B2B Marketing Alert: Paid Search Doesn’t Work; Content, SEO, and Ad Retargeting Do
According to a recent blog post in Search Engine Watch written by one Uri Bar-Joseph, paid search for B2b companies is dead, “or at least dying.” Admittedly, Uri Bar-Joseph may not be the most objective voice in the matter: after all, he is Director of Marketing at Optify, a demand generation software suite for B2B marketers. But I write for a blog that helps SMBs use Marketing Technologies to improve their bottom line, and for my money I think he’s spot on.
Let me first briefly summarize why Bar-Joseph thinks paid search is dying before I give you my two cents (or two ideas) as to what B2B companies should be doing instead to drive online traffic, leads, and sales.
WHY PAID SEARCH DOESN'T WORK FOR B2B MARKETERS
Paid Search is Dying
To make his case, Bar-Joseph sites survey data taken by his own company, Optify, along with that of Webmarketing123. The data show a steady decline in PPC usage on the part of B2B online marketers as they see its effectiveness wane.
For example, comparing Webmarketing123’s 2011 annual survey of over 500 U.S. online marketers (2/3 of whom were classified as B2B) to its 2012 findings, PPC showed a downward trend on all questions related to effectiveness, budget and usage, and trended up on likelihood to be discontinued or decreased.
Numbers taken from Optify’s own database, comprising mainly B2B marketing companies and digital marketing agencies for B2B companies, corroborate this trend:
So what gives? Why is paid search becoming less relevant for B2B companies?
But Why it is Dying?
To answer this question, Bar Joseph essentially argues that PPC campaigns are too expensive and too complicated to administer.
In any industry, competition for the best search terms drives up ad cost. Moreover, proper PPC administration relies on an expert hand, which means hiring dedicated employees or outsourcing, adding to the expense.
The leads you tend to get with PPC are often irrelevant, as high-level decision makers are not usually the ones doing their own research. With paid search, what you often end up doing is marketing to non-decision makes, or worse still, to fellow marketers.
A BETTER WAY FORWARD
Original Content + Organic SEO
One the bright side, there are far better ways for B2B companies to attract prospects and generate leads online. The SEO/Content approach is a hybrid between the Old (SEO) and the New (Online Content Marketing). The idea is simple: by producing content your target audience is looking for, and using organic SEO techniques to help them find this content online, you’re able to more naturally connect with prospects, creating a more efficient and long-lasting revenue model.
Here are 4 steps to help you get started:
- Step One: Identify Your Target Audience
- Step Two: Try to divine what terms or phrases they use when searching online for your product/service
- Step Three: Create original content that a) naturally integrates these terms or phrases and b) adds value-that either resolves, informs, or entertains.
- Step Four: Share it throughout your social media channels.
Begin by clarifying your goals for each content piece. Think about three things: 1) Who you are trying to reach (target audience), 2) Why you are trying to reach them (campaign objective), and 3) What you want them to do once they find you (call-to-action; resolution).
Once you’ve mapped this out, you can create fresh and original content that speaks to your audience. Don’t get bogged down in SEO minutia by worrying about keyword difficulty or saturation. Write to your audience, optimize the words or phrases that they are searching for, and relax. Search engine ranking signals are changing to favor fresh content and social signals along with traditional on-site authority measures such as inbound links from high-quality sites. If you produce quality content that people will want to read and share it on social media, the links will come. This will prove increasingly true as search continues to get more social.
If you’re in a hurry and can’t wait for the fruits of your SEO and online content marketing efforts to flower, ad retargeting is a viable option.
Here’s how it works.
Let’s say you visit the website for my company, Widget World. You check out my hot new line of Widget 2000s, but are not quite ready to pull the trigger on a purchase. You leave my site and go golfing.
Later on, while surfing the web on other sites, you keep noticing ads displaying for the Widget 2000. Is it magic?
Not really. When you were on my site earlier, your browser downloaded a little bit of software code called a “cookie” (inedible) that is communicating with the servers on other sites using ad retargeting and telling them you really dig the Widget 2000.
Retargeted ads have much higher click-through-rates (CTRs), which makes sense, because the people seeing them have already shown at least some interest in the product or service in the retargeted ad.
Early numbers from Facebook’s new ad retargeting product for businesses, Exchange, exemplifies the power of retargeting. According to data from Adroll, Trigget, and TellApart, reported in TechCrunch, retargeted ads earn businesses 16X what they spend. Admittedly, Facebook’s effectiveness for B2B marketing is questionable at best, so I use this data anecdotally. With 16X the ROI, however, it may be worth your time to experiment with Facebook Ad Retargeting.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Bar-Joseph’s well-crafted arguments, coupled with my own experiences, leave me no choice but to agree with him that paid search for B2B is losing relevance. Changes in Search engine algorithms, end-user sophistication levels, and dubious ROI will likely continue to hasten this trend.
So what’s the bottom line? B2B companies are better off pitching paid search and reallocating resources to support an integrated digital marketing effort that includes content, organic SEO, social, and yes, a little bit of paid - but in the form of ad retargeting.