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Interview: That's how B2B companies successfully tackle SEO

An interview with Lionbridge Internet Marketing Manager Sandra Wendland

Search engine optimization (SEO) is hard work. If you want your web copy to rank highly and reach your target audience, inserting a few keywords here and there isn’t enough.

How do B2B companies successfully tackle SEO? Sandra Wendland, Internet Marketing Manager at Lionbridge, provides some interesting insights in a recent interview with Ursula Thomas-Stein.

Wendland explains how companies can offer existing and potential customers exactly the web content they are looking for. She emphasizes how important it is to understand the needs and interests of customers in order to find the right keywords. She also provides tips, tools and links essential to achieving successful SEO.

The following interview first appeared on the Text plus Konzept blog (in German only),
published here with permission.

Wherever we look today, people are reading. That also goes for the business-to-business (B2B) sector. There, texts riddled with keywords are considered a nuisance. But completely renouncing SEO isn’t the solution either.

Sandra Wendland: First, you need to consider the following questions: What’s the purpose of my web page or blog post? Which keywords will my target audience in the B2B sector use? What’s my call to action? Speed usually trumps everything else. At the company level, the issue is often “politicized,” as one department wants to monopolize attention. However, blog post statistics usually paint a different— not to say dispiriting—picture, registering only a few hits, if any, per month. And who gets blamed for it? “Digital,” of course. Because they got it all wrong.

How do you make sure that you get it right from the word “go” in the B2B arena?

Wendland: I think it’s a matter of all stakeholders talking to each other: product marketing, SEO experts, copywriters…You need to put your heads together and ask the right questions: How do we want to approach the market? What are the needs of people searching for content? What words and phrases are they searching for? Which questions do potential customers ask? Those questions must be answered, as they are the starting point for success. That’s also where I see most room for improvement in the B2B sector. It’s not just a matter of showcasing feature pages, proving your capabilities and showing how awesome you are; it’s also about demonstrating the benefits of your solutions to your customers’ problems.

Isn’t that where copywriters come into play?

Wendland: Absolutely—because well-written texts are essential. They go hand-in-hand with SEO and an excellent user experience.

Isn’t it crucial as well to put yourself in the shoes of your customers?

Wendland: Yes, precisely. “Know your customer” is key. I need to know exactly how my customer ticks. In terms of SEO, frequently-asked marketing questions are equally important: How does a customer look for information? What do they want exactly? How price-sensitive are they? Usually we develop a range of personas, giving them names, pictures and characteristics typical of our customers. We ask ourselves: How do they act? Do they use a desktop to search for providers, or should we rather treat them as mobile users? Do they use voice search? What would the first point of contact be—a phone call or maybe a download?

How do you come up with the best keywords?

Wendland: If you have direct access to your final customer, you can learn quite a lot about them. It’s best to document everything—and  I mean everything—you know about your customer and their interests. You then use these results to analyse what Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz, Google Search Console, Google Trends, Ryte.com, and other tools yield. This way you can do research on keywords and select those showing the greatest potential. Especially when it comes to more complex topics, you need to work with several keywords at a time or even with questions. It’s only after having gathered all this information that you can think about how you want to address the issue.

If I’m aiming for an expert blog – how often should I post?

Wendland: You do need a certain frequency: one blog post per week or every other week is reasonable. In terms of topics, you simply have to try it out and see what flies, i.e. what the target audience likes and needs. Sometimes you write about a topic thinking that it should rank highly—but it doesn’t. And other posts that you were not so sure of are well-received.

What’s the secret of ranking highly?

Wendland: Google’s ranking rules are the same for everyone. You can follow on-page SEO recommendations such as these. You need to search for keywords and insert them in the right places. And don’t forget about using internal hyperlinks. Naturally you should also build in as many external back links to subject-related websites as possible. It’s all about offering solid and useful content so that your target audience realizes, “Wow, here’s some great content!”

How about ads?

Wendland: It’s a common misconception that there’s no way around buying advertising. Ranking highly organically is hard work, and SEO is independent of paid search queries such as AdWords. As a small- or medium-sized enterprise wanting to create enough awareness, however, I would set aside some money for paid ads, on LinkedIn for example. That way you generate at least some traffic to the page you want. Actually, it’s a vicious circle: if only a handful of people know about you out there, you’re not going to rank.

SME’s usually have limited resources. They need to start small…

Wendland: True. But being small is also one of their greatest assets. When decisions have to be taken, the decision paths are short, and that’s definitely something you should cash in on for your website or social media. If you want to implement or try something, you’re in a position to react quickly.

What advice would you give to service providers?

Wendland: As a small engineering firm or digital agency you fall into the “also ran” category at a global level. Locally, however, you’re relevant. If you’re looking for customers in a particular geographical area, you should work with as many geographic keywords as possible. That’s also where “structured data” comes into play: you can list your company’s name, its address and key staff on the HTML page, which will then positively impact search results.

Last but not least: Why is it so important to have websites with page titles and meta descriptions?

Wendland: Because it’s the very first thing you see on a website, i.e. what’s shown on the search results page. If there are 20 matches on the first page, that’s where it will be decided what somebody clicks on. All too often, however, you’ll only see “Home” or “Sample Page” displayed. That’s not enough. Text referring to page titles and meta descriptions is extremely important for searchers. Here you need good and meaningful summaries of your page. You can find good examples here and another example here.

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