In Search [Episode 40]: Optimizing Your Landing Pages for Google Ads Success!
August 20, 2019 |
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Summary of Episode 40: The In Search SEO Podcast
The founder of Klientboost, Johnathan Dane
, joins us to share his wisdom on how to optimize those landing pages for Google Ads!
- How to set up your landing pages for optimal Google Ads performance
- How to get users to click that CTA once they move from an ad to your site
- Ad copy or landing page copy? Which is more important & how closely does ad and page content have to align?
Plus, how does Google know which health content is quality and which health content is quack?!
How Does Google Analyze Content Quality?
For those that listen to this podcast regularly or read our blog posts, you know that Mordy is hot on this idea that Google can profile your site
. Meaning, Google, in a sense, qualitatively knows who your site is, what you do, and if you do it well. So last week SEO great Marie Haynes
posed a question on Twitter: "Let's say that Google actually is getting better at determining whether a page's content is not in line with the general scientific consensus. How do you think they do that?”
Here’s Mordy’s take on how Google might do just that:
Let’s imagine you could look at a site and all of the content it’s ever produced. All of the pages, all of the titles, all of the headers, all of the phraseology, all of the links, etc. Now imagine you could catalog all of this information. Analyze it, classify it, systemize it, pick out patterns, trends, and tendencies. Now imagine you could do this with all sorts of similar content on all sorts of similar sites.
Now imagine you could compare all of the different takes and styles and all the ways a site can discuss the same topic. Imagine you could compare how all sorts of sites handled the same sort of content.
Now imagine if you had a baseline to compare it all. One site. One site of content that is the supreme authority on the topic. One site you know you can trust and whose own content patterns you could analyze and catalog and systemize.
Now imagine what you could learn about the various sets of content, the various sites when you compared them to this one uber authoritative take on the topic.
Well, you’d have a pretty good idea of who is on target, who is mainstream, and who is using language that is a bit out of place for how a serious take on the matter at hand is usually presented.
And all of this goes back to machine learning. We often forget that Google’s most powerful weapon is its breadth. It really has a bird’s eye view of both your content and the content on similar sites.
Once it has a baseline, a site it knows it can work with and trust, or a set of sites, then Google can make use of the breadth of information it has by using those hyper-authoritative sites to determine if other sites fit the profile of what authority and good content look like for that topic or for that type of site. You can call this creating a profile for what content on that topic looks like and then profiling other sites to see if they fit the bill. You would be able to create a pretty good profile of what the content on this site is, what the pages on the site tend to discuss, and so forth.
To further prove this theory, Mordy presented a quote from a SERoundtable article
discussing something John Mueller said:
"In short, John said if a search engine has an overview of most of the web, it can hypothetically "see which type of content is reasonable for which types" of verticals. So if you are comparing a diabetes health site to another, maybe if Google has indexed 500 similar sites, it can understand what a user should expect from such a site? He then explains that maybe it is about specific sub-topics on that site, maybe it is about showing more or fewer images, maybe it is about what content is on the site overall.”
Hmmm… That sounds very similar to what we just said. Now, Mordy wouldn’t want to mislead anyone, he obviously thinks the process is more complicated as it must include all sorts of other workings. Also to be clear, Mordy does not think Google focuses on content the way you would normally think. When we say Google is looking at all of the pages, titles, headers, etc. we don’t mean it’s looking at keywords. Rather, Google is setting up a profile. In other words, Google isn’t looking at keywords per se, but how language is used, i.e., language trends. What sort of linguistic tendencies does the page/site tend to use? What sort of linguistic tendencies do the authoritative baseline sites tend to use?
Let’s say you do a health-related query and you go to a site, how can you tell if this content is a bit spammy or even just a bit off the mainstream? You usually can tell when you see a certain word phrase appear again and again on a certain page, what we call keyword stuffing. Well, let us show what we think Google does to find spammy pages.
If you did a site search for the term "cancer” on the Mayo Clinic’s site vs. a more "spammy” health information site, you’ll clearly see sites like the Mayo Clinic use more straight forward titles that indicate the actual page content while the others tend to insert all sort of hot button words to get a bit of a rise out of the user. This would be a very simplistic example of how Google might profile a "random” site against a known authority.
How To Create the Perfect Landing Pages for Your Google Ads: A Conversation with Johnathan Dane
[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]
Welcome to another In Search SEO Podcast interview session. Today we’re fortunate enough to have a serious PPC expert for you. He’s the founder of Klientboost
and Growth Comet
… He’s Johnathan Dane!
Thank you so much for having me.
Before we get going, please share with us what Klientboost does, what Growth Comet is, and how you have time to run and found two companies!
