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Landing Page Design and Pay Per Click Campaign Optimization

December 19th, 2008

Utilization of Pay Per Click campaigns to drive traffic to your website is a smart move these days due the the trackable and targeted nature of such marketing. If you are going to invest some of your marketing dollars in a search engine campaign where you have to pay each time a person sees your ad it is important to consider the first impression you are making when these ‘paid’ visitors see your site. In our experience having a special page set up for people to see when they click through your paid ads is the most effective way to gain a conversion. A ‘conversion’ is the term for when a person fills out a form on your site inquiring about your business – this is the first step to making a sale because it provides you with contact information for consumers who are genuinely interested in whatever service you have to offer.

Landing Page design – making a specially formulated mini-page on your website to succinctly demonstrate what your business is about, why you are better than the competition, and a small form – is key to optimizing the return on any Pay Per Click campaign budget. If you are going to be paying for people to click through an ad to see your site it is most effective to have them ‘land’ on a page that is a compelling summary of your business services; the goal is to get the contact information of interested consumers so that you can follow up and close a sale.

Most sponsored listings that one clicks through on Google land the user on the homepage of a poorly designed website. This is like paying to have people view your dirty laundry. Then there are the instances where we click through to a well designed homepage yet we are confused as to a) why this business is more worth our time than the rest and b) how can we talk to a human with our questions about their services. This is like paying to have someone to talk to you when you are confused and just woke up.

This article started out with the idea of constructively critiquing Landing Page design. I thought that I’d click through Google sponsored results and see some compelling Landing Pages that may have needed some TLC. My research mission turned up an entirely different breed than I was expecting. The search was for ‘accountant san diego’. I clicked through each of the sponsored results on the top and to the right of the organic results and all but two companies have a Landing Page – that specifically design page I mentioned earlier. Instead they are paying for people who click through to land on their website’s homepage! Given the quality of design that I’ve just witnessed this article is going to take a turn to critiquing websites as Landing Pages on a case-by-case basis in San Diego.

The sponsored listings seen for an ‘accountant san diego’ search in Google are as follows. Each time a person clicks through one of these sponsored text ads the business who runs the site they land on is paying money. This is a constructive showcase demonstrating the importance of having a good ‘Landing Page’ in conjunction with your Pay Per Click campaign.

Sponsored Ad #1

The site is informational, though on first impression there is no centralized message selling me on this particular company.

After clicking through their advertisement and seeing this site I feel that I should go back to the Google’s search results and shop around a little; something about this site does not spell out credibility to me. Maybe it’s that it looks dated, the message seems unclear, or how the information is displayed is almost overwhelming.
While the site does offer a lot of information about specific accounting situations, I’m not able to find the answer to exactly what question I clicked through with hopes of finding an answer for.

I visited the contact page hoping for a form into which I can pose my specific question and instead there is a phone number. This is fine and dandy for 8 hours out of the 24 hour day, but most (good, hardworking.. wink wink) people do their research after work. I’m looking to find an answer to my personal accounting issue at 9pm and can’t wait for a callback tomorrow when their receptionist, accountant and myself included are back at work.

They did provide an email address on their contact page; this obviously is a way to contact their accounting team on off-hours and to field responses on the sly while at your desk tomorrow at work. The problem with this email address situation is this: chances are that it’s been spidered by innumerable spam engines thus rendering the receiver’s email account useless. For every sincere, off-hour email they might receive from someone inquiring about their specific accounting issue, this firm is receiving hundreds of spam messages – most of which bypass whatever Spam Assassin they may have implemented. In other words, posing inquiries to an email address that you see published on the web is like whispering in a raucous, large-scale pep rally…. you will be very lucky if anyone ‘hears’ your question.

Sponsored Ad #2

This site looks slightly more modern than case number one however all of the same points apply.
While this site also doesn’t have a contact form, they do have a link to something entitled ‘Online Advisor’… when I clicked through I landed on another site (this loses credibility… I already am not sold on this one firm’s site now I’m being thrown off to some other business’ website whose design is equally as dated). And I still didn’t clearly understand how to contact this ‘Online Advisor’. While this extraneous, informational page may answer some questions not answered on this firm’s main site, I’m sure it doesn’t answer everyone’s questions.

A contact form is still key for human interaction and winning new clients, and my points in the case studied above clearly apply to this firm’s site as well.

