Getting rid of the search ‘chaff’ to focus on the ‘wheat’

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Mark Simon is VP-industry relations at Didit, a digital advertising agency specializing in paid search. BtoB recently asked Simon about how to cope with nonbusiness consumers who click on b-to-b ads.

BtoB: What is the essential problem with consumer-oriented searchers clicking on b-to-b search ads?

Simon: When a b-to-b marketer advertises on search engines, it pays the engine every time a searcher clicks on a query result, even if that click doesn’t result in a conversion. But it’s a good bet that b-to-b marketers may find it necessary to advertise on search terms that attract a good number of individual consumers who will never make use of their business. If you’re a b-to-b marketer, that aspect of the pay-per-click model can be bad news. Inevitably, these consumers will click on general terms (like “refrigerator,” “laptop,” or “trucks”), wasting b-to-b search advertising spend when they arrive at a business site and don’t buy anything.

BtoB: So the problem is keywords that are too generic?

Simon: Very often, so you must refine them. If you’re attracting a lot of nonconverting search traffic, consider changing keywords to focus a bit more on your niche in ways an average consumer wouldn’t think about. Get rid of words like “trucks” and instead advertise with the phrase “trucking fleet.” Switch out “refrigerator” for “walk-in cooler.” A caveat here is that, if you change your keyword set to become invisible to average consumers, you may become invisible as well to legitimate businesses that search on average consumer terms. Thus, your search advertising ROI might rise with fewer wasted clicks, but your sales numbers may drop because fewer customers are able to find you. But don’t go too far in the opposite direction with the use of jargon. Some niche terms are so narrow that even experts in procurement departments won’t search for them. The challenge is to find the proper balance between scale and efficiency.

BtoB: What other thoughts do you have about screening out consumers that drain your click budget?

Simon: Generally speaking working people work during business hours. That’s true for search behavior as well. A search between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Thursday is more likely to be job-related than a search on the same keyword conducted between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on a Sunday. Of course, every industry has its own nuances of exactly when “prime time” is for searching. I strongly suggest looking through your data to learn when your own best-converting searchers arrive to your site. You want to place search ads based on the time of day and week when you’re most likely to get the best traffic. This in turn will produce higher positions for your ads.

BtoB: What about the text that searchers see in response to their queries? Can these help screen out nonconverters?

Simon: It may sound counterintuitive to write ad copy that sends customers away, but that’s exactly what your ad copy should be doing: politely telling irrelevant nonbusiness consumer searchers that you’re not for them. Your best opportunity for this is being clear about the fact that you’re a b-to-b organization. Mentioning terms like “business,” “small business,” or “enterprise” within the copy are all a great start.

BtoB: If marketers consider all these tips but still have some portion of nonbusiness consumers clicking their ads, what’s to be done?

Simon: No matter how well you target your search advertising, there will always be nonbusiness consumers who break through, clicking on your ads and costing you money. Rather than letting these stalwart searchers become a total waste, consider how you can use them to your advantage. One place to start is through lead generation, directing your consumer traffic to a more relevant site via an affiliate program link. Or asking them to fill in their personal information and selling that information to a relevant company willing to pay for it. In every strategy I could mention the core idea is the same: Use a combination of data and common sense to learn who your best searching customers are and how to sell to them. You’ll be able to avoid waste in a whole new way, and even turn some of the old waste into new opportunities. And if that isn’t a worthwhile strategy for hard times, I don’t know what is.

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