KlientBoost is our PPC agency of about 60 people. Think Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. A lot of people think PPC and paid social are different. I think of them as the same thing as it’s easier when thinking of an umbrella term perspective. We also work on conversion rate optimization so we have in-house CRO designers. So we have this one-two punch of an agency that’s doing really well. We just hit the 4-year mark.
Growth Comet is a little side project with Ross Hudgens of Siege Media. He and I got together because we were getting quite a few people wanting to pay us for consulting and asking how we got to the size that we are now in a relatively quick time. So instead of giving people an hour each of our time, we decided to get together, record some videos, go through the entire process of what we’ve done to grow our agency, and then scale it that way. So those are the two things we have running now.
That’s really interesting. So let’s combine both of your passions and talk about PPC and conversions.
Does a landing page from a Google Ad have to convert? Does it ever make sense to use an ad for a top of the funnel prospect?
It doesn’t have to. In our world, we’re heavily focused on direct response and if we can’t prove that money is being made from this ad then we’re not really making it worthwhile for our client to be paying us. On the other hand, there are plenty of advertisers out there (even big names) that only focus on impressions, engagement on the ad side, and even engagement on the landing page side without even any clear action like purchasing or downloading a form. So it does happen but I think it’s more for the bigger companies and the bigger spends out there.
A company would be willing to spend money on impressions?
100%. This is not in my world or yours now, but these advertisers have these predetermined budgets that they have to spend and if they don’t spend it their department won’t get their budget for next year or next quarter.
I guess that does make sense.
When does it make sense and when does it not make sense to tie a Google Ad to your homepage? Does it make sense when ads link to the homepage and not to a landing page specifically designed for the ads?
It depends on the type of traffic. If you’re bidding on a brand keyword like your brand name you would want to direct people to your homepage. If you’re an e-commerce site and the keyword had some intent behind it like a product or a category then you can take them to that product or category page.
In addition to that, a lot of times where the decision to convert is a pretty big one (like if you wanted to work with us, for example) then you’ll probably want to see more than a landing page. You’ll want to see who we are, if we have accolades, if we have an up-to-date blog, and all of these little things. So what we found is that our better conversion focus is actually sending people to our homepage instead of isolating people to a landing page to do a certain action. So when the lifetime values are bigger, when there is more money at stake, sometimes the landing page does not work as well.
So I thought if people were going to the homepage that they’re only interested in information and not to buy at that point.
Exactly. If they’re searching for your brand name then they are looking for information. Only if they give a longer search of what they want (Facebook, Google Ads, etc.) can we send them to a landing page. Until then we will continue using the homepage.
In such a situation where you link to the homepage is that an ad that you expect to convert?
It can. It depends on how good and how much you care about getting conversions from the homepage. For us and our entire website, it’s set up in a simple way with one call-to-action everywhere you go in the header and footer. So we do expect it. It really depends on the business and what their goals are. If they’re happy that someone is spending x amount of time on the website or homepage you can even track page session time as a conversion if you want. But obviously, for people who care about making money, it’s not the best thing to do.
How much of the conversion is dependent on the Google Ad itself (the title, the description, etc.) vs. the landing page associated with it?
The ad is simply the bridge between the targeting and the call-to-action. So the two outer points, the audience or the keyword and the call-to-action are the two most important aspects. So the ad itself can be screwed up badly. We did some tests where we added typos to the ad text to see if we’ll still have high clickthrough rates and we did. So the ad itself doesn’t matter so much. But if you’re doing call-only leads or lead form ads on Facebook where there is no landing page then the importance in the ad text increases.
Interesting. Was the typo dependent on the description, the title, or it didn’t matter?
Most people don’t read the whole ad, same thing with landing pages. They’ll just scan. So headline number one is the most important part to get right while with everything else you can be a little more lazy about and still get decent to good results.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you’re testing ad copy, for example, a lot of people will test individual ads within an ad group, but they don’t get a lot of data with the same test across different types of keywords. That’s problematic as that lift may not be because of that ad copy, but it may be from the different types of audiences that are coming to you or it could be from the different types of search terms that are different than the keyword. It’s really hard to isolate one factor if it’s making an improvement or worsening performance. That’s why we do what’s called multi-ad group ad testing which is better and more secure to have the confidence and the predictability that this will perform better across the board.
Is it problematic to have a landing page that contextually aligns to the ad, but may not have the same keyword? In other words, the page is a perfect fit, but the user may not see the same terms used. Do you have to have the actual keyword or is being topically relevant enough?
That’s a good point. Humans don’t think in keywords, they think in topics. So as long as it’s topically relevant you’re fine. A lot of people obsess about having the keyword on the page for Quality Score improvement or they try to use Dynamic Texture Placements on their landing pages so that the keyword swaps up depending on the keyword they’re bidding on. These move away from your focus from the overall improvement of the conversion rate of the page. What you should really focus on is what the call-to-action is and how to word it. These were the things that we found had the biggest impact from a conversion rate lift.
