Landing Pages for PPC

High Performance PPC: How to Use Landing Pages for Higher Conversions & Lower Cost-Per-Click

Using landing pages for your PPC campaigns can result in higher conversion rates and a lower cost-per-click. The goal is to create a closely coupled relationship between the ad and the content of your landing page. This increases the message match for humans (reducing bounce rate) and Google (higher Quality Score and Ad Rank).

Infographic: How to use PPC landing pages for higher conversions and lower cost-per-click

Successful PPC campaigns are about more than simply choosing ad words that attract the attention of your target audience. Many marketers falter in the “what happens next” post-click phase, and a big reason for this is sending paid traffic to the wrong type of page.

Roughly 80% of paid search traffic is sent to one of the following page types:

  • The company homepage (most common)
  • A sign-up or registration page
  • A shopping cart page
  • A product detail page

If you fall into this category then your highest converting call to action is likely to be the back button on your browser – which means you are wasting money.

This stat also means that only about 20% of traffic is being sent to promotion specific landing pages, which is crazy. Most marketers know that landing pages improve conversion rates, but did you know that they can have a big impact on Google’s decision of your quality score (QS) – translating into a reduced cost-per-click (CPC)?

Simply put, you should send PPC traffic to landing pages whenever possible. Here’s the scoop on why:

Landing Pages Improve Your Quality Score

You want a high quality score because it reduces your cost per click (giving you more clicks per advertising dollar) and it improves your ad rank (making it more likely that your ad will be seen and clicked).

By way of comparison, here’s why a landing page is better for achieving a high quality score than the other types of page:

Landing Pages vs.
Homepage The landing page portion of Quality Score is largely determined by the relevancy of message match – how accurately the content on your landing page reflects the words and meaning of your ad.

With a landing page you can tailor your content to be specific to a single focused topic giving you a 1:1 content relevancy mapping. Conversely, homepages often have multiple messages based on different product areas or services and are likely to produce a higher mapping ratio – perhaps 1:4 (or higher) – diluting the potential for the landing page portion of your Quality Score to be successful.

Registration Page Sending traffic directly to a registration page from an ad is a terrible conversion strategy from a human perspective – too much of a hard sell with no supporting material. Witness an exception to the rule (Campaign Monitor have a kick ass registration page – emulate this: http://signup.createsend.com/signup.aspx) – however it’s still unlikely to help your QS – just your conversion rate.

Likewise, Google (or other PPC ad bots) are unlikely to be able to find enough original and semantically relevant content on a sign-up form to be happy with the landing page portion of your Quality Score.

Testing and tweaking your registration page is a very time consuming and complex thing to get done (usually for political and technical stability reasons). This is another good reason to avoid using it as the target page for your PPC campaigns because you want to have the freedom to experiment and optimize.

Instead, you should use a landing page to warm your prospects with product/service/brand benefits before passing them on to your registration page. You’ll be able to create a page that gets the Quality Score checkmark (by adding valuable content and messaging) and increase your conversions at the same time.

Shopping Cart Page Most shopping cart pages are dynamically generated using product id’s and as such will have poorly constructed URL’s. This is a factor considered by the ad engine when determining your quality score.

A cart page is also unlikely to contain more than a basic product title and description, making it hard for Google to figure out what it’s really about.

Similar to the registration page, it’s naive to assume that someone is ready to buy your product without first being exposed to your brand or real product information, so get your customers and Google excited with a landing page before sending them to the checkout.

Product Detail Page Google specifies that original content is an important factor when determining quality score. If you are selling products that aren’t unique or if you have hundreds of products, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to differentiate sufficiently to grab extra quality score points.

Like the cart page, the URL is also often faceless, using a product id rather than a descriptive name.

Having said that, if you have a lot of products, creating a separate landing page for each would be overkill. The time when you do want to use a landing page is when you are running a special promotion for your product, as you’ll find it simpler to produce a new page with promo based content, than to try and alter a template used by your whole product line.



As with any PPC target page, when constructing your landing page be sure to focus on the following to achieve a good quality score:

  • Use original content that focuses on a single topic only, matching the words, phrases and subject matter of your ad.
  • Break your content up into a hierarchical structure to allow emphasis to appear in the form of titles and sub-headers.
  • Use tightly matched phrases inside important markup code: partner your ad words with the <title> tag, and header tags (H1, H2 etc.).
  • Don’t try to trick the ad bots with keyword stuffed content. Aim for human readable content semantically related to your core message.

A good way to test this approach is to create a landing page and compare the quality score you get vs. the other page types – then iteratively optimize your landing page until the number is superior. You’ll find it much more cost effective (and less political) to massage a landing page compared to your homepage or site templates.

Landing Pages Increase Conversion Rates

Your landing page is the most likely funnel point to produce a conversion lift on your campaigns. Many of the reasons why landing pages work so well to improve conversions are similar to the quality score factors, but instead of appealing to the Google ad bots, your landing page is now responsible for persuading human visitors to become customers.

Here are some reasons why using landing pages to engage your paid search traffic will increase conversions:

Message Match

When a customer clicks on your PPC ad, they will typically spend 5 seconds on your page before deciding whether to stick around or not. By providing a very clear headline on your page that strongly matches your ad message you give people a sense of positive reinforcement – that they made a “good click”.

This allows you to survive the 5-second rule test and gain the opportunity to tell your story to your prospects.

Subject Focus

Strongly related to message match is subject focus. Your homepage probably communicates multiple messages, or shows multiple products.

If you count the links on your homepage you might count 20-75 interaction points – this is focus dilution.
A correctly designed landing page should have only one.

Consider the example of a ninja tossing a throwing star at you. If you’ve got some decent reflexes you might catch it before it strikes you. However, if he threw 4 stars simultaneously, you’d be unlikely to maintain focus on any of them, leaving you with a bunch of metal objects sticking in your chest.

Clearly that’s no way to treat a potential customer.

(Image source: http://www.commandomag.com)

Storytelling

Effective salespeople are good storytellers. Effective landing pages take an idea (the ad) and expand it into a clear and powerful motivational story. This is done through the implementation of persuasion design techniques. These include a hierarchy of content types or “chapters” including:

  • Unique selling proposition (USP)
  • A succinct and compelling overview
  • Rich media showing context of use (video or photography that shows the product or service in use)
  • A list of benefits and/or features
  • Testimonials and indicators of social proof
  • Directional cues to guide the user and direct interaction
  • A seductive call to action (CTA)

The goal is to lead visitors through this series of “chapters” to persuade them to become your customer.

Your homepage often has to do this in a way that it generic enough to talk to multiple personas or to support multiple products – and would be come too content heavy if it tried to accommodate the story or sales pitch for every campaign you are running.

Experimentation

Conversion isn’t about standards or best practices, it’s about experimentation and creativity. A landing page can use content in ways that breaks the structure or rules of your website (while still staying on brand). Maybe a page with 15 testimonials on it will convert really well, perhaps you just need a headline, a short list of features and a video? You can test many variations of message and layout by using standalone landing page without redesigning your website or seeking the consent of multiple departments.

In Conclusion

Landing pages simplify and improve the PPC conversion experience both for Google and your prospective customers. They do this by enabling more focused messaging which boosts your quality score and reduces your cost-per-click. At the same time they reduce the post ad-click bounce rate which improves conversions.

All of these factors combine to produce a higher return on your marketing spend.

You will see a better ROI by optimizing your landing page for improved quality score and conversions, than by simply increasing your PPC campaign budget to get more traffic.

Oli Gardner