Businesses have many online marketing strategies to test out, but it's difficult to know which ones will provide them with the most insight into customer behavior. Pay-per-click advertising is a tactic used in search engine marketing that has helped B2B companies understand and connect with buyers on a different level.
PPC advertising gives businesses a great deal of clarity into the way their marketing performs, surpassing the level of detail seen through other non-digital channels (1). For instance, companies have a much better idea of return on investment of individual ads or campaigns because they're able to track user behavior looking at a number of variables, including time and geography. Compare this to a print ad in the newspaper; unless a company integrates a call-tracking solution, it's very difficult to know where inbound call traffic stems from unless that happens to be the only channel a company uses. In any case, PPC ads are an effective way for B2B marketers to help push buyers toward the tail-end of the sales funnel. However, it's important to first understand what makes PPC different than other kinds of search engine marketing.
Reaching customers at a different point in the journey
Among Web surfers, there's fairly strong likelihood that they won't be able to tell the difference between organic search results and paid ads. In fact, more than 45 percent of users can't point out a paid advertisement on an search engine results page (2). However, there are notable differences between paid and organic search. For instance, it's more likely that organic results will provide buyers with content that is more applicable to those just beginning the search for a business solution. In other words, business decision-makers would likely click on the first link and find an article that provides information about a specific industry, product or service.
Paid ads more frequently are transactional in nature. They feature calls to action that lead a buyer to a specific solution that he or she has already been considering and learning about through content marketing and other online advertising. Half of the individuals who arrive a business's landing page after clicking on a paid ad are more likely to make a purchase than those who arrive via organic search (3). In other words, buyers who arrive at a company's website are in a strong position to convert after clicking on a PPC ad.
At the same time, search engine optimization best practices are an important element to PPC campaigns in many of the same ways that they are for organic search.
Search terms are critical for success
Regardless of whether a B2B marketer uses SEO or PPC advertising, keyword strategies are not only a difficult hurdle to overcome, but also an opportunity to effectively target specific buyers. The beginnings of a keyword strategy should look at a few metrics. It's important to understand volume (4). This means researching the number of times users search for a given keyword or phrase during a specific time frame. The more popular the search term, the more likely a company may have its PPC ad seen on SERPs.
Another crucial variable is competition for the keyword or phrase among different domain names. If there's a large number of other companies using the same search terms, it may diminish the likelihood a company's paid ad pops out at buyers.
What are ways companies can develop stronger keywords?
On a very basic level, a marketer can begin by entering terms into a search engine (5). Google, for instance, will suggest keywords or phrases to complete the query. The important idea here is that these words link to actual Web content. Google uses these terms and phrases to connect customers with relevant sites, and by knowing what search terms potential competitors are using, companies can develop a stronger strategy.
Another useful starting point is using the underscore symbol, often called a wild card, to figure out long tail keywords. For instance, a search query might be "the best _ strategy." Google will fill in the underscore with more terms that will complete the search. This is quick way to discover potential keywords that a company can use for their PPC campaign.
Finally, branded keywords or phrases are some of the most affordable terms that a B2B company can integrate into a PPC campaign (6). Why? In general, most other companies won't have the same name, meaning there won't be much competition for a branded keyword. These terms also tend to generate a lot of clicks.
In B2B marketing, companies shouldn't limit themselves to a specific online marketing strategy. There should be a healthy mix of SEO that incorporates organic and paid search, as well as content marketing.
1. "Why PPC Advertising Is the ROI Rock Star of Search Engine Marketing"
2. "Paid Search 101: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to #PPC Landing Pages"
3. "SEO vs PPC – Time for a Fight!"
4. "Choosing the right target keywords for SEM"
5. "3 Super-Actionable Keyword Research Tips to Try Right Now"
6. "13 Reasons Branded PPC Campaigns Are Beneficial For B2B Brands"