The Key Differences Between Consumer Search Queries and Business Search Queries

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SEO (search engine optimization) marketing is a critical component to a business's sustainability and growth. The reason SEO has simultaneously developed into a major sector of marketing and a pervasive cottage industry is because it works. But here's the catch: it only works if you know your audience.

One of the biggest SEO blunders that a company can make is using B2C tactics on a B2B audience, or vice versa. Consumers and business departments perform search queries in different ways, and are generally looking for different things. In fact, there's often a wide variance between the way one B2B segment carries out an online search compared to another B2B segment.


The establishment of a solid SEO strategy, either for a B2C or a B2B audience, is a crucial part of an effective business plan. As Neil Patel once wrote:

"It's the difference between a marksman hitting a target at 100 yards with an accurate rifle vs. a shotgun."

The following information discusses a couple of key differences between consumer search queries and business search queries. It also covers the importance of identifying the specific B2B subset that makes up your core audience.

2 Critical Differences Between B2C Searches and B2B Searches

While there are many, many factors that differentiate B2C-driven SEO from B2B, two of the biggest items revolve around keyword usage and searcher intent.

Keyword Usage

It should come as no surprise that general consumers typically use a very different vocabulary than industry insiders and professionals. Consumer search queries may be very generic in nature and only encompass a few unique terms. (Think "sneakers" versus "tennis shoes," for example.)

In contrast, professionals that work within the target industry, or procurement departments of particular companies, will often use more specific terminology in their online searches. These terms could include such information as:

  • Model names and/or numbers
  • Technical specifications
  • Industry jargon

As an example, a manufacturing firm may be researching options for new production equipment. Their online searches may include such common manufacturing jargon as batch production, bottleneck, cycle time, production run, target costing, and Takt time, to name a few.

This contrast between keyword usage in B2C search queries versus B2B emphasizes the importance of conducting detailed and comprehensive research prior to launching a content strategy. In-depth keyword analysis can help you tailor your content to the inclinations of targeted users.

Searcher Intent

Another key differentiation between B2C and B2B search traffic is intent. For example, in most scenarios, individual consumers are interested in ordering one product, or perhaps a small batch of products for themselves or their family. They may shop around and compare prices from several different providers. Furthermore, the vast majority of the B2C target audience will search with the intention of making a one-time transaction.

Compare the above description of general consumers' intent to some common concerns that business owners, procurement specialists, and others in the B2B sector have. In many cases, they are looking to purchase expensive, high-tech products or services from a vendor. These are not split second decisions - B2B buyers will investigate potential B2B relationships at length to be sure a vendor is a right fit and can deliver what their company requires. Many stakeholders are also involved in the purchasing decision. In short, they often have to take a long-range view of any prospective transaction.

Clearly, content generation for the B2B crowd would look different from blogs and articles targeted at general readers. Your company's reputation is a vital USP for potential business partners, and your B2B-oriented content should always bolster that level of credibility.

Key Differences Between B2B Segments

Even among the B2B demographic, there is an almost limitless variety of subsets, each with its own search query patterns and intentions. When developing an SEO strategy, it is important for companies to distinguish between their core B2B targets and adjacent segments. 


Just like the B2C vs. B2B comparison discussed in the preceding section, B2B subsets can generally be divided according to keyword usage and search intent. Here are three examples:

1. Businesses Searching for Subscription (SaaS) Plans

Many companies want to streamline their business processes and fill organizational or informational gaps with "software as a service" programs. These searchers will likely use keywords such as:

  • Subscription
  • Monthly plan
  • Retainer
  • Membership fee

They are generally interested in establishing a long-term partnership, but want to ensure that the software will deliver results before making a contractual commitment. Free trial periods are usually an effective marketing tactic for this subset of the B2B world. Content that includes a summary of pain points that the software addresses may be especially alluring to prospective clients.

2. Companies Searching for Bulk Order Pricing

Procurement departments in particular are interested in sourcing necessary supplies at reasonable rates. Searchers in this subset may use terminology that includes the following keywords:

  • Batch
  • Bulk
  • Lead time
  • JIT inventory

Speed and cost are two key concerns for these searchers. They are typically interested in forming long-term relationships that will provide them with consistent delivery time frames and easily measured costs.

3. Organizations Searching for Professional Services

For this last example, it is important that your marketing department has a working knowledge of industry-specific terminology. For instance, legal intake centers that target law firms should have an in-depth understanding of the pain points associated with common intake forms, and center their core message around the benefits that an outsourced solution offers.

It's important that your keywords and overall content strategy align with your ideal customer persona. Identify their "deal-breakers," and then streamline your marketing to address them (whether pricing, quality, service, or something else).

In summary, an effective SEO strategy is absolutely dependent upon your knowledge of your target audience: either B2C or B2B. There are major differences between the B2C and B2B crowds, and even between distinct B2B subsets. Nevertheless, if you perform comprehensive keyword analysis and in-depth market research, you'll not only uncover the vocabulary that you need to incorporate within your pieces, but you'll also gain a deeper understanding of your core audience's basic intent, and thus attract better leads and more business.

Learn more about how our SEO specialists approach search engine optimization to inform your business strategy and generate inbound leads.

John Reinesch

John Reinesch

John is a search engine specialist focused on gaining greater visibility in search results for Beacon Digital clients. His expertise includes SEO campaigns, PPC, Google Analytics, keyword research, technical website auditing, paid social media optimization, web analytics implementation and conversion tracking.