While paid search has been a staple of B2B Marketing for many years now, we’ve seen a notable wave of new developments that have fundamentally transformed advertising capabilities and opportunities in this channel. If you haven’t been keeping up, your campaigns might be falling behind.
Here are three common themes amongst these recent developments, and what it means for your B2B efforts.
Without a doubt, the growing availability of audience-based targeting is the largest development we’ve seen in the search space in recent years, and it’s of particular importance to B2B marketers given the targeted nature of their efforts. This is an area where the search had traditionally lagged behind other channels like programmatic and social, and the recent innovations we’ve seen have been very welcome.
Google’s announcement of in-market audiences in 2017 jumpstarted the engine’s emphasis on audience versus keyword targeting in search. Over the past year, we’ve seen the company’s commitment to this shift reflected in product releases, including its recent rollout of Discovery Campaigns for Search at Google Marketing Live 2019. Now, B2B marketers can target specific audiences across YouTube, Gmail, and Google’s Discover Feed, ensuring that companies can serve their ads to the right people across the various Google platforms. Over time, we’re going to see developments like this increasingly diminish the relevance of keywords within paid search.
Of course, Google isn’t the only search player shifting focus to audience targeting over keywords. Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) is combining the powers of its Bing search engine and its LinkedIn ownership to help B2B marketers buy across professional audiences in a way that Google can’t provide. Companies can now target their search spends around audiences based on information (title, industry, and company size) featured on their LinkedIn profiles. Despite Bing’s smaller share of the search market, the highly targeted nature of the professional audiences that can be delivered in this way is a game-changer for B2B.
Automated capabilities are improving Marketing efficiency across the board, and the realm of search is no exception. In particular, we’ve seen the greatest recent advances in the areas of bidding technology and creative development.
Historically, B2B search marketers did their bidding manually, refreshing Excel documents at arbitrary intervals and then changing their bids based on results. Now, Automation can handle that tedious task for them—adjusting bids more frequently and efficiently—to consistently meet efficiency targets. The time saved by utilizing Machine Learning is invaluable and can be reinvested into other aspects of the account to drive further gains.
Recently, Automation has reached a level where it can now effectively adjust creative for marketers on the fly as well. Not only does Google offer ad formats that can reshuffle headlines and descriptions for maximum effect, but the AI has actually gotten to the point where it can make ad copy recommendations based on the performance of existing copy.
The Optimization Score and Recommendations Tab is the next evolution in time-saving automation. Advertisers now can apply a wide range of optimizations to their campaigns in a few clicks. The Machine Learning helps specify the top optimizations for your account. Google has smartly quantified the value of these opportunities on a scale of 1-100 to help advertisers prioritize which changes should be implemented first.
The search engines will continue to invest in the applications of Machine Learning to their Advertising platforms. Those that determine how this technology can best enhance their processes will reap a competitive advantage.
Walking hand in hand with improvements in bidding technology, search marketers now also have access to improved attribution models through the major search engines. In the past, the platforms focused attribution on the last click, attributing the credit for a conversion to the last term a person searched before making a purchase. But as we all know, the purchase process often starts with much broader searches. Search engine attribution models are now taking a longer view in that regard, ultimately delivering more credit to the non-branded keywords that users search while in the consideration phase of the purchase funnel. In doing so, we are getting a better understanding of the value of our awareness tactics.
Putting Advances into Action
As B2B marketers look to take advantage of the latest advances in Search Marketing, they need to be adjusting their campaigns in a variety of ways. Here are the key considerations that should be top of min:
- Think audience-first: Take a step back and identify your target audience. Then, pick scalable, high-intent attributes that can be used to build an audience in search. That way, you can broaden your keyword targeting so that you are meeting high-value prospects across a wider array of search queries.
- Get personal with landing pages and ad copy: Now that marketers are targeting their search dollars at specific audiences, they also need to invest in building out custom landing pages that speak specifically to the targeted buyers. For example, if you’re selling routers, the landing page that school IT administrators arrive at should look quite different than the one designed to appeal to hospital IT administrators. The same goes for the ad copy you use to draw them in.
- Track activity: Finally, as you build your custom landing pages, make sure you tag all critical elements (phone numbers, “learn more” pages, contact forms, etc.) on the purchase journey so that you can build your own audiences from these actions. Tracking audiences based on what they do when they arrive on your site is critical, as their actions can be highly indicative of their intent to purchase.
- Test automation tools: The search engines are developing these tools so that you can invest more time into the aforementioned tasks. Identify how Machine Learning can best impact your accounts from two angles: effectiveness and efficiency (as it relates to time).
The tried-and-true search channel continues to deliver innovative new opportunities for B2B marketers, but success with today’s new audience-first approaches requires companies to realign their broader strategies. Are you keeping pace?