The fallout from Google’s new ‘Quality Score’ is growing, with talk of “mass defections” to MSN and Yahoo, but if you want to stick with Google Adwords then you need to know how to create some quality landing pages.

A quality landing page is one that reinforces ‘conversion intent’. To do this, you need to consider the mindset of your visitor and provide just enough information to persuade them to convert. And no unnecessary distractions… ok?

So what are the 10 things you need to know about designing landing pages? Read on to find out…

Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of where Google is at. In emails sent to Adwords advertisers Google says:

“There is no one specific formula to determine the quality of a landing page or website. On a case-by-case basis, we will evaluate the content, structure, and navigation of a website. Keep in mind, the most relevant landing pages will include a substantial amount of content that is highly relevant to not only your choice of keywords, but also to your ad text.”

Curve ball alert. Google must be automating this process, regardless of that statement about ‘a case by case basis’. There are potentially millions of landing pages, so surely Google isn’t doing this manually? And if it is automated, then your landing pages must be text-based (which isn’t always the solution to increasing conversion rates, but hey ho…).

What else does Google say about landing pages…?

“The best way to figure out whether your keyword, ad, or landing page is relevant and useful is to put yourself in the shoes of a user. Do your ad and landing page include language that makes sense in the context of the keywords you have chosen? For example, if you have selected the keyword ‘hiking shoes,’ have you made sure that your ad mentions hiking shoes or related name brands? Does your landing page actually offer the name brands you mentioned, along with detailed information about this shoe type?”

“Targeting your keywords, ads, and landing pages in this way likely will lead to several positive results. First, it can help you gain the trust of your customers and therefore keep them coming back to your site. You will also minimise the money spent on clicks from users who might not be interested in what your website offers. And finally, you can increase your overall Quality Score and lower the minimum bid necessary for your ad to appear.”

Ok. That’s the official line from Google. It contains some useful pointers and sensible advice.

Now, here’s my 10-point checklist to help you create a quality landing page, aimed at improving conversion rates:

1. Brevity
Keep it short and to the point. Paragraphs should be no longer than three lines, if they are used at all. One idea per paragraph is plenty of information fodder.

2. Relevancy
In the case of PPC landing pages you need to match the offer to your text ad copy. Keywords should be highlighted or displayed prominently. Keep it relevant to that person’s search query, because that’s all they care about.

3. A direct approach
Bullet points work well online, to help communicate the benefits of a product or service. Keep in mind that people skim read on the web. Use bold text to reinforce key messages.

4. A clear call-to-action
That potentially means a big Buy Now button, above the fold…

5. Fact over fiction
Stick to the key facts and be transparent, especially when the landing page is related to an ad campaign. Do not hide the price. Avoid flowery prose. This ain’t a press release. Product features, product features, product features.

6. Persuasion
Persuasion means removing any links that might distract, focusing the consumer’s mind on the end goal: the checkout. This means writing compelling copy. Persuade visitors not to drop out by limiting their options - remove link navigation, for example. Prominently display delivery options and costs. Sell the goddamned product…

7. Clear scent trails
How easy is it for a novice web user to get from A to B? You need to encourage visitors to walk / run down that conversion path. Conducting usability testing on your landing page templates may also provide you with some answers. 

8. Grammatical accuracy
Its important, innit? Because people dont like spelling misteaks and stuff like that. First impressions count.

9. 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.

10. Good use of images and colour
Presentation (eg: colours, graphics, icons) can play a big role in reinforcing purchase intent. Avoid clutter. White space and big fonts. Smart layout.

I hope that goes some way towards helping you deal with these issues regarding Google’s Quality Score. Do let us know how you get on…