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Five Tips for Healthy Landing Pages

Five Tips for Healthy Landing Pages Jamie Roche

I just read an article in The New York Times that profiled three people who recently had heart attacks and analyzed their treatment and recovery relative to their socio-economic situation. It reminded me of landing page optimization.

Let me explain.

In the article, the rich guy recognized he was having a heart attack, received immediate attention, changed his diet and exercise routine and is now healthier than before the heart attack. The middle person received mediocre care, struggled to work the new diet and exercise regime into his day and, while the incident has passed, worries about it happening again. The working-class woman initially ignored the symptoms, ultimately got lousy care, and basically stopped for a cigarette and a donut as she left the hospital.

So what does this have to do with landing pages?

Rich companies have the resources to avoid the problem. They pay for top placement and if their conversions do not recover the ad cost, they write it off to “branding.” They create custom landing pages or mini-sites to improve conversions for large campaigns. And they use their very expensive web software applications and large IT staff to run periodic A/B split tests to find what works best.

Mid-tier companies wait for rising keyword prices and flat or declining conversions before jumping on the landing page optimization bandwagon. Then they try short-term, dramatic shifts, including total page redesigns and rapidly increasing (or decreasing) ad spend, hoping to find better yield and sales growth.

Under-resourced companies decrease their investment in PPC advertising or exit entirely because paying more for a customer acquisition than they make in margin is a recipe for going out of business. 

But a growing number of companies of all sizes are getting serious about wringing more out of their ad spend. They have figured out that by reaching beyond the advertising placement, copy and bid amount and into the site content they can actually change the conversion rate and lower their customer acquisition cost. This allows them to grow their budget for advertising since they can deploy a greater number of dollars and still hit CPA cost targets.

They're spending more, not simply because they have larger ad budgets, but because, from campaign to campaign, their ROI is improving. They're healthy, and getting healthier.

So for now, forget about eating tofu salads and carving out 45 minutes a day for aerobic exercise. Here's a different way to get healthy. And, while "landing page optimization" may be a dry term, its implementation is exciting (and a lot more fun than going nowhere on a treadmill).

Ready? Here are Dr. Roche’s five sure-fire ways (plus a bonus) to improve your online advertising health without breaking a sweat:

1. Repeat the search term on the landing page

Reinforcing the words a visitor has used in his search right on the landing page seems pretty obvious, but it's not that simple. First, it takes custom coding, which means getting on the site technology or IT priority list. 

Worse, you can't simply grab the actual search term from Google or Yahoo!. Imagine a prospect looking for a new pet door for her German Shepherd puppy. She types “sale pet door puppy” into Google and clicks through to your webpage which says “Sale Pet Door Puppy” in the headline.

Campaigns must be mapped to normal-sounding headlines. So, for example, any search containing “pet door” might be mapped to the headline “Pet doors for all pet sizes and shapes.”

If this is not easily accomplished with your existing resources, consider focusing on only your 10 highest-volume search landing pages or look into hosted solutions that offer this capability.

2. Products should relate directly to the search term(s)

The most visible item or offering on a landing page should relate directly to the search, or the visitor feels a sense of disconnect and is likely to bail.

Consider the pet door example:

First, you have to decide if it's better to link to a single pet door or to the existing category where pet doors are kept. Of course, if "pet doors" is its own category, the choice is simple. But if your pet doors are kept in the “other pet products” category, what then? The first product your visitor sees might be flea powder or pet insurance. If any of these are the primary image, say good-bye to your prospect.

Again, you're required to nail down some time from IT to make a custom landing page happen. But it's worth it -- imagine the visitor's face when he's looking for a pet door for his Great Dane and instead finds an image of a fluffy poodle sweater. Not good.

3. Include elements of your home page

Many companies feel that if a visitor reaches your site through a targeted keyword like "pet door," that visitor will automatically understand who your company is and what you offer.

