8 Killer Landing Page Optimization Tips for PPC

Earlier this week, I asked some of the best minds in search to give me their #1 landing page optimization tip. You’ll want to bookmark this post, because these experts came through with flying colors! Use these landing page optimization tips as a reference when building new PPC landing pages to make sure you have the best chance of converting!

#1: Maintain relevance. The headline & supporting statements have to be aligned with the ad/source/intent of each visitor segment. From Andrew Miller.

#2: Focus on your offer. Build & optimize the messaging & imagery for it. If done well, then the landing page foundation is set. From James Svoboda.

#3: Speed is key. If landing page elements take too long to load, the prospect will move on. Work with developers to lighten load times. From Chris Kostecki.

#4: Make sure your tone & language match your target audience. Best offers & calls to action won’t work if people don’t understand them. From Julie Bacchini.

#5: The page should make sense and capture attention in a few seconds. If it doesn’t, that’s a problem. People skim. From Jeremy Brown.

#6: People are lazy! Increase conversion by prepopulating lead generation forms using search query & IP address info. From PPC Associates.

#7: Don’t make changes to your landing page too early. Base your change decisions on statistically significant data. From Stu Draper.

#8: Get Rid of Distractions! If you want someone to purchase, don’t distract them with floating newsletter signups. From Bryant Garvin.

Bonus Resource #1: KISSMetrics has a nice list of considerations for landing page optimization for PPC that they’ve creatively put into an acronym for CONVERTS.

Bonus Resource #2: Unbounce put out a cool infographic on landing page optimization for PPC just yesterday. If you’re a fan of visuals, give this one a look.

What’s your favorite landing page optimization tip for PPC? Share in the comments!

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Resilience

9/11 memorial
It’s been a tough week. On Monday, April 15, the woes we all feel on Tax Day were set to be tempered by the annual excitement of the Boston Marathon. In a split second, the exhilaration of the day turned to horror when bombs exploded near the finish line.

As a walking distance racer myself, these events stunned me. It was a similar yet different feeling to September 11. While of course 9/11 was horrific beyond belief, it wasn’t as personal to me. I never worked in the World Trade Center. I’d been there, but only as a tourist.

The Boston Marathon is a race like many I’ve participated in myself. As a walker, I’ll never qualify for Boston, but I’ve crossed many a finish line and cooled down in the finish line area – just like the runners and spectators who were hurt and killed on Monday. The images that emerged on Monday and the days to follow were all the more upsetting because I could easily picture myself there.

This morning, I awoke to the news that the manhunt for the perpetrators of this terrible attack has taken on Hollywood-esque proportions. If the attacks themselves were hard to believe, this is nearly impossible for my traumatized brain to process. How does this happen in America?

But we’re a resilient sort. On 9/11, we bent, but didn’t break. A couple of weeks ago I visited the 9/11 memorial. It’s a stunning example of turning tragedy into something beautiful.

And we’ll do it again. On Sunday, I’m participating in the Lansing Marathon Half, along with my husband and son. I’ve been training since January and I’m not about to give up. Giving up lets the bad guys win. And we’re not about to let that happen.

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Learning to Stretch

stretching

No, this isn’t me, but I wish it was.

During the last couple months, I’ve been doing a lot of stretching. I’ve been literally stretching my tired muscles as I train to walk my second half marathon. I’ve been stretching mentally at work, too.

I’m a month into a 3-month project where I’m covering for a coworker who’s on maternity leave. It’s been a great experience so far – I’m not one to shy away from new challenges, and this has definitely been a challenge for me.

One of the great things about stretching is you learn how far you can really go. Walking a half marathon teaches you that you can walk farther and faster than you ever thought possible. In my project role, I’ve learned a few things too.

Rushing the job never works.

If you’re doing a 10-mile training walk, you need to allot enough time to complete the distance. I know I can’t cover 10 miles in an hour, so I don’t even try. Sure, you can (and should) push the pace a little, but I know my limits. If I don’t have 2 ½ hours free, I know I can’t do 10 miles.

The same thing goes for work. As with any new project or set of responsibilities, the sheer length of the to-do list tends to create a sense of urgency. It’s easy to fall into the trap of hurrying through a task to pare down the list.

I’ve always known that a rush job is never your best job, but this project has been a big refresher course in slowing down. It’s better to make sure everything is right than it is to race through everything as fast as you can. Luckily, I avoided major stumbles, but I was perilously close a couple times and it wasn’t fun.

Love what you do – or fake it till you make it.

