You already know how critical it is to create great PPC landing pages. All it takes is one split second decision from a visitor to determine if she wants to stay or bounce away.
But taking the time to understand landing page best practices before launching paid search campaigns can be the difference between mediocre results and great success.
And with Google’s page experience update set to go live later this year, providing a remarkable eCommerce landing page experience has never been more important.
That’s why we’ve compiled together a list of five things to consider to help you produce PPC landing pages that will achieve your goals from the outset. Let’s get started.
1. Match your messaging
When it comes to creating PPC landing pages, one of the first things to consider is whether or not your messaging is aligned with your paid ad. After all, when you land on a page that in no way matches the ad you clicked on, how long do you stay?
If you’re like most us, then you’ll be hitting the ‘back’ button before you even know it.
The fix? Message matching. In other words, getting into the practice of ensuring the keywords within a person’s search appear at relevant moments on your landing pages.
For PPC marketers, that means aligning your ad copy and the copy above the fold on your paid landing page. You need to make it as easy as possible for a potential shopper to know that she is in the right place, otherwise she’s much more likely to bounce.
Let’s say a woman is looking to research products to help with her skin. So, she types in the phrase ‘skin care for rosacea’ and is met with the paid result below:
Which then leads to the following:
Can you see the words ‘rosacea’ or ‘skin care’ anywhere across this page? Nor us.
But they’re in the title of the paid ad, which is why she clicked it.
And with no evidence that the page meets her needs, strengthened further by irrelevant images of beauty products, the visitor will most likely bounce and restart her search.
Message matching may seem like a simple idea on the surface, but the reality is that many brands aren’t giving it much consideration. In fact, as in the example above, many simply link to the homepage, regardless of the keywords they bid on.
All this leads to is wasted ad spend.
So, what’s the best way to match the message?
A dedicated landing page for the specific campaign you are looking to run.
Just as in the example above, the problem with directing ads to your website’s homepage is that it doesn’t address the visitor’s original search query whatsoever.
And that’s because your homepage has a much more general purpose, which is to communicate your unique selling proposition for your brand.
In comparison, your PPC landing pages need to address the unique campaign proposition that they belong to. As each of these campaigns are likely to have different objectives, the headline copy will need to be unique to reflect this goal effectively.
And in doing so, you’ll more than likely find that you naturally use the necessary keywords within your copy.
Another good habit to get into is to make sure the language and tone of your paid advert matches the copy found on the landing page. Consistency is key.
2. Be as contextually relevant as possible
Every person who searches for something online has an intention behind their query.
So, the more contextual relevance you can bring into your PPC landing pages to match that intent and help them meet their goal, the better.
But how exactly do you achieve that?
To start with, there are four main types of search queries worth knowing:
Informational search queries suggest that the searcher is looking for information. It may be a simple ‘yes or no’ question or something that requires a more detailed answer.
Navigational search queries occur when a searcher is looking for a specific website or page. In other words, she knows where she wants to go already.
Transactional search queries reflect the searcher’s intent to buy a product. For instance, ‘buy carhartt beanie hat’ or ‘macbook pro cheap’ signal prime buying mode.
Commercial investigation search queries suggest the searcher is looking to make a purchase soon, shown in examples such as ‘best protein powder’ or ‘patagonia review.’
By understanding the intent behind the original search query, you can design your PPC landing pages to be much more effective in achieving your goals from the outset.
However, it’s worth keeping in mind that the costs and resources related to running
PPC campaigns across all types of search intent can quickly add up while management of it all can be a nightmare; so you need to be careful with the keywords you target.
The answer? Start out by focusing on transactional and commercial intent phrases.
These may be lower in monthly search volume than broader queries, but the goal of your PPC landing pages is to sell products – not just gain a high level of traffic. The more focus you can bring to your page and ad, the better the outcome is likely to be.
While high volume keywords with less commercial intent enable you to stay front of mind, they aren’t likely to win you sales any time soon. Therefore, you may want to set a different type of goal for your landing page, such as driving newsletter subscriptions.
But the bigger your brand? The more important these phrases are likely to be.
And the more relevant you can be, the higher likelihood your PPC ads will be shown.
In fact, the way Google’s PPC platform – Google Adwords – has been designed is to try and ensure maximum ROI to all those involved: the platform, the public, and your brand.
Google achieves this by rewarding the most relevant and highly targeted PPC campaigns by charging them less for ad clicks. So the more focused and useful your ads and associated landing pages are, then the better they are likely to perform.
How do you achieve landing page relevance beyond peppering in keywords?
By delivering meaningful, contextually relevant content experiences that help the visitor reach a buying decision.
And by breaking typical ‘best practices’ that have been followed to the letter since ‘08.
You’ve most likely already come across the notion that landing pages need to be overly simplistic, emphasize written content to improve quality scores, and include social proof.
But today? Following a cookie-cutter formula will only get you so far.
According to Scott Brinker, VP of HubSpot, this “generational shift” started more than five years ago – but many eCommerce brands have yet to latch on.
“This metamorphosis is the result of conversion optimization maturing as a marketing discipline, and the new generation is ready to move beyond ‘best’ practices,” says Scott.