That assumption is a mistake. In fact, by ignoring the branding elements that you instinctively include on your home page, you miss the opportunity to deepen your relationship with (perhaps) a brand new customer.

Include at least some of the elements that help visitors understand who you are and what you do.

4. Add security and returns policy

Again, think of the content on your home page. What makes new visitors feel comfortable? You might put “Our Returns Policy,” “Member of the Better Business Bureau,” “As Seen in Architectural Record,” “Company Information” and more to remove fear and build confidence.

When a visitor enters your site from a PPC advertisement, they're essentially arriving for a visit through the back door. Make them feel at home -- and willing to spend -- by adding some of the feel good content.

5. Feature promotions

Even the most brand-focused company ("we're not promotional, we're all about brand") engages in some sort of promotional activity.

When running promotions, you'll get better response if you feature them on your landing pages. That's because an advertising-sourced prospect is probably going to look at more than one ad and/or landing page. In the few seconds when they have just entered your site, you need to be especially relevant and compelling.

Giving a little more prominence to whatever promotions are currently available will draw more of the visitors in, even if you do not make the promotion the most important element on the page. 

Bonus tip: Continue to use these tactics on subsequent pages.

Remember, very few visitors convert on the landing page. In some cases, a visitor will look at 10 or more pages and come back two or more times before signing up or making a purchase. 

The more steps they take, the lower the impact of the landing page. If you've gone to the trouble to create one that's relevant and compelling, carry some of that work through the subsequent pages as well. 

Free shipping draws people into your site, but if they spend 20 minutes looking around and never see free shipping mentioned again, its impact is diminished. 

Similarly, the “pet door” person may click on New Arrivals, On Sale, Advice from Our Experts or more before remembering (or forgetting) that they wanted to buy a pet door. 

Try using some space on the category pages, product pages and even the checkout page to continue to show pet door-related products or information to keep the whole site feeling relevant.

Some of this may seem like black magic or high-priced solutions only available for wealthy companies. But, like good health, small steps can make a big difference. Start customizing landing pages for your 10 best-performing PPC terms or campaigns and see how it works. 

You just might find that the little bit of extra work keeps your online advertising in tip-top shape for years to come.

Jamie Roche is a founder and co-president and CEO of Offermatica. Roche brings to Offermatica the experience of leading a visionary technology company from the dawn of the commercial internet, through the bubble burst and out again. Offermatica, formerly Fort Point Partners, Inc., is an eight-year-old software company that built many of the leading internet commerce websites. With Offermatica, Roche has provided strategic direction to executives from over 50 companies on successful selling through the internet.

Prior to Fort Point Partners, Roche ran Webfactory, a provider of internet products and services to Yahoo!, Netscape and other leading internet companies at their formation. Roche also worked for KPMG Peat Marwick and SiliconGraphics. He is a graduate of Yale University.

Social media etiquette

Social media presents an etiquette challenge at work too. In our industry, posting on Facebook, tweeting, blogging, and Tumblring are all acceptable ways of passing time during the workday -- especially if your business card says, "Grand Poobah of Social Media." However, there are limits to what is acceptable social media behavior in the office. Please don't post office gossip; that should remain with the truly old fashioned social media -- word of mouth. Rumors and office scandals are better left on the cutting room floor than on your Tumblr. Yes, they are salacious and interesting, but they shouldn't be shared with your friends on any sort of media platform. Don't be the person who posts those embarrassing moments for the world to see. While it may seem funny at the time, it is just in poor taste.

Despite all the things you shouldn't do, social media still can be incorporated into your professional life. Basically anything good can and should be disseminated through social media. If your company wins a new account, then by all means post it on social media (after it is publically announced of course). When you get a promotion or a fantastic new job, brag all you want on LinkedIn. Social media is perfect for such aggrandizement. Some advice: If you lose a client, do not publically bad mouth them -- even if they were the worst client ever. It's a small industry, and you just never know who you will work with again.

