In this blog, we'll be covering everything you need to know about creating a B2B PPC campaign.
Why run a PPC campaign?
For any business looking to generate leads quickly, pay per click advertising (PPC) is without a doubt the most cost-effective method.
Just as its name implies, you pay for clicks. You advertise your products and/or services online as advertisements and internet users click on them if they are interested. Unlike other marketing methods, PPC is instantly measurable (you can see the impact of it on your activities very quickly) and because of its wide targeting criteria, you can market to very specific people, helping you to generate high-quality traffic and leads.
But is it right for you? It can be tempting to go all-in with PPC, but it shouldn’t replace your website’s ongoing search engine optimisation or your content creation. In an ideal world, you should run PPC campaigns to supplement existing activity or for quick wins.
Done correctly, it can offer a fantastic return on investment – but knowing just how to start, implement and configure a PPC campaign can be a challenge.
Start with your buyer personas and target audience
Before launching or even planning a B2B PPC campaign, you need to know who you want to target.
If you’ve done the work of creating buyer personas, you should have a good idea of just who that is.
If you haven’t – you need to get together with the key stakeholders and departments in your company (marketing, sales and customer service) to brainstorm who your ideal buyers are. Think about their pain points, work challenges, goals, the industries they work in, the channels they use, their purchase process.
You can also look at your existing customer base to try and find similarities among them and then segment them into specific buyer personas.
Doing the above will help to lay a foundation for future buyer persona development.
Buyer personas lay the foundation for all of your marketing activity. Without them, you’ll be marketing blind and not focusing on those who need your products and services most.
Create content to drive leads down the funnel
To get the most out of PPC, after you manage to convert a lead – using whatever asset – you need to have other content in place, whether top, middle or bottom-of-the-funnel, to nurture them and drive them down the funnel.
Remember, you’re paying for clicks so you want to get your money’s worth. Top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) content is really good at capturing a high number of interested leads and generating awareness, whereas middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) and bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) content assets can be used to gauge intent and move deeper into the buyer journey. For example, between someone clicking on an ad for your pricing guide and someone clicking on an ad for one of your eBooks, who do you think is the more qualified lead?
Some best practice advice:
Don’t send people to your homepage
If you want to generate leads using PPC – don’t link your ads to your homepage. You want to drive conversions. To do that you need to be sending people to landing pages where they can convert.
Remember, the people who click on ads are usually looking for immediate solutions. So make sure you give those solutions to them.
Don’t base your company model on just PPC
Sure, you can get a lot of quick wins using PPC but it’s not a long-term strategy – and unless you have coffers filled with gold, it’ll be costly.
Our advice? Start using PPC to drive people to where you want them to go on your website. In the meantime, search engine optimise (SEO) your website to allow for more organic conversions. This will eventually allow you to reduce the amount you spend on PPC in order to achieve the same volume of conversions.
For your long-term strategy, look to build out and optimise your website further. This’ll help you to drive more organic traffic and support your paid activity. In other words, whilst you’re developing your website, use PPC for some quick wins.
If PPC is the vehicle that gets you to where you want to be, content is the fuel. If you want to engage website visitors and encourage them to convert or even get in touch, you need high-quality content that answers their questions and positions your products/services as the solutions.
What online advertising channels should you use?
You should use the online channels where your prospects spend their time. This might sound like a vague answer but fundamentally you need to be seen in the places where your prospects are.
From a research perspective, most purchase decisions start with a Google search. So, if you’re deciding on what search engine to run your PPC campaigns – start with Google.
From a B2B social media perspective, it’s usually LinkedIn. But depending on your target audience, it could be Twitter or Facebook.
There’s a good chance that your target audience uses more than one social media channel, so you need to determine which channel has the most influence in the purchase process. If you find that more than one channel contributes to the process, you’ll have to split your budget.
Be where your potential customers are. If they can find you and your ad content resonates with them, they’ll reach out.
Setting and splitting your budget by channel
Each platform – Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter – provides an estimate (in your local currency) cost per click. Using that and industry benchmarks for conversion rates, you can calculate your potential cost per conversion. This’ll help you to determine your budget and provide a baseline for monthly, quarterly and yearly reporting.
