Optimize Your PPC Landing Pages With This 9 Point Checklist

Andrea Fryrear on Advertising

Optimizing a pay per click campaign can be a full time obsession: what about this headline? should I use a colon or semicolon here? are my keywords the right match type? The list of possible changes is nearly endless. But it’s vital that digital marketers don’t neglect where visitors go after they click on their ad: the almighty landing page.

First, let’s be honest. Are you sending all your PPC traffic to your homepage? If you are, it’s time to stop.

Instead you need to make at least one fully customized landing page for each of your ad groups, and it needs to be performing at the highest possible level. Make sure you’re not missing out on conversions by asking yourself these 9 vital questions before sending any customers to your landing page:

1. When Someone Clicks on Your Ad, Does Your Landing Page Make Sense?

Try to remove yourself from your laser-like focus (or obsession) on your PPC campaign and put yourself into the searcher’s shoes.

They may know nothing about your brand or product. They are searching for a particular keyword, and they click on your ad.

What is the instant, gut reaction to your landing page?

Inbound marketers can easily get hung up on the newest widget that their landing page absolutely has to have (pop up form! responsive design! arrows!), but if a visitor gets there and experiences even a second of confusion, the conversion is lost.

Take this landing page from Basecamp for example:

basecamp ppc landing page

If I searched for “basecamp software” and made it to this page, I would be comfortable that I was in the right spot.

If, on the other hand, I searched for “project management software,” I might assume I had gotten here by mistake. (Note: I don’t know what keywords Basecamp is targeting with this landing page, so it might not be an issue for their unique needs – see Question 2 below.)

Marketers live in our brand’s verbiage and story all day long, so it’s easy for us to make assumptions about what landing page visitors will know or guess when they arrive.

But far from being experts on our product and its virtues, most searchers who click on a PPC ad need very specific, very targeted messaging that is directly related to their search terms to feel confident about taking the action that’s being requested on the landing page.

2. Have I Optimized My Landing Page for My PPC Keywords?

It’s not enough to just be clear about your value proposition or your call to action on your landing page. You have to very deliberately incorporate your chosen keywords throughout.

This part of the optimization process gives you two immediate benefits:

  • First, your landing page’s visitors will be confident that they have arrived at a product/service/company that can help answer the question that lead them to perform a search in the first place. This confidence will increase your conversions.

  • Second, Google will improve the quality score of your ad if your keywords are included on your landing page. A higher quality score means a lower cost per click and a better position on the search results page, which will drive down your cost per conversion.

It’s important to note that optimizing your landing page for particular keywords DOES NOT mean just throwing those terms into the page. Weave them naturally into your copy, and both your visitors and Google will reward you.

3. What is the Primary Call To Action for the Landing Page?

Your landing page should feature a single button that calls for a very specific action from your visitor.

Again, if you are a first-time visitor to your landing page, is it 100% obvious what you should do next?

A white field on a dark background works well, as does a brightly colored button (but make sure the color is consistent with your overall design). People’s attention tends to focus above or at the fold, so test your button’s location in that general area.

Also, ensure that you have concise, compelling wording on the call to action button. “Submit” is not a compelling call, but these are:

landing page ctas

4. Is the Value Proposition Completely Clear?

This is related to the previous question about the call to action; if a visitor clicks your compellingly-designed button, can they tell what will happen next? Will they want that to happen?

You can provide clarity through the button text, as indicated in the examples above, but you’ll need to support those few words with your surrounding landing page copy and visuals.

If you’re asking a visitor to download something, a screenshot of the report, eBook or white paper can let people know exactly what they’re about to get.

If it’s a software trial you’re going for, some quick bulleted lists of its most valuable features will clarify how a user will benefit.

5. How Many Things Can a Visitor Do on This Landing Page?

As a general rule, the more things they CAN do on your landing page, the less likely it is that they will do the thing(s) that you want.

Check out this landing page from Groupon – it doesn’t get much simpler than this:

groupon landing page

For a start, take off your main navigation bar, or limit it to just a few key tabs, so that visitors aren’t distracted by the options to explore the rest of your website without completing your call to action.

It’s generally a good idea to maintain your footer, as it’s often the location of Contact Us and About Us pages and other confidence-enhancing information that users may want access to.

If you keep your footer, experiment with limiting the number of links it contains and minimizing it with muted background colors and lighter text colors.

6. Is My Landing Page Clear About The Source of the Offer?

A consistent logo, header image and footer, along with clear written details about who is making the offer, will establish trust and make visitors feel safer about involving themselves with your brand.

The first impression created by your graphics and logo are vital, as they create a professional tone for your page and keep people from fleeing in fear of a sketchy website.

Similarly, consistent color scheme and style throughout your design will contribute to the overall feeling that your brand is safe to do business with.

The final piece of this puzzle comes from your written text. You need to use testimonials and other social proof (see the next question) whenever possible to further lower barriers to interaction.

7. Have I Established Trust Through Social Proof, Testimonials, and/or Existing Customer Logos?

This question is particularly important for landing pages that are asking visitors to provide credit card or other financial information, but it’s valid no matter what your call to action is.

Pull quotes from your customer service interactions, your social media, or your emails (get permission first!) and feature it prominently on your landing page.

Study after study proves that “[u]sers do consider how others perceive content, services, and products that they find online. Adding an indication that other people… like the content or product can remove decision-making uncertainty.”1

Other security symbols such as these employed by Bills.com will make visitors much more comfortable submitting financial details to your landing page:

ppc trust indicators

8. Are My Visuals Compelling and Related to the Product/Service/CTA?

Make sure that you’re using high quality, high resolution images (no stock photos if you can help it!) that are directly related to both your product/service and your chosen call to action.

Nothing creates an aura of uncertainty like an image that is low quality or completely unrelated to the product or service being offered.

This also means that your main promotional or hero image at the top of your page needs to be similar in style and color choice to your logo, background color, and text choices. In other words, you need to be making coherent design choices for your landing pages, not just throwing together whatever free images you have leftover from your last website redesign.

CodeAcademy does an outstanding job of this with muted, high-tech colors, images directly related to their service and a single bright spot of color on their call to action button:

code academy ppc landing page

9. Can I Test and Optimize This Page?

It’s almost not worth having a landing page if you can’t continually test and optimize it. Without constantly tweaking text, images, and layout you will be missing out on conversions and wasting money on your PPC campaigns.

On the other hand, don’t just create two completely different versions of your page in the name of “testing.” Change only 1-2 things at a time and serve the landing pages to an equal number of the people who click on your ads.

After you’ve gotten a few hundred clicks you’ll be able to tell which ad is performing better; implement the more successful headline/button/text/other feature, pick another one to test and keep going.

Ready to Check Your Own Landing Pages?

Download our PPC Landing Page Checklist and start reviewing your landing page design. Let us know if you think we should add/subtract some items.

1. Nielsen Norman Group: Social Proof