Here are 9 of my favorite best practices for designing stellar responsive landing pages. You can use these with or without a platform to ensure you are building landing pages that not only respond, but convert! Read More.Read More responsive landing pages, responsive web design, Landing Page Design
Filtering by Tag: Landing Page Design
Ready to get more bang for your paid search buck? Send people to the right page, with the right content, in the right format. The first step is figuring out what level of the funnel your keywords fall, and then creating landing experiences that are relevant to that phase. Read More.Read More pay-per-click, Landing Page Design, Landing Pages, Landing Page bes, low funnel keywords, landing page templates
As post-click marketers, we understand that every click your visitors make leads them somewhere and we happen to think that should be amazing post-click experiences. The only way to make them amazing to your paid search visitors, is to ensure that they’re giving visitors the right information in the easiest to digest format. Read More.Read More pay-per-click, ppc, Landing Page Design, landing page templates, high funnel keywords
Each online marketing campaign is a marriage of three key elements: strategic advertising, high-performance landing pages, and efficient post-conversion execution. If you fail to execute just one of these critical facets, your leads may shy away. So before you launch your next campaign, run your landing page through this 13-point checklist and make sure that you have the basics covered.
High-performance landing pages are:
User-Centric. Think about the user experience first and foremost. Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes and run through your landing page experience. Is your page informative, enjoyable, and visually pleasing? Or is it disorganized, confusing, or lacking key information?
Fluid. If your landing page contains links to other interior or external pages, ensure that these transitions run smoothly by keeping both your visual elements and your messaging consistent throughout. Don’t forget to use your confirmation page to remind visitors what they’ve just signed up for.
Relevant. Where your visitors land after they click should be contextually relevant. Use scannable headlines and imagery to confirm your page’s purpose and bridge the gap between click and conversion.
Conversion-focused. A common marketing mantra is to remove half of your copy, and then remove half of what remains. While that may be a bit extreme for some, it’s important to minimize distractions by eliminating unnecessary copy, graphics, form fields, and links from your page. Fervently and unemotionally axing irrelevant content on your page will shift your visitor’s focus toward the conversion goal.
Segmented. Segmenting your visitors based on campaign, traffic source, role, need, motives, and more helps you to identify your top prospects and to deliver a highly targeted message.
Targeted. Take advantage of every opportunity to provide your visitors with a highly targeted, personal experience. Make each visitor’s experience their own by inserting dynamic content like keywords, offers, or locations into your copy.
Measured. Track key metrics to illuminate opportunities where results can be improved.
Tested & Optimized. Use real-time A/B or multivariate testing to determine what works and what doesn’t. Constantly test each element of your landing page wherever traffic volume permits to ensure that your pages are highly optimized and efficient.
Transparent. Keep metrics, results, and data shareable at any time so that you can clearly monitor each point in the pre-click, post-click, and post-conversion process.
Integrated. Communicate with other key stakeholders in the post-conversion process to ensure that your conversions undergo a seamless hand-off to other marketing and sales platforms.
Flexible. Testing your pages will inevitably reveal both winning content and page elements. Keeping your landing pages all on one code-free, marketer-managed platform will give you the flexibility to quickly adapt and change content without relying on outside production or IT resources.
Valuable. Is there a clear value proposition in your offer? The role of the landing page isn’t to inform, it’s to sell. Make your pitch, and make it fast—ensure that your core value proposition is short, sweet, and most importantly, easily identifiable.
Prioritized. Landing pages are an integral part of your online marketing program. They are your brand’s customer-facing front line—incorporate your company’s core values, brand identity, and message into your pages with text and visual elements. Then, share your landing pages with other key stakeholders in the sales process to keep your visitor’s brand exposure both consistent and enjoyable.
Recently, I've been noticing a common trend amongst marketers and conversion specialists. I like to call it the "iterative state of mind." Taking something that is performing well and testing incremental changes (headlines, content, adding/removing single elements within a page, etc.). While this testing methodology provides incredibly useful learning and insight, continuous iteration will only yield incremental lift in performance.
And still, there is fear. Fear of the unknown: not knowing why a new experience won. This is the exact reason innovation in testing is often rare — it’s scary and feels very risky. However, I can tell you from driving customer conversion optimization programs for nearly 8 years, repeated cycles of innovation is an absolute necessity. A single innovation cycle is of huge value. But multiple innovation cycles are of even higher value. And Marian University’s Accelerated Nursing Program agrees!
Marian University recently shared with us some amazing results that I felt obligated to share with you all as well.
By testing radically different experiences, they didn't know exactly why the page worked, except that it did. And it did...again! Starting with a 3.7% conversion rate they were able increase their conversion rate to 13.5% — more than a 264% lift — in just two waves of innovation. Now, I ask you: how many waves of iteration does it take to increase your leads over 200%?
The innovation/iteration cycle
When you come out of the gate and look at your marketing objectives, it's important to think creatively and develop innovative approaches. Test those big ideas. Get to a quick champion (or two). Then, start your first iteration cycle where you polish your winner by testing minor differences. Once you see diminishing returns from your iterated challenger landing pages, it's time to start thinking out of the box again.
Interested in learning more about cycles of innovation and iteration? Download our free Guide to Online Testing.
Marketing ideas have historically had to filter through layers of design, production and technology before they become reality. This has robbed marketers of the immediacy and agility fast becoming the hallmarks of successful online campaigns. Testing is bringing marketing ideas and alternatives to their audiences. Agile testing empowers marketers to take their ideas to their audiences quickly and easily — without code and without IT.
LiveBall’s Culture of ‘Yes’
The freedom that marketers gain from ‘going direct’ with their ideas leads to revolutionary changes in how marketing gets developed and delivered. These changes are even more revolutionary than the desktop publishing revolution that turned print upside down in the late eighties. Giving marketers the ability to cut out all middle men and put themselves in a direct feedback loop with their audience finally delivers the two-way conversation that has long been imagined.
Gone are the days of dogmatic defense of abstract ideas. ‘Let’s test it’ replaces ‘that’ll never work’. ‘We can do that today’ supplants ‘let’s look at resources and schedule some time to decide on a go-forward plan’. The new reality of forward-thinking marketing organizations is both fast and free. Fast to execute and free to excel.
LiveBall is optimization software designed to eliminate friction for marketers looking for a way to ‘try it’. Instead of hearing how long it will take or that it simply can’t be done, LiveBall embodies a new culture of ‘yes’. Yes, you can try it. Yes, you can make it happen today. And yes, you’ll know how it worked tomorrow. Testing is simply trying new things. And LiveBall lets non-technical marketers try new things without code, without IT, without a degree in statistics and without friction.
7 Ways to Improve Your Marketing with LiveBall’s No-Code Testing
1. Landing Page Testing
Optimizing the first impressions you make on users is a proven step towards improving your online marketing results. Creating and testing sophisticated, high-performance landing pages and matching them to specific streams of traffic makes the most of those critical first impressions.
LiveBall enables landing page conversion rate optimization with both A/B and multivariate testing — without code or IT. Begin by A/B testing different concepts against each other. Run parallel controls and compare those results against your LiveBall pages — in real time. Once you have a champion, refine it using LiveBall’s multivariate testing tools — by varying page content and forms. LiveBall does the heavy lifting so you can focus on what’s being tested and free your mind of how it gets accomplished.
2. Microsite Testing
Creating and testing multipage, navigable user experiences can be daunting and time consuming. Even the most sophisticated content management systems are outside their core competency when multiple independent experiences are required.
Microsites perform well when what’s needed is a deep dive into a narrow topic. Conversion-focused microsites — with lead-gen, add-to-cart or social conversion on every page — are great performers with high-ticket or complex sales.
LiveBall makes complex microsite creation and testing simple. Using a standard web browser, non-technical marketers can create, deploy and test feature-rich navigable microsites without code or specialized resources. A/B test microsites against one another to optimize flow, navigation, messaging and conversion. Refine content and test form variations within pages of your microsites using LiveBall’s code-free MVT features.
3. Conversion Path Testing
Most content management systems (CMS) were designed primarily to edit websites. As websites become less relevant and users demand more specific and more contextually pertinent content, the CMS gets further and further away from its roots.
Conversion paths shine when segmentation into specific groups helps refine messaging and improve visitor engagement. Less specific traffic drivers like paid search engine marketing often benefit from message-matched user experiences that speak very clearly and simply to visitors.
Conversion paths appear very simple to users, but are in fact quite complex to assemble and test — unless you’re using LiveBall. ion’s LiveBall platform makes the creation and testing of complex, multipage, multi-branch conversion paths easy. Market segments can be created as tags within LiveBall that can be applied to any action a user might take. This allows marketers to see and focus on the sources of traffic that convert the best for their most wanted market segments. Conversion path testing is accomplished in three clicks using LiveBall’s A/B testing features and it can be augmented with multivariate content or form testing within pages. All testing is accomplished without code, help from IT or other specialized resources — putting all of the power and control within marketing’s hands.
4. Message Testing
Online marketing — especially search engine marketing — provides an almost instantaneous channel for generating targeted traffic. This is a tremendous opportunity for controlled message testing. Instead of focus groups and usability tests, controlled experiments can be run on real web traffic in real time. How people respond to messaging in real experiences is invaluable data for organizations to carry forward into broader applications.
