The Challenges of B2B Paid Search

To understand the complexities of B2B paid search, it’s imperative to know how the lead funnel works, for it presents unique challenges for advertisers.
 The funnel is a concept that explains the process by which you obtain valuable customers.

For PPC, you’ll build campaigns with terms that your potential customers will use to find the products or services you offer. After seeing your ad on the results page, some will continue down the funnel and visit your site. Your goal for these site visitors could be phone calls, form fills or downloads. Once a visitor completes one of these actions, a lead will be counted. This is the part of the funnel that most paid search professionals work with on a day-to-day basis.
Some companies, however, have more complex structures where leads must go through additional steps. For example, if you’re a B2B company, the leads you capture from AdWords may be end users and not commercial customers. Since these leads don’t qualify, they will remain at the upper part of the funnel. However, if the lead is a commercial consumer and meets specified qualifications by the B2B client, they’ll be considered an opportunity. Once payment is received, the opportunity will be considered a sale.

Challenges for B2B

Something as simple as targeting the right audience, proves more challenging for B2B than B2C.

With B2B, you have to reach the decision-makers at a company, not just end consumers like with B2C. What makes it challenging is that often times your keyword selections also cater to end consumers as well. For example, if your product is commercial security software, you can use commercial security software as a keyword. However, if you want short-tail terms to capture more traffic, such as security software, you’d also get everyday people in the mix who just want to download for their personal use.

Another challenge for B2B paid search marketers is the longer sales cycle.

For B2C, ecommerce in particular, you get this sense of instant gratification, seeing the dollar signs climb in your campaigns with every transaction on your site. With B2B, however, sales cycles are often times 30 days or more. This extended timeline creates the following hurdles:

  1. Account managers have to wait longer for sufficient data in order to make strategic decisions. By relying on lower funnel lead information to determine the actual quality of the leads, optimizations can feel like a shot in the dark if you look at weekly performance.
  2. Revenue takes time to populate, making it difficult to show your client the value of PPC and how your efforts have benefited their bottom line.
  3. Reporting can take extra time without a 3rd party tool available, since you have to update data from the past in case some latent opportunities or closed sales populated since your last report.
  4. If you don’t integrate your CRM platform into AdWords or a third party bidding/reporting tool, bid optimizations become a monster of a task. Algorithms will determine top performing keywords in terms of upper funnel leads, not closed sales (lower funnel leads). This inappropriately values keywords with a high quantity of leads, not the highest quality.


When you count call conversions, you lose visibility into the lower funnel without advanced call tracking tools.

Calls are usually counted as a conversion after a determined duration, but what happens next? Were they qualified by the Sales team? Did they eventually make a purchase? Some B2B clients do not have the call tracking software needed to follow these leads to the bottom of the funnel, making it impossible to calculate ROI.


In summary, paid search for B2B clients has its own unique challenges. Unlike the B2C landscape, it’s harder for B2B to capture a more specific audience: the decision-makers at a company. Additionally, it takes a longer period of time to see the value of the AdWords leads as they continue down the funnel and become opportunities and then closed sales. This cycle also makes reporting more time intensive without a 3rd party tool in the mix. Finally, if you don’t have a bidding tool and you don’t have the CRM platform you’re using integrated into AdWords, the lack of algorithmic bidding becomes a headache.

Brenna Teichen About the author
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