Let’s Not Kill B2B Whitepapers Just Yet

A couple weeks ago, my friend Kirk Williams wrote a thought-provoking post on the Wordstream blog called Can We Please Kill the Whitepaper in B2B PPC?. When I saw the title, my hackles went up. I started to think: “Kirk, how could you?”, because Kirk is one of my favorite people in PPC.

As I read the post, I found myself agreeing with him. What he’s really saying is we need to kill bad whitepapers in PPC. Bad whitepapers, according to Kirk, are “all too often nothing more than repurposed sales material.”

I agree.

The whole reason for using B2B whitepapers in PPC is to generate awareness and consideration for your product or service. B2B whitepapers are often used in the early stages of the buying cycle, when users are in research mode. No one wants to be sold to when they’re trying to do research. We all know how annoying it is when we’re trying to browse for a new appliance, car, or other considered purchase and some salesperson pounces on us with a hard sell. We don’t like it. Neither do B2B prospects. Repurposed sales material posing as a whitepaper is not helpful and should definitely die.

But good B2B whitepapers are a great fit for PPC. Our clients have created whitepapers offering opinions on news in their industry, checklists for businesses to consider when making a purchase, overviews of how to use their product, and many other valuable topics. The key is to create whitepapers that answer questions the prospect may have as they’re doing research.

Let’s look at an example. Say you’re doing in-house PPC, and your campaigns have grown to the point that you’re thinking about bid management software. This is not an inexpensive purchase, and there are many technical aspects to consider. You probably have 100 questions about what bid management software does and how it can work for your business.

Do you want to read sales brochures at this point? Of course not. You want to read case studies and information on how bid management software has helped businesses like yours.

That’s where the whitepaper comes in. A good whitepaper on bid management will explain what it is, what it can and cannot do, and how businesses can benefit. It will not be a sales brochure.

In his article, Kirk listed several alternatives to the whitepaper. They’re all great. We’ve found, though, that in situations where the user is early in the research process, free trials and discounts are too far from where the buyer is in his or her journey. Buyers at the early stages need something informative that doesn’t feel like a big commitment. Good whitepapers are just the thing.

Should bad B2B whitepapers die? Absolutely. Should all B2B whitepapers die? Of course not! Whitepapers are useful tools that belong in every B2B marketer’s arsenal. And I think that’s exactly what Kirk was saying in his article.

What do you think? Are whitepapers helpful to you as a B2B marketer or B2B buyer? Or should they be killed off? Share in the comments!

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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on PPC Ad Copy

When people think about PPC, they often think about keywords first. But good ad copy is just as important to a successful PPC campaign. With only 90 characters to work with, writing good PPC ad copy is harder than you think.

What is the goal of each ad group?

Think about the goal of each ad group. Is it to sell products? Generate leads? What specifically are you offering and what do you want people to do when they get to the landing page? Your goal will help you craft ad copy that encourages users to do what you want them to do.
Read more: Ideas Are Not Strategy

Write the call to action first.

Few PPC pros write ads this way, but they should. Writing the call to action first forces you to craft ad copy around it. It also ensures enough space to say what you need to say! Some calls to action are long -“Download The White Paper Now,” for example – so you need to make sure you have enough space, or at least know you need to write a shorter call to action.
Read more: PPC Ad Copy Creation: Where To Start?

Research the competition.

You can use a tool like SEMrush or AdGooRoo, or you can just perform a few ad hoc searches on your keywords. Find out what your competitors are talking about and what they’re offering. If they all offer free shipping, you’ll need to think seriously about doing the same thing. Sometimes, researching the competition yields ideas on how to differentiate your business from all the others in the space. Are you the only company that allows purchases without a credit card? Say so! Do you ship faster than others? Put that in your ad copy.
Read more: 3 Sneaky Ways To Bid On Competitor Keywords

Determine your unique selling proposition (USP).

What’s unique about your company? Why should people buy from you? This is your unique selling proposition, the differentiator for your business. By the way, slogans such as “Just Do It” aren’t USPs. There’s a place for slogans, but not in ad copy. Save them for callout extensions and put a true USP in your ad copy.
Read more: Why PPC and SEO Engagements Fail

Include elements to encourage conversions.