LiveBall enables targeted message testing — letting marketers float ideas to narrow slices of traffic. This allows for quick learning that can be applied to broader campaigns or across corporate messaging development. Test copy, design, Flash, forms, video and nomenclature with point-and-click simplicity. Insert your ideas into streams of traffic and siphon off as much or as little as you like. Get instant feedback from users and fold that new knowledge into your future creative. LiveBall gives you more knowledge in less time, using fewer resources.
5. E-Commerce Warming Testing
Warming pages can provide significant lift within e-commerce experiences. By inserting a warming page between a paid-search ad and a catalog/product page, a significantly higher percentage of visitors may be inclined to add to cart. What’s more interesting, is that a higher percentage of carts may complete their transactions.
Many shopping cart experiences are sub-par and difficult to improve. Pre-cart warming pages help visitors see more value in the product and the brand behind it. By increasing the value proposition, marketers are providing more fuel to propel people through a likely sub-par cart experience.
LiveBall makes it easy to create and test pre-cart warming pages to find the right ones for the job. The platform provides tracking code that can be inserted during or following the transaction within the cart to track conversion as well as other data like average order value (AOV) — all in real time. By making it fast & easy to increase the value proposition, LiveBall can help improve e-commerce performance.
6. Forms — Data Collection Testing
Forms, like shopping carts, are obstacles to ease of use and visitor satisfaction. The best forms are the ones that make it easy, fast, intuitive and trustworthy for users to share their information. There are many variables involved in finding the ‘best forms’. The number of fields, their labels, their presentation, the number of steps in a wizard, the number of columns, button design and labeling — all impact the usability of forms and hence the ROI of the business behind them. Varying and testing these elements can be time consuming, resource intensive and costly.
LiveBall enables no-code, dynamic form testing using both A/B and multivariate (MVT) methods. The platform separates presentation from data collection to allow for easy, independent testing of alternatives without affecting data integrity or CRM compatibility. Marketers can directly control all aspects of data collection and form presentation without code or help from specialized resources like IT. Form experimentation can have a measurable, immediate and direct impact on conversion rates.
7. Social Engagement Testing
Social marketing can sometimes struggle to show its ROI within the marketing mix. But engagement with a brand is highly valuable and often quantifiable. Social conversion — the idea that there is great inherent value in creating or adding to a brand’s tribe — is an idea whose time has come.
LiveBall supports the use of social widgets as engagement mechanisms to put social on the same level as lead-gen or transactional conversion. Creating and testing user experiences designed to engage is only the beginning. Leveraging and escalating participation within your tribe to shake out the most passionate advocates can lead to business opportunities. LiveBall provides the agile infrastructure needed to create stimulating, flexible user experiences to transform casual engagement into passionate participation. Social-specific user experiences can range from Twitter landing pages, to micro-blogs, to follow-pages and much more. The list is ever expanding and demands flexibility and agility to deliver great brand experiences.
Create a Culture of ‘Yes’
Idea-driven marketing flourishes in a culture of ‘yes’. Agile marketing is unimpeded and free to succeed in a fast-paced world where change is the only constant. Trying out ideas in real time on real people is the foundation of high-speed, high-performance marketing. Testing those ideas in landing pages, microsites, conversion paths, messaging, warming pages, forms and social marketing is the constant that drives innovation, performance, revenue and ROI. It’s the culture of ‘yes, we can try that — right now’. And it’s made possible with LiveBall.
According to eMarketer, 39% of marketers are not satisfied with their conversion rates. When I first read that, my immediate thought was how can that be? How can nearly two-thirds of marketers be satisfied with their conversion rates?
The Fireclick index at about the same time as the eMarketer article showed keyword & email conversion rates of 4.00% and 3.10% respectively. So a small leap of faith tells me that most marketers believe that it’s okay for 96%+ of their campaign traffic to walk away.
The only explanation for this being ‘okay’ is that it’s normal. The thinking must be that if the average is 4% and I’m in that neighborhood, then status quo is good enough. It’s normal.
It may be average, but it’s not normal. In fact it’s orders of magnitude removed from normal. Normal needs to be re-calibrated. There are many marketers today that have successfully re-calibrated the notion of what’s normal. For them, normal is now 12% instead of 4%. Their cost-per-acquisition is dramatically lower than their competition’s and they’re winning more customers.
But who are these companies that are redefining normal? How do they do it?
I wanted to write this paper because it’s inconceivable to me that more than 1% of marketers are satisfied with their online conversion rates. I’ve seen the competitive advantages taken. I’ve seen the momentum change. I’ve seen the online budgets expand and I’ve seen the champions get promoted. How come everyone isn’t on the bandwagon?
More than anything else, what’s required to shift normal is a change in attitude. The new attitude appreciates the potential and the payoff of the new normal. And it accepts nothing less than monumental improvement. It pushes aside the perceived barriers to success and asserts that the status quo is broken.
Instead of examining a single case study, I’ve tried to weave a few of these marketing leaders together into a story. What they have in common is that they made significant positive business impact to their organizations in a very short time. They truly changed the game — not only for themselves, but also for their competitors.
Better clicks. More business.
It’s not only about how many people click, but also who they are. When the right people click, they convert too. And they buy. And they stay. When you’re transparent about who you are, you get the same in return. When both the marketer and the user are honest, everyone finds success. It’s like matchmaking.
That transparency makes it much easier to see where your best customers and prospects come from. When you can see that clearly, you can also see where they don’t come from. Then it becomes easy to shift your spend to the best sources. It’s much harder to confidently make that call without trustworthy data beyond click-through-rate. But that’s really the weeds-eye view.
Using post-click performance and behaviors to impact the streams of clicks that feed your marketing machine represents a strategic overhaul. It means that a sizable piece of your marketing emphasis moves from ads to pages. It means treating pages like extensions of ads. It can’t be the web content team that makes this happen. It has to be the advertising or marketing teams.
Extend the ad through the pages that follow. Learn more about users. Use that learning to optimize your spend. Here are a couple of examples of this strategy.
More intelligence. Less spend.
Bronto Software focused their pay-per-click (PPC) spend by using post-click metrics to determine where the right people were coming from. A click was not a click. A click became a person with intent. Understanding that intent lead to a 65% reduction in paid-search spend resulting in a net increase in the number of leads and the quality of those leads.
Bronto’s post-click emphasis informed their media spend. How did they get at user intent? By asking. They attached meaning to the decisions that users made in highly specialized landing experiences. For Bronto it wasn’t about behavioral targeting or inference, it was about the explicit choices users made in navigation- and distraction-free environments. These campaign-specific pages were nimble extensions of their marketing messages — made possible by Bronto’s decision to have them live outside of their website infrastructure. Only there could they exercise the message and offer agility they needed.
Specific options were put in front of users in the form of targeted landing experiences called conversion paths. Within two quarters of adopting this strategy, Bronto had multiplied their conversion rate from 2% to over 18%. They did it with 159 conversion paths on 80 specific sources of traffic. Over 800 campaign-specific pages drove this unprecedented change.
Today, Bronto Software is nearly two years into this online marketing strategy. They are running 728 landing experiences on 406 sources of traffic with a lifetime average conversion rate of just under 22% across both PPC and email marketing. That’s over 3,600 agile web pages delivering remarkable value.
Bronto’s online marketing success is truly game changing. The company enjoys a three-year growth rate of over 284% and was recently named number 1,096 on the Inc. 5000.
Another example of click optimization comes from Citrix Systems. The $1.2 billion enterprise software company adopted a similar strategy to that of Bronto, but they did it while micro-targeting via paid search. They found their needle in a haystack niche of hospital administrators, but they also found that over 70% of the clicks they were paying for were not even in the neighborhood of their target audience.
They too moved to agile pages outside of the confines of their website infrastructure. Beyond the grind of IT and multi-departmental processes, their landing pages flourished. They created these pages without navigation or other distractions and as extensions of the ads that were feeding them traffic.
As it turned out, Google was much more likely to deliver the target than Yahoo was. So after a year of splitting the spend between the two vehicles, post-click data empirically revealed the truth within two weeks of the strategy change. The Yahoo spend was moved to Google and the post-click landing experiences were further optimized. Ultimately, the result of the three-week effort was 2,500% improvement over the original baseline.
This all happened when marketing took ownership of campaign-specific pages. Those pages became tightly integrated with the ads that fed them and the result was game changing for Citrix.
The long tail of retail.
American Greetings toiled for years with just a few landing pages. This was despite the knowledge that they had highly diverse streams of traffic feeding the $1.7 billion company. But their landing pages were part of the multidisciplinary website team’s responsibility. And they just weren’t a top priority. But lowering the cost-per-acquisition on their millions of monthly unique visitors was certainly a top priority.
American Greetings had already tested and optimized a few landing pages using multivariate methods. They needed something much more dramatic to move their needle much further. American Greetings’ marketing team took ownership of their campaign pages for paid search and began their effort to redefine what they considered to be ‘normal’.
In the first three months of their new strategy, American Greetings deployed over 40 campaign-specific multi-page landing experiences. They tested a wide variety of diverse pages, offers, price points and messaging on over 200 audience segments.
