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Despite all the research and writing on the B2B buyer’s journey, quite a lot of B2B marketers still believe that “my buyers aren’t looking for us in search.”

Their assumption is that the customer in a position to buy a six- or seven-figure (or larger) piece of equipment or service is going to be deeply experienced and already know who the main providers are, and that’s who they're going to request bids from. The evidence suggests otherwise.

For example, if you search for 'healthcare IT consulting' the results include paid ads from Accenture, Dell, Siemens and many others:

Why would they waste their marketing efforts and budget if no one important was searching? They aren’t, because the buyers are.

According to Google, approximately 260 searches are done monthly on that term in the United States, and 320 globally.

Obviously that’s not huge numbers, but a single contract for healthcare IT services is worth a lot and the lifetime value of the customer could be several times higher, so it’s worth paying over $20 per click to Google.

If you look at some related long-tail keywords, the search numbers can be much higher. More than 720 people a month search for 'top healthcare consulting firms', over 1,600 search for 'IT consulting services', and so on.

Suggested bids on the various keywords range from those with low competition and under a dollar costs per click ('information protection policy'), to terms such as 'Enterprise security services' and 'cloud computing security' with high competition that has bid them up to over $40 per click – and in some cases much higher.

A consumer might search on a term like 'CT scan', but a hospital or healthcare provider would be more likely to be searching for 'CT scan equipment', which can cost more than $1m for one scanner.

So, again, major vendors advertise on it, and their ads and organic listings are seen by about 90 searchers globally each month, or close to 1,000 annually.

The numbers vary considerably from industry to industry, but the fact that big-ticket B2B buyers are searching is clear by both the number of searches and that certain keywords are highly competitive and have been bid up beyond a dollar or two per click.

Here are 10 other examples of big ticket B2B keywords:

Keyword Monthly Global Searches Suggested Bid
Marketing automation software 1,900 $37.85
Business online storage 90 $45.40
Network managed services 140 $161.73
Cloud security companies 210 $107.67
Custom trade show exhibits 110 $67.11
Trade show displays 9,900 $26.88
Help desk software 8,100 $53.51
Master data management vendors 110 $52.79
Office reburishment London 590 $37.03
Local SEO company 1,000 $27.16

And, again, each of these keywords has many long-tail companions that increase those monthly searches many times over.

For example, in addition to those 210 search for 'cloud security companies' there are another 210 searches for 'cloud security solutions' (with a suggested bid of more than $55/click) and about as many for the valuable 'virtualization cloud computing' ($108.91/click) with advertisers such as EMC, Intel, Microsoft, SAP and Google.

According to IDG Connect, 58% of B2B IT buyers use search during the buying process. What are those people searching for?

They typically consume seven or eight pieces of content while researching. Early in the buying process they’re often doing broad industry searches and then they focus in more on solutions and ultimately research on particular, short-list vendors.

The most advanced companies aren’t just using PPC ads but they’re also creating content that addresses the concerns of each member of the buying team during each stage of the process.

Considering that it can take dozens or, in many cases, hundreds of clicks to produce one sale, these high cost-per-click on low-volume B2B keywords show that they are worth it.

At the same time the low search volumes show that those advertisers can’t rely solely on a search or inbound strategy. No doubt they also use targeted accounts programs, ads in industry publications, exhibits at tradeshows and other means to reach their very specific markets.

That’s what omnichannel marketing is all about.

Louis Gudema

Published 11 August, 2014 by Louis Gudema

Louis Gudema is the president of revenue + associates and a contributor to Econsultancy. Louis blogs here and can be reached via TwitterGoogle Plus and LinkedIn.

12 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

My theory has always been that you're sometimes not marketing to the buyer, but to "whoever was free that day" and ended up checking that enough names are included on the initial list of possible suppliers.

Once you're on that list, you've got a chance.

about 2 years ago


Ashok Kumar, Promoter at Hitasoft Technology Solutions

Hello there, this is very useful and appreciating blog, each and every steps, the explanation images are well built and explained.

about 2 years ago


Anthony Leaton

I agree with Pete.

With the CT Scan Equipment example however, I did notice that ask.com were first place. This makes me question the cost per click to CLV, and conversion hypothesis's. Why are ask.com paying for such costly keywords?

When you are a big player having a presence if it converts, or not, is not a huge problem. Louis, I would say, and like to see mind, an analysis of the buyer lifecycle keywords to support the assumptions in this article.

I am assuming that generic keywords move to more specialised ones. I would be interested to know how much those terms cost, and their strategy. Perhaps getting some comment from the PPC department / company would help clarify this article.

I would say that perhaps ask.com pay less, as their advert is very targeted and relevant, or perhaps, the big players actually spend a lot less through negotiating a bulk one off payment with their Google Account Manager?

about 2 years ago


Anna Ordecka

You might be interested in our new technology. We do online advertising with social network and business directory in the same website at www.bebuzee.com

about 2 years ago


Blair Symes

Great article. I would add to this that a critical item to measure for these search ads is phone conversions. I've seen some great research from Google on the importance of phone calls in search campaigns, and how buyers want to call businesses throughout the buyer's journey. You can see that data on p.11 of the Google study (http://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/research-studies/click-to-call.html). If you aren't measuring calls from your Google ads, your analytics could be way off -- and this goes double for these big-ticket search campaigns will high costs per conversion. Ifbyphone has a white paper on tracking calls from Google that explains more: http://public.ifbyphone.com/landingpage/marketers-guide-to-call-tracking-for-google-seo-and-ppc/

about 2 years ago


Stan Wayne, Content Manager at Ringostat

Very important point made there Blair. The important of Phone conversion in Business should not be overlooked. I read a post on this once http://blog.netpeak.us/4-reasons-why-phone-calls-are-still-important-for-business/ and it has changed the way I see the role phone call play in increasing ROI.

over 1 year ago

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