Whenever we take over a paid search campaign for a niche B2B company, I visualize us donning overalls and knee-high rubber boots and heading in with a high-power hose. There’s always a ton of crud to clean out!
We’ve worked on ad campaigns for B2Bs including insurers, legal service providers, equipment manufacturers, and creators of software/SAAS for things like HR and document management. We’ve always found that removing bad clicks is a highly effective way to improve ROI. It’s all about the targeting.
Why Be Selective in Choosing Your Targets?
B2B advertisers are often faced with exceedingly high CPC price tags in AdWords. For example, to be near the top of results for “business liability insurance,” an advertiser can expect to pay $20 – $25 each time someone clicks the ad:
Don’t worry B2Bs, I didn’t click your links!
This click is costly, so you really don’t want an untargeted person to click on it. That’s why you should be very selective in who sees these ads.
Negative Matching Keywords
Negative matching keywords is the #1 way to clear detritus out of your ad campaigns and make your audience more targeted.
When you set a negative match keyword in AdWords, Google will not display ads to anyone who uses that keyword in their search query. If you sell retail liability insurance and not truck liability insurance, then negative-matching the word “truck” will ensure you don’t pay for clicks from people searching for “truck liability insurance.”
As an example of an opportunity for improvement, State Farm’s ad shown below is displayed for “liability insurance for car” even though their ad is geared towards businesses. That’s probably not an effective placement for this ad. Negative-matching “car” would prevent the ad from showing up for this search:
Are you sure you want to show this searcher your B2B ad, State Farm?
Here are some recommended best practices in negative matching for B2Bs:
- Be thorough. There’s no downside to including variations and capturing all the categories that don’t apply to your business
- Monitor the full search phrases that deliver clicks to your campaigns, and continuously update your negative match list to capture any off-target terms you notice.
- If your business sells only to certain specialties within a business vertical, be sure to negative match other specialties. For example, if your business sells to veterinarians but not other pet care services, you should negative match all the varieties of pet care service providers you can think of, including acronyms.
- Consider broad-matched or phrase-matched negative keywords, not just exact-matched. If you exclude “truck driver,” a broad match will let you exclude “big rig driver” too.
- Unless they are part of your target audience, be sure to exclude job-seekers: people searching for “job”, “employer”, “salary”, etc.
When Negative Matching Isn’t Enough
Sometimes, a searcher does not give you enough information in their search query to determine whether to exclude them or not. For example, a person searching for “liability insurance” may be an average consumer looking for insurance for their home, or they may be a business manager looking for insurance for their business. For most B2B advertisers, the former group (consumers) is an undesirable audience: they don’t purchase your products. Worse, there are a lot of them; these clicks can drive up your advertising costs without generating the leads and sales you’re after.
If you’ve done everything you can to negative-match keywords that reveal a poorly-matched audience, but you’re still getting excessive clicks that aren’t converting to leads, there are a few steps you can take:
- Be extremely clear in your ad text to qualify the audience. Your goal is to dissuade undesirable searchers from clicking your ads. You can do this by specifying exactly who you serve, for example: “Services for Small Businesses.” You can also use ad extensions to list the kinds of businesses you serve.
- Track performance at the keyword level, so you know which keywords are giving you value. You may need to stop sponsoring some of your more generic terms if they’re getting too many crossover clicks from an untargeted audience. Unfortunately, due to the low volumes that are typical in B2B advertising, you may not have enough data to know which keywords are more or less successful.
- Use any other targeting options that are relevant. Does your business serve a certain geographic location? Is there a certain demographic that is more likely to be a better audience for you? Geotargeting and demographic targeting may be options to improve your audience mix.
Explore Lower Cost Keyword Targets
As mentioned above, CPC is generally quite high for keywords describing B2B offerings, easily heading upwards of $20 per click. Some other keywords may not have such stratospheric costs:
- Your branded terms
- Competitor names
- Competitor names + comparison terms like “vs” and “alternative”
These keywords may be not only lower-cost, but also a good target audience as well. Using competitor names as keywords is a common tactic and is acceptable within AdWords guidelines, but does require some caution. Your ads must always follow Google’s rules for trademarks, and the landing pages should contain content that is relevant to this search.
Expect Relatively High Management Effort
It’s never a fun thing for us to tell a client, but it’s a fact: dollar-for-dollar, B2B ad campaigns typically require much more management effort than B2Cs. It can be enough work to manage a $5000/month campaign for a B2B as it is for a B2C campaign ten times that size. This is because of the relatively low volume and high competition of the campaigns. Keep in mind: it takes more work for your advertising manager to spend less of your money than it does to spend more!
On the bright side, each of your sales is probably worth a lot more than the average consumer purchase – and even more so if you factor in the lifetime value of a new customer. A highly-focused AdWords campaign will be worth the effort: put your ads in front of the right people and you’ll give it the best chance of success!