We recently partnered with B2B Marketing Magazine to create the first report in their Benchmarking series.  The topic was search marketing in B2B.

One of the most striking findings from the research is how digital has altered the marketing landscape.

The two most commonly used techniques in the modern B2B marketer’s armoury are now email (82% use) and search marketing (67%).

It would be a mistake though to assume that ‘traditional’ techniques are dead.  Rather, what we’re seeing is an integrated approach with 75% of B2B marketers deploying five or more channels.

Within the digital mix, the importance of search is clear.  Two fifths (41%) expect it to become significantly more important in the coming 12 months and one third (32%) plan to spend a much greater proportion of their budget here.  However, it’s worth noting that this growth comes from a relatively low base.  Half of B2B marketers (51%) currently spend 10% or less of their budget on search (although their time investment may of course be much higher).

The primary driver of growth is commercial.  Search marketing is being used to drive interaction via the web rather than through more expensive, resource intensive channels (59% cite this as a reason for greater focus on search).  This approach is also likely to be a reflection of the growing preference amongst B2B buyers to use the web for certain types of activity and increasing interest in online communities.

The increasing role of the web in B2B buying decisions is also reflected in the second growth driver.  Search marketing is seen as core to brand visibility and for many (43%) their goal is quite simply being seen.

The third driver is confidence.  Two fifths (41%) of B2B marketers report a better understanding of search and, now they’re suitably equipped, have bigger plans.

How then are search profiles being enhanced?

Core is content optimisation for keywords, an activity undertaken by three quarters (76%) in the last 12 months.  Not an easy task given the volume of keywords targeted – 25% of those polled target 50 or more.

The flip side to this is interesting.  One quarter (24%) have adopted keywords but haven’t reviewed optimisation recently.  This could suggest one of three things.  New content is carefully designed with keyword ratios in mind, new content is being added without keyword density checks or content is simply not refreshed.  The latter two of course may well negatively impact search rankings.

The use of content to build natural links emerges as the second most frequently deployed tactic (used by 61%).  Here the value of thought leadership becomes clear. It not only supports brand positioning and engagement but also provides valuable ‘link bait’.

These are of course just a few highlights and the full report, free to B2B Marketing Premium Members, can be accessed on their website.

Alternatively, you can see further highlights in a webcast featuring Circle’s Andrew Dalglish and Base One’s search expert Gifford Morley-Fletcher here: B2B Search Marketing Webcast.

Read more about our approach to business-to-business (B2B) thought leadership and PR research.

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About Andrew

Andrew has specialised in B2B research for over a decade and co-founded Circle Research in 2006. He is a columnist for B2B Marketing Magazine, a regular contributor to Research Live and frequent speaker at leading events such as the B2B Leaders Forum, Customer Experience Live and the Social Media World Forum. Andrew is a Chartered Member of the MRS, teaches the MRS B2B research course and holds an MA in Psychology from Aberdeen University alongside an MSc in Marketing from Strathclyde University.

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