Gmail Ad Fail – How Poor Message Match Can Kill Your Conversion Rate

Don't make your customers cry by promising and not delivering.
Don't make your customers cry by promising and not delivering.

Message match is the ability for your destination or “landing” page to match the content and messaging of the upstream ad you arrive from. Good message match is the foundation of conversion optimization and helps to ensure a smooth experience for your customers.

Aaaaaaaand here’s an example of how to get it horribly wrong…

While checking my email the other day I spotted a sponsored ad at the top of my Gmail inbox.

The ad was for a Lenovo ThinkPad X301 laptop computer

You can see it below:


I’m a Mac guy these days but I like to check out ads to see if they’ll send me to a decent landing page experience. What I was expecting was a nicely designed, simple landing page with large graphics and specs for the Lenovo X301.

Here’s what I got:


That’s Really Bad Message Match

Not only do they show 5 laptops on the page, but the only one they don’t show is the one they were advertising. WHOOPS!!!

If you’re spending money on paid advertising, you may as well be throwing it directly out the window if you’re designing experiences that bad. The solution? Always use a landing page designed specifically for your advertisement. It may cost you a bit to develop the page initially, but for a retail company, the template will be the same for much of your product line, and the net result will be a big lift in conversions.

To Make Matters Worse

Not only was that a terrible landing page experience, but the page had a big banner at the top of it advertising something else. You can’t expect to have measurable campaigns if all you do is drive your customers in circles from one page or promo to the next. Keep it simple and keep it focused.

Driving it Home – A Bad Christmas Message Match Example

You may have seen this video as it’s done the rounds, but it exemplifies the concept of poor message match.

Mini spoiler alert – they give her a gift inside a box of Swiffer Wet Jet refills. You need to get about 0:30 seconds through for main idea.

In this example there is a happy ending, but if the father hadn’t suggested she open the box she would have written it off as a bad present and probably gone upstairs to cry.

Parents can be so mean. Remember to treat your customers to a better experience this Christmas.

Oli Gardner

About Oli Gardner
Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet. He’s obsessed with identifying and reversing bad marketing practices, and his disdain for marketers who send campaign traffic to their homepage is legendary, resulting in landing page rants that can peel paint off an unpainted wall. A prolific international keynote speaker, Oli is on a mission to rid the world of marketing mediocrity by using data-informed copywriting, design, interaction, and psychology to create a more delightful experience for marketers and customers alike. He was recently named the "The 2018 Marketer to Watch," in the under 46 category, by his mother.
» More blog posts by Oli Gardner


  1. Keith

    Good Call Oli. This is a huge waste of money. I personally think companies that size need a eMarketing QA department before launching.

    Developers, Designers, Marketing Managers, Product Managers, Webmasters, Agency staff, Ad networks etc etc, are all involved, but no real QA from an eBusiness perspective. Waste of money indeed.

  2. rick

    I see this all the time. Here are two recent message mis-matches that I’ve experienced.

    I’ve been seeing a TV commercial every night during prime time (an expensive media buy) selling a saas where small business owners can get a do it yourself website without having to hire web developers. When you went to the site, it was selling accounting software. No mention of the website software on the homepage. Bye Bye.

    Another example closer to home, I recently saw a promotion on a very popular enterprise level CMS homepage that they now had “landing pages.” Excited, I call them and the sales person didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. However, not to lose a sales prospect, the sales person was determined to find someone who could help me. After 30 mins and several confused discussions, nobody could confirm that this product even existed.

    Message mis-matches happen all the time.

  3. Deloras Brougher

    Wonderful, neat work! Happy I came across your post first to have digested this!

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