SEO Basics for Manufacturers and Industrial Companies

You know you want more new customers, and you know your website is key to getting them to your company, so how can you connect the dots? When you do a Google search, you’re likely to click on a link from one of the first five results. Have you ever given any thought to exactly how one of those sites gets to a top slot?  It's a lead generation tactic fueled by organic search and search engine optimization (SEO) to drive your target audience to your website. If you're new to the marketing world for manufacturers, let's take a step back to the basics of SEO and how it all started.

Search engine

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization and how the search engines — Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., — use a formula to determine the results for a user’s search. This is called a search engine algorithm (“algorithms” are the formulas used by search engines to determine the search results). Google updates it's SEO algorithm every day. While this can be difficult to keep up with, the SEO algorithm updates keep marketers focused on creating quality website content.

SEO isn’t about “quick fixes” or “tricks” to get a handful of your pages to rank. Good SEO is about fundamental, sustainable and proven best practices, implemented and refined over time.

What Does SEO Have To Do With Marketing?

Quality content relevant to your industrial buyers keeps them engaged on your website and increases the chance of converting them to a sale. When search engines are crawling websites to bring relevant web pages up for users, they’re looking for a number of key factors: content, keywords, site usability, backlinks, and page authority.

So think about it this way: Your e-books, site copy and company information are all part of effective content marketing and are likely to have relevant keywords. The usability is all about website user experience and design — how easy it is to navigate through your website. Backlinks look to social media and all the other website pages that are referring back to your site. And page authority is everything tied together — basically, how relevant is your website to your specific industrial products or services. How did all this marketing get so complicated? 

What Does SEO Mean For Manufacturers Today?

In the 20th century, manufacturing was a roller coaster, with the majority of industrial companies coming out on top of their game. New clients rolled in with help from word-of-mouth referrals, direct mailings, and directories like our own Thomas Register.

As years went on and the "big green books" went out of print, prospective customers moved online, opening a floodgate of possible business opportunities — if you knew how to get found. With an increasingly large amount of data available on the internet in the past twenty years, buyers and purchasing managers began to turn there, as opposed to business acquaintances, for supplier and product information. In the early 2000s, companies were rushing to build websites, stuff them with keywords, buy backlinks from cheap, overseas SEO agencies, and cross their fingers that they'd get found.

Getting to the first page of Google became, and still is, a key priority for manufacturers and industrial companies. However, some industries tend to lag behind other companies in the B2B space — especially when it comes to marketing.

For example, other sectors have already mastered using virtual reality and newer social media platforms, which are great for SEO, but not everyone in our industry prioritizes having an updated responsive website.

As the tail end of the millennial generation ages, graduates from college, and enters the workforce, these trends in internet usage continue to intensify. Millennials (roughly aged 20 to 36) in engineering and purchasing roles throughout the industrial industry rely on the internet, particularly search engines, to find the information they need to make informed specification and purchase decisions. 

The internet spurned a period of intense, rapid change in the way businesses operate. Specifics have changed in the past 25 years, but the environment of constant change remains, especially in the SEO field. 

The best way to manage and stay ahead of all this constant change is to stay informed on marketing trends and understanding your target audience so you can be where your buyers are and adjust your strategies based on their behaviors.


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5 Steps Manufacturers Can Do To Increase SEO Traffic

There are a ton of ways you can boost your step up your SEO game and boost your website up in the search rankings. Honestly, each manufacturing company is different so finding the right mix of best practices takes some experimenting. 

Below are a few basic SEO best practices we recommend if you're just stepping into SEO — and while you're at it, download our complimentary SEO planner, "How to Increase Your SEO Traffic in Just 30 Days" to kickstart your SEO strategy.

1. Track Your SEO Success

Before you get started with any content strategy it's important to sign up for Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and Thomas WebTrax. Use a combination of these SEO tools and you'll be able to track the performance of your SEO strategy. The number one metric to track when starting your SEO journey is organic traffic. By curtailing your strategy to boost this metric, you'll begin to see your ranking on search engines improve.

Google Search Console is a platform that acts as an interface between a site owner and the Google search engine.  As such it offers invaluable data, tools and monitoring capability not available elsewhere.

You can also access data from the Search Console on other applications through linking other Google products e.g., Google Analytics and Google AdWords. The API allows you to also integrate CTR and traffic statistics as well as links in other web analytics tools.

Google Analytics allows you to specifically analyze the user behavior on your website. The analysis options range from very simple to very complex. Using tools like Google Analytics is essential to evaluating the success of your SEO endeavors. Google Analytics tracks the users on your website. In order to activate the tracking, you must add the respective Google Analytics code snippet on every page.

Thomas WebTrax was designed as a lead generation tool that highlights firmographic and demographic data on your anonymous users, as opposed to just website metrics — so using Thomas WebTrax and Google Analytics together will optimize your website and continually replenish your sales pipeline with leads.