Almost immediately, American Greetings saw an unprecedented 30% increase in conversion rates resulting in a 20% reduction in fully loaded cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Multiply that performance times millions of monthly uniques and you start to see what’s at stake.
Within five months of beginning their program, American Greetings had created over 700 unique landing pages being tested across hundreds of sources of traffic. Today they have 989 landing experiences across 489 sources of traffic. That translates to thousands of unique, audience-targeted, campaign-specific pages — all driven by marketing. All driving ‘normal’ online marketing performance to a whole new level.
American Greetings continues to push higher and higher with conversion goals set 40% higher in 2010 and another 33% higher in 2011. That’s anything but status quo.
Seeing the trends.
I hope you’re seeing the patterns here. It’s pretty exciting stuff. When marketers take control and produce niche, long-tail pages, good things happen. In fact great things happen. Things that are so far beyond the average that everyone should be doing them. And then we’d have a whole new average to exceed.
But there’s some between-the-lines learning here that I want to point out too. My motive for giving you a shower of big numbers is partially to show that this strategy is realistic, but also to illustrate a little-known facet of what’s going on here: these campaign-specific pages are highly disposable. They have to be. If marketers are married to their landing experiences because of over-investment of time and money, they’ll never be willing to kill the poor performers.
All of these successes are built on disposable pages.
The somewhat cavalier sales saying goes ‘some will. some won’t. so what. move on.’ and the same could be said of online marketing funnels. Some will work. Some won’t. Kill the ones that don’t. In order for that approach to work, you cannot over invest in any one funnel.
I’m in no way advocating unprofessional, ill-branded or half-hearted pages. You need an agile method to deliver nimble, professional pages in minutes — not hours, days, weeks or worse. You have to keep the total cost of a page relatively low and the quality very high.
Link stability is not the same as page stability.
The disposability of pages does not lend itself to the web development world. In web dev, pages and their links are preserved. In the online marketing world, links are divorced from pages, so that they can persist even when the pages behind them die. The way to think about it is that you link to a place — what gets displayed in that place changes all the time, but the place itself is stable. It’s unlikely that a website content management system is going to make that sort of flexibility easy — if it supports it at all. Your website is about stable pages in stable places. The best online marketing experiences are always in flux.
This is the crux of testing that yields dramatic results. The re-calibration of normal happens when you can easily vary what’s shown to users. Why? To find the pages that are most likely to convert them from casual, impulsive clickers into engaged prospects or customers.
American Greetings, Bronto and Citrix are three examples of the redefinition of normal. Their businesses have been transformed by online marketing. In all three cases the transformation happened within weeks or months. They let nothing stand in their way and they were rewarded for their persistence.
What reasons could organizations have NOT to make this change in strategy an imperative? What could be more important than this sort of impact on revenue and income? The reasons I hear most often are trivial.
What wouldn’t an organization trade to triple its return on advertising or marketing investment? What wouldn’t it be worth to reduce customer acquisition costs by 20%? Ask the CEO, the CFO or the CMO for the real answers.
To reiterate: According to eMarketer, 39% of marketers are not satisfied with their conversion rates. The Fireclick index at about the same time as the eMarketer article showed keyword & email conversion rates of 4.00% and 3.10% respectively. A strategy exists that redefines online marketing’s value proposition. Normal should be 3x today’s ‘averages’. It’s doable. And doing it changes the game.
Landing pages, landing pages, landing pages. If you are driving clicks through paid advertising, you are probably using landing pages. And if you are like most marketers, your results are probably “so-so” or “unremarkable”. On average, only about 3% of paid clicks convert. That’s a lot of conversions left on the table. Luckily, there are things you can do right now to help immediately and dramatically improve your online conversions.
- No More Landing Pages
Make a paradigm shift to stop thinking in terms of “pages” and focus instead on creating conversion-focused experiences. It’s hard to convince a respondent to convert by dumping them into a single page. But a well-designed conversion experience can seduce a lot more conversions from your audience by creating a relevant path from the click through to the conversion.
- Message Match
Make sure your ad message and your landing experience match. And I don’t mean colors or pictures. I mean messages and promises. In order to get the user to click, your ad implies a promise: CLICK HERE. GET THIS. Your landing experience needs to immediately, directly and simply pay off that promise. Whatever your ad says, make sure your landing experience fulfills that message and promise. When you do this, you will build trust with your respondent, and when you build trust, you will automatically build desire. We call it the conversion path trust cycle: Make a promise, pay it off on the next page. Continue doing this until you ask for, and receive, conversion.
When you have message mismatched ads and landing pages you are damaging your brand and making your respondents less likely to click the next time they stumble upon you. Ouch.
- Keep It Simple
When users click on your ad they aren’t making a considered choice. They are reacting to a simple little ad message. Whether a banner, an email or a paid search ad, the click on your ad is a split second impulse. Either the user saw something that caught their eye, or they were searching for something and your ad seemed like it might lead somewhere relevant. When we dump those ad respondents onto a landing page with a ton of copy, links, choices, or a form, we are breaking the rhythm and expecting them to do all the work. No wonder our conversions are at 3%! This “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to building landing pages doesn’t work.
In order to keep users flowing through our conversion experience we have to simplify each page. Get rid of all the distractions. When we simplify the page, including the message, the copy, and the choices, users will ultimately flow through at a much higher rate of conversion. Create an experience that keeps them in the “split second” flow that they are in when they click on the ad. Keep them moving by presenting them simple, relevant choices and letting them flow through a conversion path to the point of actually converting. When you simplify your experience, your conversions will increase.
- Offer Choice
The way you can keep your experience simple is by using strategic respondent choices within your experience. A page with a ton of copy, links or a form is WORK for the user. Too many choices, too much distraction. Rather than putting everything on the page, create a simple page with a couple of choices. Once the user makes a choice, the next page pays off that choice with relevancy.
Let’s say I am running an ad for a credit card. I could dump respondents on my application form. Or I could send them to a page of long copy about the credit card and then take them to the application form (if any of them actually make it through my long page of copy).
Or, I could usher respondents to a simple landing page that has three-way choice for information on the card that’s right for establishing new credit, rebuilding bad credit, or rewarding great credit. I give the respondents a simple choice (they know which group they fall into) and they don’t have to think; they can make that simple choice and move on. Once they have made the choice, the next page can pitch and persuade in a meaningful way. Rather than reading about the card that’s right for everyone, the respondent sees copy thats right for them. I’ve created an experience rather than a page, built trust by matching the ad, and kept the pages simple by giving the respondents choice. Bang, my chance of conversion is going through the roof!
Giving your respondents choices lets them have a more relevant experience. And when an experience is more relevant, you will be far more likely to get a conversion.
- Think Apples to Oranges
The final thing you can do right now to improve your landing experiences is to test, test and then test some more. As opposed to page optimization, around here we talk a lot about “apples to oranges” testing in order to achieve dramatic improvements to conversion quality and quantity. If you test a single page to optimize it (headline color, image, call to action), you will probably increase your conversions a little. And when you are testing the footer font on test number 5,488, you have definitely lost sight of the big picture.
Rather than focusing on optimizing elements on a page to increase conversions, think about testing widely differing experiences in order to see what really moves more people through your funnel. Sure, maybe the headline size on my credit card landing page is going to entice a few more people to convert. But by testing the choices I offer, the number of choices, and the total number of pages, I have a lot more freedom and flexibility to see which experience is most conversion-friendly. Take a big picture, somewhat heretical, approach to your testing and you will see bigger changes in your conversion rate.
If you implement the five action items above, I know you will increase your online conversions or improve your conversion quality. Above all, have fun and start thinking out of the box with your landing experiences. And gosh darn it, No More Landing Pages.
How are landing pages for large organizations — post-click marketing initiatives at the enterprise level — different than landing pages for anyone else?
The objective is the same, to provide a better experience when respondents click through from online advertising and email marketing, and to thereby increase the conversion rate and ROI.
Arguably, even the tactics and creative options for the design and content of the pages — the best practices that are usually written about the subject — are largely the same:
- Maintain continuity from click to conversion.
- Constantly test with innovation and iteration.
- Segment respondents with conversion paths where applicable.
- Speed and agility are critical.
- Embrace the diversity of The Long Tail.
- Optimize to ROI, but don’t optimize away your brand.
The big difference is behind the scenes. Enterprise landing pages have:
- More people involved in the lifecycle.
- More complexity in the process.
- More scale in the overall marketing portfolio.
- More risk, both real and perceived.
- More upside potential.
Although these aspects may seem tangential to most landing page best practices, these factors have an enormous impact on the implementation of such best practices in large organizations.
In an enterprise-scale environment, an under-the-radar, ad hoc approach to landing pages is almost guaranteed to underperform, because the absence of structured processes for post-click marketing robs them of attention, budget, and priority. To thrive and succeed, an enterprise post-click marketing program must be well-defined, systematized, and integrated with the overall marketing engine.
The goal to to turn your size to your advantage.
Here are specific ways to make that happen, to help define your ideal team and supporting infrastructure, and to address the challenges of enterprise post-click marketing on each of these 5 dimensions.
Call it the axiom of the org chart: the larger the company, the more people involved in an activity. Online marketing, however, is a particularly chaotic intersection of marketing managers, web site managers, search specialists, product managers, business intelligence analysts, IT administrators, legal, and at least one floating contractor. Then you go up: your boss, your boss’s boss, your dotted line boss, and probably a committee.