If a platform doesn’t provide you with a cost per click or the cost to hit your targets is ridiculously inflated it might not be worth using it. After all, if at the end of a campaign you can’t tell your CEO or board how much you spent versus how much you made, they’ll be unlikely to invest in PPC again.
Knowing just how much it’ll cost for you to generate a lead will help you to either scale up or scale down your PPC advertising. Ideally, you want to be getting best value for money – that is spending as little as possible to get as much as possible.
Setting up a PPC campaign on Google
Everyone uses Google, so it makes sense to start there. Google’s PPC platform is Google Ads – but before you set up a campaign, you need to decide on what keywords to target so you can be found by the right people.
This means doing keyword research.
Tools like Google Ads’ Keyword Planner can help you to find the best terms, but make sure the terms you choose are based on what you are promoting. For example, you wouldn’t target the term Inbound Marketing if your eBook was on chemical engineering.
Though a ridiculous (and unlikely) example, it proves our point: pick terms based on what you are advertising.
Also, don’t target keywords just because you want to appear for them. You should only ever target terms that are 1) relevant to your offer 2) show the intent of the searcher to consider your offer. Otherwise you’ll just waste money.
Lastly, don’t worry about if terms are short or long but how much you’re willing to spend. You can target any terms you like providing you have the budget!
If you’re considering ad placements on search engines, Google is your best bet, especially as most purchase decisions today start with Google.
Setting up ad groups and campaigns on Google
What are ad groups? Well, ad groups contain one or more ads that share similar targets. Your campaigns on Google will be made up of one or more ad groups.
Your ad groups should target keywords that are similar to each other and relevant to what you are promoting. Each ad group should have one landing page. In other words, you should have several relevant keywords for each ad group – this’ll maximise your ads chances of being found and clicked
Using this approach, you don’t need to create one ad per keyword (which is both time-consuming and ineffective). It’ll also make it easier for you to rotate ads and optimise them using A/B testing.
Each ad group should contain multiple ads that target similar keywords. No need to create hundreds of ad groups, – that’ll take far too long and be difficult to manage!
Using keyword match types
To ensure your ads are found by the right people at the right time (and to ensure you attract qualified leads), you need to configure your keyword match types. In other words, the variations of your keyword that you want your ad to be found for.
There are four keyword match types on AdWords: broad, phrase, modified broad and exact.
As its name suggests, this is the keyword match type that allows you to reach the widest audience. When you select broad match, your ads are eligible to appear whenever a user searches for any word in your key phrase and in any order.
Modified broad match
Similar to broad match in that you can reach a wide audience, modified broad match will trigger your ad when someone searches for something that includes all the words in your keyword, regardless of the sequence that they are typed in google
This keyword match type gives you more control over what terms you are shown for. Using this match type, your ads will only appear when a user searches for the exact keyword phrase you are using and in order. Words can appear before or after the term, however.
Make sure that you use the right match types to avoid wasting money. For example, rather than targeting niche terms that no one would use to find your product, try and find a term that’s slightly more common and use modified broach match.
Using a combination of match types will enable you to maximise the reach and effectiveness of your ads. Make sure you use the right types to avoid wasting money.
Setting budgets at campaign level
OK, so what if you want to run international paid advertising campaigns and need to allocate your budget to separate regions? No problem – you can split your spending at campaign level for specific regions.
From Google Ads you can set your spend for one campaign and then choose the geographical region you want to target with your ads. This means that only people in that region will see those ads. You can also set your ads to show at a certain time of day (maybe you want to catch people at lunch or after work) to maximise return.
You can then set up another campaign, set your budget and choose your next region. The advantage of this is that you can accurately track ad performance across different regions, use performance data to improve ads across regions, and keep your data separate!
This kind of regional breakdown will make it easy for your managers, directors and board members to understand where PPC is effective, where it can be improved, and how regions respond to your advertising.
If you run paid advertising campaigns across multiple regions, setting budget per region, rather than collectively, will enable more accurate spend analytics and make campaigns much more manageable.
Reviewing your efforts
OK, so your campaign is up and running and producing some leads. What next?
Well, start by adding negative keywords. Negative keywords let you exclude search terms from your campaigns and/or ad groups, ensuring your ads are found for the keywords that matter to you and your potential customers.