Last year I walked my first half marathon. I had 2 goals: finish the race, and not come in last place. I’m proud to say I accomplished both goals! When I started training for this year’s race, I set some more aggressive goals that required some heavy-duty training. I’m not gonna lie – there were times that I really wanted to slow down or cut the distance short. But I kept going. And eventually, I found that I enjoyed pushing myself!

When it comes to PPC, I’m the luckiest person on earth because I get to do work that I love and get paid for it. It doesn’t feel like work. In this project, though, there’s a lot more client contact than I had before. While I love talking to clients, it can be challenging to be in meetings for 6-7 hours a day.

So, I took the same approach as I did with the marathon: faked it until I made it. It didn’t take long – maybe a week tops – to feel comfortable, but I’m sure if I’d copped a poor attitude, I’d still be struggling.

And really, it’s easy to talk to people. If you treat everyone as though they’re just the person you wanted to talk to, the conversation will be smooth and pleasant. If you take 5 seconds to confirm receipt of an email, you’ll ease worries. Simple things, to be sure, but they work.

The half marathon is a week from Sunday, and I know I’m ready. And I’ve hit my stride on my new project, too. It’s always good to stretch.

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Social Media is BS

That’s right, I said it. Social media is BS. You might be asking yourself, “Why would she say something like that when she’s active on Twitter and probably gets most of her blog traffic from social media?”

Good question. It’s true that I get most of my traffic from social media. But when it comes to ROI, social media is BS.

I’ve been ruminating on this topic for a while. Back in December, Social Times ran a piece titled The Future of Social Commerce. I saw the post on – you guessed it – Twitter, and I was intrigued. I thought, “Finally! Someone is measuring the ROI of social media!”

Wrong.

Take a look at that post. Take a really close look at this part of the ridiculously humongous infographic:

social commerce infographic
OK, so I’ve editorialized here. But look at the circled text: they’re equating “having a presence” with driving sales. Really?

Back in the day, in another life, I did outside sales for traditional media. I can tell you right now that “having a presence” in a client’s place of business sure as heck did not equate ROI for me. Walking into a store or office won’t guarantee sales, and neither does “having a presence” in social media. People do not buy from you just because you’re there.

As for the comment “Meteoric rise of Pinterest demonstrates that Curation is the future of Social Commerce” – that’s just crazy talk. I’ll admit – Pinterest is cool, and I’ve seen several companies using it effectively. A few might even be making money from it. But because a bunch of scrapbookers and people with time on their hands have adopted Pinterest means it’s the “future of Social Commerce”? Give me a break.

I could go on and on. But what sparked me to finally write this post was a great post over at Search Engine Watch by Nathan Safran titled Can We Please Stop Hyping Social as the Marketing Messiah? Indeed. As of this writing, the post has garnered 55 comments. I don’t know how many comments the average SEW post gets, but as a regular contributor I can tell you that in 5 years of writing for them, I don’t think I’ve gotten 55 comments TOTAL. It’s a hot topic for sure.

Social media is also a nice shiny object. People are attracted to it because it’s new and exciting. But new and exciting doesn’t equal sales, either.

What do you think? Is social a bunch of hooey, or is it the future of commerce? Or something in between?

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3 Tips for Taking Over an Existing PPC Account

Whether you work at a PPC agency or in house, chances are you’ll be taking over an existing PPC account at some point in your career. Gone are the days when few people had existing accounts – even advertisers who’ve been dark in PPC for a while probably have an old account sitting around that they want to revive.

There are plenty of good articles on the web about account transitions. I even wrote one myself. But sometimes, especially in the agency world, an account gets dumped on you with little notice, and you’re tasked with “fixing” it fast. With that, here are my top 3 tips for taking over an existing PPC account.

Discuss goals with key stakeholders.

Both the PPC Hero article and my SEW post talk about goal-setting, but it’s so important and so frequently overlooked that I must mention it again here. Even if the account you’re taking over has good conversion tracking in place, and even if you’re lucky enough to get copies of reports from the previous agency or account manager, set up 30 minutes to sit down with key stakeholders and talk about goals.

I once took over a B2B account where the client was tracking email signups as the primary conversion. In talking with them about their goals for PPC, I found out that they didn’t even have an email newsletter, and that email leads had to be hand-entered into their CRM! The previous agency had been optimizing for a KPI that didn’t move the needle for this client. We quickly identified other conversions that were more important to the client’s business. If I hadn’t had that goals conversation, I’d have been optimizing for the wrong thing, too.

Perform an account audit.

