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What is B2B Content Marketing? 7 Successful Examples

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Marketing @ Ahrefs. Obsessed with lists. I read, breakdance and try random experiments. I also summarise books on my personal blog.
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    B2B content marketing is the process of creating and promoting content that appeals to businesses who are your target customers. 

    The goal is simple: use content marketing to drive more traffic, acquire leads, and generate sales for your business.

    Now, here’s the thing: there is no one right way of doing content marketing. Depending on their goals, resources, target audience, and so on, different companies do content marketing differently.

    In this post, we’ll share some inspiring B2B content marketing examples, why they’ve done well, and how you can replicate their success.

    1. Shopify’s Free Tools
    2. Ahrefs’ Blog
    3. Slidebean’s YouTube Channel
    4. MeetEdgar’s Podcast Strategy
    5. First Round — The Review
    6. Kinsta’s Blog
    7. YouGov’s Blog
    Screenshot 2020 07 27 at 19.30.04

    Key stats

    Number of referring domains: 2,940
    Estimated organic traffic: 372,000
    Number of keywords the tools rank for: 46,400


    Shopify is an ecommerce platform that helps businesses sell online. As of June 2019, more than 800,000 companies use the Shopify platform.

    Why are they doing so well?

    According to their Senior Global Content Marketing Lead, Mark Macdonald, Shopify has invested heavily in content marketing since the beginning.

    When you visit Shopify’s website, it is clear that they’ve gone the whole hog. They’ve invested in almost every type of content marketing: blogging, podcasting, free courses, free guides, etc.

    1 shopify content marketing

    There’s a lot we can learn from Shopify’s content marketing strategy. However, I want to bring attention to one particular aspect of their content marketing: free tools.

    Shopify offers over 20 free tools for their prospects and customers.

    Here are a few of them:

    shopify free tools

    These tools have two things in common:

    First, they solve problems that budding entrepreneurs need to solve in the early days of their business. For example, you’ll need a business name before you create a website. Shopify solves that by offering a free business name generator.

    business name generator

    Second, these queries have thousands of monthly searches on Google. For example, the term “business name generator” gets 87,000 monthly searches in the U.S. and 192,000 monthly searches globally.

    2 business name generator keyword

    As a result, their free tools generate an estimated 372,000 monthly visits from Google alone:

    3 shopify tools traffic

    Estimated organic traffic via Ahrefs’ Site Explorer 

    And here’s another cool thing. You can click on any of the suggested names in Shopify’s Business Name Generator and instantly reserve that name on Shopify:

    shopify business name generator

    How can you replicate their success?

    Follow these three steps:

    1. Find tools that your target customers are searching for
    2. Create a tool
    3. Optimize it to rank higher in Google

    Step 1. Find tools that your target customers are searching for

    Head over to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer and enter one or more broad keywords related to your industry.

    If you have a real estate website, these might be mortgage, rent, and down payment. Next, go to the Phrase match report and add words like calculator, tool, tools, and checker to the “Include” box. Hit “Any word” and click “Apply.”

    include filter tools

    You should now see a list of relevant tools that people are searching for, sorted by monthly search volumes.

    mortgage calculators

    Step 2. Create a free tool

    Before you create your free tool, make sure you first review the top-ranking results for your target keyword.

    Ask yourself:

    • What’s good about them?
    • How could they be improved?

    These questions will help you make the best possible tool. 

    Step 3. Promote the tool

    There’s a positive correlation between links and rankings, so you’ll usually need to acquire links to rank for your target keyword.

    There are many ways to do this, but the best starting point for tools is a tactic commonly known as the Skyscraper Technique.

    Learn how to do that in this video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPjPjNK-bDM

    ahrefs blog

    Key stats

    Number of referring domains: 13,700
    Estimated organic traffic: 391,000
    Number of keywords the blog ranks for: 193,400


    Founded in 2010 and bootstrapped by a small team, Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset that allows you to research your competitors, study what your customers are searching for, optimize your website, and more.

    Why are we doing well?

    Besides word-of-mouth, content marketing is our most successful customer acquisition channel. Our blog ranks in Google for over 192,000 keywords and gets almost 400,000 monthly visits.

    4 ahrefs blog traffic

    And it’s a significant driver of new sign-ups:

    5 ahrefs signups google

    How can you replicate our success?

    Our content strategy isn’t complicated. We look at what our customers are searching for, and then we write detailed blog posts about those topics. 

    Here’s how we do it:

    1. Find keywords with search traffic and business potential
    2. Create the right kind of content
    3. Promote the content

    Step 1. Find keywords with search traffic and business potential

    If you want organic traffic, you have to target topics that people are searching for.

    To do this, enter a few ‘seed’ keywords into a keyword research tool like Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. For example, we might search for topics like “SEO,” “content marketing,” and “blogging,” since those are topics our customers are searching for.

