Friday, June 26, 2009

Landing Pages - Does Size Really Matter?

It's an age old question, does size really matter? When thinking about landing page design this highly provocative question still rings true.

My company helps our clients get more value from their landing pages, aiming to squeeze every last conversion from what on the surface looks to be a simple internet marketing process - get some qualified traffic to a web page and enable that traffic to convert to leads or sales.

What we find time-and-time again is landing page design is a highly complex process that is part art, part science and part voodoo magic!

There is no shortage of tools available to help with landing page optimization including Google's free Website Optimizer for A/B split and multivariate testing. But tools and data analysis will only get you so far because at the end of the day the human element, and in particular user intent for arriving on your landing page in the first place, often plays the deciding factor.

This often intangible element of 'user intent' can be difficult to plan and design for, particularly when users are in the early stages of the conversion or buying process.

Our clients often wonder if we can't be exactly sure of where the website visitor is in the decision making process is it better to have a long form landing page that contains loads of information about the company's product, offer and business or is a 'less-is-more' approach more effective to gently move the prospect step by step through the conversion process? Does the size (length) of the landing page really matter?

It depends.

There really is no right or wrong answer, it comes down to establishing a proper testing framework so as many variables as possible can be isolated and analyzed effectively and contextually. This also means being able to issolate user intent.

As a side note, pay-per-click (PPC) search advertising can assist in issolating user intent, by grouping keywords around key themes and sending that visitor to a specific landing page that considers where that visitor may be in the conversion decision process based on the keywords they have searched for.

But back to the question at hand...

As a general statement for highly targeted lead generation campaigns (like B2C competitions or B2B whitepaper downloads), I've found that short and simple landing page design works best. A single and very simple call to action and everything on the landing page above the page fold.

For more complex conversion goals (like early stage eCommerce research or detailed information products) a multi-step conversion funnel where the objective of the landing page is to have the visitor complete a micro conversion (like clicking a link to learn more) also works well.

There is also a place for the long form conversion page, and we generally see them tailored to information or digital products where the credibility of the product and the desire to own them is built up over a very long page with techniques like customer testimonials and free offers.

Determining which one will work best for your product and your business is a structured process of testing, measuring and optimizing. The true measure of a sucessful landing page is really only determined by how it meets the stated objective of the campaign (more views, more clicks, more leads and ultimately more sales).

If you have experience of which type of landing page works best for certain products, I'd love to hear you comments?


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Publisher Yields Vs Advertiser ROI - Money Talks.

Risk free advertising. Only pay for the ads that work. At least that's the promise of performance media. Actually achieving this scenario, at scale, is part art and part science.

With the seemingly insatiable growth of performance based online media buying it is interesting to watch the 'ying and yang' of the publisher and advertiser relationship.

Publishers are reluctantly offering more and more performance based products to help monitised their unsold ad inventory and meet market demand from advertisers. They do so very cautiously in the hope they are not canabilising their premium products or placing too much downward pressure on their yeilds.

It's a tough spot to be in: millions of unsold ad impressions and huge market demand to buy this inventory on a performance basis. So what's a publisher to do? At least get some return on this inventory and sell it to the highest bidder, or, carefully manage the sell through to protect yields, often hindering the advertisers ability to get scale from their creative and product investments.

I have a number of clients who have uncapped marketing budgets - they will continue to invest in buying advertising as long as they can acquire leads or sales profitably. It's called sales lead advertising, but for too long traditional media publishers have conditioned marketers to think it should be the other way around with advertising lead sales.

So how do we bring both sides together to reach a win/win?

Publishers need to play nicer and do 2 things:
  1. Lower the barier to entry for test campaigns. Having high test campaign budget threshholds, or worse still, forcing the advertiser to pay on a CPM basis for test campaigns, sends a very clear message to advertisers - the publishers is not interested in a developing a long term win/win relationship.
  2. Enable better inventory targeting options on performance buys. Just by enabling advertisers to target who / where the ads are displayed is going to have a positive impact on yeilds as there won't be running hundreds of thousands of wasted impressions to an uninterested audience that never had a chance of converting anyway. The technology exists to do it, yet there is resistance for fear of devaluing premium products.
Advertisers need to focus on 2 things:
  1. Invest the time and resources in developing and testing optimal creative and landing pages. A key component in the publisher yield formula is conversion rates. Until advertisers can reliably deliver high converting campaigns (that back out to acceptable yeilds) the publishers are going to be reluctant to support the advertisers campaign. In most cases advertisers are better to compelete conversion optimisation and A/B or multivariate testing on traffic from a paid search campaign first and then once the conversion rates are optimised roll out the campaign through the performance networks.
  2. Paying the publisher as much as possible, within the bounds of their ROI objectives. Bottom line is money talks. The higher the campaign converts and the higher the payout rate the stronger the publishers yeilds. Which translates into more inventory alloacted to the advertiers campaign, mores conversions, more leads and ultimiately more sales.
As the performance media sector continues to mature it is exicting to watch the evolving product development of the publishers and the increased sophistication of savvy advertisers to optimise CTRs and conversion rates.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Internet Marketing - where are we heading?

Big thanks to Trevor Holmes and his team at ENACT for inviting Russell Bullen and I to present at the ENACT National Conference in Cairns last friday.

