In search engine marketing, your pay-per-click ad is simply your foot in the door.
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Get them to click on that ad and you've got a chance to sell them.
However, the landing page is where the sale is made or lost. Optimizing landing pages to generate sales is therefore a very important skill for search engine marketers.
If you're new to search engine marketing, it's worth our repeating how pay-per-click ads work before we explain how to optimize landing pages. Advance readers can jump ahead a few paragraphs.
With pay-per-click internet advertising, you buy an ad from a search engine. If you buy an ad from Google, it's an Adwords ad, and you gain the ability to do that by setting up an Adwords account. Each ad you buy is for a specific keyword or phrase. If you sell timeshare vacation condos in Mexico, for example, you would want to buy ads on "Mexican timeshares", "timesharing condos in Mexico" and a whole host of other similar phrases.
Once you active your Adwords account and purchase some ads, your ads will show up at the top of Google's search engine results or along the right side of the results. You don't pay for your ad showing up. You only pay when there's a click.
Clicks are great things, but sales are even better. You'd hate to pay a ton of money to get clicks to your website only to have those clickers quickly abandon your site and go elsewhere. The page the clicker lands on is called a landing page, in industry parlance, and optimizing landing pages is essential if you want to convert a click to a sale.
With that background for newbies, let's talk about how to optimize a landing page. Here are _______ techniques for getting the most out of your landing pages.
Don't Take Them to Your Home Page
Unless you only sell one thing, your home page should not be your landing page for an ad.
Instead, each keyphrase you buy -- or each batch of keyphrases related to a single product/service offering -- should have a unique landing page.
If you drive pay-per-click traffic to your home page, you are likely to get a minimal number of conversions. You're throwing away your money.
Make sure you create custom landing pages that are specifically designed to support your ads.
Continue the Flow from Ad to Landing Page
Your ad is the entry point to your landing page. As such, they should work together seamlessly to provide a continuous, relevant experience. For example, if your pay per click ad is for a certain product, you want to reinforce the visitor's search by showing a picture of that product on the landing page.
If your ad copy on your pay-per-click ad says "20% off for new customers" or something like that, you will certainly want to have that same copy on the landing page. Doing so continues the flow and keeps the messaging consistent.
If the clicker gets to your landing page and thinks "I don't think this is what I was looking for," the will abandon ship (or site in this case) faster than you can say "poorly optimized landing page."
Engage the Clicker
If your goal is to get your clicker to dig deeper into your website to learn more about your offerings, you need to engage them by providing them with some relevant links.
The links on a landing page should not be limited to generic links like About Us, Contact Us, etc. because those will register as non-events to the clickers. Instead, you need to provide them options that are relevant to what they were searching for in the first place.
For example, a site that sells electronic goods might buy a pay-per-click ad on "Sony Digital Cameras." The landing page should then include relevant links for that exact phrase. For example, the landing page might have links entitled "Best-Selling Sony Digital Cameras," "Sony Digital Camera Reviews," etc.
A Simple Call to Action with an Incentive
To measure landing page effectiveness, there needs to be a result that can be measured.
As such, landing pages should be geared around a "call to action" – typically, a phone call or completion of a web form.
You need to have a feedback loop on the call to action so you can track it to the original ad.
Believe it or not, some companies dynamically generate a different 1-800 toll free number for every ad. This allows them to determine which ads and which landing pages generated the most calls. This may be overkill for your business, but you get the idea. If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.
Don't make the call to action too complex. If you are asking forty questions on a form, you will never get a form submission. Limit the number of questions on your form to five or six items.
It's also a good idea to incentivize the clicker to take the desired action. For example, a T1 line provider might offer free installation for all leads submitted via the web. This motivates the ad clicker to complete the form. To create a sense of urgency, you may want to have time-limited incentives (e.g. Free Installation – Special Offer Expires in Two Days!).
Of course, you don't want to always say that the special offer expires in two days – you will lose credibility. Always keep honesty and integrity top of mind when you engage in search engine marketing!
Adwords Quality Scores
There is more to landing page optimization than just improving landing pages to convert prospects to customers. Google uses a complex algorithm to determine Adwords Quality Scores for your ads, and an evaluation of your landing page is part of the algorithm.
Higher-quality ads will end up higher in the list of ads, and they will cost less money than their lower quality peers. By creating high-quality landing page, you can pay less than your competitors for higher ranking ads.
Here are a few things that you can do on your landing pages to improve your Adwords Quality Scores:
- Make sure Google can spider the landing page.
- Make sure the landing page has unique content.
By building high-quality landing pages, you will gain an edge over the competition and increase your conversion rates and your bottomline profits.
Consider Starting with the Landing Pages
A search engine marketing expert once told me that it's best to build your landing pages first and then create your pay-per-click ads.
In other words, start by building what you believe will be the most effective landing page. Tweak and refine it until you are sure that it will convert.
Once you have it done, then write the best possible pay-per-click ad to bring traffic to the landing page.
The difference in approach is subtle. In effect, starting with the landing pages emphasizes that it's more important to get conversions than it is simply to show up for a ton of keywords and keyphrases.
Test, Iterate, Improve
The best way to find out what works is to experiment. Develop many different landing pages and see which perform best.
You don't need to be a stats professor to do this. In fact, Google Adwords offers a Google AdWords Landing Page Website Optimizer that is designed specifically to help you improve your landing pages.
Small changes in a landing page can make a big difference. Try different colors, different layout variations, adding a picture of a person, and whatever other ideas you have.
The key is to not be afraid to experiment. When you embrace an approach of test, iterate and improve, you will be amazed at how quickly you start seeing better conversion rates.
Remember, what works for one site may not work for another. Don't accept conventional wisdom as gospel. Test it on your site and see if it works.
Don't Forget Human Testing
One way to test is to use the statistics-powered tools such as the Google AdWords Landing Page Website Optimizer. These tools let you build pages and then watch the results come in to see which are your most effective landing pages.
But don't forget to simply watch people evaluate your landing pages. Bring over a few friends and buy them a pizza. In return, ask them to do some searches and click on a few ads (yours and your competitors). Watch closely how they behave on the landing pages and ask them about their actions. This is a very powerful tool for optimizing landing pages and, surprisingly, it's one that most web practitioners (even some of the search engine marketing gurus) never pursue.