by Mathew Maundrill
Outbound strategies are often front of mind when we’re talking to customers and prospects about their b2b marketing. However, outbound marketing requires you to have identified the individual recipients. A glance at most analytics data will show that 95% of the visitors to your shiny new website are unknown. So, why don’t businesses pay more attention to the unknown visitors?
It’s not surprising that most businesses focus on known contacts when they are looking for leads. But marketing is as much about awareness and funnel management as it is lead generation. In fact, we’d argue that without the former, the latter becomes much harder.
Websites should be written with specific users in mind. If they are authored and targeted properly, they should attract genuine prospects. The challenge then is to get these prospects to identify themselves. You can’t have a meaningful conversation with an unknown visitor, so the aim is to turn monologue into dialogue.
When we consider search visibility, we’re most commonly talking about search engine optimisation and pay-per-click activity like Google Ads. Both are valid strategies but are not direct replacements for each other. SEO is an ongoing process of writing relevant content for bots and browsers alike to improve organic SERP performance. The trouble is, it takes time to build the kind of equity required to sustain page 1 results.
PPC activity is a good way to get a site to the top of the page and put our products and services in front of a range of prospects. Of course, not everyone that sees an ad is going to be a prospect, but that’s the price of fame. The trick is ensuring that the true prospects find what they are looking for on your site and offering this in a way that encourages them to give you information about themselves in exchange.
A search engine by any other name
When prospective business customers are seeking products and services, it has become the de facto approach to “Google it”. Kudos to Google for joining the eponymous ranks of Hoover, Jacuzzi and Tupperware, but other search engines are available.
Yes, Google accounts for 75% of all traditional search traffic, (it receives over 5 billion search requests a day) but its very popularity makes it a competitive place to be. You can’t have a search engine marketing plan without Google, but it doesn’t have to be the only channel you use.
Bing has gained some traction in recent years and has become particularly popular amongst US audiences (accounting for around a third of US searches). If you’re marketing to the US, it’s worth considering a campaign for Bing too.
5 billion is an interesting number. It’s the number of Google searches conducted every day, but it’s also the number of YouTube videos watched every day. So, if you’re marketing via search engines, remember YouTube is a search engine too.
Aligning content to buyer behaviour
The concept of aligning content to stages of the buying cycle shouldn’t be an alien one to marketers. However, it is underused when it comes to search engine marketing. Browsers are sometimes aware that they have a problem, but not of the solution.
In this instance, they are likely to use search terms or phrases that feature the problem, not the solution. For example, how do I improve… how do I avoid… etc. If you are building a PPC campaign, make sure you have ad groups dedicated to awareness and use these exploratory keywords and phrases to serve your ads.
Browsers that are aware of a range of solutions, and are considering their options, will be looking to create a shortlist or form a preference for one solution. In this instance they will be using language such as best solution for… solutions compared… benefits of… etc.
Finally, there will be those browsers who have chosen a solution and are looking for a vendor or partner to help implement it. Here, they will be seeking validation of their decision.
For each of these stages, ad copy, call to action and destination content should be aligned with browser intent. For awareness, concentrate on thought leadership, best-practice and lighter content. It’s unlikely these contacts will be in a buying frame of mind just yet, so don’t get hung up on gating content; you can track soft conversions as easily as form fills.
For consideration, concentrate on product features and benefits. Offer demonstrations where applicable, and look to capture the browser’s details in return for meaningful, high-value content. For preference, include case studies and examples of third-party validation.
Manage and maintain
The most important thing to remember when running any search campaign is that its success or failure will be governed by how well you manage it. The search landscape is both fluid and competitive. You can’t simply set and forget.
Ongoing management of bid strategies, inclusion of negative keywords and search query reporting can help optimise ad performance. Remove under-performing ads and allocate budget to the ads that are generating conversions. Don’t be afraid to test. Explore the use of expanded text ads and beta functionality such as responsive ads.
If you’re struggling to generate conversions, or a return on your investment in search engine marketing, get in touch.