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The Big B2B PPC Mistake
It’s been said that the three rules of marketing are brand recognition, brand recognition, and brand recognition. Given that, marketers spend considerable funds and resources to ensure that people recognize their brands and connect with them. In other words, brand matters. Yet, when it comes to PPC marketing, the importance of brand gets a little fuzzy—especially for B2B marketers.
From my experience, branded keywords tend to play a relatively small role in the PPC efforts of many B2B marketers. In fact, the number of B2B companies actually leveraging their brands in PPC appears to be quite low. The reason? Many B2B marketers feel that their customers and prospects already know their brand and/or how to find them; or that their sales force is already speaking with anyone they could envision as a client. Ultimately, they feel that spending money on branded PPC search ads would be a waste.
Unfortunately, they are mistaken.
I have seen numerous B2B clients experience huge increases in traffic, conversions, and branded search queries from leveraging their brand in both paid and organic search. As such, I advise clients to strive for consistent coverage across the search engine results pages via organic and paid search vehicles.
But don’t get me wrong—not all B2B marketers are averse to leveraging their brand in PPC. Some might just be starting to embrace it, others might be further along and testing its impact, while still others might be more advanced and already incorporating display ads into their efforts. Clearly, a range exists. Given that, I’ve divvied up the range into five categories based upon a marketer’s use of branded terms. Let’s take a look at each.
Standing and watching. Marketers in this category are not making use of their brand in PPC marketing. They are failing to consider the downstream and indirect influence on their overall objectives that could result from not leveraging their brand in PPC. Marketers in this group would be wise to consider the possibility that they could be significantly limiting their outcomes by the choices they are making. A great way for these marketers to get started is to run tests to determine the impact that branded terms could have for them.
All terms are the same. Marketers in this category look at their campaigns solely in terms of pure outcomes. Their stance is that branded terms either contribute to the overall goal of the campaign (sales, leads, etc.) or they will be removed. This group is focused on instant gratification, and will argue that if it a positive outcome does not immediately follow a click, then they have wasted money. Trust me, convincing these marketers to begin testing is tough enough, but their unwillingness to allow for sufficient time for latent conversions can be even more frustrating.
Testing. Marketers in this group have done a solid job of testing and learning, and deserve a pat on the back for doing so. The most common tests can be simply executed. First, identify which of your branded terms have solid organic rankings. Then, turn off your PPC ads for those terms for one or two weeks (two is usually necessary unless you see thousands of branded search queries per week). During this time, measure your clicks, conversions, and conversion rate. Next, turn those PPC ads back on for the same amount of time, and measure the same stats. Chances are, if you have both organic and PPC engaged, you will like the test results.
Use of display ads. In addition to testing alone, marketers in this group are also leveraging display ads to help fuel the demand for their brand. This is a great overall strategy, and an easy one to test. For example, try turning the display ads on and off, and measure the impact on branded impressions, clicks, and conversions, and the delta between those two during your different periods. However, when you assess the results, be sure to account for any seasonality and/or significant external factors such as positive or negative corporate news.
Offline conversions. Marketers in this category are ahead of the curve and deserve serious recognition. These savvy marketers are not only running the tests I have described above, but they are also going the extra distance by examining the impact of their efforts on offline sales. Given the nature of B2B companies, it is imperative for marketers to do this. If you merely consider online results, you will find that you are not fully recognizing and giving credit to your online initiatives.
The bottom line is that brand does matter, and smart B2B marketers should be fully leveraging their brand in PPC marketing. Doing so could yield significant improvements to traffic, conversions, and branded search queries. As you review the above categories, find where you fit in, then examine your budgets and your overall marketing situation. If you fall into the first four categories, I strongly encourage you to commit to moving ahead by at least one group in the coming months. Give it a try. I am confident you’ll wish you had done it sooner.
Brian Kaminski is managing director of search engine marketing firm iProspect in San Francisco, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
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