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Throw Out Your Paid Search Landing Page: It's Time For Something Different

Anna Talerico
Throw Out Your Paid Search Landing Page: It's Time For Something Different

If you generate online leads, chances are one of your tactics is to "gate your content”—enticing visitors to complete a form in order to gain access to a white paper, a webinar or some other type of content asset. It’s an effective approach to capture lead data and is used ubiquitously in paid search campaigns.

Searchers, particularly in the B2B space, are conditioned to click an ad, arrive at a typical landing page, and complete a form to receive a (hopefully) relevant white paper. These pages have become almost comically cookie-cutter and formulaic, no matter how much creativity marketers try to inject into them.

Unfortunately, over the last several years, there have been increasing murmurs that the standard "white paper landing page" is diminishing in its effectiveness. At some point, every marketer runs straight into the conversion rate brick wall and can't smash through. Or worse, faces declining conversion rates, scrambling to cycle through one more test to try to get more people to fill out their form.

Declining conversion rates aren't the only problem with traditional landing pages. A typical landing page offering a gated content asset is so formulaic, it is literally undifferentiated. Your beautifully designed, perfectly crafted landing page looks just like the last one your visitor landed on, and the one before that as well. A cookie cutter landing page offers you little opportunity to differentiate your brand and create a memorable user experience.

Add in the need for content marketing measurement and ROI and the usefulness of the landing page diminishes even further. Gated static content is literally “pass/fail” – visitors either land and leave or land and convert. Beyond that, we know little about if they consumed the content. They might have loved your white paper, but more than likely, it is still sitting on their desktop, unopened and unread. This is a true obstacle to content measurement and improvement.

Luckily, there is a way to overcome the inherent challenges and diminishing usefulness of landing pages while still achieving high conversion rates. And it comes in an unexpected form.

Take a deep breath, because this is going to sound counter-intuitive.

Go ahead and un-gate your content. Make the form an optional, user-driven action, based on their desire to convert. Give your visitors a useful, valuable content experience so great that they want to fill out your form.

We recently conducted an A/B test of a gated white paper landing page against an interactive white paper experience that visitors could freely navigate. A call to action in the upper right hand corner of the experience offered the option to complete a form in order to receive a PDF version of the white paper.

Guess what? Bounce rates dropped and conversions increased. The results didn’t surprise us; we see this all the time in content testing we conduct for our clients.

Visitors don’t want to fill out your form to get to your content. They want to experience your content first. Make it great and they will gladly complete your form to engage further with you or receive additional content from you.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. As a web visitor yourself, do you want to fill out a form to get to some content? Are you delighted when you land on yet another page that looks just like the last one you landed on?

People want to engage with brands that are useful. Brands that provide value. Brands that educate them. Brands that help them solve their challenges and find new solutions. A landing page offering a gated asset hardly does any of these things, if at all.

If you are faced with flat or declining conversion rates, competitive differentiation challenges, a need for content measurement, and a desire to delight your search visitors, it's time to throw out the standard, formulaic search landing page and try something new altogether.

Create unique, memorable content experiences that visitors can interact with and use freely, making your form an optional step to take. There are so many types to experiment with. Here are just a few to consider:

  •   A navigable, interactive white paper that enables visitors to engage with the content most interesting to them.
  •   An assessment that helps visitors determine areas for improvement or how they stack up against their peers.
  •   A quick quiz that provides fun, edutainment on a topic about your industry, product or service.
  •   A configurator that gives visitors the opportunity to see a variety of different options and outcomes based upon their selections.

You probably already have static content that can easily be converted into an interactive version, and the results may just surprise you!

Let me know how it goes. I would love to hear about your own experiences with ungated content for lead generation.

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Anna Talerico is Co-Founder of ion interactive.
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Mike Gracen
+1 "Smokey McPot"
Great Article, Anna, and I could not agree more on the boring and formulaic approach to LP campaigns for B2B, be it a component to paid search, a white paper offering, or a page that populates organically and gets clicked on for a site entrance. What annoys me even more is people that insist on requiring a form lead submission in order to get the white paper. That people still do this is almost comical to me, and even more comical when I see form lead submissions for "Smokey McPot" with a phone number of "666-666-6666".

As a result of my experience, I am not a tremendous fan for pushing form leads for clients that operate on a strictly B2B basis. As you have aptly pointed out, there are far better ways to encourage engagement. One additional component that I think is worth mentioning is using a dynamic call tracking number assigned to certain pages as an additional unit of measure.