The PPC Guide for B2B Professionals



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Quick: What do ground-penetrating radar, hydraulic tie-rod cylinders, and third-party PPC software platforms have in common? Not much, really—but all three are examples of B2B (business-to-business) products that B2B companies can sell via PPC advertising.

PPC is a system that offers B2B companies the ability to capture leads fast and efficiently. Your target market is basically raising its hand and saying it’s interested in your product or service, and it does so by typing in search keywords on Google or Bing. The beauty of it is, they’re looking for you – instead of you standing around a trade-show booth for ten hours at a time asking people what their biggest business challenges are and hoping their needs match up with what you offer. That’s what makes PPC a form of inbound marketing. If you ask me, PPC is much more appealing than a trade show, dealing with people who are schlepping around bags of swag and smelling like last night’s rager went a bit too long. It can also be far more cost-effective

In this guide, we’ll touch on B2B market characteristics and how they relate to PPC, and then we’ll review some real-world PPC tips to help you crush it in your own B2B paid-search campaigns. I’ll refer to my own experiences with ground-penetrating radar, hydraulic cylinders, and software along the way to add some context.

B2B PPC Guide

(Full disclosure: there are, of course, exceptions to some of the examples I use because PPC is not just a science—it’s an art.)

B2B Market Characteristics to Remember for PPC

B2B professionals already know their audience is smaller than the B2C audience. This is because they’re targeting other businesses, not the mass population. As a result, you’ll see keyword search volumes are lower in B2B than in the B2C space.

For example, there are more searches for “shoes” in a day (shoot, probably in an hour) than there are for “ground-penetrating radar” in a year. This means that in B2B, you’re targeting a unique subset of the overall population—this is market segmentation within market segmentation, several times over.

B2B PPC Keyword Volume

Your B2B buyer could be one of many people from various departments at a company. It may be the end-user, the CEO, someone from IT, or a company accountant—and you have to design your PPC campaigns (keywords, ad copy, landing pages, etc.) with this in mind.

B2B buyers tend to do a lot of comparison shopping too, especially if we’re talking about expensive purchases, long-term contracts, and possible ongoing relationships. Thus, you need to provide a lot of buyer-oriented information, like case studies and white papers, in your PPC campaigns, as opposed to the “hot deals” that drive immediate transactions in the B2C world.

Finally, the sales cycle is generally longer in B2B—in fact, it’s often three to six months or more. So your PPC return on investment will often come months down the road. Just tell your boss PPC is an investment in the future—because it is!

PPC Tips for B2B Businesses

At its core, a B2B PPC campaign is just like a B2C one. You have campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and so on, just like B2C—but you’ve got to keep the market characteristics in mind.

1. Research

The previously mentioned examples—ground-penetrating radar and hydraulic tie-rod cylinders—are actual clients I’ve worked with. My reaction when I got the accounts was probably similar to yours: What the what?

For those types of clients, and really any B2B PPC situation, you’ll have to dig in and conduct some serious research to run a top-notch B2B campaign. Why is this? Because even though you might understand your market, applying it to the PPC channel is a different matter, one that’s full of pitfalls.

An example of this is my client in the hydraulic cylinders business. Through the course of my research, I learned there are tie-rod cylinders and there are welded-body cylinders. My client sells only tie-rod cylinders, but when I looked in the account he set up (and had been running for a few months, spending thousands of dollars), I noticed he was getting clicks for welded cylinders, too.

Had I not bothered to do some research, I would have assumed “a hydraulic cylinder is a hydraulic cylinder” and not caught this wasteful spend. As a result, I made sure to add “welded” as a negative keyword and called out “tie-rod cylinders” in the ad copy to avoid the shoppers looking for welded-body cylinders, pre-qualifying clicks and saving the client some dough along the way.

The takeaway is this: Even though you understand your market, be aware that Google and Bing do not, and they’ll try to match you to as many types of keywords as possible. So stay on top of your search query report.

Search Terms Report

Research takes some time, so if you’re looking for a way to outline your strategy, check out an article I wrote last year for more tips on researching a new client.

2. Keywords

Now that you understand the market and who your buyers are (right?), you can address the keywords themselves.

Keyword research and match type strategies are essentially the same for B2B as they are for B2C. One caveat, however, is the preponderance of acronym searches in B2B. The acronym “GPR,” for example, gets four times the search volume of “ground penetrating radar.” Whatever your industry, find out what words the customers are using.