In PPC, ad copy must do two things: stand out to encourage clicks, and make the offer clear to encourage conversions. Include elements such as numbers, keywords, and urgency statements (“Limited time offer!”) to encourage users not only to click, but to convert.
Read more: Pay-per-click: 5 Tips for Successful Ad Copy

Test, test, test.

Your job doesn’t end once you’ve written one ad. It’s just started. Write at least 3-4 ads for each ad group. You’re not going to put all 4 ads into market now, but you’ll need them for testing. Once one ad wins, pause the loser and rotate in another ad you’ve already written. One of the great things about PPC is the ability to test ad copy. Use it! Learn from it!
Read more: PPC Ad Copy Testing: 2015 Edition

The Ultimate PPC Ad Copy Cheat Sheet

PPC Ad Copy cheat sheet

Download the cheat sheet in Excel here: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For PPC Ad Copy

What are your ultimate PPC ad copy writing tips? Share in the comments!

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PPC Professionals: The Mechanics of Digital

Earlier this week, I took my car to the shop for an oil change and tire rotation. 30 minutes and $30 later, it was done. Easy.

When I was a kid, it was common for people to change their own oil. Cars were simpler then. My first car was a 1972 Ford Gran Torino. Yes, I’m dating myself. But I loved that car. It looked just like this one except it was powder blue. It was awesome. I wish I still had it.

Anyway, back then cars were simple. You could easily change the oil, the filter, the air filter (which I did myself many times, it was a 5 minute job), the spark plugs (which I also changed), and many other parts to keep it running. The mechanics of it were simple.

Fast forward to cars now. I now drive a 2011 GMC Acadia Denali. I love this car too. It’s big and bossy and has lots of fun toys, including satellite radio, OnStar, and a fancy nav display.

I can’t fix a single thing in this car.

The engine is crammed into a third of the space of the engine in my Gran Torino. Everything’s hooked up to computers. I’m afraid to even open the hood, much less try to tinker with anything under there.

Keeping PPC running well is a lot like keeping a car running well. When I started doing PPC in 2002, it was simple: keywords and ad copy. No Google Display network. No remarketing. No social PPC. No multi-device fancy stuff. Just keywords and ad copy. PPC was easy for a novice to do, and do well. I fell into it as a special project, and we made money the first day, even though I didn’t know what I was doing. I was, in essence, changing my own oil.

Nowadays, PPC is complicated, just like my Acadia. It’s easy to mess up royally and cost yourself thousands of dollars. There’s way more competition than there was in 2002, so CPCs are higher. There’s Bing and Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter and Instagram…. the head spins just thinking about it.

PPC is not DIY. It hasn’t been for a long time. I know that if I try to mess around with anything under the hood of my Acadia, I’ll screw it up and it’ll be an expensive mistake. The same thing goes for amateur PPC managers. It’s cheaper and better in the long run to hire PPC professionals.

What do you think? Can PPC still be done DIY? Or do you need a pro to succeed? Share in the comments!

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Using Adwords Labels To Organize Your PPC Campaigns

Ah, the new year. Time for New Year’s resolutions. Yesterday, the gym was packed with people, many of whom sadly will not last past Groundhog Day. Losing weight is the #1 New Year’s resolution.

But I’m not going to talk about that (although I could). I’m going to talk about the #2 resolution: getting organized.

We all have that one room in our house that’s disorganized. Stuff is everywhere, with no rhyme or reason. People often joke about tax records that are thrown into a shoe box. Ever tried to do your taxes that way? Ever tried to find a file on a computer with no subfolders? It can be done, but it’s time consuming.

The same thing goes for PPC accounts. Account organization is crucial for efficient PPC management, no matter the size of the account. For large accounts, it’s imperative.

Enter Adwords labels. Adwords labels help you organize your PPC account and quickly filter and view information in a number of different ways.

Campaign Organization

The traditional PPC account structure sometimes doesn’t go far enough to organize your account properly, especially for large accounts. You might have campaigns divided by network, country, language, product, and offer, for example. You can use campaign names for this: Search-US-English-WidgetA-FreeTrial, for instance. And this is exactly what I usually do. But what happens when you need to add even more dimensions to the mix? Super-long campaign names can get unwieldy. This is where labels come in. Add labels for the additional dimensions.

