When catching frogs, like converting leads online, it's a lot more effective and productive if you have the right tools of the trade. In the case of frog-catching, nothing beats a decent flashlight and a net. In the case of lead conversion, nothing beats the one-two-three vacuum funnel of correct keyword-persuasive, call-to-action-winning landing pages.
While landing pages are useful in a number of different marketing efforts (from email marketing and paid media), we focus on paid search marketing ads and their corresponding landing pages for simplicity's sake. Certainly, not all landing pages are created equal, and if those coveted leads are the proverbial "fairy princess" for your brand, you need to make sure your landing pages more resemble a groomed prince than a bug-eyed frog.
More sieve than funnel
Let's start with an example of a particularly common misstep: A landing page that's more sieve than funnel. Remember, the purpose of the landing page is to help facilitate a transaction -- you don't want potential sales and leads getting lost along the way to conversion.
Consider this example: Imagine you're representing a travel company that wants to increase leads by offering brochures and catalogs that describe river boat cruises. Start with the paid ad:
So far, so good -- the headline is relevant, and the brief copy not only mentions that there are 30 different destinations to choose from, but also ends with a call-to-action directing readers to order a brochure. But what happens when users click the ad?
(American Cruise Lines' US River Cruises landing page)
They land on a page with multiple navigation options. "Request a free brochure" is obscured in the copy of the first section and at the top of the page. The result: Potential leads are spilling out of the sales funnel, and the funnel isn't a funnel at all -- it's a sieve.
PPC landing pages are not SEO sites. The two can play in the same playground (the digital space), but should be kept out of the same sandbox. While relevant content can positively affect SEO visibility, information overload can kill a PPC campaign. So, it's important for the landing page to actually be a PPC-specific landing page (as opposed to just the brand's homepage) and for the content to be "just right."
Take Goldilocks as an example -- she has a bit of a pest problem (termites), but Goldilocks (being Goldilocks) isn't very astute at picking an option and sticking with it. Let's imagine Goldi goes to her desktop and types "termite extermination" into her search engine and at the top of the SERP finds this ad:
It's relevant, and she's enticed by the "free inspection." So she clicks through and finds herself here:
There are a few things happening here. For one, there's a lot of content, and it's not specific to termite extermination -- the hero image is a picture of roaches, for example. The form fill doesn't include a field to describe what the particular problem may be (termites), and the page is actually the homepage of the business -- not a PPC-specific landing page. More likely than not, Goldilocks is bailing from this page in search for a more perfect fit.
And now for something completely different: Irrelevancy
Pointed, specific queries that lead to a corresponding, conversion-ready landing page are paid search marketing gold. If a user is searching for a particular item, and your paid ad matches that search query, and your landing page confirms and provides the particulars of the search, your chances of conversion increase significantly.
Let's take the example of Dorothy, a hipster millennial who's in the market for a fresh pair of red shoes. She types in her query, "red shoes," and her eyes spy the following ad:
The title says "Red Shoes," there's a boatload of positive reviews, free shipping, free returns, no tax -- all good incentives, and it's relevant. So she heads on down this yellow brick road and clicks through, only to find:
Suddenly, she's not in Kansas anymore. Not only does the page contain boots and sandals, but there isn't a red shoe to be found. Dorothy, if she hasn't clicked her little heels off the site, would have to navigate below the fold to find the option to search by color and then she'd have to click through to another page before she even finds those coveted ruby slippers. Not ideal.
Looks great -- on a desktop (not mobile-ready)
Sometimes, the landing page looks great, but it's not mobile-ready. With the continuing increase in mobile users, it's critical that landing pages render properly no matter what device the page is being viewed on.
Look at this example from American Bullion, calling users to invest in gold. The main conversion point is a form fill to receive an investor's guide. The desktop landing page is designed and laid out well:
But is it converting visitors who land on the page via a mobile device? Here's what the same landing page looks like on the Apple iPhone 3:
(Image courtesy of MobileTest.me)
The experience is completely different. The user has to zoom out or scroll over to find the form fill, which is small and difficult to fill out on a mobile device.
You want me to do what? Why? (No incentive)
Incentives are powerful conversion drivers. Coupons, sales, and free offers capture attention and help fuel click-through rates.
But it's one thing to make the offer and another to follow up on the offer once the user lands on the landing page.
Consider this ad for office supplies:
For someone looking to save money on office supplies, the ad is enticing: The supplies are (apparently) half off, there's a good deal of positive reviews, and there's a "wide selection" to choose from. Perfect.
Once we click through to the landing page, however:
We're greeted with this page. It shows a wide selection of office supplies, but the incentive is missing. Where is the 50 percent-off offer? Which supplies are half-off and which ones are not? If you're going to incentivize your offers, be sure to follow through on that promise when the user clicks through to the site.
Sleaze factor turned up to 11
Your landing page is a welcome mat. It may be the first introduction to your brand. First impressions matter -- a lot. Most of us probably wouldn't head out on a first date with someone who just showed up at our door not showered in a pair of sweatpants, wearing socks with sandals. Likewise, most online users won't convert on a landing page that seems dicey or fishy, either.
Consider this query: "business help." "Business" is an extremely competitive and expensive keyword. If you're bidding on this keyword, it's imperative that all your ducks are in a row. But take a look at the following paid ad:
First of all, it's not the best ad -- it's not terribly relevant to the query, and the copy isn't informative. But what's worse is the landing page:
Beyond the obvious problem of too much information, what strikes you about this landing page? Is this a company that appears trustworthy? The layout, cheap design, and bad stock photography just make the page ooze with griminess. If I'm a user seeking business credit help, I'm bouncing off this page.
The paid search trifecta of "keyword, ad copy, landing page" forms one of the strongest conversion generators in marketing. Like the triangle in geometry, take away one of its legs, and the model falls apart.
Your landing page is crucial to your lead generation and sales efforts. Haphazard, ugly, dysfunctional landing pages will do little to move the needle. And while you may entice a user here and there to kiss the proverbial frog, most of your otherwise qualified leads will have bounced off the page in search of a more handsome prince.
"Scared man fearing the worst" image via Shutterstock.