Thursday, July 18, 2024

A guide to using Google Ads for B2B lead generation

With organic search traffic becoming increasingly difficult to count on due, in part, to the rise of zero-click search results, paid search ads are currently the best way that businesses can expect to receive targeted search traffic from Google.

But creating an effective B2B pay-per-click campaign on Google can be challenging due to several factors such as a long sales cycle, the complexity of B2B products and services, highly specific and/or low volume keywords, and B2C versus B2B keyword crossover (e.g., some terms will attract the wrong audience).

In this post, we’ll highlight a few ways that B2B marketers can optimally set up a PPC campaign on Google to minimize waste using tactics such as geotargeting, focused keyword selection, and highly specific landing pages. 

Campaign setup and keyword selection

The Google Ads infrastructure is built to reward relevancy. Advertisers who take the time to carefully build a keyword list that directly corresponds to the content on their website or landing page while accurately reflecting their ad copy are rewarded with lower CPCs and more visibility in the search results.

It all starts with a strong keyword list. This is particularly true for B2B marketers. To come up with your list you’ll need to pinpoint the top 5-10 terms that reflect the product or service you’re advertising. 

Keep in mind that the internal language you use to describe your services may not be the language your customers used to find you. It’s important to identify all versions of your targeted terms and include them in your campaign, preferably within separate ad groups so you can ensure that your ad copy closely matches the keywords you’re bidding on.  

Google’s Keyword Planner is a good place to start when creating your keyword list. It’s located within the Google Ads interface and is available to anyone with a Google Ads account, even if you’re not running active ads.


Source: Google Ads

The planner allows advertisers to enter up to 10 seed keywords to generate ideas for new keywords and provides a wealth of historical data including keyword volume trends and cost estimates.

Using this tool can help set your expectations in terms of cost and click volume, but it can also help identify keyword targeting opportunities that may not be on your radar.


Source: Google Ads Keyword Planner

In the above example, we plugged the term “embedded computer” into the Keyword Planner to get an idea of average monthly search volume, competition, and the CPC range for this term. The data reveals that this is a highly competitive term with low search volume, but we can also see several variations of the term which have the potential to reach the company’s target (e.g., “embedded pc” and “industrial computer”). 

The final keyword plan for this campaign would ideally contain all variations of the term placed in separate ad groups with the ad copy customized according. Ad headlines for the various terms might look something like this:

  • Ad Group #1 – embedded computer
    • Headline: Embedded Industrial Computers


  • Ad Group #2 – Industrial Computer
    • Headline: Integrated Industrial Computers


  • Ad Group #3 – embedded pc


    • Headline: Industrial Embedded PCs

Taking the time to identify and break out all relevant terms will help reduce unqualified clicks and improve your ad CTR which can help you stand out in a competitive category.

Minimize waste using match types, negative keywords and appropriate targeting

Google provides advertisers with a variety of tools and settings to help minimize waste (e.g., clicks from unqualified searchers). 

Keywords can be associated with a “match type” that determines when a user’s search query will trigger an ad – or not. Here is an overview of the four match types available.

  • Broad Match – The broadest possible keyword match type is also the default. Broad match enables your ad to appear for misspellings, synonyms, related searches and variations of your keyword. This match type can easily become a money pit, so use it with caution.
  • Modified Broad Match – Adding a plus sign in front of a broad match term makes it a modified broad match term, which helps reduce your ad being shown for unrelated searches. The plus sign ensures that your ads will only show up for searches that include close variants of the terms you’re bidding on.
  • Phrase Match – Phrase match terms are only triggered when a user searches for a specific phrase (e.g., “database management”) or variations of that phrase (e.g., “database management vendors”). For B2B  campaigns, phrase match can be a useful way to ensure your ad only shows for your desired keywords, but it can also minimize search volume on already low-volume terms.
  • Exact Match – Exact Match only triggers your ads when the user puts in the exact phrase you’re bidding on. This is the match type that gives you the most control over when your ads will appear for a search query, but it can also completely kill volume, so keep that in mind if you aren’t seeing many impressions when using this match type.

Other settings that can help advertisers minimize wasted clicks include:

  • Geotargeting – Google’s powerful geotargeting feature allows advertisers to target specific geographic locations in a variety of ways including country, state, zip code, target location, and more.
  • Ad scheduling – Ad scheduling enables advertisers to show ads only on certain days or at certain times during the day (or a combination of both). It can be helpful if you have a limited budget, allowing you to run ads during certain peak or high-performing hours (e.g., during business hours when someone’s available to answer the phone).
  • Remarketing Lists for Search (RSLA) – RSLA allows advertisers to target their search ads to people who have previously visited their website. Bids can be tailored to ensure these ads appear at the top of the search results. Google provides detailed information on how to set up and add these lists on the Google Ads Help website. 
  • Smart Bidding – There are four Smart Bidding strategies available to Google Ads advertisers which enable them to focus on conversions, rather than clicks. Since most B2B campaigns are conversion-driven, this is a good setting to use with your campaigns. Advertisers can focus on CPA, ROAS, conversions or set a target CPC and let Google’s machine learning algorithm optimize a number of factors to serve up the most relevant ads (e.g., device, location, bid amount, time of day, location, etc.) 

Prepare for landing

Once you’ve created your targeted campaign and applied the appropriate settings to minimize waste, your final – and most important – tool for ensuring you receive quality leads is your landing page.

HubSpot reports that strategic landing pages are used by about 68% of B2B businesses, but only about 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates. Thus, there is clearly room for improvement and research has shown that optimizing the landing page experience can help improve your conversion rate and provide a positive visitor experience.

There are no one-size-fits-all guidelines for creating perfect landing pages. The most effective companies test different landing page designs (long form, short form, video-driven, etc.) and adjust their landing page strategy accordingly. What we do know is that the more landing pages a company has, the higher their conversion rates tend to be. HubSpot reports that companies see a 55% increase in leads when increasing their landing pages from 10 to 15. 

This makes sense because it implies that companies are regularly testing their landing pages and customizing pages to match keywords, offers, and services.

B2B search campaigns take careful planning

It can be challenging to achieve strong results from a B2B search campaign, but it’s not impossible. It just takes careful planning, optimization and monitoring and a willingness to test new campaign elements such as keywords and landing pages regularly.

As with any tactic, establishing clear goals up front and ensuring that they’re appropriately tracked using tools like Google Analytics, call tracking tools, and a robust CRM tool such as Salesforce will ensure that your paid search ads are paying off. Tracking performance consistently can help you understand not only the quality of your search leads, but their inherent value.


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Ryan Gould
Ryan Gould
From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs, and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively aligns sales and marketing teams within organizations.