Search Engine Marketing (SEM) takes on many forms but the purpose remains the same: leads, ranking, visibility, and awareness — also known as online success. These are all viable goals of a digital marketing strategy.
Because B2B technology companies tend to target a niche audience, the SEM pool, although still sizable, still makes up a relatively small segment. To succeed in this highly competitive space, your messaging has to be focused, you must understand what problems your target is searching the web to solve, and your strategy must be centered around solving those problems.
With that in mind, these are the three elements your SEM strategy has to have no matter the vertical, service, or product you’re offering.
1. Data Gathering and Analytics
Many professionals use the term “data-driven” without really knowing what it means in a practical business sense. Essentially, it is knowing where you are, by knowing where you’ve been. Without meaningful analytics, your SEM will waste time, money, and lose otherwise warm leads by not being as informed as it should be when your messaging appears to them—hitting its mark. The data offers understanding of how users engage with the existing digital content (text, images, video, etc.) and can be setup to tell you where your digital audience becomes a conversion. Identifying these two points helps establish baselines for expectations.
For instance, if you find that your audience engages well with your “b2b healthcare technology” content (you may even see some conversions) but you aren’t seeing much traffic, it means you’re answering the right question but need to drive more traffic. SEM tactics for that are SEO, PPC, and outreach.
When we define the search engine result page (SERP) by its parts, we see that SEO covers 60% in organic listings, paid ads usually make up 25%, and the last 15% will vary and may include maps listings or business data. That last 15% is often based on relevant data from third-parties, like Wikipedia and directories. Because the algorithm and the search results page are built using various components, it is essential to use a complete strategy versus picking and choosing the tactics.
The number one organic SERP position averages a ~30% CTR, but that means there are 70% of clicks happening elsewhere on the SERP. For B2B technology, where users do deeper research and often compare products/services, SEO may open the door, but marketing efforts help keep the door open and swinging in your direction. This is done by promoting the brand and/or remarketing to users that have shown some level of interest in you.
2. A/B Testing
Using the same example of “b2b healthcare technology” category of content, we may find that the content isn’t aligned with your business goals or those of the target audience. In these cases, trying out different content and driving traffic from different channels can help identify what truly works in hooking your ideal clients. In every SEM tactic, be it remarketing, PPC, and/or social (paid and unpaid), A\B testing is vital to ensuring success.
With PPC, A\B testing in Google AdWords or Bing leads to better alignment with users and their engagement with your ads via specific keywords, which is a quality metric impacting your quality score. The quality score is a calculated metric that determines your ad’s placement and how much you pay for each click. Even the smallest changes, such as use of sentence case versus capital case, can impact user engagement with your ads. The same applies to the landing pages. Depending on the goals and value of each lead your digital marketing generates, having multiple variations of landing pages allows you to determine which content approach receives the best response from the audiences on each traffic channel.
3. Complete User Journey Touchpoint Integration
The term “SEM” is often interchanged with other marketing terms like SEO and PPC. However, SEM is the strategy, and SEO and PPC are tactics that may have their own sub-strategies and sub-tactics. What determines the tactics baked into your B2B technology strategy are your effective touch points. Using the data gathered and understanding your goals, the strategy forms on the foundation of the user’s journey.
A potential client does not always start at the awareness stage, and many enter in at the consideration or even decision stage. Having a strategy that is robust enough to support a user at any stage takes thought and direct effort. Similar to the user life cycle that many app and software publishers are familiar with, the touch points throughout the digital user journey help lead a user over the next hurdle.
Brand awareness campaigns, such as display and brand-term ad campaigns, help move unaware users over the awareness hurdle. Marketing efforts in PPC and remarketing support getting the users further into the cycle. The section of the user cycle between interested and regular use translate into consideration and decision stages of the journey, where the potential client is determining if your organization is as credible as advertised and has the ability to solve their pain points. Email marketing and some social efforts are meant to solidify your relationship with potential, new, and existing clients—but can be another prospecting solution when coordinating efforts with CRMs or lead management solutions like HubSpot.
The key to all of these elements is to connect each tactic together and view the SEM as both a whole and a system made of important pieces. The website works as the content hub for all efforts. Analytics data can be gathered on each channel as they drive users to website pages, content, and landing areas. Most analytic systems can integrate with advertising platforms; this is important to creating a feedback system where data drives the marketing engine.
Data-driven SEM efforts can be easily managed and efficient when the right systems are setup to manage the flow. Traditional marketing, such as radio and TV, are great awareness plays to broadcast your message but miss out on the concrete data available to digital marketers. Meet your potential clients where they are — on search engines, on blogs and forums, watching videos on YouTube — and hopefully on your website.