17 Apr 5 Ways to Improve your SEO Landing Pages
(NOTE FROM RAND: Please welcome Sam Niccolls, SEOmoz’s newest addition to the consulting team – we hope you all like him as much as we do!)
A lot a marketers focus optimization efforts at the bottom of their conversion funnels. One effective way to examine conversion rates at the bottom of the funnel is to create a custom segment that excludes visitors who bounce. As this segment gives you a view of your engagement data that only shows interested visitors, this is a great way to inform site changes. After all, these visitors are the ones who are most likely to convert into paying customers.
But what about the top of the funnel? Are too many of your visitors leaving on arrival? If so, delve deeper into which pages are causing you the most bleeding. And don’t get too far ahead of yourself with site changes before you first identify your highest volume SEO entry pages. To make site changes without looking the top of your conversion funnel is to rent a tux before finding a prom date. It costs a lot and it leads to embarrassment.
Yet many sites still don’t think of pages other than their homepage as landing pages. It is not just pimple popping amateurs making this mistake, either. Numerous startups and online retailers, who get 80% of their overall traffic from Google, fall into the trap of designing individual product pages that rank well, drive 50-60% of their overall traffic, yet have bounce rates over 75%.
Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Analytics Evangelist, always says your homepage is not a golden door through which all your visitors will pass. And he’s right. Search engines have flipped the funnel. Every page that drives traffic is a landing page. But just because Google decides your homepage doesn’t mean you can’t optimize the performance of your lower level pages. Do you have underperforming product listings, profile pages, articles, or other entry URLs?
If so, here’s a quick checklist to revamp your lackluster landings:
1) Reassuring Policies
If you have reassuring polices, whether they are privacy assurances, guarantees, rebates, returns, or whatever else, tell your first time visitors about them. These don’t have to be flashing lights or neon arrows, but look at how scannable your “deep content” pages are. Two things that can be tremendously effective are graphics and icons. In the absence of any images, however, a single line saying “We never sell your personal information” can do a lot. And don’t bury these reassurances at the bottom of the page. Put them at the top of the page, or next to your e-mail collection field (if you’re collecting e-mail from the page).
You have raving fans, right? I’m sure there are at least a couple in the woodwork. Why not let them sing your praise as part of your introduction to your visitors? Landing page optimization is not a cocktail party. It’s okay to brag a little. Especially if it means improving your bottom line. Amazon does a great job of prominently exposing five star reviews on their product level pages, as does Yelp. Both are good examples to look at.
3) No Credit Card Forms
Single page forms are one thing if you are running a free trial period. Just last week I saw some massive returns for an e-commerce site off of some landing pages they created for an SEM campaign where they offered a 14-day free trial. But SEO landing pages are different. They are typically part of your internal site navigation. Plus, they are really more like first dates than “take it or leave it” offers. For this reason, don’t be too forward. Show some leg and entice your visitors to click a second time, but save the credit card forms for further down the funnel. I am not saying you can’t open the kimono later, but buy your visitors a drink first.
4) Email Collection
If you have a newsletter, blog, or another way that you maintain an ongoing conversation with customers, you should offer a field for people to subscribe via e-mail and RSS. This might not impact bounce rate significantly, but this type of e-mail collection is inexpensive and it is a great way to increase user retention. Several websites whose sign up button treatments I like are Futurenow, Mint’s Blog and Fred Wilson’s Blog. As you can see, Mint doesn’t show a graphic for “sign up by e-mail,” which is a wasted opportunity. More than likely e-mail will comprise the majority of your subscribers. So make e-mail sign up as easy as possible.
5) Look at Bounce Rate by URL
Unless the volume warrants it, don’t analyze individual URLs; analyze URL structures. For example, say you have an article subfolder on your site — http://www.yourdomain.com/articles/title-of-post. Rather than looking at each individual article, run a landing page report and look at your pages in aggregate. As a sum, what pages are hurting or helping you the most? Where are you retaining visitors? Where are you losing them? If you can learn anything from your most effective pages, apply those learnings to your least effective pages. Whatever your RegEx writing tells you, focus on making the most global changes possible. In other words, change things that will have the greatest, most immediate impact such as headers, persistent a or c columns, and first time user treatments.
Whatever you glean from your landing page analysis, abandon the myth of the golden homepage. And if you are not thinking of your “deep content” pages as landing pages, identify your biggest opportunities and let your design team go to work. There is probably a lot of low hanging fruit. Besides, if you don’t, you might find your website dateless at the conversion prom, and nobody wants to be standing in the rain with a wilted dandelion boutonniere. That’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on the worst of websites, not even Danny Dover’s favorite domain.