It’s simple. A successful paid search campaign is contingent upon three fundamentals: keywords, ad copy, and landing pages. Together they equal success. Right?

Wrong.

The fact is, those fundamentals are only part of the equation. There is another key component entirely. Namely, analytics. Or more specifically, tracking, and understanding the quality of a visitor. In fact, not only are these other elements fundamental, they also take on increased importance for the B2B set. Why? Because of the complexity of buying cycles for this market.

Let me explain.

When it comes to search, there are many similarities between marketing to consumers and marketing to businesses, such as the need to understand your audience and speak their language. However, when it comes to buying cycles, the similarities end.

In fact, B2B buying cycles are inherently complex. Consequently, marketers need to be mindful that prospects can be in very different phases within the buying cycle. And because it’s your job to put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and think about what they need, tracking and understanding the quality of a visitor can be instrumental in helping you do just that.

Tracking: why digging deep on keyword data matters

To be sure, tracking offers marketers a myriad of benefits, not the least of which is keyword data. It’s a rich source, and analysis of it can yield highly valuable information that is both immediately actionable, and has the potential to significantly impact campaign performance. It can also help marketers avoid shooting themselves in the foot.

For example, many marketers hastily ditch keywords that appear to be non–performers. This is a mistake. Instead, they should take a closer look at their tracking data. Here’s why.

A few years ago, comScore conducted a study that quantified the number of searches leading up to a purchase, by category. For example, the research revealed that computer hardware buyers searched an average of 4.9 times before ultimately making a purchase.

The implication of this finding should be obvious. Just because a keyword doesn’t yield immediate conversions, doesn’t mean it’s not contributing. It could very well be highly effective at moving a prospect through a particular phase of the buying cycle.

To capitalize on this behavior, marketers need to leverage tracking to better understand their customers and prospects. The first step in doing so is to make sure you don’t discount the keywords with a sub–par conversion record. In fact, before you remove a keyword that isn’t producing conversions, or reduce a bid, thoroughly review the query reports that are available through the search engines and/or your search vendor.

Regularly reviewing these click chain reports will help you understand the searches your customers actually conducted and that ultimately led to their executing the call to action. Then use this data—whether manually or with a bidding agent—to ensure that certain keywords maintain their positioning regardless of their direct conversion value.

And as you review these reports, pay attention to your inclusion window. This is the time allocated for a click and the subsequent conversion event to happen in order for it to be considered a result of a particular paid click.

It is critical to appropriately set your inclusion window within your tracking solution; otherwise the learnings gleaned from the data will be faulty. For example, if someone types a keyword, and then sees your ad and clicks, but doesn’t immediately convert, and then comes back to the site 10 days later and converts, it would not count as a conversion against the originating paid search click unless your inclusion window was set to 10+ days.

Quality of visit: assessing the value

Now, let’s turn our attention to the quality of a visit and how it factors into your paid search success equation.

To start, let’s get personal. What’s the value of a visitor to your site? (Play annoying game show music now.) Okay, time’s up. The answer is, of course, that it depends.

Yes, it was a trick question—but the point is that there’s never just one definitive answer for this. The value of a visitor to your site should depend on the action they take while there.

Yet all too often, B2B marketers routinely identify a call to action, implement a tracking pixel, and plunge forward with their PPC campaign with little regard to the differences in value.

Why is this? Especially consider the complexity of the buying cycle, and as noted earlier, that prospects are in different phases of it. For instance, some visitors may want to register for email updates or free white papers while they are researching their options. Others might want to look up product specifications or use product comparison widgets as they edge closer to making a buying decision.

Given that knowledge, each specific call to action on your site should have an assigned value, dependent on what it provides. Consider registrations—they actually capture user information, so naturally, they should receive a higher value than other actions where the visitor remains anonymous.

Essentially, what you want to do is create a quality index. Why? Because having a clear understanding of the value of a visitor can help you shift your marketing dollars away from the keywords that don’t perform strongly to those that do.

To accomplish this, first identify all of the different actions a visitor can take on your site. And be thorough. Then rank them in order for the value they hold. Next, assign values to each action based upon what it delivers for your business.

Once you have your calls to action indexed, use a tracking system to capture these actions that occur as a result of paid search activity, and incorporate these values into your optimization efforts. Lastly, use this information to inform your bidding strategy.

The bottom line is that while keywords, ad copy, and landing pages are fundamental to paid search, alone they won’t add up. Tracking and understanding the quality of a visitor are also essential to your paid search success equation.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: SEM | Search Ads: General

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About The Author: is managing director of the Chicago office for search engine marketing firmiProspect, and can be reached at a.wheeler@iprospect.com.

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