By S. Ryan DeShazer, Global Director of Search Marketing, GyroHSR
I've been known to tell clients that, unless you plan on shutting down your corporate Web site, you cannot ignore search. It's essential to online existence to be findable. In fact, there's a great quote I use regularly in workshops and new business presentations. It's simple, to the point, and perfectly brilliant:
"If you cannot be searched, you do not exist."
For the new entrant to B2B search marketing, the challenge can be daunting. There is so much to consider, and depending on the industry, a bevy of sophisticated competitors are waiting to eat your lunch. But search is essential to any organization's viability, so you must overcome any fear and get started. Now.
And while effective strategies first incorporate business objectives before turning to tactics, it should be noted that in search there's really only one tactic: search! Forget this nonsense that either paid or organic search is preferable over the other. Organic results and paid ads share the same page real estate, and to the user there is little on-the-fly distinction between the two. Eye-scanning studies have confirmed this: page placement is more important in determining which listings get attention than whether they are paid or organic.
The Trick: Pick Fights You Can Win
You've no doubt seen a graphic similar to the one below before. The theory of the long-tail, in this case visually representing a client's search keyword-referred traffic for a given time period. The long tail is a very exciting reality and represents a chance for almost every advertiser to "pick a fight they can win." Essentially, keyword phrases that are queried can be broken into three categories: "head," "torso," and "tail" terms.
"Head" terms are general (and, therefore, typically very competitive) terms that relate to the particular industry. "Torso" terms are more specific and receive fewer queries. "Tail" terms are those that are so specific that they receive very few searches, but when added together amount to a large percentage of overall search-referred visitors.
The Key to Winning: Keyword Optimization
Identify which of these hundreds or thousands of keywords (head, torso, and tail) your company can generate positive returns from. Securing the top position for the most popular keyword phrase in the industry isn't always enough to ensure success. That positioning has to drive an appropriate response among your target audiences.
Start with paid search to cast a wide net and quickly identify which combinations of keyword phrases, ad units and landing pages yield the greatest rates of response. Paid search, unlike organic, can operate fluidly in response to changing market dynamics or advertiser missteps. What if a keyword doesn't generate the response that was hypothesized? Re-script the ad, change out the landing page, reduce the keyword-level bid or even remove that keyword from the portfolio altogether. With a bit of diligence, it can be determined with statistical certainty which combinations are working. Organic search takes much more elbow grease, and patience, to move the needle.
Once armed with that insight, bring the top-performing combination from paid search into the fold for optimization and claim as much of the "free" search traffic as possible. Recent statistics show that organic listings receive approximately 75 percent of all search click-throughs, so you're leaving a lot on the table by not taking this extra step. Remember to optimize only for top performing paid search keyword terms and you've found some fights you can win.
Over time, less-sophisticated competition will continue to bloody each other's noses with high-cost paid campaigns and uninformed organic programs. By following this approach, you can side-step those battles and stay focused on what matters most: results.