On that note, B2B tends to have part and model numbers that sell frequently and get lots of searches. Going back to the tie-rod example, business searchers will use a model number, like “TX-2500 cylinder,” which comes in handy when bidding on exact-search terms and crafting ads.

You can also tie in the specific application for your B2B product or service when conducting research. Append the target market, like the construction industry or farming, to find valuable long-tail terms like “GPR for construction” or “farming hydraulic tie-rods.”

When it comes to bidding and CPCs, they can be all over the board, just as in B2C. Without a doubt, though, there’s more room for “loose” bidding when you’re talking about high-dollar items and services. In other words, B2B typically has higher profit margins, so last month’s dollar increase in CPC isn’t a big deal.

Because we’re talking B2B, think also from the viewpoint of the company who’s looking for you. Their internal nomenclature includes words like “vendor” and “supplier,” so make sure you explore those, along with “companies,” “providers,” and “tools,” in your keyword combinations, e.g., “PPC software vendors” or “GPR suppliers.”

As in B2C, negative keywords for B2B will typically include words like “reviews,” “jobs,” and “free.”

3. Campaigns & Ad Groups

Due to the research-heavy nature of B2B, it’s a good idea to put your keywords in campaigns and ad groups that address the various stages of the purchase funnel—and follow the same strategy with landing pages. At the top of the funnel you have research, followed by consideration, then the commitment (purchase) decision at the bottom of the funnel.

B2B Purchase Funnel

Think in terms of the research stage all the way down to the commit stage, and build your campaigns and ad groups around this. So you might have a research campaign/ad groups, consideration campaign/ad groups, and conversion campaign/ad groups.

The benefits of this are invaluable: You’ll know your campaign and/or ad groups with “vendor” in them are the folks who are at the research phase of the purchase process. Knowing this, in your ad copy it might be best to tout your recent awards or a white paper. Over time, you’ll be able to measure your ROI at the various stages of the purchase funnel and plan your budgets accordingly.

4. Ad Copy

Ad copy presents a major difference in the B2B market when compared to B2C, though best practices are still to be followed. Because of the multiple stakeholders and various stages of purchase, when you craft your ad copy, be cognizant of appropriate calls-to-action (CTA’s) and offers.

add to cartFor example, in the B2B PPC world, you rarely, if ever, would use the CTAs “buy now” or “order today”—more likely you’ll say “get more information,” or “contact us today,” or “download our free white paper.” The reason behind this is you’re dealing with buyers who need a lot of time (remember that long sales cycle), are just conducting research, and wouldn’t be able to “buy now” even if they wanted to due to their internal processes and the potentially hefty price of your product or service. In addition, they’ll often want to speak to someone at your company, rather than just clicking at “Add to Cart” button as in the B2C world.

Are there exceptions to this? You bet there are—it just depends on the product or service.

If you don’t know who your typical buyer is (is it the CEO? the accountant? the marketer?) then write ads targeted to these groups and measure their performance. Use phrases like “cost-effective,” “easy to use,” “easy to integrate,” “ranked best in class,” and so on to see what resonates with your potential buyer.

Additional ad copy tips:

  • Specificity is key – for example, you don’t just sell hydraulic cylinders, you sell hydraulic tie-rod cylinders.
  • Use your ad copy to prequalify customers. Mention price points so you can avoid the people who are looking for cheap tools. For example, “Starting at $500 per month…” will quickly disqualify the people who can’t afford your product or service.
  • Buyers are looking for suppliers for possible long-term relationships. You need to make sure your copy speaks to the buyer’s pain points in a clear, compelling way. You feel their pain, you have the solution, and you can walk them through all phases of the purchase funnel.
  • Use social proof – show off your Google plus-ones in your sitelinks. If you don’t have that set up, get started on it.
  • Use credibility examples whenever you have them – phrases like “top-rated,” “award-winning,” and “voted best-in-class.”
  • Show prospects how easy it is to do business with your company. Do this in your ads by calling out GSA (government) pricing if you offer it, the fact you accept POs (purchase orders) if you do, or that you offer financing terms, if that’s the case.
  • Be the trusted source for information – use your sitelinks to share white papers, e-books, case studies, downloadable forms, financing calculators, and anything else someone might need in the research phase.

