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PPC Landing Pages: PPC Visitors Have ADD

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This week I'll pick up on the introductory discussion of PPC landing pages. If you haven't already read the first installment, go back and do so now. Also, a few caveat/plugs: the confines and scope of this column make it impossible to treat some complex topics thoroughly. Landing page design and testing is one of those topics.

For a truly in-depth, expert, A-Z description, I highly recommend the book Landing Page Optimization, written by my friend and fellow Search Engine Watch author Tim Ash. And for those of you faced with the task of creating and testing many different landing page versions, I encourage you to take a look at the landing page design tool/platform LiveBall from Ion Interactive.

Before diving in, I want to clarify a few things. First, the advice here will pertain to landing pages that are the destination of pay-per-click ads, and not necessarily to home pages and other site pages. Second, you don't need to worry about the SEO value (or potential to hinder SEO objectives); these pages are not intended to be browsed, and in fact it's probably a good idea to exclude them from spider examination by using "nofollow" mechanisms.

As usual, I'll start very simply. I'll refer to the very stark mockup below. I'll start with the most important concept in this article:

The first and most important objective of the landing page is to convince the visitor that they've come to the right place.

If this crucial first step doesn't happen -- immediately -- many (and possibly most) visitors will hit the back button and click on one of your competitor's ads.

Landing page designers should assume that most people visiting the site via PPC suffer from Attention Deficiency Disorder. They're rushing through their day with the usual thousands of distractions, trying to accomplish a task quickly: buy what your site is offering.

They do a Google search. They click on your ad. They start at the top left corner of the page and try to decide whether the page (and by extension, the site) matches their need/desire. If it does, they continue scanning the page, and possibly convert. If not, they're gone -- possibly forever.

How long does this process take? You'll read various estimates. My educated guess? Less than one second. But you can find out yourself: use your web analytics package to find out the bounce rate for your current landing page, and the duration of the visit for those who bounced off the page.

I'm betting you'll find that the bounce rate is alarmingly high -- like, over 50% -- and the time on site for the "bouncers" is no more than a second or two. The bad news is: that's bad. The good news: you're on your way to improvements.

So what's the best way to ensure visitors conclude they've come to the right place? Reinforce it using the communications medium they've already used: words.

You'll improve conversion rates significantly by doing just one thing: mirroring the language of the PPC ad in the area just below the landing page logo.

So if the search term was "red nike sneakers," and the ad text included "Free Shipping. Delivery by Christmas!", the headline below the logo should be "Buy Red Nike Sneakers. Free Shipping and Guaranteed Delivery by Christmas!"

By now it should have dawned on you that the best strategy may be to create a separate landing page for each ad group. Some companies can afford to do that, others can't. I'll show you some shortcuts in future columns.

For now, since I'm running out of space, I'll list additional landing page design guidelines, and explain them in detail in the next column.

  1. Keep the logo small. Take a look at the landing pages of prominent retailers - the size of the logo has shrunk steadily over the years. I personally believe the logo need be no larger than 200 or so pixels wide by 50 high.
  2. Most people, including ADD site visitors, don't read content formatted as paragraphs. Put your content - benefits, features - into short, bulleted items.
  3. Graphics can be very helpful -- product photos, pictures of happy people benefitting from your products/services -- but keep the graphics relatively small. They should reinforce your textual messages and help guide the visitor to a quick conversion. See #6 below.
  4. The button or link that allows the visitor to take the next step in the conversion process should be big, prominent and "above the fold" - visible on the screen without forcing the visitor to scroll to see it.
  5. Limit or exclude off-page navigation. The more specific the search term, the less likely that the visitor arrived on your page without conversion intent. For that reason, pages we design often contain only three links - the link going to the next step in the conversion process, plus one each for the Privacy Policy and About Us pages. The latter are included for those visitors who need to feel the site and company are trustworthy. But we want to keep the visitor on the landing page - so we usually open a new window to display these two, leaving the landing page visible and accessible behind.
  6. Adopt the attitude, "If it's not helping, it's hurting." Any text, graphic or filigree must help focus the attention of the visitor on completing the conversion.

My column enjoys a hiatus over the next two weeks, so the next installment will be published January 9. I'll continue describing PPC landing page design. Meanwhile, here's some homework: do a Google search on the term "buy nike mercurial aero vapor sneakers." Then try to figure out which ad and landing page combinations convert the best. Let me know what you think by hopping over to the Profitable PPC forum. And I wish you happy, healthy, restful holidays -- and a 2009 full of juicy conversions!


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