B2B Hubs Or PPC? Are All Leads Created Equal?

B2B companies crave leads. Good leads. Quality leads.

At the right price.

Both Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC) and Buyer Hubs/Lead Generation sites offer opportunities to cap the Cost Per Lead and gain some control (which is not as easy in other media, save Direct Response.)

In this case, when I am referring to “Buyer Hubs”, I am not talking about B2B Directory listings (even enhanced listings), but rather sites where buyers go to submit a Request for Quote from multiple vendors. I acknowledge that some sites have a hybrid model of RFQ forms and enhanced directory listings. This is about the leads paid for in the RFQ model.

Examples of Buyer Hubs are BuyerZone and VendorSeek. Examples of hybrid Directories and multiple-vendor lead generation sites are MacRAE’S Blue Book and Bitpipe (Bitpipe is not technically an RFQ site, but leads can be fed to multiple vendors when non-vendor-specific content is requested such as a white paper or guide.) A B2B Directory website example is ThomasNet.

I have seen many situations where the Cost Per Lead produced via a Buyer Hub is significantly less than leads generated via PPC. I’ve seen a few situations in the reverse as well.

But, are all leads created equal?

Consider the following Pros & Cons of each (in relation to generating high-quality leads):



One of the primary benefits of PPC is control, with all of the following advantages:

  1. Ad Text – Ad copy (tested and tweaked quickly) that can help prevent curious clickers and pre-qualify visits.
  2. Landing Pages – Specifying destination pages, allowing for copy and form elements that are customized by you to help screen out poor-quality leads that will only frustrate your sales force.
  3. Bids – Bidding strategies that allow you to target specific positions on a search results page. It is often positions 3 through 6 that have the best combination of cost-to-conversion (the searcher takes the initiative to move their eyes to the right side of the page.)
  4. Keyword Selection – A visitor to a Buyer Hub may have gotten there through a variety of means, including a keyword search that was not nearly as qualified as you would like it to be. PPC campaigns provide control through match types, negative keyword screens, selection of keywords based on very specific niches, use of long-tail search terms, and more.
  5. Tracking lead source – Another strong benefit of PPC is the traceability of lead source by keyword. It is possible to integrate your CRM system with contact form submissions (or sales transactions) and associate the keyword with the transaction. This can provide both the sales person and the marketing team with information that can improve communications with prospects and customers.

Buyer Hubs:

  • Cheaper – Often hubs can provide a cheaper Cost/Lead than other marketing channels.
  • Outsourced Marketing – Hubs exist only if they attract website traffic, and they spend time and resources on their SEO, PPC, and Social Media efforts. You may find that you can allocate your own resources in areas that your hub partners do not dominate.
  • Pre-Screened & Pre-Qualified – Depending on the hub, a visitor may have been forced to go through a series of screens where they provided detailed information about their needs. Some hubs may also offer call screening as part of their process, where someone calls and verifies that there is a real company, a real person, and a real need.
  • Returns – Hubs will often allow you the opportunity to “return” a lead that you feel was not qualified enough and did not meet your needs as specified in your selection of their categories and qualifying criteria. If successful, you will get the money credited back to your account. There is no ability to do that with PPC!



  • Cost – Obviously this will depend on the keyword space, bidding strategies, your offers, landing page optimization, etc., but often leads generated via PPC have a higher Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) than leads provided through RFQ hubs.
  • Frequent Management – To achieve great results, PPC requires time and creativity.

Buyer Hubs:

  • Your Competitors & Conversion to Sale – When leads are cheaper via a hub than via PPC, it is most likely because the leads are being sold to multiple parties. You may pay only $20 per lead, but your competitors may be paying the same amount, for the same leads. Now you are in a definite bidding for the leads coming through this channel.
  • Targeted Messaging Control – The hub may provide some very detailed screening questions that users have to fill out before being allowed to submit their request, but those questions may not be your questions. Without control over your messaging (on the hub and by bringing them to your Landing Pages), the quality of the leads may be less.

The real test

In the end, you should not benchmark your leads by Cost Per Lead. This is a mistake I see all too often, and colleague after colleague confirms that they see the same thing with their clients. You have to take the time to analyze the quality of the leads and determine your Cost Per Sale.

If you don’t take this time, then you may be making the wrong decisions about where to invest your lead generation budget.

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

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: Search Marketing


About The Author: is the founder and former president of KoMarketing Associates, LLC, a search engine marketing firm based in Waltham, MA. You can learn more about what he does at www.andykomack.com and can follow him on Twitter at @akomack.

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  • http://www.cpcsearch.com Terry Whalen

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for the article – your points on measuring B2B lead quality seem very valid and straightforward.

    It’s also important to measure B2B lead quality and cost/sale within the paid search channel, given that your spend is allocated among ad groups and keywords, and given that you do have control of how your budget is allocated. Just as you would measure cost/sale between lead gen channels like paid search and B2B hubs, you should also measure it within your paid search program in order to increase ROI.


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