Landing pages are a critical link between the click of a campaign advertisement and the conversion to a lead, subscriber or sign-up. Smaller companies with fewer paid search clicks should strive to put your best effort forward on your first landing pages and test from there. Larger companies with bigger budgets have the luxury of trying multiple landing pages out of the gate.
The ten steps below are culled from years of experience, lots of tests and review of available literature on testing and optimization. I hope you find it helpful.
The Ten Essential Steps to Optimizing Paid Search Landing Pages
- Simplify the Page Layout
- Work the Headline and Sub-Head
- Judicious Use of Images and Hero Shots
- Lose the Navigation
- Who Else Say’s Your Great?
- Accentuate the Offer
- Where’s the Fire? Add a Sense of Urgency
- Use High Contrast Buttons that Say “Click Here”
- Pump Up the Value at the Decision Point
- Test Like Crazy
The landing page for a paid search campaign is a special beast. The visitor to this page has a notion in mind, has given you a clue to that notion (the keyword phrase), and has responded to the clever bit of copy that you crafted. The real trick at this point is to reduce the friction between the click on the keyword copy and the primary action you want the visitor to take. It’s almost as if you want to get out of the way of the visitor as they barrel through the landing page to the sign-up or purchase you so desperately desire.
So, here are the 10 essential steps to optimizing the conversion performance of your paid search landing pages:
1 – Simplify the Page Layout
Too often I see landing pages with entirely the wrong approach. For example, I’ve seen more than my share of pages that have:
– 3, 4 or even 5 columns
– big blocks of paragraph formatted text
– calls to action below the fold
– images that take up most of the content space in the most critical region of the page.
All of these items create detours on the eye path on the page which means additional work for the eye which means confusion. Think about how to simplify a page to its core components in a 1- or 2-column format, use bullet points over paragraphs and build a straight top to bottom flow with support items on the right. Also, don’t use a colored page background. The best readability is dark text on a white background – don’t get cute and do reverse color text on the colored background – it hurts, not helps.
2- Work the Headline and Sub-Head
The number one job of the headline is to establish a contextual relevance for the landing page based on the keyword and copy used to generate the visit. You know which keyword and piece of copy was used to generate the click (if you don’t then you should). The headline and sub-head should support that keyword set as the first thing the visitor reads when they hit the page.
Keyword > Green Egg Barbeque Grill
Google Copy > Sale on Green Egg BBQ’s. Large selection of Green Egg grills and accessories. Compare our prices. www.GreenEgg.com
Landing page headline SHOULD be something like this > Green Egg BBQ Grills on Sale
Landing page headline should NOT be something like this > Huge BBQ Grill Selection
You should repeat the keyword used in the headline of the landing page in a positive way. We’ve even gone so far as to test a headline that changes based upon the keyword that brought the user to the page (mis-spellings and all). In some cases this does improve conversion, but in other cases it does not. This approach is worth a test, but be wary of the type of mis-spellings you can get and if it is worth having the headline of the landing page mis-spelled just because the visitor mis-spelled it.
3 – Judicious Use of Images and Hero Shots
Images are good to use on landing pages to give a visual representation of the product or service as long as the following rules are followed:
- Don’t make the image too large. The purpose of the image is to add some visual candy to the page and help orient the visitor to the product and headline. If an image is too large and dominates the page, you lose the opportunity let the headline do the heavy lifting and you push other content below the fold.
- Don’t make it to complex. Lots of thumbnails or multiple versions of the same item in different colors won’t help. Keep it simple and clean.
- Make sure it is sized correctly and renders properly. A jagged image will reduce the perceived quality of the page while an image that is too large from a file size perspective will slow the page load. Both of which are bad.
- Make the image clickable. People love to click on things, especially images. Make it go the same place as your buttons and call to action links.
- Use a caption. After headlines, captions are the next most read pieces of text.
4 – Lose the Navigation
Having links on a landing page that DON’T lead to the primary conversion action goal is like dangling a ball of yarn that you don’t want the kitty to play with right in front of Sprinkles the Cat. Distractions hurt conversion. As much as you think you want someone to visit all the really great content you have on your site, you will lose focus and performance by allowing the visitor to be distracted. If you must have links that don’t go directly to a primary action, put them in the footer.
5 – Who Else Say’s Your Great?
Adding 3rd party reviews, logos, testimonials and objective support for your site/service/product always help conversion. The best display is based on a well known logo with a well chosen snippet of copy. Do you need to link to the rest of the review? No (see step 4), but the use of animated gifs or flash can add more quotes to a section of page thereby increasing the sound of thunderous applause for your site/product/service.
6 – Accentuate the Offer
The offer is a critical component of getting the sale so make a big deal out of it. Set the offer copy and corresponding call to action apart from the rest of the page to make it special. Use white space, a box around it, lines above a below and/or some sort of contrast to point out where the visitor needs to focus to get the item.
7 – Where’s the Fire? Add a Sense of Urgency
By including a countdown of number of items left, number of days left to get the deal, limited time offer copy or other time sensitive imperative – you will build on the sense of urgency the visitor may already have to get what they want and complete the sale.
8 – Use High Contrast Buttons that Say “Click Here”
As cliché as it may be, the use of the words “click here to….” on a well designed button that has a high contrast to the background of the page works. Yes, it is obvious. No, the brand folks won’t like it. But in test after test, this combo works the best to get people to the next step. It’s kind of like flashing a shiny lure in front of a hungry trout.
9 – Pump Up the Value at the Decision Point
The button is a key decision point – “do I click or don’t I?” so anything that you can do to minimize concern or pump up the value will help tip the visitor over the edge to clickville. Look at how Amazon handles their price blocks for example – a retail price with a strike through, our price and percent savings. Think about adding in money back guarantee, no obligation, free trial and other positive value copy around the button.
10 – Test Like Crazy
There are lots of other elements of a landing page that can be tested such as: the use of a demo, multiple pages linked by tabs, # and length of bullet points, approaches to copy (salesy, helpful, long, short, etc.), dynamic content, and so on.. The key to ongoing improvement is establishing a culture of testing and improvement. There are simple tools available for A/B testing and basic multivariate testing. More on this in a future newsletter.
Focus on the Landing Page as Much as The Copy, Keywords and Bid Levels.
The landing page for paid search campaigns is a critical step on the conversion funnel. By re-thinking the page as a speed bump in the conversion process versus a page that needs to explain everything, you will find that people move onto the next step with less friction.
As always, make sure you are measuring the right conversion action by managing to the money (where do you get the dollars and are you optimizing to that point?) and optimize, optimize, optimize!