Did that title perk up your interest? Well, to start, Google doesn’t universally hate all landing pages. In fact, by the loosest definition, any page a user enters your site through is a landing page. You’re optimizing your site for search, so any content page can be a landing page.
What Google doesn’t like are pages that go out of the normal layout for your site to focus on a landing page funnel. Pages that lack even the most basic navigation and essentially serve to direct users to one single purpose rather than giving them the option of exploring your site.
Even those landing pages, Google isn’t entirely against. Even saying strongly dislike is a bit harsh. Google doesn’t dislike landing pages; in fact, they consider them essential to a good sales funnel. The thing is, Google has a set of specific rules to follow to make a good landing page, and will actually rank your landing pages when it crawls them. The score it gives will be visible under the keywords section in your webmaster tools.
What Google hates – and I actually do mean hates, here – is the terrible, low-quality landing page with no value, just a call to action and a conversion link. You might have been able to anticipate this, even; just apply Google’s general rules about keyword optimization, content length, content quality, links, and anything else the algorithm checks.
What Google Wants
Google wants your landing page to meet a few specific criteria.
The first is everything Panda fights. Your landing page needs to provide relevant, useful, and original content. Look at each of those qualities in detail:
- Relevance. If a user is landing on your page, they want the page to be about whatever it was they clicked. If your page is about another subject altogether or is acting as a barrier to their access to that information, it’s a poor experience.
- Utility. You can write a 10,000-word blog post completely relevant to the link that brings users to it, but if it’s just a long rant with no actual information or usable points, it’s a bad experience for users.
- Originality. Simply put; your content shouldn’t be posted anywhere else online. If it shows up elsewhere in the index, it splits user presence and attention and is a bad experience.
The second category Google promotes for a good landing page is transparency. Your site needs to put forth plenty of information about your product or service, its features, and its pricing before asking for a smidge of user information. If you’re hiding your features or pricing behind an opt-in form, Google is going to slap you down for it. Give users a reason to convert; don’t make them convert and then retroactively justify why.
The third criterion is the user experience. Landing pages that are completely detached from the rest of your site may seem like a good, distraction-free funnel, but they’re also not encouraging users to stick around on your site. This is why making your landing pages part of your site, complete with at least basic navigation, is important.
Additionally, your landing pages – and all other pages on your site – should have mobile accessibility. Alienating the mobile population is a huge mistake, both for your conversion rate and for your search ranking.
Why should you follow Google’s advice? Google has spent years analyzing web and web-behavior. They know that if you follow their guidelines, you’re building a strong foundation for a powerful conversion funnel. You’re free to remain skeptical, but the more you rebel against Google’s rules, the harder it will be to pull in organic search traffic.
Improving Your Landing Pages
Google has a number of pieces of advice to optimize and improve your landing pages.
• Do everything you can to pack value and relevance to your landing page. This means centering the text around the text you used in your ads and around y our keyword. It means providing useful information directly relating to your product and the keyword. Essentially, it all boils down to one thing; providing the information necessary to convince a user why they need your product.
• Maintain transparency throughout your landing page and your site. Make sure users can find your contact information, either on the landing page or through an easily-accessible page. Make sure that, any time you ask for personal information, you’re explaining why you need it. Make sure that any sponsored links or affiliate ads are clearly marked. Make sure that you aren’t hiding anything from your potential customers.
• Make it easy to navigate your site. A segregated landing page reduces choice, but it hurts your ranking. Work to make it as easy as possible for users to find answers to any questions they may have. If they can’t find it on the landing page itself, make sure you clearly link to a page where the information can be found. Avoid using pop-ups as anything other than exit converters.
• Make sure your landing page loads quickly. More so than a normal organic search, a PPC landing page needs to load extremely quickly. If your page takes longer than a second to load, users are going to bounce and you’re going to be wasting money on clicks.
You also need to make sure you’re following Google’s advertising policies, or you risk being removed from their PPC systems entirely.
Making a Landing Page Pop
This is not to say that your landing page has to be nothing more than an informative blog post on your website. You can adapt your normal layout and information to make a powerful landing page that’s still clearly part of your website without detracting from the content.
The point of a landing page, as this infographic indicates, is to be a united funnel for your advertising. The more possible destinations a user has, the more segregated your audience is, and the harder it is to measure your traffic and conversions. Only from the landing page can you safely divide your users between those immediately interested and those who want to learn more, sign up, or otherwise delay their purchase.
Stay on Google’s good side, measure and optimize your funnel, maintain high quality and transparency standards and you’re sure to boost your conversion rates.