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Your landing page subdomain: a conversion optimisation opportunity?

By Jennifer Esty  |  August 1, 2018

Every letter counts in a paid search ad. With only 140 characters of copy to play with in the main part of the ad – 80 characters for the body of the ad, and two 30-charcter headlines – it’s a constant challenge to craft an ad which achieves its marketing objectives within such tight copy limits.

So, we are always on the lookout for ways to squeeze a bit more meaning into a search ad. One component of the ad which is usually overlooked is the landing page subdomain.

Although the landing page subdomain is invisible in many types of advertising, it WILL normally be visible in a search ad – Google shows the landing page subdomain as part of the ad copy. And it will often also be visible in the user’s browser after they have clicked.

It’s a subtle feature, and many users will not notice it, but some will. Choosing an appropriate subdomain helps to build user confidence and will increase conversions. Conversely, choosing a subdomain that is confusing or distracting will undermine user trust and harm conversions.

A Subdomain Case Study

Recently we set up a new subdomain for one of our clients, YPO, the UK’s largest public sector buying organisation, in order to test a new set of marketing landing pages.

For technical and analytical reasons which I won’t go into in this post, setting up a new subdomain was the best way to ensure we could get good, clean results from our test.

The test itself was unrelated to the search ads in anyway so the only difference that users could see in the ads was the display URLs—and the only difference in the display URLs was the subdomains.

In this case our original subdomain was the generic ‘info’ and the new domain for the test was ‘catalogue’ – which we chose as an alternative simply because receiving a free YPO catalogue was the call to action for the campaign.

The test campaign, however, resulted in an unintended but extremely interesting outcome: changing the subdomain for the lead generation campaign resulted in a significant increase in the click through rate from our paid search campaigns.

And by significant, we mean very significant. The new subdomain had a 51% higher relative CTR on a like-for-like basis.

Now I would love to say we intended to achieve this impressive conversion improvement—but actually we were testing something entirely different at the time.

However, we’re now reviewing our use of subdomains across campaigns and looking at them not simply as part of the technical set up, but as a conversion optimisation opportunity.

Maybe you should too?

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5 Lessons from over 250 landing pages

By Jennifer Esty  |  June 15, 2018

At Sharp Ahead we specialise in creating conversion optimised landing pages for B2B clients with complex products and services.

Our clients’ websites are almost universally complicated, with numerous calls to actions and menu items which need to serve multiple stakeholders and customer personas.

Landing pages are a way to ensure that paid media spend directs lead traffic to pages designed to meet a prospect’s specific need.

But just because landing pages are less complex than websites, designing them is no less of a science.

After creating hundreds of landing pages for diverse clients in diverse sectors, we have some key best practice tips to make sure your landing pages generate high quality leads and ROI on your paid media spend.

Lesson 1: the 5 second rule

In person you generally have 7 seconds to make a good first impression. Online, you have even less time. Make sure your landing pages (and indeed all of your digital communications) pass this simple test.
The 5 Second Rule: in 5 seconds or less, can a prospect clearly understand who you are and what you are offering them?

Specifically, above the fold you need:

  • A clear statement of your value proposition. Don’t be clever with this statement. Now’s not the time for puns or beautifully crafted brand statements. Think Ronseal. In as few words as possible state exactly what you offer
  • A single call to action. Make it visually strong. Ensure it’s succinct and written from the point of view of the prospect
  • Social proof. Social proof can take the form of client logos, imagery, or peer testimonials. Social proof reassures prospects that other companies like their company work with you—and therefore so should they

Remember, if in 5 seconds the prospect doesn’t feel reassured that they’ve come to the right place, the back button will quickly and easily show them an entire search engine results page of alternative options.

Lesson 2: Encourage web-to-phone

Yes, that’s right, here’s a digital marketing agency telling you to get your prospects on the phone.

Although much of a prospect’s research will take place online, for most B2B companies, particularly those with complex, very high-value propositions, the actual sales process needs to take place human-to-human.

Landing pages should not only be designed to capture lead data via forms but even more importantly they should be designed to offer prospects the opportunity to get in touch via phone.

