The 3 Biggest Mistakes of Failed Landing Pages — and How to Fix Them

The practice of optimizing landing pages for search engines — whether for inbound traffic from paid search ads or organic results — has long been established.*

So it’s always a surprise—and
a sobering reinforcement of optimization principles—when you see a landing page
fail, especially for a paid search, or SEM, campaign.

After all, this is a click that was paid for. Why waste it on a page that’s not likely to convert, or worse: the wrong page entirely?

But a failed landing page campaign is also a good opportunity to reinforce the value of key optimization concepts.

For example, here’s a Google AdWords ad that recently appeared in Gmail, advertising the Holiday Inn’s resort in Los Cabos, Mexico. (Yes, we’re guessing they are trying to counteract a drop in visitors due to the H1N1 scare.)

What would you expect to see when you click on the link? A page about the Holiday Inn resort in Mexico, right?

Here are the 3 lessons of landing page optimization this reinforces:

1. Customization

A page that is essentially a list of your site’s internal search engine results for hotel locations doesn’t give your user a clear path to taking the next action. Ideally, it would be a landing page specifically focused on the
features of this resort with a clear call to action to book now. At a
minimum, it should be the resort’s web site, or its page on the corporate
chain’s site.

2. Relevancy

Even worse, in this case, the properties listed are not in Mexico; they’re in Manhattan. Not even close. Again, the person who clicked on this ad was interested in a specific property in a specific location. The page should be specifically relevant to that intention.

3. QA

And finally, once your ads are set up, test test test those links. And test them again once they go live. We can only assume that Holiday Inn didn’t intend for its paid clicks on behalf of Los Cabos to direct visitors to a page about New York City. Not only does this waste the cost of a click and severely decrease the chances of conversion, but there’s a good chance the user will think they made a mistake and go back to the ad and click again — and now you’ve paid for a bad click twice.

So when it comes to search ad landing pages, remember to make it relevant and make it right.

  • What landing page mistakes have you learned from?
  • What examples do you have of successful optimization?

* Here are a few good resources for learning more about landing page optimization:

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