If you’re a PPC strategist, your client’s campaigns live and die by the strength of the landing pages. If you drop the perfect paid audience on a page with no offer (or an unclear one), you’ll get a 0% conversion rate no matter how your ads perform.
The problem is that as AdWords account managers, we can be pretty limited in our ability to change landing pages. In this role, we typically lack the budget, resources, and expertise needed to affect what’s often the root cause of failing campaigns.
So how do you rescue your AdWords campaigns from bad landing pages without also becoming a landing page designer or a conversion rate optimization expert?
Below are three techniques you can use to reveal some insight, change performance yourself, or influence more relevant, better converting landing pages for AdWords.
1. Cut spend & uncover priority content with the ugly duckling search term method
Many AdWords accounts have rules that look something like this:
If the keyword spends more than $100 and doesn’t result in a sale, remove keyword.
Whether it’s automated or a manual check, the process is the same: “optimize” by getting rid of what doesn’t convert.
But this assumes that the landing page your ad points to is perfectly optimized and relevant to every keyword that might be important to your audience — a pretty tall order. But what if your target audience is searching for your offer with your seemingly “dud” keyword, and you’re driving them to an incorrect or incomplete landing page that doesn’t reflect the keyword or the search intent behind it?
The “Ugly Duckling” is a check you can do when your keyword isn’t hitting the performance metrics you want. It will help you figure out if your keyword is a swan, or a wet rat you need to purge from your aquatic friends.
As an example, let’s say your client is a fruit vendor, with an AdWords campaign driving coupon downloads. Here’s the ad group for concord grapes:
Concord Grape Ad Group
The keyword phrase ‘organic concord grapes’ has a lot of search volume, but it’s performing horribly at $695 per coupon download!
An AdWord’s “rule” pausing or deleting what doesn’t work would wipe out this keyword in no time. But, before assuming a wet rat, this is where you’d take look at the (hypothetical) landing page:
The hypothetical landing page for the fruit vendor’s Ad campaign.
The landing page never mentions your grapes are organic! No wonder your visitors aren’t converting. This is poor message match from your ad.
In this case, simply adding the high-volume, highly relevant term “organic” to your landing page is much smarter than negative matching the term your audience is using to find your product. There could be several keywords you’re bidding on that could use this swan/wet rat treatment.
Applying swan or wet rat to your AdWords landing pages
Instant wet rat: If your poor performing keyword doesn’t reflect your offer at all (ie: your grapes aren’t organic), then the keyword is a wet rat. Don’t bid on it, and consider negative matching to avoid further traffic.
Further investigation needed: Assuming your grapes are organic (or more broadly, the keyword is indeed relevant to your offer), there are several things you can try, such as:
- Altering your ad headline: If it’s not already in there, test adding your keyword to your ad’s headline. This should drive a better quality score and cost per click, and you can see whether it affects CTR for the keyword. Because making changes to your landing page could require more rigorous review than changing ad copy, this can be a good first step.
- Ad group break-out: If your keyword phrase is particularly long or is unrelated to the other keywords in your ad group, break it into a new ad group before including it in your headline.
- Data-based landing page recommendation: If your keyword performance improves with the ad-specific steps above, you should now have the data you need to get your client or designer/team to feature the keyword prominently on the landing page. In the case of our example, “organic” can be easily added to the headline on the landing page.
- In other cases, building out a separate, more specific landing page to address individual keywords could be more appropriate.
- Depending on relevancy and search volume, you can incorporate the theme of the keyword throughout the landing page and offer.
- Search term deep dive: Go a step further and examine the search terms, not just the keywords, following the same process. Looking at the actual search terms that do drive spend and traffic can reveal potential exclusions, match type tightening, and keywords to add.
Hypothetically, here’s what performance could look like for our keyword once we’ve optimized the ad and resulting landing page to better reflect the product:
This keyword we were about to pause is now driving 1400+ downloads with a cost per download of the coupon. That’s below our target. Swan after all!
2. Learn about your audience with “mini-quiz” ad copy
A strong AdWords landing page isn’t just about following best practices or using slick templates. It should encompass user research, sales data, persuasive messaging, and a compelling offer, but you’ve got a trick up your sleeve: your ad copy.
Think of your ad copy as a quiz where you get to ask your audience what unique selling point is most important to them. With each ad click, you’re collecting votes for the best messaging, which can fuel key messages on your landing page.
To do this right, you have to have distinct messages and value propositions in your copy. For example, it makes no sense to run a test of these ad descriptions:
- (Version A) Say goodbye to breakouts. #1 solution for clear skin. Try for free today!
- (Version B) Say Goodbye to Breakouts. #1 Solution for Clear Skin. Try for Free Today!
- (Version C) #1 solution for clear skin. Say goodbye to breakouts. Try for free today!
