Segmenting Search Respondents With 2-Step Landing Pages

My earlier article, A Completely Different Kind of Landing Page Optimization, discussed the rationale for delivering segment-specific landing pages to different niche audiences in your search marketing. Instead of having a one-size-fits-all landing page that you try to continually optimize ad nauseum with different variations of content (headline, body copy, image), segment optimization focuses on building separate pages for each distinct group in your audience.

Having segment-specific landing pages is straightforward when you can identify segment-specific keywords. But what if you can’t unambiguously determine the segment from the keyword?

The example we used was a hypothetical language learning company that might attract students, business travelers, and vacationers — where the real value proposition for each of those segments is actually quite different. In that case, they can probably assume that a search for [french exam prep] pulls in a student segment and give those respondents a student-oriented landing page.

But what about people searching for [learn french]?

When handling respondents from more generic keywords — or really any keyword that appeals to more than one audience group — there’s still tremendous value to be gained from segmenting them and delivering them more relevant content. However, to do this, you must segment after the click.

Segmenting with 2-step landing pages

Let’s carry on with our language learning company example, with its three key audiences of students, business travelers, and vacationers. It’s likely that [learn french] is a popular keyword phrase. Those ads garner a lot of clicks, but from the keyword alone it’s impossible to guess which segment a respondent belongs to.

One way to deal with such generic keywords, of course, is to simply drive people to generic landing pages — in this case, talk about learning French without targeting the pitch to any one particular segment. But, as we discussed last time, it’s hard for generic landing pages to reach their full potential because they try to please everyone and offend no one, a relatively low common denominator. These can easily become “milquetoast landing pages”.

An alternative is to use a 2-step landing experience, where the first page a respondent lands on is primarily a segmentation page: it gives respondents several one-click choices to let them pick what is most relevant to their search query. The second page then delivers on that promise by providing content and/or offers that are tailored to that segment.

In our example, a person who searches for [learn french] and clicks on a corresponding ad might receive a page that gives them the following one-click choices (usually presented as clickable images):

  • French for college/high school students
  • French for business travelers
  • French for vacationing and pleasure

After a respondent clicks on a choice, they would be presented with more traditional landing page content — making a direct connection between the ad the respondent clicked on and the products/services that the company has to offer — but with the added benefit of being crafted specifically to that audience segment. So a French student learns how this product can improve his performance in class, a business traveler reads how to fit this into her schedule and observe proper business etiquette, and a vacationer is seduced with the lure of a very authentic travel experience.

But will they click?

Some old-school search marketers may object to this 2-step landing page methodology on principle, in the belief that respondents don’t like to click. If you ask people to take an extra step, you will lose more of them, so conventional wisdom goes.

However, that’s not necessarily true. Fewer clicks may be better — other things being equal. But other things rarely are.

The underlying dynamic here is that respondents don’t like to waste time or effort. If an extra click actually saves them time, by quickly navigating them to the content that’s most relevant to their needs — if you can properly set those expectations and then fulfill them — many will indeed make that click.

It’s about keeping people in a flow that serves their interests.

Empirical evidence from our experiments with hundreds of these 2-step landing experiences — in circumstances where they make sense — is that on average 60% of the respondents will take that extra step. Compared with the traditionally high bounce rates associated with landing pages in general, this is quite good.

The benefits of this approach can be significant:

  • respondents are quickly routed to segment-specific content and offers that can directly increase your conversion rate — break free of the generic landing page trap
  • respondents become incrementally more engaged with your site, moving from a quick click on an ad, to a relatively click on a segmentation choice, to targeted and authentic content — the extra cycle of setting an expectation and fulfilling it builds trust and indirectly can increase your conversion rate
  • 2-step landing experiences can signal to respondents that the marketer cares explicitly about their segment, which can also indirectly improve your conversion rate
  • even if respondents don’t convert, their segmentation choice tells you which ads are attracting which segments and how well you’re converting (or not) each of them

This format isn’t a panacea and should only be used where it makes sense. But when you have multiple segments responding to generic keywords, it can be highly effective — and is well-worth testing against the control of a single-page, plain old landing page.

A few real world examples

If you’re wondering what these 2-step landing pages can look like, here are a few examples from real companies that have used them to significantly increase their conversion rate.

A high-tech company that sells data management solutions to both small businesses and large enterprises:

Overland Storage 2-step landing page

A hotel group that caters to both business and leisure travelers:

Howard Johnson 2-step landing page

A professional journal that attracts subscribers at different stages in their careers:

New England Journal of Medicine 2-step landing page

As you can see, these 2-step landing pages can be easy to engage with — a guide, not a barrier. And nothing makes it clearer to you (and your audience) that your customers are not viewed as a commodity, but are thoughtfully engaged with according to who they are and what they’re looking for.

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

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | How To: PPC | Search Marketing: Landing Pages

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About The Author: is the president and CTO of ion interactive, a leading provider of landing page management and conversion optimization software. He also writes a blog on marketing technology, Chief Marketing Technologist. Follow him on twitter via @chiefmartec.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter



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