If your goal is to make Google richer with no gain for your yourself, then stop reading. You don’t need to worry about landing pages or conversions. But if your goal is to grow your own business using search, then you must pay as much—or more—attention to converting traffic into leads as you do to getting traffic in the first place.
To understand how to improve conversion rates for B2B lead generation sites, let’s take a look at the search marketing campaign of KAYDON Bearings. I’ll analyze and comment on the mistakes they are making (in my opinion), and offer suggestions for how they can improve. Note: I have no relationship with KAYDON, and chose to use them for this case study arbitrarily.
Have a call to action
If you ever need proof that pay-per-click is going mainstream for B2B companies, do a search for “ceramic ball bearings.” The SERP is full of paid ads for this basic B2B product. A couple of the ads are pretty good, with offers like “buy affordable ball bearings, online wholesale prices, same day Shipping” or “lightest, smoothest & fastest ever. World Champions, free airmail.”
But check out KAYDON in position seven (fourth from the top on the right sponsored links). Their ad describes their product perfectly well, but does not include any key differentiators or call to action. In a competitive SERP, you need your ad to stand out, so it’s important to test different messages and calls to action.
Don’t send clicks to the home page
The single biggest mistake B2B companies make in pay-per-click is sending clicks to their home page. This is exactly what KAYDON does, in my opinion. Companies make this mistake for two reasons. First, it’s obvious and easy. Second, they assume that since they don’t know the prospect’s intentions or buying stage, the home page allows the prospect seek out the information she is looking for herself. Three out of four B2B companies make the same mistake as KAYDON, directing paid search clicks to their home page or at best a product information page on their site.
Unfortunately, this leaves it as an “exercise to the reader” to figure out how to become a lead. Because each click is an opportunity to drop out of the conversion process, the result is much lower conversions. In fact, a 2004 report from Atlas OnePoint found the average conversion rate for lead generation sites that used the home page as a PPC destination was just 6.3%. In other words, almost 19 out of 20 of the clicks you pay for result in revenue for Google but nothing for you.
Create targeted landing pages
The main thing a searcher wants to know when they click on a link is, “Am I in the right place?” The sooner you can reassure the prospect that the page will give her the information she is seeking, the better. The best way to do this is via a focused landing page that speaks directly to the search term. The same Atlas study found that landing pages that match the theme of the keyword (e.g. ball bearings) have a 9.3% conversion rate, and pages that match the keyword specifically have an 11.8% conversion rate. That’s 47% and 87% more conversions, respectively!
There is great ROI in having focused, keyword specific landing pages in terms of conversions, but they also help with your PPC ranking and CPC as well. This is because Google takes landing page relevance into account when establishing your “quality score”. Also, using targeted landing pages tends to force you to have more focused ad groups, which leads to more relevant ads and even higher quality scores. Because quality score is as important as your bid when Google determines rank, the better your quality score, the more clicks you get and/or the lower your cost-per-click.
Tips for better landing pages
Of course, the 9.3% conversion rate for landing pages that match the theme of the keyword is just an average—you can always do even better. To illustrate this point, I put together a sample landing page for this KAYDON case study that demonstrates some landing page best practices. This could be improved with further testing, but as a starting point it should get much, much better conversion rates than KAYDON’s home page.
Here are some of the strategies I used to make a better B2B landing page for KAYDON:
Keep it simple. This goes for the form as well as the page. Enough said.
Remove the navigation. Every link you put on the page is an invitation to the customer to do something besides taking the action you want them to take. You’ve paid to get them to this page, so remove the distractions and make the conversion action obvious. Tip: test using a graphic element such as a big arrow to tell the prospect where to start.
Include reassuring elements. Every element on the page should serve only two purposes: 1) give the prospect reasons to convert and 2) resolve any concerns the prospect may have about converting. Clip art and visually appealing but generic photos of happy people don’t play a role here. Some of the elements that work on my sample page include the logo and tagline (World leader in the manufacture of thin section bearings), the cover shot of the white paper (with title blown up to be readable), and the sample excerpt from the paper (in this case, the table of contents).
Give prospects a reason to share correct information. Your prospects will to lie to you to get your offer without risking their privacy. Don’t believe me? The #1 name submitted on lead generation forms is Mickey Mouse. I have two tips to counteract this. First, ensure your privacy information is posted. Second, if your offer is a white paper or login code or anything else you can send, rather than fulfilling the offer on the thank you page, email them the fulfillment instead since it creates the incentive to share a valid address.
Why don’t more companies do this?
Given the dramatic ROI of having multiple targeted landing pages, why don’t more B2B companies use them? MarketingSherpa did a study and found that the single greatest obstacle to creating optimized landing pages is a lack of resources, and that the time of in-house web developers was the most difficult resource to get.
However, creating keyword-specific landing pages doesn’t need to take much time given the right templates and tools. I made the sample landing page for this case study using our landing page editor in about five minutes. The key is not to get hung up on making the perfect landing page. Instead, create one OK landing page, clone it and customize it for each of your keyword groups, and then start to test and measure results. Only by getting started will you get begin to get the benefits of better conversions.
Jon Miller is VP of Marketing for Marketo, a provider of affordable, easy-to use-marketing automation software that helps B2B marketing professionals drive revenue and improve accountability. Jon’s blog, Modern B2B Marketing, explores best practices in business marketing, ranging from pay-per-click management to lead nurturing to marketing accountability. The Strictly Business column appears Wednesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.