By Sue McCrossin
It is expensive to buy traffic using pay-per-click. It is expensive to “optimize” your website pages for natural search. In both cases, the ultimate goal is to convert these clicks to conversions so that you see a nice return on your investment (ROI). One way to increase your ROI is to increase the conversion rate on the pages that visitors land on when they click on your ads or visit your site because of natural search.
There are really only two kinds of landing pages: campaign-specific landing pages and organic-searched pages. People who know what they want click on ads; they are different from organic searchers doing research. Organic searchers want what they search for, and they want it fast. Your landing pages should provide them with facts, take them exactly where they want to go without any hassles, and make it simple for them to get what they want. So what should you consider when designing your pages to increase conversions?
What Is the Most Effective Landing Page? Avoid using your home page as your landing page. Create specific landing pages for every ad and paid search term. If this seems daunting, remember that retailers can use the “product page” as a landing page, and service providers can use the “service page.” However, if you have the time and resources, the most effective strategy is to create landing pages specifically targeted towards your PPC campaign. This provides you with more freedom to customize the design of your landing page.
If your ad campaign is a temporary offer, you won’t want this landing page indexed by search engines, and you can use the robots.txt file to tell search engine spiders not to index it. It would be embarrassing for you if you remove the ad listing, but consumers continue to find this landing page because it appears in the natural search results.
What Goes on the Landing Page? Make sure your landing pages answer these questions:
- What’s the offer?
- Who’s interested?
- Why are they interested, and why should they take further action?
- How do they get started?
On your landing pages, start with benefits, not features, and use persuasive wording:
- Be concise: If you use paragraphs, use one idea per paragraph, no more than three lines long. Use bullet points and make headlines bold and prominent.
- Match the wording of your ad on your landing page.
- Use a big call-to-action image button placed at the top right of the page.
- Show the price; give the shipping information.
- Make sure the page is grammatically correct.
- Show credibility: Add testimonials, awards, partners, associations, etc. Show product ratings or reviews. Include a phone number! You want to establish trust.
- Don’t clutter the page, but do use images: Create a landing page that looks professional and appealing. Put graphics on the left side. Make sure the page looks good on a mobile phone.
- Show some cross-sells, such as “best sellers” or “best value” services.
- Use short forms: Do you require more information than name, email, phone, and product or service interest?
- Say thank you afterwards. You can even give customers an unexpected bonus like a link to a survey or a case study.
The Message from Your Ad Listing: Make sure the content on your landing pages works with your ad copy and follows through on your ad promise. For example, if your ad says you are a low cost provider, show them price comparisons on your landing page. In this way, you begin to establish trust with visitors, because your message is consistent from the ad to your landing page. Trust increases sales and encourages long-time customers.
Position Critical Information at the Top of the Page: Your landing page does not have to be short, but all the important information, like benefits and the order button should be visible without scrolling. Web developers refer to this as “above the fold.” Since people use different size screens and different browsers, make sure you test this information placement. Your landing page might look great on a 1024×768 screen resolution, but most of your visitors are still using 800 x 600 screen resolution, and they won’t see the buy button without scrolling.
Don’t Give Visitors Too Many Navigational Choices: On targeted landing pages, you should completely remove the website navigation and instead provide only links that will help complete the sale. You don’t want to give customers too many choices on your landing pages, because this might distract them before they buy. Once they complete their purchase, then you can take them to a “thank you” page that offers them links to the rest of your site.
Use Action Words: Use words that easily convey what you want the visitor to do, like “Buy Now,” “Sign Up,” “Download,” and “Add to Cart.” In addition, make sure you place the words where they will be noticed. Many people ignore the top sixty pixels of a screen because that’s where they expect to see a banner ad. Make buttons large, graphical, and brightly colored, in the middle of the landing page, above the fold.
Consider the Google Quality Score: Since many of the landing pages you will be designing will correspond directly to your Google Adwords campaigns, it is important to understand the Google Quality Score. The Google Quality Score system affects everyone who runs Adwords, because it determines the position of your ad on the sponsored listings. On August 21, 2008, Google changed the way the quality score affects ads, based in part on landing pages. It now matters what content is on your landing pages; it has to match your advertising copy. Load time matters too, among other factors. If you increase your quality score, you will lower the minimum bid necessary for your ad to appear.
