There’s an emerging holy grail for the data hungry among us in B-to-B marketing. Specifically, it’s in the search engine marketing realm, where user query activity informs the ultimate “database of intentions,” Google. What if I told you it was possible to now optimize search efforts based on B-to-B-specific targeting criteria, such as organizational size, industry vertical or specific title of the user performing the search?
It is possible. We’re doing it, and here’s some initial feedback from clients who have been exposed to this new thinking:
You guys are on to something.”
“This definitely makes a lot of sense.”
“When can we see more data? I can’t wait!”
Essentially, our methodology helps uncover and optimize for the “who” in search. While this type of intelligence isn’t commonly used today, it should be if B-to-B marketers are serious about installing a legitimate competitive advantage.
And there are plenty of applications for this data too. Perhaps the most obvious are instances where the keyword being purchased or optimized for is general and appeals to diverse audiences. For example, if we’re pursuing the term “web security software,” how sure are we that we’re reaching the intended IT decision-maker? Perhaps a consumer is trying to avoid catching the latest virus on her personal computer, and so chose to search for that term as well.
Wouldn’t it be great to have definitive answers?
But the larger issue here is that B-to-B communications (search included) have long assumed that its intended audiences are other organizations. With the explosion of both mobile and social technologies, though, we’ve begun seeing evidence of the business decision-maker interacting with digital platforms and content both on the go and in very consumer-ish ways.
It’s effectively caused us to rethink our assumptions about business communication.
Humanly Relevant Engagement
It’s simple, actually. Businesses are comprised of people, and those people are the ones who effect purchase decisions. Like you or me, they’re imperfect people. They often behave as consumers do online, act unpredictably and base decisions on emotions over entirely rational criteria. They’re people.
But reaching those people via search has become increasingly difficult. The results pages themselves have become a noisy place, and home to not only the traditional organic and paid results but also image, video, news, expandable listings and vertical drill-downs. Standing out among these varied result types is no easy task, and if our client data is any indication, this noisy landscape has forced a majority of the click-through activity to the top results.
In order to be humanly relevant and stand out across a cluttered results page, successful B-to-B search programs must connect with the people behind business decisions. Relevancy of the message and content are paramount. Sure, tightly aligning keywords to ad copy/meta description and landing page is important, but that’s become tablestakes. To be humanly relevant means to speak directly to discrete human personas based on the query.
It’s critical to know your audience, and that’s where advanced analytics come in.
Knowing Your Audience
Search analytics like the type described above are no pipe dream. That data is available and currently free from a handful of providers. But simply having access to the data is only half of the solution; you have to know how to apply it.
There are two critical applications to this type of intelligence for the serious B-to-B search marketer:
1. Confirming (or not) that our search programs are reaching their intended audiences
2. Identifying the specific vocabulary used by various organizational roles, by size of organization
With this data in your hip pocket, you can not only demonstrate performance gains across search but can also profoundly impact every facet of marketing communications! By identifying and understanding the self-expressed interests of your nuanced audiences, you can empower every other marketing activity that seeks to connect with those discrete audiences.
Smartly applying this type of advanced search analytics to truly know your audiences will facilitate humanly relevant communications that stand out from the noise.
by Ryan DeShazer
Vice President, Global Practice Leader – Search
Follow Ryan on Twitter @RyanDeShazer
Cross-posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network