Results By Offer

Here’s another scenario. Let’s say that you’ve grouped campaigns by product line, and within each campaign you have multiple offers: purchase, trial, demo, and content download. And let’s say you want to see how each offer performs across the board. There are a number of ways to do this, of course, but one of the ways is to create a label for each offer. Then you can filter the data and view each offer’s stats individually.

Ad Test Groupings

One of my favorite ways to use Adwords labels is for ad copy tests across ad groups. If you’re running a pricing test across multiple products with different prices for each product, it’s nearly impossible to summarize that data in an Adwords report. But if you add labels to your ads, Price Point A, Price Point B, etc., summarizing the data is a cinch, especially if you throw it into a pivot table.

Remarketing List Organization

We all love remarketing. Large PPC accounts often have hundreds of remarketing lists. And Google doubles the number of lists by adding Similar Audiences – resulting in pages upon pages of lists to sort through. Adding labels to remarketing lists can help filter things down to a reasonable number. I label all Similar Audiences, just so I can filter them out when looking at my lists. I also create labels for lists specific to RLSA.

Other Uses

If you use any campaign automation, such as bid rules, you might want to label ad groups using them. Many advertisers use labels for locations, campaigns with bid adjustments, dayparting notations… the list is nearly endless.

Making use of Adwords labels will organize your account in a flash! Now, to get Bing to add them… How have you used Adwords labels to organize your PPC account? Share in the comments!

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Your Favorite Blog Posts Of 2015

Here we are, December 18. Christmas is a week from today, and PPC pros are either gearing up or winding down. Gearing up if you work in B2C ecommerce (in fact, you’ve been geared up for weeks), gearing down if you work in B2B like I do.

Last week I asked readers to vote on their favorite post of 2015. You didn’t disappoint! It’s always interesting to me what resonates with you – sometimes a post I think is great doesn’t get much reaction, while a post I dashed off in 15 minutes and thought wasn’t very good gets a lot of love and commentary.

With that, here are your 3 favorite blog posts of 2015:

Call-Only Ads Are Ruining Mobile Results – Based on the number of comments I got, this post struck a nerve with a lot of you. Call-only ads continue to be the bane of my existence, and I appreciate all of the feedback I’ve gotten from all of you on this topic, both here and on Twitter.

5 Challenges For PPC Lead Generation – Clearly I’m not the only one frustrated by the search engines’ focus on B2C and ecommerce, based on your votes. So many features and functions in PPC just don’t translate to B2B.

3 Sneaky Ways To Bid On Competitor Keywords – Who doesn’t love sticking it to the competition? Clearly you all love it! This post shared some of my favorite tactics, and a few of you shared some tips of your own.

I want to thank all of you for voting, and more importantly, for reading. Without you, I’d just be talking to myself. Which I do anyway :), but I appreciate all of your feedback and comments. You’ve helped me to be a better writer and a better PPC manager!

Updated! Here’s the replay of the Periscope I did earlier today talking about the top posts.

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Beyond The Paid 2015 Reader Poll

And just like that, it’s December. 2015 is coming to a close. What a year it was for me personally – my twins graduated from high school and enrolled at Michigan State, and I’m wrapping my 13th year in PPC. 13 years! Hard to believe.

Being December, it’s time for my third annual Beyond The Paid reader poll. I love getting feedback from my readers on hot PPC blog topics, as well as your favorite posts from this year. I’m always inspired to read your comments and feedback.

Without further ado, here is the Beyond the Paid 2015 Reader Poll!

PS: If you can’t see the poll, please leave a comment. I’ve had trouble with PollDaddy. 🙂

 



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Bing Ads Next: The Future Of Search

Last week, I had the extreme privilege of attending the third annual Bing Ads Next event. Bing shared their vision for the future of search, along with some big announcements. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the event.

Bing Ads Editor for Mac

This is by far the top feature request on the Bing Ads User Voice forum, and has been since at least 2012. I had honestly thought it was never going to happen. But it is, and we even got to see a live demo to prove it! More on this huge announcement at Search Engine Land.

Extensions Are King

We saw previews of two new extensions. With Image Extensions, you can add an image to your ads:

image extensions
As we all know, pictures help boost click-through rates, so this is a big deal for advertisers.

We also saw the new ActionLink extensions:

action link extensions
These reminded me of the Facebook call to action buttons, which are quite useful. These are clearly e-commerce focused, with limited options for B2B, but it’s a good start.

