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Want Optimal SEM Effectiveness? Target And Test Your Landing Pages

A ComScore Networks study estimated that nearly 80% of all online purchases start at a major search engine. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN can help to bring visitors to your site, but that is only the first step; once visitors arrive on your landing page, the site must keep the momentum going and ultimately convert the visitor to a customer. Landing page targeting and testing -- or a combination of both -- enables you to optimize how your site speaks to your visitors.

The core of any Web marketing campaign is the ability to serve landing pages with content that is relevant to its visitors. This targeted content allows the visitor to quickly and easily find what they are looking for on your site through a search engine. For pay-per-click campaigns, landing page URLs can be specified for each ad, group, keyword or creative.

Targeting allows you to show site visitors different content that is based on their segment. In search engine marketing, the segment is typically defined by the search keyword, or keyword group. For instance, the "cd/dvd" segment includes searches for "dvd player," "cd player," "blu ray," "hd dvd," and so on. Visitors clicking through from any of these search queries are then directed to a specific, targeted landing page such as the DVD category or product page. By immediately presenting visitors with content and products they are interested in, you have created a win-win situation. Visitors don't have to spend time trying to navigate to the content they are interested in, and you have brought them one step closer to a conversion.

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Beyond targeting your site to tailor the needs of your visitors, it is important that you continually test and optimize your landing pages to ensure their effectiveness at compelling visitors to take a specific action. Whether testing a single factor like the page's heading (an A/B test), or testing multiple factors at the same time like headline, promotion, and head shot (a multivariate test), the objective is to learn which page version not only gets the visitor's attention, but holds it as well. Multivariate tests provide another interesting benefit: they enable you to isolate the influence that each individual page element has on visitor response, thus revealing the "behavioral levers" contained within your site's content.

For example, if several visitors ran a search for "snowboard" through a search engine and they chose to click on your link through the results of the query, each visitor would be shown a different version of your landing page. One visitor could see a red headline and an embedded video demo of a particular snowboard in the center of the page, whereas a second visitor might be presented with a blue headline and photo of a spotlighted "board of the day" toward the bottom of the page. It is important to see not only if the visitor chose to click on the photo or demo, but also how long each version engaged the visitors' attention, and if the placement of graphic or video played a role in leading the visitor to ultimately make a purchase.

Search engine marketing and pay-per-click campaigns can bring visitors to your site, but there is still work to be done. It is imperative that you target and test your landing pages to suit the needs of each visitor segment. By showing your visitors targeted landing pages based on their search terms, and then testing and optimizing your landing pages, your entire site will become a more efficient mechanism for converting search engine traffic.

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