Sunday, November 30, 2008

Conversion and Landing Pages

In writing about Landing Pages, I studied several articles that Google found for this search phrase. Remarkably, almost all of them were really about Conversion Rate! A Landing page, for those who do not know, is the page that is meant to be an an entry way into the Web site. It is the "bait" in commercial Web sites. Conversion rate is the measure of how many suckers visitors go from this landing page to the page where they sign up, buy something or do whatever it is you want them to do.  In this antiquated Website model, there are no search engines out there. All your traffic comes from paid advertisements or emailing, and therefore you know where the visitor is going to land and how they got there. So all the advice about landing pages, not surprisingly, is about conversion rate, which, when you think about it, is about how to get people off the landing pages and n to other pages.
At the other extreme from the believers in the Landing Page model, are those who believe that "every page is a landing page." Theoretically it might be true in the age of search engines, since there are less "inner" pages - the old model of the hierarchical Web site with a single front page entry point is long dead. But literally it is absurd. Not every page is a landing page. A custom 404 error page is not meant to be a landing page. A "Thank you for filling out the form" page is not a landing page, a print article page is not intended as a landing page.
But even in "organic SEO" it is impossible and a waste of effort to make every page in the Web site a top draw. Some pages are more equal than others and should get more effort and thought. They may be portals such as an entry to a product list or list of links, or they may be very well written and researched articles or pages with stunnng or interesting graphics. Sometimes a page becomes unexpectedly popular. There is generally a reason that is obvious after the fact (not always).
But in analyzing the statistics of any website you can see that there are "landing pages" in the sense that some pages get a disproportionate about of the entry traffic to the Web site, and these are not necessarily the ones you expected to be top pages. In a site with several thousand pages, only about 550 were entry pages in a given period. Among those, the top 20 accounted for about 58% of the traffic! That doesn't mean the site would have 57% of its current traffic if it had only those pages.. The less popular pages support the more popular ones by linking to them, adding to the pagerank of the site etc. But those 550 pages are the ones that are delivering the message to visitors of that site, and the first 20 remain about the same month after month. So you need to check site statistics and exploit the opportunities. If visitors are getting to a page that isn't really what you want them to see, you have to figure out how to exploit that and lead them to a page you do what them to see.
How to get people to a landing page is the topic not covered in articles about landing pages. The answer is the same answer as for all search engine optimization, because SEO is optimization of landing pages:

On Page OptimizationKeywords and coding and content on a page.

Off Page Optimization - This usually refers to Links from other Websites.

Website SEO design - Link structure in your site, Type of software used to create your Web pages, size of your site...

As for improving Conversion Rate, I put most of the important tips I found plus some of my own in the Conversion Rate article, along with a lot of useful links. There are some important recommendations that can help you, some obvious bending of corners, and some very honest advice that says, "These factors can influence search rate. However, they work differently for different products and situations. Therefore, you have to try different ideas and see what works (A/B or multivariate testing).
A big problem you always have to deal with is that the things that make for good conversion rate often make for lousy Web pages from the standpoint of search engine optimization and user navigation. The ideal landing page has a fairly ugly and prominent message, like
"Buy superwidgets and gain immortality,
 riches and unlimited sex - Guaranteed or your money back"
And it has a single button or repeated button or link:
Don't Wait!
Click here to Buy Superwidgets NOW!
Hurry while they last!
It doesn't have a lot of Long tail  content for search engines to glom on to and it doesn't have navigation links and fancy doodads.
I trust you will find a lot of things to think about and use in those two articles about  Conversion Rate, and Landing Page and some ironic laughs, like the SEO "expert" who had to hire someone else to fix their landing page, and the breakthrough conversion recommendation that resulted in a huge increast in conversion rate but not a single new sale. How could that be? Think about it...
Don't Wait!
Ami isseroff

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