Back on Feb 26th @affbuzz posted a link on Twitter to a post someone did about a new form style called mad libs. This is a conversational style, paragraph type form instead of the standard forms we are all used to. The post claimed these form styles increased conversions 25-50%. Some pretty big car sites are running these types of forms, like KBB and Vast, you can see a live example here.
I was pretty shocked and skeptical with the claimed results, because you just never know with anything internet marketing related until you test it out for yourself. The only source of information you can really count on is your own data. So I called up my designer and with 4 hours had an A/B split test up and running. The landing pages were to capture leads for a local/regional lead gen campaign I’m running in the financial services niche. The only difference on the two pages was the form. Here is what those forms looked like:
Test LP-A, regular form
Test LP-B, conversational style form
After running for 20 days, I finally have enough data to see the overall trend.
As you can see, there wasn’t exactly an earth shattering outcome, but surprising nevertheless. The 10.49-11.79% change is actually a 12.4% increase for the mid-lib style form. That’s 24 extra leads in this case. It wasn’t the 25-50% increase the other study had shown, but to be honest I was just happy it didn’t lose money.
Like every landing page element, form styles are a good thing to test. Do conversational style forms always work better? No. I actually think I got lucky with this test. The niche I used had a primarily older demographic which my instincts told me might respond to this style form. There are a lot of niches where I think this form style would underperform regular styles.
Just another thing to add to the testing list!
I was thinking recently of all the steps that go into building a successful campaign. What is the most important? There are so many factors that can make or break a campaign and so many tools out there to help with each step. But for me, the biggest impact on the success of a campaign is landing page optimization.
Why is landing page optimization in general so critical to every campaign? Most of your costs are relatively fixed: traffic costs, payouts, etc. But your conversion rate off the landing page is one variable that can skyrocket the profitability of a campaign. Imagine taking a 2% converting lander and with smart optimization bumping that up to 15%. What could that do to your bottom line? There is just no other factor that can make as big of a difference as your landing page conversion rate. Take any failed campaign, and I can almost guarantee the landing page wasn’t optimized and tested enough.
So what is the best tool out there?
The Google website optimizer. This is a tool that a private company could charge $100/mo for and it would be well worth it, but luckily it’s free. If you aren’t familiar with the tool, it’s basically allows you to create test scenarios on various sections of your landing page to see which combinations lead to better results. There are basically 2 types of tests you can do
1. A/B test is where you set up 2 completely different versions of a page and see which one performs better. This is similar to testing 2 ads in your PPC campaign.
2. The other test is multivariate, where you can test changes to multiple sections of your landing page simultaneously on higher traffic pages. The results of these experiments are presented in statistically valid results. I recommend multivariate for obtaining the fastest results.
Learning this tool inside and out and committing to never-ending testing on landing pages has probably been one of the biggest factors in my successes online. Testing never stops, because as good as a page might be working, you never know which tweak will blow the previous versions away. Simply put, if you aren’t optimizing your landing pages with a tool like the Google optimizer, you are losing money!
By now most people have heard of MSN rebranding their search to Bing. We have been playing around with the search engine, and are actually impressed with the features. The left sidebar with topic categories, related searches and search history is very effective when searching. I also like the pop up text preview of the organic listings. When searching for people, Bing seems to heavily weigh social media results like Twitter accounts in their SERPS.
All this is great, but how can you use Bing to make more money as a marketer? Timing for one thing. Microsoft is throwing $100 million into a media blitz. With this kind of hype, its a great time to take advantage of the increased traffic bump to the new service.
If you are using Adcenter, you are already on Bing. Results from old PPC campaigns are shown automatically on Bing. But you might want to check your Adcenter campaigns and see what this media push is doing to your campaigns. Most of our campaigns are showing increased impressions and clicks.
Positioning has also changed a bit. Some searches we have been testing show as many as 11 paid results on the first page. They also display some highlighted main column listings at the bottom of the 1st results page. That is a first for PPC. With all these positions available, your campaigns could radically change as you ads shift around. Again, its a good time to re-evaluate your current PPC ads to track the results of the Bing launch.
It’s still too early to tell how this will affect the bottom line of revenue, but so far results are promising. What do you think of Bing?
Let me preface this post by saying that while there are general “best practices” for lead generation landing pages, you never know what might work the best for your particular niche and traffic source. So testing of every option is always the key to making the best landing page.
I thought I would look at 3 lead generation landing pages in one of the most competitive industries around – mortgage leads. I Googled “home loans” and took the top three results. By the way, if you want to see mainly good landing page techniques, check out super competitive keywords as those have usually been optimized to the highest degree.