PPC audits are an invaluable tool for finding gaps and issues with an account. I’ve written and spoken about audits several times. At no time is an audit more important than when you’re taking over a PPC account for the first time. Use Joe Kerschbaum’s 10-minute audit spreadsheet and work through it. When you find problem areas, dig deeper. Have another PPC manager look at the account too, if you can. The initial audit will be your roadmap for the first 1-3 months of the PPC engagement.

I don’t think I’ve taken over a single PPC account that didn’t have at least one or two low-hanging fruit fixes I could make right away. Nothing makes you look like a PPC rockstar more than boosting performance by double digits in your first month.

Check the conversion tracking codes.

It seems obvious, but don’t overlook this step. You’ll want to audit not only the account itself, but the conversion tracking codes. Put through a few test conversions and make sure they show up on the back end. Go into the site’s source code and read through the actual tracking code. Make sure everything is working the way it should be in terms of tracking the goals you identified in the beginning.

Even experienced PPC pros get tripped up by bad conversion tracking codes. Make code audits part of your startup process, and your clients (or boss) will thank you. You might even be able to help them clean up their codes a bit. One of our clients did a tracking audit recently, and discovered that they have 15 different tracking scripts running on their pages. Wow.

If you’re taking over an enterprise account, they might have good reasons for having so many scripts. Again, talk this over with the client – maybe they need a tag management system.

Using these 3 tips will help you avoid potential disasters with new PPC accounts. What are your favorite tips for taking over a PPC account?

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Using Web Analytics for PPC Optimization

If you know anything at all about PPC, you know that campaign optimization is one of the most important tasks a PPC manager can perform. Managers spend most of their day tweaking bids, ad copy, campaign settings, networks, keywords, negative keywords, and many other data points within the PPC engines.

Campaign optimization is absolutely essential to PPC success. But if you’re spending all your time in the AdWords and Bing Ads interfaces, you’re missing a big part of the PPC optimization picture.

The Rest of the PPC Story

PPC metrics like CTR, conversion rate, cost per conversion, CPC, etc. are crucial elements that can’t be ignored. This data tells us what is happening with an account: how much traffic it’s generating, how many sales or leads it’s driving, and how much all of that cost. We get a great picture of what is happening.

The problem is, often we don’t know why.

That’s where web analytics come in. Web analytics tell us what PPC visitors did once they arrived at the website.

“Now wait a minute!” you might be thinking. “I’m using AdWords conversion tracking, so I can see conversions! Don’t those happen on the website?”

The answer is absolutely yes. And if you’re not tracking conversions via either the free PPC engine tracking scripts or a third-party tool, then shame on you.

But does that data tell you why someone converted? How many visits to the site did it take for that conversion to happen? What other pages did they view? Were they already a customer making a repeat purchase, or was this their first visit?

PPC conversion tracking can’t answer those questions. But web analytics can.

Key Analytics Measures for PPC

Even the most rudimentary web analytics measures can tell us something about our PPC campaigns. The following metrics can be found in any web analytics program. I’ll focus on Google Analytics, because it’s so ubiquitous – but you certainly don’t have to be using Google Analytics to get these numbers.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of site visitors who visited one page and then left the site.

bounce rate

Usually, a high bounce rate is considered a bad thing. If you’re an ecommerce site, and 80 percent of your PPC visitors are bouncing, that’s not good – it means that only 20 percent of people are bothering to go beyond the landing page.

But what if you’re using PPC to generate leads, and you have a lead form right on the page? Visitors could conceivably fill out the form and convert right there, without going to another page. In this case, it’s a low bounce rate that’s bad – it means no one is converting!

As you look at bounce rate, think about your campaign goals, and what the numbers mean.

Average Time on Site

Average time on site measures how long visitors spend on your website, in minutes.

average time on site

It probably takes at least 4-5 minutes to complete an online order on an ecommerce site, so if you’re an ecommerce PPC advertiser, a longer time on site is good.

What about the one-page lead form, though? Best practices for online lead forms indicate that shorter forms are best. If it takes 4-5 minutes to fill out your form, you’re using the wrong form. In this case, shorter times on site are a good thing!

Number of Pages Visited

This metric is exactly what it sounds like: the average number of pages visited on your site.

pages per visit

Most ecommerce shopping carts are at least 4-5 pages. Add 1-2 pages for your landing page and any additional items the visitor might be interested in, and you’re looking at a good average of 5-7 pages per visit at a minimum.

I bet you know what I’m going to say here. For the one-page lead form, if your average number of pages visited is 5-7, you’ve probably lost the lead. An average of 1.5 is probably good in this case.

