Imagine you’re strolling through New York City and you suddenly get a craving for a pretzel. New York City is a very good place to be for a pretzel aficionado and, luckily, you find yourself right in front of a pretzel shop!
You step through the front door, and … you’ve actually walked into Macy’s Herald Square, the largest department store in the world.
Image source: Flickr
Somewhere within this 2.2 million square foot, 11-floor nightmare labyrinth is a single Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop, on the fourth floor next to children’s clothing. (This is true.) It will take you at least 15 unpleasant minutes to get to it.
How likely are you to stay, versus simply walking right back and getting a pretzel from one of the street vendors that can be found at any corner in the city?
If Macy’s had the technology to immediately send customers from the front door to the part of the store where they were most likely to buy something, they certainly would.
Yet every day, PPC marketers are paying for clicks that drop leads onto generic website pages, leaving it to the prospect themselves to figure out how to find what they came for.
And those same prospects turn right around by hitting the back button in their browsers.
While a keyword is simply a keyword to you, it’s a uniquely formed query in the mind of the searcher. They are — oftentimes, very literally — asking a question and expecting an answer.
The Answer: A Dedicated Landing Page
Your landing page provides a direct answer to the user’s question. It’s a single page that stands alone from the rest of your website, and it exists only to get the user to complete one action.
A focused landing page doesn’t include the site’s navigation, nor any links that could cause a visitor to leave the page without completing that one action: the conversion goal. And since we only want them to complete that one goal, that’s the only thing we’ll let them do.
You can measure how focused a landing page is through a simple calculation called the attention ratio. It’s the number of interactive elements on a page — like a link or a form — versus the number of campaign conversion goals (which is always one). The further away you get from a 1:1 attention ratio, the more likely it is you’ll lose prospects to distraction.
But before we can even think about getting that conversion, we have to first answer the question the user asked in the first place.
Understanding the Intent Behind a Query
Let’s say you handcraft artisanal mailboxes for a living. (Please, suspend disbelief and just bear with me on this.) Obviously, you want people to buy them. So of course, it seems like you should be targeting the keyword ...
Someone searching for this could be searching for anything, really. They could be looking to buy a mailbox, but they could also be researching the history of mailboxes, or looking for photos of mailboxes, because I guess some people might do that.
The problem with targeting general keywords like this — other than them often being prohibitively expensive — is that you can glean very little about the user’s intent. While the query tells us explicitly the question the user is asking, it’s up to us to divine why they’re asking it.
Let’s look at some other keywords:
A query like this indicates at least a general interest in purchasing a mailbox, and could potentially indicate that the searcher is more interested in the quality of the mailbox, as opposed to its price.
There’s also a good chance that if someone is searching for the best mailbox, they have an intent to purchase whichever result looks best from their research.
This query lets us know that price is a primary factor for the user, and we can also conclude that they are ready — or nearly ready — to purchase.
“Where to buy artisanal mailbox”
THIS IS IT. THE GRAND SLAM. They want to buy a mailbox and they want it to be your particular kind of mailbox.
Each of these queries represents a completely different user intent. They’re all asking slightly different questions. Does it make sense, then, to give them all the same answer? To send them all to the same landing page?
Of course not!
Matching Intents with the Right Calls-to-action
As we established earlier, each campaign should have just one specific conversion goal. On a campaign-specific landing page, the element that users interact with to complete that goal is the call-to-action.
Those closer to the top of the funnel aren’t going to respond well to a hard sell; they’re simply looking for information that will help them make the right purchasing decision at some point in the (hopefully near) future.
At this stage, there are two things a landing page should strive to accomplish:
- Communicate the unique value proposition of your product as quickly and succinctly as possible in order to capture their attention and keep the visitor on the page.
- Obtain the visitor’s email address by offering something in exchange, like a free quote, a white paper or something else that’s relevant to what your business offers.
As prospects move further down the funnel, you can be more aggressive and present calls to action with higher commitment levels, like additional personal information, account creation, and purchasing. But you still have to customize the content of each landing page to line up with what the search query tells us about each user’s intent. For example:
- A page targeted toward people searching for “best mailboxes” should focus on the unique features and unparalleled quality of your hand-crafted mail receptacles
- A page targeted towards those looking for “cheap mailboxes” could have some a special offer that appeals to the thriftiness of that audience
The message your page conveys through its copy and graphics has to match your user’s intent in order for it to be truly optimized for conversion. But that isn’t the only thing that has to match.
Message Match: Delivering on Your Promise
In the pretzel shop example I gave at the beginning of this post, the source of frustration isn’t just that the pretzel shop within Macy’s is incredibly difficult to get to.
It’s that the initial expectation set by the pretzel shop sign is betrayed; even if there is technically a pretzel shop contained within, you would expect that the door would lead directly to the pretzel shop.
When users get frustrated by their expectations not being met, they leave. Your ad is the storefront sign, and the page it brings them to is the store itself. The page has to deliver on the expectation set by the ad.
Message match is a measure of how well your landing page copy matches the phrasing of the ad or link that brought the visitor there. For PPC marketers, this means matching your ad copy to your landing page headline.
If your ad headline says, “Finely Crafted Artisanal Post Boxes — Made in Portland,” your landing page headline better be … wait for it …
Finely Crafted Artisanal Post Boxes — Made in Portland
Message match itself is a component of the larger principle of congruence; every element of your marketing campaign needs to work together to serve a common goal. Your ads, landing page copy and visuals, and calls to action all have to be working together towards a single conversion goal, with a single continuous message.
When the elements of your campaign don’t feel like they go together, it produces psychological friction that could prevent a visitor from completing a conversion goal. You end up with the same problem caused by not having a landing page at all: your prospect is asking a particular question, and you’re giving them an unclear or completely unrelated answer.
Kind of like walking into what you believe is a pretzel shop and finding yourself faced with the world’s largest selection of pantyhose.
When someone clicks on your PPC ad, the landing page they arrive at should match the message of the ad, and have all the information they need to fulfill a single conversion goal that is relevant to the user’s intent.
All of this is done in the name of conversion rate optimization (CRO), the practice of utilizing design, copy and user psychology to turning more visitors into leads and customers.
Also: never, ever go to Macy’s Herald Square. Ugh.
Image credit (1): Supermac1961 on Flickr
Photos, unless listed, were created by the author of this post.