As a child you probably played “connect the dots,” drawing a line from number to number to create a picture that answered a riddle. Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing presents a similar “connect the dots” scenario.
The “dots” are points within the customer experience value chain. This chain starts with a keyword search, moves into an ad impression, a click-through, a landing page visit and finally a completed action. To illustrate:
The user (e.g., your potential customer) is the driving force of the process. The merchant, however, is the driving force behind the user’s experience and the value gained from that experience.
The merchant’s role is to motivate the user from point to point through increasing relevance to and consistency with the user’s intentions. An intention by definition is “what one plans to do or achieve which simply signifies a course of action that one proposes to follow.” At each dot (e.g.. step), the user is required to make a decision to continue forward to the next point or to abandon his/her search. Users’ decisions are influenced by whether they believe the next step will draw them closer to fulfilling their intentions.
Top Three Mistakes: Keywords and Landing Pages
- Failure to test. Continuously test new headlines, call-to-action text, colors, font sizes, images and body copy; this is critical. Sign up for Google’s Website Optimizer program and start performing multi-variant testing. Market trends, competitive forces and customer intentions shift. Testing enables a merchant to stay on top of his/her PPC marketing performance.
- Failure to separate. If necessary, separate your PPC marketing landing pages from your existing website structure (you can use the same domain name if necessary). Merchants expect their primary websites to perform well across a wide array of advertising channels, yet each channel entails specific customer nuances. By separating PPC landing pages from the primary website, merchants can analyze, measure and optimize their PPC channels without impacting organic, email or other advertising channels directed at their primary website.
- Failure to plan. Organize PPC campaigns around relevant keyword themes. Not only does this help with ad copy relevance, it also enables the development of highly relevant and targeted landing pages. Campaign, ad group and keyword planning is essential for developing a high-performing PPC marketing channel.
In the beginning of the customer experience value chain, the keyword used to search provides a varying level of user intention. In some cases, a keyword phrase like “buy Apple iPod” communicates greater buying intention then a general keyword like “Apple iPod.” However, with both keywords, the user’s intention is centered on finding websites that deal with Apple iPods. What specific action the user intends to perform using a general keyword is unknown based solely on the keyword search.
The next dot, the ad impression, presents an opportunity to build relevance. How to accomplish this requires testing. There are some best practices that can provide guidance. These best practices include adding the keyword to the title and/or description of your ad, using action verbs and communicating a call to action like “buy,” “order‚” or “find‚” depending on the action you seek to elicit from the user on your landing page.
Your ad serves a dual purpose: (1) It attracts qualified visitors who believe their intentions will be satisfied by clicking through, and (2) it negatively qualifies visitors who are seeking what you don’t provide, although negatively qualifying visitors even moves beyond mere ad copy and into effectively using negative keywords and matching options.
If you consider Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search’s Quality Score methodology, user relevance is critical for gaining higher quality. Not only can you serve your user more effectively by building relevance, you are also rewarded by Google and Yahoo! with lower click costs and higher bid placements.
If a user is attracted by your ad, he/she clicks through it to visit your landing page. At this point the user is gaining confidence in the assumption that your website will satisfy his/her intentions. Unfortunately for most businesses, the user’s heightened expectation quickly dissipates upon visiting the landing page.
In the “less-than-10-seconds” impression your landing page presents, on average, more than 95 percent of users bounce out and move elsewhere. In this all-too-common scenario, the customer experience value chain is broken because relevance subsided and consistency dropped.
However, businesses can continue the customer experience value chain when they extend and increase relevance into landing pages. A strategic landing page connects the dots all the way back to the initial keyword search. It restates the keyword in the headline, body text, associated images and call-to-action text. It strengthens relevance by clearly displaying calls to action. It focuses the user’s attention on satisfying the original intention. The landing page, just like the ad copy, is another major testing point to determine the specific goals of arriving users.
Creating relevant landing pages contributes not only greater value to your users — leading to more actions — but may also reduce click costs and increases ad placements.
Helping search users connect the dots by building greater relevance and consistency throughout the customer experience value chain enables you to create a picture that answers a riddle, too: How can you increase your website sales while reducing your click costs? Go connect the dots!