Sponsored Ad #3

On first impression the design of this site could definitely use some major modernization. To it’s defense however there is something more digestible than the previous two sites I’ve just visited. There is a down-home, cozy feel to this site and I don’t feel overwhelmed by the information provided. In fact, I want to look around more because I feel some immediate level of trust.
This site is going against the ‘businessy’ design model that most accountant firm sites seek yet it likely encourages more business due to it’s engagement aspect. The feeling I get from this site is that if I try to contact this firm I will be able to talk to an accountant, not a receptionist, and that they will care about what I have to ask. There is something personal in this design regardless of how outdated it appears, and this is huge.

While this site’s Pay Per Click campaign is probably performing better than the previously discussed sponsored listings, this company would still increase their marketing ROI hugely if they had a specifically designed Landing Page.

I had a good feeling about this site, and low and behold they actually have a form on their contact page! I want to say this is excellent after viewing the prior two sites though honestly this should be status quo.

Furthermore, contact forms can be designed to be so much more engaging and user friendly than we see in this here above screenshot. (Note that the above screenshot has the form highlighted in red for demonstration purposes, this is not how it appears on the actual website).

Sponsored Ad #4

This fourth sponsored listing actually brought me to a bona fide Landing Page in all the glory I was hoping to be discussing in this article! A person searches for an accountant in San Diego, are presented with organic and sponsored results, and if they click through this particular company’s sponsored link they are brought to a page with a form that promises that if they submit their information they will receive price quotes from local accountants.

The message on this page is clear and compelling so most people who click through to this page will be more likely to contact this company than any prior mentioned company, mainly because this site promises that a human, several humans even (this site may be operating on the same business model as Lending Tree), will contact them regarding their specific accounting questions.
This is a critique article though so this page isn’t yet off the hook. While the design of this page is eons more modern than the aforementioned examples, the credibility aspect is seriously lacking. There are no links to a parent site so I have no idea what this company is; I don’t think they are accountants but I think they are going to hook me up with a few that they happen to know? Um, I could do that from a short perusal of the phonebook… though maybe they know the ‘good’ local accountants (ones who pay them for the leads generated from this site is my guess). In any case, the page is relatively informative though I’m not sure why I should trust that my submitted information is a) going into good hands and b) going to be responded to in a sincere manner by an informative individual who can answer the questions that are prompting me to do this web search in the first place.

Sponsored Ad #5

On first impression this site is indistinguishable from the first two cases fleshed out above. The same notes apply to this site as well: while this company does provide a decent amount of information, if I’m searching for an accountant I probably just want to get a feel from their website and will decide from there whether to make contact. The feeling I get from this, and the above mentioned websites, is that this firm is stuck in the first half of this century and I thereby don’t quite trust whatever accounting advice they might provide me due to the outdated nature of their website.
I’m in a rush though and don’t have time to shop around and this is the first and only site I intend to click through to (remember that this company is paying each time that someone clicks through one of their Google sponsored link ads to view thier site) so I go straight for the contact page so that I can send the firm a personal message detailing my specific accounting needs.

In the case of this site my interest in a means of immediate, personal contact is foiled yet again – there is no form, and as mentioned before to send a message to any web published email will undoubtedly leave me high and dry. I guess I have to call tomorrow on my lunch hour rather than handling this by sending my question through a form and receiving an email response or phone call when I indicate that I am most conveniently available! It’s 2008… it’s time to use the internet to make our lives easier; let’s have contact forms on our websites and get our design updated, no? What is the point of web design and having a website anyway? How do you define effective?

Sponsored Ad #6

I hope that this site was built on a template as I’m not sure what other excuse a financial firm could have for representing themselves in this way. I realize that the constructive edge of my criticism has dulled with each ‘Landing Page’ critique I’ve fielded here. Unfortunately this here site may have officially eliminated any constructive, warm cell in my body.

On the upside I am impressed to see that they’ve considered the importance of weather reporting to those for whom they pay to click through to their site.

Having considered this philanthropic gesture maybe I’ll sign up for their ‘Emailed Newsletter’… but wait! Was it already emailed? I guess I missed out!

Joking aside… it’s very difficult to do constructive criticism of businesses whose websites are blatantly disregarding design and functionality standards that directly determine whether a potential consumer will convert to a sale. These companies are throwing their Pay Per Click advertising money through a window and quite possibly making a bad name for this whole internet marketing game.
For a cost that is remarkably small compared to the gain, all businesses can have a website that reflects the quality of the services that they provide. Making a bad business impression on the web is far more costly than simply modernizing or redesigning one’s web impression. This budgetary anomaly on which most businesses exemplified thus far operate is further estranged by the fact that they are paying money each time a potential customer clicks through one of their ads and views their outdated websites with no means of real-time contact or consultation.

Sponsored Ad #7

I realize that this article is getting repetitive, but it’s not my fault! It seems that every accounting firm in San Diego that has a Pay Per Click campaign going for them a) doesn’t have a Landing Page and b) has an outdated, templated-looking website.

