B2B companies (business to business), especially B2B service providers, have actually become one of our biggest niches as an agency over years! PPC for B2B brands is our specialty.
The majority of businesses in this sector our providing an essential service that you often can’t avoid. For example waste management, electricity, water treatment, or food delivery. There’s already an established and reliable demand for these kinds of services.
This is why so many business services companies are utilizing pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. They’re trying to get ahead in a sea of competitors all offering variations of the same service. Or, they’re offering a completely new kind of product/service that they need to educate people on. Google Ads are an effective way to effectively jump the queue, and rank above all the organic search results from your competitors with a compelling ad.
Paid search and PPC campaigns more broadly are one of the most reliable and scalable models for promoting B2B service businesses. PPC ads can get you in front of your target audience who are looking for what you offer at that exact moment. So…how do you nail PPC for B2B offerings?
In this article, we’ll be focusing mainly on the ‘big dog’ of the PPC world, Google Ads! We do work across others like the Facebook of course, and the Bing search engine, but we’ve found none of them yet offer the same scalability big dog Google!
To run an effective PPC campaign, it’s vital you really nail your keywords. In this article, we’re going to cover all the different things that come into play when choosing the right keywords specifically for B2B service businesses.
If it’s still early days for your business and digital marketing plan, then we actually have a really useful video for you on a “Pre-launch checklist for paid ads” to make sure you have everything set up correctly before you start spending your hard-earned moolah.
Understanding Google Ads Keywords
There are a few different types of keywords that are at your disposal, and they all differ in what they can do for you depending on your goals. There have also been quite a few changes from Google on this front over the years…
What Google Says
Keywords are words or phrases that are used to match your ads with the terms that people are searching for.
Selecting high-quality, relevant keywords for your advertising campaign can help you reach the customers that you want, when you want.
What We Say
We describe a keyword as a selection of words put together that search engines then use as parameters to put relevant content in front of a searching user.
If you search on Google ‘Waste management service’ for example, this is simply a search with multiple words.
But, if you use quotation marks around “Waste management service”, then you are typing it as a keyword, and therefore you would potentially be added into the bidding system for that specific combination of worlds. This means anyone Googling that search term may end up clicking on your ad and going to your landing page.
You also need to learn about the different ‘keyword match types’ which all differ in how they behave and subsequently the kind of searches your ads will show up for. The core three are Phrase, broad, and exact match.
The easiest way to remember the difference is to picture a fishing net. Broad keywords throw out the net as wide as possible. Phrase is slightly less expansive, and exact match is the smallest ‘fishing net’ you can use.
Broad Match Type Keywords Explained
What Google Says
A keyword match type allows your ad to show on searches that are related to the meaning of your keyword, which can include searches that don’t contain the keyword terms. This allows you to reach more searches than with exact and phrase matches.
What we say
A broad keyword is basically the biggest, widest metaphorical net you can cast out! Broad keywords give Google the freest reign to search far and wide for any search terms that are even remotely related to your selected keyword.
Take for example the keyword “business waste management service”. As a broad keyword, this could put your advert in front of people searching for ‘business waste bins’, ‘how to reduce my waste’, or even ‘food delivery service’
While you can of course also show up for a search of your keyword word-for-word, you can appear for those above examples too because they all contain at least one of the words from your broad keyword. Anything related can show up.
But one positive of broad keywords is that 9 times out of 10, the volume of people seeing your ads will be higher compared to the tighter keyword types.
Having said that, it’s important to really nail your negative keywords when using broad type in order to eliminate as many of those irrelevant searches as possible and to make sure you’re using your budget effectively.
Broad keywords require much more time and energy into regularly adding negative keywords.
I’ll touch on negative keywords later in the article.
Phrase Match Type Keywords Explained
What Google Says
A keyword match type that allows you to show your ads on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. The meaning of the keyword can be implied, and user searches can be a more specific form of the meaning. This allows you to reach more searches than with exact match and fewer searches than with broad match.
What We Say
In comparison to broad, phrase match is less wide, and a less vague instruction for Google. more recently, phrase match is definitely becoming closer and closer to Broad match type as Google tries and gets advertisers to spend more on more on as many clicks as possible. However, you should show up for slightly more relevant searches while maintaining a good level of search volume. For some it’s the best of both worlds!
When you use phrase type keywords, you may notice “(Close variant)” in your search terms. This basically means Google has registered a similar search that matched your keyword quite closely. So after setting “Business waste management service” as your phrase keyword, you could also show up for searches like “business waste management provider”. This still makes sense and has similar search intent to your keyword, but doesn’t match it exactly.