Since this is an automated process for Google, your landing page content should be text-based. Because of this, take the content out of the flash portion of your landing pages, or duplicate it in text.
Testing Your Landing Pages: Strategically test your landing pages. Remember that a conversion may be different for different marketing campaigns and target groups. For instance, a B2B conversion just gets people to sign up for your newsletter so you have their email addresses, while a B2C conversion means that they buy something from you. Keep in mind that a landing page will improve the quality of the visitors to your site, but this may actually decrease the total number of visitors to your site.
Also, remember that you will be testing metrics, which can become political. You will probably upset both the technical and creative people in your organization when you conduct landing page testing.
On the other hand, testing is preferable to “redesigning the site” because it can save you money to test a concept rather than scrap a whole site and start over. There are sophisticated tools you can use to test a landing page, including a free one: Google website Optimizer. The idea is to use the tools after you develop your testing plan, so that you don’t waste time and money on the testing. Google website Optimizer allows for A/B split testing, but remember that the most effective way to conduct A/B split testing is only changing one element at a time.
Things to Include that Can Help Increase Conversions
- Give a deadline for ordering; tell them that a price increase is coming, or that a trial period is expiring.
- Give a gift or some accessories.
- Tell them they cannot get this offer anywhere else.
- Make sure they know there is “no risk”; they can cancel at any time.
What Is a Good Conversion Rate? Google says that an average conversion rate for an ad is 2 percent. That means that 98 percent of those landing on your pages are not converting. Conversion rates will always be higher for “soft” offers than for “hard” offers. Therefore, an ad that offers a free download will result in a higher conversion rate than an ad that sells high-priced products or intangible services. A free offer can result in conversion rates of 20 to 30 percent or higher. For B2C eCommerce sales, it shouldn’t be difficult to achieve above 5 percent. Moreover, for softer offers – low-priced products, free trial software downloads, etc., a 10 to 20 percent conversion rate is achievable. With careful testing, you should be able to raise all of your conversion rates.
Optimizing a Landing Page for Natural Search: Ultimately you want conversions from organic search, because this can be far more cost-effective in the end. Start with an internal audit of all of your pages to determine if they are appropriate or in need of an upgrade. If you have a statistical program on your site, check the bounce rates for each page, and determine where you need to place most of your effort. Your website should bestructured to provide valuable information that is pertinent for the search word. Each page should have a keyword-focused theme and offer incentives toward making a sale. Keep the page simple and informative, and add a call to action on every page on your site if yours is a commercial enterprise.
Internal Linking: On pages with the highest Google page rank, create at least five links to your preferred landing page, using the keywords that you want to track for ranking in the linked text. This tells search engines that the landing page is important. If you follow this guideline, you won’t have to do as much external linking (from other sites) to get your content on the first page of Google. How you link to your content, both internally and externally, determines the organic search ranking.
Optimize your image alt attributes, and make sure the same image principles for ad landing pages apply to natural landing pages (i.e., position the image on the left).
In many cases, a content management system will make it easy to change pages quickly. Create the content specifically for each of your main areas of interest. For natural search, it is much better to design many small pages with specific information than create a few large pages.
Achieving organic rankings takes a long time, but it is worthwhile because it allows you to become an authority on your topic. You should continually add new content on a regular basis, using keywords you wish to rank in the copy and titles. Even though this method may take as long as a year of consistent work, your pages will begin to appear with greater frequency and drive more quality traffic to them.
In conclusion, landing pages should convert Web clicks into clients and create that first all-important impression of your company. The better you test and improve your landing pages, the more conversions you will see.
Sue McCrossin is a writer for Answer Center America, Inc., which offers answer center outsourcing services that can handle Web chat, conference and Internet bridge services, email, faxing, and credit card processing for your business.
[From Connection Magazine – January 2009]