In the last article in our B2B marketing series we discussed the importance of a diversified media mix, recommended channels, and listed factors to consider when allocating budget.

Choosing the right channels, of course, is only the first step in the process. Each channel has multiple targeting and strategy options that can cost dearly if not planned and implemented correctly.

In this article we’ll discuss what types of targeting a business should consider running within search, one of the most important channels that almost everyone uses today.

How to Allocate Budget in Search: Keywords & Funnel Stage

Efficient search account success in B2B hinges on targeting the right user at the right time and that requires finding the appropriate allocation to capture users at different stages of the buying funnel.


Brand traffic doesn’t happen in a vacuum and brand search will never happen without previous multiple online and offline marketing efforts; however, the risk of losing your highest value searchers to a competitor bidding on your brand terms is too large to take for granted.

The marketers’ job in this case is to ensure efficiency, so that the majority of budget is spent on prospecting efforts.

While brand might account for most of the leads, the brand spend should not be higher than 10-20% of total search budget.

Our advice:

  • Maintain +90% impression share
  • Continuously add negatives to brand and other campaigns to ensure right matching
  • Test ads and assets to push CTR as high as possible

Competitor Bidding

Competitor bidding is tricky. Searchers are very close to the end of the buying cycle which is enticing, but competitor bidding is risky due to low conversion rates and high cost per clicks.

The budget for this should be 5-15% of total search budget.

Our advice:

  • Target only a select few competitors
  • Focus on your competitive advantage in both ad copy AND landing page

The second point is critical: if you do not have a dedicated landing page comparing your brand to your competitor, be prepared to overpay.

Low Funnel Intent

These will likely be the most expensive keywords in your B2B arsenal due to competition.

As a result, the budget allocation should be 40-70% of search.

For SaaS companies, as an example, these keywords will include words like software, platform, and solution. The searchers using the keywords in this list are indicating they recognize their need and are looking for a solution for their pain, but do not have any preference for who they’ll choose.

Our advice:

  • Don’t over-extend and spread the budget too thin between too many keywords
  • Create customized ads and landing pages that give information to the user (i.e. don’t just have a form fill type page)

Higher Funnel Targeting

These are keywords that help the marketers identify audiences that are either not aware of their pain or that there is a possible solution. These keywords focus on information seekers learning about an industry and its offerings through sources such as news and conferences.

Since they are higher up in the funnel, there will not be a high direct response to these efforts. This should be viewed as one of the first steps in a long line of efforts and therefore simply targeting these keywords will not, in isolation, seem to show significant results.

As a result, the budget allocation should be 10-30% of search.

Our advice:

  • Choose a select number of keywords
  • Ensure your site is prepared to inform these users (vs. get them to convert)
  • Measure the success by using incrementality testing

pie chart showing recommended search budget allocation based on funnel stage and campaign type

How to Maximize Search Budget: Settings & Audience Targeting

Another way B2B businesses can help improve their search budget, beyond choosing the right keywords, is to minimize waste and allocate more spend to the best performing audiences.


Search campaigns give you many options to choose from, such as device, location (State, City, DMA), time of day/day of week, and searcher age. By identifying and targeting the best performing (or ideal) audiences, a marketer can limit wasted funds, especially as they go higher in the buying funnel to capture traffic.

Our advice: Conduct match market tests to identify any impact to shutting down/increasing marketing in certain targeting sectors within specific campaigns.

Audience Targeting

Often misused as a blanket targeting option in B2B within search, marketers will target every user that has been to the website and treat them with the same value thereafter.

There is a significant difference between a user that has been to the site for 10 seconds on the homepage vs. a user who has been to site for 2+ minutes and scrolled down or visited more than 2 pages.

Our advice:

  • Create high value audiences and low value audiences
  • Test excluding low value audiences from retargeting
  • Develop a post lead retargeting strategy.

At the end of the day, it is highly likely every B2B business dedicates a percentage of budget to search in some form or fashion. It is up to the marketer to make the right decisions when it comes to targeting, and not all those decisions will result in a win. However, testing and optimizing keywords, audiences, and settings in a measurable way eventually will lead to success.

It is also important to understand, as we’ve mentioned in our previous article in the series, that it will take more than search marketing to grow your B2B business. In our next article we’ll discuss programmatic advertising and how to use it for B2B.

Contact us to talk about your B2B marketing efforts and how our (un)Common approach can help!