That’s not to say landing page best practices don’t have their place. It’s just that it’s time to move beyond them. It’s time for new and creative ideas that break the rules, focusing on truly relevant content experiences that speak to your audience on their terms.
Of course, that means creating a vast number of landing pages. How exactly are eCommerce brands supposed to create, maintain, and optimize them all? Even market leaders struggle to execute this approach effectively.
Well, we’ll let you in on a secret. You most likely already have plenty of social posts, videos, articles, influencer collaborations and other influential content you can tailor your landing pages with.
But finding, tagging, and matching them with relevant products? Getting the campaigns designed and approved? Optimizing them after? It can feel impossible.
One way in which global eCommerce brands are resolving the contextual relevance challenge is through the introduction of visual commerce.
In fact, visual commerce platforms enable PPC marketers to automatically deliver landing page experiences with the most relevant mix of marketing content and product content based on the context of the search query – for one visitor or one million.
That’s not all though.
Advanced software can adapt its decision-making around the most effective mix of content and products after every visit, strengthening your results over time.
3. Incorporate your most effective trust signals
The goal of most PPC landing pages is to gain sales. In fact, a commercial return on your paid search efforts is vital, else you’ll be wasting valuable ad spend.
Trust signals play a big role in supporting your goals and influencing buying decisions. In fact, Google considers trust as a key factor towards your landing page quality score.
So, how do you incorporate them into your landing pages?
To start with, it’s important to note that when we talk about trust signals we don’t just mean social proof, like you’ve probably read in ‘landing page best practice’ articles.
Truth is, elements that inspire confidence come in all shapes and sizes.
And what works for one PPC visitor may not work for another.
Here are some content types that can help to build trust with first-time visitors:
- Core brand content
- How-to videos
- Influencer endorsements
- User-generated content
- How-to guides and articles
- Reviews and testimonials
Essentially, any form of content that supports the decision-making process of your visitors can be considered a trust signal. No doubt most of these are familiar to you already.
In order to win sales, however, the trust signals that you select need to be relevant for the audience that you are targeting with your PPC landing pages.
When making decisions around what content to use, marketing personas can come in handy – providing they are kept up to date. Knowing your target audience inside out is key, as only in very rare instances will you find success in a one-size-fits-all approach.
It can also be worth testing different landing pages for the same PPC campaigns so that you can be sure you’re using the most effective content assets from the outset.
Of course, the type of testing you’ll want to go for depends largely on the amount of website traffic that your PPC campaigns achieve.
A/B testing is a great method for low volumes of traffic, as it delivers reliable data quickly and is relatively easy to interpret what’s working and what isn’t.
Multivariate testing, on the other hand, compares a higher number of variables and so you gain more data on what works and why. Higher volumes of traffic work best, as it can take a while to develop sufficient data on what works best.
Unlike A/B testing, where radically different designs are compared, you may use a couple of videos, four different headlines, and three footers. Then, you would funnel visitors into all possible combinations of these landing pages.
Advanced visual commerce platforms enable you to take this one step further.
In fact, with visual commerce in place, not only can you match the page to each visitor’s individual intent, you can also deliver the most relevant content likely to lead to a sale.
Besides which, such platforms can improve your landing page performance with every click thanks to a combination of machine learning and content intelligence.
4. White space is not your enemy
Just as the copy and content play a part creating remarkable landing pages, so too does the design of the experience as a whole.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Good design yields good results.
But while it may not be rocket science, following simple design principles across PPC landing pages is something that even established brands can overlook.
The main thing to remember about your paid search campaigns is that you have seconds to impress. If a visitor cannot find what she is looking for easily, she’ll bounce.
To create an effective landing page, therefore, you need to ensure that your page is scannable with snackable content that’s both relevant and quick to consume.
On the flip side, you’ll want to avoid busy color palettes, competing imagery and other content assets, as well as using too many links to other pages.
Remember: The goal of your page is to win sales (or conversions).
Anything that detracts from this objective is only going to impact your results.
Make sure to deactivate any pop-ups and consider if what you are drawing attention to is clear enough for the visitor. You want to impress her, not confuse her.
And with user experience being a known ranking factor for your landing page quality score, you’ll want to ensure that every word, content asset, and design element follow a clean and logical order.
If you want to get even more granular, then it can be worth getting to grips with various eye tracking studies or even using an eye tracking tool to measure how your own audience reacts to the way you design your landing pages.
In fact, eye tracking research shows that people tend to scan website pages and phone screens in one of four main patterns:
- Spotted pattern
- Layer-cake pattern
- Commitment pattern
By far the most common one? The F-pattern, which comes as the result from a study on more than 200 people looking at thousands of website pages (NN Group).
While the F-pattern is largely misunderstood, it suggests that:
- Visitors first read in a horizontal movement (the top bar of the ‘F’)
- Then, they scan in a vertical line looking for points of interest
- When something of interest is found, they read across in a second horizontal movement (forming the lower bar of the ‘F’)
- Finally, they continue down the page in a vertical line
Of course, not all visitors will follow this pattern. How people read online largely depends on their task, their previous assumptions, the layout, and the content.