Next, look at the quality score of your keyword terms. Quality score refers to how relevant your ads, keywords and landing pages are to the person who sees your ad. Higher quality scores typically lead to lower costs and better ad positions. If you have a low quality score, consider revising your ads or landing page. It may be that the terms you are using for the ads or landing pages are not relevant. Is your landing page mobile optimised? Do website visitors interact with your page or do they bounce?
Also, identify the ads that work best. Those with a high click through rate (CTR) should set the benchmark for the rest of your ads. Your ads might perform better in specific regions or at certain times of the day. Look at your data to work out the most effective approach and, if you can, limit your activity to only when and where you receive most of your conversions.
Finally, play with cost per click (CPC) to find the sweet spot for cost ad click through rate. Look at the conversion metrics to see what ad performs well but has a low cost per click. See if there are any cheaper terms you can target that will still drive quality traffic. Ad position one does not always mean quality traffic, and it is usually very expensive to maintain.
Review your efforts, work out what’s performing well, try to replicate your success and don’t be afraid to experiment!
What about paid social advertising?
Paid social advertising might be a bit different to advertising on Google (or other search engines) but the basics still apply.
First, work out who you want to target. This means using your buyer personas to define and segment your audience.
Doing so is incredibly important because social media platforms offer an incredible amount of targeting criteria. These platforms cover everything from job function to interests and behavior – so if your buyer personas are detailed, you’ll be able to target a very close representation of the people you are looking for.
The amount of targeting criteria for social media channels is incredible. This – coupled with its worldwide reach – can really help you to connect with your target audience(s).
Setting up campaigns and ads on social media platforms
Each social media platform has its own structure when it comes to paid ads.
LinkedIn has campaign groups, which can include one or more campaigns, and within them are ads. You can choose from eight ad formats: text, single image, carousel, video, follower, spotlight and job ads.
Create separate campaigns for different audiences and landing pages. This will give you a more accurate view of who is engaging with your content.
Facebook has campaigns, ad sets and then ads within them. Campaigns set your objectives, ad sets define your targeting, budget, placement, optimization and bid, while your ads are your creative format.
Try using different audience targeting criteria with your ad sets to identify the best ones.
Twitter has campaigns, ad groups and within them are ads. At the campaign level, you set your objectives, then set up your ad groups (start date, end date, placement, targeting, bid etc.) and then create your ads. You can choose to promote existing tweets or create new ones.
On Facebook, try different audience targeting criteria for your ad sets to identify the best one(s).
Our advice for all paid social channels:
Use at least three image/video and copy variations of your ads. Mix and match them (changing the copy or image) for a total of nine ads per piece of promoted content. This will allow you to see what works best and then to create more of the same.
As social media platforms have different campaign structures, knowing the nuances between them will enable you to organise your efforts.
Reporting on the success of social media advertising campaigns
After two weeks or so, depending on the amount spent, you’ll have enough data to see which ads are working well or not.
What you’ll want to do is take your top-performing ads, determine why they are performing well and then create similar ads for use across your campaigns.
Of course, you won’t be able to replicate the success completely – marketing in some regions will be different to others; people might be more or less receptive or less active online. Either way, it’s a good opportunity to test your ads.
There are, however, other elements that you can adjust to help your campaign perform better while it is running.
On LinkedIn, for example, you could narrow down your audience further by excluding criteria that doesn’t work or doesn’t deliver you people you want to engage with. There’s nothing wrong with being specific – in fact, it’ll enable your ads to generate high-quality leads.
Don’t just set your ads and forget them. Analyse and optimise them. There’s always more to be done to improve.
What results should you expect to get?
The answer depends on your industry and your company. If your company is a well-known brand – let’s say Apple – you’ll get a lot of traction as people begin to see your products and services advertised on search engines and social media networks.
But that’s B2C and we’re talking B2B.
In the B2B space, the game is completely different. It’s not so much about eyeballs – i.e. people seeing your ads – but more about the right people seeing your ads and at the right time. Taking that into account, the success of your PPC campaigns comes down to how targeted and personalized they are.
Results will vary from company to company, industry to industry, which is precisely why when we speak to clients we try to understand what it is they want to do.
At The B2B Marketing Lab, we have a team of PPC specialists who can advise and support you with the set up and management of PPC campaigns.
This includes keyword research, audience targeting creation, building campaigns and creating ads, optimisation and reporting.