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Inbound Marketer's Guide To Paid Media

When and how paid ads can support your B2B inbound program.

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Introduction

You’ve committed to your B2B inbound program and aligned marketing, sales, and customer service teams to attract, convert, and delight prospects and customers. You’ve implemented a helpful, SEO-driven content strategy that answers your buyer personas’ needs, based on real data.

So, after committing to inbound, why would you add a “push” method like pay-per-click ads (PPC) to your mix? When can organic search engine optimization (SEO) efforts benefit from a paid ads program? And how can you create a strategic PPC plan that boosts your inbound performance without blowing your marketing budget?

While organic SEO is the best long-term technique for attracting sustained, high-quality traffic to your B2B website — and for nurturing traffic into qualified leads that convert to sales — tactical use of paid advertising has its place in some inbound marketing plans.

This guide breaks it down, answers the big questions about what’s involved, and can help you decide if PPC is right for your inbound marketing strategy.

What is Paid Media?

Digital ads, including pay-per-click ads, are an outbound marketing tactic. This can include (but is not limited to): 

  • Search engine ads
  • Display ads on industry websites
  • Social media ads

Determine If PPC Fits Your B2B Inbound Strategy

In specific use cases, paid ads can be just the right precision instrument to accelerate your inbound results and complement your content efforts with remarkable speed and accuracy. But that doesn’t mean it’s the right tool for every business or every marketing strategy.

Consider these 12 Yes-or-No questions before you jump headfirst into digital ads:

  1. Does your new inbound content need a quick conversion boost?
  2. Are you constantly struggling in an intensely competitive SERPs environment?
  3. Do you need more robust keyword data to power your SEO?
  4. Are you expanding into new markets?
  5. Do you have your sights set on a precision-targeted audience?
  6. Are you launching a new product, service, or brand?
  7. Are you implementing inbound in your recruiting?
  8. Do you host, sponsor, or exhibit at industry events?
  9. Is account-based marketing (ABM) part of your lead-generation strategy?
  10. Are you running a limited-time or bottom-of-funnel (BoFu) offer?
  11. Do you need to channel traffic for A/B or adaptive content testing?
  12. Are you struggling against the noise on social media?

Wait a second…

What does pay-per-click have to do with inbound?

At first glance, paid digital advertising and inbound marketing appear to be polar opposites.

But a closer look reveals that PPC serves as another tool in your marketing arsenal to help prospects find you during an internet search.

So, while it’s an outbound effort, in the right hands, it can have an inbound impact.

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To learn more about how PPC and inbound can work together to help you meet your SEO and marketing goals, read these helpful blog articles!

Planning & Executing PPC to Support Inbound Marketing

Your overall goal is to leverage these two as complementary forces.

Just as you create inbound marketing content to meet the needs of your buyers — and to be found based on their keyword searches — your paid search tactics add an opportunity to meet prospects based on their search criteria, and to lead them directly to your content that supplies helpful answers to their search queries.

That’s right. Pay-per-click can make you more helpful. Since inbound is all about getting the right information to the right people at the right moment, it makes perfect sense to use paid search to help serve up your content to your target audience at the moment they come looking for help.

In turn, the value of your marketing content drives the impact of your PPC ads. This self-reinforcing feedback loop can actually strengthen and accelerate your SEO performance both rapidly and steadily over time.

And the data you gain from analysis and reporting can help you refine and manage both sides of the equation — organic and paid — for continuous improvement.

5 Key steps to creating a holistic PPC program that supports inbound marketing

  1. Initial research and planning: Evaluate ad platforms, and research audiences and keywords to determine the best opportunities. You’ll need to get a clear understanding of the competitive landscape and create a keyword strategy based on clear goals for audience behavior and outcomes. Internally, you’ll want a service level agreement (SLA) in effect between Marketing and Sales to be sure all teams are in alignment and ready to respond to increased lead traffic.
  2. Review and refine your bidding strategy: Your approach to bidding, like your chosen platforms, copy, and content, should be driven by your objectives. Are you focused on conversions? Clicks? Impressions? The right bidding strategy puts your budget to best use.
  3. Write ad copy and design your ads: Competitive and keyword research are crucial to creating standout ads that resonate with precision-targeted audiences. There’s also plenty of nuance that requires strong writing. You want to set an authoritative tone, attract the right audience, and build urgency… all within tight character limits.
  4. Set up ads in your selected platforms: Search and social media platforms present a range of ad types, targeting parameters, and bidding strategies that, together, offer an almost unlimited number of combinations to build a customized paid ad plan.
  5. Monitor and manage: On an ongoing basis, review and adjust keyword bidding, copy and graphics, geo targeting, demographics, linked content, and more. You’ll also need to review and manage how incoming leads are handled, to ensure that sales teams get the benefit of the data — like which ads and content leads interacted with — to ensure appropriate follow-up.

Inbound… Pay-Per-Click Ads?

A well-researched, disciplined, holistic approach to inbound marketing can successfully leverage a paid ads strategy — and when done well, PPC and inbound content strengthen each other.

