How to Avoid a Crash Landing

  |  March 10, 2008   |  Comments

Tim Ash's book on landing page optimization is a must-read for Web marketers.

Quite a lot has happened in recent weeks. After chairing a hugely successful Search Engine Strategies conference in London, with my friend and colleague Kevin Ryan, I took a short break to catch my breath. After which, I hit the ground running again, taking up a position with a New York based global agency. And as I write this column, I'm currently enjoying the very cool view from my new office on the 55th floor of the Empire State Building.

As usual, with the conference and quite a lot of travelling, a stack of books for review has built up in my office. There's the usual "how to get to the top at Google" type books and the "how to make millions with PPC secrets" type. I try to read everything I'm sent. But sometimes, you just know from skimming a book exactly what the content's going to be like.

There's always one book in the pile that contains the kind of "roll your sleeves up and get on with it" kind of information I love to absorb. "Landing Page Optimization" by Tim Ash is one of them. It's been around for a few weeks now. But this is the first opportunity I've had to sing its praises.

As a how-to book, it's right up there with Avinash Kaushik's "Web Analytics: An Hour a Day." Avinash is also a friend and conference colleague. I mentioned to him the last time we met that I thought his book had so much more meat than the title suggests. The same applies to Ash's book. The titles might lead one to believe the books are a little dry. Yet both are very well-written, pure marketing books from guys in the trenches who really know their stuff.

Long before the Internet provided us with the world's biggest virtual expo (the Web), people had to actually leave their offices and physically attend trade shows. In a previous life, I worked for a couple of years as an event manager for a large organization. Part of the job was to coordinate the design and build of huge exhibition stands for trade shows.

One profound insight I picked up during that period was the amount of time a potential customer would spend on your stand before leaving: less than 30 seconds.

At a trade show where you and your competitors are vying for the same target audience's attention, in the same space, you really must have something totally compelling to keep visitors on your property, as opposed to the competitor's.

Lots of thought goes into the design and build of a trade show stand to combat the short attention span people have once they step aboard. In fact, an art and a science are geared specifically toward trade show marketing.

Sound familiar?

Yes, in much the same way, your Web pages have to combat the even smaller attention span a visitor has. Or as Ash puts it, you have a few precious moments. A few precious moments to begin the process of the three keys to online marketing:

  • Acquisition

  • Conversion

  • Retention

The book's first two parts provide a great warm-up session. Part one is about understanding what landing pages are and the different types. It covers understanding your audience and the decision-making process.

In part two, Ash swiftly moves onto uncovering problems with your site and usability basics. And then there's a very insightful section on selecting elements to tune, the math of tuning, and tuning methods.

As much of a marketing/business book as it is a how-to, it also covers strategic and tactical elements. It addresses assembling a team and getting the company buy in, as well as developing an action plan.

I welcome the appendix that contains a very detailed overview of the Google Website Optimizer kit. This free software certainly endorses its commitment to providing end users with the best possible experience. At the same time, Google provides its advertisers with a free tool that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars. The strange thing is, even though it's free, Ash points out, there are still many PPC (define) advertisers who aren't taking advantage of it. (Kaushik noted the same issue.) I should add here, a highly tuned landing page is as necessary to visitors from the organic listings as it is to those from paid listings.

No, you probably won't take this to the beach to read. It's very much a practitioner's tool. But I guarantee you'll learn a huge amount about your Web site and its effectiveness by keeping it close to hand.

The fact that a certain, high-profile search marketer (no names mentioned...Mona Elesseily) stole my review copy at SES London suggests it must be worth a read!

Meet Mike at SES New York March 17-20.

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Mike Grehan

Mike Grehan is currently chief marketing officer and managing director at Acronym, where he is responsible for directing thought leadership programs and cross-platform marketing initiatives, as well as developing new, innovative content marketing campaigns.

Prior to joining Acronym, Grehan was group publishing director at Incisive Media, publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ, and producer of the SES international conference series. Previously, he worked as a search marketing consultant with a number of international agencies handling global clients such as SAP and Motorola. Recognized as a leading search marketing expert, Grehan came online in 1995 and is the author of numerous books and white papers on the subject and is currently in the process of writing his new book From Search to Social: Marketing to the Connected Consumer to be published by Wiley later in 2014.

In March 2010 he was elected to SEMPO's board of directors and after a year as vice president he then served two years as president and is now the current chairman.

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