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Is Search Engine Marketing cost-effective enough to increase profits for B2B marketers?

You bet, and here's why. It's always been conventional wisdom that the fastest and most efficient way to research products and pricing is on the Web. Recently, Enquiro and Marketing Sherpa have documented survey research on the role of search engines in B2B transactions.

B2B transactions are unique

As you know, B2B transactions differ from most consumer transactions, because these decisions require coordination among several personnel before the final transaction. Therefore, the process requires some time between researching the product and placing the order. In other words, it's an ongoing process rather than a quick decision.

Enquiro's "The Role of Search in Business to Business Buying Decisions" is a well-designed study of approximately 1,500 participants who responded to a 40-question survey about B2B buying habits. You can download the entire report for free. But here are a few highlights:

  • When participants were asked to indicate how they would go about making a B2B purchase, 93.2% said they would research the purchase online.

  • When asked if they would use a search engine at some point in this task, 95.5% of participants said they would.

  • When asked where they would start their search for information, 63.9% of participants chose a search engine over consumer review sites, e-commerce sites, manufacturer's sites, and industry portals.

  • When taking budget into consideration, manufacturer's sites and industry portals were the chosen starting place as budgets increased. However, 86.9% of participants said they would visit a search engine after visiting those sites.

Search engines dominate

The study is too rich with details to cover in this article. But here are some important conclusions:

  • Search engines play a dominant role in B2B purchases.

  • Search engines are used in the early or mid research phase in the buying cycle.

  • Google is favored over other search engines.

  • Search engine research takes place at least one to two months before the buying decision.

  • Good balance between organic and paid search is necessary. Organic SEO gets over 70% of the clicks.

  • Position is a factor, with over 60% clicking on the top three listings.

  • Most users decide which listing to click on within seconds of scanning the page.

With all this qualified traffic originating from search engines, it is more important than ever for B2B marketers, wholesalers and B2B exchanges to ensure that their Web sites are correctly optimized for good positioning in search results. There is also great value in SEO/SEM as a marketing tool.

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Paul J. Bruemmer is founder of trademarkSEO (www.trademarkseo.com). Reach him at paul@trademarkseo.com.