Sep 19

Why You Need Landing Pages with Your Search Marketing Ads

Why Landing Pages MatterA few months ago, a customer who runs search advertising through Google Adwords asked, “Why do I need a special landing page if I’ve already got a website?” It’s a great question, and one that exposes an inconvenient truth about search advertising — it’s simple, but it’s not easy to use it successfully.

No doubt you’ve heard of Google ads, and if you run a business, small or large, someone has suggested you use Google ads for marketing. Search advertising can be cheaper than print or broadcast, and Google actually measures how many times and ad is shown and how many times somebody clicks.

In my experience, the landing page part of the search advertising equation is rarely discussed.
In case you’re not used to the lingo, a “landing page” is the web page where you end up — “land” — after you click an online ad like a Google search ad or one of those ubiquitous display ads for (at least they used to be everywhere).

My Baby Boomer brain compares a landing page to a bricks-and-mortar storefront. After reading a newspaper ad or watching a TV commercial that inspired us to go shopping, our generation visited the advertiser’s store. If the store was attractive, well-kept and prominently displayed the product that was advertised, we made the purchase. It helped if the price was prominently displayed and it was easy to find the checkout counter.

A landing page has the same function.

  • It’s attractive and easy to read.
  • It displays the product that was advertised.
  • It makes it easy to check out or purchase the product.

That’s the “gee whiz, that makes sense” answer to the first part of the question, “Why do I need a landing page?” What about the second part, “… if I already have a website?” It’s true, your business website should be an online version of your storefront (if you have a physical business address.) And if your website is perfect, you already have pages within your site that will serve as excellent landing pages. I could write a series of blog posts about building a perfect website, but that’s for another time. For now, if your website is perfect, raise your hand: you’re excused from the reading the rest of this.

If your website is typical, the odds are against your ads and your landing pages aligning for the best possible success. Google has taken that “gee whiz, that makes sense” list and baked it into the platform. If your landing page content is relevant to the content in the ad, the ad will appear higher on the search results page and you’ll pay less for each click on the ad.

Let’s say you’re a financial planner and want to advertise your estate-planning services. If your ad mentions estate planning and your landing page talks all about estate planning, Google will favor your ads with higher positions and a lower cost per click. If, however, your estate-planning ads link to your financial planning home page, which also talks about wealth management, investing and retirement planning, your estate-planning service information might be lost, or at least harder to find amid all the other information. Google, and potential clients, will be disappointed.

‘Displaying Your Product’ with Keywords

Now we have to dig deeper and look at how Google “knows” whether your landing page talks about “the product that was advertised.” The answer, of course, is that Google looks for keywords. Does the page specifically use the phrase “estate planning” in the page headline and in the text? Does the text include other keywords people are likely to use when searching for information about estate planning — wills, inheritance, trusts, etc.?

Here’s the main point. When the keywords in your landing page text and in your ad text match the keywords you bid on in Adwords, it’s as if the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars. It’s the Age of Aquarius, baby.

Here’s a real example, which took me less than 10 minutes to find, of a law office falling short in its choice of a landing page for its Google Adwords campaign. Here’s the ad: “Competitively Priced Divorce Lawyer in Pittsburgh. Call Us Today!” Clicking the ad takes the reader to the firm’s home page, where divorce law is listed among many areas of practice. The better choice for a landing page would have been this page, which outlines divorce-related services but focuses on just one related keyword, Pittsburgh divorce attorney. Other related phrases, mentioned just once each are “divorce your spouse,” “failed marriage,” “file for divorce,” “dissolve a marriage,” and “irretrievably broken.”

Even so, the keywords on that page don’t quite match the keywords for which the firm is bidding. A little research on tells us the firm bids for these top five keywords: “cheap divorce lawyers,” “divorce attorney pittsburgh pa,” “divorce attorney pittsburgh,” “child custody legal advice,” and “divorce lawyers pittsburgh.”

Notice that the most prominent keyword phrase on the potential landing page, “Pittsburgh divorce attorney” is not matched exactly in the top 5 keywords on which it bids. “Divorce attorney Pittsburgh” is close enough in my book, but this firm should include some of the other keyword phrases on its landing page. (In case you’re wondering, this also would be good SEO advice.)

So, is it OK to use an existing page on your business website as a landing page for your Adwords campaign? Clearly the answer is yes, it’s OK sometimes. But that decision needs to be made after considering what information should be on the landing page. If an existing page contains all of the information you need, go for it. If it doesn’t, you’ll either need to revise the existing page or create a new page, unique to your search ads and the campaign.

