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October 19, 2006

New Tool Reinforces Landing Page Importance

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One of the highlights of yesterday’s eMetrics Summit session was the announced launch of the Google Website Optimizer, a new beta designed to help AdWords advertisers create more effective landing pages. The tool allows advertisers to test different versions of their landing page to see which has the best conversion rate.

The tool has been launched into a very limited release, with AdWords advertisers having to ask to be allowed in. Rumor is this isn’t your average Google beta where just anyone can join. Google is looking for high volume sites to test out the new tool, so if you don’t fit into that category, you’re out of luck. At least for now.

How does this Google beta work?

Advertisers “break up” their landing page into sections by inserting snippets of code provided by Optimizer. Each area the publisher ‘tags’ is seen as a separate variable for testing, be it a headline, an image, a graph, etc. Using the variables provided by the user, the tool will then automatically create every possible combination of landing pages and randomly display them to page visitors as they click through.

For example, if you tag an image as its own section, Google will swap this image with others you provide to determine which is more effective. As visitors interact with the different landing page versions, publishers will receive detailed reports explaining their activity. Reports are organized by version and page section so advertisers can see which tweak had what effect.

Once advertisers have determined their preferred layout, they can stop the testing. As long as the code is left in the page’s HTML, advertisers can restart testing at any time.

As powerful as this tool sounds, I question how many publishers will put it to good use.

The trouble with tools like this is that they require publishers to do more work. In order to reap the benefits, they must first come up with different headlines, different images, and different tones for their landing pages. The initial investment is sometimes daunting to already-strained publishers. However, producing a landing page that effectively converts and meets customer needs should be a big enough reward to make the process worth it.

The tool may not be widely available right now, but what its presence does do (in addition to taking eyes away from Panama) is to help reinforce that advertisers should be tweaking and experimenting with their landing pages. It’s easy to create your landing pages and then leave them there to collect dust, but that’s not how savvy marketers convert. Search engine marketing requires fine-tuning pages for the best conversion, just as writing ad copy requires fine tuning to target the right audience.

If you’re serious about conversions, you need to conduct testing. It doesn’t matter if it’s PPC, search engine optimization, email or baking the world’s best chocolate chip cookie. You need to learn what works and what doesn’t. If you’re doing PPC, this means testing landing pages, ad copy and bid prices. If it’s SEO, it means testing keywords, creating excellent content and experimenting with Meta tags. Knowing what works will help you to plan your advertising dollar roadmap. Without it, you’re walking around in the dark.

Interested users can view a demo here or take a look at a sample report. If you like what you see, apply to be a beta tester.

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