So what’s important to think about when considering the format of your Google Ads landing pages? (i.e., headers with the keyword, etc.)
We’ve done tests where the length of the landing page depends on the novelty of what you’re trying to sell. What I mean is the newer (i.e., the less common) the product or service the more you need to explain and the longer your landing page needs to be. If what you’re selling is not hard to understand then you can get by with having the bottom portion of your landing page completely out and only having things above the fold. The reason is that your call-to-action is so important.
This is where you can get super creative by using quizzes, or the breadcrumb technique which is this multi-step form where you don’t ask for the contact information upfront because if you start with that they’ll know that they won’t get the answers right there and then and they will have to talk with somebody. But if you start with some low-threat, easy-to-answer questions, it makes the visitor believe that if they fill out this form then by the next step they will get an answer to their problem. That’s when you can ask for their contact information when they’re already invested in the process, they micro-converted in the first step, and are more likely to convert in the second. Now you are able to get a consultation.
The headline, the sub-head, and the hero image are also important but are secondary to the call-to-action offer from what we found.
What happens when the pain point for the call-to-action isn’t so obvious? In other words, how do you support the call-to-action when the pain point isn’t so obvious?
For us, for example, our call-to-action is "Get a Proposal.” But that may not be enticing to a prospect so we also test "See how fast you can grow” or "Get your free game plan of ROI growth.” There’s a lot of different ways because the whole point of the conversation, once we get them on the phone, is to talk about all of these different things that are important to the prospect.
There’s a lot of different things you can use to be creative with the words you are using even though it might end up in a proposal. You can still take them through the process, but if you explain what is more important to the prospect then you will win more.
There are so many things you could throw onto a landing page; content on the consumer's pain point, your unique selling point, features, testimonials, etc. How much copy is appropriate for a Google Ads’ landing page? How do you go about prioritizing?
They all have an impact for sure. We’ve had cases where headlines doubled conversion rates or cut them by 50%.
A great example was a company that we worked with in the past that were flipping cars (buying from the public and selling at auctions) so our initial ads said, "Need to sell your car?” and on the landing page the headline said, "Need to sell your car?” The problem that we only noticed later was that they are different types of buying services and our ad didn’t convey that well enough. So instead of having the actual keyword match the ad headline (single keyword ad groups, which we speak highly of), we changed the ad to say, "We’ll buy your car today,” and the landing page headline said, "We’ll buy your car today.” And we used headline two as an FAQ to explain those objections people would have. That got us to the conversion rate of our lead generation landing page to 55%.
That’s fascinating. Can you maybe run through for me how you figured that out?
We did a poll. We used a tool called Hotjar
where we asked people what’s preventing them from getting an offer for their car and a lot of questions we got were people not understanding how this works. So when we changed the headline, "We’ll buy your car today,” it removed a lot of the confusion that people had.
Speaking of surveys, do you ever look into the Q&A section of a business’s local listing to see the pain points of users?
It’s rare that we do that ourselves. We usually use the client’s own first-party data and they usually don’t come with it ready, we have to get it ourselves. So we create our landing pages to begin based on our own principles and based on what we know works. From there we run the poll at the same time and then we learn things as we go along.
What are the top things people often miss when setting up their Google Ads landing pages?
They don’t experiment with their wording. They don’t understand what’s more important to the eyes of the visitor compared to what they want. A lot of times they will focus on certain pieces of the landing page like the colors, the testimonials, the social proof, and they don’t prioritize them. While these are important you can easily find the average time spent on the page, how deep they scroll, and you’ll see most people don’t scroll all the way down or read everything you’re writing. This will either show you that you have potentially bad traffic or you should focus on the immediate attention which is above the fold which starts with the CTA, then headline one, headline two, the hero image, and then everything below the fold.
Funny question for you. When trying to cater to a certain intent or a certain target audience, what do you start with? Do you change the Google Ad to match the landing page or do you change the landing page to better match the Google Ad (purely from a PPC/conversion perspective)?
I always work my way backward. Let’s say I’m doing ads for lead generation purposes. In that case, I have traffic, then conversion for the lead, and then the sale (the manual follow up process).
If I could, I would work on improving my closing rates and then my follow up game for the leads that I’m given so that I can afford a higher cost-per-acquisition down the road. After I improve that I will improve conversion rates, and then I will improve the ad side.
That makes a lot of sense. Is that because it’s easier or because you find it more impactful?
It’s easier because when you lift conversion rates you increase your conversion volume and you decrease your cost per conversion. So everything you’re doing on the PPC side will be made a lot easier. For example, you can afford now to bid more aggressively.
We talk a lot about how Featured Snippets are great for SEO as they are very visible and high above the fold. In the cases where there are ads above the fold, do you fear the Featured Snippet or are you not worried because the ads are higher up above the fold?