Bing User Preference

This isn’t a feature, but it’s super important. One of the biggest comments the folks at Bing hear is, “We get great results from Bing – there just isn’t enough traffic.” That’s definitely true for my clients. Bing is making strides, though:

user preference
According to these stats, more people prefer Bing than Google. Wow.

Bing Predicts Is Growing

I talked about Bing Predicts last year, when it was new. Now, it’s become almost ubiquitous:

bing predicts
It’s scary-accurate, and is something Google doesn’t have at all.

Cool Data on User Intent by Hour

We’ve all made assumptions about when people use different devices, and what times of day the “serious” searches are taking place. Well, Bing has real data on this:

user intent by hour

This is a fascinating chart, especially the shopping portion. Great data to use for dayparting when launching a campaign, or when you don’t have enough of your own data to segment.

The Winding Conversion Path

The journey from initial search to purchase is a circuitous one, for sure:

conversion path

It moves from device to device, and across multiple different search queries. The takeaway for me here was that you need to be present on all devices, and use a variety of keywords to stay in front of your prospects. Remarketing and RLSA don’t hurt, either.

It was a great conference in an intimate setting, and as usual, I learned a lot. To read more about the event, check out this post by Erin Sagin at WordStream.

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PPC Blogs You Need To Be Reading Right Now

In an industry that moves as fast as PPC, reading industry blogs is a must. Sure, you can learn PPC from books, but the unfortunate aspect of PPC books is that portions of them are outdated as soon as they hit the shelves. Blogs are inherently more up to date, so they’re a great source of PPC news and views. And new blogs are constantly coming on to the scene. I wrote a post 2 years ago on the top PPC blogs, and it already needs updating. Here are the top PPC blogs you need to be reading right now.

Search Engine Land – as industry news sites go, Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land is the gold standard, with articles from nearly every PPC luminary out there.

The SEM Post – Curated by Jenn Slegg, The SEM Post covers just about everything that’s new and interesting in PPC and search in general. (Disclosure: I write a regular column for The SEM Post).

Inside Adwords blog – this is the place for Adwords product announcements and the official word from Google.

Bing Ads blog – Bing posts product announcements here, and also includes great industry stats, demographic info, and other interesting PPC stuff.

Neptune Moon – Julie Friedman Bacchini has one of the most fun blogs to read out there. An author after my own heart, she’s not afraid to speak her mind. She wrote a great post for me a few weeks ago, too.

The Seer Interactive Blog – Covering all aspects of search and analytics, look to Seer for new PPC ideas you hadn’t thought of before.

Merkle RKG Blog – these guys are the smartest folks in PPC. If you want to really nerd out and test the boundaries of your PPC technical chops, this is the place for you.

3Q Digital Blog – You’ll find how-to’s and helpful info here. I especially like all of their articles on Facebook Ads.

PPCChat.co – OK, this isn’t a traditional blog, but rather a collection of screencaps from the weekly PPCChats on Twitter. If you missed a chat, or want to refer back to one later, this is the place.

Are you reading all of these blogs? If not, what’s stopping you? What are your favorite PPC blogs – did I miss any? Share in the comments!

 

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Assembly-Line PPC Is Not PPC Strategy

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Salt Lake City Search Engine Marketer’s conference (SLCSEM). I talked about the 7 Things Your Clients Want To Know About PPC Strategy. And then we had a fun “live PPCChat” with myself and Susan Wenograd, with Bryant Garvin moderating. For a recap of the event, check out the writeup on the SLCSEM blog.

We covered a ton of different topics in the live discussion, including our thoughts on Bing Ads (they had a rep on our panel, which was super cool), remarketing, and of course, PPC strategy.

Long-time readers of my blog know that this is a hot topic for me. Blog posts on PPC tactics abound – if you want to read about keyword research, setting up social PPC audiences, and campaign structure, you’ll have no trouble finding articles on all of these topics. I’ve written a post or two on them myself.

We all need to know these tools of the trade. But we also need to know the right time to use the tools. That’s where PPC strategy comes in.

