How To Create High-Converting Landing Pages

In this post I present some intermediate level landing page optimization tactics. I toss in a couple of real-world scenarios and we will work from some basic assumptions. This article is targeted for Google AdWords advertisers with direct marketing goals in mind, although the same principles apply to other search engines just as well.

Landing page optimization has two main goals:

  • Increase conversions for clicks that get to the page
  • Increase Quality Score (Google only) so that you can lower your CPC for the same clicks

As a secondary benefit, while more conversions and a better Quality Score will not directly affect your position in search results, it will increase your profits for all positions. With more profits you will be able to increase your bid, which will result in higher positions. You will be able to move your ad position from the second page to first page, or right-rail to the top-rail, where there is a lot more traffic.

Some basic assumptions:

Assumption #1: You can readily develop custom landing pages. You should be able to code them by hand in a few minutes, or use dynamic pages to get the same result. Be careful with dynamic pages, however—JavaScript based customizations might be able to help with conversions, but will not be read by the Google AdWords bot and so are basically ineffective for increasing Quality Score.

Assumption #2: You have enough traffic and conversions that you can reliably measure the difference. As a rule of thumb, you should have at least ten-thousand or more ad impressions, hundreds of clicks, and anywhere between 10 and a hundred or more conversions over your measurement period to get real-world “business statistics.” Of course you can implement these techniques without measuring your success, and they will probably make things better, but your time might be better spent optimizing things you can measure.

A real world example

This scenario is from an optimization I did last week. The text has been changed, but the numbers are real.

I noticed in one of my “test” ad groups that one keyword was stealing the show. It had the majority of traffic and conversions for the ad group, and while it shared the same “theme” as the rest of the ad group (“bicycle”) it also included a particular modifier word I thought I could optimize on (“advice”). Here are the stats for the week prior to optimization.

crosby1

I broke that keyword out into its own ad group, published a new landing page along with new ads and a few additional keywords that would also benefit from the dedicated, optimized landing page.

Here are a few important techniques to increase your chances of success.

Place a strong call to action prominently on the landing page. Make it the first thing anybody sees, and the most likely action that a viewer will want to take next. These users have already expressed an interest in your widget, service or whatever. This is not the time to burden your users with more data and information, or “great design.” They clicked on your great ad copy, and they want to get down to business. Let them keep clicking all the way to your bank.

Landing on a page of articles is a bad PPC experience. Landing on a “subscribe now” page is a great PPC experience.

Repeat the paid keyword. Repeat the paid keyword several times both on the page and in the non-visible HTML elements. Put it right where the user can’t miss it. Let them know you heard what they were looking for and that this page provides it. Also repeat the keyword prominently in the HTML of the page. This assures that the Google AdWords Bot will find it easily.

Feature a single product. This helps with user conversions, and it also helps with Quality Score. If your user just searched for part “KG461AA#ABA” (an HP docking station for a laptop), don’t take them to a list of other products. Compare these two internal search results:

Product-specific landing pages will make users more likely to convert for each click you buy. This will also help with Quality Score. Repeat the text of the actual search, as well as the keyword matched on, prominently in your HTML. As a bonus, including the keyword in your ad copy and landing page make a real difference in Quality Score, and in many cases it sets you apart from your competition.

Try “theme pages.” This is the flip-side to the example above. While single product pages usually convert best, this is not always the case. Try the single product page approach first. If they don’t convert, and only then, try “theme pages.” For example, if someone searches on “hp docking station” try taking them to your most popular model first rather than a list that gives equal prominence to last year’s outdated, overpriced dinosaur. Then, try to beat that by taking them to a page with your top 3 models prominently featured, etc.

Analyze it! Here are the same metrics for the same keyword about a week later.

crosby2

Those are some pretty impressive results for a little bit of effort! Quality Score went up one point, allowing us to bid more and get to position 4.7, and revenue per click (RPC) actually increased along the way!

As is almost always the case with paid search campaigns, the value of landing page optimization lies in your ability to analyze the metrics and make appropriate adjustments. You will want to minimize any other changes so you can focus your learning on your landing page optimizations.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords | How To: PPC

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About The Author: is Director of Advertising Services at Stone Temple Consulting. Crosby has extensive experience in search engine marketing including growing small accounts to multi-million dollar success stories at companies such as QuinStreet.com and JustAnswer.com.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • dvansant

    Good advice on building landing pages that convert, but how sure are you that this impacts quality score?

    I’ve read elsewhere that for quality score, Google takes a binary approach to landing pages. In other words, the landing page is a real problem and your QS gets wacked or it’s fine and has no QS impact. Also, I know CTR is a big component of QS, but does Google use conversion rates in calculating the QS?

    All the steps you recommend are great for their conversion rate benefit alone.

  • http://www.cpcsearch.com Terry Whalen

    Agreed that the recommendations are good ones. But to be sure, quality score is not really impacted by landing pages. Google does take a more binary approach here – if the LP is more of an affiliate \jump page\ or there is a problem with load times or anything related to bait-and-switch messaging, then the LP can negatively affect QS in a big way. And no, Google does not use conversion rates in calculating QS – there are too many scenarios where this would not provide \apples-to-apples\ data.

  • http://www.marksmarketingblog.com Mark Johnson

    Great post. I think a lot of people neglect the testing aspect. You really need to be able to see the small differences each change makes though, that way you can get a feel for what works best for your site, which will help you come up with new improvements.

    Ps, Google cannot actually know your conversion rate. The conversion rate your analytics tells you, is only based on criteria you set. If Google were to take that into account, it would be far too easy to manipulate the data. Google may be able to track your bounce rate though…

  • http://www.facebook.com/semanticflow Mousumi Mahanti

    You can check out some samples of highly converting landing pages here : 
    http://www.semanticlp.com/

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