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Converting Paid Search
By Kevin Gold, Managing Partner, Enhanced Concepts, Inc.

How do you compete in a hyper-competitive bid market? You compete through employing... "Landing pages".

Pay per Click costs are raising. Read any news and you'll hear "doubling and tripling" of bid costs across the major search engines. Coupled with a shortage of qualified supply and the environment is rich for hyper-competitiveness even within niche markets.

How do you compete in a hyper-competitive bid market?

You compete through employing... "Landing pages".

A landing page is a web page or group of web pages (i.e. microsite) developed strategically for high relevance with a specific keyword or keyword theme. The relevance of which is determined by the search keywords associated with your paid search campaign such as:
  • What is the visitor's intent with using a particular keyword?
  • Is the keyword relevant to what you have to offer a visitor?
  • What does the visitor expect to find by clicking through your ad?
A landing page is created using these insights to focus a visitor's attention without unnecessary distractions. It must also be relevant - defined by Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary as having "significant and demonstrable bearing on facts or issues."  

Relevancy is a key factor because a keyword search shows intent of a person wanting to achieve their goal. By presenting a relevant paid search ad and continuing that relevancy to the landing page you lead the person towards goal achievement.

For example, if a Google search is performed on the keyword, "buy pink ipod nano" and your paid search ad appears, attracts the searcher's attention and generates a click-through, the searcher "now-turned" visitor should land on a web page presenting relevant copy and images. The landing page is laser-focused on a "pink ipod nano" with a clearly displayed call-to-action, details about the Nano and specific credibility assurances to gain the visitor's confidence in ordering.

Relevancy though is in the eye of the beholder. A paramount issue for you is determining what elements including product or service benefits, credibility-builders, security statements and conveniences are relevant to each visitor. Too often we regard all paid search traffic as an equal aggregate while forgetting that each click represents a unique person approaching your website with a personal set of buying, browsing and usability behaviors.

For example, if you had five unique visitors clicking through from the keyword, "buy pink ipod nano" they all may attribute different relevancy values to your landing page elements by priority, personal importance and where they are in their buying process or all three concurrently.  

One visitor is entirely price driven, another requires proof that your business is legitimate while others are still considering a purchase and want product details, return and guarantee information.  To speak to these individuals on a personally relevant level requires a landing page that addresses each of these elements concurrently and presented in a way that attracts the right individuals' attention at the right time.

What are the top five landing page elements to focus on?

There are a large number of variables that influence the success of a landing page. The process of selecting the right landing page elements to focus on is easier by narrowing your keyword and keyword themes per landing page.  But in most cases when we work with our clients to maximize landing page performance, we consider these five elements first:

1.    Overall design arrangement

The overall design of the landing page is essential. When developing a new landing page first start with a solid foundation of understanding your customer and defining your primary objective. Ask yourself what your customers expect to find and what goal do they want to achieve when they search on a particular keyword. A broad keyword like "real estate" will certainly create a longer list of expectations while an exact keyword like "real estate book" provides a shorter list.

Realize that the keywords you select and the searchers' intentions they represent affect the type of action you can expect to get from a visitor.

For example, if you bid on the keyword "real estate" and you want the visitor to buy a real estate book from your landing page you cannot expect to achieve a significant conversion rate. Even with using a negatively-qualifying paid search ad that aims to filter through unqualified click-throughs, you still will get unqualified click-throughs. Why? Because although someone may be interested in your book and attracted by your paid ad, they are in earlier stages of their buying process and driven to click-through by curiosity, for research or for considering purchase options - but not to buy now.

Next, sketch out the major landing page elements on a sheet of paper. Develop a blueprint of where elements like the headline, body text, image, form, credibility-logos and so on should go to fit the expectations and goals of your visitors. Identify which elements like your headline are testing variables for future A/B split-testing.  

Third fill in your sketch with the specific elements created by focusing on the expectations and goals of your visitors. Then add color to support eye flow to the high priority elements and select font type and size to fit your visitors. For support and creative ideas, read and view case studies from MarketnigSherpa.com. They provide excellent examples of high-performing landing pages as well as offer a powerful e-book on Landing Page development.

2. Headline

The headline on your landing page needs to create immediate relevancy for the visitor. Using the keyword in the headline works very well even when the keyword is the only word in the headline!

Your headline is an essential element on your landing page. Test is frequently using a basic A/B split-testing format where you run two different headlines against one another keeping all other landing page elements constant for a set period of time. A rule of thumb is to achieve at least 50 actions on one of the landing pages before determining a winner.

Try short versus long headlines, alter font size and color and individual words.  Just remember, write your headlines while concentrating on what your visitors expect to find and want to achieve when they reach your landing page. Your headline has to support and build relevance for it.   

3. Call-to-Action Button Text


Depending on your primary objective such as a form completion or a product sale, the call-to-action button text is important. We have experienced some surprising results when testing different button text copy. The best practice is to carry-through the headline and keyword intention directly into the button text.

For example, if the click-through occurred from the keyword "build a resume online" and the headline stated, "Build a Resume Online" then the initial form button text may state, "Start to build your resume online" or "Build resume Online." When considering your button text you have to also consider:
  1. What you are asking the visitor to perform?
  2. What step occurs immediately after the visitor performs this task?
  3. What assurance does the visitor need to complete this task?
Don't forget to think about the button color, size and shape required to support your text and draw attention to it.

4. Credibility Assurances by Call-to-Action Button

On the Internet people are naturally skeptical. Your visitors may be more or less skeptical than the average Internet population but the very nature of the virtual world causes some level of apprehension. And if a hyperlink or form button represents a door to an unknown page wouldn't you want to know what to expect after you open it?

The context in which you place your offer has to build credibility, comfort and confidence with your visitor right down to the moment when they choose (or not) to click the call-to-action button. Think about what may cause a visitor to stall, what concerns do they need to resolve prior to committing to the click-through? Address that right when the visitor thinks about it and support it further through the point of click-through.

5. Image

Depending on the action you want a visitor to take such as to complete a form or buy a product, an image may add (or subtract) value. For a product sale, an image (that speaks a thousand words) is essential. In some cases mutliple images depicting different angles of the product or the product in-use adds greater value than a single picture.

For service companies, an image can create strong associations and provide meaning with extra relevance in support of the expectations and goals of the visitors.

In any case, only use a picture if it builds relevancy. Using a picture as a design element with no visitor value simply takes up space and distracts visitor attention. Research in direct marketing proved that photographs especially of children draw mass attention. If you place a photo away from your primary offer, you may be jeopardizing your conversion potential.  

Images on a landing page can provide tremendous benefits depending on your visitor. They build credibility, draw associations, strengthen relevancy and motivate action but if the image is inappropriate or not relevant (as judged by each visitor) then it distracts and hurts the other potentially perfect landing page elements. Test different images from multiple perspectives using A./B split-testing. You may be surprised with the top performing one.

Through over three years of experience developing and testing landing pages, the one essential element to success is to intimately know your visitors' expectations and goals. The clich

Kevin Gold is Managing Partner of Enhanced Concepts helping businesses increase their online leads and sales through improving conversions and gaining greater visibility. Download "20 Surefire Ways to Increase Your Website

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