But again, Google can go too far with it sometimes even when using phrase match type. So it is still possible to show up for searches that aren’t relevant with this keyword type. For example, you could also show up for “Business water management” or something like that which while is a B2B service, is not an ideal customer for a waste company who deal with wheelie bins for example.
Negative keyword management is still definitely important when using phrase match though.
Exact Match Type Keywords Explained
What Google Says
A keyword match type that allows you to show your ads on searches that have the same meaning or same intent as your keyword. Exact match gives you the most control over who sees your ad, but reaches fewer searches than both borad and phrase match. This allows you to reach only users who make searches with the same meaning as your keywords, including:
Misspellings, Singular or plural forms, Stemmings (for example, floor and flooring), Abbreviations, and Accents.
What We Say
This is the tighest, most precise ‘net’ you can cast with Google ads. For this reason it’s often our go to choice alongside Phrase match.
Exact Match Keywords are the strictest parameters you can give to Google for your ads. You show up, the majority of times, ONLY for the closest possible variants of the set of words you’ve selected.
An exact match “Business waste managment service” keyword could still let you show up for searches like “Business waste management firm” or “Company waste management service”, but it’s far less likely your ads will show up for “Business waste bins” or something like that.
Exact Match gives you the smallest searxh volume out of the three keyword types, so you are less likely to waste budget! But on the flip side of that, it it common to recieve the ‘low search volume’ error message from Google if your keyword is too niche/tight or too longtail.
This makes sense though. If there aren’t enough people searching for “Business waste management service company” for example, then there isn’t a big enough audience or opportunity to target them with ads.
What Are The Right Keyword Types For B2B Service Businesses?
A key part of getting Google Ads to work for you is finding the right balance between sufficient volume, and only getting qualified, valuable traffic.
The lifetime value of a B2B customer can of course vary quite significantly depending on if you’re using a recurring subscription fee model (for an online B2B platform for example), or a high value monthly retainer. Generally spekaing though, B2B services have a high price point, because you’re selling to established brands or big teams, therefore the cost per click can also be expected to be high
So what does this mean? Even a large ad budget can be spread thin in no time if you’re not careful. There’s plenty of competitive keywords out there to bid on, so being cautious with what your ads show up for, and being tighter with your keywords by using phrase or exact match may help you to avoid wasting money.
Having said that, there are plenty of B2B businesses that niche down into very specific solutions that they solve, and therefore very specific keywords they use. So this might mean that going with a broad keyword type for a very niche keyword makes more sense in order to get enough volume.
Take for example waste disposal specifically for glass producers, this is a smaller pool of potential clients as you’re ruling out all other kinds of waste, so a broad keyword may help you achieve enough impressions.
PPC Keyword Research For B2B Service Companies
Of course another key part of any good PPC campaign appart from selecting the right match type fro you is the keyword research itself (The words/phrases you try to bid on).
You want to try and understand the intent behind a potential target customer’s search so that they are matching as closely as possible with your service. But at the same time, you need to make sure you have enough volume to avoid the low volume message.
There are tons of different digital marketing tools out there for B2B brands getting started with keyword research, but in our experience, your own mind (and the tools given to you within Google ads) is more than enough!
The first step is to open up a new Google Doc or Word file and begin listing any and all random ideas that come to mind of what your target audiences would be searching for to find your solution. Sit down with your team and brainstorm!
There are over 4 BILLION people using Google, so you don’t need to be a keyword or PPC expert to understand how people use the search engine. You Google yourself all the time, so just think how you would phrase a search for your service.
Another useful tool to use is the auto-fill feature in search engines like Google to help inform your PPC keyword strategy.
In the screenshot below, you can see I typed “waste management service” and Google showed me a selection of suggestions for what someone might search with those words. Some of them might be ideal searches for you to target.
Don’t forget, you could also use this to find searches that are commonly searched but that wouldn’t be a good fit for your product or service. For example, “free waste management service” would be pointless unless you’re running a charitable waste collection! So, this could be an ideal candidate for a ‘negative keyword’ which I’ll cover further down…
Another useful tip is to utilise Google Ads’ own keywords planner. To find this you just need to head into your Google Ads > Tools & Settings > Planning > Keyword Planner.
Once you’ve decided on the keyword you want to start with, we’d advise you sort them into seperate ad groups that have the same intent.
“Waste management service” and “Waste collection service” for example are similar and it would make sense to put them together in the same ad group as the user has the same intent when searching these two sentences. But “Recyclying service” for example has a different search intent. They’re looking specifically for recycling not general waste, so keywords around recycling might go in another sepreate ad group.
Finally, you want to narrow down your selections to only the very best keywords and ad groups that you believe will produce the most conversions. Of course to begin with this is a guessing game, but they can be educated guesses. How many keywords your business needs is a difficult question to answer, but your main restriction is budget, and how much volume those searches have.
