Why poor landing page experiences could be the reason your PPC strategy isn’t working – and what you can do about it
Your PPC campaigns are generating steady traffic and you’ve figured out how to create ads that make people click – so why is your PPC strategy unprofitable? If your average CTR is above ~2% but conversion rates and return on ad spend (ROAS) are falling short, the issues are most likely taking place on your website – and, more specifically, your landing pages.
Quality landing pages are just as important for PPC performance as ads, bidding strategies and your other campaign settings. In this article, we explain why landing page conversion rate optimisation (CRO) should be a priority in your paid advertising strategy.
Landing pages bridge the gap between ad clicks and conversions on your website. Effective PPC ads entice users to click through so they can take up your offer or find out more information. Your landing page needs to deliver on the promise made in your ad and increase incentive even further if you want users to complete your conversion goal.
Clicking on an ad takes little effort and users have nothing to lose – other than a few seconds of their time – to click through to your website, satisfy their curiosity and bounce right back to search.
The problem is, you’ve paid for that click and received nothing in return.
Convincing users to complete a conversion action after clicking through to your website is a much bigger ask. For this to happen, you need them to read your content, buy into your message, complete some kind of form and, potentially, commit to buying, fill out payment details and part with their hard-earned money.
That requires a lot of effort on the user’s part but this is what you need to achieve to generate a return on your ad spend.
Science tells us that, to convince people to take actions that require effort on their part, you have to match or exceed this effort with the sense of reward.
In other words, the more prospects have to physically and mentally do in order to complete a conversion goal, the greater their sense of reward needs to be to justify the effort required.
This is the role your landing page should play, building incentive to the point where the reward outweighs any of the effort required to complete your conversion goals.
A poor landing page experience can mean many things but there are two key areas to analyse: technical performance and page copy. Poor technical experiences (such as slow loading times) increase the effort required from the user to even interact with your page, let alone complete any conversion goals. While page copy issues weaken your message and your ability to increase the perceived reward from converting.
Problems with either area of landing page experience put the balance between effort vs reward firmly against you – and this is bad news for PPC performance.
Unsurprisingly, Google has plenty to say about landing pages for paid advertising and it’s worth reading this Google Ads resource for more information: Landing page optimisations & best practices.
Google confirms that landing pages “have a huge impact on your advertising effectiveness and budget”. Aside from the conversion issues we discussed in the previous section, Google also specifies that poor landing pages can directly harm the performance of your ads and campaigns – for example, by harming your Quality Scores, which can increase your CPCs and cause your ads to show less often.
“In addition, your landing page experience also affects ad rank position, Quality Score, and overall cost. So if your landing page is causing users to consistently leave without making a purchase, this may cause your ads to show less often, or not show up at all.” – Landing page optimisations & best practices, Google Ads
Google also highlights the following benefits of delivering quality landing page experiences in your PPC campaigns:
- Increase ROAS: Driving traffic to highly relevant landing pages is likely to maximise your conversions, and reduce your Cost Per Click (CPC).
- Decrease Bounce Rate: The more positive your landing page UX, the less likely they are to click away – or bounce, immediately after clicking through.
- Improve Ad Positions: Google analyses on-page metrics to determine when users find your landing pages relevant and engaging – so delivering better experiences can help your ads show in more effective positions.
- Improved Quality Score: Landing page relevance is a key component of Quality Scores, which can reduce the cost of your PPC campaigns, help your ads show more often and show in more effective positions.
- Increased Links & Authority: Google says that “ when you feature relevant and interesting content on your landing page, your site visitors are more likely to share your page with others” – which builds greater brand exposure for you at no extra cost.
For more information on this, refer to the Landing page optimisations & best practices resource on the Google Ads website.
Here’s a quick summary of the reasons landing page experience is so important in PPC:
- Conversions: Landing page experience is one of the most important factors in converting PPC traffic.
- Campaign performance: Delivering quality landing page experiences directly (and indirectly) improves the performance of your ad campaigns.
- Affordability: Quality landing page experiences reduce the costs of your PPC strategy, allowing you to show ads more often, in more effective positions for lower relative CPCs.
- Competitiveness: By improving your Quality Scores and driving down the cost of your PPC campaigns, you can beat competitors in auctions, even when they bid more than you.
- Profitability: Maximising conversions while getting your ads seen by more people and reducing the overall cost of your campaigns is the key to profitable PPC strategies.
You pay for every click on platforms like Google Ads, which is wasted money unless you can turn paid traffic into conversions and paying customers.
