Are your landing pages feeling tired? Is your conversion rate stagnant? Not quite sure what to try next? To re-energize your post-click marketing, it can help to step back and evaluate your approach from several different perspectives.
Here’s a quick exercise, the Landing Page Wonder Wheel—as in, “I wonder how to improve my landing pages?”—that can give you fresh inspiration.
The Landing Page Wonder Wheel consists of eight dimensions on which you rate your current landing page creative and management capabilities, on a scale of 1 to 10. A 1 means you’re not doing very well there, while a 10 means you may be the best in the world at it.
1. Message match. How tight is the continuity between your adverting and your landing pages? If you run lots of ads across different keywords, but you’re driving everyone to the same few landing pages, then your message match probably isn’t very good. For example, if someone clicks on an ad for home refinancing, but they’re sent to a page that generically talks about mortgages, that’s not as tight as a page exclusively on refinancing.
Message match explicitly connects the dots for your respondents, instead of counting on them to hunt for and infer your relevance to their goal. Achieving good message match usually requires more specific landing pages and a process to keep them in sync as your advertising changes.
2. Visual design. How good do your landing pages look? From the high-level concept and layout, down to the details of execution such as fonts and image cropping, are your pages attractive? For most people who click on your plain text search ads, the landing page is where you will make your real first impression. Just as you probably shouldn’t show up to a job interview looking as if you rolled out of bed five minutes ago, tossed something on, and stumbled out into the world, you don’t want your landing pages to looks disheveled or uninspired either. This is a quintessential branding moment.
You may not be a graphic designer yourself—and if you aren’t, I wouldn’t recommend buying Photoshop and trying to fake it. Instead, find a great graphic designer who can make your pages beautiful. It doesn’t have to be a full-time position: a little quality design effort can go a long way, with page templates and a library of reusable image assets. Don’t downplay this though: in a competitive landscape, landing pages are in a beauty contest.
3. Depth. How much substance do your landing pages have? Depth is about delivering meaningful content rather than fluffy marketing-speak. Landing pages shouldn’t be superficial—otherwise they’re a waste of time. You want to share real information, tailored to the search that respondent was pursuing. Just pasting a dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) into your headline isn’t sufficient.
Depth doesn’t mean you should shovel a ton of content on to a single page though. Multi-step landing pages, where respondents drill down to the content and offers that are best aligned with their interests, can be highly effective. The key is to make sure that with each extra click, you live up to expectations, providing a deeper and more relevant experience. Microsites focused on a particular topic or idea can work well too. But ultimately depth is more about quality than quantity.
4. Freshness. How frequently do you revisit your existing landing pages to update them and inject new life? If you have stale pages out there from a year or more ago, then your freshness score is low. If, on the other hand, you systematically check your pages each month, your score should be climbing. This is more about landing page management than landing page design.
The basics of freshness are making sure that content and offers are current. There’s no surer way to damage your brand than to proudly present someone with an expired offer or a stale fulfillment piece (e.g., “fill out this form to receive our hot-off-the-presses 2006 research on the state of social media”). But freshness is also keeping your messaging up to date, recognizing that as your market evolves, your customers acquire new baseline knowledge, nomenclature, and shared cultural references. Even the look-and-feel of your pages can signal how on top of things you are, as the “fashion” of leading websites progresses from year-to-year. Bottom line: to keep respondents engaged with your landing pages, you need to stay engaged with them too.
5. Interactivity. Are your pages flat text and images, or do you provide interactive ways to capture a respondent’s attention? In the age of YouTube, a video can be a compelling way to build rapport. A Flash or AJAX widget that lets respondents click on tabs or thumbnails—or perhaps play with an animated diagram of your key benefits—can get them involved with a low hurdle. The secret is to incorporate these features as part of your design and messaging, not something garish or slapped on as an afterthought.
Social media is another way—albeit more experimental in this context—to add interactivity to your pages, such as bringing in Twitter feeds or Facebook Connect applications. You have to be careful about reinforcing your message and not distracting from it. But if you can use social devices to humanize yourself early with a new prospect, and coax them into a conversation, then you’re ahead of the curve.
6. Launch speed. How long does it take you, concept-to-completion, to launch a brand new landing page? Maybe there are technical or administrative hoops you have to jump through. Maybe you get held up waiting for someone to take the URL live, or add a tracking code to your checkout page. Maybe you just don’t have the time or resources. But whatever the reason, if you can’t deploy a new landing page as quickly as you can publish a new AdWords ad, then there’s room for improvement.
Landing pages should have the advantage of being quick, nimble, and inexpensive—a lightweight way to address niches across your market. As you build long tail (or even mid-tail) search campaigns, you want to follow through with message matched post-click marketing. But to achieve this, your per-page overhead needs to be low. If it’s not, track the time at each step along the lifecycle of your next landing page and start brainstorming: how could we speed this up?
7. Non-conversion value. How well do you do with the respondents who don’t convert on your landing pages? This may seem counterintuitive at first, but if your conversion rate is 20%—which would generally be quite good!—then what are you doing with the other 80%? After all, if they clicked on your ad, they demonstrated non-trivial intent. Just because they weren’t ready to convert on that specific offer at that exact moment, doesn’t make it a throwaway experience.
There are several ways to increase your value to non-converters. Maintain good brand standards—this is your chance to start building up neural pathways. Deliver useful content before the conversion point, telling people something meaningful that is relevant to their search. Always provide an “escape hatch”, even if it’s a subtle link at the top or bottom of the page, to let people jump to your primary web site. (These are good principles for conversions too.) Have them leave remembering you in a good way.
You can also derive value from non-converters by analyzing what they do. For instance, in the context of multi-step landing pages, you can track which choices people click on as a simple type of behavioral segmentation. Learning which segments aren’t converting gives you the insight to make targeted improvements.
8. Boldness. Do your landing pages charge forward with bold, new ideas—or are they tepid and formulaic? Landing pages can be a fantastic sandbox in which to experiment with gutsy offers, spirited language, and vivid presentations. Since any given landing page handles only a sliver of your traffic—and because it’s usually easy to do A/B testing in this context—you can push the envelope without taking big risks. If a daring idea doesn’t pan out, you can quickly pull it down. If it catches fire (in a good way!), then you can expand its reach.
The case for boldness—aside from the timeless proverb that fortune favors the bold—is two-fold. First, in a competitive situation, where respondents are also clicking on rival ads, you want to stand out from the crowd. Not in a freakish way, mind you, but in a confident and creative way. Second, as you move further down the long tail, you end up outside your company’s well-worn messaging. The only way to discover what resonates with new market segments is to try some new ideas. Don’t be afraid to be creative—be more afraid of being dull.
How good is your wheel?
Now that you have your self-assessment scores, mark them on the wheel on each corresponding spoke, moving outwards for higher scores. So a 1 would be placed near the center of the wheel, while a 10 would be placed on the outer rim.
Next, connect the dots. What does it look like?
If your connected wheel doesn’t look very round, or if it’s rather small, then you should at least have a clear idea of what you can do to improve your landing pages. If you’re committed to tackling those challenges, then you can redo the wheel in 30, 60, or 90 days to see your progress—and correlate it with your conversion rates.
Might not hurt to do this exercise on some of your competitors either.
I hope this helps you launch some wonderful post-click marketing.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.