Anybody with five minutes and a credit card can set up Google Adwords and Yahoo! Search Marketing accounts and start driving traffic to their site. But just because you can doesn't mean you should open your wallet without taking some measures to optimize your site for better Quality Scores and conversions. As with most things in life (and SEM), an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Let's take a step back for a minute. A responsible (and successful) marketer tries to maximize ROI, that's a given. Yet, I see so many sites on a daily basis that are throwing away money by trying to drive PPC traffic to landing pages and sites that are not optimized for high Quality Scores and conversions. Why should landing page optimization be your first step when setting up a PPC campaign? Poorly optimized landing pages usually result in:
- Higher required minimum bids (Costs Per Click or CPC) for your targeted keywords. You spend more money per click than you should.
- Higher (worse) average positions - Your ads are less likely to be noticed and clicked on on a search engine results page even though you may be paying as much or more per click as those listed above you.
- Higher Cost Per Conversion (CPA) - Lower conversion rates raise your CPA.
- Lower Click Through Rates (CTR)
What can be done? For starters, make sure your landing page and site are accessible to search engine crawlers. Check the following off your list:
- Robots.txt and/or meta "robots" tags - Are you inadvertently prohibiting search engines from crawling and indexing your content?
Once you've taken care of these issues, it's time to focus on the site content itself. Pick your targeted keywords. Make each landing page's content relevant to the targeted keywords you've selected for each page. Build your credibility and authority by getting links from other reputable sites to yours. Add useful, unique and well-written content and features that others will find interesting.
Experiment with various landing page designs and conversion funnels. There is no "magic bullet" or "guaranteed conversion" but you can keep testing and refining your landing pages to try to wring out a few more percentage points in your conversion rate. Remember, it's usually easier to grow your sales by converting a larger percentage of your existing visitors than it is to get more qualified visitors through the front door.
Crude as they are, these diagrams should suffice for you visual learners out there.
PPC without SEO and landing page optimization leaves money on the table
PPC with SEO and landing page optimization converts more visitors to customers
Of course, this is not just a one-time event. This is the bare minimum necessary to run an efficient PPC campaign. Keep these best practices in mind and don't be afraid to try everything you can think of to keep the optimization cycle going. By focusing a little more on your landing pages, you'll not only run more efficient PPC campaigns but you will also convert more of your visitors to customers. Tell me that isn't worth a little extra time up front planning your end-to-end online marketing strategies.