The Science and Art of SEO for Manufacturing Companies

Ed Marsh | Oct 5, 2022

SEO for Manufacturing Companies is Complex, Strategic in Design, and Relentlessly Tactical in Execution

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP

Guide to episode

  1. Many industrial manufacturers are skeptical of SEO as a major business driver
  2. Building a robust program of SEO for manufacturing companies requires a commitment to content
  3. Reasonable expectations will support the gradual growth, and SEO only succeeds if other marketing and sales functions are also strong
  4. Successful manufacturing SEO is complex - just like your business

Transcript follows:

Hi, I’m Ed Marsh. Welcome to this episode of Signals from the OP. I create these brief videos every two weeks to provoke some thinking for industrial manufacturing company execs. If you know of one who you think might find some value, please share it with them.

Understandable Skepticism About SEO for Manufacturing Companies

Today we’re going to talk about SEO for manufacturing companies.

It’s funny. This seems to be a real lightning rod for business owners and senior execs that I chat with. There are more “consultants” out there peddling SEO advice and services than anything else.

Most companies have tried hiring one, and most haven’t seen any satisfactory results. Unsurprisingly then, those execs are profoundly skeptical both of consultants and of specific advice on SEO or search engine optimization, and therefore this important aspect of manufacturing marketing is poorly executed.

Let’s try to pull back the curtain on this topic to understand what’s required, why it’s so often problematic, and how to undertake it properly.

Setting Proper Manufacturing SEO Goals

When we talk about SEO for manufacturing companies we need to be clear about a couple of things.

What’s the goal?

What’s the timeline?

Companies undertaking marketing activities have a goal of growing revenue. That’s understood, but they don’t say that. People who focus on SEO normally have a goal of increasing rankings for key terms – both number and relative position. There’s a lot of empty space between those two.

Sure, it’s true that boosting rankings is a step toward increasing organic search lead generation, and then hopefully to projects and sales. But there’s no straight line. So we need to narrow that gap.

First SEO must boost rankings for terms that will attract the right potential buyers – website traffic that’s not a fit is at least net neutral if not negative. Then those buyers must be engaged, converted to leads so that sales can have an appropriate discussion at the right time, and then sold. None of those follow-on steps are a layup.

Second, the timeline and other work required must be clearly understood. It takes months to years to have a significant impact on the large body of key terms necessary to move the needle in terms of lead generation.

And SEO is built on content. Articles, press releases, videos, webpages and more are required, with fresh content published at frequent, consistent intervals. And the content to rank for a term is only one piece of the puzzle. There needs to be follow on content to deepen the visitor engagement and eventually to induce them to agree to share some of their information in exchange for even more detailed and insightful content from your side.

Creating that content takes a significant commitment and expertise. You can’t simply do a couple technical tweaks to improve SEO results for manufacturers.

So, any program of SEO for manufacturing companies must be built on realistic expectations. It must be executed according to a rigorously developed plan and never simply run in an ad hoc way. Let’s run through some key considerations.

Process Engineering for Manufacturing SEO

First, what terms should you optimize for?

This is a more complex question than it seems. There are various factors to consider including the monthly search volume, the relative difficulty of improving your results for that term, and what competitors rank for.

That’s where most analysis starts and ends and that’s the first problem.

Manufacturing SEO needs to be built on the questions that your prospects are asking Google – not what you normally like to talk about. In my experience that means it’s often focused on problems companies have using products, optimizing efficiency like OEE, reducing downtime, etc. It can be industry trends and other related topics.

Therefore, while most companies build a list of product terms, and a few add problem and solution type terms, you effort needs to go well beyond that.

If you’re a company that makes machines for food process or packaging, like many of my clients, then you’d want to rank for terms including food ingredients, sustainability, quality and food safety. That means you must research creatively – for instance understand key terms that publishers, extension programs, regulators, and trade associations in the space rank for. This will be broader than what you find from competitors.

It’s likely that the volume for most terms will be lower – but across various topics, a few hundred/month that will really engage with your content and whom you can nurture over months is worth far more than a term that has a large volume of ambiguous quality traffic.

Content Requirements to Drive SEO for Manufacturing Companies

Second, what content should you create? You need to identify the terms you’re going after – I’d recommend for a year, broken into quarterly segments – and build an editorial calendar.

You’ll need a variety of content types. Landing pages, webinars, blog articles, press releases, videos, sponsored content, website pages and more.

Each piece of content needs to be specifically created for one of your personas and mapped to a stage in the buying journey. (Of course, you also need content for buying teams and sales enablement, and some of that may overlap with manufacturing SEO goals, but don’t conflate the two!)

Content should be created in ways that are technically optimized (key word density, titles, image alt tags, natural language, pillar pages and topic clusters) to maximize impact, but also created for a great user experience. That means different channels to appeal to auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners (written, recorded, video, image, etc.) and presented so it’s easy to digest. Never create any content casually from a key term.

What Happens Next? Converting Visitors into Contacts

Third, you must be clear about how someone who visits your site after clicking on a search result for a key term will proceed. Often simple SEO efforts that can increase traffic yield no results because there’s no way for a lead to raise their hand. They visit a page, may visit another page or two, and then leave.

Often their only opportunity is to fill out a laborious contact us form or to call. How often do you do either? The key is to have chatbots and simple forms that help them connect live or find helpful deeper dive information.

That path needs to be designed, which means other key terms and longer form content optimized to help people understand further.

Converting Contacts into Leads

Fourth, to turn any of the effort into revenue, you have to be clear about how you’ll convert the visitors to leads – and then how to sell them. This is a problem because most sites aren’t optimized for user experience, and most sales teams are told to focus on “qualified leads” but there’s no mechanism to gradually nurture dialog with folks who are early stage. And make no mistake.

Great SEO for manufacturing companies attracts many visitors who aren’t currently qualified buyers in the classic sense. But it creates the opportunity to nurture the relationship.

Building a Sustainable and Effective Program of Manufacturing SEO to Drive Revenue

Boil all this down and the problem with most manufacturing SEO is that it’s treated as a simple administrative task. Companies find someone to spend the time, thinking that there’s a simple and clear set of answers.

The reality, like many aspects of your industry, is that there’s a lot of nuance involved. There’s the science and the art. The latter takes creativity, business savvy, familiarity with your manufacturing and industrial environment, the right tools and experience.

It's easy to end up with sophomoric manufacturing SEO that dooms your investment and efforts from the start. Don’t let that happen to you. Your business and growth goals are too important!

I’m Ed Marsh. If you found value in this episode of Signals from the OP check out the full playlist and maybe even like it, share it, and subscribe – either to my YouTube channel EdMarshSpeaks.TV or at the related blog