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Using landing pages and small data to optimize your online ad campaigns

5-minute read

One of my first clients at BDC was an entrepreneur who sought help after spending more than $50,000 a year on Internet ads that produced little to no sales.

This client was angry and frustrated that his investment hadn’t produced better results. But when I studied his ad campaigns, it quickly became clear he hadn’t followed some basic techniques for finding prospects online and converting them into paying customers.

One of the key errors he had made was sending people who clicked on his ads to the homepage of his website. Instead, he should have sent them to a campaign landing page—a webpage specifically designed to communicate a specific message related to an ad or series of ads.

Increase conversions with landing pages

Unlike your homepage, where people arrive from a variety of places, a campaign landing page allows you to study the behaviour of visitors from specific ads, and fine-tune your approach to better convert them into customers. It’s important to understand that each ad campaign should ideally have its own landing page.

It’s equally important to set conversion goals for your landing pages. For example, a conversion could be a visitor completing a form that generates a sales lead for you. Without proper tracking of goals, you’ll be paying good money, without collecting the data that matters for optimizing future campaigns.

Creating landing pages is half-art and half-science. You want to create a page that’s well-balanced between images, text and a place where you collect information from your visitors.

How to communicate the right messages

The trouble is, without testing, you won’t really know whether the way you’ve set up your landing page is communicating the right message to your target audience.

Not to worry, there are tools out there that can help you specifically with this. For example, ClickTale helps you understand how visitors are moving around your landing page with heat maps and mouse tracking tools.  

There are also products such as Optimizely and Unbounce that allow you to perform what is known as A/B testing, a technique where you present alternate versions of your landing page to test how changes affect conversion rates.

What is A/B testing?

In a typical A/B test, your main landing page is the A against which you will compare the behaviour of a subset of visitors who you send to an alternative B page. The important thing to keep in mind is to test just one major change to your current page at a time. For example, does changing the colour of your ‘Order Now’ button from green to red generate more conversions? What happens when you move it from the left side of the page to the right?

If you try to test more than one major variable at a time, you won’t be able to discern which change affected the behavior of visitors.

3 stages of a typical searcher’s purchase lifecycle

Ideally, you should set up and test different ads—along with corresponding landing pages—for each of the three stages in the purchasing cycle of online searchers (as indicated by the keywords they use).

1. Awareness

At this stage, searchers are beginning their journey to find what they need. They are thinking from a very broad perspective. Taking this into consideration, consider what would go through their mind before they even know about your company. For example, “I’m looking for a flat screen TV.” With that said, you’ll want to better understand how to combine keyword match types and ensure one of your landing pages is designed for visitors at this stage of the purchase lifecycle. 

2. Consideration/Research

The searcher has evolved. They know they are looking for a specific type of product or service, but they’re still not 100% clear from whom they would be making this purchase. For example, “I’m looking for a LED flat screen TV.” At this stage, it’s important for your ad and landing page to position your company as a knowledgeable expert in your field. Provide information that helps your prospective customer choose the best product or service for them (e.g. links to articles, eBooks, catalogues, etc.) This will ensure that when they are ready to buy, your product or service will be top of mind.  

3. Conversion

At this final stage, the searcher now clearly knows what they want. For example, “I am looking for a Panasonic-brand LED TV”. They will use precise, action-oriented words in their search such as, “buy Panasonic LED TV in Toronto.” Again, it’s important to keep this in mind and understand that your ad copy, related keywords and landing page need to address the needs of a searcher at this point in the purchase lifecycle in order to successfully convert him or her into either a lead or a paying customer.

Understanding searchers’ evolving intentions and behavior will help you to create better ad campaigns and more effective landing pages.

Making sense of the data

There are a few important things you’ll want to look at after you’ve created your ads and landing pages and launched your campaign for at least two weeks.

First and foremost, you’ll want to look at key data points for each landing page, including:

  • bounce rate (the percentage of visitors that leave the page without visiting a second page)
  • average time spent on the page
  • number of conversions

This information will help you to tweak your pages through A/B testing. The combination of your ad copy, keywords related to the ad and content (images/text/video/forms, etc…) on your landing page will ultimately help improve the overall experience the visitor has on your website, improve your AdWords quality score and therefore optimize conversions.

There’s a lot of data available through Google Analytics and Google AdWords as well as the landing page tools mentioned earlier that will help you with this process. 

The scientific way to advertise

Without doing testing on landing pages, you’re simply making an educated guess about what will work in your online ad campaigns.

The beauty of online advertising is that you don’t have to depend on hunches or intuition to decide what works best. You can test ideas and empirically say what works best. Then you can go on tweaking, improving your conversion rate and building your sales month after month.

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