Join thousands of weekly readers and receive practical marketing advice for FREE.
MarketingSherpa's Case Studies, New Research Data, How-tos, Interviews and Articles

Enter your email below to join thousands of marketers and get FREE weekly newsletters with practical Case Studies, research and training, as well as MarketingSherpa updates and promotions.


Please refer to our Privacy Policy and About Us page for contact details.

No thanks, take me to MarketingSherpa

First Name:
Last Name:
Aug 07, 2008
How To

Landing Page Rules: Made to be Broken? Customized Strategy Boosts Paid Search: 4 Key Steps

SUMMARY: Most marketers follow the rules for creating landing pages – with good reason. But some rules are meant to be broken.

Find out how one marketer defies convention by creating dozens of landing pages customized by user information. New strategy and 4 steps to spawn impressive paid-search results – including a 65% boost in leads.
Landing page rules are pretty clear. Marketers should make ad-response forms as short as possible because extra clicks lower conversions.

Shawn Vicklund, Director of Marketing, Continental Warranty, knew the rules. She hesitated when her team wanted to change the one-page-fits-all form that captured leads from Google paid-search traffic for Continental’s extended auto warranties. Her worries proved to be unfounded, however.

“The rule of thumb is to keep the form short and to get the minimum amount of information that you can. But what we found is that if you create a process that’s user-friendly and that’s tailored to the customer, they’re actually willing to provide you information,” she says.

Continental adopted multiple landing pages and converted their one-step format for users seeking information into a three-step one about a year ago. The creative on the pages also changes dynamically to reflect user-provided information.

Vicklund and her team feed leads to two Continental call centers with huge appetites. All landing-page leads are forwarded to sales and receive follow-up phone calls in about a minute, Vicklund says.

Old strategy

->One page, one step

Continental bid on about 40,000 Google keywords. They included forms of “auto warranty,” “extended warranty” and scores of car make and model combinations.

“What we were doing before was: Customers would search for a keyword online. They’d click on our ad to take them to a landing page. Regardless of the keyword, they were all ending up on the same landing page,” Vicklund says.

The landing page collected the following information:
o Name
o Phone numbers
o State
o Email address
o Car make, model, year and mileage

-> No tests done

Vicklund and her team did not have extensive back-end analytics, which made it hard to test landing pages. So they didn’t test.

“We just didn’t have the technology to test. We would just see how our conversions were and, if the page looked good, we just kind of kept it. [It was an] if it’s not broken, don’t fix it kind of concept,” she says.

New strategy

Vicklund and her team began by getting better metrics. They worked with an agency to boost their back-end reporting and help leverage the information to deliver targeted landing pages.

“Some of our goals were, obviously, we want to increase our lead volume…and improve quality. And we wanted to get a better idea of who our target audience was…the basic behavioral takeaways you can get from customers shopping online.”

Their one-step landing page was chopped into a three-page form:

o Page 1: Collects the car’s make, model, year and mileage

o Page 2: Collects name, state, email address and phone numbers

o Page 3: Optional step. Customers can provide more information, such as car features, to get a more accurate quote.

Vicklund and her team then started churning out many of these tailored pages. Here’s how they dynamically deliver them:

Step #1: Use incoming customer information

Even before potential leads enter information on a landing page, Vicklund and her team know:
- Search keywords that drove them to click on an ad and land on the page
- Time of day they arrived
- Day of the week
- Web browser they were running

The information is provided by their back-end analytics system.

Step #2: Determine the first step’s creative

Vicklund and her team use a software engine to automatically analyze the users’ information in real time and determine what specific creative to deliver. A page’s creative might change based on the following:

o Keywords

Keywords can say a lot about the intent and desires of a potential lead. They are one of the most important factors in determining what content to deliver.

“If they typed in something like ‘best ratings extended auto warranty,’ then maybe…that customer will see a page that says ‘our warranty is number one in value and coverage, service,’ and really show the benefits to having a warranty,” Vicklund says.

“Let’s say they put in ‘Honda extended warranty’; then, we would serve up a page with a Honda driving down the road. Or if it was a Jeep Cherokee, maybe a Jeep driving through the mountains.”

“That’s kind of the good thing about our business, there are so many different makes and models that we really started customizing our pages based the keywords.”

o Time

The time of day and day of week indicates what content a user gets. If they are at work, an image-heavy page is likely to be served. “But, if it’s the weekend, you can kind of give longer content. Maybe they have more time to read through,” Vicklund says.

o Web browser

Browsers can render images and content differently. So, a potential lead is served a landing page based on the Web browser being used.

Step #3: Select the second creative

Creative for the second step of the landing page is customized based on the information the user submitted during the first step.

“So, now you know what vehicle they drive and, maybe, it has a high mileage. So they would be looking for a certain type of coverage, versus a customer that has a newer car with low mileage,” Vicklund says.

All this information is used to determine the images and copy presented on the page.

Step #4: Use optional third form

After submitting information on the second step, the users have been converted to leads and will be contacted by Continental’s sales team. But users can also fill out an optional third form with more information to get an even more accurate quote.

“We’ve found three out of four of them actually say: ‘Yeah, I’d like to give you more information.’ So they click ‘yes’ and they’ll provide some more information on that third part,” Vicklund says.

Refinements pay off

-> Add more pages

Vicklund and her team are always creating more landing pages to further refine their targeting.

“We’re constantly testing right now. We’re on pace of pushing out one to two microsites a week. And then, we test those and maybe drop ones that aren’t converting, but we’re up to maybe 40 microsites right now,” she says.

Here are some creative and copy examples:
o Fear of breakdowns – image of someone broken down on the road
o Local region – palm trees for California, mountain tops for Colorado
o Repair expenses – listing cost of repairs for foreign cars (e.g., BMW, Mercedes)

-> Test results

Vicklund and her team use a system that automatically tests landing pages based on different user profiles. Pages that are not performing are removed from the rotation; high-performers are used more frequently.

“We’ll test different pages, but if the page listing the bullet points of why we’re number one in value doesn’t convert, then we’re going to serve up a page that’s going to convert regardless of the keyword.”

“The idea was -- we’ll test 20% and then monitor, gauge and make any adjustments that we need to and then move over 40% and then 60%. But we actually went from 20% to moving to 100% of our traffic in a couple of weeks because we were seeing a higher clickthrough rate and a higher lead capture rate,” Vicklund says.

Landing page results

After Continental pointed their paid-search traffic to the three-step landing pages, they got these results:

o Lead-capture rate jumped from 12% to 18%
o Number of leads increased about 65%
o Lead quality remained constant
o Weekly sales increased 23%

Links related to this article:

Continental Warranty's Landing Page Samples:

MarketingSherpa: Spring 2008 Landing Page Optimization Workshop


Continental Warranty: Extended auto warranty provider

See Also:

Comments about this How To

Sep 26, 2011 - Scott Gessler of scottgesslercba says:
I am just trying to learn how to build a landing page. Thats all. What is the best method for building a page and how do I do it?

Post a Comment

Note: Comments are lightly moderated. We post all comments without editing as long as they
(a) relate to the topic at hand,
(b) do not contain offensive content, and
(c) are not overt sales pitches for your company's own products/services.

To help us prevent spam, please type the numbers
(including dashes) you see in the image below.*

Invalid entry - please re-enter

*Please Note: Your comment will not appear immediately --
article comments are approved by a moderator.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly Case Study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions

Best of the Week:
Marketing case studies and research

Chart Of The Week

B2B Marketing

Consumer Marketing

Email marketing

Inbound Marketing

SherpaStore Alerts


We value your privacy and will not rent or sell your email address. Visit our About Us page for contact details.