Optimize Your Site: Tips From Testing to Landing Page Conversion
At a presentation I gave at the recent Online Media, Marketing & Advertising Conference in New York, I offered several tips and insight on Web site testing strategies and landing page optimization. First, here are the top three common mistakes search marketers make when dealing with a mature search campaign:
1. You rest on your laurels and don’t think to improve. Marketers periodically need to reassess and re-evaluate the specific keywords they’re bidding on, as well as the creative (ad versions) that are shown to make sure they’re still performing up to snuff. Keep in mind that other competing advertisers may update and refresh their marketing efforts and their Web sites. So in many respects, if you’re just keeping things the same, you’re falling behind.
2. If you don’t perform any Web site testing, you aren’t optimizing and increasing conversion rates (and thus, ROI) while keeping your search engine marketing (SEM) spend the same. Since many keywords drive traffic to landing pages, the return of an SEM campaign can nearly always be improved by “doing better” with the traffic that’s already there rather than merely sending more traffic to the site. This is the essence of landing page optimization — take your SEM audience and do a better job messaging, persuading and convincing it to delve deeper into your site. Don’t pour more water into the funnel; make the bottom of the funnel wider.
3. You don’t customize or target your landing pages (or site) based on SEM terms. By not doing this, your site can appear less relevant to visitors who have come via a specific search engine query. As a result, a greater number of “bounces” occur. A bounce is a visitor who hits the landing page, stays for a few seconds, then hits the back button to return to the search engine page — effectively a totally wasted paid click.
Landing Page Optimization for Lead-generation Sites
Landing pages for lead-generation sites typically should focus on a single, specific goal: getting the user to register or submit a lead. These types of landing pages should have a minimum of unrelated navigation or content, and should present only relevant, reassuring messages that encourage visitors to immediately and efficiently take the next step in the registration process. There are many similarities to direct mail. Every piece of literature, every page, every image and every word in a direct mail piece serves a very specific purpose. There’s no waste. Everything is focused on getting the recipient to respond. Same goes with lead-generation landing pages.
For Transactional Sites
Transaction sites typically are more involved in nature than lead-generation sites. Often visitors simply are shopping for products/services and haven’t yet reached the stage in the buying cycle where they’re ready to buy. These sites should do their best to steer customers to content that’s relevant to their original search query.
One of the most common mistakes made by SEM marketers is to treat the regular homepage as if it were a landing page. This is tantamount to asking a store clerk where to find “ball-peen hammers” and having him point you out the store’s front door. So visitors’ search engine query for “Panasonic TVs,” for example, could land them on a category or brand page within an electronics retailer’s site. Once visitors are within the relevant part of the site, it’s time to “message” them with such targeted content as buyers’ guides, reviews, cross-sell items, promotions, etc. Unlike a transaction site, the goal of the homepage is to engage visitors, regardless of which stage they’re at in the buying cycle.
Visitors at an early stage (“research”) will almost certainly shop around to other sites. So presenting clear promotional messages, as well as third-party validation (think HACKER SAFE, Better Business Bureau, etc.), will greatly increase the probability visitors will come back again once they’re done shopping around.
Visitors at the later stages (almost ready to make a purchase) need clear, “no fuss” navigation for getting products into their carts and making their way through the site’s checkout functionality.
Within checkout, don’t let visitors down! Keep reassuring them with messaging about money-back and price-match guarantees, what to do if they have questions (i.e., call your toll-free number), any shipping or promotional offers, etc.
Eric Hansen is president of SiteSpect (www.sitespect.com), a Web site testing and optimization solution company.