4 Steps to Recovery for Raging B2B PPC-aholics

B2B marketing, google display network, linkedin, linkedin advertising, Paid Search, PPC

April 3, 2013 by

B2B PPC-aholicI always thought that I could stay in control of it. That things wouldn’t get out of hand. But who was I kidding? I was knee-deep in a $15-a-click habit and my costs per lead were through the roof. I got caught up with the wrong crowd of competitors, blindly setting maximum bids to get to the top of the page. Those guys didn’t even care if they were getting results or weren’t even tracking to see if they were. They just wanted to be at the top of the page no matter what, and they didn’t care who they hurt to get there. Finesse wasn’t in their game plan, just sheer brute bidding force. They are the “Ham Fisted” bidders.

I played the game the way it had to be played on the search result pages, but I wasn’t getting anywhere and I wasn’t producing much, even in terms of clicks. That’s what happens when your average cost per click is in the double-digits. The leads that I got from those clicks were too expensive and my client was starting to grumble about possibly leaving the relationship.

low keyword search volumeI was stuck. The game was ruined and the only way I could compete was to be a ham-fisted bidder, just like the competitors that ruined the game. I tried to build out more “Long Tail” low-traffic, but highly targeted keywords, but almost all of them were slapped with the dreaded “Low Search Volume” label by Google AdWords. My translation of that message was “yes, these words are relevant, but we aren’t going to waste our server space on them and you are just going to have to compete like everybody else on the broadest, most competitive search terms.”

So what’s a marketer to do when they have to play a game rigged against them that will ultimately lead to failure? The answer: don’t play the game – change the game.

Step 1: Find a Another Way

In the B2B lead generation game—especially for high-end enterprise products or services—Google AdWords is NOT the best channel on which to advertise these days. The best channel for B2B lead generation is LinkedIn Advertising. LinkedIn has over 200 million members that willingly turn over all of their at-work demographic data. LinkedIn Advertising allows you to target text ads directly to your ideal customer at your ideal companies and, most importantly, to target ads to those ideal customers in LinkedIn Groups, which are thriving right now with active users. No other online channel on earth has the demographic targeting power that B2B advertisers need that LinkedIn Advertising provides right now. It gives marketers great power to filter out the irrelevant audience.

Step 2: Join the Content Marketing Revolution

Stop thinking of content marketing as just blogging. It’s webinars, whitepapers, surveys, videos, infographics and other cool stuff that many of your prospects would be willing to fill out a form on a landing page to get. If you are selling a big-purchase, high-commitment, enterprise-level product, then getting someone to click through an ad link and then fill out a “Contact Us” form is going to be a challenge. Go with low-friction, high-value digital assets to get form completions from your target audience and then work on nurturing those leads over time with marketing automation software, e-mail marketing and a continuous flow of relevant content assets to get that person further down the sales funnel.

Step 3: Make Google Remarketing a Priority

Have you heard about remarketing? If you have a long sales cycle or if you are trying to sell an enterprise-level product, it’s a great tactic to keep reaching your site visitors. I admit that I resisted it for a while; it seemed like cyber-stalking for commercial gain…OK, it kind of is, but if you are smart with capping the frequency of how often people see your ads, it can take the creepiness out of it. Remember Step 2 about content marketing? Well if you keep creating new digital content assets that your target audience would find useful, you can keep cycling them to your site visitors with remarketing and get more chances to be authoritative about what you sell.

Oh yeah, remember Step 1 about LinkedIn Advertising? Guess what, you can leverage your failures from your LinkedIn Ad clicks with Google Remarketing. You utilized all of LinkedIn’s demographic targeting features to find the perfect audience to advertise. If you utilize a custom URL on your LinkedIn Advertising landing page, you can then create a Google AdWords Remarketing Group specifically for those people who you know are in your target demographic. In other words, you can pretty much guarantee every person who sees the ads in that specific remarketing campaign are all your exact target demographic.

Step 4: Use AdWords Differently—Utilize the Features of the Google Display Network

I used to use the contextual targeting features of the Google Display Network. It was OK, but it wasn’t the tactic that I would use as my first line of attack. In fact, it was my last budget priority. But, that was a different game. That was Business-to-Consumer advertising, and the search advertising clicks were cheap and abundant.

In the ultra-competitive world of lead generation for B2B enterprises, costs per click are getting crazy-high and search volumes for the keywords that convert are much scarcer. It doesn’t help that Google seems to want to kill off all of the “Long Tail” keyword possibilities by slapping a “Low Search Volume” status on perfectly good keyword choices.

Here’s the good part about the Google Display Network. Today it has cool features that make it much more effective than it used to be. You can target ads to a Google searcher’s interests in the last 30 days. There are around 1,600 different search interests that you can target and a lot of them are pretty niche categories. You can also utilize Topic targeting to only advertise on pages in the Google Display Network on certain specific topics (they seem to overlap with the 1,600 interest categories). You can advertise to gender and age demographics. You can also bid higher or lower to those age groups and genders based on their historical performance.

You can also combine these features to find your performance sweet spot.

The Dawning of a New Day

Things got better pretty quickly after taking these four steps. I didn’t completely stop search advertising—I just allocate whatever budget is left over for it after prioritizing the new tactics that are working so well first.

dawn of a new day

The results are insanely good. For one of our clients, LinkedIn Ads for webinars and whitepapers have been over 1,500% more effective at getting sign-ups than search advertising that went for “Contact Us” conversions—and almost 100% cheaper in cost per lead.

The change in PPC tactics that emphasized Display Network tactics like remarketing, search interests and age and gender targeting actually had a lower conversion rate; however, the clicks were over 80% less expensive. We actually ended up getting 226% more PPC clicks for only about 66% of the previous spend.

That change led to way more opportunities to convert (clicks). We ended up with almost 50% more conversions, for a cost per conversion that was over 60% lower than previously realized by just focusing on search advertising.

I take it one click at a time these days. But, I’ve found a new way that’s working for me and seems to make everyone involved very happy.

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