Crafting SEO Landing Pages

Mar 12th
posted in

The landing page, in terms of SEO, went out of fashion.

Landing pages, which tended to be mass-generated, near identical pages pointing to one money page, became a target for the search engine spam filters.

However, the type of landing page we should take a closer look at is the type of landing page used in PPC - a page carefully crafted to lead a visitor to desired action. SEOs can benefit from applying the same techniques used for creating effective PPC landing pages to their organic pages. After all, we all want visitors to arrive at our pages, and take a desired action.

All Search Is About Connecting With People

Our pages may rank well, but if the visitor doesn't do something that ultimately leads to more money in our pockets, our sites won't last long.

In the past, ranking well has led to a pre-occupation with factors like keyword density i.e. repeating keyword phrases often.

However, the search engine algorithm's are no longer quite so stupid. The need to slavishly repeat keyword phrases in order to rank pales in comparison to other factors. It's no longer necessary to forsake good copy writing in order to please machine algorithms.

To make our rankings work for us, we must connect with people. This means our pages must talk their language and focus on solving their problems.

A fail in SEO is not missing out on the #1 ranking. A fail in SEO is a visitor clicking back. Do everything to avoid the back click.

Talking People's Language

People couldn't care less about you or your company.

People care about themselves.

Take a look at your pages. Do they talk about you, or do they talk about your audience? For a page to work well, it must connect with your audience, and the easiest way to do this is to talk about their wants and desires. If a page doesn't grab a visitors attention, they won't persevere, they will click back. What's a #1 ranking worth if visitors click back?

Here are a few guidelines on how to grab a visitors attention:

Title Tag Text Should Match Your First Headline Or if not matching the phrase exactly, it should be close to it in terms of topic. This reassures to the searcher they are in the right place.

A Search Is Invariably A Question Keyword terms often aren't phrased as questions, but they are all questions. When people type "buy DVD online", they're really saying "where can I buy a DVD online". Try to determine searcher intent. Decide what the visitors question is, repeat it, then answer it.

Create A Clear Call To Action - what is it you want the searcher to do next? Sign-up? Buy something? Click on Adsense? Make that action clear and obvious.

People Scan - Use big headings. Often. If you're vague about visitor intent, you can use a number of different headlines, or images, that grab people's attention in case your lead hook fails.

Use The Word "You" A Lot - it's all about them. Their problems, their sense of self, their language, their wants and needs. Relegate all the stuff about you, unless they specifically ask for it, or you're using testimonials.

Every Page On Your Site Is A Landing Page

Every page on your site has potential to pull in visitors.

Even if a page only receives one visit a month, it's still a landing page. Given that SEO strategy involves building a lot of content, it's easy to think of "junk" pages low down in your domain structure as unimportant.

However, if people land on those pages, then that's half the battle won. Those pages will be winners if they lead people to the pages you want them to see. Therefore, every page on your site should contain a clear call to action - leading visitors to the one thing you want people to do.

The Difference Between SEO Landing Pages & PPC Landing Pages

In PPC, the page must be tightly controlled, stay on message and lead a visitor to desired action. Failure to do so means blowing through money.

With SEO, we have more leeway. We can include a variety of text content on pages, as it increases the likelihood of catching long tail phrases. This casts a wider net, and at negligible cost. However, we still need to structure the page well enough so people a) won't click back and b) will take the desired action.

It's a good idea to structure a page so - rather obviously - the most important stuff comes first. Make the call to action, wherever it is placed, clear. Relegate superfluous text, which targets long tail variations, below the fold and/or into side links.

Most likely, a few pages on your domain will be doing the gruntwork. Most of your visitors will come in on your home page, or a small collection of well linked pages on your site. Pay careful attention to these pages. They should be as crafted as tightly as a PPC landing page in terms of language and call to action.

Test these pages. Are they converting? What is the abandonment rate? Whilst it can take a while to test and alter SEO pages, it's worth doing, as incremental gains on a few pages can lead to huge changes when rolled out over an entire site.

What happens if you make a heading bigger? Paragraphs shorter? Reposition page elements? Change the language and pitch? You can also test these variables using a short PPC campaign, of course, and then roll your findings into your SEO strategy. Once you've got a winning formula, you can roll it out to every page (landing) page you create.

Published: March 12, 2010

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Comments

March 12, 2010 - 7:33pm

The problem is to many sites are offering the same solutions/call to action:

"... what is it you want the searcher to do next? Sign-up? Buy something? Click on Adsense? Make that action clear and obvious."

It's like walking into the department store and someone running up to you and saying, can I help you, do you want to try this on, maybe you want some pants because I see you're looking at shirts, can you fill out your email address so we can send you stuff you don't need, tell me ... quick ... what do you want?

And the whole time theres a stopwatch going, it's gonna hit 15 seconds and then that person runs back out of the store, back into the mall and into another store, same thing over and over.

So this philosophy of you have 15 seconds before someone leaves your site will eventually have to end or we'll have 10,000,000 sites with people harassing you for 15 seconds to buy something or do something instead of introducing them to the store.

So what is really going on here, walk over to the mall directory map (Google in this example is the map). Instead of a normal mall that may have 3 shoe stores for men, the Google mall has 755 mens shoe stores in 55 categories and you don't just see the name of the shoe store you see "the description tag" mens black wedding shoes size 14 on the map.

