3 ways to maximize PPC and Landing Page Optimization

7 02 2008

New URL testingblog.widemile.com

Quality PPC and LPO campaigns are key to great conversion rates. If either of them are optimized, you might get good results, but with both of them optimized, your gains are exponential. There are a few pitfalls in optimizing them both though, even with good intentions you may end up confusing your results rather than getting results.

PPC and Landing Page Optimization

Here are 3 methods to effectively optimize your PPC and landing pages:

  1. Do one at a time: Test out your new PPC strategy, but wait until your landing page testing is done. Changing your PPC means you’re changing the audience, both in demographics and expectations. This will impact your landing page testing. Once you find a winning PPC campaign, test the same messaging on your landing page. This is the easiest way to optimize both, but the next two are better ways to go.
  2. Do them simultaneously: If you are testing 2 PPC strategies, create 2 separate landing page tests to match the respective campaigns and drive traffic solely to the matching test. This avoids biasing the PPC that better matches your landing page.
  3. Segment all the way through: For segments you know you’re going to have, make them go to different landing pages. Test your pages and separately track how each segment performs. Sometimes all your segments respond best to the same landing page, but often times your segments want something different and it’ll show in your testing results. Also, if you’re doing #2 and realize that the ROI is good enough for both campaigns, break it out and optimize them separately.

These are basic, but very effective methods to maximize testing both your PPC and landing pages. If you want to get actual and sustainable results, you have to control as many variables as possible. Only when you can trust your data, will it perform how you expect. Follow any of these methods and you’ll be on your way to higher conversions.


Get Certified in Landing Page Optimization

30 01 2008

After 4 months, I finally received certification via the *breath in* Marketing Experiments Certification Course on Landing Page Optimization – Subscription Path Track.

Marketing Experiments Logo

If you already follow Marketing Experiments, much of the material they put out for free is discussed in the class (although in greater depth.) Flint McClaughlin, who runs Marketing Experiments, knows testing and optimization very well, but the class could be stronger. Taking the class, training at Widemile and working with clients simultaneously has taught me a lot, very quickly, so as the class went on, I wasn’t learning as much. Those of you who don’t have the benefit of being surrounded by testing pros, probably will get a lot more out of it.

In addition, sometimes the number of conversions for their case studies are quite low, which leads me to question some of the testing numbers. I’m sure they got lifts, but their numbers are a little outrageous at times and, as my boss Frans brings up, seem to not account for seasonality.

Despite all that, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to get into or needs to learn how to make better landing pages. They offer many other certification classes and while I can’t really say how good the other classes are, I have a strong feeling that they are worthwhile too.

Regardless if you do or don’t want to take the class, you should take the time to learn their conversion index formula. It’s the overarching idea of the class and really helps you think in a systematic way about what should be improved on your pages and funnels. The conversion index formula is:

Marketing Experiments Conversion Index

C is the probability of conversion, so this formula deals with variables that cause visitors to convert or not convert. Here’s the quick rundown of each letter:

  • m – motivation of the visitor
  • v – your value proposition
  • i – incentive to convert
  • f – friction of the process
  • a – anxiety about converting

I don’t want to go into too much depth, but I will mention that my favorites are incentive and friction. They are together in the equation because they counteract each other. You use incentives to overcome the friction of the page. So offering your visitors a white paper helps them deal with giving up their name and e-mail address to you. Visitors know they are going to get a call or e-mail when they give you info, but you have to give them reasons to give it to you.

An example of this that most of you have probably experienced as an internet user is when you find a great deal on a badly designed website. Even if it’s tough to get through the checkout process (friction), you’re likely to finish it since it is a great deal (incentive).

One of things I’ve learned is that making website changes is rarely a streamlined and easy process. The best situation would obviously be to have good incentives and low friction, but you can’t always improve everything because of office politics, technical reasons, lack of resources or numerous other things. So by using this formula and keeping these things in mind, you have multiple ways to attack problems either offensively (increase incentives, value proposition, focus on user motivation) or defensively (decrease friction and anxiety).

Why always optimize landing pages?

19 12 2007

Sometimes people ask me why landing pages are such popular targets for optimization and testing. Why not optimize a home page? A product page?

Actually, we can optimize those kinds of pages, but almost all businesses come to us with a landing page that needs help. Beyond the demand for landing page testing though, is the fact that landing pages inherently are fit for testing. Let me explain.

Widemile LPO Landing Page
One of Widemile’s landing pages

The strength of multivariate and split testing is in pulling out the best page possible for what you want to do. With a homepage you have multiple things you want to do (e.g. show your products, company history, customer service, get people to spend X minutes browsing) and with a product page you are typically working with a CMS template for your whole site. Those factors complicate things a bit since you have to figure out what counts as improvement for the homepage and for the product page, you have to work with a CMS system and make changes that improve the majority of products pages using that template.

These things are not impossible to do or even difficult in many situations, but a landing page is usually totally independent of everything and has only one goal.

In a technical sense, a landing page is more simple to deal with. In a measurement sense you only need to improve one metric, the conversion. With a landing page, we don’t have to make copy and creative that works okay for all situations, we simply make copy and creative that is optimal for one situation.

This makes testing really fun and easy, since you can test and find out who your audience really is and what causes them to convert.

Now that I’ve answered this question, in the future I’ll move onto a more interesting post: Why you should optimize everything else too.

5 rules for quality landing page design

17 12 2007

New URL testingblog.widemile.com

Landing pages are effective. When you want to accomplish one thing, there are few scenarios that can trump a quality landing page. The fact that they are the easiest page to test makes them even stronger. However, before you start testing, there are some best practices you can follow.