Are you seeing a pattern here? In order to accurately evaluate the meaning of web analytics metrics, it’s crucial to think about your PPC campaign goals. Good ecommerce metrics will be very different from good lead generation metrics.

2 Final Caveats

As with all aggregated data sets, web analytics represent averages. And as we all know, averages lie.

While spending a lot of time analyzing what one or two visitors to your site did probably isn’t efficient, it does pay to break your data out into segments. For now, just remember that averages may not tell the whole story.

On the flip side, watch out for outliers. Let’s say that your ecommerce campaigns have an average time on site of 7 minutes, but you have one campaign with an average time on site of 22 minutes. While on the surface that might sound good, it’s probably not – in all likelihood, it means your poor site visitors are trying in vain to find something and aren’t succeeding. So if your underperforming campaign has outlier metrics like this, it’s probably time to optimize your conversion path a bit.

Now go take a look at your bounce rate, average time on site, and number of pages visited. You might be surprised at what you learn!

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Search Engine Watch on September 25, 2012.

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Yahoo’s Work From Home Fail

Working moms everywhere are no doubt aware of the dustup this week over Yahoo’s new policy banning working from home. In an age where telecommuting is the rule rather than the exception in many companies, this move shocked and horrified business leaders. At my company, gyro’s Rick Segal even wrote an article in Forbes on why this is a bad move. Just look at the SERP for “yahoo work from home” and you’ll see why this is a disaster.

As a working mom myself, this issue hits home. I’ve worked from home for over 5 years now, for 2 different companies. I currently work for a company that’s based in a different state from where I live. It’s no big deal. My coworkers know I’m just a phone call, email, IM, Skype, or FaceTime away from them, and report that it’s not very different from me being in the office. From a work standpoint, I’m as productive as anyone else – if not more so. At home, I have a quiet environment in which to work, free from the distractions that come with an office.

I start my day when my kids leave for school at 7:30, and am usually done shortly after they get home at around 4pm. It’s a conscious move on my part to spend my most productive hours when no one is home to distract me from the task at hand. At the same time, I get many of the same benefits as stay-at-home moms – I’m here to see my kids off in the morning, and am here to greet them when they get home.

That’s not to say I never have calls or meetings when they’re here – I do. And that’s not to say I’m never in the office – I was there most of this week! But the flexibility is what counts.

I have to believe that Yahoo is going to lose good employees over this decision. After all, the digital space is uniquely suited to working from anywhere, any time. That’s the way work is these days – are we ever really not working? Why hamstring people by telling them they have to haul their butts into an office every day?

I’m thankful to work for an employer that embraces working from home.

As a working mom, Marissa Mayer should be ashamed of herself.

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PPC News in February, Enhanced Campaigns Edition

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that Google’s Enhanced Campaigns are February’s big PPC news. Countless articles and blog posts have been written about Enhanced Campaigns already. Here are a couple that I thought were particularly informative.

A Detailed Look at Enhanced Campaigns by PPC Hero. Great overview and step by step detail on Enhanced Campaigns.

Enhanced Campaigns – New Bidding Opportunities and Challenges As usual, Rimm-Kaufman comes through with a thorough post on the pros and cons of Enhanced Campaigns.

Should You Upgrade To Enhanced Campaigns? by Brad Geddes over at Search Engine Land. This post outlines who should upgrade now, and who should wait.

I’ll be appearing on the Marketing Nirvana podcast on Webmaster Radio in a couple of weeks to talk more about Enhanced Campaigns, so stay tuned for more on that.

Speaking of Webmaster Radio, check out this PPC Rockstars episode  where Marty Weintraub and I talk about using Google Analytics to improve PPC performance. I even get an Eddie Van Halen reference in there!
eddie van halen
Rock on, PPC friends!

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Search Marketing Conferences: Do Women Speakers Get The Shaft?

girlpowerAh, the battle of the sexes. It’s been raging since the dawn of time, and will continue long after we’re all gone from this earth. Most of the time, I don’t pay much attention to all the flap. Over the past few weeks, however, there have been a couple of well-researched and well-thought-out posts about why search marketing conferences don’t have more women speakers, and they got my attention.

I covered the first one in an earlier post. Marty Weintraub from aimClear did a great job interviewing female conference speakers, myself included. Go back and read the post if you didn’t already.

Today, Hannah Miller from State of Search published a follow-up post on the topic – and the points she made completely changed the way I’d thought about the dearth of female speakers at search marketing conferences.