Email etiquette

Email etiquette is a constant challenge. Once they are sent, emails go into a sort of black hole. It is hard to know if emails have been received and read or simply received and ignored. In terms of following up on emails that you send, there is a fine line between doing your job well and being a nuisance. As a recipient, I don't think it is necessary to respond to every email but there are many times when a short acknowledgement such as "Thanks" is a good idea. This indicates the message has indeed been received and read. Of course, this too has its limits. If everyone constantly replied "Thanks for sending," then inboxes would get totally out of hand.

Whether or not to respond is often dependent upon the circumstances and length of the email. The number of email recipients has a lot to do with the need for response. A well-crafted email sent to a few people most likely deserves a response, even if it is just an acknowledgement. On the other hand, an email sent to the entire company or simply a very large group, doesn't necessitate a response. This is especially true for funny emails that people love to pass around. Nobody likes being stuck in a chain of comments regarding that morning's Ziggy cartoon. If you do feel compelled to respond, use "Reply to Sender" rather than "Reply All."

Email is an amazing tool. I admit that I am more than a little addicted to it. However, like all communications, there is a certain protocol involved in proper email usage. For instance, never call someone "Dude," in a work email. That is pretty obvious even to the most socially obtuse. What is less obvious -- when to not send email. It may not always be a good idea to send email at all hours of the night. Many people sleep with their phone on their nightstands. This means that if you send emails at 3:00 a.m., their phone may buzz or make some sort of noise. Consider the time, to whom you are sending the email, and how important the message really is before sending off an email.
Believe it or not, there is a coterie of strange people who care about your email appellation. They scoff at people who list AOL as their personal email address. These are emails snobs. Because they still associate AOL with dial up, they believe that anyone sporting an AOL address just isn't forward thinking. Their disdain is not limited to AOL; they similarly scorn Yahoo and Hotmail. They may say condescending remarks like "Oh, my Mom has an email address there." Snobs think that where you store your email is just as important as what you say in email.

Your personal email address is a tricky thing to change. The longer you have an address at one provider, the more difficult it is to leave. Many millions of people have email accounts at places that are not considered "cool" by email snobs. Some people just are comfortable with those interfaces; others are too lazy to change. Either way, does it really matter where someone's personal email is stored? As long as your personal email isn't "Lovebunny72," I don't think it really does.

New technologies

First adopter techies love to show off their latest gadgets. They live for the bleeding edge devices. They beta test Google Glass, camp out for the latest iPad, and sport the latest Fitbit monitor. Kudos to them for being so forward thinking. On the other hand, my admiration fades when they sneer at people with older devices. Not everyone wants to upgrade their devices every eight months. In fact, most people are happy not to upgrade at all or at least until they absolutely have to do so. This is possibly why half of all U.S. cell phones are still not smartphones. It is poor tech etiquette to judge people based on their personal tech preferences. Smart, forward-thinking people can have old tech and still live happy, contented lives. I still have my clock radio from college.

Google Glass is pretty darn cool. It is just the first of many tech wearables that are entering our lives. However, unrestrained use in the office can make for bad manners. Don't use your Glass to zone out for long periods of time while ignoring everyone around you. Google acknowledged this pitfall and advised users not to be "creepy or rude (aka, a 'Glasshole')" by making other people feel uncomfortable. People wearing Google Glass at work are breaking new ground. Therefore, they should proceed carefully before recording around the office, especially at meetings. Glass wearers should announce that they are recording and ask for people's permission. Of course, they may just end up with boring footage of people checking their smartphones while sitting around a conference table.

Andrew Ettinger works in advertising in New York City.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

"Young people playing with smartphones and ignoring each other" image via Shutterstock.

Jamie Roche is President and Co-Founder of Offermatica – the leading provider of on–demand marketing services, including testing and landing page optimization, that allow marketers to maximize revenue from their online advertising spend.  Also,...

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