Understanding Keyword Intent In The B2B Purchase Cycle

I felt compelled to talk about this interesting infographic released by Google after seeing it in a recent webinar about using paid search for b2b. There’s a lot going on in this graphic but essentially this is what it’s saying:

  • Most search queries (over 40%) that use branded keywords are by people who have made up their mind and are ready to make a decision and buy.
  • About 35% of solution focused queries (i.e. a query for surveying software) generally fall into the consideration phase when a person is researching multiple vendors.
  • 40% of issue/opportunity queries (i.e. a search for what motivates customers) are by people who are not yet aware of the solution to their problem.

keyword intent in the buying cycle

Implications For Paid Search

It’s easy for advertisers, particularly in b2b to put all their focus on the later stage brand and solution focused keywords. Generally these terms convert the best, and fill the immediate need for qualified leads. These search queries often show good results on a landing page where the goal is to have the visitor sign up for a demo, or to request a call from a sales rep. However, a potential problem with bidding only on these types of keywords is that you’re limiting your addressable market .

Once you’ve optimized the later stage keywords it’s logical to expand onto capturing issue/opportunity type queries. However, these keywords require different landing page tactics. By their nature, people in the awareness phase are in research mode. Therefore, sending these early stage visitors to a trial demonstration page, or expecting them to request a sales call is out of the question.

Instead, early stage queries often perform better on informational landing pages, which discuss and present a solution to the specific problem. A different goal is also required for these queries. The main offer that could work well on these pages are whitepaper and ebook downloads.

Understand how keywords fit in the overall purchase cycle and you’ll be able to run a more profitable search campaign.

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2 comments on “Understanding Keyword Intent In The B2B Purchase Cycle
  1. Hi Jesse,

    You’re completely right. Because paid search is so accountable and trackable, it’s all too easy to only focus on highly-converting brand terms, and ignore keywords which target searchers earlier at the earlier awareness/consideration stages of the buying cycle, mainly because they don’t convert as well.

    However, since b2b products & services generally have a larger consideration cycle than b2c products, mainly because of multiple touch points from different people within a business (marketing manager, HR consultant, director 1, director 2 etc), it is important to consider metrics other than conversions for b2b paid search.

    I recently wrote an article about going beyond the click to understand what visitors are doing when they visit the site through PPC http://www.alanmitchell.com.au/techniques/intelligent-analytics-for-intelligent-adwords-management/ . Engagement metrics such as page views, time on site, bounce rate and returning visits become more important than conversions when assessing b2b performance, especially for keywords earlier in the buying cycle.

    Excellent point about creating tailored landing pages targeted to visitors at different stages in the buying cycle. Since you can be relatively sure which stage of the buying cycle visitors to each page are (through your PPC targeting), analysis of landing page outcomes become all the more insightful.


  2. B2B – Business-to-Business, companies that sell to other companies, opposed to B2C, companies that sell to consumers. Hope that helps ‘meralyn’?

    Thought I’d response to your question, as I saw it at the end of this insightful article, and response to it.

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