Women are more compliant than men.

Hannah posits that women get lower speaker ratings because they’re more compliant than men.

Let’s face it – people love a good brawl. Long-time search conference attendees will remember some of the legendary shouting matches and black-hat vs. white-hat panels that never failed to entertain. How many women were on those panels? Very few, and those that dared participate were given labels such as “SEO Bitch.” Nice.

But most of us women won’t stick our necks out like that. We follow the guidelines that are given to us by conference organizers. We stick to the time allotted. We turn in our presentations on time. We don’t pitch from the podium. We give carefully measured answers during the Q&A.

As I think back on all the conferences I’ve attended recently, there were speakers who ran way over their allotted time. There were speakers who were obviously unprepared, or worse, recycled a presentation from another conference, complete with the other conference’s logo! And there were speakers who pitched from the podium and asked for business cards.

Every last one of them was a man.

Women are too hard on themselves.

Because we are compliant, we’re not as “memorable,” maybe. Playing by the rules isn’t interesting. So we don’t get stellar speaker ratings. When we get lower speaker ratings, we tend not to pitch again.

This sure rang true for me. While low ratings haven’t kept me from pitching (because I love speaking too much to quit!), I still get discouraged by them. A few years ago, one of the comments on my session was that I “didn’t seem confident about the topic.” I was speaking about small-budget search, which was the majority of my day-to-day job at the time! I was totally confident about this!

Even in my most recent speaking gig, the ratings I got didn’t match my perception: both in terms of preparation and the vibe in the room. My first panel was one I had pitched and prepared for. I’d practiced my presentation thoroughly. Throughout the presentation, I got head-nods and smiles from the room. People asked good questions. And I got lackluster ratings.

The second presentation was one I hadn’t prepared for at all. I was subbing for a speaker who’d fallen ill at the last minute and couldn’t make it. I was totally going off-the-cuff. And I got 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The point is, we’re our own worst critics anyway. If we get bad ratings, we blame ourselves. If men get bad ratings, they blame the environment.

Girl Power

I’m by no means saying that all women are wimps and all men are self-absorbed jerks. Nor am I saying that conference organizers are totally biased. Most speakers follow the rules, regardless of gender. And we all get bad ratings at times.

What I am saying is that the facts are clear: women are under-represented as speakers at search marketing conferences. And it’s time we changed that.

If you’re a woman in search and have thought about speaking, now is the time! Got any speaking tips, man or woman? Share in the comments!

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Adwords Search Query Reports, US vs. The World: The Followup

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a client of ours and the vast difference in Adwords search query report numbers for the same 2 keywords in the US vs. in Germany. It was the most-commented post on this blog in recent memory – not only did people commiserate, but they asked great questions to try to get to the bottom of the mystery.

I was able to answer several of the questions right away (although, of course, there are no bad questions, and I thank everyone who commented for helping me think everything through). But 3 questions came up to which I didn’t have the answers:

•    Is the client brand a German word?
•    How does traffic break down by device?
•    How does traffic break down by Google vs. search partners?

The first question I had to look up, but quickly realized that the answer was no, it’s not a German word. Of course I had to run some reports to answer the second and third questions, and the results were interesting indeed.

Searches By Device:

I re-ran the SQRs for each country, and segmented impressions by device. I suspected there might be a big difference, but alas, the two countries were nearly identical:

us by device
germany by device

Germany did have a slightly higher percentage of mobile searches than the US: 11% vs. 9%, but the difference isn’t statistically significant. Clearly, devices are not the reason why US search queries were so much higher.

Searches By Network:

I noted in my previous post that session-based queries were high in Germany compared with the US, and that prompted someone to ask about distribution by network. We’ve all seen questionable websites, sites that aren’t really search sites, lumped into the search network. Let’s take a look at the segmented report data:

us by network
germany by network

Bingo.

I have to admit, I was stunned to see the difference. I knew that the search network was probably more robust in the US than in other countries, but this is downright horrifying. Only 2% of the impressions in Germany on the brand terms came from search partners, but fully 30% in the US were from partners. And just to refresh your memory, the majority of matches in the US were broad match, as compared with Germany where the match types were more evenly distributed.

I smell a rat. I’m still not convinced that we’re getting fair treatment here in the US.

And for heaven’s sake, if you haven’t already done so, please go sign the petition to allow separate bids for search partners. This is something I’ve wanted for a long time, and clearly it’s long overdue.

Or perhaps Google is deliberately holding out on giving us separate bids for this very reason? What do you think?

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