16 Advanced strategies for running B2B PPC campaigns

Having worked extensively in the B2B PPC sphere advertising everything from enterprise software to commercial security solutions,I’ve picked up a few best practices that work really well in the B2B space that I want to share with you.

1) Use an attribution model that gives credit to multiple touch points

On average the B2B sales cycle is 102 days, however this can range from a few days to several years depending on the business and the price point of the offering.

During this sales cycle there are going to be multiple touch points. First point of contact could be a display click, followed by a more generic keyword with the conversion eventually coming through a branded term.

Here using the default last click attribution model you would not see the impact of these first two touchpoints and may pause these keywords, due to perceived wasted spend

In reality, if you didn’t have these touch points, your potential customer wouldn’t have searched or converted. So, your optimisations may have actually lost you conversions.

There are 6 attribution models within Google Ads, more on that here.

In the B2B sector we would suggest that you either use position based or time decay as it gives credit to the first touch point as well as the mid touch points.

Going back to the previous example where there was a display advert click, then a search for endpoint security, and finally a brand name search, this is what you would see in Adwords using a position based model.

  • Touchpoint 1: Banner ad – 0.4 conversions
  • Touchpoint 2: Endpoint security – 0.2 conversions
  • Touchpoint 3: Brand name search – 0.4 conversions

2) Consider cross channel and cross device attribution when measuring the impact of PPC in Google Analytics (360)

As we talked about in the last point, there are going to be several touchpoints for a conversion.

As well as multiple touch points within Google Ads there are also going to be multiple touchpoints across devices and channels too.

A user may find you via organic search and then complete the conversions via paid search for example.

Here you need to attribute some of the credit for the conversion to the organic touchpoint using a multi touch attribution model like position based in Google Analytics.

For enterprise advertisers it will make sense to invest into a service like Google Analytics 360 or Google attribution which allows you to change the attribution model within Google analytics to more accurately measure cross channel and cross device activity.

3) Understand the impact of your top of funnel activity on paid search performance and reflect this in your media budget.

Top of funnel has a direct impact on paid search performance. A strong brand will see higher click through rates and conversion rates than a lesser known brand name.

In the education sector for example conversion rates for people who are familiar with your brand are 4.34% compared to 2.04% for people who are not familiar with your brand.

If you’re looking to dominate the rankings in a competitive space then it’s key to ensure that you invest heavily in top of funnel activity that will drive brand awareness like TV, OOH, programmatic and paid social.

Search Engine land also published this study below showing how running TV ads alongside paid search activity positively impacted both branded (people searching for your brand) and non branded activity.

Analyse the performance increase of these channels on non-branded search traffic and factor this into your media plan when forecasting paid search media budget and performance.

4) Measure the full customer journey by linking Google Ads to your CRM (if your sales cycle is under 90 days)

If you are generating leads using Google Ads it is very important to integrate Adwords with your CRM system so that you can track which keywords generate leads that convert into contracts being signed offline.

What most marketers do is work out the average number of leads that it takes to generate a sale. What this fails to take into account is that different leads convert better than others.

Take this example of 3 different keywords with an PPC management agency’s own account.

If you were only tracking leads you would only get half the picture.

You would see that you have generated 39 leads, 3 sales and £104,000 in revenue, but would not know which keywords actually generated the leads.

Furthermore you are likely to start distributing more budget towards the keyword “PPC Management” as it is generating the most leads and take budget away from the keyword “enterprise PPC agency” which is actually generating the most revenue because in your Adwords account it appears to be performing poorly.

By integrating Adwords with your CRM you will be able to see the full customer journey from start to finish. So you will be able to see that even though the keyword “PPC Management” is generating by far the most leads, the revenue per lead (RPL) is just £500 compared to the keyword “Enterprise PPC Agency”, where the RPL is £13,140.

To learn how to integrate Adwords with your CRM you can read my article on Search Engine Journal – “improve your Adwords leads with offline tracking

5) Measure the full customer journey by linking Google Ads to your CRM (If your sales cycle is over 90 days)

There are a lot of business who have a sales cycle over 90 days.

If this is the case for you then don’t worry, there is a workaround to pass through your Google Ads data into your CRM of choice.

It works by UTM tagging your ads with relevant parameters such as the campaign name and keyword term.

Here is a tool that you can use to quickly and easily create these UTM tags if you’re new to it.

The next step is to pass them through to your CRM. Some CRMs like Salesforce have pre built plugins that you can use like CloudAmp.

If your CRM doesn’t have a pre-built plugin available then ask your CRM administrator to help you pass them through.

6) Split your campaigns based on converted leads.

Once you’ve got the data to show which of your leads have converted into sales offline (when one of your sales reps has closed a deal) you can then use this data to segment your campaigns into two.

For example, if you have a campaign for accounting software we would suggest that you segment it into two:

converters and non-converters. The converting campaign contains all the keywords that have converted offline into a sale. You’ll want to  allocate more budget to this campaign and bid more aggressively to max out your conversion volume of these high quality leads.

7) Structure your campaign based on the position in the sales cycle.

There are several different stages of the B2B sales funnel that can be seen below as people move from not knowing about your business to being a loyal customer.

Generally speaking there are 3 types of campaigns that you need to guide people down the funnel and show them the right messaging at the right time.

