How to think about B2B Keyword Research

How to think about B2B Keyword Research
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Brad Geddes

Last updated November 21, 2016


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Business-to-Business (B2B) companies have some challenges in managing paid search accounts. One of the first challenges to overcome is deciding on what keywords to use.

Before we get into keywords and how to pick them, we should think about what keywords really represent: the possibility that your ad can be displayed to a searcher.

The keyword itself is not necessarily bad or good for a company – it’s the ad that shows off a company’s benefits.

So when we consider what keywords to use in a B2B account, we shouldn’t skip over relevant ones just because a B2C searcher will conduct the search; we should think differently about the ad itself.

Keywords that are B2B & B2C

For instance, if you have a keyword such as Cloud Backup Services, that keyword could represent:

  • An individual looking to backup documents and personal photos into the cloud
  • A technology savvy family looking to backup and share music and video files among family users (and often functions as a small business)
  • An enterprise company looking to routinely backup many terabytes of data

If you are a company that offers individual and business plans, then any of those searchers is useful for you as you have an offer for all of them. However, as the user doesn’t tell you who they are via the keyword, your landing page needs to segment out the user types.

For instance, this page from Iron Mountain not only segments their page by business size, it actually tells you what business size each is since many companies have varying ideas of a small business.

If you happen to be a company that only offers solutions to personal users or business users, then your ad needs to pre-qualify the user, not the landing page.

For instance, if you see these two ads, you can easily determine which is for personal use versus business use.

Keywords that are Only B2B

Some keywords will only be searched by other businesses who are looking for B2B solutions and services.

Consider these queries:

  • Payroll services
  • IT outsourcing
  • Document storage & records management
  • CRM solutions
  • Employee healthcare plans

These types of queries are performed by businesses looking for other business solutions. In these cases, you don’t need to use your ad to screen out consumers, you can focus on your features and the benefits of working with your company.

Segment Your Potential Keywords

A good exercise to go through as you research your keywords is to classify them as B2B, B2C, or both:

Then, if you are only a B2B company, start with the B2B only keywords. This will give you a chance to start testing your ads, landing pages, and finding the correct offer for the most qualified searches since all (or at least the vast majority) will be B2B searches.

Once you’ve mastered those keywords and have a compelling offer, if you want to expand, you can use the keywords that fall into both B2B and B2C searches. As you use these keywords that can appeal to everyone, you just need to make sure your ads are pre-qualifying users so you don’t pay for B2C customers to click on your ads since they have no chance of converting.

B2C Negative Keywords

Negative keywords stop your ads from showing. If you only offer B2B products and services, you can take a look at the words that are B2C only and add them as negative keywords thus ensuring that even if you use some broad or modified broad match (link to the match type article) you won’t show for these consumer queries.

Wrap-up

While B2B companies face some challenges that consumer facing companies don’t have, they can overcome them by thinking through their keyword and ad combinations before they start spending money upon them.

Classify your keywords into the type of user who is searching for them.

For B2B only words, focus on your benefits.

For B2C only words, add them as negatives or if you offer B2C services, then write compelling consumer content (which means little or no jargon).

For words that cross over B2B and B2C, if you are only B2B, then pre-qualify the users by the ad copy. If you offer services and products to both groups, then appeal to both within the ad, and let your landing page segment out the users.

By following these basic guidelines, you should have a better chance of finding success in your B2B PPC accounts. 

About the Author

Brad Geddes is the author of "Advanced Google AdWords", and founder of Certified Knowledge, an online source where the Paid Search community comes together for PPC training, tools, and advice. Brad makes it his mission to share his expertise in Paid Search with online marketers so they can build successful online campaigns that generate business. He frequently writes columns for Search Engine Land, co-moderates the AdWords forum on Webmaster World, has spoken at more than 35 conferences, and has led more than 60 AdWords seminars.


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