The rapid growth of search has empowered business professionals with the most efficient way to research vendors, products and service providers. Throughout the purchasing cycle, 93 percent of business professionals reportedly use the Internet during some phase of research, and 37 percent do both researching and purchasing online. Most significantly, however, 64 percent of business professionals say they use search engines as a main resource to find products and services.
This high level of search activity creates a huge opportunity for business-to-business advertisers who are increasing spend on online advertising as the burgeoning Internet ad industry continues to grow from an estimated $5.6 billion in 2005 to $11 billion by 2008.
Competition for the top spots on search results is intensifying, and BTB advertisers must learn tactics to increase the effectiveness of campaigns in order to sustain and improve conversion rates without breaking the bank.
Ensure each click is worth the cost. To create an effective pay-per-click campaign, BTB advertisers must identify what type of visitor they want and carefully allocate budgets across both their major and targeted online advertising channels.
Major search engines are primary channels of PPC because they bring in the largest number of click-throughs and help establish brand awareness to a broad audience. Research shows that most users of major search engines are still in the window-shopping phase, researching vendor and product options for later purchase. Though branding achieves long-term goals, conversion rates from major engines are often lower than from other channels.
To raise conversion rates, BTB campaigns must target specific audiences likely to become both immediate and long-term customers. Conversion rates tracked across multiple search engines show that searchers who are ready to spend most often connect to sites from niche, or vertical, search engines.
A vertical search engine is a site that specializes in a specific segment of a market and returns results related only to that segment. Common sites include Business.com, IndustryBrains, Knowledgestorm, IT.com, GlobalSpec and goWholesale.
Business searchers turn to vertical engines as a main resource because they care more about the relevancy of search results than about the number of results returned. This makes vertical engines the most effective way for BTB marketers to generate the highest conversion rates and ROI on PPC advertising.
For example, a business purchaser that needs quick access to manufacturers that sell “leather shoes” would find 11 million results on a major search engine and most of the results would be consumer-related. But by conducting the same search on a BTB vertical engine, the results would provide targeted listings of manufacturers or distributors that sell in bulk to businesses or retailers. The vertical search results save the purchaser time by providing prequalified listings and advertisers that best meet immediate and long-term needs.
For advertisers, vertical search engines provide the security of knowing that each user is a prequalified buyer within the specific industry. This means that each click-through from a vertical engine is more likely to convert into a sale than a click-through from a more generic venue.
Overall, vertical search engines provide BTB advertisers key benefits that major search engines cannot offer:
* A highly targeted audience of ready-to-purchase buyers.
* Lower advertising and PPC costs.
* Higher conversion rates and ROI.
The best niche sites also provide fast and easy campaign set-up and management, dedicated account representatives and tools for managing and tracking keywords and click-through rates. Many also provide valuable industry-related content such as blogs, community forums and news that increase the stickiness of the site for business users.
For BTB advertisers, getting top positions on major search engines is competitive and often requires expensive search engine optimization campaigns that don’t guarantee results. Smart BTB companies know that only buyers looking for the products or services being sold will click on their vertical search engine ads. On vertical sites, every click is a chance to gain a new customer.