5. Measurement

With the longer sales cycle, it’s imperative that you track your site’s visitors closely with Google Analytics or another analytics software package.

Over that three- to six-month sales cycle, your prospects might come back repeatedly to get more information—so hopefully you’re adding more information to your site regularly. Or, you can try remarketing to make sure you’re regularly stalking, err, I mean, are in front of your prospects on a consistent basis.

What this really means is today’s click costs may not actually be conversions for 180 days or more—so hang on for the long haul.


By now you realize the B2B PPC world requires a long view, especially when compared to the wham-bam world of B2C PPC. It is, however, a highly effective way to get your B2B organization in front of new prospects—and without pulling trade-show duty.

About the Author

This is a guest post by Brad McMillen, an internet marketing consultant and freelance copywriter at Mac Strat in Redondo Beach, California. He manages pay-per-click campaigns, performs SEO audits, and writes web copy. He rarely has a case of the Mondays, and he enjoys watching people surf while he works.

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Randall Magwood
Jul 19, 2013

Great guide Brad. Your tips for ad copy can also be applied to overall good copywriting strategies for selling a product or service.

Brad McMillen
Jul 19, 2013

Thanks Randall, I hope you find it useful. I agree that the concepts of good copywriting transfer to any product or service, whether it's B2B or B2C.

David Szetela
Aug 01, 2013

Good article, Brad - thanks.I think it's worth mentioning that Remarketing/Retargeting works particularly well for B2B advertisers. Since B2B price points are high, and sales cycles are long, reminders to come back to the advertiser's site typically eran high CTRs and conversion rates (compared to other types of Display advertising, that is). Remarketing conversions also tend to come at low CPAs.

Brad McMillen
Aug 05, 2013

Thanks for mentioning remarketing, David. No doubt the longer cycle and higher price points mean it pays to keep in front of the prospects.

Aug 01, 2013

As long as you're talking about copy, optimal length for a column on a web page is 55 characters across. You have approximately 100. People don't read from far left to far right online.Most people don't know this.   

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 01, 2013

What are some sites that have optimal column width?

Aug 01, 2013

As far as the sales cycle, I find that to be the hardest thing for a client to be okay with. The idea of spending money for 3 months with no returns makes many nervous. So it's also important to coach them on the value of their leads. By doing some back of the napkin calculations on their close ratios, I've helped clients see that it's a numbers game. The campaign focuses on getting them good leads, and the leads have value.

Elisa Gabbert
Aug 01, 2013

Great point!

Aug 02, 2013

Thanks for this article.  The vast majority of  articles written about PPC are tailored to B2C and it's nice to see someone discuss B2B issues.  I've had to learn many of these lesson through trial and error.

Brad McMillen
Aug 05, 2013

Ken, I couldn't agree more. B2B is often overlooked, but, wow, there's a lot of opportunity in it for SEM professionals. 

Mike Russell
Aug 25, 2013

What a great article! I agree that there aren't enough articles about B2B. Good job putting out great information.

Sep 20, 2013

Your information is about developing business is good. But we are looking for customers also.

Sep 25, 2013

CPC and SEO is a great option for most companies and we try to utilize them as much as possible. Were in a market where we only get to interact with the actually end user maybe 20% of the time. Typically they placed orders with a purchasing department or even a third party company. So this makes it incredibly difficult to track any conversions at all. We have found good old print marketing to be pretty effective, its the only thing we know that reaches the user and we then provide them with a call to action on the handout to keep em engaged.

Jeff L
Sep 26, 2013

I'm typically more of an SEO guy myself, and I always have been with my B2B marketing as well.  This is a great eye opener, thank you!Jeff L

Branding Business
Nov 04, 2013

Hey GREAT article - we definitely need more PPC guides out there like this!

Zest Studio
Nov 09, 2013

What a great article! I agree that there aren't enough articles about B2B. Good job putting out great information.

marketing lists
Dec 11, 2013

Glad to have this information do you think some of this information also use for an SEO based Industry becaue they also considering these point. how long we can use this system?? 

Nipun Sharma
Apr 15, 2016

i want ppc campaign for my company.

Oct 04, 2016

What an informative and the right article I'm looking for! I really enjoy your insights into B2B online marketing of PPC for newcomers like me. Though I'm still learning the ropes of it, I believe I'm gonna have a great start through the help of your article:))

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