Dynamic Ads Need Dynamic Landing Pages

  |  March 3, 2010   |  Comments

Who's catching your clicks? To maximize leads and sales, eliminate the unexpected.

You stand on a small platform called a "board," high above the big top floor. A swinging bar - a trapeze - swings in front of you, away and then toward you. Your task is to dive into open space, grab the bar, and swing out away from your little perch.

At the apex of your swing, you are going to let go.

If all goes well, there will be a strong young man with impeccable timing in a perfect catcher's lock ready to grab you by the hands and swing you back to a safe landing on the other platform.

At the moment you release, you will not know if everything has gone right. Will your catcher be swinging away from you, leaving you to fall? Will you see someone other than a young man reaching to ferry you across the chasm?

We all experience the same kind of anticipation when we click on an advertisement. There is a moment of disorientation as we ask, "Who will be there to catch me?"

When an aerial artist releases his life to the trust of another, he doesn't expect to see a gorilla, a butcher, a cheerleader, or a pirate reaching to catch him.

It is the unexpected that causes falls.

In the world of display advertising, the landing page is that strapping young man, the "catcher" we hope to find each time we click on an ad.

There Is a Net

Just as a broad net catches the errant trapeze artist, surfers have the back button and its cousin, the close window button ready to save them. This net is not good for advertisers, as the price for the click has already been paid and the potential sale is lost.

In the same way that the trapeze artist bounces in the net, so do prospects "bounce" from the advertiser's landing page. True to form, we call ratio of exits to the total number of visitors the "bounce rate."

The key to a successful handoff is not a creative or engaging landing page. First and foremost, the landing page must offer the expected. The ad itself makes the promise. The landing page must deliver on that promise. Test after test has demonstrated that the more closely the landing page resembles the ad, the lower the bounce rate, resulting in higher conversion rates.

To minimize bounce rates, the landing page should begin by mirroring the ad in every way, with the same offer and similar imagery. In an ideal world, each ad version you serve should link to its own landing page tailored to that specific ad.

Choosing the Right Catcher

What if you are serving hundreds or thousands of different ads at any time? This is made possible with dynamic ad technology. By mixing elements in real time, dynamic ad technology allows us to compose ads on the fly. The ad may change based on a viewer's gender, location, age, or surfing history. The image, offer, color, or copy can be changed instantly.

How do we ensure that our landing pages match these chameleon ads?

For most advertisers, the solution lies in creating a variety of landing pages, and then assigning these landing pages to groups of ads with a similar characteristic. For example, it is vitally important that the landing page supports the offer made in the ad; so this is a logical way to group landing pages: by offer.

However, when an ad featuring a sweater takes a prospect to a landing page featuring a discount on all tops, there is a disconnect. The landing page was too broad to meet the ad's promise. If a selection of sweaters isn't presented, impatient visitors will bounce away.

When behavioral data is added into the mix, things get even trickier. Imagine an ad for khaki pants. The ad may be smart enough to know the gender of the viewer, showing a man or woman modeling the item. However, this intelligence isn't available to the landing page. When a female visitor clicks on an ad with a picture of a stylish woman in khakis, and is then taken to a page with a handsome man in khakis, there is a disconnect. It causes hesitation and bounces.

With the help of a software developer, the characteristics of an ad can be coded and sent as part of the URL that calls the landing page. Then, some logic on the server can assemble the proper components of the landing page. We would expect this to increase sales, but it can add considerable expense and time to each campaign.

An alternative is to supply the same behavioral data to the landing page used by the ad. LiveBall from ion interactive offers the ability to modify landing pages on the fly. Advertisers can swap page elements based on data such as, geography, keyword, and history. Theoretically, an advertiser could set up LiveBall rules similar to those guiding their ads, increasing the likelihood that any landing pages generated would match the ad clicked.

Tumri CEO Calvin Lui gave me a preview of its new dynamic marketing solution that promises a landing page component to complement four new dynamic ad technologies. While this landing page module is still in beta, it holds out the possibility of marrying the right landing page with any dynamically created ad.

Integrated Landing Pages

The new ads announced by Tumri highlight the next challenge facing landing page development: ads as applications. The new products allow the viewer to flip through offers in the ad, like the circulars you find in your Sunday newspaper. The Dynamic Circulars and Dynamic Merchandising products are more like little ad catalogs.

With this capability, landing pages need to match not only the ad, but know which item within the circular generated the click.

In the near future, advertisers must anticipate "Add to Cart" buttons within an ad. With such a tight coupling between ad and Web site, the concept of a landing page almost disappears. In this case, the trapeze metaphor breaks down. Prospects act more like tight rope walkers in this situation.

Who's catching your clicks? To maximize leads and sales, design landing pages that firmly grab the attention of visitors. Eliminate the unexpected. When a prospect clicks on an ad, she experiences a moment of uncertainty, like a trapeze artist waiting to be caught. Your landing page must catch her, reinforcing the promise made in your ad with headings, copy, color, and imagery. If it does not, the clicks you pay for will bounce away.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Massey

With 15 years of online marketing experience, Brian has designed the digital strategy and marketing infrastructure for a number of businesses, including his own technology consulting company, Conversion Sciences. He built his company to transform the Internet from a giant digital-brochure stand to a place where people find the answers they seek. His clients use online strategies to engage their visitors and grow their businesses. Brian has created a series of Web strategy workshops and authors the Conversion Scientist blog. Brian works from Austin, Texas, a place where life and the Internet are hopelessly intertwined.

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