FOUND Friday

A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.

EPISODE INFO

Topic: Creating Landing Pages That Stick. Follow the five W’s and an H as a rule of thumb for creating landing pages that drive traffic and cause conversions.

Speakers:
Ray Grieselhuber, Founder & CEO at GinzaMetrics
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics

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FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Erin:  Hey, good morning! Welcome to FOUND Friday. Today Ray and I are going to talk about creating landing pages to help meet your marketing goals. We’ll discuss some high-level strategies as well as specific elements that can really help you build better landing pages. One of the reasons we’re actually having this conversation on FOUND Friday today is that we’ve been focused a lot on the state of marketing and the effect that the content marketing movement has had on the entire industry from PR to advertising to e-mail, etc., we’re all affected.

Maybe we’ll kick off by talking about what we mean by a “landing page” so there’s no confusion to what we’re referring to. For our purposes today, I’d like to set the definition as a landing page is a page on your site that you are actively trying to drive traffic to. Now, of course, you want to drive traffic to all of your content or why would you have created it. But a landing page is seen as a starting point, an initial destination for your target audience to go. It’s like the beginning of their journey.

Ray:  The landing page concept is something that’s been with us for a long time but it’s still a challenge for a lot of people and people have a really hard time figuring out exactly what they’re supposed to do with them, how they’re supposed to host and manage them, how they can make sure they’re optimized and really integrating the rest of the site. There’s a lot of what we hope to cover during the show today.

Erin:  We’ve noticed, too, that over the years the landing pages used to be a difficult thing to do. You had to have some level of technological acumen. Maybe even only a WebDev or something specific like that in order to make a landing page work.

Now anybody can create a landing page, create content quickly, etc. Because of that, I actually really think that we’re getting a little bit sloppy with our creation or we’re getting overly templated. We’re just using the exact same thing over and over again. What was once something that really helped marketers take content generation campaigns into their own hands I think it’s actually now holding people back from being really creative.   

Ray:  This is more than the longest running challenges in online marketing and content creation I would say because there is this huge gap. In an ideal world, marketers, content creators could use the exact same tools that anybody used to actually create content on the website itself. But what has happened, because of the technological challenges in doing that and not everyone knows how to obviously develop web pages or they’re not that great at [2:34 inaudible], DSS, something like that, and just managing all the different logistical aspects of a large site is super challenging, and so what has arisen in order to solve that problem has been templates.

So you can basically just create new content in a templatized format. There are specific landing page creation tools. There are tons of them out there for small companies and large companies alike. It’s great because it allows marketers to get back to what they’re really supposed to be doing which is creating compelling content to reach people. But it does create a number of problems, both technical and creative.

I agree that I think that one of the biggest problems, and as someone who does a lot of creative and content stuff on the web myself, whenever I see a templatized landing page, it just makes me feel a little bit sad for the world as a whole. Today, hopefully we can talk about some strategies people can use to take back some of that creativity and make landing page creation a lot better.

Erin:  I hear you on the sadness thing because I don’t think that what we’re saying is that templates are bad. We use templates. Templates have a place and we’re going to talk about that in a second. It’s that when you’re applying a template to content like a blanket thing, just being like, “Oh, we have this template,” so we’re going to force the content that we’re creating into this template without thinking about whether or not that template is actually enhancing the content. That’s what the layout of the page, that’s what the structure and the design of the page is supposed to do. It’s supposed to enhance the person’s experience.

So if it’s not doing that, then why would you use this template? If what you’re saying is that your real goal is to just get it out so fast, if quickness and immediacy is a goal, then I think that you need to really build in flexibility and maybe have a variety of templates so that if what you’re really trying to do is quick turnaround things, you’ve got more than one or two options to make that happen.

Let’s talk about how to fix this whole situation, because not all landing pages need to look the same and that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be common elements to them and some core components. There are five key things to consider here.

The first is: who is the landing page created for? Is it for existing users? Is it for leads? Is it for unknown prospects, for former users? Is it for people looking to buy holiday gifts or looking for a pumpkin spice latte? First, figure that out because everything really hinges on knowing who is going to be coming there.

Ray:  It’s funny how often I see a new content being created where there literally still is no focus on what is the actual target. People know what their page is about obviously because they’re creating it but they’re not doing the research up front to ensure that the target keywords that they’re creating content for actually have people for them. If you’re creating landing pages that are meant to be discovered by search, that are meant to be discovered on the social networks, there’s so little time invested on actually making sure that things are optimized to be distributed as widely as possible on social networks, as well.

We’ll talk more about some of the mechanics of that later. But just from a targeting perspective, make sure you’ve done the research up front to understand exactly who it is you’re trying to reach.

Erin:  We’re not going to get into the really deep conversation that is multiple versioning and AB testing and multivariate testing of landing pages. At a very basic level, you could serve different versions of landing pages to different target audiences and distribute those messages to attract those specific groups of people so that what you’re doing really has some resonance with who you’re talking to.

To me, this goes back to the templating part of things. If you really are creating and utilizing landing page templates to their fullest capabilities is that if you do make a template for that landing page then actually scaling the content to your particular target audiences should be really easy because you have a template and you can go ahead and just take that and segment it out multiple times.

Next, let’s talk about where is the traffic going to be coming from? If you’ve got a landing page that’s being driven from an e-mail, you probably know something about the person because you have their e-mail address. If you have a form, you don’t need to ask for their e-mail address again because you obviously have it and that’s just a waste of time.

Knowing where your traffic is coming from will really help ensure that you’re not only getting the right content on the page, but you give the best next steps, as well. When we’re talking about driving people from social, driving people from e-mail, driving people from one part of your website to another, driving people from partner or let’s say contributed content or native advertising, these are all very different mindsets that people are in when they decide to click to what is the landing page.