And that’s just inside the organization. There are potentially a plethora of outsourced vendors and agencies in the loop as well: a search agency, an ad agency, a brand agency, a web development firm, an email marketing company, a PR firm, a social marketing consultancy, etc. And across all of these constituencies, personnel are constantly in flux.
This large cast of players isn’t a bad thing, per se. Online marketing is multidisciplinary, and as the centerpiece for almost every company’s interface to the market these days, it’s well deserving of the attention and input from these disparate groups.
To survive this juggling gauntlet of many hands though, post-click marketing initiatives need to meet the requirements of each group — and leverage their talents and contributions — in an efficient and orderly fashion.
Here are 9 steps for incorporating post-click in online marketing with a large cast of players:
- Start by building recognition that post-click marketing is an important piece of your online marketing ecosystem: bring all the stakeholders and participants together to discuss the objectives, address their needs, and brainstorm ways to optimize the process. Competitive benchmarking can be a strong motivator to kick-start this. References such as the search marketing maturity model can help illustrate the interdependencies between the different participants in the online marketing ecosystem.
- Officially assign responsibility for post-click marketing, either with the people running the pre-click campaigns (advertising, paid search, email) or with a dedicated post-click marketing manager. It needs to be a primary part of someone’s job description, not something that gets tacked on to an already overloaded schedule (and thereby drops off the end). This role will need to have a budget and either leverage other participants and/or have its own dedicated headcount — i.e., post-click responsibility and the authority to execute it properly must go hand-in-hand.
- Agree upon a way to measure the performance of post-click marketing and connect it into the overall online marketing ROI funnel. In the New Marketing landscape, nothing is defensible unless it can be measured — the mantra of performance marketing. This doesn’t have to be airtight, as their are diminishing returns to being too pedantic — the stage may be digital, but the actors are all human and full of infinite possibilities — but it does need to credibly connect the dots in a way that the other people in the ecosystem can appreciate.
- A pilot program is a splendid way to introduce post-click concepts and processes into an organization, both to demonstrate the value and to discover the interconnections and latent serendipity of the various participants in the online marketing ecosystem. For this to be successful, however, it’s vital that initial progress has been made on the previous three steps for cooperation, responsibility, and performance measurement — an orphaned post-click pilot rarely ends like Oliver Twist.
- Determine an overarching post-click marketing strategy that people can navigate by, even as tactics change fluidly on the battlefield. This must be aligned with the metrics in #3, or people get yanked between what is right for the strategy and right for their performance review — nip that conundrum in the bud whenever you can. Great strategies are often simple in concept: clearly identify the competitive advantages and unique selling propositions of the company across its markets, segmented as finely as possible, and creatively represent those advantages to their respective audiences in a consistent and cost-effective manner. If you get stuck, fall back on the core questions: Who are our best customers? Why do they buy from us? How can we attract more of them? Post-click marketing strategy is all about meeting — or exceeding — the expectations of those best customers as they enter your online marketing funnel.
- Establish a documented way to coordinate continuity between pre-click ads and post-click experiences — even if they’re controlled by the same people — such as a lightweight message map spreadsheet. This is essential for continuity and message match, the backbone of post-click marketing. It’s also important when you’re running tests with different ads and different landing pages to be consciously aware of any interaction effects. A centralized reference like this makes it possible to scale the number of participants in the marketing mission while maintaining synchronization. (It also helps as personnel changes require new participants to quickly come up to speed.) If you don’t already have a way to easily share file updates and discussions around them online, across both internal and external participants, you might consider Basecamp.
- Harness the very best creative talent you can — post-click is a creative channel. Tactical superiority can be achieved by crafting landing experiences that look, read, engage, and flow better than the competition. Take advantage of the broader array of human resources within your ecosystem to tap the best designers, graphic artists, copywriters, Flash programmers, and widget makers. These don’t have to be full-time positions for post-click — in fact, you can handily outsource this on a project basis, if that’s easier — but wielding these creative professionals in your landing experience production improves engagement, branding, and visual resonance in ways that lesser competitors can’t readily match.
- Communicate regular post-click updates and feedback with the whole online marketing team. Not a cacophony of boilerplate multi-page reports, but concise highlights of the most interesting results once or twice a month. Because landing experiences sit in the upper middle of the funnel — often the murkiest stage in customer acquisition — they can reveal substantial insight about your market. Behavioral post-click segmentation is golden here. Sharing this information helps your peers — advertising, site optimization, lead nurturing, etc. — gain new perspectives on their slice of the funnel, encouraging reciprocity and cross-border innovation. Everyone needs early funnel empirical data at some point in a marketing initiative — let them know that post-click is available to help collect it. Post-click isn’t a silo, it’s an interconnected fabric. Embrace this role of “funnel facilitator” and legitimately build political capital for the post-click marketing function.
- Invest in education and plug into the global online marketing community. Events such as Search Engine Strategies (SES) and Search Marketing Expo (SMX) let you step outside your daily routine, take a fresh look at what you’re doing, benchmark it against a wider range of contemporaries, cross-pollinate ideas from other industries, and network with potential new collaborators. This community interaction — learning best practices from the successes and mistakes of others — can be a catalyzing inspiration and helps inoculate you from “not invented here” (NIH) myopia. Regular blog reading, such as Search Engine Land and MediaPost’s OnlineMediaDaily, is a must. In such a rapidly evolving field, you’ve got to consistently work to put the “knowledge” in “knowledge worker”.
Of course, more people are inexorably tied to more complexity and more scale — so many of the suggestions in the next two sections will also help maximize the productivity of this larger cast.
Just remember: more people should be an advantage, and the foundation of successful enterprise post-click marketing is to make that statement true.
To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke: any sufficiently complex system is indistinguishable from chaos. And let’s face it, enterprise online marketing is a pretty darn complex system. To properly incorporate post-click marketing into a large organization, the goal is actually to simplify processes as much as possible.
Landing page production in large organizations must deal with:
- More extensive brand standards.
- More rigid protocols for IT involvement.
- More requirements for legal approval, even in the tiniest campaign.
- More stringent rules for data collection.
- More demands for interoperability with existing systems.
Overall, more coordination is required with more other things in the organization as a whole — more channels, bigger channels, more independently moving pieces in The Great Marketing Machine.
The impact of this complexity is an inflation of the “soft costs” — overhead and time — for producing and managing landing pages and post-click marketing. Every touchpoint adds delays and indirect costs, diminishing your agility and ROI. It’s not unusual to hear tales of big companies taking weeks to launch a new landing page.
Some people might object that formalizing post-click marketing will only make things more complex. But post-click marketing happens whether you consciously manage it or not — people click on your ads, land somewhere in your web universe, and experience an impression of your company. Letting this happen on an ad hoc basis ironically creates more complexity because it causes a drag on the performance of the entire marketing funnel — like trying to bicycle uphill with your brakes on — and generates interrupt-driven exception management every time someone tries to fix the post-click experience for a one-off campaign.
The antidote to that inefficiency is partly organizational structure, partly business process management, and partly software automation. Ultimately, all these ideas share the same underlying strategy: reduce the number of manual touchpoints when launching and managing landing experiences. The goal is to asymptotically approach frictionless post-click marketing.
Here are 10 suggestions for taming post-click complexity:
- Establish a central repository for all landing pages and their components. At the very least, this should be a source-controlled directory structure in your web site environment. However, it’s much better if this is implemented as a database-driven application — essentially a content management system (CMS) for landing experiences — which can be searched, analyzed, and automated. This can be a partition of your existing CMS platform, or a separate software package, possibly even a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. The benefits of this approach include a foundation for software-mediated workflow, de-duplication of content, better security through centralized access control, and a master archive that can serve as a reference point for all previous and current post-click initiatives. No more having to track down who was running what landing page where with email, voicemail, or stalking them at the coffee machine.
- Provide a standardized mechanism to “preview” and “proof” landing experiences. Preview should give you the ability to walk through a landing experience — be it a single landing page, a multi-step conversion path, or a microsite — exactly as it will appear to real respondents. You need to be able to do this before it goes “live” in production, while it’s live — but without contaminating the statistics of real users — and after it’s been disabled and archived. Unauthorized parties should not be able to view these pages when they’re not live. A “proof” feature is similar, but instead of walking through the experience as a simulated respondent, a proof provides a condensed map of the complete landing experience, with all the content, behavioral rules, and tracking scripts listed in an organized fashion. With a proof, someone can quickly review a landing experience in a comprehensive and consistent manner, knowing exactly how the experience will behave in all cases.
- Minimize IT dependency for daily landing page production and management. The IT processes surrounding changes to a company’s web site are usually pretty involved — after all, the global web site must serve all constituencies and can impact everyone. Landing pages, however, are more of a pure marketing initiative — more a part of the advertising for specific campaigns — that typically target small subsets of your overall audience. Agile experimentation is what’s needed. To facilitate that, you should consider setting up a lightweight environment specific for landing pages — a landing.yourcompany.com subdomain — that marketing can use as a sandbox, without interfering with (or bearing the burden of) the primary web site management overhead. This both reduces the number of participants in front-line landing page production and eliminates delays at the marketing/IT divide.
