PPC campaign managers have had a lot of new developments to keep them busy this year.
AdWords on YouTube! More robust structured snippets! The demise of righthand ads on Google!
And, of course, it’s important to stay on top of changes in the industry.
But if your campaigns aren’t ultimately making the kind of profit you, your company, or your clients need to see, tinkering with shiny new ad options isn’t likely to fix the situation.
Instead, it’s time to go back to basics.
It’s time to take a hard look at your PPC landing pages.
Now, maybe you know this already. But I’m here to tell you that even supposedly well-established PPC landing page “best practices” are far from universal. Time and time again, marketers cut corners and take the easy way out, and their clients often don’t realize what they’re missing.
Until they do, and then those marketers are in a tight spot. (Side note: If you’re a client of a PPC agency, you absolutely need to take a close look at whether all your PPC landing pages are actually worth what you’re spending to get people there. This post is for you, too.)
I’m not casting judgment—not really. This situation is not ideal, but it’s totally understandable. From your boss to your content team to the client insisting you include a CTA for every service he’s ever offered plus his 2,500-word CV, PPC marketers can be under a ton of pressure.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t actually have to be that hard to build landing pages that do justice to your sterling knowledge of AdWords. Clear away the most common mistakes, and you’ll already be doing way better than many of your competitors on the SERP.
It can be as simple as starting with a reliable PPC landing page template, and today I’m going to give you two designed just for AdWords. Here’s a preview:
These two templates currently average a 12%–16% conversion rate across our entire user base, with millions upon millions of views.
That’s not just pretty good. That’s top 10% good. Check out this conversion rate distribution from 2014 research by Wordstream:
Grab these pages, customize them for your business following the guidelines we’ll mention below, and put them up against any underperforming pages in your portfolio. Then see what happens. (If you’re already a Leadpages member, you can find, edit and publish these templates inside your account. Otherwise, you’ll want to edit the code as needed or pass the files along to your web developer.)
Now that you’ve got those, let’s see how else you can cement the last big piece of the PPC puzzle in place.
PPC landing pages: you’re doing it wrong if…
1. You’re taking an “eh, good enough” approach to relevancy.
I recently asked Leadpages’ own paid media manager, Brett Middleton, what he saw as the worst PPC mistakes you can make. His reply: “The failure to focus on relevancy can have devastating consequences for a PPC campaign.”
Now, of course, you know that if your landing page is totally irrelevant, your ad won’t get approved—or it’ll be hit with a below-average quality score. But you’re not totally in the clear just because your ad gets through.
After all, so did this ad (search query: “scrapbooking supplies”):
… for this egregiously irrelevant product page from a ceramics company:
In fact, it’s not clear why they’re going after this keyword at all. This is a total waste of money and customer goodwill, because the page totally fails to follow up on the promise the ad made—even if the company does, somewhere on its site, offer scrapbooking products. (Unsurprisingly, this ad gets last place on the results page.)
PPC campaign owners often struggle with relevancy because they are tasked with sending paid traffic to a client’s existing web page, Brett says.
That might not be your fault. But if you’re sending traffic to a page that wasn’t designed for your campaign, audit the page and make updates to ensure it is relevant to the keywords you are bidding on and your ad copy. If nothing else, make sure the headline is consistent with your ad copy so that the user immediately recognizes the site they’ve landed on as the answer to their search query.
“If you have to send traffic to an existing page, consider running a test: design a quick landing page to test against the existing page,” Brett suggests. “Most likely, the landing page will perform better than the existing page, and you can use what you’ve learned to alter the existing page or convince your stakeholders to direct the traffic to the landing page.”
2. You’re writing your ad and page copy in a vacuum.
While testing your landing pages will allow you to make data-driven decisions, you need to look at more than just your own work.
“One of the most important things you can do is learn how your competitors are advertising, so you can make yourself stand out,” Brett advises. “Don’t write your copy in a vacuum. One of the first steps I take in any campaign is to review what my competitors are doing.”
For example, if I was creating a PPC lead generation campaign for a yoga studio in Minneapolis, and I checked out the other ads in that space (keyword: “free yoga trial downtown minneapolis”), I might find that there is only one paid ad for yoga classes, which contains a typo and doesn’t actually mention a free trial (strike one)
I would see that this ad takes the visitor to the yoga studio’s website, which is slow to load (strike two). Once the page finally loads, the CTA offers me a free week of classes, but when I click to redeem, I’m taken to a pricing page and it is not clear how to get the free week.
Armed with this information, I could create a very competitive campaign by using an action-oriented landing page with a compelling and clear opt-in offer that extends all the way through to the checkout page.
Of course, I would want to write unique ad copy as well to get people to click through to my landing page.
Because many of your competitors will be using dynamic keyword insertion and bidding on the same keywords as you, you’ll probably notice that most of their ads say the same thing. And you can’t bid your way out of this race—not really. As Wordstream’s Larry Kim noted last year in a piece for Search Engine Land:
“In truth, ads in different positions convert at about the same rate. A higher ad position may bring you more clicks and even more conversions overall, sure. But a higher ad position won’t inherently improve your actual rate of conversion—and those clicks in the higher position are going to be more expensive.”