Major considerations include:

  • Social media channels, paid search, or both — and which channels
  • Ad types
  • Keyword bidding strategies
  • Timing
  • Goals and measurements
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To learn more about researching, planning, executing, and analyzing your inbound-friendly paid media plan, read these helpful blog articles!

Monitoring, Analyzing, & Reporting Pay-Per-Click ROI

How can I tell if my paid ads are working?

If you’re working with an agency to manage your paid media program, you likely had a conversation in which you set expectations for results alongside your monthly budget.

You should expect your PPC specialist to clarify what gets measured, how to use the analysis and reporting for communicating with others in your organization, and how your team can incorporate analysis and reporting into continuous improvement — for both your paid ads and your inbound content.

How do I set up a system for analysis and reporting?

  1. Start with benchmarks. Industry benchmarks from big-name players (like Google and Facebook) are an important starting point, with goals for click-through rates, cost per click, conversion rates, and more. But that’s just a starting point. An experienced PPC manager considers your audience size, ad types, channels, and more to build a reporting structure that delivers and interprets data that’s meaningful to you.
  2. Choose a reporting dashboard. Your dashboard should enable simple access to data and timely analytics. Choosing the right platform is critical, and there are plenty of good options.
  3. Act on leads. It’s not enough to simply know leads are coming in. Information needs to enable meaningful action. That means establishing a lead notification system and workflow tools to alert and empower sales teams. (Bonus: This reinforces the value, further correlates ROI, holds all teams accountable, and can increase organizational buy-in.)
  4. Score leads to save time and effort. Establish lead scoring criteria for marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs) to help speed sales teams to wins, ensure lead nurturing actions, and eliminate time-wasting leads.
  5. Establish a reporting cadence. Stakeholders need to agree on what measurements mean to your program, and which measurements matter most. An experienced PPC manager — who also knows how paid ads work with inbound — should be able to offer guidance.

DIY or Agency-Managed?

Developing and executing a PPC program can be… well, a lot.

But in able hands, a paid ad program can also DO a lot, in short order.

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Choosing a PPC Agency You Can Trust: What to Look For

You recognize potential opportunities to use PPC to boost your inbound marketing, and you’ve calculated the value of agency-managed paid media over the steep (and potentially pricey) learning curves of DIY pay-per-click.

Great — so now what? How do you decide which agency is the right fit for your B2B marketing needs, your inbound methodology, and your budget?

Step 1: Eliminate PPC agencies that don’t support your inbound strategy.
If all they do is pay-per-click or outbound advertising, it’s tough to trust that you’d end up with a PPC program that’s well-researched to not just give you a short-term boost, but also deepen and grow your SEO and inbound performance.

Step 2: Review and compare the agencies that remain. Consider these questions:

  • Do they understand your buyer personas and SEO strategy?
  • Do they have a comprehensive view of your lead nurturing process and content strategy?
  • Does their PPC expert work closely in a streamlined process with other inbound experts?
  • Can they demonstrate experience and success with paid ads?
  • Are they prepared to work with your budget?
  • Are they committed to data-driven adjustments and continuous improvement?
  • Do they know how to help you analyze, report, and communicate PPC ROI to your stakeholders?

It can take time and effort to find the right fit, but it’s also essential for getting the most out of a specialized combination of inbound marketing plus pay-per-click ads. Ultimately, your PPC budget is more than a quick shot in the arm for your website traffic. It’s an investment in your long-term, organic SEO growth that complements and supports all your marketing content.

And when you and your agency are on the same page, the results speak for themselves.

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To learn more about choosing an agency to fit your paid media and inbound marketing needs, read this helpful blog article!

We know search. When you’re looking for more information, it can be easy to disappear down an internet rabbit hole. Instead, you can find all our blog posts on paid media here, in easy-access, digestible articles with a clear focus on B2B industrial companies.

Essential Pay-Per-Click Definitions

Click-through rate (CTR)

Expressed as a percentage, this rate is determined by the number of clicks on your ad divided by ad impressions.

Conversion

Also called a lead. When a person engages with an ad, by calling (i.e., click-to-call) or filling a lead form.

Conversion Rate

The percentage of ad viewers who complete the desired action, out of the total ad viewers.

Cost per click (CPC)

This is determined by dividing the amount spent on ads by the number of clicks.

Cost per impression (CPM)

This number reflects every thousand pairs of eyeballs on your ad and knowing it helps understand how compelling your ad is.

Display ad

An image-based ad displayed on channels including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google, for example.

Dynamic ad

An ad containing fast-moving, rotating images for added interest to entice users to click.

Google Search ad

A text-based ad that appears on a Google search results page (SERP). Advertisers select and bid on keywords for these ads to show in results.

Impressions

Number of times a person views your ad.

Keyword

A search term you bid on in order to place your ads in an ad channel.

Negative keyword

Specific terms you can select that you DO NOT want to rank for.

Retargeting/remarketing

Ads shown to people after they have visited and left a website.

Search ad

A text-based ad that you bid on in order to appear in search engine results.

Social ad

Ads that run on social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Target audiences

Groups of people, with specific characteristics, whom you are trying to reach with your ads. Different ad platforms allow you to specify categories including job titles, interests, etc.
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