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Searching For Holiday Profits, Part 3: Landing Page Optimization

  |  October 3, 2003   |  Comments

Don't ignore what happens after the click!

Landing page optimization is an extremely powerful practice. It should be an ongoing process. Don't just save it for the holidays, or some other highly seasonal campaign.

For retailers, the holidays present an unusual opportunity to optimize landing pages. There are changes in searcher behavior and there's potential that different messaging will resonate with holiday shoppers. An earlier column touched on landing page optimization, but the holidays provide unique opportunities to optimize based on seasonality and the holiday searcher.

At shop.org last week, site design, content and conversion marketing surfaced in several sessions. All these factors relate to optimizing the user experience. A smooth user experience results in higher conversions, revenues and profits. In paid search environments, conversion optimization for post-click behavior is particularly important. Most traffic originates from paid placement, where the CPC (cost-per-click) bid determines placement and traffic level. To preserve and improve ROI and profitability as bids escalate, post-click conversion must be as high as possible.

When conversion increases, the CPC you can pay for a particular listing goes up. If you prefer, keep all CPCs the same, and let the revenue and profit from conversion optimization fall to the bottom line. Either way, it's a winning situation, not only for paid search marketing. Improved conversion aids organic search traffic, direct site traffic, banner traffic and even affiliate traffic.

Tactically and strategically, there are several things to try when adjusting and testing landing pages. The right combination of optimizing changes can dramatically impact visitor conversion behavior. As with all optimization activities, your team should feel comfortable that the time, costs and energies associated with optimization will be paid back with increased conversion. The larger a site and the larger the campaigns, the more easily a conversion lift pays for itself. Depending on where you're starting from (the baseline), 30 to 80 percent lift is possible.

Messaging

How much copy is on your landing pages? How much is right? Some products or services lend themselves to longer copy, others work better with short. Copy style is also critical. For more on the power of copy in conversion marketing, check out fellow ClickZ writer Bryan Eisenberg's columns. Remember to define a tone, voice, message, structure and personality appropriate to the product and brand essence.

Merchandising

What images accompany the product or service offering? With apparel, for example images of the product may include a model, others might be shot against a solid background. Test different images that merchandise and showcase the product. Try different image sizes. Some companies are experimenting with advanced image solutions, such as 3-D rotation. Others add a pop-up, allowing shoppers to view a larger version of the same image without leaving the page. Image quality has an impact. If images look inferior, a visitor may assume the product is inferior. If a product is available in many colors, swatches or color blocks under may improve conversion. Consider a more sophisticated color selector that showcases the product in each available color.

Pricing

Price testing is a major challenge in many industries. In search, the CPC market is volatile. Add in a volatile pricing environment and research becomes difficult to validate. Chances are you use the same landing pages for search and other site navigation. So pricing must be uniform, and a price change impacts all visitors. Consider testing how pricing is displayed. Do customers respond better to a list price crossed out with a discount price next to it, or simply the discount price alone? How large is the price on the page? If your organization is known for aggressive pricing, these changes could result in significant lift.

Offers

What special offers are you trying? In addition to the obvious "free shipping," some e-tailers have been successful with flat-rate shipping. For the holidays, specific messages and offers may improve conversion. Mention gifts in offer copy and see if that makes a difference. Online and search marketing whiz Catherine Seda reminds us if an offer is used in search creative, it must also be prevalent on the landing page. "The quickest way to encourage the page abandonment is to hide the special offer. Put it right front and center!" she insists. Catherine also test different wording for offers. "Does 'Buy 1, Get 1 Free' convert at a higher rate than a 50 percent discount?"

Navigation

Do your landing pages display full site navigation, or just the bare bones? Which navigation options are best for search visitors? Sometimes, too many options can derail a sale. Not enough choice gives visitors too few options.

Abandonment

Any time a visiting shopper abandons the shopping experience, the sale is likely lost forever. There are professionals who specialize in isolating and improving the sales checkout process, and tools that can make the job easier. Conversion marketing specialist Allison Tucker, of Customer Finders, says, "It's essential to use some Web site analytics solution to monitor, test and optimize the users' shopping navigation path to reduce the cart abandonment rate." Which tool you use will depend on the other features you require of a Web analytics tool. Improvement is pure revenue.

Cross- and Up-sell

Are you cross selling to other products? Do you up-sell accessories? Any marginal revenue or profit derived through cross- or up-selling falls straight to the bottom line. Retail salespeople understand that better than anyone. So should your site designer.

Product reviews

Product reviews generated by customers or licensed from a third party were a popular discussion point at shop.org. Several retailers mentioned customers say they find reviews to be very helpful. Are these a feature your site should consider?

Each marketer has a unique mix of landing page elements that work best. Testing all potential changes simultaneously is impossible. Focus on the elements you feel will provide the biggest impact. If your business has a few existing landing pages of great importance, you may want to consider a multi-variate testing platform such as Optimost. Alternately, tried and true A/B testing will also move the needle in the right direction. For this holiday season, you may not have time for a complete site design and structure review and testing regimen. Yet small changes can have dramatic impact on conversion. Don't ignore what happens after the click!

This was intended to be the last of a three-part series on holiday search engine marketing. I may have one last go next week, based on your feedback. Last week's column discussed seasonal keywords. The first covered holiday search strategies, searchers, search behavior and budgeting.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee, Didit cofounder and executive chairman, has been an acknowledged search engine marketing expert since 1995. His years of SEM expertise provide the foundation for Didit's proprietary Maestro search campaign technology. The company's unparalleled results, custom strategies, and client growth have earned it recognition not only among marketers but also as part of the 2007 Inc 500 (No. 137) as well as three-time Deloitte's Fast 500 placement. Kevin's latest book, "Search Engine Advertising" has been widely praised.

Industry leadership includes being a founding board member of SEMPO and its first elected chairman. "The Wall St. Journal," "BusinessWeek," "The New York Times," Bloomberg, CNET, "USA Today," "San Jose Mercury News," and other press quote Kevin regularly. Kevin lectures at leading industry conferences, plus New York, Columbia, Fordham, and Pace universities. Kevin earned his MBA from the Yale School of Management in 1992 and lives in Manhattan with his wife, a New York psychologist and children.

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