Making it easy to check out

Search ads are most effective when they are used to encourage action. You want the ad clicker to buy, subscribe, read, enter a contest or somehow engage with your business and your products. To draw that action out of your potential customer, the ad and the landing page must work together. If the pages on your website don’t encourage action, you will be better off designing landing pages specific to your ad campaign.

Appropriate “calls to action” would be a button that says “Buy Now” and links to a checkout page, or a an e-mail form that is completed with a “Subscribe” button. It could even be a prominent phone number or prominent directions to a store if a visit is the action you want.

Let’s say you run a local furniture store and want to advertise a Labor Day week sale on easy chairs. Instead of just sending ad clickers to your living room furniture web page, create a landing page with photos of the chairs on sale, include the discount prices, make sure the phone number is prominent and include a map of the store location. Keep the landing page focused on a single action — shopping for an easy chair.

Some experts advise against linking landing pages to other pages within your site. There’s a middle ground. A landing page should have navigation to your home page, but if possible, avoid full navigation to other parts of your site. Keep potential customers focused on one thing. If they want to explore the rest of your site, funnel them through the home page.

How can you tell if Google thinks your campaign has reached “Aquarian” status? It uses a metric called “quality score.” The score uses a 1-to-10 scale, with “1” being the worst score and “10” the best. When you’re in your Google Adwords account, Google will display the quality score with your overall campaign results and with each keyword. If you’ve bid on a keyword that shows a quality score of “1,” that means Google doesn’t believe your landing page is related to that keyword at all. You can either stop bidding on the keyword or, if it’s relevant to what you’re advertising, add it to the landing page.

Quality score is important because it can also help determine where your ad ranks on a search results page and how much you pay per click. Above all else, Google values relevance when delivering both search results and search ads. So, when two advertisers bid the same for a particular keyword, Google will favor the advertiser whose ads are more relevant to the search term. In fact, a highly relevant ad with a low bid may even rank higher than a less relevant ad with a much higher bid.

I know this has been a long answer to a short question. But without an easy-to-read, product-oriented, action-driving landing page, an online advertising campaign (yes, this applies to Facebook ads, display ads, Bing ads, too) will not reach its potential. I think it’s so important that when someone considers any online advertising campaign, I recommend starting first with the landing page. Then you can build the ads and the keyword bids around it.

If you want to read a little more, here’s Google’s explanation of why landing pages are important.



Jan 02

My Three Words for 2016

Three Words 2016
Start. Practice. Create.

These are my three words to live by in 2016. The Three Words practice is an alternative to New Year’s resolutions. Instead of listing goals, I’m choosing three words to guide me, to act as themes for projects throughout the coming year. There’s nothing wrong with goals, but choosing themes creates a framework for setting goals in both work and personal life. It also allows adjustments that need to be made when “life happens” and personal needs change.

In selecting and announcing my three words, I’m following a trail blazed by author, marketer and business servant Chris Brogan, who started his three words practice a decade ago. Since then some of my favorite digital thinkers have adopted the process, and I have, too. I didn’t accomplish what I had hoped with my three words for 2015 — read, write, share — but by writing those three words, I planted some seeds that may yet grow and mature.

I chose “start” a few weeks ago. The word is already written on my small office whiteboard. It’s there to encourage me to stop thinking about doing something and just start. Overthinking might be one of my worst habits, and it often gets in the way of beginning a new project, whether it’s the next item on my daily to-do list or the Great American Novel (yep, it’s still on my list). When I remind myself to just “start,” I get more done. I considered “begin,” but “start” seems more immediate, more urgent. I need that.

“Practice” joins my 2016 list thanks to the YMCA yoga class I began last spring. Our teacher is careful to remind us weekly that the class is practice, so there’s no need to worry if we don’t execute downward dog or tree pose exactly right. The idea is that if you do the best you can one day, there’s a good chance you’ll do better the next.

So this year, I intend to approach life and work as daily practice. The roots of the word practice come from the ancient Greek “praktikos,” which meant”fit for action, fit for business; business-like, practical; active, effective, vigorous,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary ( The root goes even deeper to “praktos,” which means “done; to be done,” and to “prassein, prattein” — to do, act, effect, accomplish.

Every accomplishment is the result of practice, and every accomplishment then becomes part of the practice toward the next one. To compare it to baseball, players practice throwing, catching and hitting to prepare for games, and although the games “count,” no matter the outcome a game once completed becomes practice for the next and the next.