According to data from Unbounce, the average landing page conversion rate is 4.6% across all industries but many industries have much higher averages and the top performers achieve conversion rates above 18%.
So, unless you’re aiming for average business performance, you should be targeting conversion rates significantly higher than the median 4.5% across all industries.
If we go back to Google’s resource, Landing page optimisations & best practices, it specifies four characteristics of quality landing pages:
- Relevant: The landing page should match the user’s search query and the messaging in the ad they clicked on.
- Trustworthy: Quality page designs and content with detailed descriptions and trust signals (reviews, testimonials, T&Cs, etc.) to show you’re a credible business.
- Easy: The landing page should be easy to use and interact with on all devices.
- Reliable: Fast loading times and consistent performance across devices.
When you read Google’s descriptions of “easy” and “reliable” landing pages, you can see it’s really talking about usability in terms of UX design and technical performance as two separate factors.
We also think Google has missed one crucial characteristic from its list:
- Compelling: The landing page increases purchase intent and motivation to complete the target conversion goal.
If your landing pages aren’t compelling users to take action, they’re never going to maximise their conversion value and all the benefits of delivering quality landing page UX disappear.
So here’s our final list of what makes a good landing page experience:
Let’s take a quick look at these in more detail.
1. Landing page relevance
- Message matching: Your landing page message should match the user’s original query, their search intent and the message in your ad that enticed them to click through.
- Keyword matching: Use the same keywords on your landing pages that feature in your ads and the user’s original query.
- CTA matching: Match the primary call to action on your landing page with the CTA in your ad.
- Focus: Make sure every element and piece of content on the page supports the core message in your ad – don’t deviate from the selling point that encouraged users to click in the first place.
2. Trustworthy landing pages
- Design: Make sure your landing pages look and feel like something a legitimate, trustworthy business would be happy to rely upon as their first impression with new prospects.
- Accuracy: Ensure your copy is 100% factual, that any claims are backed up by reliable data (eg: “Our product is 34% more durable than the competition”) and your content is well-written with no spelling or grammar mistakes.
- Transparency: Include all of the information users need, especially when it comes to any additional fees or pricing details that could be confusing.
- Contact information: Show all of your business info and contact details on each landing page.
- Social proof: Include review scores, testimonials, case studies and other forms of social proof to boost confidence.
3. Landing page usability
- Loading times: the slower your pages are, the more users are going to bounce without ever seeing your message – let alone converting.
- Navigation: Exclude site header navigation menus from landing pages to remove potential distractions and use strategic navigational elements to guide users towards conversion goals.
- Layout: Stick to single-column layouts for most of your design with each page section delivering a single part of your message.
- Spacing: Leave plenty of space between elements and use whitespace to give the key parts of your message more visual impact.
- Text: Use fonts, text sizes and styles to differentiate sections of text and make your page more readable (use max. 3-4 fonts).
- Contrast: Use contrast to make page elements stand out and guide users toward the most important parts of your landing page (eg: CTAs).
- Mobile UX: Use responsive design to create consistent experiences across mobile and desktop (single-column layouts make this a lot easier).
4. Compelling landing pages
- Relevance: The more relevant your landing page copy is to your target audience and their search intent, the more compelling it will be to them.
- Impact: The best landing pages make an immediate impact as soon as users land on the page – so optimise the hero section to grab attention and drive incentive.
- Clarity: Clear messages convey meaning more effectively, leaving no doubt in users’ minds about why they’re on your landing page – and what they need to do next.
- Brevity: Try to convey your message in as few words as possible.
- Rewards: Build the perceived reward of completing your conversion goals to justify the required action and overcome any friction involved.
- Motivation: The more work involved in completing your conversion goal, the greater you need to build motivation in users.
- Urgency: Compelling messages create a sense in users that they’re going to miss out unless they take action now.
- Emotion: Purchases are driven by emotion more than logic and the best landing pages leverage this.
- Strong CTAs: Compelling calls to action add the final hit of incentive users need to take action but not everyone is ready to buy now – so include secondary CTAs prompting less demanding actions as a lead generation strategy.
In paid advertising, landing pages are just as important as your ads, bidding strategies and campaign settings – if not, more. Even with the best ads, you’re not going to convert enough PPC traffic into conversions and this is bad news when you’re paying for every visitor that clicks through from a paid campaign.
Check out our CRO guide
We have a specialist CRO team in-house who work closely with our PPC team to ensure that all your hard-earned traffic doesn’t go to waste because of poor landing pages. Talk to us today on 02392 830281 or send us your details below and we’ll be in touch.