It goes beyond the analytics, by tracking the buyer throughout the journey from the Thomas Network to your website to when they pick up the phone to call you. 

2. Carefully Choose Your SEO Keywords

Keyword research helps you identify keywords that appeal to a target audience and expand the reach of your content. When you use keyword research tools, it helps you identify what kinds of content users are looking for on any given topic. Always make sure to prioritize time for keyword research.

When selecting keywords, you should also keep the purpose of your website in mind. Opt for transactional keywords if the main intention is sales, or informational keywords if your website aims to provide readers with important information. Simple ones, basic industry descriptors such as “metal stamping” or “injection molding,” will be very competitive. Instead, develop long-tail keywords more specific to your work. Make sure you do your keyword research and use keywords that appeal to your target audience.

In today's increasingly competitive landscape, industrial marketers are creating complex digital marketing campaigns to boost lead generation. Pay-per-click advertising, for example, is quickly becoming an integral part of a full and successful SEO strategy, as competitors improve their SEO. 

Here are a few recommended tools to help you research keywords:

3. Review Your Redirects And Identify Broken Links

Server relocation can make it necessary to temporarily redirect certain URLs. These redirects (status code 302) ensure that Google retains the old URLs in the index, enabling users to access the older URLs even after server relocation. You should only use a 302 redirect for a limited time period.

For permanently redirecting a URL, use the status code 301, which permanently redirects the old URL to the new URL. Part of the link juice is also passed on in the process.

But what about those pesky 404 errors?

When a user visits a URL that can’t be found on a server, their browser shows them error code 404 (file not found). When this happens, it not only creates a negative user experience, but it also interrupts search engine crawling. If search engines find too many 404 errors on your website, they take it as a sign that your website is not properly maintained. But more often than not, 404 errors occur because of broken links.

In other words, you’ve inserted a link somewhere on your site that goes to a landing page no longer exists. This often occurs when the destination URLs have been changed or written incorrectly. Make sure to periodically check for any broken links on your website (especially after a relaunch or small URL changes).

Here are a few online tools to help you find 404 errors across your site:

Not sure what a 404 error is and how it can hurt your marketing? For all the basics you need to know and how to fix a 404, check out What Does A 404 Error Mean?

4. Make Your Website Design Mobile-Friendly

Websites built more than five years ago likely have poor user experience and outdated technology, which isn’t good for anyone — especially those searching on mobile. Older websites that don’t respond to mobile device usage and aren’t optimized for search engine algorithms are getting left behind and simply won't produce any positive lead generation results — think back to the significance of the millennial generation we mentioned earlier and how they've been influencing online trends and the industrial customer buyers' journey. 

57% of users won’t recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site, so it's important to optimize your website not only for viewing on a smartphone, but tablets, and notebook computers too.  Search engines also regularly update their algorithms, and often without notice — so don't get lost in the shuffle. Partner with an industrial marketing expert who can make immediate updates to put your website in the best position to get found by potential customers. 


5. Update Your Website With New Content

One quick way to optimize your website for SEO is to simply update your website! What that means is posting content regularly, at least monthly, to keep search engines interested; and working to expand and improve your backlinks. A clear sign that your website needs to be updated with new content is if you only have one page. More website pages means more opportunities for Google to scan your website for relevant keywords to rank your website higher.

Content curation is a common way to collect, restructure, and republish existing content. The collection of material often provides new perspectives for users on content ideas you’ve already covered. For content curation to be successful, you first look for appropriate sources and then use your own blog to purposefully publish the content. Personal social media channels also help spread content easily, because popular topics often provide a lot of traffic.

Unsure of what kind of content your industrial site needs to drive traffic and generate leads? Here are 8 Manufacturing Content Marketing Ideas (With Examples!)

SEO For Manufacturers: How To Get Started

Although we've covered the basics of SEO and what it means for your manufacturing onsite SEO, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done to optimize your website — SEO is just one component to a successful marketing strategy. There's also a lot to still learn about, like onsite vs. offsite SEO and how incorporating video marketing into your lead generation strategy also impact SEO. There are many moving parts manufacturers need to incorporate into their marketing strategy.

When brainstorming content ideas, smart manufacturing marketing experts follow a standard content planning process of keyword research, relevance, and topic discovery. This planning involves figuring out what type of content should be created and how organic competitors are doing to best boost your SEO traffic.

To make sense of it all and create an in-depth strategy specific to generating industrial B2B leads, contact us today. Thomas also offers a free Digital Health Check to see how you can improve against competitors.

"Partnering with Thomas has been a tremendous success. We have enough new work that the cost of Thomas will be less than 5% of the new sales in the first year. We are seeing 1-3 inquiries a week now and are working on expanding our supply base to support the new opportunities."
- Conformance Coatings & Prototyping

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