September 02, 2009
Connecting your PPC ads to customized, relevant landing pages is a search marketing best practice. But creating hundreds of unique pages can be a challenge for many marketing teams.
See out how an online education marketer improved lead volume 88% and cut costs by creating a template to quickly generate custom landing pages for her PPC ads. Includes creative samples of the custom pages, and tips on applying lessons from multivariate testing to your overall page-design strategy.
Jennifer Brady, Director Marketing, UMassOnline, started laying the foundations for her team’s first Google pay-per-click program shortly after joining the company in early 2007.
The team at UMassOnline is responsible for recruiting students for the University of Massachusetts’ online courses. Brady hoped that paid search ads would generated leads for some of the team’s 65 degree and certificate programs (there are now almost 90).
"When we first started to implement, we had a very generic landing page," Brady says. "It had basic copy about who we are, what we do, and how many degrees we offered. It was not specific to a program or a discipline."
The problem was, the team’s PPC program had hundreds of ads driving leads to that generic landing page. At times, so many clicks were required to generate a single lead that the team’s cost-per-lead skyrocketed to more than $300. They needed a more refined landing page approach to meet their CPL goal of $25.
Brady and her team realized that their landing page served too many purposes and was not relevant enough to the PPC ads that drove traffic. Rather than having one page serve many degrees, they designed several pages that each served a single purpose.
Here are four steps the team followed to build and test new landing pages:
Step #1. Review landing page best practices
The team did its homework and consulted industry experts to learn the best practices of landing page design.
Key features Brady noted include:
o Clear headline
o Compelling copy
o Careful use of search keywords
o Minimal navigation
o Minimum number of fields on the form
o Urgent call to action on button
o Image use
"We had to make sure that the whole objective of that page was to drive form completion."
Step #2. Build a template/page generator
The team considered relevance their biggest problem. Therefore, they wanted to get as many targeted landing pages up as possible. They could tweak each page’s design later, through testing.
With help from an internal programmer, they created a landing page generator based on a template designed from landing page best practices. The template allowed the following items to be customized for the program being advertised:
o Headline -- Program title
o Body copy -- Program description and highlights
o Header image
o Header message
Each page emphasized a single degree or certificate program. This would ensure a stronger connection between the search ad that was clicked and the landing page that was served -- giving searchers the information they wanted up front.
The pages used the same submission form, layout, and "About UMassOnline" and "Learn More" copy. (See creative samples, below.)
- Build in batches
The team created program-specific pages in batches of about 10, tested them, and tied them to relevant PPC ads, until they had created about 50 pages.
- Retain a generic page
The team did not create a landing page for every program they offered. Instead, the team used a generic version of the page to handle the remainder of its degree programs advertised on search engines, and also for searches on "UMassOnline" as a keyword.
This page looked similar to the customized pages, but had generalized copy. For example, the generic page used the headline "degree program," instead of a specific degree description such as "Public Health in Nutrition degree program."
Step #3: Optimize a single page
After launching a number of program-specific landing pages, the team was seeing good results and wanted to refine their pages to further boost performance.
They selected a single landing page to test and learn from, rather than testing several pages at once. This approach provided a controlled experiment and avoided disrupting their previous gains.
The team ran A/B split and multivariate tests on the selected page for about six months.
"We found that our original messaging was actually pulling very well and our image that we were using was causing a great response also," Brady says.
The page’s body copy and registration form took up the majority of the landing page, but left space for a headline/banner image at the top. They tested elements of this header to identify the following attributes that increased conversions:
o Headline that included the visitor’s search keyword
o Headline that mentioned UMassOnline
o A differentiating statement such as "'it’s online'" or "'it’s the only program of its kind'"
o Image of a professional-aged person
Step #4. Apply lessons to other pages
The team applied the lessons learned from their tests to other pages. Many pages have been updated and the team is in the process of redesigning the rest. Although the task is not complete, they have seen the improvements carry over from the tested page.
"Our landing page strategy was one of the most significant changes that we experienced that drove the most significant increase in lead volume and the most significant decrease in cost," Brady says.
- Lead volume per month increased 88.4%, when comparing March 2008 to July 2009, after they completed landing page design and testing.
- Cost-per-lead stood at a much more manageable average of $26 dollars in July:
o Custom landing pages generated leads that cost about $22.75
o The generic page’s leads cost about $40.37
- The team’s tests on a single landing page increased conversions 107% -- from 9.52% to 19.7%.
Useful links related to this article:
Creative Samples from UMassOnline’s landing page testing campaign
MarketingSherpa’s Landing Page Handbook
Nowspeed: Agency that helped run the PPC and testing efforts