- Create a set of design templates for landing pages that adhere to your brand standards. These master page layouts strategically separate design and content. Talented designers can produce these layouts and visual themes once — test them on all browsers and receive sign-off from branding — and then they can be reused for dozens or hundreds of landing experiences by front-line marketers. Ideally, your landing page management system (or plain CMS) should tightly control which parts of pages can be dynamically edited by front-line marketers — the content for specific campaigns — while assuring that the design cohesion and brand standards of the templates are unbreakable. This approach saves time for designers, who have their work leveraged repeatedly without their ongoing involvement; it saves time for the marketers authoring new pages, as they aren’t entangled in design issues; and it saves time in deployment, as the guaranteed consistency of these pre-approved templates reduces the number of back-and-forth cycles for reviewing new landing pages and fixing minor interface issues. You end up with landing pages that always look good for your brand.
- Standardize data collection and form handling. One of the biggest time sinks in ad hoc landing page production is constructing and debugging forms and data collection processes — often a source of painful iterations between marketing and IT. Again, the solution is to separate these requirements into centralized and reusable components. We recommend 4 conceptual pieces: (a) definition of data fields and their permissible values, i.e., the fundamental data structure; (b) the assembly of forms that collect user responses and map them to the defined data fields — so marketers can change the way the question is asked without tampering with the underlying data fields; (c) placement of the forms on particular pages, including the freedom to collect some data “passed in” from the query string or from several forms spread across multiple pages that progressively build a respondent’s profile; and (d) the formatting and exporting of all collected data to back-end systems — your CRM, your lead nurturing platform, Salesforce.com, etc. — using procedures that take advantage of the standardized data fields, regardless of marketing-level content on the pages from which it was collected. With this approach, the IT elements are configured once and then repeatedly leveraged across a plethora of campaigns — and updates at any level can be seamlessly inherited — without triggering a costly end-to-end fire drill.
- Don’t fragment your respondent data by turning your landing page environment into a data silo. While it is highly advantageous for marketing to have its own sandbox to create, deploy, and optimize landing experiences — and to use those landing experiences to collect valuable respondent data — you want to make sure that your collected data is quickly and properly transferred to a common CRM or lead nurturing system, inheriting all the security and backed-up redundancy built into that infrastructure. You don’t want the data to grow stale or end up causing integration problems down the road. By using standardized data formats and exchanges — as described in #6 above — you can pass data in real-time (or daily batches at the latest), nicely scrubbed, into existing IT systems designed to maintain a holistic view of prospects and customers. Post-click marketing is a contributor to that data warehouse, not a rogue competitor to it.
- Favor A/B testing over multivariate testing (MVT) for landing pages. MVT is a more mathematically complex methodology — testing many simultaneous variations of elements on the same page — that typically requires more configuration to set up and more traffic to reach statistical significance. This complexity can make life difficult for a marketer to design tests with a clear hypothesis and can run into trouble with bizarre interaction effects among the different elements. In contrast, A/B tests are easy to visualize, straightforward to implement, quick to achieve statistical significance, and logical to draw conclusions and learning from. They also support apples-to-oranges testing of different kinds of experiences, encouraging bolder experimentation — a strategic luxury of independent landing pages that is rarely feasible in your primary web site. A/B testing promotes simplicity, speed, and flexibility in post-click marketing optimization. Keep it simple!
By structuring your post-click marketing so that responsibilities are cleanly separated into Lego-like blocks of functionality — that can be quickly and safely assembled into new landing pages experiences by front-line marketing staff — you can keep the complexity under control while increasing the overall sophistication of your post-click capabilities. Expertise is leveraged where it delivers the most value — in a business process architecture that emphasizes reusability — and is not unnecessarily ensnared in day-to-day production or management.
This distributed approach can dramatically reduce your soft costs, making individual landing experiences much more cost effective. This, in turn, sets the stage for scaling up.
Marketing in a large organization is all about “more”. Not just more personnel and more processes connecting them — which we covered in the previous two sections — but more prospects and customers, and more vehicles to reach them in more markets.
As input into post-click marketing, this means:
- More search marketing across more keywords.
- More banner advertisements across more networks.
- More email marketing initiatives across more lists.
- More respondent traffic from each of these sources.
- More audience segments/niches within this traffic.
All of this translates into the need for more distinct landing pages, scalable on demand, with targeted landing experiences designed to match the expectations of each of these streams of respondents.
This, however, is a key advantage for larger players. Your scale can enable broader coverage of The Long Tail, investing in more niche exploration, increasing the likelihood of discovering new segments with outsized returns. (This is also one of the secrets for dealing with more risk/reward, as we’ll examine next.)
Another benefit of scale is the ability to cost justify investments in talent and infrastructure. All of the people and processes discussed in the previous two sections are sources of competitive advantage. They’re also mostly fixed costs. With larger scale, you can leverage those fixed costs across a greater number of landing pages with a greater number of respondents, for more efficient utilization and faster payback. The same effort is required to create a landing experience that serves 1,000 people as one that serves 100,000 — but the latter delivers orders of magnitude ROI.
But to make scale work for you — and not against you — you need to structure your post-click marketing so that increases in the number of advertisements, the number of landing pages, the number of respondents, and the number of tracked audience segments in those respondents do not require a linear increase in your fixed or variable costs.
In other words, averaged out, you want more for less.
Here are 10 ways to achieve such scale advantage:
- Organize your post-click marketing initiatives into campaigns and portfolios of campaigns. As the number of landing pages under your direction grows, it’s helpful to divide them into logical groups. A campaign is a collection of landing experiences and the traffic sources that drive respondents to them, all bound by a common purpose or characteristic. For instance, for paid search, a post-click campaign would naturally correspond to a campaign in Google AdWords — with different landing pages and traffic sources for each ad group within that AdWords campaign. Portfolios are then related sets of campaigns, perhaps clustered by product, audience, or geography. In such a tree-like arrangement, you can deal orderly with thousands of post-click initiatives. You can distribute responsibility and delegate authority for different portfolios and campaigns. Ideally, you want to review performance and analysis not only on individual landing pages, but also in aggregate across a campaign or an entire portfolio.
- Recycle and test good ideas from one landing page in other contexts. To maximize the ROI from work already done — including those soft costs such as content approval cycles — test your ideas across multiple venues. In the context of a specific campaign, should be as straightforward as including the same landing experience in the A/B testing rotations for multiple traffic sources. For example, for a search keyword group, you might test the same path across Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft Live traffic sources — while still tracking their performance independently. You then might try them with related banner ads or email marketing messages, perhaps copying a landing experience and making only minor tweaks for vehicle-specific continuity. If performance for the same concept varies across traffic sources, this helps reveal the characteristics of those different audiences.
- Consider software-as-a-service (SaaS) for your landing page environment to grow smoothly. Because post-click marketing is more of a marketing function than an IT one, you can take advantage of SaaS products for marketers — such as LiveBall — to move your landing page management into the cloud. In-house IT infrastructure investments tend to require upfront capital expenditures, with their own byzantine approval processes, as well as ongoing maintenance. SaaS offerings, in contrast, can be subscribed to on an as-needed basis, where you’re always prioritized as a customer. And since SaaS vendors are specialists, you inherit their economies of scale. By virtualizing this capability, you further eliminates IT dependencies, increasing your agility to scale campaigns on demand — when you hit a winner, you can quickly exploit it and reallocate when opportunities shift. You’re probably already using SaaS elsewhere, such as Google AdWords, Salesforce.com, Google Analytics, etc.
- Rig your landing pages to automatically expire when their content is outdated. As you increase the number of landing pages you have on active duty, you want to minimize the conscious effort required to manage them. For time-limited offers, promotions for particular events, or content that is regularly changed, it’s best to give associated landing pages an expiration date that will automatically take them out of rotation when their time is passed. This prevents outdated pages from slipping through the cracks, floating around indefinitely, and causing bad impressions or expectation mismatches for respondents. Expired landing pages should still, however, be archived for reference purposes in your landing page management environment.
- Have A/B tests automatically remove underperforming alternatives once statistical significance has been reached. Keep in mind, A/B tests may actually be A/B/C/D/etc. tests with many variations being evaluated simultaneously. As soon as it can be determined that one or more of those alternatives underperforms the other(s) — using statistical significance of at least 80% for “lead generation” campaigns, or up to 95% or 99% for high-traffic or e-commerce campaigns with a transactional conversion — you want them immediately removed from rotation. You don’t want to waste a single click once your trials have born fruit, but you don’t want to manually babysit them all either. Auto-optimization — letting your landing page software do this work for you — is the answer.
- Take notes on your experiments, briefly documenting hypotheses and conclusions. Annotating your landing pages and post-click campaigns with your ideas, questions, and analysis of results makes it easier to scale the number of initiatives that you can juggle effectively. These notes don’t need to be long or extravagant — think Twitter, not Pulitzer — but simply quick comments on the thinking behind different tests and campaign organization. You can then pick up a thread weeks or months later, without straining your memory, and jump right back in the flow. This also facilitates hand-offs among team members, who can more readily pinch hit when a colleague is on vacation or called off to another project. Writing down your thoughts can also provide clarity, help you discern insightful patterns across your different efforts, and make status updates and management reviews a breeze to pull together.
