In part 1 of this guide to search engine advertising we discussed how to choose the right keywords to advertise on. In part 2 we showed how to make effective ads. Now in the final part we’ll tackle landing pages.
Search Engine Advertising – Step 3: Create Landing Pages That Convert
You’re targeting the right keywords and your ads generate a lot of clicks, so now you have all these extra visitors coming to your website. You’re paying for these visitors, so you want to turn as many of them into customers. The best way to do this is not to send them to your website’s homepage, but to a custom-built landing page.
Image you’re an average internet user. You’re looking for a new sofa for your living room, and you do a Google search for sofa’s. You see an ad on the search results page which appeals to you, so you click on it. You end up on a general furniture website’s homepage and now you have to look for their sofa’s section. Chances are you don’t have the patience for this, and you use the back-button to return to the search results and try a different website.
So you click on a second ad that seems interesting, and this time you land on a webpage that talks only about sofa’s. It shows you pictures of sofa’s, it has a nice offer for a discounted sofa on it, and there are many links from this page to various different categories of sofa’s. This site appeals much more to you, and you’re likely to stick around longer and maybe even order a sofa from these guys.
The first advertiser you clicked on made the classic mistake of sending PPC traffic to the website’s homepage. From the homepage a web user needs to start his search all over again, navigating your website until he finds what he was looking for in the first place. The user has to go through more clicks and has to invest additional effort, something internet users are notoriously unwilling to do.
It’s much better to send the user straight to what they want to see, which the second advertiser does. This way the user doesn’t have to find his way through your website. He immediately sees content that is relevant to his search query.
Elements of a good landing page
1. Relevance: First and foremost the page you link to from a search engine advertisement needs to be relevant. Just like the ad needs to contain the keyword you advertise on, so does the landing page. If you advertise on the sofa keyword, your ad contains the word sofa, you can’t send users to a landing page discussing kitchens or chairs. You need to send them to a page that talks about sofa’s.
Be sure to include the actual keyword you advertise on clearly visible on the landing page, preferably in a headline. This tells a visitor that the landing page is relevant to the search query they typed in to start the whole process. If you use several different phrases to say the same thing, you’ll probably have to make different landing pages for each or use dynamic HTML code to show the exact keyword the user searched for.
When you advertise on many different types of keywords, you will have to create a lot of different landing pages. It’s a lot of work, but it will always pay itself back in a higher conversion rate, higher revenue, and more return on your advertising investment.
2. Clickpath: Sometimes the landing page can be the conversion page. If you offer a downloadable ebook or small specialized item, your landing page can also be the page where users can place an order. But often you’ll need to give your users additional information to guide them to a conversion – product options, specifications, accessories, etc. Guide them through the sales funnel, from general overview to detailed information to actual conversion.
An important aspect of the clickpath is that you shouldn’t make it too easy for users to diverge from it. Take away your regular site navigation if you can, try to keep the visitors of your landing page in a clickflow that guides them to a conversion. If users sidestep your clickpath and instead go to your site’s homepage or another page, chances are you’ll lose them there.
3. Calls to action: Once you get a user to click on an ad and arrive on your landing page, don’t leave them hanging. You need to take them by the hand as it were, show them where to go and what to do. Use action words like ‘learn more, ‘click here’, ‘order now’ in your content and in your links to additional pages.
4. Easy conversion: It should be as easy as possible for a user to place an order. Don’t ask them for information they don’t really want to give up. Keep your forms short and simple and only ask for the very basic information you need to complete the order.
5. Persuade: Selling is the art of persuasion. Employ tried-and-proven persuasion methods such as testimonials, special offers, guarantees, authorative sources, instilling confidence, and more. Include them on the landing page itself and on every subsequent page you send your users to.
6. Fast loading: Your landing page should load very quickly. If a user has to wait for a bit before your landing page is displayed properly, the urge to click that back-button will grow. Make your landing pages lean and efficient to optimize loading times.
7. Measure: It’s not as simple as putting your landing page out there and waiting for the money to come pouring in. It’s imperative that you know what users are doing on your landing page. Do they stay and read your content or do they leave? What links do they click on? Do they convert into customers right away or do they bookmark the page and come back later? Do they follow the whole clickpath or do they leave prematurely? If so, where do they tend to leave your site the most?
All these things and more can be measured and analyzed with a good web analytics package. A good place to start is Google Analytics, a free service that contains all the web analytics functionality you’ll need. Use the data you gather to make informed decisions about what to improve on your landing page (and your website as a whole).
8. Experiment: Creating good landing pages is never an exact science. All aspects of a landing page, from the headline to the color of the buttons, can have an impact on the conversion rate. Experiment freely, but do it in a controlled manner. Tools like Google’s free Website Optimizer allow you to perform extensive tests with all kinds of different aspects of your landing page to optimize your conversions.
Don’t test too many things at once – experiment with one or two changes at a time, no more. Allow your test to run for enough time before you make up your mind. And once you find a landing page setup that works well, use that as the basis for a new round of further tests. Never stop testing and improving.
9. Conform to the guidelines: Last but certainly not least, be sure to read the editorial policies and guidelines of the search engine you advertise on. Google, Yahoo and Live all have strict policies about advertising on their search results pages. There are guidelines you’ll need to conform to for your ads and your landing pages, or you’ll risk paying more for each click or worse, not getting your ads shown at all.
Conclusion Creating good landing pages for your Pay Per Click campaign is not an easy and straightforward task. To do it well you’ll need to invest a lot of time and effort in building and perfecting your landing pages. But it’s never a wasted effort. Again and again the results show that good landing pages turn many more visitors into paying customers, and help earn back the money you invest in seach advertising several times over.