“Which is the better choice for my business, SEO or Pay Per Click?”
In our industrial marketing work with mid-market manufacturers, industrial service providers, and distributors we answer this question on a regular basis. Yet, despite our familiarity with the question, we haven’t really come up with a great answer. In fact, a great answer doesn’t exist. It’s kind of like asking which golf club is better, a driver or a putter? The answer is neither – or both – depending on how you want to look at it.
Neither, in the sense that SEO and PPC each serve different marketing functions, much like different golf clubs, therefore one cannot be better than the other. Both in the sense that PPC and SEO are complementary functions and the most successful strategies, and golf games, should combine elements of each.
As an increasing number of small-to-medium sized industrial companies take advantage of online marketing efforts, it is important to have a clear understanding of the processes behind these efforts, and the results to expect. Let’s break down the basics of each as they apply to industrial B2B business.
In an industrial marketing golf bag, SEO is definitely the driver. SEO efforts fill websites with content and keywords which search engines measure to determine whether or not a website is relevant to a search. Web sites that rank well appear near the top of results, while those that rank poorly appear near the bottom or on back pages. The top search results receive the majority of clicks, while those near the bottom receive fewer. Results after the first pages receive practically none.
Given the fact that 90% of B2B buyers use search to research business purchases (Google, 2015), strong SEO efforts have never been more important.
However, like a driver, SEO efforts require industrial businesses to play the long game. It takes time and continued effort to produce content. It also takes time for search engines to recognize and rank new content as relevant to search results. Therefore, just as a driver is unlikely to put the ball in the hole, SEO is unlikely to deliver website visitors immediately. That being said, continued effort over time yields impressive results. The payoffs in eventual website traffic can be enormous – not to mention the fact that it’s free.
It is also important to note that industrial companies, especially mid-market manufacturers and distributors, are uniquely positioned to benefit from SEO. Unlike B2C consumers, industrial buyers are experts in their field and often know the exact model number for the parts and equipment they need. Precise-tail SEO ensures websites rank well for the specific model numbers they list, making it easy for buyers to find the specific equipment and components they need.
If SEO efforts are the driver in industrial marketing, then PPC campaigns are the putter, for short-game, fast results. PPC ads appear at the top of search results for searches which relate directly to the products or services being offered. As a result, they are exposed to a highly relevant audience. This is great news for small-to-medium sized industrial businesses looking to drive traffic to their website immediately.
Better yet, PPC advertisers are only charged once a visitor clicks an ad, meaning that there is no upfront investment and money is not wasted on uninterested views. As well, since ads display at the top of search results, industrial companies gain a sense of credibility. Buyers looking for products or services see advertisers first and often click ads before reaching the unpaid search results below.
While many factors contribute to ad success, industrial companies that bid the right amount per click for their industry will outrank competitors essentially overnight.
While it is possible to use either of these tools individually, industrial companies have the best results when both are performing at a high level. PPC ads that appear at the top of search results offer immediate brand recognition and provide buyers with easy access to information about the equipment they are searching for. It is a quick way for companies to appear credible and relevant even if they aren’t the first website listed in search results.
However, industrial sales cycles are traditionally longer, and buyers are not always willing to make a purchase immediately after clicking an ad. SEO ensures that information about a business can easily be found throughout the sales cycle, as the needs of buyers change.
For example, an ad for fiberglass reinforced tanks might introduce a buyer to a business and some of the corrosion resistant tanks they offer. As their interest grows they will likely want more information about the company. Case studies, blogs, and other content will help a website rank higher in unpaid search results and give prospects the useful information they need to make a decision. If this information is tough to find, they will likely click the next relevant search result.
The industrial marketing landscaping is changing. Mid-market manufacturers, industrial service providers, and distributors are taking online channels seriously in an attempt to connect with interested buyers. However, no single tool will result to result in a great score. Instead, the combined efforts of a larger strategy is the key.
About Fred Yee
Fred Yee is the founder and CEO of ActiveConversion, a company that makes online marketing work for industrial companies. Fred was voted as one of the 40 Most Inspiring Leaders in Sales Lead Management in 2017, and his work with ActiveConversion has helped hundreds of businesses succeed online. ActiveConversion is Fred’s third successful company, and he continues to explore the possibilities of technology in industrial sales and marketing.