That's great because we get to exactly what we want right? Or is it we get to exactly what they want, for us to run around from site to site, not really forming relationships, not having any sort of dialog, just hitting their call to actions. And if you don't do this, Google thinks your irrelevant, you didn't solve the searcher's "problem"

I do want more traffic, but not at the expense of holding a gun to someones head in the first 15 seconds they meet me. I value the long term customer, one who knows who I am, trusts my work, wants my advice and listens. I don't want 10,000 people running in and out the door grabbing one little piece of information because even though that would make my site more "relevant" or "authoritative" I think at some point it needs to slow down so we can all solve some real problems that take more than 5 mins of attention.

If we are solving real problems and really helping bring value to the world, the $ should follow, eventually, right Google? :)

March 13, 2010 - 6:41pm

I agree with kwick6 concerning the call to action, but I think a compromise is also in order.

I think "What is it you want the searcher to do next?" is the wrong question.

I believe it should be
"What does the searcher want to do next?"

It makes more sense to line up your call to action with the desire of the visitor. I don't think you should be in such a panic if they don't accept the call to action immediately. If you take the time to give the visitor the content they want to see, then they will trust you enough to accept your call to action at a later time, be it in 5 minutes or a week.

Kwick6's comment "maybe you want some pants because I see you're looking at shirts" is a perfect analogy for how annoying it could be to the visitor when the call to action does not line up with the visitor's wishes.

Don't harass the visitor. Add value to their stay on your page. If you honestly believe they want to make a decision in 15 seconds, then sure, load up the home page. If not, chill out, don't let them be afraid to browse around.

March 14, 2010 - 5:24am

Good points - decreasing your bounce rate means that you can make more money from less people, who doesn't want that?

You said it best with "try to determine searcher intent" - if they're looking to buy a product or service and you've got the best product at the best price or the best value, you'd be doing them a disfavor by not using a killer call to action. That said, there's no reason a call to action has to be noisy or intrusive (not that you said it should be).

If someone is just looking for information, figuring out how to tell them that you have that information is important - clear headlines and sub headlines are vital - people skim, if you're too subtle, they'll bounce. Building a great resource, and setting it up so people know its a great resource, are key to building a long-term relationship and trust.

Great points by kwick6 - it's never a good idea to bum rush visitors with ads & josephbm91 - line up your call to action with the desire of the visitor

All great tips for webmasters looking to enhance a page's performance.

March 14, 2010 - 7:20pm

It's like walking into the department store and someone running up to you and saying, can I help you, do you want to try this on, maybe you want some pants because I see you're looking at shirts

The call to action doesn't necessarily mean a rush to close a sales transaction. For example, the call to action for these blog posts is the "add a comment" function.

So this philosophy of you have 15 seconds before someone leaves your site will eventually have to end

It's a question of engagement. As a first time visitor, ask yourself how long you spend on a page that appears to hold nothing of interest to you at first glance?

March 16, 2010 - 7:27pm

I used the pants and shirts example only because I know people have experienced that in real life. I agree that the call to action for these posts is to add a comment, but the reason why I comment isn't because that's what the site wants me to do.

I'm commenting because I like what I'm reading, I like what I've seen the Seobook brand supporting (Mahalo issue, Rhea post, etc)

I'm commenting because I *think* that it helps other get ideas. But I don't use a call to action in my comments because for one thats not cool, second, I hate when people do that on my blog, third, its not what I hope to get out of the time I've spent contributing.

What I'm basically trying to say is that when you strip away all the calls to action, do you have someone who has clear passion and a determination to earn you as a subscriber without having to *ask* them to subscribe, or to comment, or to donate, etc.

My hope is that because I've spent 20 or 30 minutes of my time, responding in way that gets others thinking and contributing with more substance and content, that the quality of time spent on the web is not merely and constant stream of 15 seconds between clicks, but of quality and good intent so that it allows sites to become successful, ones who help make things better for a community, like this one does.

I think everyone is about spent when it comes to time, and its for that reason that I would hope, websites deemed "authoritative" or at the top of Google have got there because they do have passion, a community, and stay intact long enough to make some good quality resources through collaboration before they get bumped by some scraper, optimized, ad driven, skeleton site with no unique insight or real person behind it.

March 16, 2010 - 10:37pm

Sure, and thanks for commenting.

What I'm basically trying to say is that when you strip away all the calls to action, do you have someone who has clear passion and a determination to earn you as a subscriber without having to *ask* them to subscribe, or to comment, or to donate, etc

Agreed. As I said, connection and language are fundamental. The call to action is only possible if a connection between people, and their needs, has been established.

Regardless, some sites do bury the action the webmasters want users to take, which doesn't necessarily help users either, hence the topic of my post.

March 21, 2010 - 3:01pm

Thanks for the encouragement. We need to hear that the time involved in identifying worthwhile increments will pay off sitewide. Still, I would like to point out that I have always found that smaller is better. Wordy landing pages tend to turn visitors away. They are confronted with a WORLD of content and can't spend a lot of time reading "everything."

Personally, when confronted with a wordy blog, I tend to move on to another site.

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