Oh, rankings! Acquiring that number one spot has been the number one ambition for countless brands over the past decade. In times gone by, there were sure-fire techniques that would skyrocket a website up the SERPs, but alas, no more.
What can you expect from this article?
- An introduction to rankings
- A step-by-step guide to making landing pages rank better
- How to create winning landing page content
- A note on landing pages for PPC
Google is in the constant pursuit of perfection in its results, aiming to deliver the best user experience, whilst simultaneously maximising its own advertising revenue. Gaming the system with wildfire link building and poor-quality content leads to an inevitable penalty, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
The constantly-changing SERP landscape can make search marketers feel like they’re chasing chickens. With increased localisation, the expansion of Adwords ‘real estate’, and constant testing of new interfaces, the pursuit of rankings as a KPI is a grey area.
Keyword and conversion-optimised landing pages are an absolute must for marketers using PPC, as we’ll see later. For brands trying to rank organically in the search engines, product or service landing pages also represent a useful route to to building leads. But with increasing competition and ever-vague Google guidelines, how can you get your landing page to perform well?
Whilst there’s no 100% guarantee of success, this article provides a step-by-step guide to giving your landing pages the best possible chance. Please, read on!
1. Establish business goals
The first step is to establish the goals of the business, which is particularly pertinent for the well-funded startups that we regularly work with. As I discussed in this article* LINK about integrated marketing, business goals should be aligned with SMART marketing objectives.
Organically-ranking landing pages form an element of the broader strategy, and will support (and be supported) by other online and offline initiatives. It’s imperative to see this element of SEO as a small part of the bigger strategic picture.
Research your audience, keywords, and competitors, identify gaps in the market, and create clear and measurable objectives that assist the business in reaching its goals.
2. Keyword research
There will be saturated search terms within your industry that are particularly difficult to rank organically for, which’ll also be expensive for PPC. Whilst this shouldn’t discourage you from competing, it’s often sensible to start with the low-hanging fruit of more long-tail keywords.
Firstly, you need to establish the search volume for the selected keywords (having identified your business goals, market, and audience). Use Google Keyword Planner to input your keyword ideas, and allow it to suggest related terms. If these match your objectives, snap them up and analyse whether they’re being searched or not.
Anything below 10 average searches per month won’t register. It’s probably not worth targeting these specifically, although you can use these keywords within related landing pages to mop up the tiny number of people using that particular phrase. If competition is high, multiple brands bidding on the same keyword in Adwords.
Next, cross-check your list with the graphs in Google Trends. This will tell you if you’re working with a term that’s on a downward spiral, or if you’re catching it at just the right time.
By the end of this process, you should have a list of feasibly competitive keywords, from which you can start to build your written and visual landing page content.
3. Plan your resources
Creating just one effective landing page takes many hours of work, as we’ll see from the forthcoming list of tasks. Remember that this process may be running alongside ongoing marketing activities and other commitments, so resources should be planned carefully.
For the work outlined in this guide, you’ll need a copywriter and a competent designer, and someone who possesses the strategical and analytical skills required to interpret the pages’ performance and take the right actions thereafter.
Marketing or web budget will need to be allocated accordingly.
4. create the template
In order to make the ongoing process as efficient as possible, it’s useful to create a template from which to work. This will likely need to be edited after longer-term success has been measured (A/B tests, traffic, and conversions), but this will provide a framework from which to work, rather than having to create each page from scratch every time. By doing this, you also cut out inconsistencies and provide a unified visitor experience.
5. create the content
Once the initial research has been conducted, it’s time to create the on-page written content. Google needs plenty to get its teeth into, but you must always remember the user journey. A barrage of complex text will ensure a high bounce rate, that’s for sure. So how do you include detailed keyword-rich and useful text, without presenting a wall of words?
A useful idea, echoed in this Unbounce article by Jayson Demers, is to hide the text behind collapsible dividers. By doing this, you give Google all the munch it needs, whilst offering a stripped-back and conversion-led landing page that’ll convert its visitors.
If they require more information, they can expand the dividers.
Written landing page copy must be:
Always write for the user, but keep the list of keywords as a reference point so you don’t miss an opportunity to increase your site’s relevancy. This HubSpot article outlines a few ways to create killer landing page copy:
- Use customer testimonials
- Emphasise the benefits, not just the product
- Spend time on your headline
- Keep the content simple and write like a human
- Use numbers and quantifiables
- Ask for the user to take action (CTAs)
- A/B test the content to find the most effective
In addition to the standalone web copy, consider creating written content to support the page itself, such as a themed white paper guide. This enhances the visitor’s perception of your expertise and offers an alternative conversion option opportunity, which can be used to build the email marketing list.