I’m not too worried about it. I’m more on the side of the fence that Google wants to improve and make our lives easier as the recent updates have shown as opposed to the SEO people on the other side of the fence. So I don’t worry much about that at all.
Right, as the mobile SERPs got redesigned with the colorless ad label. Was that a big win for you guys?
We didn’t notice through a clickthrough rate perspective. That would have been the biggest change we would have noticed.
That’s interesting because everyone is freaking out on my side of the table.
I can imagine.
Just to sum up, what are some other tips/things to consider when it comes to getting your Google Ads to convert?
All traffic does not behave in the same way. You can’t get them all to convert. You also can’t get display advertising, YouTube advertising, and different types of search advertising to work the same way. It’s really important to follow that scale and make sure it’s matching to your call-to-action. And the granularity aspect of having campaigns and ad groups that are fairly simple allows you to find things that aren’t working quicker vs. having a ton of keywords in one ad group or a ton of layers of audiences on Facebook because you can’t see the breakdown individually.
When you set your keywords into groups, do you use that information to see how Google is profiling you?
No. I mean, the biggest score is obviously quality score and the biggest component of quality score is clickthrough rate so if you can beat the average clickthrough rate with your ads then you will have a higher quality score. That’s where we take it one keyword at a time, but it’s also very far down the priority list because while quality score can help reduce your cost per click, improving conversion rates is a quicker way about it and then after that doing the quality score aspect.
Optimize It or Disavow It
If you had the choice between running ads on Google Ads but nowhere else or running ads anywhere else (Facebook, Bing, etc.) but not Google Ads. Which would you pick?
So there are two answers to this. The first is, just to entertain the question, I will run everything else, I will not run Google Ads. Now if you told me what business I was running ads for I will change my answer.
Okay, so give a case where you will run with Google Ads and a case where you wouldn’t.
When search intent is very important I will run with Google Ads like a personal injury lawyer. It’s very hard to target people on other platforms that aren’t searching for help in that way. On Facebook, you can’t guess if you’re targeting people that have been recently injured. So to be able to target people in a reactive fashion is Google Ads’ strong point.
On the other hand, a case where I won’t run Google Ads, here’s a good example. Have you heard of bath bombs?
No, I haven’t had a bath since I was four.
They’re these things that you can throw into your tub that gives a ton of soap and bubbles. So there’s a company that created a similar thing except for fishing where you would throw it into the lake or ocean and it will create a swirl of excitement for the fish. Because no one has a clue this product exists you have to have a much better way of advertising, selling, and marketing it through something like Facebook because you can now use videos, images, and carousel ads. So that will not make sense on Google Search and that’s where the answer will differ.
Thank you so much for coming on, Johnathan.
Google Explains Indexing Bug:
Google put out a blog post explaining what happened with an April bug
that caused some major indexing issues. However, not all in the industry found the explanation helpful… to quote Sir Barry Schwartz: Google's indexing bugs explanation is a weak post mortem
Google Shopping Ads Getting Optimization Score:
Google announced that your shopping campaigns within Google Ads will also get an optimization score
Google Ads Position Metrics Have a Deprecation Date:
Kiss Google Ads’ Average Position Metric
goodbye as of September 30th!
Hotels Can Now Edit Their Amenities in Google My Business:
Google is now allowing hotels to edit the amenities
they offer within their Google My Business listing.
More Google Ads News:
- Google will be allowing ads for fantasy sports league services. This is interesting because these leagues are a form of gambling.
- There have been a lot of reports of Google truncating ad copy - so keep an eye on that!
SEO Send-Off Question
If Google was a soap opera, what will it be called and what kind of show it’ll be (synopsis wise)?
As this was Sapir’s question she was very excited to answer with a soap opera called, "Rankings of Our Lives.” Every day, different URLs fight for that top spot, and not only that, the brothers (different pages from the same domain) turn on each other for a simple keyword no less, and are also in forbidden love between two different SERP features (Romeo and Juliet have nothing on them). Prepare your tissues!
Mordy did his own modern take on the soap operas (as he’s not too fond of them). [Warning: Mordy has a very out-there sense of humor... and was clearly not happy about the question... you've been warned.] In Mordy’s Google soap opera, all sorts of SERP features would be sleeping with all sorts of other already married SERP features, except since this a realistic soap opera all of these SERP features would get digital syphilis. Those that didn’t get digital syphilis would just get pregnant. But since these promiscuous SERP features are all related the SERP feature babies would, unfortunately, have all sorts of birth defects. So the content in a baby Knowledge Panel would look like weird code and the images would be upside down. Really terrible disfigurations.
And the show will be called The All My Disfigured SERP Feature Children (but at least I don’t have digital syphilis) Show
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast