Landing pages are an integral part of paid search. Effective pages mean you convert more visitors to the outcomes you need and in quality-score based search engines they make your ad more competitive.

Securing the click is only the start of the conversion journey. The quality of the user journey after the click will determine your ability to convert paid search traffic into desired outcomes.

A common mistake in paid search programmes is for the focus to be entirely on keyword targeting and CPC management, ignoring the vital role that landing page optimisation plays in converting visits into actions.

I’m referring to PPC landing pages here, as some of these tips are taken from our PPC Best Practice Guide, but many of these factors apply equally to email and other landing pages…

1. Deliver relevance

Relevance is key to successful marketing communications in all media, but especially online where we decide how relevant a website is to us in the blink of an eye.

Whether it is a result in the natural search listings or Google AdWords. We need to not only measure visitor volumes and conversion rates but to really understand where and why we are failing to deliver relevance.

That can be indicated by low click-through rates on an AdWords ad, high bounce rates from a site landing page or high abandonment rates from the shopping basket funnel.

Unlike casual visits by browsers, paid search visitors arrive on a landing page with a directed goal or intention in mind. So the first thing you have to do is instantly show relevance to help visitors achieve that goal. Manage expectations accordingly.

Clear headlines quickly show relevance and also invite the visitor to scan down the page. You need to show the visitor they have selected the right place to find the brand, product, deal, information or experience they are looking for, so the headline must clearly indicate this.

2. Integrate with referral source(s)

To deliver relevance also requires consistency with what they have already read elsewhere and the content must meet the expectation raised by other communications.

The key message on the landing page needs to be consistent with the key message of the referral source. So again, you need to show the visitor they have selected the right place to find the brand,product, deal, information or experience they are looking for; and the headline must clearly indicate this.

Think about it. You pay £2.50 for a consumer to click through from Google AdWords. Let’s imagine you’re advertising ‘iPod deals’. If you clicked on the same ad wouldn’t you expect to see a big picture of an iPod, a headline that matches the ‘iPod deals’ call-to-action, and so on? 

So here, the Crowdstorm PPC landing pages delivers what the PPC ad promises: 

If you ensure you tailor your paid search landing pages to be relevant to a searcher’s query in this way, you’ll also pass Google’s “relevance” checks when it factors the page into your ad Quality Score

3. Provide sufficient detail to support the response decision

One of the most obvious aspects of landing pages, and one that is often not right, is that there isn’t enough detailed information for the visitor to commit to a decision.

At the same time, we don’t want to make the page too cluttered. Getting this balance right is the key to successful landing page design…

4. Start the user on their journey

The design should make the next step clear and minimise the number of clicks required during sign-up, since every extra click required in response will generally reduce response by 10%.

  • It’s best practice to include the initial data capture on the first page, to encourage engagement and to get the customer started on their conversion path.
  • If the response mechanism is on another page then use multiple calls-to action to gain response, since some visitors will respond to images and others will respond to text hyperlinks.
  • Make all images clearly clickable, for example, by making them look like buttons. Look at this example from SEOMoz for the landing page for its Pro tool:

The words used to form calls-to-action are critical to create a scent trail that users of the site follow. 

5: Use the right page length

This is a difficult one to give guidelines on as there are no right or wrong answers. The right copy / page length is one that minimises the knowledge gap between what the user want to know and what you tell them.

It’s a matter of testing to see which version performs best. Sit down and define the goals for the page, the type of visitor you want to attract and the content and calls-to- action that are needed to satisfy the needs of these visitors and get them to take action.

Some designers would suggest that content must fit on one page that doesn’t require scrolling at 800 x 600 resolution, but tests have shown that pages can be scrollable, and that users will scroll if they appear scrollable.

There is somethign to be said for ensuring that key information and calls to action are positioned above-the-fold. On the flipside, the CTA should appear at the point when the visitor has enough information to be ready to take the action. See Daniel Burstein’s blog for more discussion of this. 

To summarise, we would say, keep it short (for impulsive readers) AND long (for readers who want to read more). The rule of thumb is to provide ‘just enough information’ for them to take the next step. B2B websites might need to provide a lot more information than a B2C website.

Of course, the only way to get the length right is to test. 

James Gurd examines this issue in greater detail in this post: Hitting the Target with Landing Page Depth

6: Use meaningful graphics

Graphics must be consistent with the campaign and generate empathy for the audience. Don’t underestimate the importance of quality graphics. Stock graphics rarely work.

It is difficult to assess how graphics influence conversion rate, so the implication is test, test, test. 

7: Remove menu options?

This is another guideline that tends to cause disagreement.

The theory is similar to that of enclosing checkouts on eccomerce sites, in that removing distractions will often increase conversion rates as visitors have fewer options. 

However, this tactic will certainly prevent visitors from browsing other parts of the site and, unlike in an ecommerce checkout, they have displayed less purchase intent at this stage.  

One possible a compromise is to limit menus to top-level options only. 

 

8: Remember the non-responders

Provide a choice for those who don’t respond despite your carefully crafted landing pages. Provide a reasonably prominent (and very trackable) phone number or perhaps a call-back/live chat option.

Also provide some options for them to browse or search elsewhere on the site.

An essential for retailers is to enable people to sign-up to the newsletter. If someone clicks on a paid search ad and visits your website, they are obviously interested in what you have to offer.

If they’re not yet ready to purchase, let them subscribe to your newsletter, improving your chances of converting them in the future via other marketing channels.

9: Consider landing page longevity

Landing pages are often used for short-term campaigns. If so, you need to carefully manage when the campaign expires, so as to remove any links from the main navigation in due course.

Consumers hate seeing out-of-date offers. Visitors loathe typing in URLs that are no longer valid.

Use of a custom 404 error page or a 301 permanent redirect is essential to manage these problems gracefully. And if you have old pages in the search engine index, add the “noindex” meta tag to cover your bases.

10: Reinforcing credibility 

Testimonials, press, kitemarks, partners, visible customer support options. All these things convey trust and respectability. They ease the mind of the prospective buyer, who might not know your brand. Trust is very important.

Here’s a great example from Appliances Online. The grey bar promotes free delivery, no hassle returns and contains a prominent contact number. 

Below this, there are Facebook testimonials and product reviews, while it’s a great idea to pick out the best reviewed fridge. Very persuasive. 

11: Make it mobile-friendly

With the growth of smartphone usage, it’s a fair bet that a decent proportion of visitors to your landing pages will be using a mobile browser, more so for certain products amd services. 

Presenting mobile users with a desktop page is guaranteed to increase bounce rates, so optimising for mobile users is the first step. 

On top of this, using click to call buttons can improve response rates from mobile visitors: 

                      

Here are 12 other tips for optimising mobile landing pages. 

12: Try It! Measure It! Tweak It!

Try It! Measure It! Tweak It! (TIMITI) is a term coined by Jim Sterne, author of Web Metrics. 

In other words, landing pages  should be reviewed and improved continuously

The only way to be sure of what works for your audience and your market is to conduct structured tests such as usability studies, A/B testing or multivariate testing.

And a bonus factor, due to popular demand…  

Page load speed

Google factors page load times into its Quality Score, which is reason alone for making sure landing pages perform well. 

More importantly, users expect pages to load quickly, and any noticeable delay has the potential to deter visitors.  

See this post for case studies and tips to improve landing page load times

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