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B2B SEM: Sorting Ambiguous Traffic

  |  March 26, 2004   |  Comments

When B2B keywords overlap into consumer searches, marketers still pay for that consumer traffic. There are ways to turn that to your advantage.

One of the greatest challenges with business-to-business (B2B) search marketing campaigns is many keywords aren’t pure B2B. Many B2B marketers have keyword lists that are appropriate for businesses and consumers. Ambiguous search results are challenge for marketer and searcher alike.

These keywords also create problems for search engines. They’re in the business of providing quality search results. If a searcher types "tempered glass" or "switching power supply," the main portals can’t know if the searcher wants business or consumer information. Most B2B marketers don’t sell directly to consumers. This type of situation poses a challenge for all involved.

Today we’ll cover strategies B2B marketers can implement to build more profitable businesses, despite these built-in ambiguities.

Prequalify Searchers

Not all portals both consumers and businesses. Business.com, Thomas Register, and other vortals prequalify searchers as B2B by their nature and possibly by their syndication network. B2B marketers should certainly consider any vortal covering their industries.

Business.com is a great choice for almost all industries. Thomas Global Register is launching ThomasB2B.com later this year. Search listings will be auctioned using FindWhat.com’s back-end technology. In the meantime, if Thomas Register’s audience is right for you, consider one of its full listing plans that includes CD-ROM, print, and Internet distribution.

Three More Strategies

But vortals don’t get the majority of B2B traffic. Most commercial B2B search queries probably originate through the major portals by searchers who either prefer that portal or don’t know vortals exist. You need to plan, execute, and optimize a campaign in the major portals to complement a vortal strategy.

In Overture you might try changing copy to make listings less ambiguous. If you sell cleaning supplies only in large quantities to janitorial companies and landlords, your listing title could begin with "Bulk Wholesale Cleaning Supplies." As long as your Click Index isn’t dramatically lower than the listings on the search terms, Overture will likely let you keep it.

In Google, it’s riskier to prequalify B2B clickers with titles or description to clarify offerings as B2B when a keyword is searched by both consumers and businesses. A low CTR on a Google ad results in a lower position for a given CPC. It may also result in ads being slowed, even disabled. You may need to find Google creative that’s relevant for the majority of the searchers, business or consumer.

Chances are B2B marketers will be receiving at least some consumer traffic on ambiguous search terms. The best option is to figure out whether you have an alternate use for the consumer traffic your listings generate. There are several strategies you can implement, depending on the nature of your business. The key to a B2B search strategy is to evaluate the overall sales and marketing plan and determine if the following search strategies make sense:

  • Do you plan to support your distribution channel? If you sell hard drive arrays to VARs, retailers, and mail order firms, why not devote some landing page real estate to links or messaging about consumer purchase options? The click is paid, so you may as well support your channel:

    • Send consumer searchers to a dealer locator page.

    • Send consumers to partner, retailer, or VAR sites. To quantify this benefit internally and to your channel, have your Web team use outbound click counter redirects to quantify traffic you provide to each entity in your channel. (A redirect is an indirect link to another site, not an untrackable direct link).

  • Do you have a division that sells small quantities directly? If you sell direct to consumers as a smaller segment of your business, use some landing page real estate to direct consumers to your retail site.

  • If you’re interested in establishing a dialogue with end-user consumers, offer a newsletter sign-up or another carrot to encourage them to register on your site. Once a dialogue is established, you may be able to channel eventual demand for your product to the appropriate channel.

B2B marketers with ambiguous keywords in their campaigns can prosper using creative strategies with site development and landing page optimization that keeps consumer and business searcher needs in mind.

Take a fresh look at your campaign. Are you sorting ambiguous traffic to get your money’s worth?

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

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