It's time to kick off the New Year by looking at examples of good and bad combinations of PPC ads and their landing pages. If you're just "tuning in," in my last column I challenged readers to do a Google search on the term "buy nike mercurial aero vapor sneakers," and then try to figure out which ad and landing page combinations probably convert the best.
Let's run through the results. I picked the examples below from the first-page results; you may see different results, because ads can vary based on your geographic region, time of day, or other factors.
I'll start with the best. Here's the ad:
Not too bad. Part of the keyword appears in the headline, and Smarter.com was smart enough to realize that putting some extra info into the display URL might improve CTR. If you remember my previous columns about writing great ad copy, you'll be able to spot the deficiencies right away: no benefits, weak call to action, no punctuation.
Part of the problem is that this ad, like the others below, are "cookie-cutter" ads. They're often employed by comparison shopping engines (like Smarter.com) who, by necessity, grind out hundreds of thousands of ads, often dynamically using dynamic keyword insertion.
Advice to Smarter.com: correct the grammar error ("Types of onÃ¢ï¿Â½ÂÂ¦") and spring for a punctuation mark -- like an exclamation point -- at the end of the ad.
There's not much to criticize about their landing page, though:
The precious upper left corner real estate contains a minimal amount of irrelevant content, and features the search term root, "Mercurial Vapor" -- not just once, but twice. That leads immediately to photos and descriptions of various flavors of the product, with prominent action elements -- the "See It!" buttons -- to the right.
Minor criticism: the searcher signaled with the search term that they were at the end of the buying cycle -- so why distract them with opportunities to stray from the page? Test eliminating the search box and the other off-page navigation items like "Upload Your Video."
Let's move on to the second-best example. Here's the ad:
Though it's another cookie-cutter ad from shopping engine Shopzilla, it's a little snappier, and includes correct punctuation and capitalization, as well as benefits and a call to action.
Here's the landing page:
It's a safe bet that this one won't convert as well as the Smarter.com page. While Shopzilla has included the root of the search term at the top left corner of the page, it's not very prominent -- and the ad for HGTV is more prominent, risking that the potential sneaker-buyer might be lured away by the ad. The search box doesn't add much -- and didn't the searcher arrive on the page based on a similar search?
Then for some strange reason, the page "goes broad" -- encouraging the visitor to look at other brands of shoes and sneakers. Further down the page it gets even weirder with a group of paid ads, including a wildly irrelevant one for Vicks products. (Note to Vicks: remove the word "vapor" from your keyword list. Why? See "The Five Commandments of Content Advertising.")
After the ads, the visitor finally encounters photos and links that are relevant to the search. Why did Shopzilla position these so far down on the page? Maybe they know something I don't -- like, the pennies they get from the paid ads outweighs the revenue they're missing from shopping-intent visitors who get distracted or lured away. Maybe.
Finally, we come to the big loser. Surprise: it's Nike, the manufacturer of the object of the searcher's desire! Here's the ad:
Nike undoubtedly paid significant money to get their ad positioned at the top of the page. Too bad. There's so much fundamentally wrong with this ad that I won't waste space detailing the problems. Instead, let's look at the landing page:
This page is so wrong, so irrelevant to the search, that I'll just make a charitable conjecture: Nike doesn't want to sell shoes through their site. They want to avoid "channel conflict" -- they want to drive visitors to the dealer channel they've spent so much time and money cultivating.
That's it for this week. Next week I'll wrap up the discussion of landing page design and optimization. Got feedback? Bring it to the Profitable PPC forum.