Building Landing Pages for Google AdWords

In the last article on Google AdWords we talked about three core pay-per-click elements: keywords, ad text and landing pages. In this article we will delve deeply into landing pages, since that’s where conversions actually take place. This article is the third part of a four-part series.

Landing Pages

The landing page is the page that visitors see after clicking your ad. The design, sales letter, headline and feel of the landing page is crucial to your sales. If the landing page does not entice interest and teach visitors more about your product/service, then you are wasting dollars on clicks that will bring in no money. To make things clear, this is what pay-per-click sales flow looks like:

  1. Keywords help you show your advertisement to the most qualified customer prospects. Better keyword lists mean that more qualified traffic will see the ad. Broad keywords and a lack of targeted keywords simply mean that the wrong audience will see the ads.

  2. Advertisement headlines and ad text are what gets the click. Make no mistake; the ad itself only gets the clicks, but does not deliver sales. The advertisement is there to create curiosity in a qualified customer, enticing them to click and get through to your landing page.

  3. Landing Page is where sale occurs. The landing page must convince a visitor to buy/download/sign up/click through further in the sales funnel. The landing page is your virtual sales person, and just like a real sales person, it must perform to make profits.

Competition – Take a good look at your competitors. See what they are trying to achieve on their landing pages (go for the sale, capture information, get customer to download, etc). Observe companies in similar industries and see what they are doing. Copy the best; fake it till you make it, if you have to.

Learning the Wisdom – Landing page optimization is a broad industry with dozens of books, hundreds of websites, thousands of articles and dozens of companies who specialize in increasing landing page performance. Learn from the experts who have been there and done it before you. Do what they say, copy their strategies and follow the advice. A simple search for the phrase “landing page” or “landing page optimization” will give enough content to digest for days. Also check out

  • http://www.grokdotcom.com/

  • http://www.marketingexperiments.com

  • http://www.marketingsherpa.com/

Testing – The Internet is the cheapest marketing medium in which to test things. You can implement changes in seconds, get performance statistics hours later, compare them to the performance of previous versions of the landing page, and do it all over again. Testing lies at the core of creating successful landing pages.

What should you test? Test image positions, button colors, calls to action, headlines, text size, layouts and everything you possibly can. It’s the little things that count. Sometimes small changes, like changing a few words in the headline, increase your conversion rate by 1% – 2% (which is a lot).

Testing is so effective and important, Google has released a free tool for the sole purpose of testing landing pages called Google Website Optimizer.

"Website Optimizer works by testing different versions of the content on your live site to see what will lead to the highest conversion rates." – Google

  • http://www.google.com/support/websiteoptimizer/bin/answer.py?answer=55896&topic=14308

Website Optimizer is very simple to use. Pick two or more pages you want to test (different versions of the landing page, up to 16). Put special code into the pages to let Google Website Optimizer know you’re testing. Add different variations that you would like to test, then launch the experiment.

When different users click on the advertisement, they see different versions of the landing page. Google Website Optimizer spreads out testing evenly, so if you’re testing four pages and 100 people click on the ad, each page will get 25 visitors.

When a user converts into a new customer, Google records the action. At the end of a testing run, Google shows performance statistics for each landing page. Use these statistics to pick a page with the highest conversion rate and take note of what worked and what didn’t.

Future Now Inc. wrote an entire book on this subject: Always Be Testing. Check it out.

Google Website Optimizer is available free of charge and works with all pay per click/banner engines.

Google AdWords has a neat feature called “Conversion Tracking.” It lets you track the performance of each ad group (which usually lead to the same landing page) and also find out how traffic from various keywords converts on the same page. Google Website Optimizer does a good job of tracking, but this feature gives another useful statistic – cost per sale.

Cost per sale is the average amount you pay for clicks before selling. For instance, if 2 out of 100 visitors buy (2% conversion rate), and you pay $1 per click, then the cost per sale is:

98 * 1$ / 2 = $49

It costs $49 in clicks to make the sale. The sale itself should be large enough to cover this cost and make a good profit. Also, if we increase our conversion rate from 2% to 4%, then the cost per sale goes down to $24.50 and profits double. Therefore, it’s very important to spend plenty of time, preferably weekly, on improving your landing page performance.

Setting up conversion tracking is a breeze. Log in to your AdWords, and click on the “Conversion Tracking” tab located under the “Campaign Summary” tab. There you have several “key actions” you can look at, such as tracking purchases, downloads or sign ups. Pick the one that you’re after (large B2B purchases usually require a download/form submission).

Specify a value for each conversion, and Google will automatically calculate how much each sale costs. If a sale gives you $120 profits (minus all expenses), then put $120. Google does all the hard work for you, so all you have to do is keep an eye on the conversion cost figure.

Having keyed in all tracking settings, we need to make sure that Google can actually track the pages. AdWords will give you a code snippet and ask to put it into a “thank you page” (a page which users see when they complete a certain action). The action page should not be accessible from anywhere else on the site, otherwise conversion figures will be distorted.

Keep in mind:

  • People do not read websites; they scan them.

  • You have 5 – 15 seconds to get a visitor’s attention once they arrive on your page.

  • The average online conversion rate is 2%, with 10% being extraordinarily good.

  • The headline is the first part of the page that people see; thus, a persuasive headline can double your conversion rate.

  • Visitors mostly pay attention to the upper left hand side of the screen, thus it’s vital to put key benefits there, along with the most important information about the offer. Make sure to keep vital pictures on the left side as well. (View eye tracking studies by Useit.com: http://www.useit.com/eyetracking/)

Make the landing page a logical continuation of the ad – online users operate like “dogs,” in the sense that once they pick up a “smell” they follow that smell until it leads them to their goal. The sharper the smell, the more likely the user is to follow it: conversely, weak or interrupted scents turn visitors off of the path.

The “smell” or “scent” are the keywords. Keyword-rich headlines, along with keyword-rich copy that matches the want/desire of the searcher, represent a sharp smell. More on this by Bryan Eisenberg:

  • When visitors found the “trigger words” – keywords that either get stuck in their heads, either consciously or subconsciously, often from advertising – on the landing page they’re sent to, they were content with what they found a whopping 72% of the time.

  • When these same visitors didn’t see their trigger words on the landing pages they found, their search was only successful 6% of the time. GrokDotCom

On top of being vital to conversion rate, keywords help with search engine visibility.

Call to Action – Studies and tests have proven that a call to action in the form of a link works better than graphics and buttons. It’s not clear why links work better than buttons, but they do.

Also, unless you’re optimizing your website (which you should), you can use long links to drive prospects along the sales path of your website. Future Now has detailed the methodology in their book Waiting for Your Cat to Bark (along with tons of other valuable practices).

Sales Letter – A persuasive sales letter can quadruple conversion rates, so be sure to put time/money into one.

Landing pages are a crucial part of your ad success on AdWords. Be sure to put effort into creation of persuasive landers. Learn how to do the hard work yourself, or outsource the task to professionals. Either way, do not leave it to chance. Traffic is only a statistical number if it doesn’t deliver the sales. Your bank statement will appreciate the work.

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