We meet some great people and had a wonderful time with a very engaged group throwing out lots of very good questions for us.

The theme of the presentation was 'what direction is internet marketing headed and how do ENACT Business Archiects ensure their clients take adavantage'. A copy of the presentation is below.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What does the dancing Sasquatch guy and Twitter have in common?

This video has been floating around youtube for the last couple of weeks. The video is of this lone guy dancing on hill and as the song builds more people join him until there is an entire crowd dancing with him.

It's interesting to see how once the number of people reached a tipping point he soon had cricital mass... very similar to Twitter's stellar growth recently.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Mad Avenue Blues

Found this very funny parody on the changing media and advertising landscape at John Battelle's Searchblog.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

4 ways to make the most from your Search Engine Marketing in tough times.

Armed with the right strategies and tactics, marketing and acquiring new customers in an economic downturn presents huge opportunities for savvy business owners and marketing managers.

Now more than ever consumers and business buyers are turning to the Internet for help in finding value and making purchasing decisions.

I’ve raided my Search Engine Marketing ‘war chest’ for the top tips to help you prosper in today’s economic climate.

Tip 1 – Know what your customers are looking for.
Who are your customers? What are they searching for online? What makes your existing customers buy from you? These are all questions that need to be answered before starting any Search Engine Marketing campaign.

A great place to start looking for answers is Google Insight for Search, a free tool that enables you determine what trends are happening with the way customers and prospects are searching for information and which message will resonate best with them.

Matt Forman Post - Google Insights Screen ShotGenerally, consumers today are looking for great value. As an example, I compared 3 search terms for the mobile phone industry: “best mobile phones” vs “cheap mobile phones” vs “mobile phone deals”.

As can be seen from the data there has been an upward trend in consumers searching for “mobile phone deals”.

You can also see the areas within Australia where more consumers are more likely to be looking for deals on mobile phones with Queensland and Victoria showing the strongest trends.

You can use this information as a starting point for your keyword research and developing your keyword list.

If you already have a website and are using Google Analytics this is another great source of information and insight for how your customers are getting to your website and can be used to identify trends in which keywords they are using (and not using) to find you.

Tip 2 – Keep your ad copy relevant and focus on value.
Now that we know that today’s consumers are looking for great value, and we have an idea on the type of keywords that will work best in finding your audience, we now need to ensure we get them to click on your ad and visit your website.

Keeping your ad copy contextually relevant to the keywords that triggered your ad is paramount. If people are looking for value then you’re ad copy needs to focus on value. Including specific offers or savings is a tactic we are seeing work very well.

Including the search term in the headline of the ad is a great tactic for increasing Click Through Rates (CTR) and will potentially help with where you ad ranks on Google’s search page by improving your Quality Score (QS).

In the example I’ve also included value terms like ‘Save 10%’ and created a sense of urgency by stating the offer is available ‘This week only’. These are all techniques for improving your CTR and getting more qualified customers to your site.

Tip 3 – Make your landing page relevant and easy for them to take the next step.
Getting the right audience to click on your ad and land on your website is only half the equation. Once you have them there, it is critical you convert the vast majority into taking action.

A landing page is the first page a website visitor ‘lands on’ when clicking through from your Search Engine Marketing ads.

When arriving on your landing page, visitors spend just a few short seconds evaluating your site and scanning it for relevancy to their needs. If you can’t grab their attention and make it very clear what they need to do next in order to move through the buying process they we will leave, most likely never to return again.

In our example there a few techniques I have used that will help to optimise your conversion rates.

Firstly the page heading "Best Mobile Phone Deals" matches the title of our ad and the context of the keyword that brought the user to the page.

Secondaly the content on the page is actually about a mobile deal, a simple concept hey? But its amazing how many landing pages I see that don't have content that matches the keywords that the user searched for.

Thirdly we've made it very clear what the user is supposed to do next, click the BUY NOW button.

Tip 4 – Track your performance and allocate your budget based on results.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

With the wealth of data available through Google Adwords and Google Analytics there is no excuse not have a firm grasp on which keywords and ads in your search engine marketing campaign are performing and which ones are not.

If you have a website and haven’t already got Google Analytics tracking code installed, do it today. It’s free and is a simple matter of pasting a few lines of code in the template of your web pages.

The next step is create ‘actions’ in your Google Adwords account so you can accurately track and measure which keywords are converting to sales and what your Return On Investment (ROI) at a keyword, ad group and campaign level.

In this example we have set-up an action to track a sale when a visitor purchases a mobile phone.

We also know from our sales history that an average online sale is worth $99 so we have attributed a value of $99 to each action.

Now the action is set-up, Google automatically generates some tracking code which you can copy and paste on the order confirmation page of your website.

Within a few hours you’ll start to see data coming into your Adwords account which you can now use to determine which keywords and ad groups are performing the best and to allocate more budget to.

A recent example from Google’s Top Tactics for Tough Times article demonstrates this point perfectly. By being smarter about how to allocate your marketing budget, you are able to generate expotential returns without having to spend a single cent more on advertising.

So in conclusion, while events like the GFC (global financial crisis) force us to look harder at the return on investment form our marketing, it always a good time to be marketing smarter and acquiring new customers in most profitable manner.