I’ve found a surprising number of PPC practitioners who practice what I dubbed at SLCSEM to be “assembly-line PPC.” They have a list of PPC tactics – keyword research, ad copy writing, search query mining, bid adjustments, etc. – and they work their way through these as though they were boxes on a to-do list to be checked off. They’re doing the equivalent of “turning the screwdriver” on an assembly line – performing the same task for every client, no matter what, without really thinking about the final product or the goal it’s supposed to achieve.

Now, there’s no doubt that all of these things need to be done. A PPC manager who never looks at search query reports or writes new ad copy isn’t doing his or her job. But none of these tasks are a PPC strategy. If a client (or your boss) comes to you and says “I want to be the first ad on Google,” you should have a serious conversation with them about WHY they want to be there and what they hope to accomplish with that. “Being first on Google” is not a strategy.

“It’s about the experience, not the Adwords.”

In a conversation with my boss this week, he said, “It’s about the experience, not the Adwords.” I guess he used this in a client pitch, but it’s right-on when it comes to ongoing PPC strategy too. Some clients don’t belong on Adwords. We have more than one client using strictly social PPC, because it achieves their goals way better than Adwords or any search engine could. Other clients spend more on Bing than Adwords, because it reaches their audience better (and usually at a much lower cost).

The point is, PPC campaigns and the optimization performed on them should be based on achieving client goals, not checking a box. PPC isn’t a series of tasks. It’s a means to an end. It’s much closer to practicing medicine (looking at symptoms to solve a problem) than it is building a machine on an assembly line.

And yet, posts on PPC strategy are hard to find. When I uploaded my SLCSEM presentation to Slideshare, I was saddened to realize that the tag suggestions when I typed in “ppc” showed “ppc tactics” but not “ppc strategy.” So I added it.

slideshare tags

Speaking of the Slideshare, here is my deck. Let me know what you think!

 

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On Hiring A PPC Professional

There are times you can do things yourself, and there are times you need to call in a pro. If you scrape your knee, you can probably bandage it up yourself and care for the wound at home. But if you break your leg, it’s time to call in a pro.

Back in early August, I started having hip pain. I didn’t injure myself that I was aware of – it just started hurting. Thinking I pulled a muscle at the gym, I backed off the intensity and waited for it to heal.

It didn’t. After a couple of weeks, I could barely walk due to the pain. I started searching Dr. Google for an explanation of, and solution to, the problem. According to Google, potential causes could be anything from a minor muscle strain to a serious injury like a torn labrum.

Dr. Google returned all kinds of exercise and therapy regimens. I tried a few. At best, they did nothing; a few made the pain worse. I finally decided to see a doctor.

The doctor said I had bursitis, and referred me to physical therapy. I’ve been going to therapy for a month now. It’s made a world of difference.

Am I completely healed? No. Do I know what I need to do to heal? I do now.

The PT is pretty sure the whole issue stemmed from an earlier injury. In late June, I went for what I thought was a short bike ride – just 6 miles. I hadn’t ridden in a long time and wanted to get back into it over the summer.

Halfway through the ride, my tailbone started hurting. And I was 3 miles from home. I had to tough it out and ride back. By the time I got home, it was killing me.

That tailbone still hurts, 4 months later. I bruised the bone. And in compensating for the pain, I threw off the whole mechanism in my body for sitting and walking. Using muscles for purposes other than what they were intended is what caused the hip pain. I would never have figured this out on my own, nor realized that the two were connected.

What’s the point of my physical tale of woe, and what does it have to do with PPC? The point is this: People hire professionals for difficult problems they can’t solve on their own, due to lack of knowledge or expertise. I had no idea why my hip was hurting. I knew my tailbone hurt, and there was nothing I could do about it. I never connected the two, nor did I know how to fix the problem.

Think about small business owners trying to do DIY PPC. Things might go well for a time, and then suddenly performance falls off. They’re spending money and they don’t understand why the results aren’t there. They start tinkering around and make things worse. Finally, they give up in economic pain and frustration and call a professional PPC manager.

Or at least we hope they do. Like the muscles and joints of our body, PPC is complicated. One issue, such as a bad landing page or irrelevant keyword, can throw your whole account into a tailspin. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll never be able to fix it. Like me trying to find the answer to my hip pain by Googling it, you’re lost as to how to fix your PPC account.

Don’t let this happen to you. Hire a professional PPC manager to rehabilitate your account. Your proverbial hip muscles will thank you.

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