Posted by Michael Dowd

The term “clickbait” has negative connotation because it implies that the payoff – whether that is a product, information, or an experience – doesn’t match the sales pitch. But there’s nothing wrong with enticing someone with winning messaging, backed up by compelling content, and no medium is better equipped to deliver upon that promise than paid search.

My distaste for platform-side metrics like clickthrough rate and cost per click runs deep, and any company that holds these up as end-game success metrics is selling you snake oil. Clickthroughs can be manipulated with lousy messaging. CPC can be manipulated by relegating yourself to non-competitive niches. Neither option says anything about how good that medium is at driving your business goals. This is doubly true for B2B companies, where sales cycles can take years and engagements can last a lifetime. Your company mission is to show that you understand your customer’s business intimately, and a botched landing page experience can express an ignorance or irrelevance that persists in the mind of the customer. Fortunately, paid search provides all the foundation necessary to create a meaningful relationship with those customers.

Paid search marketing is the most personal medium available to B2B advertisers. Social media often gets this title because of its potential for informal, back-and-forth communication, but it is also clouded by trolls, complaints, and agendas. Paid search is pure. At its core, it’s an individual asking a question – implicitly or explicitly – and presenting brands with the opportunity to reply. How well you are equipped to answer that exact question in that exact moment separates a sale from a missed opportunity. To position your brand with a winning response, you need to properly interpret that user’s question and provide both a compelling hook and content that supports your claims of authority. The latter is where too many brands fall apart.

The language of paid search is the keyword. In isolation, it’s a single request, but aggregated over time and matched against site-side data, they reveal how customers think, search, and interact. This “machine learning” aspect of search is beautifully illustrated by Google’s Knowledge Graph – the snippets of concrete information that Google serves up in response to implied search intent. These can be anything from Wikipedia definitions to structured data containing the height of a celebrity. This is the bar against which all content-driven campaigns should measure themselves. While Google is the expert on many topics, you are the expert on your own customer. Are you equipped with the content, technology, data, and campaign structure to respond directly and convincingly to the questions that your customers are asking?

These keyword-driven conversations shape the way that we respond to customers – not just within search, but across all media – because search is the only medium in which we are able to capture the entire conversation from customer intent to company response to customer engagement. We learn from the successes and apply that messaging to other campaigns. And we learn from the missed opportunities, where intention is not met by value, and we build new experiences around it on-site and across campaigns. This isn’t easy, and it requires departmental coordination across IT, marketing, design, and finance, but in a B2B world where single engagements can lead to thousands or millions in lifetime value, you simply can’t afford to disappoint the customer at any point in their journey.

There are many delicately balanced components in this holistic customer conversation, but they all rely upon a solid foundation of campaign structure and tactical execution to ensure that the bait comes with a comparable reward. In our new white paper, Maark explains how to execute well-structured campaigns using best-in-class technologies to drive qualified traffic toward meaningful conversions.

Michael Dowd is the Executive Director of Digital Strategy at Maark, where he coordinates new product development and execution for our clients. Mike brings with him eleven years of experience in agency-side digital marketing, during which he provided guidance on marketing technologies, platforms, and strategies for more than a dozen Fortune 100 companies across the B2B, retail, and automotive industries.

Download our new white paper, The Search and Social Advertising Playbook for B2B Marketers, to learn how to stop participating in search and social, and start converting.

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Photo credit: Edho Pratama