The average B2B buyer knows what they want. They may need help choosing a brand or nailing down a product’s technical specs, but when they take their questions to a search engine, they’ll use a select handful of keywords to narrow their choices.

That’s the beauty of PPC strategy for B2B brands, according to Giles Lino, PPC Strategist at Motum B2B. Marketers in that space have a golden opportunity to rank higher in a search engine results page (SERP) – provided you define the right keywords.

“With B2C, you’re going after anybody and everybody who’s got $150 in their pocket. That's a saturated pool,” he says, adding that B2C businesses tend to focus on quantity over quality, whereas B2B emphasizes quality over quantity. “Think about Nike, Adidas, Puma – the list goes on, and each of those companies is competing for that $150-200.”

Keywords are the backbone of any successful PPC strategy. Giles Lino, PPC Strategist at Motum B2B

In general, PPC generates twice the number of visitors compared to SEO. B2B companies typically serve smaller markets, sometimes with lots of competition, which means it’s critical to properly define your product for buyers to see it on the SERP.

“If you have the right combination of keywords, you’ll show up a good chunk of the time, and you can eliminate any excess noise from unwanted clicks,” says Lino.

More than 70% of B2B buyers use search engines to research their next purchase. Considering that more than 61% of B2B marketers use PPC ads to distribute content, odds are your business can benefit from a focused PPC strategy.

Here’s how to do it right.

First, how do you target your audience?

Because they’re B2C, the Nikes and Pumas of the world can target customers based on a wide range of data points, whether it’s age range, location, or areas of interest.

Staff looking at a whiteboard in a sunny office

Capturing your audience in B2B can be a bit tricky, particularly with the current trend towards data anonymization. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow you to attach tracking pixels to ads to build lookalike audiences without revealing any personal information, which allows you to continue expanding your audience definition.

That said, 92% of PPC traffic comes from Google. With Google Ads’ demographic targeting, you can target the affinity audience and in-market audience.

“In a B2B sense, affinity audiences are a little harder to use because affinities are more B2C focused,” says Lino. “For example, there’s no affinity audience in Google for rotary valves specifically – they’re more likely to have an affinity for camping or photography.”

He says Google Analytics and Google Ads can provide more insight into your B2B audience so you can continue to filter and refine it.

What are your customers searching for?

To succeed in PPC, keyword choice is everything.

“Keywords are the backbone of any successful PPC strategy. If your keywords aren’t right, you’re not going to get performance,” says Lino. “You really have to nail that down, feel good about it, and review the results.”

He emphasizes that it’s just as important to add as many negative keywords as possible to your campaign. Negative keywords, which are search terms you specifically choose to exclude from your campaigns, prevent your ad from being triggered by words or phrases that aren’t relevant to your business.

That helps you focus on the keywords that will really have an impact.

“Build out your negative keyword list as robustly as you can,” Lino advises.

He adds that in certain situations, you may also want to organize keywords into ad groups that address the various stages of your purchase funnel. You’ll need to start with a thorough understanding of your sales cycle to map out a detailed plan.

How do you write the ads?

“One of the most interesting things about PPC is that you are beholden to a character count,” says Lino.

Google focuses mainly on responsive text ads. You provide 15 headlines and 4 descriptions, and it uses machine learning to determine the best combination of text for the results you want. Headlines can’t exceed the maximum of 30 characters, and descriptions must stay under 90 characters.

Under those limitations, precise word choice is critical.

“You have to be straight to the point, across the board,” Lino explains. “If you don’t find an immediate result on the first page of the SERP, or if the copy doesn’t grab your attention and speak to a specific pain point or application, you’re going to gloss over it. You have to be very specific with the copy.”

How do you measure results?

For Lino, one of the most important figures in measuring a PPC campaign’s success is the click-through rate (CTR). The other is conversions.

PPC is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of tactic. You have to be on it, pay attention to it, and nurture it. Giles Lino, PPC Strategist at Motum B2B

“My goal is to drive valuable correct traffic to a website,” he says, meaning traffic that is relevant to what the website is offering. “As the CTR goes up, the ad is likely to reach more people and align with something they’re interested in, which means they’re more likely to click.”

If the CTR declines month over month, it may mean the keywords or messaging are off target, which is where Lino recommends adding further exclusions and negative keywords.

“If the trajectory of your CTR is upwards, you can be confident your keyword selection and ad copy resonate with your audience,” he says.

How does PPC fit into your marketing budget?

Budget is always a major factor in any kind of B2B marketing campaign, but in PPC, the cost-effectiveness of the campaign really boils down to how well you cultivate it.

“PPC is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of tactic,” says Lino. “You have to be on it, pay attention to it, and nurture it. Second, you have to know where your audience is.”

Hands gesturing at a laptop with analytics onscreen

PPC is getting more expensive as time goes on, particularly in Google’s sphere. Lino doesn’t think that’s any reason to shy away from the tactic, as it can still be extremely cost-effective when you have a specific product and a strong grasp on your audience.

“It’s important to have a strong understanding of your marketing budget and what you think is a comfortable return on investment. What is a comfortable cost-per-conversion for you?” he explains.

He adds that strong sales and marketing alignment is crucial because marketers will need to know what leads are coming in, and sales can communicate which ones are closing. You can capture Google Click ID (GCLID) information to attribute leads and get further insights into the cost-per-conversion.

How do you perfect the craft?

“Google Ads is, in my opinion, easy to start and hard to master,” says Lino, adding that the frequent changes to the platform make it difficult for beginners to keep up. “Understanding how the match types work, targeting parameters – all these things work together, and they can really work well if you put the time and effort into them.”

PPC campaigns need enough time to develop. Then you need to nurture them by revising keywords – which ones are working, which ones aren’t, and which ones are worth swapping out for a fresh keyword – and reviewing search queries, which can add insight into how users approach your ads.

“You can’t control how people search, but you can review how your keywords and ads are being triggered by the search queries and their context,” Lino explains.

His final takeaway is that it’s important not to get discouraged right away.

Any PPC campaign takes time and commitment to run successfully. That’s where an experienced marketing agency comes into play.

Ready to solve the PPC puzzle?

Get in touch to talk about your B2B company's PPC strategy.