B2B SEM Strategy 101

There are mountains of information on SEM strategy and getting an AdWords campaign started for B2C and ecommerce products, but B2B, technical, and niche markets have been seriously neglected. Without thousands of people searching for your products every month, a different SEM strategy is needed to be successful. 


How many keywords should I have?

The best SEM strategy here is to start small and plan to grow. It’s easy for your keyword list to start multiplying out of hand once you add in variations for locations, customer categories, and product options. It’s best to start with a short list of distinct keywords, 5-10, that you can use to see which work best. During the first few weeks, you’ll want to make updates based on their performance, which is much easier to manage with a small list. (If your list has a couple dozen or more keywords, it might make sense to split them into multiple ad groups—AdWords has some tips on when to use additional ad groups.)


How specific should my keywords be?

One of the biggest differences in SEM strategy for niche markets is how detailed the keywords are. Typically, more specific keywords are better, but having keywords that are too specific can result in low to no monthly searches and few people seeing your ads. Meanwhile, the benefits of starting broad can outweigh the money that you might spend on irrelevant clicks. The biggest benefit to starting broad is that you’ll get valuable data on what your customers are actually searching for.

So, the trick to running a successful SEM campaign for B2B is experimenting. Most of the time searchers start with a broad search and only get more specific when they get unrelated results. Serving your ads during that first search can be your best shot at gaining brand awareness and possibly getting your foot in the door with a potential customer.

  • Specific keywords have several words and describe your exact product or company. (e.g. high strength steel processing Chicago)
  • Broad keywords use high-level product categories or business types.
    (e.g. steel processing)


How do I know if my keywords are too specific?

The AdWords Keywords Planning Tool lets you to see an estimate of monthly searches for a list of keywords you’re considering. This is how you determine if you have specific or broad keywords. If you end up with results that have few or no monthly searches, you’ll want to take out an adjective or two or throw in some broader product category terms until you see some higher average monthly searches. 

Keep in mind that this is only an estimate of the keywords that Google has in its database. Don’t cross highly relevant keywords off your list just because there’s no estimated search volume; these could just be niche enough to not make it into AdWords’ database of keywords. Adding keywords with very low search volume won’t hurt your account, but the more you have, the more work it’ll be to manage the account.


How can I prevent irrelevant clicks from eating up my budget?

Negative keywords stop ads from being shown when certain keywords are used. For example, if you don’t process stainless steel and you don’t serve Canada, “stainless” and “Canada” would prevent those searches from seeing your ads.

Automated rules are another option, as they can limit the amount you spend on a keyword that you think might be too broad by setting monthly or weekly limits to make sure that one keyword doesn’t run away with your budget.


Should I bid on my own brand?

Even if you’re already the top organic result when you search for your own company or brand, here are some of the benefits to adding them as specific keywords:

•    Credibility- Ads in the search results allow your links to look more professional and more likely to be from a reputable company.

•    Real Estate- Organic results give four lines of text, but ads with all of the extension features take up twice the space.

•    Customized Messaging- Ads allow you to deliver your best marketing messaging right in the results page.

•   Cost- Few people, if any, are bidding on your brand names, so you’re able to get better messaging at a lower cost than the rest of your ads.

•   Competition- If someone else is thinking about bidding on your brand, they’ll see a higher bid amounts if you’re already using them.

This should help you get started with your SEM strategy and avoid some of the pitfalls of advertising in a niche market. Running an effective AdWords campaign of any size is all about testing out new ideas and adjusting based on the data you receive. With a little more patience and an understanding of how to market to a narrow audience, you’ll be able to get your messaging out, making you easier to be found by your hard to find customers.


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