What Is A Landing Page, Anyway?
Sarah Danks | August 27, 2015
As a Part 2 to my “Introduction to Pay-per-click” post, I’m going to talk about landing pages. Specifically, what the hell they are, why you use them, what they’re NOT and why you need a custom landing page vs. using your website as a destination for paid traffic (most of the time).
So, once you’ve decided to embark on the PPC train, you need to have a place to send your paid visitors. Wherever you decide to send them — be it a page on your website or a custom, standalone page — it’s called a landing page.
What does a landing page do? Well, ideally it converts your paid click into a lead. Trust me, acquiring clicks isn’t the end-all-be-all of paid search. Where you send these paid visitors is as important — if not more so — than all the work it takes to get them to click on your ad in the first place.
What Is A Landing Page?
A landing page is the last piece of the PPC puzzle. Essentially it’s the culmination of your entire paid search effort. I’ve outlined this before when I wrote about whether or not to optimize landing pages for SEO (long story short: NO), but here it is again:
There are two definitions of the term “landing page:”
Website Landing Page
Any page a visitor lands/arrives upon, whether from an organic listing, a referring site or direct traffic (someone typed the URL into their address bar or clicked on a bookmark link).
Paid Search Landing Page
A page your paid visitors land on after clicking your ad. Ideally you’d send all PPC traffic to a standalone, custom web page built for the sole purpose of converting paid traffic.
Now that you know what a landing page IS, we should talk about why you should choose the latter type (custom standalone page) for your PPC campaigns vs. the former (page on your website).
Why Custom Landing Pages & Not Your Website?
Your website has many purposes: to act as your 24/7 sales person, online brochure, resource, etc. It’s meant to represent your business, answer questions and even attract leads.
On the other hand, a PPC landing page has (or, rather, should have!) one goal: to convert paid traffic into a lead or sale.
While there’s never a RIGHT or WRONG way to do something, just take a look at the difference between sending paid traffic to your website vs using a custom landing page:
When you send paid traffic to a website page:
- General messaging/purpose
- No (specific) message match between keyword, ad copy and landing page — i.e., not a great paid search experience. This also leads to lower Quality Scores, which causes your cost-per-click (CPC) to go up.
- Multiple goals of website
- Too many choices
- Distractions abound (i.e., main navigation, other sections of the site, etc.)
- All of these combine to culminate in lower conversion rates.
And, visually here’s a real live example of why a website page isn’t a good choice for a PPC landing page:
If you saw that page after clicking on an ad…
…odds are you’d set a world record for leaving a website landing page!
Okay, so that’s pretty harsh. What’s the worst that could happen — other than someone leaving — if you send paid traffic to a web page of that low caliber?
- This type of environment doesn’t represent the company brand effectively
- No clear calls-to-action (or far too many)
- No leads
- Bad attitude towards PPC (“Pay-per-click doesn’t work!”)
(My apologies to the Rezin Insurance Group)
When you send PPC traffic to a specific landing page:
Sending your paid traffic to a page designed for specific purpose — converting traffic into leads — keeps the entire PPC campaign very focused.
When you write custom landing page content, you ensure message match and continuity between your keywords, ads and landing page — thus guaranteeing your visitors a great paid search experience. Not only that, but you’ll garner higher Quality Scores, which keeps your CPC lower.
Plus, once you get the traffic on your page you’ll have minimal distractions, which keeps them focused on the task at hand. That leads to higher conversion rates, obviously.
So it’s clear to us that it’s better to use campaign-specific pages for PPC, but that’s not all there is. It’s definitely not enough just to build a custom landing page…
…it has to be a good landing page.
Not something like this:
My eyes hurt while looking at this page; much less I have no clue where to look or what to focus on.
(My apologies to…whoever this is.)
3 Main Benefits of Custom Landing Pages
While many reasons exist to choose standalone landing pages for your PPC campaigns over pages on your website, there are three main benefits we’d like to discuss:
- Good attention ratio
- Improved conversion rate
- Isolated testing environment
As you can see, the example above doesn’t provide a good attention ratio. It most likely isn’t converting well, either. About the only thing it’s good for is testing!
1) Attention Ratio
A custom landing page is — again — built with one purpose: converting paid traffic. When your content and design are focused on a single goal, you naturally eliminate distractions. This keeps your visitors focused on converting.
Another way to look at it is this: by keeping the purpose of the page very specific, you’re preventing leaks. What’re leaks?
Well, they’re distractions or links that lead your visitors off into forays that have nothing to do with your goal. Examples would be website navigation, social media buttons, or links leading to a third-party site.
You can clearly see in the above example that sending paid traffic to this university’s home page wouldn’t be likely to result in many leads, since the attention ratio here is off the charts.
2) Conversion Improvement
While a website page has many functions to perform, custom landing pages are focused on conversion only. Your copy is written to continue encouraging visitors to take that next step — often a form fill-out or placing a phone call.
(Other conversions could be the purchase of an item, signing up for an enewsletter, watching a video, etc.)
Sending paid traffic to a general page where there’s no clear goal will cause many visitors to fall out of the conversion funnel…
…but when you focus solely on getting your visitors to contact you (for lead generation campaigns), you’re maximizing the probability of converting clicks into leads. (Also notice the attention ratio in the above example.)
3) Ability to Test
A standalone landing page is an ideal testing environment — versus a page of your website that shouldn’t be changed to cater to only one slice of its audience.
You can run A/B tests to pit two entirely separate landing pages against one another, or you can choose to test various aspects within a page (multivariate testing), such as headlines, body copy, imagery and even your contact form.
Not only are you free to test aspects of your landing pages to choose the best environment with which to convert your traffic…
…every single move your PPC traffic makes can — and should — be tracked separately from all other traffic sources.
Examples of (successful) paid search landing pages
Enough of the mishaps. Let’s look at some businesses that’re doing landing pages well.
Lester Buildings: Pole Barn Manufacturer
This is a good example of a focused landing page. While there are two goals (form fillout or phone call), you can see the phone number (requested by the client) isn’t nearly as prominent as the form.
You can tell at a glance what this page is about.
Red Wing Shoes (Industrial): Work Boot Manufacturer
There’s a lot of information on this landing page, but it’s still clear what they want visitors to do — fill out the form (or call) to receive a free pair of boots.
Trusted Choice: Insurance Agency Resource
Again, we’ve got a very clear story of what this page is for: getting a car insurance quote. Plus, the use of a complementary color for the call-to-action (CTA) is a great way to draw visitors’ eyes to the “Get Your Quotes” button (as is the eye gaze directional cue in the image).
So, how do we know that custom landing pages perform better than website pages for PPC?
By having looked at the Analytics data, of course. But we’ll save that discussion for another day.
PPC Landing Page Wrap-Up
So there you have it. A (somewhat) brief introduction to PPC landing pages — including some examples of what not to do! Here are the key take-aways to know about pay-per-click and the landing pages that support them:
- The term “landing page” has more than one definition.
- It’s not enough to build any old landing page, make sure you offer a great experience.
- Using campaign-specific landing pages offers benefits such as testing and specific focus.
- Ultimately, you can use whatever web page you like to send your paid traffic to — just know that custom, standalone pages perform better.
Still have questions about paid search landing pages? Well, then give us a holler.