In this article we analyse whether you need a landing page or is your home page or a product page good enough for your PPC campaign?
Just to give you a quick refresher, Wikipedia defines a landing page as a web page that appears in response to clicking on an online advertisement. Google calculates bounce rate as the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request.
Why a Landing Page? What’s wrong with my home page or product page?
The most important job of your landing page is to continue the narrative begun by your ad.
A visitor clicks on an ad because of its promise – if she is unable to see the landing page continuing that narrative, she will leave.
If you are a big, old company with many products or services, your home page is probably designed as a starting point for many different kinds of visitors. It might address customers, prospective employees, investors, advertisers and so on. It may talk about your brand, legacy, key people, store locations, affiliate programs, advertisers etc. A visitor coming from an ad promising “summer clearance sale” will not find the narrative ad continued on this page.
Take an example of absence of narrative continuity:
Ad: Summer Clearance Sale on Shirts – Upto 50% Off
Landing page copy: Adam Shirts – Since 1954
An example of good narrative continuity
Ad: Summer Clearance Sale on Shirts – Upto 50% Off
Landing page copy: Welcome to Adam Shirts’ Summer Clearance Sale – Get upto 50% Off
Nothing’s Wrong with your Home Page
On the other extreme, you might be a new company selling a single product – say an energy drink with a brand new formulation. Your home page is then probably your most powerful sales pitch. If you are running an ad campaign to increase awareness about your new energy drink, then your home page could be the ideal landing page.
So When should I use a Landing Page?
Since you have worked so hard on your home page, you might be tempted to send all your new visitors there. However, people who have clicked an ad have just seen a glimpse of your narrative and are interested in knowing about it. You would be making a mistake by breaking that narrative.
It also depends on the type of your business and the objective of your campaign. Below we give a list of ad-types inspired by Facebook’s Ad creation wizard, which should serve as a starting point for you to think about your landing page.
The term “display ad” below will refer to a regular display ad and not a remarketing ad.
1. Ads to Generate Awareness – Brand, Product Awareness
Examples for this category would include ads for a new business such as a salon or a boutique apparel store, a company’s new product (say Kindle when it was introduced), or a new company with a product alternative (say an alternative to Quickbooks).
The keyword here is “new”, and the objective is to introduce your ware to potential future customers.
Why stop at awareness; why not try and make a sale?
Well, you or I didn’t make the rules. Read here about the theory of diffusion of innovations. The theory talks about the rate at which an innovation or idea diffuses or spreads among people. The idea or product is first picked up by people referred to as the innovators – these are people willing to take risks with new products or technology. They are followed by the early-adopters, early majority, late majority and then laggards. As the idea or innovation catches on, there is a point at which it reaches a critical mass.
Thus if you spring your new, unknown concept on an unsuspecting web surfer, you might send them away in a hurry. This is because save the innovators and early-adopters, which is a small fraction of your potential customer base, most people are not even ready to give your product a consideration yet. Ergo, if you are trying to jump the gun and advertise for consideration or sales for a new concept, then you are probably wasting money.
The best channels for such ads would be via display or social media and sometimes, search. Like the example above, if you are a new company with an energy drink and you have just begun your marketing efforts your home page can serve as the landing page to begin with. However as you figure out different target segments and marketing channels to attract them, you should present them with an appropriately customised landing page.
2. Ads Designed to Generate Consideration – Traffic, Prospects
An e-commerce store selling shirts might invest in ads to bring in traffic to a general catalog page for shirts. Once there, visitors will spend time looking and may ultimately like something enough to make a purchase.
Such ads will also be employed by high-involvement products, such as a home security system. Complicated products have to allow the potential customer to research on her own before she is ready for purchase.
The typical channel would be via search. A landing page is highly recommended for such types of ads.
3. Ads to Generate Conversions – Sales
These are the Jason Bournes of ads, designed with one and one goal only – to do the job – complete a sale. These are the ads with a discount coupon, free service or shipping, or some such extraordinary promise.
But, ultimately we all want sales. So shouldn’t all your ad money go towards creating the Jason Bournes of ads – doing the job – completing a sale?
No – for three reasons.
1. These ads work only when your target customers are already familiar with the product or product category. If someone does not know what Google Home is, he is unlikely to buy one if you offer him a discount on it.
2. Such ads are even necessary when what you are selling is a commodity, i.e. the exact same or very similar product alternatives are available with your competitors. This usually happens in a mature market with stable products such as shirts or computers or home cleaning services.
3. Moreover since you are possibly cutting into your margins to offer the discounts, you have to run these ads judiciously.
The best channel would be via search ads. Landing page required? Definitely.
Could your Landing Page be Working Against You?
In the process of creating a laser-focussed landing page for your PPC traffic, are you inadvertently chipping away too much information? What portions are expendable and what are not in your landing page?
Like everything in marketing there is no universally-valid list, here is what we believe your landing page should be achieving for you.
1. Continuing the narrative begun by your ad copy – This really is the essence, the tl;dr of this article. Whether you choose to recruit your home page as your landing page or get a new, shiny one, this is indispensable.
2. Reinforcing your brand – While landing page conversions may hover around sub-10% levels, you need to make sure all your visitors see your branding, and that it hopefully sticks. This is an objective with an intangible efficacy, still it is one of the more important results that can come off of a visitor visiting your landing page. This is the reason why remarketing has been such a big success. People will connect much better with something they are already familiar with.
3. Asserting your credibility – If you are a new company, this is best done by borrowing credibility from other trusted entities – say a feature on a famous publication, a testimonial by someone important, or even social proof.
4. Answering questions – Most landing pages should introduce a product, or a service or a campaign and then satisfactorily answer all the questions that might arise in a visitor’s mind.
In order to achieve that you need to get your page people-tested. It is quite likely your landing page will still have blind spots, that despite your most meticulous efforts, your designer, product manager, developer and the rest of the team will miss. It could be a button not being evident as a button, or one section merging into the next obscuring the message. If you haven’t done this enough you may be surprised by what interviewing your website visitors could bring out.
As a marketer it is your job to segment your customers, attract them and present each segment with the appropriately customised landing page. However there is no point creating landing pages just because everyone says you should have them. A badly designed landing page may end up hurting business vis-a-vis a generic page such as a product page or even a home page. A landing page will not magically begin to get customers just by the virtue of it being a landing page. Like any other result of a creative process, it has to be thoroughly tested to get satisfactory results.