How Do Your Paid Search Conversion Rates Stack Up?

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ADOTAS – In 2011, U.S. advertisers spent more than $32 billion for online advertising — yet average online conversion rates were below 3 percent and bounce rates up to 85 percent. Why is this?

Spending thousands or millions of dollars to drive traffic to your website, only to have a very small percentage of people convert and prospects bounce off the page with no clue why they left, is like throwing money to the wind.

Typically, the initial focus of search marketing has been helping brands “get found” or ranked on the first page for search engine results. Then the second point of focus has been getting consumers to click through to your content or message. But as time goes on, savvy marketers are beginning to realize that click-through rates (CTRs) are only part of the story. Monitoring and driving down bounce rates is also a key element in the successful search campaign equation.

What do most consumers do when they land on your paid search landing pages? Fine-tuning the messaging and monitoring the metrics that answer this question have become the next level of sophistication in search engine marketing. This is where the real opportunity lies.

Finding the right combination of the headline, offer, visuals, layout and messaging is vital to achieving long-term campaign success. Traditional paid search campaigns have focused on CPC (cost per click), CTR and the raw number of conversions. Today, landing page testing has allowed us to take campaign performance to new heights.

Most websites are put together or updated on a timeline-to-launch basis, which does not allow deep consideration for the consumer experience. It also doesn’t allow consideration for where consumers will be sent following a paid search query. Landing pages for paid search are typically considered after the fact, and the typical scenario is that paid search marketers look for the most relevant page on the site to send visitors, based on existing site architecture and available content.

The smart way to determine where to send a prospective customer is to test multiple scenarios. Landing page optimization and multivariate testing (i.e., assessing the impact of varying headlines, calls-to-action, offers, etc.) is a science. We have found that the most successful paid search campaigns weave an element of multivariate landing page testing into the mix to allow for the development of the most relevant content and messaging to motivate consumers to take action. What comes off the web development assembly line isn’t typically the most impactful landing page to send to the end user.

The other consideration for landing page testing is that Google, the world’s largest search engine, ranks and rewards companies/brands that have the most meaningful keyword, creative and landing page experience. Not only does this lead to higher conversion rates, but it scores well with lower CPCs so your ads get placed on the search engine results page at a lower cost.

Compared to typical conversion rates on a site, my company Covario’s client experience with multivariate landing page testing has proven to increase conversion rates from 20 to 60 percent. The ability to test headlines, visuals and calls to action can make the difference in a site visitor taking action or bouncing off the page. We find that typical landing pages either have too many options, a diluted offer, or the call to action is buried too low on the page. Minor changes to the page can have a significant impact on conversion rates.

The additional value of landing page testing is that you can test off-domain messaging and determine the best headline, offer, and layout prior to bringing it on-domain. For many marketers, this solution helps bypass some of the internal politics related to web prioritization for page development, changes and/or content approval for the primary domain. This approach also provides meaningful, quantifiable data to support making changes, which can dramatically impact campaign performance.

The takeaway: Don’t undervalue the importance of the landing page experience of your paid and organic search campaigns. Being found on the SERP (search engine results page) is only part of the equation. A solid landing page multivariate test plan is critical to both paid and organic search campaign performance and success.

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