Top 10 Incredibly Stupid Landing Page Blunders Revealed!

    June 6, 2006

Marketers are investing a lot of money in PPC ads, but it appears that too many of them are neglecting the quality of their landing pages.

It’s ridiculous to pay Google, Yahoo, or MSN thousands of dollars to deliver users who won’t convert into sales because of a crummy landing page. In this article, Mr. Frog identifies the Top 10 Incredibly Stupid Landing Page Blunders which, unless corrected, will destroy sales, drain budgets, alienate users, and possibly get you fired if Senior Management determines that you’re to blame for them. The good news is that most of these blunders are easily corrected, so read this article, and get to work!

Mr. Frog’s Top 10 Incredibly Stupid Landing Page Blunders

1. Ugly Landing Pages

Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but there’s no excuse for a landing page that looks like it was put together by your 12-year old nephew (even if it was). You don’t need an in-house Aesthetics Department or a personal audience with Jacob Nielsen to improve the look of your landing page; just surf the pages of your competitors and note their general quality (or lack thereof). If your own page stands out like a sore and ugly thumb, you need to make changes, fast. You won’t need to spend a fortune creating an attractive landing page; there are plenty of templates that you can license for as low as $20 that can make your landing page look more professional. Before you upgrade your old page, make sure you test the “beauty page” against the ugly page for conversion.

2. Unsafe Landing Pages

A recent study by anti-malware firm McAfee concluded that 9 percent of the landing pages which were the destination sites for paid ads on Google and Yahoo were “unsafe” (in other words, they contained malware, were in some way deceptive, or sent users registering for services unwanted spam). To warn users of such sites, McAfee offers a Firefox plug-in called “SiteAdvisor” which overlays “safe” and “unsafe” icons on sponsored and organic links. Naturally, you don’t want your ad to wear anything but a green (safe) checkbox icon, not a red “X” (definitely unsafe) or a yellow “!” (possibly unsafe). If you have any doubts, download SiteAdvisor to inspect your ad’s safety ranking. If your ad doesn’t wear a green checkbox icon, you have a big problem that you need to take care of immediately.

3. Landing Pages That Are Too General

If I type in “snorkels” and click on an ad that shows up on the resulting SERP, I fully expect to be delivered to a page showing snorkels, not a general page on diving gear. If I type in “Prius” and click on an ad, I expect to see information on the Toyota Prius, not all the other cars in Toyota’s line. I mean, why should I have to hunt around for any product I’ve already told the advertiser I’m interested in? This concept is so elementary that it’s amazing that the practice of matching specific matching pages to specific keyword searches isn’t universal. The cure is simple: when you set up your keywords, make sure that each keyword links to its own customized landing page.

4. Missing Landing Pages

This error, a very serious one, is thankfully rare, but it does happen from time to time, and it should never happen to you, because a PPC ad linking to an error 404 or a “site not found” means you’re literally throwing money away – lots of money if your ad has a top position. To avoid this error, make sure that your PPC team always knows about changes your Webmaster is making to your site.

5. Outdated Landing Pages

This error is common among landing pages in the personal services sector. If I’m searching for a literary agent, and I see that her landing page was updated more than a year ago, I’d wonder about how much attention she’d give my book project. A malpractice lawyer whose landing page has a “Copyright 2004” notice will create similar doubts about his ability to stay current on current case law. The fact that these obvious errors persist for years creates a dark cloud in the prospect’s mind about the quality of the promised personal service, and should be avoided, especially because this error is so easy to correct.

6. Slow-Loading Landing Pages

According to the latest studies, 73 percent of Americans now have high-speed broadband connections, but can you really afford to turn away customers that are using dialup lines with a bandwidth-sucking splash screen? Flash-driven splash screens are great for branding, but before you go overboard, ask yourself whether you can achieve the same objectives without alienating 27 percent of your possible prospects.

7. Landing Pages With Obvious Misspellings

One prominent home security firm with top ad placements on Google has a great text ad, but on its destination page, in big headlines, it announces a security system featuring “burgulary, fire/medical and carbon monoxide protection.” If this firm can’t spell “Burglary” correctly, why should I trust it to protect my home? Sadly, if this firm’s internal grammar police had been more watchful, a confidence-destroying error such as this one could have been fixed in about five seconds. Avoid this error by running your copy through a Spell Check program before uploading it to your Website.

8. Landing Pages With Serious Grammatical Errors

One prominent SEO firm that’s currently spending a lot of money on Search ads has a slew of grammatically incorrect statements on its site, including the following one: “Great marketing copy turn drive-by visitors into repeat customers.” Hmm, I guess its copywriter meant “great marketing copy TURNS drive-by visitors into repeat customers.” But wait; it gets better. This firm (which charges $150 per hour for its copy-editing services), has another sentence that commits the same grammatical error (called an “error of agreement”) and is also unconsciously ironic: “Even slight improvements in your body copy improves visitor interest and overall conversions.” Frankly, I wouldn’t trust this company with my ad copy if it were charging $1.50 per hour, and neither should you.

9. Landing Pages That Disable the Browser Back Button

These pages are, thankfully, rare, but there are still too many landing pages which, through some slight-of-hand, defeat the operation of the user’s browser back button. When I land on such a page, I feel like I’ve been ensnared in a sinister trap, and any positive feelings I might have felt for this advertiser instantly evaporate. Don’t ever disable the back button, and don’t make it impossible for the user to move elsewhere through your Website.

10. Landing Pages With Pop-ups, Interstitials, and other Useless Junk

Use of pop-ups on landing pages is a specific violation of the Adwords Terms of Service and also creates a pain in the neck for users. I’ve read posts on forums by ethically-challenged Web consultants who’ve noted that Google only prohibits pop-ups on landing pages, not other pages of the same site, but it’s still a sleazy practice. Take my advice: if you have pop-ups anywhere on your site, get rid of them, because they’re obnoxious, cheesy, and Google’s latest “Adsbot” will probably find them, even if they’re not on the landing page per-se. Interstitials (ads which pop up, usually over the text you’re trying to read, and then disappear) aren’t specifically prohibited by Google, but they’re still obnoxious enough to make you think twice before deploying them.

11. Bonus Mistake: Unclear/Missing call to action

If you don’t provide a clear path (to learning more or to the sale) for the visitors to your site, you may lose them for the most inane of all reasons. For example, landing pages for expensive and highly complex purchases should always include a toll-free number or links to store locators. The more complex the purchase, the less likely it is that the visitor will engage in your preferred behavior of purchase or lead-gen.

Hopefully, your firm isn’t making any of these mistakes right now, because these blunders can do real damage to the viability of your PPC Search campaign. But again, these basic blunders are very easy to fix by your in-house team or SEM agency, once they’ve been identified.

Make sure that all changes you make to landing pages that are cosmetic are tested. Focus on the landing pages in your campaigns that have the highest levels of traffic first, because an improvement is material to your business. In addition, know the kinds of testing methods you want to use to put new pages against the current pages (A/B or multivariate testing), and whether your campaign management software can do this for you or if you need to use a third-party solution.

Happy Landings!

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Mr. Frog is a leading Search industry visionary. Mr. Frog is a member of the Did-it Search Marketing team which accompanies him to most major
marketing conferences.