Here are five rules to keep in mind:

  1. Keep it focused: Force your page to have only one goal. If you are required to have two, then choose one as a priority and emphasize that one. Remove excess baggage like advertisements and navigation bars so that visitors have only two choices: convert or leave.

    Keep it focused bad example
    2 choices should have 2 ads and 2 pages

  2. Give a good second impression: People don’t see the landing page first, they see your text or banner ad, e-mail or even search result. Build relevancy between them. Use the same messaging from the first point of contact to your landing page. I try to use the same words or exact title from advertisement to landing page. Keep creative consistent too. One thing that is often overlooked are offers; if you put an offer on your page, put it on your ad and vice versa.

    Good second impression example
    Matching titles tell visitors they’re at the right place

  3. Target your biggest (middle) audience: There’s 3 types of visitors. Ones that’ll convert no matter what, ones that might convert and ones that are just looking. You only need to grab that middle audience. A landing page is not meant to please everyone, it is meant to drive conversions, meaning pleasing only those that will convert! For example, putting less information on a page will drive away people only looking to learn more, but help push along those that are looking to buy.

    Target the middle diagram
    Stop catering to window shoppers and get those looking to buy

  4. Stop talking about yourself: Customers come to your page to read about the product, not your entire company history. Talk about yourself to the extent that it will calm visitor’s fears about your legitimacy and quality, or else you’ll clutter the page and intimidate the visitor with blobs of text. Third party validation logos (BBB, Hacker Safe) and quotes from happy customers are often enough.

    Logos and quote example
    Logos and quotes talk faster than your own text

  5. Use a product shot: So a cheetah might be a great symbolic way to show how fast the computers you’re selling are, but really you should be showing your computer. Customers come in and will only spend a few seconds to see if they’re in the right place before hitting back and so you need to communicate what you’re selling fast. Why distract them with symbolic images, when your product is what you want them to buy? If you’re service oriented, then people probably are a good idea, but make sure they directly represent what you’re doing.

    Product shot
    Don’t have a tangible product? You can still have a product shot.

I could go on and on about landing pages (and I will!), but these are some good tips to get started. Expect more posts like this in the future, but leave a comment if you have anything to say.

Oh I have one caveat to all this, best practices work most of the time. Make your page better, but test it and prove that it performs.

5 tips to maximize your holiday campaign

13 12 2007

Gifts for the holidays

Ready for the holiday season? My boss, Frans Keylard (Director of Optimization), wrote up a 3 pager on “5 short tips to maximize your holiday campaign” (download PDF). I summarized it in my own words below, but check the PDF for more detail on how to get your conversions up during the holidays or any season!

Monthly sales increase as much as 20% for many online retailers in December and so having a good site now is more important than any other time. Optimization can drive up your sales beyond the seasonal increase in the short term and, in the long term, helps to add even more lifetime customers to your business. With that in mind, here’s 5 short tips to ramp up your site.

  1. Seasons Matter: Change your site to match the season, we call it “seasonal-tuning.” Don’t let your site look stale; you don’t want Halloween colors and images for Christmas time. Matching what your customers are actively seeking will really drive your campaigns to success. This may not always work though, so make sure to test what has worked previously against new seasonal images. Lastly, even seasonal images need testing, so try different messaging in each, e.g. product shots, giving the product to another, and people using the product.
  2. Know your existing customers: Reach out to existing customers, they are the most qualified audience and you should know them better than anyone else. Create offers that have a lot of perceived value to them. Also, use offers for people who don’t follow through the whole purchase process and try to pull them back in. They are interested but just need a reason to bite. Remember to know both what customers buy and why too. If you’re best selling chairs are shown in an office setting, when your customers are really home business users, then you might lose conversions. Use a home office image instead and get more relevancy to your items.
  3. Find a new audience: Seasonality doesn’t just go for your web pages, apply them to your PPC text and banners ads and you’ll get new visitors quickly. Think holidays, turkeys, gift-giving, family, anything that resonates with your audience and your products. Include some seasonal offers for good measure too. You can do SEO around these words too, but that takes future planning. A good way to setup seasonal SEO for next year is by looking at what PPC and SEO worked this year, so make sure you don’t lose that valuable information.
  4. Offers over branding: Don’t get too caught up in branding, just sell the product and offer. People are under pressure to buy nowand if your focus isn’t on helping them to do that, they’ll find someone else. You can build your brand later and have a reason to if they bought from you!
  5. Build seasonal landing pages and optimize them with multivariate testing: Building a seasonal landing page is easy to do and optimizing that page is a must during seasonal periods. We optimized an online recipe search over the summer and found the best summer imagery, but once winter came around we changed the type of food and got a 30% sustained lift over the best performing summer image.

Stores change their decorations every season, so make sure to do that with your online store front. Give people a reason to stay at your site, even if you think it is small, it could have a huge impact. Finally, never forget to test and tune your changes every season, every year. Good luck!

MarketingSherpa Landing Page Guidebook

7 12 2007

I read the 2005 edition of the Landing Page Guidebook already and it really helped me learn the fundamentals of landing page optimization (LPO). Finally MarketingSherpa released a new edition for 2008 and it is a hefty upgrade. I’ve ripped this straight from the SherpaStore just so you can see how much work they did:

Comparison Chart: Landing Page Handbook 1st vs 2nd Edition
  1st Ed New 2nd Ed
Useful Stats & Data Charts 16 54
Sample Landing Pages 59 114
Pages 190 273
Design and Copy Tactics Jun 2005 New Nov 2007

I’ve just started reading it, so I’ll have to post my thoughts on it later, but I wanted to link to a recent webinar they did based on this new information. The webinar was “Top 5 Tests to Raise Landing Page Conversions”. Here are the slides in PDF and the audio in mp3. If you don’t want to buy the new handbook or want to get a few great tips quickly, this is a great way to do it.