Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Improve the Quality Score of Your Landing Pages

Google is treating paid search more and more like natural search. More specifically, they are giving preference to "quality" pages that provide a positive user experience. Of course, "quality", as defined by Google, mainly refers to providing unique, useful content.

Many of us marketers have long followed conversion optimization guidelines of summing up content in bullet points and removing navigation from landing pages to laser focus the pages on the conversion action. While this may be good practice for maximizing conversion rates, it's not the best practice for pleasing Google and moving your ads to a higher position for a lower bid amount.

One problem with "conversion-focused" landing pages, so to speak, is that they will often have high bounce rates. The bounce rate of a landing page directly affects quality score. By removing navigation from the landing page, those who do not perform a conversion action (i.e. filling out a form) will bounce from the page (leave the website without viewing a second page).

Additionally, by summarizing information into bullet points to relay the main messaging easily to the user, you may also be compromising quality score. Much the way Google loves lots of content in natural search, they are placing more emphasis on this in paid search. The more quality information you provide, the higher your ads will show on the search engine results page.

With all this in mind, the obvious question is "How does one optimize for conversion without sacrificing quality score?" The answer is fairly simple. Think of your landing page as a microsite. By creating a "microsite" for your pay per click campaign, you can provide lots of quality content, decrease the bounce rate, and still display a conversion-friendly layout.

In most cases, you will still want to remove the main website navigation to prevent users from getting lost or distracted from the action you want them to take. Rather, replace it with several pages that split up the content.

For example, on the main landing page you can have a few bullet points, maybe an image and/or video, and a form (if submitting a form is the action you want users to take. In addition, you can have links to other pages, all of which having the form in the same place. This way, if users don't fill out the form right away, they may view a second page rather than bouncing.

Some possible additional pages of your microsite could be testimonials, broader product/service descriptions, and company information. Make sure to test different pages to find what works best for your campaigns.