Breaking up is hard to do. But, having website visitors “break up with you” (i.e. bounce) without knowing “why” is downright painful. It could be that the problem is with your offer content, or lack thereof.

“Paid search doesn’t work for us.” I heard it again the other day and it won’t be the last. This time, it was on a call with a software company that wanted us to help them generate more sales leads.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a blind advocate of sending money to search companies, but like it or not, in most cases paid search is the workhorse for demand generation programs. So, when I hear that it’s not working, it raises a flag.

The fact is, in addition to an SEO program, paid search is simply one of the best ways to reach undiscovered intent-based prospects. Most SEO’s would likely agree that even in the best organic conditions, having a paid search program can provide valuable intelligence in predicting consumer behavior, testing conversion variables and in positioning offer content in search results.

So, I replied with my usual, “We’d be happy to take a look at the program to see if we can uncover areas that may be contributing to poor performance.” They agreed, and our team proceeded with their observations.

Given that this is a well-funded company with smart leadership, it was no surprise what our team came back with: robust ad groups, good bid strategy, well-written copy, high quality scores, etc. The client’s SEM team had done a fine job with what they had to work with. They had been bringing traffic to the site, it just wasn’t converting.

The problem was simple, there was no offer content.

There were a total of two calls to action on the site: a contact sales submission form and a phone number. Now, given that most prospects are not ready to buy (read: not sales-ready), guess how many visitors to the site were eager for sales to contact them? Right, not (m)any.

Creating Leads vs. Creating Traffic

Web traffic is just that, people going by on their way to another destination – unless you can offer them a reason to take pause. Providing visitors with valuable offer content (whitepapers, webinars, research papers, etc.) that is actually helpful, along with clear benefit statements as to “why” it is helpful, will attract leads that can be nurtured to sales-ready status. Offer content will also attract leads that are immediately sales-ready.

People are willing to exchange their information for valuable content, but not so willing to give a phone number and email address at first visit just have a sales person call them. Remember, paid search filters those with intent – but not necessarily intent to buy from you. There’s a big difference.

While it’s probably fine to have sales reach out to these leads with a “thank you” and “here’s some more information”, it would probably be a bad idea to have them go into “sales mode” right off the bat.

There are ways to identify new leads as sales-ready, but ultimately you want to have a lead nurturing campaign in place to help move these leads into sales-ready status.

Develop Offer Content as a Qualification Mechanism

There are techniques to developing offer content that pre-qualifies leads. Creating offer content that is targeted for the right audience will help to filter out those unqualified leads and allow your nurturing program and sales team to concentrate on quality leads.

For example, if your customers are human resource managers, create offer content that will appeal specifically to them; like “The 10 Most Successful Programs for Retaining Top Talent” or “The 2011 Guide to Using Social Media to Recruit Top Talent”.

Sensitively including qualification form fields in the registration pages can further qualify leads – just be sure to limit use to only the ones you absolutely need, at the risk of lowering lead conversion rates.

Two Helpful Resources on the Topics of Offer Content and Paid Search:

For more tips and strategies to improve the success of your lead gen programs, download the free white paper, “How to Choose Your Carrot: Effective Lead Generation Offers for High-Technology Marketers” from the lead generation experts at Spear Marketing Group.

To learn the key pitfalls that hundreds of B2B companies encounter when setting up their paid search (SEM) program and how to avoid making the same mistakes, download the free white paper, “Top 10 B2B Paid Search Mistakes: Why Your Google Campaign Isn’t Working And What To Do About It.”