Landing page selection is an art.

When it comes to choosing landing pages for paid search ads, there is only one rule which must be followed: the page must be relevant to the user’s search query.

Other than ensuring a highly relevant user journey is delivered, there are no clear rules explicitly stating how a landing page should be designed, structured and styled, nor is there a landing page formula which works for everyone. Landing pages selection is about finding out what works best for your business, products, services, target audience, keywords and ads, through ongoing testing and optimisation.

Landing page performance will therefore vary depending on countless numbers of variables, making landing page best practice ambiguous. That said, it is important to be aware of the reasoning and implications behind any landing page strategy, to enable more informed landing page selection and more insightful testing and optimisation when comparing one landing page to another.

So to better understand the issues which arise when choosing landing pages, let’s consider one common dilemma which a large number of advertisers face: whether or not to deep-link.

Deep-Linking School of Thought

Deep-linking takes the searcher to pages deep into your site, hence the name. If you are an electrical retailer, for example, and someone searches for ‘Delonghi Coffee Machine ESAM3500’, a deep-linking strategy would take the searcher directly to your Delonghi Coffee Machine ESAM3500 product page, displaying information and price details for the Delonghi ESAM3500.

The benefits of deep-linking are as follows:

1. Relevancy

The user has specified they are looking for the Delonghi Coffee Machine ESAM3500, so taking them through to your Delonghi ESAM3500 will deliver a highly relevant user journey, as per Relevancy: The Holy Grail of Search > better user engagement and a higher chance of conversion.

2. Price Awareness

Users can immediately see the price of the product, so you can ensure your price is being conveyed to every visitor > better conversion rate if price-competitive.

3. Focus

No distraction from other products and offerings keeps the user focused > reduced exit rate and reduced chance of downgrading to cheaper alternatives.

4. Efficient

Deep-linking can prevent lazy searchers from leaving the site if they can’t immediately find the product they searched for > reduced bounce rate.

Category-Linking School of Thought

Category-linking takes the searcher of ‘Delonghi Coffee Machine ESAM3500’ to your coffee machines or Delonghi category page, which includes the Delonghi ESAM3500 along with other similar coffee machines by Delonghi and other brands.

The benefits of category-linking are as follows:

1. Satisfaction

Taking the user to a category page forces the user to find the product themselves. When they do so, they gain a sense of satisfaction and will become highly engaged with the site > high user engagement > high conversion rate.

2. Environment

Users don’t feel pressured they are being ‘forced’ into buying a particular product and like choice > more relaxed > more likely to buy.

3. Comparison

Users can see other similar products, so can compare alternatives they might not have previously noticed > higher chance of buying something. Even if the customer downgrades to a cheaper alternative, it is still a sale and you have the customer for life > higher sales volume and increased customer base.

4. Authenticity

Multiple products creates a sense of credibility > higher conversion rate.

5. Time on Site

Users spend longer on the site when more products are available. People are often only willing to spend a finite amount of time and effort comparing products or services before they buy. Excessive comparison can be mentally tiring, especially if numerous variables are on offer, so maximising the time on site maximises the chance the user will stop comparing and just buy > higher conversion rate.

Landing Page Testing

It’s a tough call. Both deep-linking and category-linking deliver some strong – albeit untested and speculative – psychological arguments in favour of their method.

But no-one said it was going to be clear cut. Paid search management, after all, is about the ongoing testing and optimisation of a campaign to find the methods which work best for your business. What might work best for Joe Bloggs Electrical might not work best for Adam Smith Wired; and what might work for your coffee maker keywords, might not work for your washing machines keywords. Paid search success favours the patient, so keep testing and optimising.

So to deep-link or not to deep-link? You decide.

Alan Mitchell

Alan Mitchell is a Google AdWords PPC specialist, based in Melbourne, Australia, with a proven track record at improving return on investment (ROI) from Google AdWords. Find out how Alan can help your business.

  • http://searchenginesemseo.com Micky Dell

    To be or not to be?

    To deep link or not to deep link? Only if you are sure that your links will be there permanently.

  • http://www.atlantarealestateinfo.com/ Rob

    I like deep linking using the theory of taking your searcher to exactly what they are looking for. They can poke around from there if they want to.

    Just my two cents.

  • http://www.traffika.com.au Bret B

    Great article!

    I tend to run both a brand/category strategy and deep linking product strategy side by side but are really using the category campaigns as a catch all for products terms that we’re not buying or not active or for searchers simply typing in the brand name.

    Great idea to actually test one or the other instead.

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  • http://theppcblog.com Matthew Umbro

    Alan,

    Thanks for the insight. More often that not I find that clients are not concerned with landing pages at all, but rather just the actual AdWords campaign.

    Recently, I spoke with an AdWords specialist at Google’s Boston office about landing pages. His advice was the same as yours, make sure the landing page is relevant to the search query. This simple piece of advice has really helped me garner more conversions and ultimately a better ROI for my clients. I just wrote an article about landing pages as well:

    http://theppcblog.com/2009/11/pay-attention-to-your-landing-pages/

    Keep up the good work!

    -Matt

  • http://www.mmkrupa.com Magento Development

    Deep linking is helpful for product pages. The user may immediately be aware of the product and it’s features.

  • http://www.elevatelocal.co.uk/ Dom @Elevate

    I prefer category linking when you have a large array of products and are able to customise the code/software to show the search-related product as a featured product at the top of the page. Otherwise if tinkering is not an option then the product page itself will suffice.

  • http://www.calculatemarketing.com/who-i-am/about-me.html Alan Mitchell

    @ Dom

    Yes it often depends on the practicality of updating links. Deep-linking can be very effective if done properly, but naturally requires constant updating. Category linking can be less effort to update, and can work well when you can dynamically display your chosen set of products. Have a look at this article on dynamically displaying products based on search criteria:

    http://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/specific-long-tail-ppcc.html

  • http://www.northernalliance.co.uk Northern Alliance

    This is what I would like to do but i think for more general products it may not be suited, but for shops I agree, it may be better.

  • http://www.calculatemarketing.com/who-i-am/about-me.html Alan Mitchell

    @ Northern Alliance

    Yes, whether to deep-link or category link also depends on how specific the product search is, so for any grey areas, it’s best to test both and see which yields the best results.