A reader wonders:
What’s the relationship between AdWords and the landing page? How should keywords be used on the web site to achieve consistant quality rankings? Google gives me low quality scores because it says my landing page quality is “Poor.” What can I do?
Your landing page has two customers: Google, and the visitor. If you don’t please Google (as represented by a “No Problems” designation), then the visitor doesn’t matter. They won’t ever see your landing page.
So let’s start with Google.
Google-Pleasing Landing Pages
Google grades landing pages on a pass-fail basis. It’s either a problem, or no problem. There’s no middle ground. Like pregnancy. As much as I find duality to be an illusion of consciousness, it’s really in play here.
So when your landing page triggers a “Poor” score (see screen shot below for how you can tell), you have to fix the problem right away.
Most landing page problems fall into two categories: bad or missing content.
Bad content means, as Perry Marshall wrote last month, that some Google rep is responding negatively to the question, “Would I send my grandmother to this site?”
Maybe you sell questionable stuff, in Google’s eyes. Maybe you are (or appear to be) a zero-value-adding reseller (ie affiliate). Maybe you promise something in your ad (free tarot reading) and offer something completely different ($4 tarot reading).
Here’s what Google says (click here for the source):
Website Types to Avoid
The following website types will be penalized with low landing page quality scores. If we receive complaints about ads for websites of this kind, they will not be allowed to continue running.
* Data collection sites that offer free items, etc., in order to collect private information
* Arbitrage sites that are designed for the purpose of showing ads
* Malware sites that knowingly or unknowingly install software on a visitor’s computer
Website Types to Advertise with Caution
The following website types will sometimes merit low landing page quality scores and may be difficult to advertise affordably. If you choose to advertise one of these website types, be particularly careful to adhere to our landing page quality guidelines – especially the rule about offering unique content.
* eBook sites
* ‘Get rich quick’ sites
* Comparison shopping sites
* Travel aggregators
Google is quite explicit about what it wants to see on your landing page: relevance, originality, transparency, and navigability.
Your landing page must be about the same thing as your keyword and ad. It must not be an exact or close-to-exact copy of information found on some other website (Brad Geddes reassured me that duplicate content penalties don’t occur when identical content lives on the same website – so you can split test within a single domain to your heart’s delight).
You must make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Here’s Google’s advice:
- Provide a short and easy path for users to purchase or receive the product or offer in your ad.
- Avoid excessive use of pop-ups, pop-unders, and other obtrusive elements throughout your site.
- Make sure that your landing page loads quickly.
Visitor-Friendly Landing Pages
Actually, just follow Google’s advice for the most part, and your pages will be, at the very least, acceptable to your visitors. But if the Google bar is low, the Conversion bar is quite high. Just “not sucking” is good enough for Google, but it won’t make you sales.
Here’s the best landing page advice I can give:
Your landing page fulfills the promise of your ad.
Every ad is a promise. It goes like this: “Click me (and ignore everything else on this page) and you’ll get…”
The “…” is the reason they click your ad. Either you promise it explicitly (“Free download” or “Canon PowerShot SD780 $279 Free Shipping” or “Complete Guide to Garlic-Scented Candles”) or the promise is implicit and must be assumed by the searcher (“Landing Page optimization system. Achieve maximum CTR with science. www.sitespect.com”).
Ask a few friends who don’t know anything about your business to read your ad and tell you what they think they’re being promised.
That’s your landing page.
Start at the Top
Actually, that’s the top of your landing page.
You see, you don’t always have to fulfill the promise on the landing page. Nobody thinks they’re going to read SiteSpect’s landing page and instantly achieve maximum CTR (that’s click through rate, for you AdWords newbies).
But they have to believe they’re in the right place, on the right trail. Ben Hunt talks about the scent trail of search. Like a bloodhound searching for the owner of the sweaty sock, your visitor is also in pursuit of a goal, and will naturally take the path that appears to be the quickest route to that goal.
Most landing pages fail in the first 7 seconds. Something about the header graphic, the headline (or more commonly, lack thereof), and overall design just screams “It ain’t me, Babe, No no no, it ain’t me, Babe, it ain’t me you’re looking for, Babe.”
(If you want to watch a youtube video of me performing this song, leave a comment to that effect. If I get 10 comments, by golly, I’ll do it. 15 comments, I’ll add the harmonica. Of course, you’re also free to beg me not to.)
Mugurdy – a Visual Search Engine
Recently I met Mugurdy, a visual search engine that, instead of showing links, shows actual landing page snapshots side by side. While it currently runs off the Yahoo API, it’s still a fascinating and valuable tool for anyone looking to improve their landing page design and top messaging.
Let’s say you’re advertising for the keyword tarot reading. Here’s what your user would see if they searched on Yahoo:
Take a minute and pretend you’re looking for a tarot reading – which listing do you choose?
Using Mugurdy, the user decides based on the look of the landing page. So here’s their results for tarot reading:
Now, based on those images, which site would you visit? (I personally lean toward the seventh one, the Tarot Course page with the yellow sidebar. It looks like the one where I’ll learn the most, and I like the look of the page. If I landed on one of the black-background pages, I’d probably bounce back to Yahoo within seconds. But that’s just me.)
Chances are, the winner in visual search won’t be the same as the ad text winner. And if that’s the case, then somebody’s landing page is sub-optimized for this traffic.
Mugurdy hasn’t yet created a visual search engine for AdWords listings, but you can use it to get an instant snapshot of a bunch of competitors’ sites. And you’ll learn a lot about how to make a landing page instantly attractive, based on the promise of the ad.
If you want to create landing pages that totally fulfill the promise of the ad, while leading to sales, not just happy browsers, check out the Traffic Surge course that begins October 8, 2009.
Graduates of the last Traffic Surge course have been raving about it (that’s why I’m offering it again). They feel like they’ve unlocked the mystery of AdWords, and can now research and succeed in any market they want.
There are still a couple of seats left that include a free live Checkmate workshop in Durham in early December ($2000 value). Act quickly to reserve your seat.