Landing Page #1
This page from Lending Tree uses the approach of putting the whole mortgage lead application on the landing page. The visitor doesn’t have to go through multiple “next page” steps, but with 17 fields on the page its a daunting task to fill out. On the plus side, you have the smiling happy family and dog, the next steps preview, and the trust symbols above the fold. Overall, I would think this page would have a very low conversion page.
Landing Page #2
This landing page uses the simple 3 field gateway form. This gets users “hooked” into filling out the longer form on the next page. Once they start the process, its human nature to keep going until you are done. In theory, this should lead to higher conversions that putting the whole form on the first page. On the negative side, this page is all business. No smiling people or nature scenes. Just hard numbers with tables of mortgage rates. While this might give the visitor the information they are looking for, it might be too much data all at once for the visitor to absorb. Overall, I would think this page would have a medium conversion rate.
Landing Page #3
The last landing page uses the minimalist approach. Only a 3 field form to hook the web visitor. There’s a simple line drawing of a house and trust symbols above the fold. On the negative side there are 20 links on the bottom of the page for the user to click without starting the form. This landing page is from lowermybills.com so its understandable they want to get users to other sites in their network. Although I am not crazy about any of these, if I had to pick one of these 3 landing pages to test first, it would be this page.
Hopefully these landing page reviews give you some ideas of how to critically look at your own pages. As always, test test test.
One of the biggest gains you can make in the profits of your campaigns is to optimize the conversion process. A great way to do this is by using conversion funnels in Google Analytics. By setting this up, you can see exactly where visitors are being lost during the conversion process through a visual interface.
The process is fairly easy. You log into your Google Analytics account and create a new goal. That goal will usually be the URL of your thank you or success page. Then you define the intermediate pages that lead up to that goal page. The first page might be your landing page, then a payment page, then the thank you page. This is your conversion funnel process. You then install the tracking code on those pages and you are done.
Once the data is being gathered you can go into the Goals section and view the report Funnel Visualization. This will show you exactly what is happening to your visitors at each step in the process. By seeing how many are bouncing out on each step, you know just where to focus your efforts to increase conversions. This combined with the Website Optimizer are the most powerful tools I have found for increasing profits of your landing pages.
Here’s a short overview of the process:
As the economy continues its downward spiral, one trend that is on the upswing is comparison/review sites. These are sites or landing pages that feature many products usually with a chart of ratings based on certain criteria. Studies have shown that as money gets tighter, people are doing more online research before making any purchases. They are less in buy mode and more in research mode. The savvy internet marketer can hop on this growing trend and help these consumers out, while helping themselves make better profits.
My first experience with comparison landing sites was back when VOIP offers were paying close to $90. I had a large chart with the pros and cons of each VOIP service and of course my affiliate links to each service. The site did very well, and even started ranking organically for several VOIP phrases.
Tips for building comparison/review sites:
1. Build your comparison site with consumers in mind. These are researching consumers not direct buyers, so give them the actual information they are looking for to make their buying decisions.
2. Build in comment functionality. If you can get an actual community of users commenting on the reviews you will have a goldmine.
3. Build your site with SEO in mind. Search engines love to index review pages, and you might end up getting free traffic. Your pay per click campaigns will have higher scores and not be slapped.
4. Don’t make up your reviews. Do research, visit authority sites and the product vendors. Tell them you are building a review site and ask for permission. Provide real info, not made up ratings to push the highest paying offer.
When done right, comparison/review sites should continue to work better and better in the current economic climate. Good luck!
Jason sent me the following question: “I put a lot of work into building a new Adwords campaign and I want to make sure I get good quality scores. Is there anything I need to do to my landing pages before launching the campaign? ”
Like I have said before, no one has the exact magic formula for Adwords success, but here are my recommendations.
Direct linking, in terms of affiliate marketing, is linking your PPC campaign directly to the offer page. This cuts out the intermediate step of stopping at a landing page. I did a post a long time ago about when to try direct linking, if you are interested in more info.
The question came up in the comments of a recent post when discussing landing pages versus direct linking. Can you even direct link anymore? The answer I have found is yes and no.
Yahoo and MSN are still not very aggressive with their policies towards direct linking. For the most part you can set up a campaign today, drop your affiliate link in the destination URL, and be up in running in no time. After a while you might get an email that your ads have been inactivated – or you might not. But in most cases, you can direct link with no issues.
Google is very strict about direct linking. They state clearly in their policies that the destination URL must match the display URL. If you get past that one, they have another policy to only allow one advertiser per URL to an offer. So most of the time if you try to set up a direct linking campaign these days, you will instantly find your ads inactive. I recently tried a new direct linking campaign and half the ads got shut down right away, but half continue to run no problems. I also have some older campaigns that have been direct linking for many months.
Like everything in affiliate marketing, you have to test to find out for sure. But I have found direct linking is still possible. How about you?