Digging for PPC gold: Best practices for B2B search & social
Search ads and social ads are B2B marketing goldmines. They capture interest, generate demand and, when done well, produce leads, pipeline and revenue for businesses. Without the pressure of big, creative ideas often found in B2C, B2B PPC can be straightforward, clear and easy to learn about. However, this does mean that you’re working with tighter restrictions that make it harder to stand out against B2B competitors.
As with any specialism, there are certain best practices you should follow if you’re to embark on a successful digital advertising strategy. They’re the golden nuggets any senior PPC leader passes down to his interns and executives.
We’ve shared a few best practices for search and social ads so that you can win at your paid ad campaigns too. But first, let’s look at the difference between search ads and social ads for B2B.
The difference between B2B search ads and social ads
Where ads on social media platforms create buzz and interest around your solution, search ads soak up that interest like a mop. In B2B, social ads tend to sit at the top of a marketing funnel in the consideration and brand phase, pushing your message out rather than responding to inbound interest. Search ads on the other hand sit at the bottom of the marketing funnel, ready to appear when your prospective buyers indicate purchase or research intent, wanting to find more information about their challenge.
If you’re tossing up between both platforms, consider splitting your budget between both. It’s never black and white when it comes to brand awareness and demand generation, but from our experience ads work best when they’re across social and search.
Best practices for B2B search ads
1. Have variation of content and messaging
In B2B digital advertising you should always aim to test multiple headlines, keywords and descriptions at one time, and measure their success to learn and optimise. This way you can discover key bits of information as to what resonates best with your target audience. For example, trial multiple ads with different call-to-actions such as ‘Contact us’, ‘Get in touch’ or ‘Talk to us’.
We always work with our clients to hypothesise the right ad copy as they’re already close to the ground with their audience, and know what best represents their brand and product. With these hypotheses in place, we’re one step ahead in our ad testing.
You can A/B test down to the very last detail. Specific keywords, such as ‘financial professionals only’, limit unwanted clicks and therefore money, and punctuation matters too. We once found that adding an exclamation point increased the CTR by 10% for a fintech client!
2. Keep consistency between B2B ads and landing pages
It’s important that the keywords you bid on are not just included in your ad copy, but are present and apparent on the landing page as well. This is because Google will crawl your landing page to ensure there is relevance between your keyword, ad copy and the page you’re driving traffic to. If there’s a clear match in all three Google rewards you with less cost-per-click.
This is particularly important for B2B businesses because their content is often very niche and has to include compliance wording, which can take up space in ad copy and landing pages that should be reserved for creative. Make sure to prioritise the consistency of keywords within your required character count.
Consistency in messaging is also important with regards to the user journey, in that the user should be able to see the relevance between your ad, and landing page, to their search term.
3. Craft messaging that focusses on user needs
This is a common thread throughout B2B marketing channels and tactics. In order to think user-first, and to resonate most with your audience, you need to be clear as to how you’ll solve their challenges. This can be done by showcasing how you’ve solved their challenge in the past, what benefits your solution offers and what they can expect from it.
Not only should your search ad copy should be specific and clear, it can be used to qualify users before they click. We often find that the variety and complexity of the English language means certain search terms can attract irrelevant customers, so to get that cost-per-click down you should clearly state what you’re offering.
For example, one of our clients in the HR software sector has a product that can be used to qualify job candidates through testing. They needed to avoid students and individual professionals from practising their tests, so we used language and bid on keywords that revealed purchase intent more so than search and research intent.
Best practices for B2B social ads
1. Make sure your B2B ads are scroll stoppers
By scroll stopper, we mean creative assets, colours and copy that keeps a user’s interest as they’re scrolling through their feed. This can be achieved through impactful visuals that stand out and contrast against the platform’s background colours. You can also incorporate video to engage the short attention spans of mobile phone users.
2. Remember why people use the platform
When you’re deciding which social media platforms to place your ads on, in B2B, it’s important to consider frame-of-mind. While there’s a case for spray and pray advertising to build brand awareness, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you stick to professional social media platforms like LinkedIn.
B2B ads on traditionally B2C platforms aren’t as easy to refine by professional characteristics like job title and industry, and those that do see your ad won’t remember it as well as they’re not thinking about business. The best ads are the stickiest ads.
3. Speak directly to your B2B audience
With social ads you’re able to target granularly, as mentioned above, by professional characteristics such as industry and job title. If you have niche B2B audience segments you can use this to your advantage by adjusting messaging to speak to specific pain points of those audiences. For example, if you’re targeting decision makers, make sure you think about high level business challenges that will resonate most with them.
With these best practices for search ads and social ads in mind, remember that ad formats are constantly changing. PPC and digital advertising is a deep specialism that is always growing deeper and more complex as ad technology enhances, ecosystems expand, channels emerge and ad types form. If you want to do it well, you’ll need to learn as much as you can, keep up with the latest trends and immerse yourself in the world.