Ask the #SMXpert: Smart B2B SEM Tactics
If you have a question on A/B split testing or are having challenges with ABM targeting on paid search, read on. Contributor Brad Geddes answers these questions and more in our continuing SMXpert series!
The following is a continuation of the Q&A segment with moderator Brad Geddes from the “B2B SEM: Meeting Specific Challenges With Really Smart Tactics” session held during Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West 2018.
Challenges facing business to business (B2B) search advertising buyers are unique and include:
- Finding enough search volume on technical, niche keywords.
- Keeping clear of high-volume consumer-oriented keywords.
- Attributing properly despite long sales cycles and conversions that frequently take place offline.
SMXpert Brad Geddes answered questions and shared some of his strategies and tactics for creating profitable B2B ad campaigns.
Question: Given the long sales cycle and not so much search volume, how do you run A/B split testing in B2B SEM?
Brad: There are two parts to ad testing in this scenario. The first is determining what to track (conversions). If the sale doesn’t happen for two years, then you might try looking at qualified leads. If a lead isn’t qualified for 12 months, then you might try leads and so on.
The goal is to get as close to a conversion as possible in a reasonable time frame. Generally, you want the conversion event to happen in seven to 30 days so that the data isn’t so stale that you’re taking action on old data.
Because you have low volume, you want to use multi-ad group testing. With multi-ad group testing, you can aggregate the data from patterns, lines, labels and so on across ad groups so that you have more data upon which to make decisions.
For instance, in B2B pay-per-click (PPC), there are usually a few main considerations for your headline:
- Best call to action (CTA).
- Ability to pre-qualify the audience.
- Primary use benefit.
If you were working on call to action (CTA) testing, you could write two or three different CTAs and use them in all of your ad groups within that test segment.
You could then examine the data by CTA across ad groups to see which one has the best conversion per impression, and that would be your ad winner. Then you could repeat with other tests, lines and so forth.
Question: Let’s talk six-month-plus sales cycles. You don’t want to jam forms down people’s throats from the beginning, but simply spending money on awareness (via ungated content) doesn’t always look good in the eyes of executives. Any thoughts or ideas on this?
Brad: The advantage of ungated content is you push your content to more people and make it easily shareable and discoverable by search engines. The downside is that you collect fewer form fills early in the funnel.
The way we measure this is with attribution management.
For example, we can give away the content and put an email signup form for more info on the page. As people come back and fill out demo request forms or take a free trial or move to the next step of your process where you can count them as a qualified lead, we can use that piece of information as a conversion.
Once we have the qualified leads, then we can examine how well our ungated content is leading to qualified leads at some point in time. We can also do some high-level comparisons of time frames to each other to see if we have more total conversions.
When you use ungated content, your conversion rates might drop, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s that more people are discovering your content; so you might see total visitors increase, conversion rates drop and more total conversions increase.
That’s still an overall business win, even with a drop in conversion rates, as you received more total customers in the end.
Question: Our B2B accounts always have low Quality Scores. Does this matter, or should we just ignore Quality Scores?
Brad: This is a tricky question; we need to break the keywords into three types first:
- B2B only terms (buyer agent words, B2B intent and so on).
- Terms that can be B2B or business to consumer (B2C).
For your brand, you can still get 10s.
For your B2B only terms, you should be able to get a 6 to 10.
The terms that are ambiguous: safety gates, accounting, task management and so on are trickier, as they can be searched for by both consumers or businesses. This means your ad’s job is to pre-qualify users and to weed out B2C wasteful clicks so you are only attracting B2B clicks.
If you don’t pre-qualify your audience you might find you have lower conversion rates at higher quality scores and you are attracting too many B2C clicks:
Think about the Quality Score factors:
- Expected CTR.
- Ad relevance.
- Landing page experience.
You can create a good landing page experience. Depending on the situation, ad relevance can be average or above average, depending on how you are trying to weed out B2C clicks.
However, you should not have an above-average expected click-through rate (CTR), as that means you are attracting B2C clicks. Usually, you’ll see your expected CTR as average or below average; and that’s OK if your goal is to weed out consumers.
Based on the Quality Score math, a 7 might be possible, but a 5 is much more likely.
When you have a 4, that means that you can improve the numbers, as this often indicates that your landing page experience has dropped.
While you shouldn’t make changes based solely upon Quality Score, in B2B, we usually aim for a 5 or 6 for the terms that can be B2B or B2C and start optimizing at a 4 or re-evaluating our metrics at a 7 just to make sure we aren’t getting too many B2C clicks.
Question: What challenges have you experienced with ABM targeting on paid search?
Brad: When we think about just PPC for account-based marketing (ABM) and we’re ignoring LinkedIn and Facebook data, it’s impossible to only target an employee of a company outside of customer match.
So one of the top goals is to get enough email addresses from the targeted companies to use customer match. You can do that by targeting a very small radius around the company’s campuses, making white papers just for that company and so forth to bolster your customer relationship management (CRM) data.
Then you bring in the LinkedIn and Facebook targeting to help augment the total users, as with those platforms you can often narrow your targeting enough to only target a few companies, or even a single one in some cases.
Another way to help is to focus not just on a single company, but a company type, such as enterprise companies in the tech sector or medium-size financial companies (You’ll need more parameters than I listed).
Then you can also use similar lists to reach more people who are like-minded.
So with search, ABM = audience + keyword. The keywords you know, so the main focus is building the audience lists.
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