The most important skill you can bring to your marketing is an ability to see yourself through a customer's eyes. In the case of search engine advertising that means choosing the right words and phrases on which to advertise and writing effective text ads--both of which are skills that require time and practice to do well. But using landing pages for paid search campaigns is just as important. Even if your search campaigns chug along under their own steam without landing pages, whether you realize it or not ignoring them as the final step in optimizing your online marketing campaigns costs you money.
Think about it this way, if you ran a shop on a busy street you wouldn't put a great-looking green sweater on your window mannequin and then fail to place that same sweater on a sales rack in the front of the store, would you?
In thinking about landing pages, put yourself in the shoes of an individual who:
a) Types a word or phrase into a search engine because he or she wants to learn more about that subject, whether it is trail running shoes
or web hosting for businesses
b) Notices, reads, and choses to click
a descriptive text ad that has appeared above or beside the search results delivered by the search engine.
Your job as a marketer is to anticipate and deliver as closely as possible exactly what that individual expects to see and do on that page. In the examples above, a store that wants to sell more trail running shoes would not only want to write a text ad addressed to that particular customer [Looking for trail running shoes?
BigFootRunning offers more than 25 models. Fast shipping!], but in order to make the ad successful, it would also need to deliver the customer directly to a page that showed all 25 models of trail shoes, ideally with easy navigation either to learn more about or to buy any one of those models AND a well-displayed description of shipping speed. In the other example, a web hosting company would do well to write a text ad addressed to a business, rather than to individuals [Web Hosting for Business
Compare plans ranked most reliable by independent reviews.]. But the landing page for that ad HAS to deliver the searcher to a page that outlines the business hosting plans available AND the independent reviews and rankings. Not to deliver that information would defeat the momentum generated by having persuaded the searcher to click in the first place.
While the text ads I just suggested are fictitious, the two images to the left show real world examples of businesses using landing pages specific to those two searches.
Another way of thinking about the use of landing pages is to consider customer segmentation, another basic principle in marketing. The greater your ability to segment your customers into distinct groups--groups whose needs, vocabulary, habits and preferences you understand and can address in both your product development and your marketing efforts--the greater your success and the more economical your marketing will be.
Optimizing your campaigns involves testing different landing pages as well as different ad text and phrases to discover the factors most likely to get a response from customers. It is in this area where Google and Yahoo! now offer tools to make marketers' lives a lot easier. Elements for testing include headlines and calls-to-action as well as images and colors. The goal is to identify the elements most likely to sway the decision whether or not to buy something (or download something, sign-up for something, etc.) from your company at that particular moment in time. "Testing" as a task may make it sound tedious, but another way to look at this is as a process of learning more about the people you care about, the folks who make your livelihood--your customers. You don't have a more important marketing task than that!Stephen Fraser