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PPC Landing Pages: The End of the Line -- Or the Beginning?

szetela-david
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This week we will -- finally! -- start our discussion of PPC landing pages. Amateur PPC advertisers ignore the importance of landing pages entirely. Sophisticated advertisers know that PPC landing page design and testing is at least as important as building and optimizing great ad groups with great ads.

Expert PPC advertisers realize that PPC landing pages have more impact on conversion rates and ROI than anything else they can do. And the few truly god-like advertisers don't stop at landing pages; they build, test and optimize the entire conversion path, from the landing page through the last page of the conversion process.

As usual, I'll try to start out with simple concepts. First, what's a PPC Landing Page? It's simply a page on your site that is customized to match the theme of a particular PPC ad group -- the keywords and ad message.

Which brings us to Important Point #1: The PPC Landing Page can, and often should, look very different from the other pages on your site.

This is often a difficult but crucial concept that's hard for many site owners to grasp. They're accustomed to thinking about their site as analogous to a bricks-and-mortar storefront: one entrance (the home page) through which all customers enter, linked to other pages where site visitors can (hopefully) easily find what they're looking for. Site owners often design their home page to satisfy the needs of casual browsers as well as visitors who are looking for specific items or information.

This design viewpoint makes sense when the source of site traffic is natural search or links from other sites, since it's difficult to know or infer the visitor's need/intent.

But with a properly-constructed PPC campaign, the advertiser knows with laser-beam precision, by virtue of the search term used and the ad message that elicited the click, the visitor's need and intent.

Let's pause for an alternative metaphor. Most sites are not like a storefront with a single entrance. Think of a circular building with multiple entrances. Signs around each entrance describe the products sold just inside the door. The customer who walks through the door sees only the products described by the outside signage. It's easy for customers to find what they're looking for, and they can conduct their transaction quickly and easily.

There's a real-world example of this: Sears stores. Most have multiple entrances, and often those entrances are labeled to indicate which department is just inside the door. The guy who enters the hardware department door doesn't care that Sears also sells baby clothing. He can spend his precious time in the one department that interests him, find what he needs, and finish his transaction quickly.

What if Sears had only one door? Customers would be frustrated by the necessity to wander around the store trying to find the right department. They would be assaulted by the sights and sounds of thousands of products that don't remotely interest them. Some would be distracted from their initial goal, run out of time and leave before buying anything.

You may be thinking, "Some people love to shop. They're actually attracted by the need/opportunity to browse through multiple departments. So the one-door metaphor might be perfect for them."

Absolutely true. But thanks to the miracle of modern merchandising, your web site can be like the Sears store with multiple entrances -- and satisfy the needs/desires of the casual shoppers as well as the focused ones.

Most PPC landing pages should be designed with the multiple-entrance metaphor in mind. PPC keywords represent the intent/desire of the shopper. PPC ads are analogous to the signs around each of the multiple entrances -- describing what's inside the entrance, and the benefits the visitor can enjoy. The PPC landing page is like the shoppers experience once they step inside the door.

Which leads us to Important Point #2: The first and most important objective of the landing page is to convince the visitor that they've come to the right place.

That's where we'll pick up next week, when I describe the importance of matching PPC ad copy to the first part of the landing page the visitor sees: the top left-hand corner. I'll use this Google search to illustrate my points; see if you can spot the good practices, and the surprisingly bad practices, of the advertisers on the search results page.

Let me know what you think by hopping over to the Profitable PPC forum. And if you'll be at SES Chicago next week, stop by one of the sessions where I'll be speaking and say hello!

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Chicago December 8-12 at the Chicago Hilton. The only major search marketing conference and expo in the Midwest will be packed with 60-plus sessions, multiple keynotes and Orion Strategy sessions, exhibitors, networking events, and more.


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