Effective search engine advertising goes far beyond simply bidding on keywords. With both ads and landing pages, you have scant seconds to capture the imagination and clicks of a searcher.
A special report from the Search Engine Strategies Conference, New York City.
Search engine advertising presents many challenges. First, advertisers need to purchase the most relevant keyword phrases. Second, ads must be written to compel consumers to click on the ads. Third, the ads and the keyword buys need to generate clicks from qualified buyers. Advertisers don't want their search engine advertising campaigns to generate unqualified traffic, costing them money and offering no hope of conversion. Additionally, ads must comply with the search engines' editorial standards -- a lot of work for what appears to be a simple ad campaign.
Assuming search engine ads do reach the right audience, the landing pages you display are an essential component to help you convert browsers into buyers. In this Search Engine Strategies session, a panel of experts discussed ways to get the right clicks from search engine ads and to design landing pages that convert.
Creating compelling search engine ads
"For sponsored search ads, you have 1.8 seconds and one glance to convince searchers to click on an ad," said Gordon Hotchkiss, President and CEO of Enquiro Search Solutions, Inc. "Once searchers arrive on your landing pages, you have 13.2 seconds to convince visitors that they are on the right site."
Hotchkiss divides searchers into researchers and buyers. Researchers can be qualified leads. After researchers gather enough data about the range of products and services that many sites offer, they might return to your site to make the final purchase. Buyers have a shorter timetable. They are more likely to make a purchase or inquiry at the time of the search.
Both researchers and buyers look for the same characteristics in a search engine ad, including:
- Query term in the title and description
- Product information (features, comparisons)
- Trusted brands and vendors
- Trusted URLs
Researchers and buyers are different in that researchers are looking for trusted sources of information, such as product reviews from trusted sources of information, and buyers are looking for value-added features, such as discounts and free shipping.
"B2B or B2C, you must know your audience," said Misty Locke, President of Range Online Media. "Do your research. Who are you speaking to? Who do you want to speak to? Know your client and take that across the board from keywords, creatives and the site. Deliver the message and content that works best for your audience."
Effective landing pages
With B2C (business-to-consumer) landing pages, product photos and prices are a must. End users need to view the product they might be purchasing and its features. Sizes, color options, availability, and shipping rates are components of landing pages that should be measured and tested. Seeing trusted brands in both the ad and the landing page can also lead to higher conversions.
With B2B (business-to-business) landing pages, advertisers often cannot specify a price for a service. For B2B landing pages, the panel made the following recommendations:
- Instead of a specified price, use a price range. End users who cannot meet the minimum price requirement are filtered out early in the sales process.
- Create an added value, such as a 10% discount, a free gift, or an additional service offer (purchase one service and get another service for half price).
However, researchers tend to value price comparisons more than query words. Buyers value a clean, professional layout and conversion paths more than researchers do.
Since buyers are more likely to make a purchase at the time of an ad view, a clear and concise clickstream carries considerable weight. "When deciding your perfect mix, always remember the 30% rule," said Locke. "With every click your customer has to take to find their have the potential to lose 30% of your sales."
Testing ads and landing pages
In order to measure the effectiveness of both ads and landing pages, all panelists gave the same advice: test test test. A/B testing is one of the best ways to measure conversion rates.
Panelists recommended comparing only one variable at a time. Do not A/B test both an ad and a landing page at the same time. Measure the effectiveness of query words in an ad, for example, with the same landing page. Once the ad copy has been finalized, then measure the effectiveness of different landing page design, copy, and features with the appropriate ads.
"This is not an overnight process or skill," Locke concluded. "At times the number of keywords, the varying CPC's, the creative and the variety of landing pages can be overwhelming and overthought."
Always know the variables you are testing before you begin an advertising campaign, have a clear idea of how you are going to measure the success (number of clicks, positioning, clickstream), and always have a control group for comparison. With careful testing and analysis, site owners can create and maintain successful search advertising campaigns.
Want to discuss this article? Join the The Art and Science of Search Ads & Landing Pages discussion in the Search Engine Watch forums.
Writing effective search engine ads
SearchDay, May 29, 2003
SEM Power Tips
ClickZ, January 8, 2003
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