Ad Landing Pages and Customer Conversations

Date Published: 04 August 2009

Ad Landing Pages and Customer Conversations

One of Lake Quincy Media’s clients recently wrote to me in response to my previous post about the Principle of Least Surprise and its relationship to online advertising. Their question revolved around whether it was appropriate in their case to use their company’s home page as the landing page for their advertisements, something they were doing across the board. I suggested to them that, in my experience, having a dedicated landing page that ties into a specific call to action in the advertisement is the best way to achieve a high response rate. Removing the names to protect the innocent, here’s my recommendation with regard to optimizing landing pages for online advertisements.

The Call to Action or Offer

The most effective direct response (as opposed to branding or other objectives) advertisements have a call to action or offer. This might be something as simple as Download a Free Trial of AwesomeWidget Now or it could be an offer like Register Now For a Chance to Win an XBox 360! In any event, the advertisement should include a call to action for the user. It should entice, or even command, the user to take action. There are many sources online to back this up; here is an example of a simple experiment Dustin Curtis did with a link on his site’s wording and how the wording changes affected the ultimate effectiveness(measured in clickthrough rate) of the link.

The call to action is the first step in theconversationwith the potential customer.

The Home Page as Landing Page

Typically, the company home page is a lousy landing page for an advertisement. If it’s purely a branding ad, then the home page is probably a good place to send the user, since they are basically just coming to learn more about the company. But if you’re really trying to use your ad campaign as a direct response selling tool, then the home page is not the ideal choice. The one exception I’ll make here is if the home page prominently includes the call to action that the ads include, which can be the case for companies that have a single (or primary) product or service that they feature prominently right on their home page.

Remember that your advertisement is the start of a conversation with the user, albeit a conversation that on your end is being conducted by a computer. You can think of this as being little different from the automated phone systems we’ve all grown to love. Assuming that you as the customer have no choice but to talk to a computer, which conversation would you prefer if you’ve just called in response to a specific offer?

Conversation With The Home Page

Customer sees an advertisement for a free trial of AwesomeWidget and calls the number.

Operator: Thank you for calling AwesomeCompany. If you know your party’s extension, press 1 now. If you are calling for support of a web-based product, press 2. If you are calling for support of a windows product, press 3. If you are calling for sales of a web-based product, press 4. If you are calling for sales of a windows-based product, press 5. If you are would like to repeat these options, press 6.

Customer: 4 (I guess?)

Operator: For sales of SuperWidget, press 1. For HyperWidget, press 2. For AdequateWidget, press 3. For AwesomeWidget, press 4.

Customer: 4. (I hope that’s right – I don’t want to buy it I just want the trial)

Operator: For the Individual AwesomeWidget, press 1. For Professional AwesomeWidget, press 2. For Enterprise AwesomeWidget, press 3. If you’re a government customer, press 4. If you’re an educational institution…

Customer: Ugh, forget it, I don’t have time for this.

Conversation with The Offer-Specific Landing Page

Customer sees an advertisement for a free trial of AwesomeWidget and calls the number.

Operator: Thank you for your interest in AwesomeWidget, the leading tool for Nerf Herding! Please tell me your company name and email address and we’ll send you a link you can use to get started with your free trial immediately!

Customer: Here’s my information.

Operator: Thank you, the email with your trial has been sent. We hope you enjoy AwesomeWidget and look forward to assisting you in the future!

Remember, It’s a Conversation

The key thing to remember here is that the user’s interaction with your advertisement, followed by the landing page, and ultimately (hopefully) with your product is all a part of a conversation with your company. Back in the dark ages before the intertubes, your customers would talk to your sales people, and their conversations would be real. Now web applications allow for huge advances in scale, but the customer is still looking for answers to specific questions and a conversation that is tailored to their needs. If they click on an ad for Product A, they want to learn more about Product A, not see a catalog of all products. If they were enticed by an offer for a free gadget, then the landing page better have a picture of that gadget and a (very short) form to fill out to register to win it.

Finally, the design and colors of the ad should match the landing page as well, so that there is a consistent flow as the user interacts. If the ad’s primary call to action is a bright green button with black text, then the biggest button on the landing page should have this same look. Lacking this leads to additional context switching on the part of the user – they need to relearn how to interact with each disparate UI, which again violates the Principle of Least Surprise. This could be likened to having the user speak to a different sales person with each new question they have about your product, as opposed to building a relationship with one person who understands their situation and needs.

Steve Smith

About Ardalis

Software Architect

Steve is an experienced software architect and trainer, focusing on code quality and Domain-Driven Design with .NET.