Every business that engages in digital advertising wants to create engaging PPC landing pages that will connect deeply with their customers and drive conversion rate optimization (CRO). Of course, great landing pages are dependent on a myriad of different factors, including design choices, how and when you convey product value, relevance, and many more. All of these have to be in balance in order for your paid search ads to stand out as a pillar of your overall marketing strategy.
Place Value Upfront
You have probably lost count of the number of times you’ve clicked on a site, only to be immediately presented with information that has no relevance to what you searched for. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an ad or an organic result; the experience is frustrating either way, right?
People who construct these types of web pages will tell you, “You just have to keep reading to find what you’re looking for,” but what good is that to you? More importantly, why would you want to frustrate your potential buyers?
The first job of any good landing page should be to provide immediate and digestible value from the moment it loads on the user’s browser. The entire point of marketing is communicating value to prospects, and you’ll be sprinkling kernels of it throughout their time on your site, but it’s more important than ever at the very beginning.
Your landing page has to immediately establish why this user should follow through with their click instead of navigating away. This means affirming your credibility, providing immediate value, and beginning to lead them toward your CTA. Keep in mind that you don’t have to bombard them with everything upfront, but the value they get from their initial click has to be recognizable from the get-go.
On PPC landing pages, value can come in many forms. You can hit them with quick facts. You can use evocative imagery. You can use infographics that convey a lot of information in a small package. You can use a testimonial or customer review. How the value is structured depends on your product, brand, customer, and landing page, but what is non-negotiable is that it must be present from the outset.
Use the Pages to Curate Every Step of the Customer Journey
Of course, it’s not actually possible to distill the entirety of paid search marketing into a single sentence, but if you could it wouldn’t be too far off from this: CRO is all about guiding the lead through a compelling and value-added journey. Your search ads, landing pages, and CTAs must illuminate the path for your audience, otherwise they are likely to stray off it, try and build their own path, or travel down it in a way that wasn’t intended.
We all like to think of ourselves as mavericks from time to time, but in reality people crave and appreciate guidance. This is not just true for consumer marketing; most of our relationships and interactions involve us being led through a narrative. What marketers can do is take advantage of this fact by structuring landing pages around familiar and recognizable touchpoints.
This is why you fulfill the promise of value at the beginning, because buyers are attuned to recognize when someone is giving them something useful and continue the relationship. It’s why you contextualize their pain point in the content, because people recognize and respond to that familiar yearning of wanting something more. And finally, it’s why you introduce that CTA at exactly the right time, as a way of saying, “Hey, now it’s your turn to make a move and continue this partnership.”
No matter how interesting and innovative your product is, people won’t just buy it for its own sake. You have to explain to them why they should listen to you, why it makes sense for them to buy it, and then exactly how they can buy it. That’s what guiding the customer through a buying journey is all about, and it’s what every successful landing page has to accomplish.
Specificity Always Wins Out Over Generality
Generic marketing has its time and place: think about highly-subjective video ads that succeed wildly at creating a certain mood, but don’t do very much to speak to particular buying situations. However, there’s really no room for generality when it comes to PPC landing pages.
For landing pages, specificity is always preferred, whether you’re talking about product descriptions, your CTA, links, or anything else on the page. When you get your targeting correct, then the specific messaging you employ is highly-relevant to the users it reaches in a way that more generic material never can be.
The reason is because paid search visitors don’t arrive on a landing page just for the fun of it, except in rare occurrences. They navigate to your page because they have a specific goal or need in mind. Since generality isn’t driving their actions at this stage of their journey, generalized responses from a brand won’t be able to engage them in any meaningful way.
Yes, this means you will have to create different landing pages for various campaigns and categories of buyers. Utilize headlines that let the user know immediately that they’ve arrived at a page that speaks directly to what they were searching for. If hyper locality is a part of your marketing strategy, then put specific geographic information at the top so that it hits the reader’s triggers.
This landing page from IMPACT provides us with a succinct and pitch-perfect example of specificity in action. The headline speaks directly to professionals who want to increase the ROI of their blog, and guides them into a solution for doing so.
