In 2019, before the current economic shift, 61% of B2B brands were using pay-per-click search ads as part of their marketing mix. As COVID-19 cancels or postpones face-to-face marketing opportunities, many B2B companies are reallocating this year’s event spend to digital advertising. That means if you’re not already using PPC as part of your marketing strategy, you may face greater competition.
PPC is another way to connect B2B businesses to customers increasingly researching services or products online. When executed correctly, organic and paid traffic work together to offer valuable customer insights, drive customer acquisition, and increase B2B sales.
What’s the Key Benefit of B2B PPC Over SEO?
A critical benefit of B2B PPC over search engine optimization (SEO) is speed.
SEO, the practice of continuous website content and technical improvement to boost visibility in search rankings, is a hugely beneficial long game. It’s an ongoing cycle of creating helpful content, optimizing it for search queries and keywords, maintaining technical excellence, and monitoring results. SEO results aren’t instantaneous, but a single optimized webpage can drive targeted website traffic for years.
PPC, on the other hand, is all about instant gratification. With pay-per-click advertising, marketers bid for ad placement on search queries aligning with their message or target audience. On desktop, the ads appear on the top, bottom, and sidebar of SERPs and each time the ad is clicked, the marketer pays a fee. This enables marketers to “buy” website traffic, versus waiting out the long game of SEO.
Your PPC ads should align with your overall business objectives and can include contact information, links to product pages, case studies or thought leadership, product images, and other content designed to hook customers’ attention.
You can also target your ad audiences to be as broad or niche as you want, depending on your goals. Branded keyword campaigns accelerate buying decisions from prospects and help fight competitors bidding on branded terms. Through the use of negative keywords and exclusions, and the setup of very specific audiences and geographic targeting capabilities, you can display a highly relevant message to the right audience.
PPC programs through platforms like Google Ads also offers A/B testing tools, marketing intelligence, performance tracking, and other resources to continuously improve your ad program.
Where should you run B2B PPC ads?
Google is the clear leader when it comes to PPC ads, and it’s continuously evolving its offerings. For example, the search engine integrated Images into its default search network for Shopping ads last year. This year, businesses can list their products on Google Shopping for free.
However, paid ads still appear at the top and bottom of each Shopping results page, which means PPC offers better visibility there, too.
Bing gets less attention than Google in the PPC world, but it’s another option for B2B marketers. Microsoft’s Audience Ads allows you to target LinkedIn profile data to get your ads in front of people working in the companies, roles, and industries you want to reach.
LinkedIn offers its own PPC ad program, where you can refine your target audience by multiple factors like seniority, location, skills and LinkedIn Groups participation. A/B testing helps you improve your campaigns and LinkedIn automatically prioritizes your better-performing ads over the ones that get fewer clicks.
What about other social media platforms? It depends on where your audience spends its time. For example, if you know there are professional communities and discussion groups for your audience and industry, Facebook PPC might be a smart investment. Instagram ads can help you reach the growing number of millennials who make purchasing decisions for their businesses. To get the most from advertising on these platforms, you’ll also need to invest in building relationships with your followers.
How can you use PPC at each step of the decision-making process?
Let’s look at each stage leading up to the B2B purchase decision to see what pay-per-click messaging can do. Keep in mind that buyers’ journeys are rarely linear and frequently jump around from stages and channels. That’s why it is important to have compelling content for various stages and a presence on multiple channels.
1. Problem identification. This stage typically starts with buyers doing their own research online, browsing through search results and possibly downloading white papers that address their issue.
When you target buyers at this stage, your ads should create awareness, show your expertise and authority on the topic they’re researching, and offer resources like white papers and explanatory videos to move them further into the funnel.
2. Solution exploration. When buyers have done enough research to understand the problem they’re dealing with, they’ll start researching solutions. At this point, web searches will lead them to vendor websites where they’ll dig into solution details.
Gartner says this is the stage when buyers start talking over possible solutions with their peers, for example in LinkedIn discussions. When you’re targeting your Microsoft Audience Ads based on LinkedIn attributes, and when you’re advertising on LinkedIn, keep in mind that the people who see them are likely comparing solutions and looking for user feedback. This is the stage to go into more detail about the features your audience needs. You may also want to run ads with customer testimonials, awards and overall review status (for example, a high review score on TrustRadius).
3. Requirements building. Now, buyers may be requesting proposals, having more in-depth social media conversations about potential solutions, signing up for demos, and reading suppliers’ buying guides. They’re also probably discussing a list of possible solutions with the other decision makers on their team or within their company. Ads relevant to buyers at this stage include free trial, demo, and free consultation offers as well as ads with links to buying guides and case studies.
Monitor your metrics
As you run your PPC campaigns, make full use of the A/B testing and performance tracking tools each platform offers. Over time, you’ll get a clear picture of which messages perform best, which platforms deliver the best return on investment, and exactly what your customers are looking for when they research solutions like yours.
Want to make sure you’re getting the best results from your PPC campaigns? Get in touch to talk with our PPC and SEO experts.