Landing Page Optimization for SEM: Design and Execute

Last week we looked at some of the reasons for pursuing landing page optimization, and some of the factors you need to think about regarding your site design. This week we’ll turn our attention to the design and execution of the campaign.

Search marketers need to understand landing page optimization because it impacts your results. Higher conversion means a bigger impact for everything you do with search. This means the availability of more dollars to invest back into search marketing.

As with last week’s column, we’ll reference Tim Ash’s excellent new book, “Landing Page Optimization.” It’s an excellent and comprehensive guide to landing page optimization, and this column will extract some of the key concepts Tim covers in the book.

What do you Test?

Once you understand more about your audience, your chances of success with landing page optimization will go up. Now let’s take a deeper look at how to decide what to test.

  1. Select the right targets. Which pages have the most visitors and/or generate the most revenue today? Tuning these will provide you with the greatest impact.
  2. Pick the right parts of the page to tune. For example, studies have shown the user begins their page scanning behavior at the top left and move to the center of a page. Information on the top right, or below the fold gets a lot less attention. It might as well not exist (this is only a slight exaggeration).
  3. Decide how many things to tweak at once. You can tweak a single page element for example, to get very granular data, but the impact is more likely to be low from such a test. Many advocate being radical, and testing out dramatic changes to get the best results.
  4. Decide whether or not to test many pages at once. Do you have a specific funnel process you want the visitor to travel through? You can test a set of changes throughout your funnel. However, if you’re doing landing page optimization for the first time, focus on a single page to keep things simpler.
  5. Consider the limitations of your Web site technology. This can also have an impact on what you can test. Sites rendered by a dynamic Web application can do more than static sites. However, even completely static sites can still do a lot.

Tips for Guiding Your Tests

Tim highlights a few key themes are often successful:

  • Less is More. Users who get presented with lots of information see less of it. Look for ways to simplify your page, and you may find you’ve produced something much better.
  • Personalize. Provide users with a more individualized experience. There are many ways to do this. For example, by tuning the content for search visitors based on the keywords they searched for, you can have a great impact. Even just echoing their search phrase back can be powerful.
  • Test the Offer. There are many elements to each offer. This includes the pricing, of course, but it also includes how the offer is presented. What’s the headline? The sales copy? The call to action? Is the offer visually appealing? There are lots of ways to improve results by tuning your offer.


In the final analysis, you need to execute your plan. There are many key elements to this as well. You need a tool that will help you measure results. Tim’s company, SiteTuners, offers tools for this purpose, as does Google with Google Website Optimizer.

Once you have a tool selected, and you have a plan, there are a few more things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Record your baseline site performance prior to starting the test. If you don’t know what you started with, it won’t help you decide whether your new version is better or not.
  2. Don’t mess with the test once it starts running. If you change variables midstream, your data becomes meaningless.
  3. Collect enough data. One conversion out of four site visitors is not enough data. Look at a statistically significant amount of data.
  4. Understand how your variables interact. If you’ve tweaked four things at once, you’re still looking at one test scenario (the cumulative impact of all four things). Even if this performs brilliantly, if you went back and tested just tweaking one of the four things, you may see a reduced performance. The interaction between the elements of test may not be what you expect.
  5. Don’t forget seasonality. Comparing a test you ran in January with one you ran in December may not be meaningful data because your users may be in a different frame of mind during those two months.
  6. Your test may fail. Not all landing page optimization tests offer gains in results. You may need to try several times before you first see positive results.


Landing page optimization can be highly rewarding, and can scale your business as effectively as implementing a campaign to increase your traffic in search engines. However, like most things in this world, it requires serious effort, and an investment to get those good results.

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