In part 1 of this article, we talked about the uniqueness of B2B marketing and the dominant role of search engines in the B2B buying process. So itís safe to assume that search engine visibility is an excellent way to boost B2B profitability.

Now itís time to explore the return on investment (ROI), as well as the effectiveness and flexibility of search engine marketing, focusing on organic site optimization.

How Good Is Search Marketing ROI?

We all know that ROI can be difficult to measure. In a survey conducted by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and Forrester Research 78 percent of respondents said, "measuring the sales impact of marketing was difficult." In fact, most respondents could not agree on the definition of ROI. Hereís the ROI definition preferred by 66 percent of respondents: ďIncremental sales revenue generated by marketing activities.Ē The ROI for B2B websites using an organic search engine optimization program can go through the roof, shaming just about every other component of your marketing plan. Why? Itís simple.

We all know that B2B Internet users prefer organic search results for reliable information. Itís been reported by dependable sources such as SearchEngineWatch, MarketingSherpa, and eMarketer.

We all know that properly optimized sites get good rankings on Google and other search engines. There is ample industry research and case studies showing those high rankings on page 1, 2, or 3 result in extraordinary increases in unique visitors and sales conversions for B2B clients.

We also know the fantastic value and loyalty created when B2Bís provide information during that long sales cycle. Engineers just love those white papers and webcasts offered as a grab Ďn go freebie on B2B websites. The technicians and specialists doing research really do appreciate your downloads, and 70-80 percent of them return and convert from visitor to user.

However, itís important to have your marketing performance measurement tools in place. MarketingSherpa reports that 90 percent of CMOs consider these measurement tools a ďhigh or moderate priority.Ē With the many web analytics tools available for search engine marketing it is easy to get a benchmark before your campaign starts, then track ROI as your rankings improve.

How Effective Is Search Engine Marketing?

As documented in many case studies, search engine marketing is quite effective at increasing site traffic and conversions. Below are two examples of B2B organic search campaigns from

OneUpWeb reported that an international manufacturer and distributor of secure fasteners initially achieved 48 top-10 positions and 52 top-30 positions, starting off with 0 before its search engine optimization campaign. One year later, it went to 130+ top-10 positions and 250+ top-30 positions. All new sales leads come from search marketing efforts, many from outside the U.S., boosting international sales by 50 percent.

Pennant reported dramatic results with search engine marketing for a connector manufacturer. Starting with a baseline of 15 top-30 rankings, it went up to 79 in 6 months, then 102 in 4 more months. The site is in the top 9 on Google for specific phrases and increased highly targeted visitors three fold over baseline in one year.

How Flexible Is Search Engine Optimization?

Want a marketing strategy where you can pick and choose? SEO pricing is cafť-menu style, so a business can select only the services it needs or can afford. Thatís why search engine optimization was referred to as "Ö the ultimate cost-effective, online guerrilla-marketing tactic that generally has the highest ROI of any type of Internet marketing" by Marketing Sherpa.

When you select a search engine optimization provider, you should clearly define the services to be included in your SEM campaign. Here's a sampling of what you might consider:

  • Consulting, managing, coordinating the SEO plan, outsourced or with in-house IT
  • Web analytics: verification, installation of traffic reporting, comparison, ROI calculation
  • Site Analysis of architecture communicating with search engines like Google
  • Keyword Research, determine relevancy and traffic predictions
  • Competitor Analysis, comparison with your top contenders
  • Elevate and Control Brand: organic optimization, SEO copywriting for keyword list
  • Enhance Inbound Links: Search engine optimized Press Releases and RSS feed
  • Research industry-specific search engines to match your company website objectives
  • Review current Yahoo! and DMOZ listings, update categories, titles, descriptions

Thereís one more thing B2B marketers might consider, and thatís whether to optimize in-house or outsource to a search engine optimization firm. Large corporations may prefer in-house optimization, but outsourcing can be a viable option.

In a Nutshell

It's wise for B2B marketers to include search engine marketing in their marketing budget. The return on investment goes a long way toward increasing traffic, conversions and branding. SEO is too valuable a marketing tool to ignore.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
June 28, 2005

Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.

Search Engine Guide > Paul Bruemmer > Search Plays Key Role in B2B Sales -- Part 2 of 2