Nail the Landing
Landing pages are the Rodney Dangerfield of most Web sites — they get no respect.
Catalogers agonize over what words to use in a paid-search ad. They work the creative department to the point of rebellion to send out another e-mail. They give away prime, expensive space in their catalogs to promote their Web sites. But when it comes time to direct this precious Web traffic, most simply say, “Find a page on the site that will work.” To quote Rodney again, “It ought to be against the law!”
Smart catalogers have figured out that they can double profits by creating targeted landing pages for visitors from:
• paid-search ads;
• e-mails; and
• URLs printed in catalogs (the most overlooked source of landing page traffic!).
Sound too good to be true? The chart below shows what a 20 percent boost in landing page response rate means for your site.
Even this example understates the true effect of targeted landing pages. Since landing page traffic is driven by the URL printed in your catalog, increasing conversion on these pages and having an effective matchback make your mailings more profitable, allowing you to mail more deeply to prospects and your housefile.
Most catalogers know the cardinal rules:
1. don’t simply dump traffic onto the homepage;
2. make sure the landing page delivers on the promise that drove the shopper to the site with consistent products, benefits, offers and branding; and
3. include some urgency device, such as a deadline, to increase clickthroughs and conversion.
Web Platform Handcuffs
So why don’t more mailers give landing pages respect? In many cases, catalogers feel handcuffed by the limitations of their Web platforms, so they just find a page on their existing sites that comes closest to following the rules above.
While it’s true that some Web platforms allow more flexibility than others, really creative catalogers are applying techniques that can work on any site. Here are some examples:
Direct catalog-driven traffic to specific pages on your site. Almost all catalogers break the first rule listed above; they print a single URL in their catalogs that dumps everyone onto the homepage.
Why make someone browsing a specific page in your catalog go to your homepage and search for the item? Instead, print destination URLs on pages in your catalog, such as www.touchstonecatalog.com/rooster. Then, populate those pages with the appropriate catalog products.
If your platform lets you add new products and categories, you can easily execute this strategy. With about half of catalog sales occuring via the Web, it's a huge opportunity to increase conversion.
Use your on-site search to “create” appropriate pages. E-mail consultancy Blue Moon Works produced an e-mail offering products in different price ranges for its client, Positive Promotions. Blue Moon used Positive Promotions’ site search to create landing pages for each link in the e-mail that featured only products in the named price range. If you have more advanced search capabilities and use a company like SLI Systems, Mercado or Nextopia Software, you can make your site search into a landing page generator.
Split test different paid-search landing pages. Regardless of which e-commerce platform you’re using, you can split test a Google paid-search ad. In Google, simply create two ads with the same creative, but with links to different pages on your site.
If you’ve applied conversion tracking, Google will even report on the results for you. From your AdWords account, navigate through the campaign management tab to the ad group you’re testing. The ad variation tab will show you the results of your split test.
Split test different e-mail landing pages. Most catalogers test different e-mail creative, but they rarely test the same creative with different landing pages. Try split testing a product page vs. a category page on your site, or two different category pages, or two different product pages, or two different search-results pages.
If your e-commerce platform allows you greater control, you can get more creative with your tests. But even a basic platform such as Yahoo! Store can test different e-mail landing pages.
Natural Landing Pages
These techniques don't necessarily require new site design. Drive traffic to landing pages that are already converting well. Even if you’ve never focused on landing pages, you’re bound to have pages on your site that convert better than others. Design the e-mail, ads and destination URLs to feed those pages.
Enterprise class analytics packages, such as Omniture and Coremetrics, show you conversion by landing page. You can still get a sense of which pages are working for you, however, even if all you can afford is Google Analytics. In Google, the “top landing pages” report displays the number of entrants and bounce rate by page. Bounce rate refers to the number of entrants who looked only at that page before leaving your site. Your best landing pages will have a bounce rate of 20 percent or less.
Ad Hoc Web Design
You can also make a landing page out of e-mail creative. Most platforms allow you to add HTML directly to your site. You’ve already done more than half the work just by creating the e-mail. Now use that HTML to reinforce all the direct marketing elements from that e-mail. Make sure, though, that you add buttons to allow the shoppers to “Buy Now” or navigate quickly to a page where they can purchase. If you’re not sure if this will work for you, test it.
Personalize landing pages by showing products the shopper has looked at on a previous visit. If your site can remember the products a shopper viewed on a previous visit, make sure they’re prominently displayed on a landing page. You already know that these products are relevant for a particular shopper. Many sites have this feature but don’t use it on a landing page.
Don’t get too clever with techniques that increase clickthrough rates but hinder conversions. Keyword insertion is a great example. Imagine you have a site that sells pencils. To make your paid-search ad more relevant, you turn on keyword insertion so the phrase someone searched for is included in your ad. But consider this scenario: A shopper searches for “red pencil,” and as a result of keyword insertion, your ad is the only one on the page that includes the phrase “red pencil.” Your clickthrough rate goes through the roof. Your landing page, though, focuses just on pencils, not red pencils. So you increased clickthrough but killed conversion.
Finally, if your site has advanced capabilities or you’re thinking of adding features to your site, here are two more tricks to try:
1. Add product recommendations. Software companies such as richrelevance allow e-commerce sites to collect and make product recommendations, such as “people who searched for this term eventually bought these products.” You can increase conversions by incorporating several different recommendation strategies onto your landing pages.
2. Personalized landing pages. Use modeling to determine what other products a customer might be interested in buying from you next. You can drive traffic to a personalized landing page either from a URL in your catalog or from an e-mail.
Larry Kavanagh is founder and CEO of DMinSite, a provider of search, e-commerce and e-mail solutions for multichannel merchants. You can reach him at (859) 547-5501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.