Instead, you need to start by writing ads that stand out and making sure the landing page does the same. In his own recent post for Search Engine Land, Brett recommends deliberately not using your exact keyword phrase in your ad copy if you know you’re in a crowded space.
3. You’re working for all the clicks (not just the right clicks)
It’s a truth that’s easy to lose sight of in the day-to-day work of ad optimization: traffic isn’t worth much if it doesn’t ultimately convert.
“Think about your audience and how to qualify searchers early,” Brett advises. “When conducting your keyword research, consider targeted terms to drive the right traffic to your content.”
And then write your ads accordingly—with the aim of getting only clicks that are likely to actually turn into conversions once they reach the landing page. In the same article, Brett suggests:
“A run-of-the-mill ad for ‘web development Minneapolis’ should be tested against ads that identify average price of a web build, project time, content management systems used, and so on … This is meant to do one thing: reduce the number of unqualified clicks coming in. CTR will drop, but so will cost per conversion, which is ultimately a much more important KPI.”
If a conversion for your landing page is anything short of a purchase, you’ll also need to think of your landing page in the same way. Don’t try to get everyone in the world to opt in for a piece of something-for-everyone content if the actual product isn’t for everyone. Take a narrower approach to keep dead weight from dragging down conversion rates at every step of the campaign—and smart clients (the kind you want to keep) will really love you.
4. Your landing page is moving too fast for your visitors.
It’s often said that PPC advertising is most effective at the top of the funnel—when searchers are in pure information-consumption mode—and at the very bottom, when they’ve got a credit card in hand and are ready to decide ASAP.
Businesses tend to be pretty good at capturing the second kind of traffic with PPC; bigger brands, at least, tend to have this down. But at the top of the funnel, even pros often flail.
If your landing pages are getting a ton of traffic but few conversions, consider that the problem might not really be your ad or your landing page. Or rather, it is your landing page, but you can’t optimize your way out of it. You need a whole different page with a whole different offer.
For example, here’s the first frame (minus the header bar) of a landing page that comes up from an ad displayed when I search “what do life coaches do.”
This doesn’t even begin to reflect the intent behind my search query. Instead of providing me the information I’m theoretically looking for, it immediately asks me to “connect” and confronts me with a request for my contact information.
That’s probably not exactly the PPC marketer’s fault; they’re probably taking a broad-match keyword approach here. But it is potentially a missed opportunity. Assuming I’m someone vaguely interested in this “life coaching” thing I’ve heard about, the company behind this page could:
- Start by giving me information on what life coaching is and how I might benefit
- Continue by asking me to opt in for a low-commitment resource that helps determine whether life coaching could be of interest to me
- Follow up with an email sequence inviting me to schedule a consultation call
- And meanwhile, serve me retargeting ads that I’ll recognize and respond to because this company has given me information I trust
The company doesn’t have to stop using this page for AdWords. It could continue to display it to visitors at the bottom of the funnel making more transactional and location-based searches (though I’d still probably want to find better use for the valuable real estate above the fold). By adding one page, everyone wins.
5. You’re not making it easy—extremely easy—for visitors to convert.
“One of the biggest problems I see is that people are sending traffic to a page that isn’t built for conversion,” Brett says. “If you don’t have clear CTAs and clear next steps, your audience isn’t going to know what to do.”
The job of your landing page should be to facilitate a swift decision for visitors—hopefully to convert, but it’s okay to screen bad prospects out, too.
Common conversion blockers on PPC landing pages include:
- Tons of distractions: Homepages typically make poor landing pages for this reason (unless you’re going for branded traffic). Usually, your keywords will point the way toward a specific goal your visitor has in mind, so make sure that goal is front and center with as little clutter as possible.
- Too much information: This is another common pitfall of sending PPC traffic to a homepage: it’s just too long and complex for the searcher’s purpose. But this problem can crop up on more targeted landing pages as well if you don’t keep a tight focus on the info visitors actually need to make a decision. If another stakeholder is insisting your landing page include a ton of content for what should be a simple opt-in page, make it easy to ignore by including the key points and a strong call to action at the top of the page. You want visitors to feel that the decision you’re asking them to make is easy.
- Too little information: Conversely, a good PPC landing page needs enough information to make it clear why the product or service it offers is different and better than the alternatives. Unless you’re in a miniscule niche, faithfully satisfying the search query is not enough on its own to get conversions.
- Vague calls to action: So many PPC landing pages stop with providing a phone number or an invitation to “contact us” or “connect.” The message: we’ll take your call if you really want us to, I guess. Instead, set up your call to action with clear wording about what you want visitors to do and what they’ll get out of it, and then provide a nice big button (or click-to-call number) that lets them do it.
If you start with one of Leadpages’ PPC landing page templates, you’ll automatically be nudged by the design to follow these principles. Download a two-pack to test for yourself here:
With many of your competitors worrying about anything other than creating better landing pages (and they are—just click through some ads for the proof), you have an opportunity to grasp onto a competitive edge by making your landing pages the best. Take it, and you’ll set yourself up for predictable long-term success on every PPC channel.
What do you wish more people understood about PPC landing pages? Tell us in the comments.