March 17, 2014, 4:10 PM

B2B marketers like SEO, but miss out on paid search

Business-to-business e-commerce professionals most often cite search engine optimization, or raising a site’s position in natural search rankings, as being among their most important marketing tactics—but many are underusing paid search, Forrester Research reports.

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When it comes to business-to-business marketing tactics, companies are taking advantage of search engine optimization, or SEO, to appear high in natural search rankings, but underusing paid search marketing to boost their overall exposure as buyers search for products, Forrester Research Inc. reports.

Forrester, using data from the Global B2B E-Commerce Online Survey of B2B professionals conducted last fall with Internet Retailer, found that just over half, or 51%, of respondents cited SEO when asked to name their top three marketing tactics.

Although 54% of B2B professionals surveyed by Forrester said their top priority was marketing as opposed to investments in technology or in improving customer experience, too many appear to be over-relying on SEO to build their business, says Andy Hoar, a Forrester analyst who covers B2B e-commerce. “Much as their business-to-consumer brethren learned years ago, B2B companies are beginning to realize that they cannot rely on inexpensive search engine optimization alone to drive sufficient traffic to the web site,” he writes in the recent Forrester report, “Benchmarking B2B eCommerce Sales and Marketing Initiatives.”

Only 37% of B2B survey respondents named paid search engine marketing as among their top three marketing tactics, placing paid search third after SEO and e-mail marketing (cited by 45%) to existing customers. The next two marketing tactics cited most often as among the top three were e-mail marketing to prospective customers, 29%, and product listing ads, which are image-heavy ads that appear among natural search listings.

By comparison, among business-to-consumer professionals, Forrester has found in other research that the highest percentage, or 75%, cited paid search as among their top three marketing tactics, followed by SEO at 52%, online affiliate marketing at 35%, re-marketing to consumers in online display ads (20%) and online marketplaces (17%).

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