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February 12, 2007

The SEM Landing Page Dilemma

By Account Deleted

I sometimes feel that landing pages are often overlooked within the scope of search engine marketing. Personally, I often view it like this. When my wife and I go to the store, we have completely different behaviors.

Me: I prefer to walk quickly through the store, find the aisle where the product is located and when I find it, I go right to the checkout so I can get the hell out of there before someone runs over my foot with a cart.

My wife: She can spend hours browsing for things that she never intended to buy, and then I am forced to either wait outside the changing room or wonder around in the electronics department looking for another HD TV. (ok, too much information) However, I find this shopping behavior very similar to the on line consumers when they are searching on the search engines.

In the SEM mindset, it is very easy to be utterly consumed by KPIs such as CPC, AVG position and CTR% when trying to measure success. However, in terms of actual conversion and revenue, which is the driving force in keeping the client happy and giving them a reason to continue to spend more money with you, the big enchilada that is going to bring in the dough (or tortillas) is initially the landing pages and then followed by the shopping cart process.

To optimize SEM campaigns/adgroups, our traditional way of thinking is to turn up bids and lower bids to align ROAS opportunities and constantly delete and Rewrite Ad/Creatives to improve CTR%. We could spend hours upon hours turning the Google campaign into a well oiled machine. But in reality, the only thing you are doing is improving traffic volume and increasing your client's spend, while  ROAS% is dropping because consumers are not buying and revenue remains flat. This is NOT the news that  a CEO or VP of marketing wants to hear. What a client DOES want is to see their business grow steadily with a healthy ROAS and this is where the Landing Page takes center stage and we need to take a deep look into why customers are not buying.

Docbrown_1 We could decide whether to "Hard Sell" and force the consumer to buy or do we follow a more "humanistic" approach such as the Persuasion Architects from FutureNow have demonstrated in their book "Waiting for your cat to bark" where we provide the consumer with comparison shopping, testimonials, customer reviews, and other options which allow them to leave the landing page and wonder off on their own in the hopes that they will make the purchase. We need to decide which angle works best and frankly, unless you are Dr. Emmit Brown from Back to the Future with a flex capacitor in your pocket, and have this plan to go back in time and see which tactics worked best, there is no true way to know. But there are a few things that you can do before spending the entire budget.

Before we dive into A/B tests, we need to be more generalized in our thinking. Your gonna have customer's who react entirely different from each other.

  1. Some consumers will just want to quickly make the purchase and leave the site.
  2. Other consumers may just want to browse, take their time and be more methodical in their decision making.
  3. Or it's the product or service that is defining the consumer's behavior.

All of these scenarios are leading to a common conclusion yet the answer is complex and on multiple levels. As I have learned with on line marketing, it's an affordable and efficient means to analyze your potential customer base by testing different (CTA) call to action messages, various navigation schemes, and tweaking the shopping cart and ordering process. What we are doing in on line marketing today is really an old strategy that the brick and mortar retailers have done for decades.

In my next post, I will make the correlation.

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