What matters most is that you focus on an experience with strong visual hierarchy.
5. Speed matters (more than you think)
If you were asked to talk about the important elements of a successful digital marketing campaign, then you might mention the content, audience, and relevance.
But how many of you would include the need for speed?
Oftentimes, page speed is overlooked and seen as an afterthought.
Thing is, the costs of overlooking such a simple factor can quickly add up. Especially when it comes to the competitive and expensive nature of the pay-per-click model.
You could have the greatest landing page design in the world, but if it takes too long to load, then your results are more than likely going to plummet.
In fact, various research suggests:
- Pages that take over three seconds to load lose 53% of mobile visitors [Google]
- The probability of bounce increases 32% as page load time moves from one second to three seconds [Google]
- 70% of people admit page speed impacts their willingness to buy [Unbounce]
Yet the same Unbounce study also found:
- 81% of marketers know speed influences conversions, but it’s not a priority
- Only 3% of marketers agree faster loads are their top priority
Most marketers know that getting up to speed is essential, but with so many other priorities to focus on, it’s often at the bottom of the list.
Here are some ways to improve your landing page loading times:
Conduct a speed audit
Running a speed audit is a great starting point to get a feel for how your website and landing pages are performing. It also gives you a baseline to measure against.
The best way to kick this process off is to use Google’s free tools, either PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse. Both measure the performance of website pages.
While both measure the performance of website pages, the main difference is that PageSpeed Insights focuses on performance metrics and uses both lab data and real-world data experienced by your website visitors to support its analysis.
In comparison, Lighthouse measures additional elements on top of performance without real-world data, drawing on lab data only. Check out Google’s guide to using Lighthouse for a best practice step-by-step guide to get the most value from the tool.
If you choose to run Lighthouse tests, consider the following:
- Disable your cache to create the experience of a brand new visitor
As new visitors have to download all content on a page in order to cache it, this gives you insight into loading speed for first-time visitors.
- Enable capture screenshots
By clicking the camera icon, you’ll be shown snapshots of the page’s load progressions – enabling you to see how the new visitor experiences your landing page in increments until the page is fully loaded.
- Toggle between device screens
Click the button with the phone and device icons to switch between different devices. You can then see how your page loads on a variety of screens and identify any areas for improvement on your landing pages.
Resize and optimize your content for mobile
You’d probably be surprised at how many big brands don’t optimize their landing page content for mobile devices. Instead, it’s often seen as an afterthought – a way to improve eCommerce pages if they aren’t performing as expected.
Now that Google has made mobile-first indexing the default, however, marketers can no longer afford to look the other way when it comes to landing page performance.
Of course, one solution could be to trim the fat and keep landing page content to an absolute minimum. But that’s not helping your audience to reach buying decisions.
Instead, a content optimization strategy is imperative.
As you might expect, images and other content assets tend to add a lot of weight to landing pages, but with the right strategy in place this can be fixed easily.
Consider the following:
- Size your images correctly
There is no need to have giant images when they appear smaller on pages.
- Compress your images as much as possible
Be careful not to lose on quality – using the right file formats is key.
- Know your file formats
Different file types impact page loading time differently.
For example, PNGs are used frequently for logos or images with text, but they tend to produce the largest file sizes even when lossless compression is applied.
In comparison, JPGs or JPEGs are better suited for colorful images as they are much smaller in size and can shrink further with lossy compression.
However, lossy compression does decrease the overall quality of the file – so you will need to be careful in how it is applied.
Alternatively, you may want to consider WebPs. These were introduced by Google in the early 2010s and can be 25-34% smaller than JPGs. The best thing? You can use both lossy and lossless compression to decrease their size.
Remove unnecessary plugins, add-ons, and scripts
While getting rid of plugins is good for improving site speed in general, if you’re using any website pages as landing pages, then this can be a quick fix to improve speed.
Plugins often get forgotten – especially in large teams – so be sure to verify the ones in use and eliminate those that are no longer serving your brand. You may also want to set up a reminder to review your these add-ons once or twice a year.
Take advantage of browser caching
Browsers are clever.
In fact, they can ‘remember’ images, scripts, and other assets so that when you return to a website, your browser isn’t reloading the entire page from scratch.
Check to see if you have expiration dates set for your cache and then consider changing the time period based on your landing page, how often it may change, and how often you have returning visitors to your website.
You may find free tools such as YSlow or GiftOfSpeed useful to check your caching.
The path to perfect PPC landing pages
Creating remarkable PPC landing pages that meet your business goals is by no means easy to achieve. Especially when launching a new ad campaign from scratch.
By taking the right considerations into account before activating your paid search strategies, however, you’ll be better placed to win more sales from the outset.
Looking for more insights to improve your eCommerce landing pages?
Join us on January 26th for an exclusive webinar with Johnson’s Baby to discover how they use content to grow sales across their website, paid search, and email channels.
Plus, Nicole, the paid search director of global agency umj3, will break down the role content personalization plays in aligning paid search intent with the website experience. Register now.