My bet is that you don’t think too frequently about your ‘landing page ratio’….but maybe you should.
Honestly, when my business partner unveiled the “landing page ratio” (LPR) concept several years ago, I thought it was a novel idea, but a little too complicated for me. I didn’t think I’d use it much, and I wasn’t sure how practical it was for managing landing pages at scale—like, thousands of landing pages at a time across a wide variety of media and campaigns. But, as with many things, he was right, and I was wrong. I use the landing page ratio all the time. I don’t whip out the calculator and do the actual math, but I use mental math to figure out an approximation of the landing page ratio for marketers, and I encourage them to as well.
Often, when a landing page strategy has gone awry, it’s because the LPR is way off.
I was speaking with an online marketer recently about their landing page strategy, and it was a subtle nuance of the landing page ratio concept that helped me uncover an issue in how he was executing on his strategy.
This marketer’s goal was to have a highly targeted experience for about 1,000 really long-tail keywords. He opted to accomplish this through ‘dynamic content substitution’ on a single page. He built a single page, that ‘acted’ like 1,000 different pages, because the page content changes based on the user’s search query—the headline, subheadline, images and the main bulleted copy are dynamic.
Let’s first look at this from the 30,000 foot view. In many ways, this solution seems like a modern, scalable approach to a difficult problem. Instant 1,000 pages (just add water!), with minimal effort, to handle the growing complexity of managing the long-tail of online advertising. This landing page ratio would be a perfect score of 1 (one landing page for every one keyword). Or would it?
I love dynamic content substitution and I’ve seen it boost conversion rates many times when A/B tested against pages without it. But how you use it is important. Let’s look below the surface and we we’ll find a few issues with this particular ‘1 page for 1,000 keywords’ approach.
1. The technical investment to create the dynamic page was steep (because he wasn’t using a sweet landing page platform like ion that would let him accomplish this without developers!). He was invested in this single strategy and hadn’t stopped to think ‘what if this doesn’t work?’. When I posed the question, he was speechless for a moment. He had used his budget on this approach, and it had to work. There wasn’t more funding for another option, so he was betting on this single horse. And we all know how horse races go.
2. Ditto on budget for testing. He was going to launch the new ‘one size fits all’ page against his current page (a deep link into a single page on his site) in an A/B test, so he would be able to see the result of the new page, and how it fared against the current. If the new page won the test—great! But what then? There were no other tests planned, so it was ‘one shot’ to boost conversions. Or not. To make versions of the page, or tweaks on the page for improvement and follow-on testing would require more investment in developers.
2a. Taken a step further, the A/B test was going to be very generic. Either the new page would win, or the old page would win. But what if the old page works better for some keywords, and the new page works better for others?
3. While this is a landing page ratio of 1 (great!) for keywords to pages, it is actually a big fail on the ratio of ads to pages. And that’s probably most important. PPC visitors click on ads. Ads with specific messages. The landing page ratio is designed to help make sure you have a healthy ratio of ads to pages. Not keywords to pages. Keywords are the users search—their intent, if you will. But an ad is a marketers promise. A promise of what lays beyond the ads. For landing pages to work, they need to be very tightly matched to the ad copy. Not just the keyword, but the actual copy in the ad.
4. My biggest concern of all is the lack of emphasis on the overall experience for the user, and not taking into context the variety of user expecations across such a wide set of keywords (and the ads for the keywords). With the above strategy the emphasis is a very mechanical focus on the page. But we’re marketers. We have to think about the experience it will take to persuade a visitor to convert. Some categories of keywords & ads might warrant different types of experiences.
Ideally, I would like to see this marketer set out to determine what types of experiences work best for groups of conceptually organized keywords. What do I mean by ‘experience’? I mean it in the broadest sense—I’d like this marketer to be able to freely experiment with things like microsites, single page/single step form, multi-step forms, single pages with tabbed content, single pages with accordion content, role-based segmentation paths, need-based segmentation paths. Plus different layouts, different styles, different copy. I’d like to see the emphasis on experimentation to find those magical experiences that lift conversion instead of trying to get a single page to do the heavy lifting of an entire campaign. I want this because that is what I have seen work across a wide swath of customers.
So, here is the advice I gave.
- Group the keywords conceptually. This was likely already done, in the form of Google campaigns and ad groups.
- For each ad group, create a challenger experience to run against the website deep link where the traffic is currently directed. The new challenger experience can be the same basic layout across all the different ad groups, but may have vastly different content (ideally, related as specifically as possible to all the ads in that ad group).
- The type of experience I recommended to start with in this case was a single page, with some tabbed content and a single-step form. I often recommend this when launching a test against a deep link, because it’s a nice way to create a single, conversion-focused page, while giving the user options to navigate a bit of content on the page. (Also, when you use LiveBall for this experience, it can track those clicks. It’s a great way to see what content users are most interested in, and which content clicks lead to the most conversions.)
- Launch the new experiences in an A/B test against the deep link (each ad group running it’s own A/B test of new challenger against the control experiences).
- Evaluate the results to determine the next waves of tests. In some ad groups, the control might win. Time to launch a new challenger. In some ad groups, the challenger might win. Now it could be time for some dynamic content substitution on the winning experience to get keywords and copy even more hyper-targeted. Or time to launch another new challenger based on behavioral analysis of what’s working so well on the first experience (remember those trackable tabs?). There are a million places we can run from here. The point is that with this approach now we have some meaty things to sink our teeth into and a variety of ways to test for higher conversions. We can evalutate what’s working, and what isn’t and craft new tests for each ad group based on the results of the first tests. And on, and on, for ever increasing conversion rates and more effective media spend.
In the above recommendation, we still have a very healthy landing page ratio. 1 landing page for every ad group. If there are 4 different live ads in each ad group, it would be 1 landing page for every 4 ads. All fine. And as the program progresses and the testing gets more mature and we learn more about how different ads and keywords work with the landing experiences, I would expect that to continue to get even more granular, to the point of 1 landing page for every couple of ads (as long as the ad messages are very similar).
I know some of you might not agree with the above approach. That’s why we have testing, right? To see how it actually will fare when we take it out to the real world.