Exploring The Importance Of 'Who' In B2B Search

In my first column this year, I set my sights on reinventing B2B search best practices.  In that piece, I alluded to a "holy grail" for program analytics where B2B marketers could drill into search query patterns by organizational size and individual roles in the company -- essentially, uncovering and optimizing for the "who" in search. While this type of intelligence isn't commonly used today, it should be if B2B marketers are serious about installing a legitimate competitive advantage.

There are plenty of applications for this data, too. Perhaps the most obvious are instances where the keyword being purchased or optimized for is general and appeals to diverse audiences. For example, if we're pursuing the term "web security software," how sure are we that we're reaching the intended IT decision-maker? Perhaps a consumer is trying to avoid catching the latest virus on her personal computer, and so chose to search for that term as well.



Wouldn't it be great to have definitive answers?

But the larger issue here is that B2B communications (search included) have long assumed that their intended audiences are other organizations. With the explosion of both mobile and social technologies though, we've begun seeing evidence of the business decision-maker interacting with digital platforms and content both on-the-go and in very "consumery" ways. This trend has effectively caused us to rethink our assumptions about business communication.


Engagement through Human Relevance

It's simple, actually. Businesses are comprised of people, and those people are the ones who effect purchase decisions. Like you or me, they're imperfect people. They often behave as consumers do online, acting unpredictably and basing decisions on emotions over entirely rational criteria.

But reaching those people via search has become increasingly difficult. The results pages themselves have become a noisy place -- home to not only the traditional organic and paid results, but also image, video, news, expandable listings, and vertical drill-downs. Standing out among these varied result types is no easy task. If our client data is any indication, this noisy landscape has forced a majority of click-through activity to the top results.

In order to be humanly relevant, and stand out across a cluttered results page, successful B2B search programs must connect with the people behind business decisions. The relevance of the message and content are paramount. Sure, tightly aligning keywords to ad copy/meta description and landing page is important, but that's become table stakes. To be humanly relevant means to speak directly to discrete human personas based on the query.

It's critical to know your audience, and that's where advanced analytics come in.


Knowing Your Audience

Search analytics, like the type described, above are no pipe dream. That data is available and currently free from a handful of providers. But simply having access to the data is only half of the solution; you have to know how to apply it.

There are two critical applications to this type of intelligence for the serious B2B search marketer:

1.  Confirming (or not) that your search programs are reaching their intended audiences.

2.  Identifying the specific vocabulary used by various organizational roles, by size of organization

With this data in your hip pocket, not only can you demonstrate performance gains across search, but you can profoundly impact every facet of marketing communications! By identifying and understanding the self-expressed interests of your nuanced audiences, you can empower every other marketing activity that seeks to connect with those discrete audiences.

Smartly applying this type of advanced search analytics to truly know your audiences, will facilitate humanly relevant communications that stand out from the noise.

1 comment about "Exploring The Importance Of 'Who' In B2B Search".
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  1. Chad Summerhill from U-Pack Moving, May 11, 2011 at 1:55 p.m.

    Hi Ryan, Interesting article!

    Here are a few articles that I think are relevant to this discussion. They are about using “ad sets” to address the problem of same keywords different persona:

    The comments are very interesting as well.


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