    Then, choose one of the keyword ideas reports, like the Questions report.

    questions report

    From here, eyeball the list and note down any relevant topics.

    But don’t stop there. Traffic is ultimately a vanity metric, so you should also make sure to target topics that will translate into revenue.

    To do this, assign each topic a business value “score.”

    This is the scale we use at Ahrefs to rate those topics:

    • 3: our product is an irreplaceable solution for the problem;
    • 2: our product helps quite a bit, but it’s not essential to solving the problem;
    • 1: our product can only be mentioned fleetingly;
    • 0: there’s absolutely no way to mention our product.

    We mostly target topics that are either a “2” or “3”.

    Recommended reading: How To Do Keyword Research for SEO

    Step 2. Create the right kind of content

    At Ahrefs, we always try to make sure that our content hits two goals:

    1. Matches what the searcher is looking for in Google (i.e., search intent);
    2. Promotes our product.

    Let’s start at the top.

    Search intent is the reason behind a searcher’s query. To figure this out, we review the top-ranking results for your target topic.

    For example, look at the search engine results page (SERPs) for “image SEO”:

    Screenshot 2020 07 28 at 00.06.52

    We can see that searchers are looking for a list of tips on how to optimize images. If we were targeting this topic, that’s the kind of content we’d want to create. If we wrote a step-by-step guide or tried to rank our homepage, we’d be fighting an uphill battle.

    Second, our content should promote our product. Since we’ve already singled out those topics with business value, this should be easy enough.

    However, bear in mind that you should keep this natural. In the end, you’re writing a blog post, not a sales letter. Where relevant, include your product and show how it helps to solve the problem. Don’t just shoehorn it in.

    Step 3. Promote the content

    After we hit “publish” on our blog post, we send it to our email list and share it on our social media accounts. We’ll also spend a few hundred dollars promoting the post using Facebook Ads:

    facebook ads

    But these aren’t the only things you can do to promote your content. Follow this content promotion checklist to get more eyeballs on your articles:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PoVYweKH4ck 

    slidebean youtube channel

    Key stats

    Number of YouTube subscribers: 124,000
    Monthly video views: 500,000 (Source)


    Based in New York, Slidebean is a pitch deck design platform for startups and small businesses.

    Why are they doing so well?

    I reached out to Slidebean’s CEO, Caya, to find out more. From what he told me, their approach is twofold.

    First, they started with a recurring video series known as Startups 101. For this series, they mainly targeted startup-related keywords on YouTube.

    Slidebean  Startups 101   YouTube

    A few of Slidebean’s videos from the Startups 101 series.

    However, they exhausted their list of topics in about a year. This was when they decided to move up the marketing funnel into TOFU-related topics.

    Since we had found a ‘YouTube formula’, we decided to apply it to other kinds of content, and one of them was this idea of exploring failed companies. The first one was WeWork, which was just the right bridge between a startup-focused company and a widely known brand. At this stage, the series was called ‘Startup Forensics.’

    However, there were only so many tech startups to explore, so we quickly opened that up to ‘Company Forensics’ to broaden our horizons.

    Caya
    Caya, CEO Slidebean

    Slidebean’s goal here was to get as many eyeballs as possible on their YouTube channel. The idea was that due to the mere exposure effect, these people would think of Slidebean in future if they’re ever looking for pitch deck software.

    How can you replicate their success?

    For their Startup 101 series, they “targeted searches that didn’t have great answers on YouTube.”

    Here’s how they did it: 

    1. Do YouTube keyword research
    2. Create an optimized video

    Step 1. Do YouTube keyword research

    For their keyword research, Slidebean used a combination of VidIQ and TubeBuddy

    However, if you’re looking for a larger pool of keyword ideas, head over to Ahrefs Keywords Explorer and switch the search engine to YouTube. Then, enter a few relevant keywords. For example, if you sell BBQ equipment, you might enter keywords like barbecue, barbeque, bbq, and grilling.

    From there, head over to the Questions report and note down any topics that are worth creating a video about.

    Keywords Explorer

    Step 2. Create an optimized video

    After figuring out which topic you want to target, the next step is to create a video that will rank on YouTube.

    Watch this video to learn how to do that:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NY3y0V9UDwM

    meetedgar

    Key stats

    Number of referring domains: 6,430
    Estimated organic traffic: 23,900
    Number of keywords they rank for: 31,200


    Founded in 2014 by Laura Roeder, MeetEdgar is a social media automation tool.

    Why are they doing so well?

    Appearing on podcasts is what helped a MeetEdgar grow into a thriving business. From the moment MeetEdgar was founded until 2017, Laura appeared on an estimated 100 podcasts.

    indiehackers laura roeder

    One of Laura Roeder’s many podcast appearances.