- Install post-click marketing dashboards to continually “scan the horizon”. The more landing pages and post-click marketing campaigns you have running simultaneously, the more important it is to configure performance gauges that will quickly alert you to any unusual activity — either good or bad. The objective is to facilitate continual partial attention across a broad range of initiatives, while focusing on a small subset. Good visualizations can be very helpful in this process. For instance, a bubble chart that shows three dimensions: conversion rate along the x-axis, engagement score up the y-axis, and the size of the bubble representing the quantity of respondent traffic. Small bubbles in the upper-right corner reveal excellent opportunities; large bubbles in the lower-left corner uncover high-traffic underperformers. Ideally, your dashboard should let you drill down in real-time to examine the causes.
- Grow the different stages of your online marketing funnel in proportion to each other. As the truism goes, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Although post-click marketing usually starts off as one of the least developed capabilities in an organization, your adoption of the concepts described in this article will change that. At some point, however, to grow further, the next weakest link in the online marketing chain will need to be addressed. Maturity models, such as the search marketing maturity model, can be used to manage balanced development of the funnel as a whole. Since post-click marketing sits in the middle of the funnel, it can help illuminate broader a broader funnel perspective and assist with improvements upstream and downstream — incoming traffic and outgoing conversions. Keep an active dialogue with your counterparts up and down the funnel for cross-stage insights, multi-stage opportunities, and a collaborative culture of continuous improvement.
- Support international landing pages properly in your environment. Sooner or later, as you scale your post-click marketing, you’re going to need to publish pages in other languages. The world may be flat, but it’s not homogenous. People have an affinity for their native tongue, and post-click marketing needs to build rapport every way it can. You don’t want to be holding back for technical reasons on global growth opportunities, so make sure that your landing page production system fully supports internationalization — Unicode is usually best — and that your pages can be served in any major language.
Remember, however, that the secret of scale is turning a tiny prize garden into a thriving farm — without sacrificing organic, homegrown goodness. You want to leverage economies of scale and optimized production processes, without forgetting that at the end of the day, the tastiest tomatoes win.
All the capabilities for scaling post-click marketing still rely on taking strategic and creative chances to deliver extraordinary landing experiences to your audience. So let’s talk about taking chances the smart way.
The difference between small business landing pages and enterprise post-click marketing is analogous to the difference between piloting a two-seater prop plane versus captaining a Boeing 747 jumbo passenger jet. Sure, it’s all flying — altitude, airspeed, compass — but the stakes are higher. Aerobatic stunts that would be fun for a single aviator would be reckless insanity for an airline pilot.
In the context of enterprise online marketing, more risk is perceived because, simply due to scale, a small mistake can quickly become a high profile failure, both inside and outside the organization. And to a real degree, there is — hopefully! — substantial brand equity and goodwill out there that you don’t want to tarnish.
However, the risk of inaction is arguably far more dangerous. The online marketing agility of smaller competitors can pose a serious threat to larger firms that get mired in either their own overweight processes — which many of the suggestions in the previous sections are designed to fix — or their own overly cautious worldview and a reluctance to conduct bold experiments. The market does not stand still.
The objective is to have the best of both worlds: safe and sensible agility.
Luckily, many of the capabilities that should be put in place for efficient scaling also serve as safety mechanisms:
- Standardized brand templates reduce the risk of layout mistakes or browser incompatibilities.
- Auto-optimization features make certain that underperforming alternatives are swiftly taken offline.
- Automatically enforced expiration dates guarantee that outdated content is never left in rotation.
- Standardized data collection process make sure the right information is collected the right way.
- Favoring A/B testing over MVT avoids inadvertently bad combinations (the Russian roulette caveat) and minimizes the chance of misconfigured tests.
- Good dashboards quickly alert you to any unusual patterns that need your attention.
But there are further ways to assuage risk in post-click marketing, where you can use your size to your advantage. Here are 4 recommendations for managing post-click risk:
- Leverage a portfolio strategy: more experiments = more opportunities to find gold. Take a cue from early-stage venture capitalists, who make relatively small investments in 10 companies, knowing that it only takes one winner to make up for all the others going bust. As a large organization, you should have the ability to experiment with a tremendous number of post-click marketing ideas — far more than smaller competitors could afford — as long as you keep the costs of individual experiments low. This is the art of mining The Long Tail. You want to minimize the loss on the ones that don’t work, by testing on a small scale and promptly jettisoning any that don’t bear fruit — don’t build a castle on swampy ground. Meanwhile, when a specific idea hits a home run, be ready to leverage it for all it’s worth, expanding its reach and iterating further refinements.
- Learn from your shared, centralized campaign history. Two things that hurt a lot of organizations in their post-click marketing: (1) blindly following tactical advice that worked for other companies but isn’t right for their own market — creative ideas are rarely reducible to universal best practices (e.g., “have navigation”, “don’t have navigation”); and (2) a failure to recognize what does — or doesn’t — really work for their specific market because they don’t share the information across all of their post-click initiatives. As they say, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Make full use of your centralized systems, dashboards, and note taking to exploit hard-won knowledge into your own best practices. But be enlightened from history, not chained to it. Don’t be afraid to revisit old ideas with new perspectives — just do so with an informed background. When in doubt, run a small test and document the results.
- Use disproportionate traffic allocation for champion/challenger tests. Once you have a winning landing page in a high-volume campaign, you’ll obviously want to reap the benefits of that champion. However, major breakthroughs can usually be enhanced by further refinements, so you want to continue to run subsequent “challenger” landing pages. To balance both those objectives, keep the majority of traffic directed to your champion, and only siphon a sliver for your new challengers — just enough to obtain statistical significance in a reasonable period of time. For high-volume campaigns, that’s probably less than 10%. If the challenger doesn’t work as well, it’s impact on your overall performance metrics will be negligible; if it does work, it can be quickly elevated as your new champion.
- Mitigate unsuccessful tactical ideas by always representing the brand well. Part of the deal with a portfolio strategy is understanding that many experiments — maybe even most experiments — will not pan out. The upside is that this is how you learn and discover what works spectacularly. Even though you keep those tests small, you still want to respect the value of every respondent. To do that, always make sure that your landing pages are quality work that represent your brand well. Landing page experiments should be quick and cheap, but they shouldn’t look quick and cheap. And they should always live up to the expectations set before the click. Even if someone doesn’t convert on an experimental idea, you want to make a good impression that positively contributes to brand awareness and favorability — the world keeps spinning, and those prospects may very well come back to you on a separate campaign.
Well-managed, the ability to take smart, calculated risks is a powerful cultural advantage. In an online marketing arena where you’re either the quick or the dead, being aggressively innovative — but never reckless — is key to staying ahead of the curve, ahead of your competition.
With intelligent risk can come great reward.
For all the challenges of post-click marketing at the enterprise level, the rewards of success make it all worthwhile. Conversion rate improvements as a percentage translate into much bigger absolute wins — a 100% increase in conversion rate is awesome in any context, but when it’s a doubling of millions of dollars in sales, that’s objectively even more impressive. After all, the bigger you are, the harder it is to move the needle.
Once you achieve this success, the tough part is over — congratulations on all your hard work — at least for that campaign cycle. However, there are 3 closing pieces of advice to keep in mind for making the most of your accomplishments:
- Celebrate and share the credit — remember, post-click marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Recognize the contributions upstream and downstream in the funnel, and use these successes as a catalyst to further closer collaboration. For major improvements, a party is most definitely in order. Tequila shots are optional.
- Review your ROI, even beyond the scope of your official post-click performance metrics. Particularly in lead generation, which is early in the sales cycle, but also with transactional respondents that can have repeat business, it’s often helpful to look beyond the immediate metrics of post-click marketing (e.g., engagement, conversion rate, quality score, initial transaction amount) and explore the patterns of long-term, deep-funnel value. The same applies to evaluating the indirect and soft costs. Understanding these factors can inspire new strategic post-click ideas and improve your business case, justifying further NPV and IRR investments in your post-click marketing capabilities.
- Finally, don’t rest on your laurels — online marketing is a highly dynamic environment. Things change quickly: user expectations, competitor responses, the culture and issues of your different Long Tail marketing niches. Left unattended, the arc of every successful campaign eventually wanes. To keep your edge, you must be proactive. Take full advantage of all the infrastructure you’ve put in place for testing, low-cost updates, dashboard alerts, and regular brainstorming from an extended team of experts up and down the funnel. Above all, keep your post-click marketing authentic, genuine, and fresh.
Ultimately, all of the recommendations in this report — 36 in total — come down to one fundamental concept: agility. Speed and efficiency in post-click marketing translates directly into speed and efficiency in bringing new customers — the right customers — through your funnel. It’s not easy, but if you invest in the right structure, you can obtain a magnificent competitive advantage.
As Lou Gerstner, the famed turnaround chief of IBM in the 1990’s stated: who says elephants can’t dance?
Search keywords. Display ads. Email marketing. Affiliates. You pay good money for clicks, but what happens next?
Post-click marketing is about what people experience after you win their click. It may be as simple as a landing page, which builds on your ad or email, engaging respondents before forwarding them deeper into your web site. Increasingly though, the most effective landing experiences go beyond one page — using conversion paths and microsites to target specific audiences and deliver complete campaigns.