One of these ads will get a better click through rate than the others, but you’ve learned nothing.
A good ad copy quiz has distinct choices and results. You’ll want to challenge assumptions about your audience. Consider this other, better version of the quiz from the text ad example above:
- (Version A) Say goodbye to breakouts. #1 solution for clear skin. Try for free today!
- (Version B) Get clear skin in just 3 days. Get your 1st shipment free. Order now!
Whether the winner is “#1 solution” or “Results in 3 days,” we’ve learned something about the priorities of our audience, and the learnings can be applied to improve the landing page’s headline and copy throughout. Rinse & repeat.
Turning your ads into mini-quizzes
See what your audience truly values by letting them vote with their click. Here are some ideas for value propositions to get you started with your ad copy quiz:
Note: I normally don’t suggest including messaging in your ad that isn’t reflected on the landing page (i.e. if your landing page doesn’t mention price, neither should your ad). However, if you don’t control the landing page as the paid media manager, the CTR of an ad copy test can point you in the right direction for what to add to your page, so it’s fair game in this instance.
3. “Tip the scales” with exactly enough information
There’s a widely-spread idea that landing pages for AdWords should be stripped of any features, links, or functionality other than a form. This is just not true, and blindly following this advice could be killing your conversion rates.
Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner, frequently talks about the importance of landing page Attention Ratio:
Basically, your page should have one purpose, and you should avoid distractions.
This is great advice, especially for people who are tempted to drive AdWords traffic to a home page with no real CTA. But I find it has been misinterpreted and misapplied all over the internet by people who’ve twisted it into an incorrect “formula”, i.e.:
- He who has the fewest links and options on the landing page wins.
That’s not how it works. People need links, content, choice, and context to make a decision. Not all links are bad; I’ve doubled conversion rates just by diverting PPC traffic from dedicated LPs to the website itself.
The question is, how much information does a visitor need in order to take action?
Ultimately you want to “tip the scales” of the decision-making process for your visitor – getting rid of unnecessary distractions, but keeping those essential ingredients that will help them go from “no” to “yes” or even “absolutely.”
Here are 2 very common mistakes that are killing conversion rates on landing pages across the internet:
Mistake #1: Single-option landing pages
You’ve heard all about the paradox of choice and analysis paralysis. You know that when people have too many options, they’re more likely to choose none at all. But what happens when you have too few?
If you don’t see what you want, you’re also going to say “no.”
As an example (that you probably won’t see in the wild but it’s nice and easy to illustrate), someone’s Googled a pizza delivery service. But the landing page allows someone to order pepperoni and pepperoni only, and our vegetarian searcher leaves to order elsewhere.
At first glance, this might look like our “organic grapes” problem from earlier, but something different is at play.
Many AdWords ads today are driving to single-option landing pages, where the only choice is to take the offer exactly as-is. This can be fine when only one variation exists, or your visitors have a chance to narrow their choices later in the process.
But if your visitors’ search is more broad, don’t take away their options in an effort to simplify the page. You’ll miss out on potential sales, which is kind of the whole point of running a campaign.
Instead, driving to a category page, or one that gives your visitors (gasp) – choice! – will keep them engaged. You may also consider creating several different types of landing pages for each specific option you offer to get specific after someone’s narrowed down their options via a broader landing page.
Mistake #2: The not-enough-info landing page
Another case of “When good landing page principles go bad” is the stripped-down, bare-bones dedicated landing page that has no useful information.
A disturbing and growing trend is for AdWords landing pages to feature no navigation, links, details, or information. There’s not even a way to visit the company domain from the landing page. This is a problem, because as the saying goes: A confused mind says no.
What’s going through your site visitors’ minds when they get to a landing page and can’t find what they need?
A landing page without enough information can be just as bad (or worse) than a landing page with too much.
Whether your traffic is warm or cold, coming from an email campaign or paid ads, arriving at your home page or a dedicated landing page, your visitors need to trust that you can solve their problems before they’ll convert on your offer.
Overall, just because someone’s clicked on an AdWords ad doesn’t mean they have fewer questions or less of a need for product details than if they came in from another channel. Remember to cover all your details of your offer in a logical information hierarchy, and don’t be afraid to give your visitors options to explore important info via lightboxes, or links where appropriate.
Getting control over your landing pages for AdWords
As a PPC manager, you may not directly control the landing page, but you can remind your team to avoid conversion killers like:
- Key questions from the top keywords that aren’t answered on the landing page
- No clear reason to take action
- Landing pages where choice is limited unnecessarily, leaving more questions than answers
- Landing pages that don’t explain what will happen after a visitor takes action on the offer
- No way for visitors to have their questions answered
Give your visitors a reason to say yes, remove their reasons to say no, and watch your conversion rates improve.
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Get Better Landing Pages for AdWords with 3 Techniques to Try Today