Conversion Rate Optimization: Whose Responsibility Is It, Anyway?

Used to be, in the agency world, we had to sell clients (or bosses – when I say clients here, I’m talking bosses too) on the idea of PPC. Heck, we used to have to sell clients on the idea of a website once upon a time.

As recently as 5-6 years ago, clients didn’t know what PPC was, or that it even existed. That’s all changed now. I’ve met few clients who didn’t have at least a basic understanding of PPC. They may not be experts at it, but they know what it is.

Nowadays it’s not hard to convince clients to engage in PPC, or even SEO for that matter. Driving qualified traffic to your website via search is something almost everyone wants to do.

The challenge today is what happens once people get to the websites.

Conversion rate optimization, or CRO, has been around for a long time. Entire companies exist to help website owners with CRO. Entire books have been written about it. Great blog posts like this one are being written about it. And still, it seems, few companies are actually doing it.

As a PPC manager, then, how much can we be responsible for conversions? And how can we lower the cost per conversion without touching the landing page?

It’s a constant challenge for both agency and in-house PPC’ers. When I worked in-house, I had more input into website optimization than I often do now in an agency setting, but our in-house web development resources were stretched thin. There were always 20 other projects ahead of CRO.

In the agency world, it’s both better and worse. Sometimes we have a budget for CRO – that definitely falls in the “better” camp. But sometimes, clients are unwilling or unable to optimize their websites. I’ve had clients who can’t even install tracking codes, much less use them to optimize for conversion.

So what’s our responsibility as a PPC manager, then? Well, of course there’s still a lot you can do:

  • Optimize ad copy & keywords for conversion rate or cost per conversion
  • Optimize for CPC
  • Pare down the program to the best-converting keywords, ad networks, etc.

Those are all good things to do, depending on the situation. In my opinion, though, a good PPC manager will do one thing no matter what the situation:

Make recommendations for improvement.

So often I see advertisers whose campaigns have been optimized to within an inch of their lives, and yet the website is terrible. It practically scares visitors away instead of enticing them to convert. And of course, conversion rates are low.

It’s our job as PPC managers to recommend simple site changes that could make a big difference in the conversion rate. We may not be the ones to implement the changes, but it’s our responsibility to suggest them.

What do you think? How have you convinced your client or boss to do some CRO? Is CRO your responsibility as a PPC manager, or is it someone else’s? Share in the comments!

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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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Picking a PPC Landing Page

Countless articles and blog posts have been written about setting up and managing PPC campaigns.  From keyword research, to ad copy development, to account structure, to networks, geotargeting, and on and on, there’s a plethora of info about dealing with the inner workings of the various PPC engines.

In all that detail – and let me be clear, all that detail is critically important – it’s easy to forget that keywords & ad copy are only the first step in a long journey to a conversion.

I’ve heard it said that the best PPC campaign in the world can’t fix a crappy website or a crappy landing page.  And I’m here to help you choose the right landing page for PPC success.

Choose the most relevant page for the query.

The most relevant page is almost never going to be your website’s homepage.  The exception to this would be branded terms that don’t give any additional info about what the searcher is looking for.  So if the search query is “brand X,” then the homepage is better than deeper pages that may not be relevant to the query.

But most search queries aren’t that vague.  Nearly every non-branded query is going to give some idea of what the searcher wants (and if it doesn’t, maybe you shouldn’t be bidding on it!).

Use this info to choose your landing page.  If the query is broad, you may want to use a category page as the landing page.

Let’s take the example of a clothing retailer that sells designer jeans:  Nordstrom.  (If you were at my Intro to PPC session at SES Chicago, this will sound familiar).  If the query is “designer jeans,” then don’t send them to the home page:

Instead, you’ll want to send the visitor to your jeans category page:

Often, though, the query is more specific.  People might search for “women’s seven for all mankind jeans,” for instance.

In those cases, give the user what they searched for!  Land them on the “Seven” category page.

Granted, they’ll still need to do some browsing on your site to find the exact pair and size they’re looking for, but it’s certainly better than dropping them on your home page, which may not even mention the product they looked for!

I know that once you see these examples, it seems obvious – yet I see countless PPC campaigns that either send all their traffic to the home page, or use a category page for specific queries (or vice versa).  Your visitors already performed one search – don’t make them search again!  By picking the right landing page, you’re giving yourself the best shot at getting that sale or lead.

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Effective PPC Landing Pages

This week, search marketers are voting on the best SEM articles of 2009 in the annual SEMMY Award competition. If you’re involved in SEM at all, I highly recommend you read every single finalist’s article. They’re authored by a Who’s Who of SEM, and are a great “continuing education” resource for the industry.

If you’re doing PPC, I suggest you go to the Design & Usability category and read every article. “Why not the PPC category,” you may ask? Well, of course the PPC category is important, as well. However, I’ve found, especially lately, that many PPC advertisers need serious help with their landing pages.

Apparently Steve Baldwin from Did-It agrees with me. His MediaPost column from earlier this week covers 6 common landing page errors he found recently while he was searching for a particular item he wanted to buy. I don’t often side with Steve – it seems that frequently, his articles are intentionally contentious and take the “devil’s advocate” point of view. But this time, he’s spot on.

I wrote about good PPC landing pages for the Fluency Media blog a while back. You’ll find many of my recommendations are the same ones that are in Steve’s article. (Hey, maybe he copied me! Ha ha!)

Getting back to the SEMMYs, my favorite Design & Usability article is 25 Point Website Usability Checklist by Dr. Peter J. Meyers. It’s a comprehensive list of design & usability elements that every website owner should review before launching a new site or a site redesign. He covers accessibility, navigation, content, and other important website and landing page elements. Bookmark this article, and look at it the next time you’re designing a landing page.

There is one PPC SEMMY nominee covering landing pages, from my Twitter friend Saad Kamal. (BTW, even though it’s not quite Friday, he definitely gets one of my Follow Friday recommendations!) Saad’s article, entitled 9 Effective Tips for a Better Landing Page, gives very specific and detailed instructions on how to craft a landing page especially for PPC. Of course, his tips are great for web pages in general, but are especially helpful when it comes to PPC-specific landing pages. If you follow his suggestions, I guarantee you’ll get good conversion rates.

What are your best PPC landing page secrets? Share them in the comments!

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