This particular click-through experience didn’t make me feel overwhelmed by the wealth of oddly organized information as seen in prior examples. Though my very first impression is: are they trying to bring back ‘Members Only’ jackets for a third iteration? And that is just my critique of this site’s design / feel!
The content, whilst limited, somehow does impress some credibility on a personal level… kind of like the feeling spurred when you see a lemonade sale stand with some letters backwards. I trust this company however and I have no real basis for this feeling other than that they seem sincere and almost naive. Did I just say that? Well, naive regarding the fruits of online marketing is what I meant! And they are probably fantastic accountants.

This is the second of the down-home feel websites that I’ve analyzed here that low and behold has an actual contact form (no that lead generation site with the real Landing Page doesn’t count). This form’s design could be eons more cooler though, and for a price that undoubtedly trumps the cost being incurred by the bad impression they are currently making on potential clients with this here website of theirs.

Sponsored Ad #8

Just as I start to discount all San Diego accountant firm’s websites as being outdated we click through and land on this here site:

Definitely more modern than anything mentioned so far, though the homepage design leans slightly towards the arena of ‘modern art’ from back when blue glass in buildings was all the rage in new New York City construction. ‘They’ do say that fashion runs in twenty year cycles however so we might be okay on this point? Furthermore, this San Diego financial firm’s homepage might possibly instill the level of credibility that banks in big cities reflect with their large columns and marble interiors; animated clouds are nearly as steadfast as our barebacked dollar these days, after all.
After clicking through their paid click campaign and landing on this artful homepage I do feel compelled to learn more about what this accounting team has to offer me. I scan over the Flashy navigation buttons and choose ‘Firm Profile’ so that I can judge their credibility. I am then presented with a page that takes a quite a while to fully display their headline of ‘Professionalism’ situated strangely adjacent to an image of Alfred Hitchcock’s cartoony profile.
The very next headline, below the professional Hitchcocky situation, is ‘Responsiveness’. This is all it takes for me to beeline to the contact page – I want to talk to a human about my specific accounting issues, after all!
I am happy to be able to input my questions and send my contact information on this form; I am also happy that they asked what time is best to contact me!
Do you think that more people would fill out this business’ ‘contact form’ if it had been on the homepage and presented with some succinct text summarizing services offered services and credibility? This is what we mean by Landing Page! Why have people drop off your site as they try to navigate their way to your contact form? Direct your Pay Per Click traffic directly to a page specially designed to compel your visitors to send you their information – then you can contact these interested consumers and close sales!

Sponsored Ad #9

This ninth sponsored link aside our Google search results hardly deserves a mention: Yellow Pages? AOL directory? I just clicked through their ad from a search engine and they land me on yet another search engine.
I ponder daily which demographic actually goes and searches on secondary, spam-esque sites like this. Are the returned results perhaps more relevant than what Google already delivers? I haven’t taken the time to find out because the answer seems obvious… though I will analyze this at some point so stay tuned.

Sponsored Ad #10

This click through experience actually landed me on a Landing Page specifically designed to target what I was searching for! This site also exercises the same business model as demonstrated in the fourth sponsored search result example above.

The design of this Landing Page is horribly outdated, though if a site’s copy / text is amply credible and offers a seriously desired service, the design is forgiven by visitors or users as we see with sites such as or
A good Landing Page will convince visitors to submit their contact information to you. Within seconds a conversion can be compelled simply by succinctly outlining the reasons why your business is going to serve your visitor’s needs better than the competition. Also key is a clear call to action, or text that draws the visitor to the form where they can input their information. After the immediate impression, if the user feels that your Landing Page is credible they are going to want to contact you about your services. It is imperative that this final luring-in is clearly stated – the call to action is comparable to the closing of a sale.

Sponsored Ad #11

This is another Landing Page situation that doesn’t deserve a mention, see Sponsored Ad #9. The difference between here and the prior mentioned example is that at least we all have heard of YellowPages and AOL… why on earth are people getting lost in this sort of spam labyrinth? It is a good sign that Google ranked this useless, ad-engine site last on it’s sponsored link results for my particular search.

And that’s that, here you have my first analyzation for this site. I hope that no one was offended by what I’ve posted here, and if there are any hard feelings around this town do not hesitate to call me: 619 309 8537 or contact us! I hope that all businesses cited herein (as well as any companies that may have found themselves in similar marketing conundrums) might be interested in updating their web presence having read this. If you would like a free consultation we are happy to talk with you and draft an affordable strategy to grow your business utilizing both targeted Landing Page design and a Google Pay Per Click campaign!