He who rules the landing page rules ROI

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It was Friday morning when I met a colleague at the New York restaurant Cafeteria to discuss online video over breakfast. The spot is not one of my normal business stops, it is more noted for being filled with celebrities and the beautiful people of Chelsea. Perhaps this is why the table of businessmen in front of me didn't quite seem to fit in. On the way to my table, I happened to overhear this snippet of their conversation:

"…landing page optimization, for example," explained the businessman to the table of, presumably, investment bankers or analysts.

Wait a second. Now, it is quite common to run into interactive advertising types these days, but usually the conversation revolves around equity discussions and far-flung ideas that belong locked up in 1999. It is a rare moment indeed that the folks at the table next to you are actually discussing current and relevant tactics, such as landing page optimization. I take this as a good sign, especially with banker-types present.

Despite the efficiency and effectiveness with which auction-based media brings the right customers to the table, what is being served on the landing page is usually determined by a completely different party, such as the interactive agency. And this, my friends, is usually where things fall apart.

All too frequently, those who rule the Web site are either ignorant of its impact on search's effectiveness, or actively engaged in inter-agency gridlock. After all, why should the interactive agency care whether the search engine marketing agency hits its number? This is sad but true, especially when the interactive agency has been overlooked for the search marketing spend.

One might think that an advertiser's many agencies would have come together when Google first incorporated landing page quality into its AdWords Quality Score a few years ago. Alas, the politics did not change. What has happened is that yet another vendor has entered into the fray, eager to seize this window of opportunity: the testing and optimization specialists. While their methods and technologies vary (a subject worthy of an entirely separate column), the promise remains the same: to help advertisers improve return on investment through testing.

This seems like a very easy sell. Who doesn't want to improve ROI? Then again, the big question is, to whom do these firms sell their services? To the SEM, as seen in last week's announcement that iProspect had partnered with SiteSpec? To the interactive agency, with Optimost's agency solution? Directly to the end client, as witnessed by Offermatica's many case studies? Or will it be a firm like DoubleClick, the employer of the gentleman sitting next to me at Cafeteria?

The answer, of course, is to he who rules the landing page. I regretfully have no prediction on exactly who this will be, though I am sure the bankers at the next table have a tip or two.

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