Before worrying about what it all means, we should probably start with the why. Why should you be considering search engine marketing as part of your B2B marketing strategy? The simple answer is that people use a whole host of different resources when contemplating a new purchase, and search engines are one of them.
Before a purchase happens consumers typically move through several different phases –
- Discover: I know we have a problem but I don’t quite know how to define it
- Explore: I know what it is I need to do but I’m not sure what all the options are
- Evaluate: I know exactly what I need, now it’s time to decide which solution is best for me
Whether you’re selling office chairs or SaaS software, your prospects will almost certainly be going to Google (and the other search engines) during all of the above phases of the purchasing process, and you want to make sure they’re finding your content when they do.
Now onto the what. Fundamentally there are two ways to get your brand appearing in the search results – Organic Search (often known as Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO) and Paid Search (often referred to as Google Ads or PPC). Both are collectively known as ‘SEM’ (Search Engine Marketing).
With Organic Search you are trying to get your website to appear in the organic listings that show 3-4 lines down the page, after the ads. This type of listing is technically free in that you don’t have to pay any money to Google or the other search engines to have your content appear there. The difficulty is that everyone else is trying to do the same and it is a highly crowded space, so investing in SEO services from an agency or even having that kind of resource in-house often becomes necessary to get to, and stay at, the top.
With Paid Search you get to jump the queue and have a link to your website appear in those 3-4 ads at the very top of the search results – providing you’re prepared to invest the right amount. It doesn’t have to cost the earth, but you will be required to pay Google every time that somebody clicks on your listing, and it is advisable to put a bit of budget aside for experimentation as results often don’t come overnight.
Both Organic Search and Paid Search are marketing disciplines in their own right, with thousands of people employed in full-time positions in either one of those specialisms around the world. Before rushing in to either one of them carefully consider what your end goal is, and which will provide the optimal route there. Paid Search can provide quick wins as you have more control over what is displayed in your ad who and when it appears. On the other hand, if you’re producing lots of great content you may find that your content is naturally appearing in the organic listings and that the investment in paid is not necessary.
Whichever approach you consider, search engine marketing should be firmly on the table when discussing B2B marketing plans, and a complete view of the decision making process should be borne in mind when carving out your future marketing investment.