The goal is a high conversion rate. You want as many of those clicks as possible to convert into qualified leads, online transactions, new registrations — any metric by which you measure real online marketing success. The higher your conversion rate, the higher your ROI. See, the economics of online marketing pivot almost entirely on conversion rate. If you can acquire more conversions from your same advertising and email marketing spend, you win at two levels:
- you deliver more net business: more leads, more transactions, more registrations, etc.
- you lower your cost-per-acquisition (CPA), making your spend quantifiably more efficient.
Paid clicks are expensive, particularly for desirable keywords or popular sites. Instead of always having to bid more and more to increase your net results — pouring more clicks into the top of your marketing funnel — it’s time turn more and more of your existing clicks into real business. It’s time to widen your funnel at the next stage forward.
It’s time to focus on great post-click marketing.
After consulting to major marketing departments for many years, we developed a set of post-click marketing best practices for consistently generating strong conversion rates. In the past two years, we’ve seen more than 80% of our customers double their conversion rate — or better — by adopting these principles. Over the past year, the average conversion rate across all of our customers has been 11.1% — more than 4X the industry average.
However, you don’t need to be our customer to put these principles to work in your online marketing. The following five best practices — several of which go against the conventional wisdom of cookie-cutter landing pages — make the difference, and they’re yours to employ:
- Beyond the Web Site. Your primary web site, www.yourcompany.com, is your virtual headquarters. But when you drop respondents in there cold on their first click, it can be an undirected and distraction-filled experience. In many cases they encounter “message mismatch” — what they stumble into can seem frustratingly disconnected from what they clicked on in the first place. Or they might just wander, lost in the corridors, until they fade away.
Landing pages, conversion paths, and microsites are like your virtual field offices — they speak directly to the people in a specific niche, more focused and approachable. These independent landing experiences are ideal for campaign-specific marketing, as their messaging can be tightly matched with the different vehicles that generate clicks. Greater relevance + fewer distractions = more conversions.
- Paths not Pages. The intent of landing pages is good — click-specific messaging and offers — but their single page format is artificially restrictive and can turn off respondents with a take-it-or-leave-it structure. This obscures the outcome for you as the marketer: if only 5% of your respondents convert, then you learn nothing about the 95% who don’t.
Conversion paths are friendlier and more conversational. Respondents are gently guided along a short two or three-step path that lets them indicate what’s most important to them. They become more engaged because each step is a quick 5-second click, which pays off with more relevant details. In addition to converting at a higher rate, this approach also “fills the gap” with insight into respondents who abandon along the way.
- Meaningful Segmentation. There are old-fashioned ways to segment people on the web: ask them questions in a form or try to guess their “persona” based on where they came from and where they go. Unfortunately, form data doesn’t help if someone never fills out the form, and making undeclared assumptions from a clickstream is prone to mistaken identity.
A more modern approach is to make segmentation open and participatory with conversion paths. Choices on a path are transparent to respondents — ways to match them with the most relevant content — without imposing on their anonymity. Because their choices are intentional and driven by self-interest, the accuracy of your profiling increases significantly. You learn how respondents differentiate themselves through their own eyes, an invaluable perspective.
- Strategic Testing. Test alternate landing experiences to maximize your success. But give much more credence to “big picture” experiments (via A|B testing) over the rote combinatorial testing of thousands of variations in content (via MVT).
Great testing starts with a genuine hypothesis about your audience — from which you can learn real insight — not a throw-it-at-the-wall jumble of disjointed elements. Bold ideas, such as alternative segmentation strategies and different types of landing experiences, are the key to double-digit leaps in performance.
- Brand the Conversion. Brand on the web is hard to quantify, but you know it when you see it — the quality, consistency, and interplay of all the elements — the credibility, authenticity, and passion of the message — the synergy with external brand equity — and ultimately the degree to which expectations are met or exceeded.
Some landing experiences give great brand; others reek of amateurism. The good ones are crafted and deliberate, sending cues of excellence and trustworthiness, signaling to respondents that you value their experience. This is achieved with a blend of good design, good content, and zero tolerance for breaks in the experience: bad links, browser incompatibilities, inconsistent brand standards, expired information, sluggish response times. First impressions matter: make yours count.
Winning a respondent’s first click is important, but it’s only the beginning. Whether you adopt these principles or develop your own, the next level of online marketing effectiveness can only be achieved by looking beyond the click to what happens next.
It’s time to focus on great post-click marketing.
We need to dramatically move the needle on what happens after the paid click. The solution? Post-click marketing. It’s a radically new approach to what happens after people respond to your paid search, email marketing or online advertising.
We need to think outside the box, because right now, the most highly optimized landing pages or microsites will only convert in the single digits. Why? It’s not because that’s the best that can be done, it’s because that’s the best that can be done within the constraints of landing pages. It’s time to throw them out the window!
The problem is short and punch ads that lead to convoluted, long-winded next steps. One of the keys to online marketing is brevity. We earn clicks with short and sweet messages that make vague promises. It works. We generate a lot of clicks from a wide variety of people, but then what?
The best of us use optimized landing pages or microsites to handle those clicks. And, generally speaking, the next thing that our respondent gets is a long, convoluted page that attempts to be all things to all people. It’s a huge mismatch. We get five seconds of a person’s attention and then ask them for five minutes to wade through a complicated page. It doesn’t work. The proof is in the numbers. According to Marketing Sherpa, we’re converting less than five per cent of all our paid clicks to anything more than one click. The problem is, we need more than one click. We need customers. That’s why we market.
Think like a respondent
Cast your mind back to the last time you clicked on an SEM ad or banner. It’s likely that the ad made you a promise, a “click here, get this” kind of thing that got your attention and made you click. You probably gave it hardly any thought.
Let’s say that promise was a discount on a Caribbean holiday. The next thing you need is a specific, short, easy page that gets you a little more engaged and excited. You don’t want to think or spend time. You’re willing to keep clicking, as long as there’s something in it for you. So, let’s say that next page presented a few options for your discounted Caribbean holiday—with kids, just the two of you, or traveling alone? You’ll click on the option that fits, because it’s making the original offer more valuable to you. Now you really want it.
Then you get an offer that’s hard to pass up. You’re traveling with the kids and you can get 20 per cent off a five-night stay at a family resort in Antigua. All you have to do is complete a short form and the resort will email the discount code, along with a brochure. Or, if you’re ready to book right now, by all means get to it. It’s fast and easy, so you complete the short form to get the discount and brochure.
You get a confirmation page. It thanks you for your interest with more rewards—take a virtual tour, choose activities, or connect to someone who can tell you all about the beach. It’s fast, easy and engaging. That process was a post-click marketing conversion path. When we plug conversion paths into online marketing instead of landing pages, microsites or deep links, we see 200-1,000 per cent increases in conversion rates. And that’s what I mean by moving the needle.
No more mediocrity
“No more landing pages!” should be the battle cry for online marketers. We’ve come to accept mediocrity in the form of “optimizing” square pegs for round holes. When you think like a user, you don’t want to see a landing page, regardless of how optimized it is. You want fast and easy. You want clarity and brevity. You want what was promised to get you to click, and you want it right now.
Conversion paths can segment, qualify, and convert up to 10 times the rate of outdated alternatives. They are multi-page landing experiences that reflect positively on your brand by keeping the promise you made to earn the click. They stop you form disappointing your users. Throw away your idea of a landing page. We must get more out of online marketing. And the way to do it is to think beyond the click and outside the box. No more landing pages!
The key to segmentation and subsegmentation is that each click pays off with a page that’s relevant to the respondent.
Flexible and targeted, conversion paths allow you to segment, qualify and convert your online respondents from paid search, display, email and other sources of paid and unpaid web traffic.
Let’s kick off the anatomy lesson by defining what we mean by “conversion path.” A conversion path is a conversion-focused, linear landing experience, specifically designed to catch and convert incoming traffic from your online marketing campaigns. Conversion paths live outside of the structure of a company’s main site, and are typically used in place of landing pages, microsites or deep links to improve conversion rates, lead quality and overall marketing intelligence for your respondents and traffic sources.
Conversion paths move respondents from landing through conversion, using simple or complex branching experiences. Conversion paths comprise a series of connected pages:
- Offer or pitch
- Thank you
The graphic above shows a simple conversion path flow of landing pages, where segmentation is represented by A and B, and subsegmentation represented by A1/A2 and B1/B2.
It All Starts With Segmentation
A conversion path always starts with a segmentation page—the page respondents land on when they click through from an online ad.
A segmentation page should be utterly simple, with just a couple of choices. This is the page that is going to take the somewhat anonymous respondents from paid media and segment them based on who they are or what they’re looking for.
For example, let’s say we are marketing a high-end Caribbean resort on Google. After users click on our text ad and land on our conversion path, our first mission is to target the right content to each respondent. We know they are interested in our resort, but are they interested in vacationing with children? Water sports? A destination wedding? Maybe a honeymoon? In this example, we might present two segmentation choices—romantic rendezvous or family vacation-—so users can learn about the resort based on their specific interests.
Of course, we could offer more than two options to respondents—say, golf, boating or diving—but it’s important that the segmentation page be simple, focused and clear.
