish that you can sprinkle on a site once the design and development is done. It must be baked in the website from the beginning.
If your top-ranking competitors have home pages that show they are e-commerce sites, and your home page is a marketing page talking about your company, that could be one reason why you are getting destroyed in the search rankings.
The pages you are trying rank must match the searcher intent. If they don’t satisfy the needs of the searcher, you won’t rank very well.
Product Pages vs Informational Pages
Conversely, if you are trying to rank for a certain search phrase, and the top search results for that phrase are all informational pages, what should your strategy be? Your website should also have pages that match that user intent.
What is the most common search or intent for people who are Googling this search term? Do they want to buy a product, or do they want to learn more about how to use the product?
A good balance is to have an online knowledge base on how to use your equipment, and enough information on each product page for buyers to make an informed decision.
Search Engines Put Your Website in a Category
What’s a good way to determine how Google sees your site? In other words, do search engines put your site in the same category as competitor sites that are ranking for your target search terms?
One tool I use to evaluate sites that are ranking high for a given search term is SimilarWeb. What I like to do is take the top 20 sites that return for a given search term, run them through SimilarWeb, and see what category they fall in.
Most B2B manufacturing sites are going to fall into either Business and Industry or Shopping because people want to buy a product. (Even if it’s an industrial product, they still want to purchase it.)
By looking at what category most of your competitor sites fall into, then observing how their most popular pages are laid out, we can determine what pages your site should emphasize.
#2: Making Sure You Have The Right Content
That leads into the second thing that’s really misunderstood about SEO, which is site content.
Sites that are thin on content (essentially online brochures) will find it difficult to rank for competitive search terms. When your website is only a glorified business card, Google will not see a reason to rank it above your competitors.
So, what kind of content should you have on your site? And how much content will you need to move the needle in rankings?
Ideally, your website should answer any pre-sales questions your target customers will have.
Look at the companies that rank at the top of the search results, and you’ll find that almost all of them have a robust knowledge base in addition to sales pages.
You probably already know the questions many of your prospective buyers will ask. By creating pages, videos, and other content that answer those questions on your website you will multiply the number of keywords you can rank for.
When you only have sales and product pages, you limit the number of search phrases you can be found for. Look at each piece of content that you create for your site as an opportunity to be found in Google, and as a chance to answer a pre-sales question.
Consider your site content to be permanent assets that help you get discovered in search, performing the heavy lifting of answering buyer questions.
By getting inside the mind of your ideal buyer, and creating informational pages, you can drive organic inbound search traffic and possibly even get natural back links to your website. This will help push you higher in the search rankings. Like other successful B2B manufacturing and distribution sites, you should also be linking from your informational pages to your product pages wherever it makes sense.
#3: How Back Links Influence Your Ranking
The third, and perhaps most misunderstood part of SEO, revolves around external links back to your website.
Many SEO consultants preach that actively looking for back links to your site is spam, and should be approached with extreme caution. Our stance is that you should always be looking for links back to your website in places that make sense.
If a potential back link passes this one test, it should be considered a good link:
Would I build this link if search engines did not exist?
While it’s true that you need to be selective about what sites you get links from, building links in places where your customers might is always a good idea.
To clarify, back links are essentially like votes for your site. They tell Google that your site is important enough for people to be looking at it or mentioning it. If you want to rank high in local SEO, you’re going to want to have a lot of back links from sites in your city or your community. If you want to rank well for manufacturing search terms, it’s a good idea to have profiles on B2B manufacturing sites. Be in places where your customers already are.
Here’s a little secret. Many of the companies you are competing against for search rankings benefit from their tenure. Sites that have been around for decades are more likely to have had websites up and running since the early days of the web. They’ve probably been back linked not only from distributors, but from many of the early directories and marketplace sites.
Any manufacturing or industrial company that’s trying to grow needs to be savvy about link building. Manufacturing directories are a foundational tactic, but you also want to be looking for positive local press about your company, media mentions, links from distributors or partners, or other places where you can generate B2B business.
Sites that do not have a robust back link profile are going to have many challenges ranking well, no matter what their industry or vertical.
At this point, most companies understand you must have a website that’s mobile-friendly and user-friendly. You should be driving organic traffic with excellent content and links from relevant sites.
While there is a lot more to manufacturing SEO than just these things, these are essential if you want to rank at the top of Google.