Also, as we’ll explore in more detail later, it’s worth creating two or more versions of the landing page copy for A/B testing, so you can measure the conversion rate of each version and choose the most effective.
6. Create the different media
We live in an increasingly visual world. Social networks such as Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat are growing exponentially, whilst more established platforms are incorporating visuals into their structure as standard. For organic landing pages, additional media can have a huge impact.
Studies have shown that websites that incorporate video have a dwell time of two minutes longer than those which don’t. Dwell time is essential for good landing page performance, so why not take this opportunity to include a contextual video on the page. This could be an animated explainer video (created using GoAnimate, Wideo, or others) or a recorded one.
Every man and his dog has seen a plethora of stock imagery. Set yourself apart by creating your own images; whether it’s unique photography, graphic icons, or artistic sketchwork. Studies have shown that Google now recognises the content of images, although the jury’s out as to whether this has any impact on rankings.
Infographics provide a brilliantly visual representation of what you have to say. Some users will benefit from a graphical example of your written content, and some like to read the detailed content. Cater for both sides!
Before the go-live process, test, test, test. Make sure all links are active and that copy is optimised. To ensure your landing page is crawlable by Google’s little spiders, check it’s not blocked in the robots.txt or in your SEO plugin (Yoast, for example). Link to the page from elsewhere across your site, to encourage fast indexation.
This piece by Matt Morgan on Search Engine Watch outlines how you can use Google Webmaster tools to speed up indexation.
8. Promote on social
Whilst there’s no 100% proven link between social signals and rankings, there are strong indications that Google is taking into account much more seriously.
It might sound a little pie-in-the-sky to imagine that people will share your landing page. They’re so boring, right? Not necessarily, and this is another reason why you need the additional media that I outlined above.
Promote your landing page based on the value its content provides your audience. Talk about the video or the white paper, and search the social networks for people asking the question that your landing page answers. Use social listening tools such as HootSuite, TweetDeck, or FollowerWonk to spot those in need, and deliver the solution.
Also, include social sharing links on the page as standard.
- Build the links
A tricky subject in the modern era, with link building so often attributed to the dark side of SEO (black hat). However, there are genuinely legitimate (white hat) methods of building links to your landing page.
First and foremost, your page should encourage people to link to it naturally. If your page is a referenceable authority on the subject, you’ll attract links from others in due course. However, there’s no use sitting back and waiting for the links to arrive.
Publishing themed guest articles on other websites is one route, although keyword anchor linking is considered risky business in this day and age. That said, you can still build industry relevancy this way if you target the right websites and link to your homepage.
Some element of old-school forum marketing will help, but this should be manual and only when your page provides real value to members.
10. monitor and improve
A/B test everything! The copy, the design, the imagery, and the CTAs. This is undoubtedly a pain in the backside, but it’s the only way to know that you’re using the right content. Luckily, there are plenty of tools out there that make A/B testing easier. Here’s a list of five:
This data will enable you to fine-tune every aspect of your landing page, especially in terms of maximising conversions. If traffic is slow-building, you could also invest budget into temporary PPC to get a feel for what visitors do when they arrive.
Before considering conversion metrics, you need to establish if your landing page is ranking, and whether it’s getting traffic. A simple Google Analytics browse will tell you whether it’s getting traffic (make sure you exclude your own IP), but there are also tools out there that can help you understand which keywords your site is ranking for.
Due to the rollercoaster nature of Google’s SERPs mentioned in the intro, the effectiveness of these has been brought into question. Webmaster Tools (Search Console) itself will provide you with some basic ranking information, which can be corroborated by using tools like SEMrush or Positionly (and others).
What if the landing pages are not getting traffic?
If they’re not getting any traffic after 60-90 days, try the following:
- Double-check the technicals (robots.txt, etc.)
- Expand your internal linking
- A temporary Adwords campaign
- Push more related content, linked to the landing page
- Edit the meta title and descriptions
Landing pages for PPC
A brief word here on creating landing pages for Google Adwords and paid social promotion. In isolation, these landing pages are not designed to rank organically, only to convert the traffic that arrives through paid means. This means that they can be thinner on content and quicker to build, although A/B testing is still essential in maximising conversions.
Your organic landing pages can be optimised to perform for PPC visitors, but in an ideal world, they should be considered as having a separate function; simpler and highly conversion-led.
Following the process outlined above will give your landing pages the best possible chance of success. However, if they’ve not acquiring traffic after two to three months of Google indexation, small tweaks may be required.
This should be treated as a campaign within a campaign. Each page needs its own promotional and link building strategy. Long-term performance is determined by keyword relevancy, strength and health of host website, and dwell time; which can be improved by integrating video.
Good luck, and get in touch if you need assistance with your landing page strategy.