  • Demand Generation. Demand generation campaigns will be the first touchpoint where somebody might find you. This may be via a banner ad linking to a Gartner report on your website ranking you favorably against your competitors.
  • Direct Sales. Some people will be in the comparison stage already and will want to speak directly to a sales person. These will be mainly picked up by search campaigns with keywords relating to exactly what you sell, for example “accounting software”. We would suggest segmenting your search into brand campaigns that contain your branded terms, generic campaigns that contain non branded terms and competitor campaigns that target people searching for the names of your competitors.
  • Remarketing campaigns. Remarketing campaigns are a great way to push people down the funnel. You will want to create different remarketing campaigns based on what actions a user has taken, such as downloading a whitepaper or visiting the blog.

8) Use remarketing audiences to push people down the funnel

Remarketing is a great opportunity to push people down the sales cycle. We would suggest that you create audiences for every stage of the funnel and then build creatives that are relevant to that stage.

  • [Cold] People who have viewed a whitepaper but have not downloaded. Remarket to this audience to push them back into the whitepaper to complete a conversion.
  • People who have viewed any content on your website blog. Remarket to this audience and use ads to push people into mid funnel content such as case studies, comparison reports etc as well as whitepapers.
  • People who have downloaded a whitepaper. Remarket to this audience and use ads to push people into mid funnel content such as case studies, comparison reports etc.
  • People who have downloaded case studies, comparison reports or have been on service pages. Use remarketing here to push people into service pages so that they can enquire.
  • [Hot] People who have abandoned a contact form. These leads are really hot and you need to hit them hard with remarketing to drive them back into the forms to complete a conversion.

9) Tailor your remarketing creative around the position in the sales cycle

Once you’ve built targeted audiences around each stage of the buying cycle you also need to tailor your creatives to resonate with people who are in that position within the buying cycle.

Here is a great example of a top of the funnel advert that would be targeted at people who are not familiar with your brand or somebody who has bounced from your whitepaper page:

Bottom of the funnel creatives would have more direct messaging focusing on driving people towards case studies or using a call to action around enquiring now for example.

10) Remarketing to event attendees by uploading emails

If you’re running in person events such as seminars or are attending events like trade shows then you will have built up a list of email addresses.

By uploading this list into Google Ads you can match these email addresses to users online who Google can then serve ads to.

Based on their position within the sales cycle you can then tailor your ads to push them further down the funnel as we have talked about in the point above.

One thing to note now is that you will require a minimum spend of $50k on Google Ads for this option to be eligible for you.

11) Datashare between Google Ads and your CRM system.

Your CRM system will contain hundreds of thousands of emails that are already pre segmented into buckets that you can use for remarketing.

Using customer match you can replicate the lists that you have within your CRM system into Google Ads and then display ads to people on the list to show them relevant ads.

If you’re doing this on a large scale it might make sense to invest in building your own API based tech stack that will sync this data daily. More on that here.

12) Use search for promoting your whitepapers and resources

When it comes to content promotion most people seem to limit themselves to using display activity either through Google’s Display network or via other channels such as Linkedin or Facebook Ads.

Here is an example of how you might use a paid search ad to drive traffic into your whitepapers around Gartner’s magic quadrant report:

Then direct people to a gated page like the one below where you can download a whitepaper and then use marketing automation to push people through the sales cycle.

13) Don’t discount Google Shopping ads, they work for B2B too.

Most B2B providers assume that Google Shopping ads won’t work well for them. However we’ve seen some really good success using Google Shopping ads, even in the software space.

Here is an example of how you might run Google Shopping ads in the B2B software sector. 

Google Shopping actually outperformed search in terms of CPA and generated a good volume of leads

14) Competitor bidding still works in 2019 for B2B and it generates good quality leads

We have seen on several accounts that we have worked on that bidding on your competitors terms still works effectively in 2019 and has often generated leads that have converted into sales.

There are however a few cons that you will need to carefully consider before bidding on your competitors terms namely that:

  • It’s expensive. Though this shouldn’t deter you if it’s profitable it will be more expensive than your non-branded generic search activity. We have however seen good results at a lower cost on Bing ads which could be worth testing. The con of course being that there is less volume on Bing than Google.
  • You’ll upset your competitors. If you’re on good terms with your competitors then you probably won’t be once you’ve started bidding on their brand terms.

More on the pros and cons of competitor bidding here. But certainly test out.

15) Prospect people interested in your competitors with custom affinity & custom intent audiences on the GDN

Custom affinity and custom intent audiences are an effective tool for targeting people who are interested in your competitors.

Within the audience manager you can create your own custom affinity and custom intent like the one below.

When you define the audience select URL then enter the domain names of your competitors as above.

When you come to targeting your ads on the GDN you can then select your custom affinity audience in the targeting options.

16) Automate, automate, automate

As an agency obsessed with automation I couldn’t leave this one out. If you’re running B2B ads at scale then you’ll want to use Adwords Scripts and the API to automate repetitive tasks.

With the low search volumes for most B2B terms, smart bidding within Adwords such as tCPA don’t often work.

We would suggest using manual bidding and then using scripts to automate changing bids based on device, location, gender, age groups and audience list.

You can also automate repetitive tasks such as adding new keywords and negative keywords from your search terms report, reporting and ad testing.

Here is a list of 120 Adwords scripts that you can start implementing today.

wesley parker
About wesley parker

Wesley is Founder and CEO at Clicteq. He currently manages a £6 Mil Adwords portfolio across a range of different sectors. He regulally features in leading search publications such as Econsultancy, Campaign Magazine and Search Engine Land. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Linkedin

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