My third word is create, which comes from the Latin “creare,” which means “to make, bring forth, produce, beget,” and is also related to “crescere” which means “arise, grow.” My creativity is usually centered around writing. During 2015, however, I found myself occasionally drawing pictures and making videos. I still intend cowrite more for myself, but I also want to let myself be creative in other ways, whether it’s writing poetry rather than prose, working on video or even coming up with some music using software like GarageBand.

It may have been subconscious, but after I chose my three words, I realized how well they fit together. “Starting” is something I can practice, as is creativity. Each word easily fits with the others. “Practice” and “Create” will join “Start” on my whiteboard to guide me through the next year.

What are your three words for 2016?

Feb 02

Three Fallacies of Facebook Marketing

If you run a business, you’ve heard a marketing or sales pitch about why you must have a Facebook page.

It’s hard to ignore the numbers. Facebook has nearly 1.4 billion active users worldwide. Of all adults who have regular access to the Internet, 72 percent visit Facebook once a month. In the United States and Canada, there are 157 million daily active Facebook users (44% of the combined population of 355 million).

Each day business pages on Facebook generate 5.3 billion likes. 5.3 billion. Every day. The average user has 130 friends, creates 90 pieces of content a month (posts, comments, photos) and spends 700 minutes a month on Facebook. The statistics go on and on, all pointing to the same inevitable conclusion: the world is on Facebook, and your business should be there, too.

FB-f-Logo__blue_1024And you know what? It’s free. Those schmucks at Budweiser paid an average of $4.5 million for each 30 seconds to advertise during the Super Bowl, and the giant brewing company only reached a lousy 114 million people (less if you assume bathroom breaks during commercials). On Facebook, you can reach a billion. For free.

The Free Fallacy

As many economists like to remind, there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Facebook is no exception. It’s easy to debunk the “free fallacy.” Even a one-man shop who wants to build a Facebook page on his own has to devote time, which, economists also remind us, equals money. If you run a small business, you might need to hire somebody to build and manage your presence on Facebook. Larger businesses are likely to either divert other marketing resources to Facebook or hire somebody new to handle it. The dollars add up.

The Audience Fallacy

Then there’s the “audience fallacy.” Facebook is not a Field of Dreams. If all you do is build it, people most definitely will not come. Even if you write Nobel-winning prose with museum-quality photographs, no one will see your content until people start liking the page. Even after hundreds of Facebook users like your page, your posts and photos won’t get much traction until your fans start to like, share and comment.

Is it difficult to encourage people to like your page and then produce content that people want to read and share with their friends? Not really. There is plenty of material online, including on Facebook, to teach you. And it takes time, focus and often, a little cash.

The Sell More Stuff Fallacy

Finally — at least for this article — there is the “sell more stuff fallacy.” It’s a simple extension of the first two. It’s free, so it’s easy to justify the “expense.” There’s an audience of more than a billion people, so if you convince just one in a million to buy something, you’ll have 1,000 new customers. Your sales destiny awaits.

Eh, maybe not. Because there are so many people and businesses posting content, and because Facebook wants to show only the content most relevant to each user, no one sees everything. That also means that your business page posts are not seen by all your fans. In fact, on average they’re only seen by 6.5 percent of your fans. If you’re a small business with up to 25,000 fans, the average is higher, 10.6 percent. That means if your Facebook page has 1,000 fans, only 106 will likely see any given post. That’s your real audience size, not 1.4 billion.

If you’re a small business, can Facebook help you sell more stuff? Maybe. If your business is set up for e-commerce you can create an online store on your Facebook page. You can post coupons or information about sales and deals (but remember, the audience is limited). I will tell you in no uncertain terms that if all you do is launch a Facebook page and post a few times a week, you will not sell more stuff.

Success on the Other Side of the Pitch

Small and medium-sized businesses can succeed on Facebook. They can grow audience. They can reach new potential customers. They can increase sales and even track them to Facebook. They can also use Facebook to talk with customers, learn about them and share with them. That kind of interaction helps make better customers and clients.

Given the present online and social media marketing environment, Facebook is a necessary and effective marketing tool for just about every business. Don’t let the fallacies of “free,” “audience” and “sell more stuff” inflate your expectations. Effective Facebook marketing is not free. You need to build your Facebook audience, and it’s not limitless. Facebook can help you sell more stuff if you inform, entertain and inspire your audience.

Have I missed any Facebook marketing fallacies? Add your thoughts in the comments, and let’s kick it around some more.

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