During the run-up to Christmas, which companies are bidding on paid search terms for the most popular products, and which have the most effective landing pages?
I took a look at paid search in my beginner’s guide what is paid search (PPC) and why do you need it? last month, and since then I’ve been a lot more attuned to this method of search engine marketing.
However I've also realised that PPC ads are for nothing, and a complete waste of searcher's time and an advertiser’s money, if conversion isn’t happening.
I came across an anomaly when searching for ‘blue Nike trainers’ last week while investigating which retailers are currently running paid search ads for that term (everyone needs a hobby).
All seems fine and as expected, however when clicking through to the JD Sports landing page, I discovered this.
Where are my blue Nike trainers? I don’t actually want blue Nike trainers, just in case any of my friends and family are reading this and are looking for Christmas present ideas, but still, this seems poorly thought out, and I wonder how many searchers bounce straight back again to the SERP.
There isn’t even a clear option to change the colour of the trainer in the left hand menu. Let’s not forget, Google can penalise an ad for not being relevant, and plunge your PPC ad further down the SERP.
I’m going to take a look at other search terms and see how the landing pages look when clicking-through to their respective sites. But first I’ll need a control group.
According to We Are Social, these are the top ten most desired Christmas gifts of 2013 according to Twitter chatter between 1 October and 5 December. The number of mentions are in brackets.
- iPhone (5,600)
- PlayStation 4 (3,180)
- Xbox One (2,800)
- iPad (2,100)
- Lego (600)
- Kindle (600)
- Fifa 2014 (550)
- Macbook (540)
- Furby (200)
- Galaxy Note (50)
‘Twitter chatter’? Sure why not, it’s as superficially plausible as anything else.
Let's take a look at the top five…
Just searching the term ‘iPhone’ brings up paid results from Phones 4u and The Carphone Warehouse.
Incidentally the plural ‘iPhones’ reveals paid results from network providers Three and EE. A quick scoot over to Google AdWords reveals the term iPhone has an average of 165,000 monthly searches, whereas iPhones has 9,900 monthly searches. Are the network providers savvily trying to mop up the searchers who use the less popular term?
Either way, iPhone is the most popular term so let’s look at that.
This is an entirely relevant landing page, with bold images and clear product options. The tabs at the top take you to the various models, and the 'show deals' call-to-action buttons next to the various GB sizes are very effective.
This page makes a potentially complicated purchase easy and efficient.
Here's The Carphone Warehouse landing page.
Did I search for a blue iPhone 5C? No, I didn't. However, there are colour options underneath the model.
Comparing this page to the Phones 4u landing page though reveals how hemmed in one feels looking at it. There are no clear options to look at other models or GB sizes.
If shoppers are searching for an iPhone in December, surely they're looking for a gift and aren't likely to want tariff deals. Perhaps both The Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4u would benefit from putting stand-alone handsets on their landing pages instead.
As an aside, how long can The Carphone Warehouse possibly carry on with having 'carphone' in its name?
I guarantee that without even looking in AdWords, most people search for ‘PS4’, not 'Playstation 4'. Not even my mum would search for the non-abbreviated version.
Let’s back up that gross generalisation with a modicum of research though. PS4 has 673,000 average monthly searches. Playstation 4 has 246,000. That’s not quite the landslide margin I was hoping for, but nonetheless, PS4 wins.
Here are the search results.
And here’s Tesco’s landing page.
I’d say this is a little wide of the mark. It's a general gaming page, not PS4 specific, in fact the PS4 link takes some finding. If the search term was PS4, I would certainly expect to see the Sony console first and foremost on the landing page.
Here’s Amazon’s landing page.
Amazon gets zero for effort, but maximum points for relevancy, in that it at least provides its own search page for the console.
Microsoft gets beaten by Sony in terms of Twitter chatter, but how does it compare with PPC landing pages?
Microsoft gets the top result itself. However it doesn’t actually sell the console through its website. There’s a ‘find a retailer’ button, but not till you scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.
So what’s the purpose of Microsoft bidding for its own product term? To raise it’s own awareness? Hardly, people are already searching for the term already. Perhaps it’s more to do with marketing its own specs. The site has a great embedded video, as discussed in 10 excellent video embedded landing pages, that fully explains the specs and advantages of owning a Xbox One.
Maybe Microsoft doesn’t trust the third party retailers enough to ‘sell’ its product, so have taken the risk to edge out other ecommerce bidders with its own marketing campaign.
Littlewoods is the other paid search result and here is its landing page.
A rudimentary, but relevant product listings page, that actually does provide an embedded trailer for the console. Perhaps Microsoft should have more confidence in the third-parties.
The iPad paid search results reveal links to Tesco and Apple.
Tesco has a much more relevant landing page here than it did with the PS4.
However Apple blow Tesco out of the water with its intuitive, guided-to-purchase landing page.
Did you know, fact-fans, that the Danish term Lego means ‘play well’ in English. Well let’s see if the search term Lego ‘plays well’ with… I couldn’t finish that sentence I’m sorry.
According to AdWords, more people search for the single term Lego (368,000 average per month) rather than a specific Lego set, so that’s what we’ll go with here.
Amazon and Debenhams provide generic listings for their range of Lego products. Lego chooses to take the searcher through to its video channel.
This seems like an odd choice on the run-up to Christmas. It’s great if you want to raise your brand’s social video profile, and Lego are terrifically good at content marketing, but perhaps it should be a bit more mercenary in December.
The shop is a pop-up window and click-through to a separate tab away.
The Lego shop itself is a great experience, fully optimised for the Christmas shopper, with clear delivery instructions, incentives, free returns and who could resist the little Lego delivery man? This should be the landing page from the PPC result right now.
Tesco and Amazon appear in the search listings here.
Tesco uses a generic listings page for its range of Kindles, however it’s Amazon that provides the perfect landing page.
The first thing you see is the price. It’s also refreshing not to be bombarded with other products in the centre of the page. Other Kindles are offered for comparison in a neat menu above.
On the right hand side, there’s a menu perfectly optimised to the Christmas shopper, offering clearly priced accessories and a gift-wrap option.
Of all the examples listed here, this is the most clear and concise landing page that, when using Amazon’s 1-Click ordering, will take the searcher direct to purchase within moments.
What I’m generally pointing towards in this article is the need for brands, who are using PPC to drive traffic to their sites, to ensure that their landing pages leading from the SERPs are fully optimised for Christmas shopping. Providing clarity, relevance and ease of use.
Chances are shoppers have already done their research at this stage, and are just looking for the cheapest and easiest experience possible. If your site gives them a great, hassle free UX, then there’s a higher chance they’ll come back in the new year.
For more PPC landing page tips, please read these 12 essential landing page success factors.