Content after the click: All landing pages aren’t alike

Search marketing is generally broken down into three major categories: phrase, positioning and price. Phrase refers to the keywords or phrases for which your ad will show among the results. Positioning is where visitors will see your ad when it is displayed. Price is how much you are willing to spend each time a visitor clicks on an ad. But consider one more factor — page, where visitors land on your Web site once they click on your ad.

Companies spend a great deal of time determining the right keyword phrases for their campaigns. They monitor, add and prune keywords over time. At the end of the day, however, they are sending all of their search visitors to one landing page, or even worse, to their home page.

What is wrong with this approach? Search users often look for specific items such as “good running shoes” or “iPod Nano trans­fer cable.” These users want to be taken directly to the content they are looking for.

In a well-rounded search campaign, different keywords should be tailored when the search user is in the sales path. “Buy an iPod” is much differ­ent than “iPod information,” and the pages these visitors see first can mean the difference between turning a visitor into a conversion and that visitor leaving your site.

We recently did landing page testing for one of our search clients. Their method of con­version, we found, was to send a visitor to their Web site to fill out an e-mail form asking for more information. We also realized that the bulk of their visitors from search results were being sent to the home page.

Due to technical and legal limitations, we approached our rec­ommended changes very conservatively. First, we implemented simple changes to the home page to lessen the number of clicks from search query to conversion. These small changes ultimately yielded a 186% increase in their conversion rate.

A new, conversion-optimized landing page — designed specifi­cally for search — brought the conversion event to the front of the process, while still allowing visitors to see other areas of the site to gather more information. The new landing page increased conversion 350% over the optimized home page.

This quick testing process yielded a more than 550% increase in the total conversion rate. This allowed us to bid the bulk of our terms higher, which resulted not only in a lower cost conver­sion, but in more conversions overall.

I’m not suggesting spending less time on your keyword mainte­nance or bid management — but, rather, spending extra time on that forgotten fourth piece of the search pie: the landing page.

Brett Charney is director of strategic services at Merkle. Reach him at [email protected].

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