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PHOTO: Mike

The jury is in — B2B websites need to do better when it comes to customer engagement, according to Forrester's "B2B Websites Still Fail Our Customer Engagement Test" (subscription required). 

We’ve already covered the “why” B2B websites fail to engage, so now we'll discuss “how” they can do better. The common theme? Take a play out of B2C websites playbook. “All too often, B2B sites aren't given the same attention as B2C sites in terms of being set up to convert,” said Tom Wills, a marketer for Slickplan. “While being very informative, many lack strong call to actions and ways of keeping visitors engaged such as encouraging a newsletter signup.”

Do Not Neglect Website Technical Aspects

Not neglecting technical aspects should be No. 1 on the "to do" list, according to Irena Zobniów, co-founder of Insightland.org. Google, she said, has very restricted requirements when it comes to technical aspects for developers. Everyone should perform an in-depth technical audit of the website and fix any issues that are inconsistent with Google guidelines. 

“It's not only about metadata, header tags, keywords, duplicate content, internal linking and other basic elements,” Zobniów said. “You need to check your website in such fields like: javascript, technical duplication, domain canonicalization, noindex directives, sitemap.xml and robots.txt files, page speed and so on. 

You cannot underestimate any of the errors because your website will not rank in search engines otherwise, and you want to get traffic that your content deserves.”

Related Article: 6 Ways B2B Websites Fail to Engage

Create Content For Your Audience, Not For Yourself 

Research subjects that may interest your audience. Present content that is unique, relevant and preferably up-to-date because Google is more likely to promote it, according to Zobniów. 

“Don’t forget to structure your website and use titles and headlines so it is easier to read,” she added. “I have noticed that many B2B websites are lacking relevant content. Their websites are more like business cards with contact information, and that is all. We forget that users need to feel convinced to contact us. We need to provide them with information about who we are, what we do and how we can help them and make their lives easier and their business grow.” 

Avoid Client Testimonials, Unless Truly Authentic

Rodger Roeser, CEO of The Eisen Agency, said B2B websites need to avoid those client testimonials that don’t look genuine: for example, a customer quote slapped onto the home page. “Instead, tell a story how you helped that client and have that client narrate it in first person; i.e: here’s why we hired Acme Law Firm,” said Roeser.

Ask your clients why they value your business. Interview them. Keep it simple. “We have seen huge success from including in-depth case studies that act as testimonials,” said Abel Hegyes, marketing director at eBacon. “Unfortunately putting positive quotes from clients doesn’t work anymore. Potential customers know those can be faked. An extensive case study that shows the specific problem a client had that was solved by your service is exponentially effective in moving prospects through the sale tunnel.”

Related Article: Will Reddit Ads Help or Hurt Your B2B Marketing Efforts? 

Put Yourself in the Mindset of Your Customers

Sam Orchard, creative director of Edge of the Web, said prospective clients don’t really care that much about your company ethos, when you were formed or how the directors came up with the idea in the first place. “What they want to know is how are you going to help my business,” Orchard said. “When you’re designing your B2B company website you need to start by putting yourself in the mindset of your customers. What are their motivations? What do they care about? What obstacles might prevent them from using your business?”

Make sure your website clearly addresses all those points and makes it easy for your prospective client to see the benefits of using you. Don’t make them hunt those details down. Put them front and center of your design and your copy.

Be Educators, Not Branders

While branding is important, education may be even more important for B2B websites. An up-to-date and informative website is crucial because B2B purchases aren’t made on impulse like B2C. “Stakeholders will seek more education on a topic before they are ready to buy,” Hegyes said. "Creating this sense of legitimacy and authority on your B2B website helps to establish your brand and also move a sale forward. Providing up-to-date thought leadership in the industry can also help with that.” 

Related Article: 6 Ways to Maximize the Power of Your B2B Website

Add Some Image Flair

More pictures. Less words. More video. Roeser suggested these elements and, further, keeping an updated newsroom with thought leadership and recent press announcements and some corporate philanthropy. "And, for heaven’s sake, give your business some personality,” he said. “B2B doesn’t have to mean Bad 2 Boring.”

Personalized Sales Pages

Are you personalizing your content based on visitors? It's important to recognize that businesses range in size from solopreneur to tens of thousands of employees, according to Paul Farmer, vice president of marketing for Woodtex. “As such, I recommend segmenting your sales page to match your various audience segments,” he said. “What this translates into is that the language you use to describe your core offerings should vary. If you're speaking to a small business owner, you can talk about time savings, efficiency and low cost. If you're speaking to the VP of sales at an enterprise-scale company, speak to scaling, ROI and ease of implementation.”

Create Modern, Sleek Design

Kayla Kelly, a marketing manager for Paypro, said B2B websites should not overwhelm people with too much on the screen when they get to your website. In as little words as possible, you want to say exactly what your company does. “With this, people get the information they need to know and whether that is what they are looking for, but you don't drown them with too much text. There should be a flow to your website so that people gradually gain the information they need until they are ultimately led to a call to action.”

Related Article: Where B2B Marketers Are Winning in Social Media 

Optimize Your Content for SEO 

As important as it is to make your content engaging, we have to remember it’s Google’s world out there, according to Zobniów. Content creators often wish that their content will be so entertaining and interesting that they do not need to think of SEO. “That is a huge mistake,” she said. “Every content you create needs to be optimized. Make a precise keywords research — consider long tail keywords and question key phrases — and use them within your website. But be careful: don't try to stuff the keywords everywhere. Your content should be natural, valuable for users and understandable for search engine robots.”