    According to Jen Carvey, a previous employee, this strategy helped MeetEdgar reach 1.25 million website visitors, 100,000 email subscribers, and $329,000+ monthly recurring revenue (MRR).

    Today, MeetEdgar is generating $4 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR)

    How can you replicate their success?

    Their strategy is pretty straightforward. Find podcasts with your target audience, then pitch to appear on them.

    Here’s how to do it.

    1. Find podcast opportunities
    2. Pitch yourself as a guest

    Step 1. Find podcast opportunities

    The easiest way to get started is to do a Google search for the “best [niche] podcasts”:

    best personal finance podcasts   Google Search

    However, you should keep in mind that some podcasts on this list are huge. And if you’re just starting out, it could be challenging to be featured there.

    An alternative method is to identify someone of similar caliber in your industry who has appeared on multiple podcasts. For example, in personal finance, Morgan Housel has guested on many podcasts.

    We’ll paste his site into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, go to the Backlinks report, and type his name in the “Include” box.

    6 include site explorer

    Here, you’ll find a list of podcasts he’s been on.

    Site Explorer

    Step 2. Pitch yourself as a guest

    Find the email of the podcast hosts, then reach out to see if they’re willing to interview you.

    But don’t pitch blindly. Make sure you first listen to a few episodes of the podcast. This will help you write a personalized email and suggest relevant topic ideas.

    Recommended reading: 12 lessons I learned from doing 20+ podcast interviews in 4 months

    first round

    Key stats

    Number of referring domains: 8,380
    Estimated organic traffic: 16,200
    Number of keywords they rank for: 77,100


    First Round Capital is a seed-stage venture capital (VC) firm that has invested in companies like Uber, Warby Parker, and Notion.

    Why are they doing so well?

    First, they differentiated themselves against other VC blogs.

    Most VC firms at the time were either blogging about market trends or opinion pieces from their partners. First Round decided to provide stories from the operator-side (i.e., startups) instead. This is what sets First Round apart from the rest. 

    Second, they’re relentlessly focused on their target audience.

    Think about it. While market trends or opinion pieces are interesting, they don’t target the VCs’ real target audience: new or potential founders.

    The people who are interested in those articles are the VCs themselves. Startup founders are interested in content that can help solve real problems—product development, hiring, marketing, etc.

    And that’s where First Round excelled.

    They knew their target audience was interested in real stories about founding or managing a company. They also knew that given their existing portfolio of startups, they were in a unique position to reach out, interview and tell these stories. 

    This is how First Round has, as Jimmy Daly describes it, “earned a reputation as one of the best publishers of startup and tech content on the web”, where they regularly get recommended by others:

    How can you replicate their success?

    For a VC firm like First Round, their goal is not traffic, conversions, or leads. Their goal is to be a thought leader and build a brand.

    If this is what you want to achieve, here’s how you can emulate their content strategy:

    1. Figure out what problems your target audience are trying to solve
    2. Find experts and interview them
    3. Promote your content

    Step 1. Figure out what problems your target audience want to solve

    Even if you’re trying to create “thought leadership” content, you have to start by figuring out what problems your target audience are facing. Otherwise, you risk writing about topics that attract your co-workers—like what the other VC firms did—rather than your ideal audience.

    For example, Camille Ricketts, the ex-editor of First Round Review, started by asking: “what is the number one thing that all of these early-stage founders want?” Her answer: to be able to go to coffee with somebody who has done the thing they’re trying to do.

    And this was how The Review was born—a magazine-style blog of “coffee meetups at scale”.

    So before you start planning any content or reaching out for interviews, make sure you know what problems your target audience is facing.

    If you’re stuck, reach out and talk to people similar to who you’re targeting. Don’t be afraid to speak to them in person or on a video chat/phone call. As famed entrepreneur Steve Blank puts it, “There are no facts inside the building, so get the heck outside.”

    Step 2. Find experts and interview them

    The next step is to find experts who you can interview and create a narrative around.

    The easiest way to do this is to follow our guide to influencer marketing. Then, use Camille Ricketts’ three-step formula for interviewing people.

    Step 3. Promote your content

    To promote their content, First Round has two main strategies:

    First, content syndication. According to Camille, First Round has syndication partnerships with publications like Quartz, Inc., and Fast Company. These publications can republish any of First Round’s stories if they think it’s interesting and relevant to their audience.

    7 business insider article

    First Round’s syndication partnership with Business Insider.

    To learn how to syndicate your content to publications, follow this guide.

    Second, they are also focused on building their own audience, primarily through their email list.

    Scroll through any of their posts and you’ll see pop-ups like this:

    From Instant Pot to Instagram  Critical Lessons in Startup Community Building   First Round Review

    This list building strategy allows them to build up a base of interested readers who’ll share their content with their network and increase the number of eyeballs on First Round’s content.

