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Dec 04, 2008
Case Study

Give ‘Oomph’ to SEM: Optimize Your Landing Page with Simplicity

SUMMARY: A landing page is critical to converting leads. Every word, image and design element on the page can have an impact on responses.

Check out how a marketer for a financial company performed a split test to optimize their landing page. Their tests sparked a significant lift in SEM results.

Don Bergman, President, All Canadian Investment Corporation, and his marketing team were dismayed by the flat-lining of their search engine marketing (SEM) results.

“Our previous landing page had worked well, but we were looking to identify simple but effective refinements,” says Bergman. “We wanted to clean up the navigation and design, while adding customer testimonials near the ‘request’ button.”

Bergman and his team suspected that their landing page needed at least three improvements: a clearer call-to-action; easier navigation; a more understandable core value of their incentive offer to readers (free PDF or print brochure).

After poring over their data, the ACIC team decided they wanted to accomplish three goals with their landing page:
o Increase lead volume.
o Lower their cost-per-acquisition rate.
o Test new offers.


Bergman and his team ran an A/B/C split test over 24 days, pitting two test landing pages against the original (control). Because Google has more than an 80% share of search in Canada, they focused their SEM test on that search engine. Here are the three different landing pages:

Landing Page #1. Control – one-column design

The control landing page had employed a rather simple, vertically driven layout. At the very top of the design was a paragraph of introductory copy, which was meant to draw the reader to the demographics-capturing fields. The final sentence before the demo fields read: “Order your free ACIC Investor Kit today…”

The landing page then stacked the demo fields in one column, from top to bottom:

- First Name
- Last Name
- Address
- City
- Province (drill-down menu)
- Postal Code
- Home Phone
- Business Phone
- Email
- Comments
- “How Did You Hear About Us” (drill-down menu)
- “If Other” open field

Next to the demo fields, on the right-hand border, appeared a message from Bergman. Above his message was the image of a print brochure; directly below the message was a testimonial from a customer.

Landing Page #2. Three-column layout

Bergman says that a primary goal for the test samples was to reduce clicks elsewhere and keep users focused on the downloadable brochure. Each of the two samples also included offers they wanted to test.

Both offers pitched:
o 8% annual return
o cash payments every three months
o investment capital secured by real estate

The key differences in the design were in the column presentation of the demographical fields. For the first test sample, the fields appeared in a three-column stack and were tabulated in a left-to-right manner:

First Name
Home Phone

Last Name
Business Phone

Postal Code
Email Address
How did you hear about us?
If other, please specify…

The “Comments” field was two columns wide. And the “How did you hear about us?” appeared as a drill-down menu. The rest were one column wide, with open-key fields.

Below the fields appeared two customer testimonials –no message from the company president.

Landing Page #3. Two columns

The second test version employed the same offers above the fold. It did reiterate them in more detail down the left boundary – and next to the signup form. It included much more copy overall than the other test sample.

At the same time, it used a two-column design for the fields, fields, which were tabulated from left-to-right:

First Name
Home Phone
Email Address
How did you hear about us?
If other, please specify…

Last Name
Postal Code
Business Phone

Once again, “How did you hear about us” was a drill-down menu. And, as with the first test sample, there were two customer testimonials at the bottom of the page.


The A/B/C test showed that the three-column test sample dramatically outperformed the control and two-column test samples.

o 58.9% more leads were generated by the three-column version than the control.
o 1.3% fewer leads were generated by the two-column version than the control.

Bergman credits the clearer call-to-action, the least amount of copy and most direct layout in the winning sample as an integral part of producing the gain. The winning sample also showed a much more favorable cost-per-acquisition ratio.

“The test-and learn-approach gave us the insights we needed to diversify what we were doing,” he explains. “And, we could immediately see the difference in returns.”

Other key findings for Bergman and his team:
- Simplicity works for their middle-aged target demo.
- Spreading out the demo fields from left to right and keeping them above the fold drove response.

ACIC plans to utilize what they learned from the A/B/C split with small tweaks going forward, Bergman says. “We’ll be applying the best-practice approach we identified across the board, and I’m confident it will help our sales force to optimize results.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples: Landing Page Increases Lead Gen:

Magnet Search Marketing -- created, developed and implemented the test

Cossette Communication Group -- heads ACIC’s marketing strategy

Google Website Optimizer -- technology used in the test

All Canadian Investment Corp:

See Also:

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