Your prospects searched for a specific keyword, spotted your ad listing, and clicked on it for more information. Are they sold on your company? Not yet. But they're standing inside your online store. How do you get them to opt-in for follow-up communication from you, or buy something right now? The landing page they're visiting must sell.
This is where companies doing search engine advertising may lose the sale. A vital part of making paid listings work is not just focusing on driving additional traffic to your site or paying less money for the ads. Yes, those are important objectives, but the profitability of your campaigns will spike when you persuade a higher number of your site visitors to become customers. An effective landing page, often referred to as a destination URL or target URL, impacts your bottom line.
Provide a Direct Path
Do not, I repeat do not, send search engine users to your home page without a very convincing reason. The home page of a web site acts as a mall directory does for an offline business. Both home page visitors and mall directory viewers are shown possible directions in which to begin their shopping experience. If online consumers use a search engine to direct them to a topic but don't see it addressed on the web page they visit, they'll abandon that site. The home page isn't a good landing page because it's too general. It's another set of directions.
Landing pages aren't necessarily part of your main web site. They can be, but it's not required. Pretend you own a flower shop. If your site currently has a page about calla lily floral arrangements, buy calla lilyrelated keywords and set this as the corresponding landing page. Or, you could send search engine traffic to a promotional page that's hidden on your web site. Because this might be a temporary offer, you won't want this landing page indexed by search engines; use the robots exclusion protocol. It's a text file that you place on your server that instructs search engine spiders to not index a specific area on your site. It would be embarrassing if you remove the ad listing but consumers continue to find this landing page because it appears in the natural search results.
Let's look at a search for "calla lily" on FindWhat.com (refer to Figures 5.1 to 5.5). The last four screen captures are the advertisers' landing pages. In Figure 5.2 you can see that BizRate.com does an excellent job of displaying calla lily flowers offered by online florists. Although Shopping.com (formerly DealTime, as shown in Figure 5.4) doesn't show calla lily flowers as I would have expected, they show a directory of categories where calla lily products are offered. It's relevant. However, on U.S. Southwest's landing page, I can't figure out why the company bought "calla lily" in the first place. There's no reference to this keyword in the top half of their page. Like U.S. Southwest, there's no exact match for "calla lily" on the top portion of the Blooming Bulb landing page either. Did the latter two fail in providing a direct path? Well, if you scroll down these landing pages you'll eventually find calla lily products. So technically, they didn't fail. But they violate one of the rules of designing a good landing page to invite the sale, which I address soon.
Figure 5.1 The top four advertisers on FindWhat.com for the keyword "calla lily" are as shown here: BizRate.com, U.S. Southwest, Shopping.com (formerly DealTime), and Blooming Bulb.
Figure 5.2 BizRate.com's landing page for "calla lily" on FindWhat.com.
Figure 5.3 U.S. Southwest's landing page for "calla lily" on FindWhat.com.
Figure 5.4 Shopping.com's (DealTime's) landing page for "calla lily" on FindWhat.com.
Figure 5.5 Blooming Bulb's landing page for "calla lily" on FindWhat.com.
If you think TV viewers are speedy clickers while channel surfing, web users exercise even less patience. Many web site design agencies believe that your visitors should get the information they're looking for within three clicks from your home page. But why make them click three more times if they already clicked your search engine listing to transport them to the requested information? Because you selected the keyword and wrote the listing, you know what visitors want. Design your landing page to show them the merchandise and then lead them to the checkout line.