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To date, most adopters of search engine optimization have been B2C companies operating in an e-commerce environment. However, as business-to-business marketers recognize the potential of search, many are seeking ways to implement an effective B2B search engine optimization strategy.

To be successful, however, one needs to understand the critical differences between B2C and B2B SEO, and the implications of those differences.

A Difference in Goals

While the ultimate goal of both B2C and B2B marketing is to create a sale, the goal of B2B search engine optimization couldn't be more different from its B2C counterpart. SEO's goal in the B2C environment is usually to generate an online sale in a single visit. Ideally, searchers find a high-ranking site in the search engine results and navigate quickly from the landing page through a prescribed channel, and ultimately through the shopping cart and checkout process.

This, however, is unrealistic for most business-to-business marketers, whose products and services are generally not acquired in an e-commerce environment. The goal of search engine optimization for most B2B marketers is not an immediate sale but, rather, inclusion in the consideration set, the short list of preferred suppliers from which the ultimate provider will be selected.

Conversion in the B2B realm is usually not immediate; nor does conversion typically occur online. In B2B search engine optimization, getting found is merely the beginning.

Stickiness Versus Prescribed Conversion Channels

Because driving site visitors through a prescribed conversion channel is often not applicable in B2B, your focus should be on "stickiness"—getting visitors to delve deeper to other relevant, confidence-building content. Often, the primary motivator in B2B purchase decisions is risk, or, put another way, fear of making the wrong decision. Therefore, one of the key objectives of B2B searchers after they click through to your site is to evaluate both your company and its offerings.

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Galen De Young is managing director of Francis SEO (www.francis-seo.com), a Michigan firm specializing in B2B search engine optimization.