Over the past year, the term “post-click marketing” has come up more frequently in search marketing discussions, especially in the context of improving conversion rates and overall search ROI. At SMX West earlier this month, Gordon Hotchkiss of Enquiro unequivocally declared that post-click marketing moves the needle for their clients more than any other aspect of search marketing.
So what exactly is post-click marketing and how can you leverage it in your search marketing program? Here’s a brief introduction.
Post-click marketing > landing pages
The simplest definition of post-click marketing is this: it’s how you engage with respondents after they click on your ads.
Of course, since the entire customer lifecycle happens after the click, post-click marketing is usually narrowed to mean the experience a respondent has between click and conversion—particularly an experience tailored to a specific ad and/or a specific group of respondents, rather than general site optimization. (Lead nurturing and re-marketing campaigns are good too, but they’re further down the funnel—call them post-conversion marketing.)
Landing pages are the most common kind of post-click marketing.
However, one of the motivations for coining the term post-click marketing was to encourage people to think outside the box of a single page. Traditional 1-page landing pages—I call them “plain old landing pages”—usually have a predictable, and frankly boring layout and structure. What a wasted opportunity, especially when you consider that text search ads are all pretty much visually homogeneous. The design and flow of the first few pages after that click are a marketer’s best—and often only—chance to establish a compelling brand and differentiate themselves from the pack.
Post-click marketing embraces a continuum of creative possibilities for the experience served to respondents: landing pages, 2-step landing pages, branching conversion paths, microsites, mobile nanosites, contextual applications, etc. These experiences can include Flash objects, videos, interactive widgets, social media interfaces and more. You’re constrained only by your imagination in crafting an experience that will “wow” your audience.
But post-click marketing is about more than any one great experience.
Post-click marketing emphasizes segmentation
If there’s one overarching strategy in post-click marketing, it’s audience segmentation: identifying the distinct strata of respondents in your market, with as much granularity as possible, and serving them post-click experiences tailored to their needs and perspectives.
The post-click marketing mantra is: all clicks are not created equal.
Unlike traditional landing page optimization, which usually focuses on testing which pieces of content work best across all respondents, post-click marketing aims for segment optimization—”determining how many different landing pages are optimal for a given campaign, and determining how each should be different from the other.”
Search marketers often thrive by using long tail strategies in keyword bidding. But if you’re not segmenting respondents to different post-click experiences, then the long tail of keywords and ad creatives ends up crashing ignominiously into a short tail of a few landing pages and deep links. This causes message mismatch, where the relationship between the ad and the landing page is unclear to the respondent—probably the single biggest reason for triggering the back button bailout.
Post-click marketing employs a variety of methods for segmenting respondents, ranging from the keyword phrase a user searched on, to geo-location and domain information implied by that user’s IP address, to behavioral choices made by the user on those first several pages after the click. Note that behavioral segmentation dovetails nicely with deploying multi-page landing experiences to engage in productive up-front dialogues with respondents, to quickly move from the generic to the specific.
Post-click marketing encourages systems thinking
In online marketing, we talk a lot about the funnel—how respondents start with impressions, then clicks, then engagement, then conversion, and so on. This progression has a clear directional flow, from the keyword to the ad to the landing page to post-conversion fulfillment.
However, this one-way flow of the user experience can cause marketers to overlook feedback loops in the opposite direction—using information revealed from later stages of the funnel to optimize activities at the top of the funnel. Good post-click marketing tracks and analyzes different conversion rates by segment, mapping conversion rates back to behavioral choices and then back to the original ads and keywords.
This helps identify which niche audiences are driving real ROI in a campaign, and it suggests specific ad/segment combinations that are ripe for improvement and experimentation. Instead of a one-way funnel, your search campaigns and corresponding post-click marketing become a circular ecosystem.
In the spirit of systems thinking, post-click marketing also elevates post-click experiences, such as landing pages, from being ad hoc, under-the-radar productions to being executed with a more efficient and integrated process. Instead of treating each landing page as its own one-off experiment, which tends to be slow and costly, an organization with good post-click marketing capabilities can rapidly deploy dozens or hundreds of segment-specific landing pages.
This scalability is achieved by putting in place a certain amount of post-click marketing infrastructure—or leveraging your web site infrastructure for this mission: content management, a digital asset library, re-usable page design templates, defined proof/approval workflows, standardized data collection and analytics, ready-to-roll testing frameworks, etc.
You know your post-click marketing is firing on all cylinders when your average concept-to-completion deployment cycle for a new landing page is less than 1 day—which is what it needs to be to be able to keep pace with the inherent fluidity of search marketing.
You’ve always known that landing pages and other after-the-click tactics were important. The reason post-click marketing has been gaining traction is because it’s a way to frame the discussion of those tactics at a higher and more strategic level.
If you don’t yet have a structured post-click marketing program in place, this could be one of your big wins for 2009.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.