Usually we’d recommend starting on the tighter side with your targeting and then working backwards.
What's The Right PPC Ad Budget For B2B Services?
As with most competitive niches, budgets can dissapear in the blink of an eye for B2B companies. Due to the average high conversion value for these services, you can often end up being happier to pay a larger amount for a click on your ad.
So you want to make sure you select keywords, and keyword match types that align with your budget.
What you would call a big or a small budget depends massively on the B2B niche that you’re in and also just what you can afford as a business. We have clients with ad budgets ranging from £3,000 a month up to £50,000 (You can see some stories of brand’s we’ve helped here).
To give a good starting guide for you though, we’d say a small ad spend could be between £1,000 – £2,000. A larger spend is anything up from that.
If your chosen keywords only include one-two words, or you’re using commonly searched words, you will have a high volume of traffic seeing your ads. Conversely, if you’re using long-tail keywords or they are less commonly searched then your ads will show to less people.
When deciding on keyword match types in relation to volume, you want to think of broad match as high volume, phrase as somewhere in the middle, and exact match as low volume searches.
Your goal should be to be as targeted as you can, while still just about using up your set budget.
Bidding On B2B Service Competitors
Competitor ghosting is the name of a strategy used in almost all industries, but it might not be worthwhile for your B2B business. Check out this quick video we created that covers this very debate:
For B2B companies, it’s a key strategy that is used a lot!
Take ‘Biffa’ for example (a popular waste disposal company), If you google them you can see other competitors such as ‘Waste-Comercial Experts’ bidding with an ad copy written to try and persuade the user to choose them over their competitor (‘Get the cheapest quote online’).
So in short, yes it can work for B2B services in the right niche. You’ll probably know best weather your industry is one with rife competition and pricing wars, or if you have a USP that will appeal to your competitor’s customers.
However one negative of this strategy to consider is that your ‘quality scores’ will usually suffer for any keywords ‘ghosting’ your competition’s brand names. This is because Google can realise you’re not the business their user is looking for (originally at least).
But as i mentioned above, if you’re genuinely offering a better solution/service for the same problem customers are searching for, then they could be ideal customers for you too! You just need a convinving, compelling advert and to make sure it’s updated regualrly to avoid ‘ad fatigue’.
Google does often label close competitors as ‘close variants’ anyway, so there is a chance you’ll show up for seraches for competitors without even trying. For this reason, we recommend holding off on spending your budget on competitor searches to at first, then after some time you can evaluate if there’s a big enough opportunity.
On the subject of negatives…
Negative Keywords In The B2B Services Industry
What Google Say
Negative keywords let you exclude search terms from your campaigns and help you focus on only the keywords that matter to your customers. Better targeting can put your ad in front of interested users and increase your return on investment (ROI).
What We Say
No matter how much time and effort (and headaches) you’ve put into your keyword research, ad copy, and B2B PPC strategy, you will still show up on lots of irrelevant searches (sorry to break it to you).
But, when you do start showing up on searches that you think it’s unlikely will produce sales/lead generation, you can utilise negative keywords to combat this.
If you do show up on bad quality searches, it’s also likely that the majority of those users won’t click on your ad anyway (because your ad won’t match their intent/cater to their needs). This means your click-through rate (CTR) will subsequently be low.
CTR put simply is how many clicks you’re getting out of the total number of people seeing your ads. For example, 10 clicks from 100 impressions = a 10% CTR.
CTR is arguably the most important factor for raising your quality scores and therefore making efficient and cost-effective decisions.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to spend part of your monthly budget on a worthless click. The wasted clicks can add up and can easily waste a big portion of your spend if ignored.
As mentioned above, Google’s autofill tool can be a useful way to get ideas for negatives to block.
A common situation is searches with words to do with careers around your keywords. So “Waste management jobs’ for example.
It’s worth noting that once a negative is in place, you can’t see what you’re missing out on, so be smart with it.
Feel free to drop me an email if you’re looking for more tailored advice for your B2B brand specifically. We’re always happy to help! You can pop me an email here email@example.com
There’s a reason PPC strategies play such a big role in most B2B company’s digital marketing plans – when done right it’s THE number one way to scale online.
To conclude, you’re trying to find keywords that are as close to your target audience’s search intent as possible, while still getting enough data flowing through to learn from the A/B tests you set up in your ppc campaign or on your landing page.
Essentially our entire job as a paid adveritsing agency is all about creating a huge matrix of A/B tests to help us leanr what does and doesn’t convert for you, and to constantly be improving on your returns of course.
If you’re already running a PPC campaign and you want us to give it a once over and tell you what we’d do with your account – We’re happy to take a look – book in a call and a free audit below ⬇️