    Read this guide to learn how to build an email list.

    kinsta

    Key stats

    Number of referring domains: 6,530
    Estimated organic traffic: 283,000
    Number of keywords the blog ranks for: 316,000


    Founded in 2013, Kinsta is a managed WordPress hosting provider.

    Why are they doing so well?

    Like us at Ahrefs, they follow a keyword-driven content strategy. However, what makes their approach unique is what Glen Allsopp calls “error message marketing”.

    Basically, whenever you’re doing something technical (or using a technical tool), you’ll inadvertently face issues. When that happens, it is likely you’ll search in Google for the answer.

    And this is where Kinsta comes in.

    Kinsta has specifically created content to target these “error” topics. This helps build brand awareness amongst their target audience: people who have to fix such technical issues regularly—developers, webmasters, site owners, etc.

    In fact, Kinsta gets quite a decent amount of search traffic from these topics:

    top pages

    And what happens when these people are looking for a new hosting company? Because of the familiarity with Kinsta’s brand, they’ll likely choose Kinsta.

    How can you replicate their success?

    The key idea behind this strategy is to figure out what issues frustrate your target audience.

    Here’s how to do it.

    1. Find “error message” topics
    2. Create content to answer these questions

    Step 1. Find “error message” topics

    If there are tools regularly used by people in your niche, determine what problems their users have, and then create content about them.

    For example, let’s say you’re a UK-based company that targets boiler engineers. Enter some boiler brands like “Intergas, Vaillant, Vokera, Worcester Bosch” in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. Then, in the “Include” box, search for words like “fault, error, code,” etc.

    include error code

    You’ll then see “error-related” keywords that you could potentially target:

    boiler keywords

    Step 2. Create content to answer these questions

    Answering these questions should be relatively straightforward. Just go through step by step what the reader needs to do to solve the problem.

    If you need help with writing a good step-by-step guide, follow this template.

    yougov

    Key stats

    Number of referring domains: 17,700
    Estimated organic traffic: 126,000
    Number of keywords the blog ranks for: 350,000


    YouGov is a market research and data analytics firm with headquarters in London. They provide a few services, including custom data and research, audience profiling, segmentation, and brand tracking.

    Why are they doing so well?

    YouGov makes money by providing custom data and research. Which means YouGov’s marketing strategy needs to achieve two main objectives:

    1. Build brand awareness amongst companies who may need their services;
    2. Show that they have high-quality data.

    YouGov achieves this by publishing content using data around “hot topics.” These articles then get linked to by trusted news organizations like the New York Times and Time Magazine that are looking for data to support their conclusions.

    yougov backlinks

    Backlinks report for YouGov, from Ahrefs’ Site Explorer 

    Some of YouGov’s articles have hundreds of backlinks as a result:

    9 referring domains yougov

    How can you replicate their success?

    The key idea is to use data to create interesting articles or answer interesting questions in your niche.

    Here’s how to do it.

    1. Find an interesting question you can answer using data
    2. Collect data and publish your findings
    3. Promote your content to interested parties

    Step 1. Find an interesting question you can answer using data

    Data, by itself, is pointless. Instead, people want to see what the numbers say about a problem or question they have.

    Before you even begin collecting data, you should find a question you want to answer. If you’re part of the industry, some of these questions would be relatively clear cut. For example, in the SEO industry, the question, “how long does it take to rank?  is often asked.

    This is a topic where we could potentially use data to investigate (which we did.)

    Alternatively, you can look for existing outdated studies. You could then replicate these studies and provide fresh data for the industry.

    Step 2. Collect data and publish your findings

    Don’t just dump the data on your audience. Give it a narrative.

    Make sure to lay out the context for the question you’re answering. Let your audience know how you collected the data and did your research.

    Finally, create custom charts that’ll help your audience digest the information better. Here’s an example of an easy-to-understand chart from one of our studies:

    pasted image 0 9

    Don’t worry if you lack access to data. You can always partner with other companies that have data or run your own surveys.

    For example, Andy Crestodina, who runs a content marketing agency called Orbit Media, did a survey of 1,001 bloggers.

    Step 3. Promote your content to interested parties

    If someone has written an article about a topic similar to your research, it is likely that they’ll be interested in your study.

    So, if you can find out who these people are, you can reach out and introduce your study to them. They might decide to link to your research or feature your research in an upcoming post.

    Learn how to do this in our guide to blogger outreach.

    Final thoughts

    As you can see from the examples, there is no one “true-north” with content marketing. Depending on your goals, there are a variety of strategies you can use for maximum effectiveness.

    Looking for more even more content marketing examples? Check out this post.

    Did I miss out on any excellent B2B content marketing examples? Let me know on Twitter.

    The number of unique domains linking to this article.

    The estimated monthly organic traffic this article gets from search.

    The number of times this article was shared on Twitter and Facebook.


    Article stats

    • Linking websites 49
    • Shares 244
    Data from Content Explorer