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April 9, 2008

Landing Pages

When somebody mentions something about a “landing page” or even a “doorway page” you immediately dismiss that as an archaic practice. But today with the search engines indexing almost every page of a website, “Every page of a site indexed by search engines is a potential landing page.”

In years past it was sometimes a tactic to create a single page for each search engine in the hope of winning top spot for a particular search phrase. This now heavily penalised practice of creating “gateway pages” was one of the earlier ways webmasters gamed the system.

But by landing page I’m not referring to a page that has been optimised for one specific keyword which would then lead you onto another webpage or even website, but rather a page that could possibly generate traffic to your website or even convert traffic. With so many pages including dynamically generated pages now ranking for search terms, each page is now a possible entry point for a search.

An important point to always remember is that each page is indexed by the search engines (or at least you hope it is if you’ve done your homework correctly). This would mean that each product in your catalogue has been indexed. While some websites simply put lists of products together many have pages dedicated to individual products. Each of these individual product pages could be a landing page for a search for that particular item.

While someone searching for “t-shirts” may find the home page of a multitude of suppliers, how many of those same sites would rank for the search “britney spears t-shirt”? This is where the optimisation of each page would come in handy. After all if your pages were optimised for their specific product they would be easier to find (and longer tail keywords do convert better). By the time the visitor reaches your website they are not only keenly looking for your product but are able to instantly find it at the page they find themselves on.

While this may seem logical to many webmasters you may be amazed at how few put this into practice. I have actually searched for a “britney spears t-shirt” and was unable to find anything that lead me to the actual product. In most cases I found a website that promised t-shirts but Britney Spears was related to their other merchandise. It would appear that many webmasters have overlooked the value of turning a simple search into an instant sale.

In this case a simple page optimised for exactly what it sells (a particular t-shirt in this case) would draw a visitor, confirm that it is exactly what the visitor is looking for and hopefully make the sale. In doing so this may have bypassed the homepage as well as other pages usually credited with generating quality traffic.

Unlike landing pages of the past where the page was rarely valuable to the visitor, these pages need to provide the visitor with a reason as to why they are there while at the same time reassuring them that not only is the page is legit but that the whole website is reputable.

Make sure that on these pages you have:

  • State clearly what the page is about or offering.
  • Links to privacy and security policies
  • If the purpose of the site is to make sales, assure the visitor that payment is secure.
  • Links to the about us/contact us pages. The visitor will be able to either contact you directly with any questions or will get a better feel for your company.

Possibly the most powerful use of a landing page is for competitions or other special offers. This is a single page, often not even linked into the rest of the website that serves a single purpose – to capture info or make an instant sale. This page is usually linked to from a specific source such as an email or a preferred partner. These are usually run in the form of competitions or special offers. The reasoning behind this is that you already have an interested party and you will be making them a unique offer where they will either say yes (and sign up or buy), or no and simply not visit the page.

These are a sales person’s dream. While having a specific audience already targeted it is often easy to style and word a page for optimum conversions. Needless to say that the conversion rate from visitor to sale should be relatively high or the campaign simply wasn’t put together correctly.

While “gateway pages” are a thing of the past the value and benefits of a well structured landing page are immense. While making special deals available to only a select few or trying to generate added sales through better optimisation of individual pages remember that every page should benefit the visitor. If you landing page is serving only to rank highly in the search engine results the visitors may not see the benefits and your number one ranking would be for nothing.

Oh, and for those who are interested, I did eventually find a Britney Spears t-shirt after a lengthy search.

Robert Cerff is a search engine analyst and marketing consultant for Prop Data Internet Solutions. He has ten years experience in e-commerce, online marketing and web development.