by John Eberhard

When you’re doing pay per click (PPC) advertising with Google AdWords or MSN Ad Center, the end product that you are shooting for is a conversion. If you are selling products on your web site, a conversion is an online sale. If you are doing lead generation on your web site, meaning you are getting people to respond and give you their name and contact info so you can call and sell them, then a conversion is a lead.

If you are using Google’s optional Conversion Code (which anyone should) you can see exactly which campaign and which ad and even which keyword your conversions are coming from. You can see your cost of lead as well, meaning your total cost spent on Google clicks, divided by the number of leads or sales you got.

Of course you want to get the most possible conversions in a given period of time and you want the lowest possible cost per conversion. The cost per conversion varies wildly according to the industry.

The very first thing to know about conversions is that it is entirely the job of your landing page to get the conversions. Assuming that your ads are working and that you have the right keywords and that you have an adequate number of people arriving on your landing page, if your conversions are still low, then you tinker with the landing page, not with the ads or the keywords or the bids.

For years I have advocated an approach of having a customized landing page and that is where you have your PPC visitors land. You do not have them land on your home page. This is the more or less generally accepted viewpoint today, with people who have the visitor land on their home page viewed as an “amateur.”

The reason why you need a customized landing page is quite simply that you will get a higher percentage of conversions if you do it that way. Here are the criteria for an effective landing page:

  1. It should not be the home page, but a customized page made especially for PPC advertising.
  2. It should have sales text and pictures specifically about the product being offered by your PPC campaign. It would be similar to a “product detail” page within your site that talks about this specific product. In other words, there should be a direct connection between the ad they saw on Google and what they see when they land on your landing page.
  3. I usually put a form on that page so the person can fill it out right there without having to click to another page. That’s for lead generation. For selling products you want to allow them to buy the product right on that page if possible, or if not, have a large button “click here to buy” or something similar that links directly to the exact page of your shopping cart where they can buy that product. Make it easy and obvious for them on how to become a conversion.
  4. No navigation buttons. I get more argument from new clients about this than any other topic. Over the years of doing PPC management (and before that email marketing which is similar when it comes to landing pages) I observed, when we studied the web statistics, that often people would land on our landing pages, then wander around the site, then leave. Rarely would people come back to the landing page, or go to any of the other form pages on the site, and fill one out. They wandered around, and left. So we tried it out with no navigational buttons, so the only choice they had was to do what we wanted them to do, which was fill out the form and become a conversion. Our conversion percentages went way up. But clients sometimes argue with me that they wouldn’t like it if they landed on a landing page and couldn’t wander around the site, so they wouldn’t want to do it to others. So if the client has been really insistent, we have set it up both ways and tested it. Without navigation works better in about 90% of all cases, with the other 10% being mostly companies that highly visible products like landscaping, where the prospect is going to want to look at photo galleries.

Remember, if you have an adequate number of people clicking on your ads and coming to your landing page, but no or few conversions, the fault is with the landing page. Make a change to the landing page, keep to the rules above, and see your conversions increase.