Monitor Your PPC Landing Pages for Continued Relevance and Accuracy
URLs may live forever as long as the domain remains hosted, but that doesn’t mean that the information contained on them is always up to par. Numerous parts of your landing pages can change over time: Information becomes obsolete, new statistics are published, and links and images can become broken. If you direct a user to a landing page that displays any of these, you are putting up a serious red flag of unprofessionalism.
If you’re utilizing a landing page for a long-term marketing campaign, then checking in on the coding and the content at regular intervals is crucial to maintaining its effectiveness. Test links, make sure images load and are formatted properly, and verify the accuracy of any claims you have made. It’s the only way to ensure that every lead is presented with the optimal experience when they click on your ad.
Landing pages created for shorter-term campaigns also need to be monitored carefully. Once it has ended, you need to diligently remove any links to the customized landing page from AdWords as well as your internal site navigation. Few things will mar the customer journey more quickly than clicking on a broken link, or being redirected to a landing page containing an offer that is no longer valid.
Don’t Forget About the Mobile Users
Almost every company now uses a site platform that features responsive web design, so there’s no much more to say about mobile, right? Not so fast. Employing responsive web design is an excellent start, but there is more to the mobile experience than simply formatting your landing pages to be readable on a mobile screen.
To understand why it’s so important to tailor the landing page for mobile users, just consider that mobile devices now account for approximately 53% of all paid-search clicks. These users now likely represent the majority of traffic on your PPC landing pages, no matter what industry you are in, and they deserve the same curated journey on your site that desktop users do.
The ubiquity of mobile screens has changed the way our brains respond to the browsing experience. People are now accustomed to content that unfolds vertically, and they expect high-quality images that pop on a mobile screen and fill up most of its space. They don’t want to have to pinch and zoom in order to access the value that was promised by the search ad. According to research from Adobe, companies with landing pages optimized for mobile triple their chances of increasing their mobile conversion rate to a minimum of 5%.
Check out this fantastic mobile landing page from Squarespace, a company you would expect to be on the leading edge of mobile optimization. Beautiful, well-formatted images, a relevant headline, and a clear CTA jump out at you as soon as your eye lands on the page, and they do a great job of layering buyer-specific value vertically.
Employ Multi-step Sign-up Forms
Conventional wisdom says shorter sign-up forms are better at converting, because you want to get them in and get them out as quickly as possible. It makes sense when you think about it abstractly, because short forms are easy to fill out, and you want to make signing up as easy as possible. However, it doesn’t always play out that way in reality.
Multi-step forms have actually been found to convert more effectively than short forms, by up to 300%. There’s actually some very simple psychology at play that contributes to this dynamic. The first few questions each appear less daunting to answer one-by-one compared to filling out the entirety of a form in order to get what you need. By the time the respondent gets to the final questions, they will already be invested in the outcome, and you can move on to questions that have more substance behind them.
Keep in mind, however, that you can definitely go too far with multi-step forms. Try to stick to 7 questions or fewer; when you go higher than that buyers start to feel like they are the target of an inquisition, and that your experience isn’t living up to its promised value.
End With a Main CTA, But Use a Secondary CTA When Necessary
It’s easy to see why marketers get hung up on CTAs: they’re supposed to be simple but persuasive, direct but not too in-your-face, and you get the sense that they’re often under- or over-thought. When crafting a CTA that reliably converts for your landing page, it’s best to consider that the other parts of the page already did the heavy lifting in terms of conveying the depth of your value. The CTA is just there to guide your buyer to the finish line.
It is true that you should direct your user’s attention to one main CTA that jumps out at them when they’re ready to convert. Giving them multiple options can lead to confusion, which is exactly what you don’t want when they’ve already made the decision to purchase. Remember, they’ve chosen to follow the path; your landing page is simply lighting the way for them at this point.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t offer alternative CTA for those who aren’t ready to convert. Including a secondary CTA can help salvage lost conversions and jumpstart your personalized email marketing strategy. Just make sure it’s crafted with a specific goal in mind, whether it is to collect email subscriptions, promote a different product, etc. A secondary CTA may exist as a last resort, but it still needs to be focused and direct in order to be effective.