Now that we’re pitching our resort to the user’s interest, we could segment one step further if needed. Say we have an initial “Island Wedding” segmentation. We can then subsegment wedding respondents based on whether they want to work with a staff wedding planner or plan the wedding themselves.
The key to segmentation and subsegmentation is that each click pays off with a page that’s relevant to the respondent. The bride who wants to plan her own island wedding should be directed to a different page than the bride who wants the help of the resort wedding planner. Rather than expecting respondents to randomly surf around on a site and find the information themselves, or expecting a single page to appeal to everyone, a conversion path makes it easy to serve up truly relevant content to your audience.
What We Learn From Segmentation
To the marketing manager running the campaign—aside from targeting the right content to the right respondent, which naturally improves conversion rates—the tracking of these segmentation choices reveals who’s responding to which ads, even if they don’t convert. This yields insight into segments and conversions—so instead of trying to globally optimize a marketing campaign for all, we can maximize each audience segment independently.
What Do You Have to Offer?
Make it compelling and make it clear—now’s your chance to get the conversion.
Now that we’re pitching our resort based on the user’s very specific interest, whether it happens to be the family vacation of a lifetime or the bride’s big day, we can tailor the offer accordingly and provide highly relevant and compelling information to help generate a conversion.
Every offer page will be different and every company will have a different idea of what a “conversion” means. For our resort, it could be an online booking or it might be as simple as a completed contact form exchanged for a vacation planner filled with local excursions and offers.
So, at the point of conversion, we ask for the conversion only after we have given them relevant information. And as a result, we get a higher conversion rate than we otherwise would have.
What We Learn From the Offer
By segmenting our users according to their interests, we can apply highly relevant A/B tests for offers or fulfillment that enable us to quickly determine what works best. Again, by not trying to globally optimize our offer, we can really maximize the potential from each audience segment.
Mind Your Manners and Always Say Thank You
Whether respondents have booked a vacation or simply supplied contact details to receive their vacation planner, we should always thank them for the exchange in a manner that deepens our engagement and builds the relationship even further.
The thank-you page of our conversion path is our final opportunity to provide users with content that relates to their conversion. This is where we can introduce all the information that, had it been included elsewhere, would only have served to distract the user from our ultimate goal—the conversion.
Here we can deep link into a photo gallery that lives in our website, link to a customer feedback blog or serve up additional offers to further engage our user. The point is to do it only after we have achieved the conversion.
What We Learn From the Thank You
Saying thank you is not only the polite thing to do, but also a great opportunity to test offers or content. By including various links to resources after the conversion, we can gauge user interest without jeopardizing our campaign goals.
Overwhelming user interest in a resource offered on the thank-you page could provide fuel for an upcoming promotion or identify a vehicle for cross-promotion. Keeping our resources rich and tracking our clicks helps us uncover even more knowledge about our respondents.
Trying to cram as much of it as possible on to one page puts the burden on the respondent to sift through it. Unfortunately, most of the time, they’re just not that into you yet.
We’ve acknowledged the “good” things about landing pages—even though many of those things could be better served by more evolved post-click marketing. Much like Fox News, we want to be fair and balanced, so here are the top 5 bad things about landing pages (and to clarify on semantics, when we say “landing page”, we mean a one-page format for post-click marketing, as compared to just the first page of a multi-page landing experience):
- Sagging Page Syndrome (SPS), also known as “the kitchen sink”. Some things in life really are so simple that one short page sums it up clearly for everyone. But for the far majority of products and services in the world, there’s a little more to it. Trying to cram as much of it as possible on to one page puts the burden on the respondent to sift through it. Unfortunately, most of the time, they’re just not that into you yet. With a landing path, you can jettison the page one clutter—what Justin refers to as the 5-seconds to 5-minutes disconnect—and help respondents quickly get to what’s important to them in particular.
- Rushing for the close. Landing pages that immediately present the respondent with a form to fill out—to subscribe, get a download, request more information, etc.—are just plain rude. A respondent clicked on your ad by expressing a modicum of interest, a willingness to consider what you have to say. If you immediately demand a commitment with their name and email address, or more, it’s like walking into an electronics store and having a salesperson instantly thrust a purchase order in your hands. Not surprisingly, this approach has a low conversion rate. Good post-click marketing builds trust with a step or two of a “conversation” before popping the question, as any good salesperson would.
- No segmentation—clicks are treated as a commodity. Not all clicks are created equal. Ad response traffic often contains a spectrum of different audience segments. They clicked on the same ad, yes, but not all for the same reason, not all with the same needs. The one-page page format of landing pages makes the same pitch to all of them, oblivious to their distinctions. If the page focuses only on one segment, it disenfranchises the others; if it tries to speak to all segments at once, its passion and relevance to any one segment are watered down. The best practice of landing paths is to use that first page to induce a one-click directed behavioral segmentation choice — and then speak with conviction and authority to a respondent’s specific interests.
- Optimizing the deck chairs on the Titanic. Landing page optimization is not unlike Henry Ford’s original production line: you can do any optimization you want, as long as it’s on this one page. Hey, we’re fine with testing which combination of headline, image, and offer button works best, but you can waste a lot of time on minutia (”does this work better with a comma or a semicolon?”), when you should be testing much more important elements of your campaign—such as your audience segmentation and the sequence of your pitch. With so many niche marketing opportunities competing for your attention, you need the big hits far more than the incremental tweaks.
- Giving bad brand. Collectively, all of the problems above contribute to making landing pages bad branding experiences. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, landing pages are quick and cheap—which is good—but they often look quick and cheap, which is not good. Not good at all. Because it signals quick and cheap for your brand, and unless you’re the Dollar Store, that’s not a good image to put in people’s minds. A landing experience should look and feel and behave so as to signal two important things: A you care about the impressions of that respondent who just clicked and B they can be assured that you take pride in everything your organization does.
The good news is that fixing these problems in post-click marketing really isn’t that hard. Stop thinking at the page level, start thinking at the path level. Leverage audience segmentation. And remember that your brand never gets a second chance to make a first impression.
Cheap should be measured by CPA (cost-per-acquisition), not just absolute dollars. If I spend twice as much on a 3-page path, but it generates a 5X factor on my conversion rate, I win economically.
Kicking the landing page habit is not unlike cutting saturated fat from your diet. You know it’s bad for you, but it’s wrapped up in french fries and chocolate chip cookies that are just way too tasty. If you’re going to give up the sat fat—to, errr, improve your brand—you still want delicious snacking.
So let’s deconstruct what has been good—or claimed to have been good—about landing pages to make sure that we incorporate the tasty parts in our next generation of healthy post-click marketing:
- Landing pages are quick and cheap. That’s not a putdown—fast, inexpensive experimentation is very important in this landscape of a thousand niche marketing opportunities. But “cheap” should be measured by CPA (cost-per-acquisition), not just absolute dollars. If I spend twice as much on a 3-page path, but it generates a 5X factor on my conversion rate, I win economically. As for being fast, speed in the digital realm is almost entirely a function of “process-izing” repetitive tasks; although the mechanics of producing conversion paths over landing pages are more advanced, they can still be streamlined.
- Landing pages can be “matched” with advertisements. Huge benefit! (Although not everyone using landing pages takes advantage of it.) Arguably the power of message match, where content a respondent sees post-click is tailored to the promise of the specific ad they clicked on, is the core reason why landing pages have improved conversion rates. We think it’s vital to retain this pre-click/post-click continuity in other landing experiences that go beyond a single page.
- Landing pages can be tested and optimized. Absolutely: test, test, test. One of the problems with big web sites is that they suffer from inertia. Online direct marketing campaigns thrive on the freedom of rapid experimentation (we call it the post-click marketing ecosystem), and landing pages have enabled that…to a point. You can experiment only so much within the box of one page (”let’s try every color in the web palette as our background!”). It’s time to experiment with bigger blocks such as the sequencing of presentation or the directed behavioral segmentation of your respondents, and to start testing in three dimensions (traffic source, landing experience, audience segment) instead of one or two.
- Landing pages are easy to manage. Actually, this may not be true—you’ve no doubt run across a lot of outdated or link-broken landing pages. As you scale up to running dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of targeted landing experiences of any kind, the content management challenge is daunting. But this too is a problem that can be solved by software, whether it’s single pages or multi-page paths. Marketers shouldn’t have to be in the weeds here, regardless of the format.
- Landing pages are friendly for respondents. Welllllll…the idea of message match is friendly, to be sure. But there are three cases of how a one-page format can be used: A a simple but compelling idea, applicable to all respondents, is well presented on one short page; B a more complex idea with different variations for different respondents is all jammed on to one long, crowded page shoved at everyone indiscriminately, leaving the confused and overwhelmed respondent to sort it out for themselves; and C a more complex idea with different variations for different respondents is artificially edited on to one short page—but loses fidelity at best or becomes empty/nonsensical at worst. The dream of friendly landing pages for respondents is only materialized in case A, but there’s a heck of a lot of direct marketing campaigns that don’t fit that mold that end up being short-changed in the landing page format to be B and C. Trying to squeeze a labrador retriever into a chihuahua carrying crate is just not pretty.
Of course, this begs the list of the Top 5 Bad Things About Landing Pages too.