Including a phone number signals a number of things to a prospect:

  • The company is real, not just online
  • The company is open for business
  • There are real live humans that want to talk to you
  • The company takes customer service seriously

And here are top tips on how to use phone numbers effectively on landing pages:

  • Make the phone number visible, ideally in the header of your landing page
  • Repeat the phone number, particularly at the bottom of the page so a prospect that has scrolled down doesn’t have to think about scrolling back up to find it again
  • Include your hours of operation so a prospect knows when you’re open and when filling out a form is a better idea
  • On mobile, make the phone number click to call

Lesson 3: Skimmable Content

We all know that most of the time, consumers of digital content are not properly reading, they’re skimming to find the relevant piece of information that will either reassure them they are looking at the right thing- or send them back to a search engine results page to find something else.

Our tips:

  • Make sure your content is written and structured in a way that makes skimming through it easy whilst still giving them the information they need
  • Use blocks of content that stand out. Designing with different blocks of colour, for example, gives a visual clue and helps key information stand out
  • Include social proof throughout your landing page, mix it up with short quotes, logos, and imagery
  • Don’t be afraid to repeat content. A user skimming content is likely to have missed something, so don’t be afraid to repeat key messages throughout the page
  • The same goes for your CTA. Don’t make a user ready to engage with you look for the button that will bring up a form. Repeat it throughout: always above the fold and at the bottom of the page

Lesson 4: Separate Design for Mobile

While statistics vary on how many people are using phones versus desktop for B2B research, you can safely assume that at least half of your prospects are engaging with your landing pages on a mobile device.

Landing pages need to be not just responsive but designed separately for desktop and mobile to ensure they are conversion optimised for both experiences.

There are a few key differences between the two:

  • Phone numbers on mobile pages can be click-to-call
  • The experience of filling out a form is very different; make sure you’ve designed—and tested—your forms on both desktop and mobile
  • Mobile users can scroll down quickly with a swipe of their finger so longer pages are fine but make sure key messages are still standing out
  • Load times, a landing page that is slow to load on mobile is even less likely to get viewed than on desktop. Make sure images are optimised and always test the mobile experience as thoroughly as you would the desktop version

Lesson 5: The Attention Ratio

Attention Ratio refers to the number of things a prospect is being asked to do or think about in a page.

Going back to the beginning, the reason landing pages are so important for paid traffic is that websites are just too distracting.

A website might have a dozen or even more calls to action: think about not just your conversion features but your menu items, social icons, in-page content, contextual links, etc.

For your landing pages, you want to strive for an attention ration of 1. This means have one, very clear call to action on the page whenever possible. (Two if you count the phone number).

Sometimes there are very good reasons for having more than one call to action, but in those cases make it clear what the difference is and prioritise visually the one you would prefer a prospect pay attention to.

Lead generation using paid media campaigns are a great way to grow your business, so remember to optimise your ROI by optimising your landing pages first.

Want this article in a handy, shareable pdf? Download it here.

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Building a landing page can help you understand your business better

By Jennifer Esty  |  June 27, 2016

Albert Einstein once said: “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

Essentially Einstein was just reminding us that if we really know our stuff, explaining it to people who matter shouldn’t be that difficult.

This is no less true in business than it is science. As marketers, it is our job to clearly communicate our organisation’s value proposition to our target audiences.

But too often we try to tell everyone everything all at once (check out your website for example).

How A Landing Page Can Help

Landing pages are a critical element of B2B marketing campaigns, and we have found that when we work with clients to create the content, agree the call to action, and assemble the right mix of creative assets, this process also has the interesting effect of helping clients realise what they actually need to convey to their audience.

A (truly effective) landing page should only have so much content, so many creative assets and one call to action that clients want their audience to complete.

The process of agreeing what should be included, and what shouldn’t, is a cathartic process that can help marketers focus on what really matters to their audience.

We often start a campaign by building the landing pages first. We do this even before agreeing what the paid media mix will look like, because the process more often than not changes what the client set out to say, and who they want to say it to.

It’s a process well worth investing time and attention to get it right. The rewards are higher conversions and messaging and content you can reuse across your marketing mix.

So remember, if you can’t explain it on a landing page, you probably don’t understand it yourself yet.