Ray:  This is one of those areas where interaction design, whether or not you’re an expert in interaction design, just putting some thought into designing what the overall flow of that interaction between the different ways people can find your content and the content itself can really pay off.

There’s this concept – and we’ll probably talk about this a little bit more too – but this content of information sent which has been out there for a long time, which is basically once you give somebody a hint of what you’re going to be giving them, if you throw them off that course once they’ve taken the steps to follow the path that you’ve given them, you basically lose them and probably forever. So when you create this information sent, the more you can reward them for following that path that you’ve created for them, the longer they are to be engaged with your content in your website.

Erin:  We’re definitely going to talk about that. Let’s get into that, Ray. The third item that we’re talking about is creating the right content. Ideally, you want the content to fulfill on the promise you just made to get them to this landing page. It’s not saying that you’re going to give them a free teddy bear or something, but you have said something that has inspired them to click, whatever it is you need to be fulfilling on.

Too often I see that people use this as a gateway for asking something again. Here’s the deal. They’ve already clicked once. Asking them to do a lot more without giving them a little something is going to be really difficult. And it’s a pretty big leap of faith on the customers’ part – B2B marketers. I can hear you already grumbling about gated content like e-books, case studies and things.

Get around that by creating a preview of a couple of pages of the content so they can at least see that you’re going to make good on a quality piece of content after they fill out this form. Or give them some of the key ideas or give them even one chapter of the e-book for free before they even fill out the form because you’re really asking a lot of something. If you’re asking somebody to buy a car without getting to test drive it first – you already got them to the lot. They came to the lot. Don’t make them sign for the car before they had a chance to get a little something out of it. This really is a journey.

Ray:  It’s surprising to me – and it’s easy to do. As you’re a marketer, you’re solely focused on creating new leads or getting new people to sign up, creating a mail list. That’s what you want. But the only way you’re going to get what you want is by focusing on what your visitors are looking for. So offer them something. Show ways that you can be valuable without them having to pull out their credit card and actually making transactions.

Erin:  Also included in the idea of creating the right content is being able to get found by people that you might be missing. You mentioned this earlier, which is creating content with the idea of keywords or topics that your audience would be looking for, so don’t create content around something that nobody would ever look/find. Once you’ve decided to publish this content to the web, you’re going to be able to gain some SEO value from it hopefully.

So if you’ve created a page that can be found by somebody interested in this particular topic, then you’re likely going to drive some traffic that you didn’t even know that you would get. This can oftentimes clue you into target audiences or potential new customers that you didn’t even know you could have because you’re not even having to go out and tell them to come to this content. The content itself is creating a findability aspect.

Ray:  This is where I probably rant a little bit about, the state of affairs with regards to technology. When you’re optimizing for specific keywords and you’re hoping to get some of that search focus, it really depends on the technology that’s paring that on the backend and it really depends on things like whether or not that content lives on your main domain versus sub-domain that’s specifically created for that content.

If you use any sort of marketing automation software or landing page creation software, nine times out of ten that’s going to be on a separate sub-domain that you have like Pages.YourWebsite.com or content or whatever. And that’s fine because it’s the easiest way to integrate those systems.

The problem is those systems are not optimized for search in many ways. A lot of times you can create this content but it’s not going to really get any search traffic because it’s disconnected from the rest of your site. It’s usually the landing page by design is so focused in terms of the content that you’re creating on getting people to do something that there’s actually very little content value in that landing page itself. So expecting Google to come by and say, “Hey, this is a high quality page which can rank higher than other actual high quality pages out there,” is probably a very unrealistic expectation.

This is one of those areas where I think the tools really need to have catch-up. Content creation as a whole needs to catch up. There needs to be at some point this convergence between high quality content and also highly targeted call-to-actions that people can use to get people to do, take whatever action they’re trying to get their visitors to take on their website.

Erin:  This actually leads into the fourth component which is talking about the structure of your page and making sure that your page – the actual structure of it – and the items that are in there are really promoting a good user journey being found, and that they’re all working together in symbiosis. A lot of times we talk about the Internet as an ecosystem and your site as an ecosystem but we don’t talk about each page as an ecosystem because a page is actually made up of a number of elements. So I’m not talking about the Unbounce or the Marketo templates. Something like the actual guts of the page. We’re talking about tags and titles and things like that.    

Ray:  I think it’s important to define up front exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish with the page. Is it content that is also a landing page or is it solely a landing page? It’s a reasonably effective trade-off today to say this is literally just a landing page that we’re creating for an offer. But, to be honest, as someone who cares about high quality content, I’m always dissatisfied when I see those sorts of pages because they’re not really enriching the user itself.

I personally would say in an ideal world you’ve got an actual page with actual content that informs people that’s probably something more like longer form content and attracts people to whatever it is you’re trying to do. So if you’re using that as your foundation then I would say on the technical side of things, you need to really spend time researching the keywords, the topics that are most likely to drive search visitors to your page.

Do the basics. Include those in your title tags. Include those in your header tags. Create enough meaningful text content that the search engine is going to want to index you. If it’s really valuable content, spend time getting the word out.

Optimize things like Open Graph tags and other social metadata that you can use in order to make sure that when people share it on Twitter, they share it on Facebook, that you’re getting the right image. This is actually really important. I see so many pages that they don’t properly optimize for the right image to show up in people’s feeds and so right there you’re losing a huge amount of opportunity to engage with people wherever they happen to be.

It’s the basics. But the basics times maybe the people who are non-technical marketers who are in a hurry that are dealing with millions of different priorities times the fact that the tools out there still kind of sucks, it’s a big challenge. But spending time on it can really help you improve loyalty and engagement with content that you didn’t necessarily have to spend a bunch of advertising money on. It’s up to you to determine what that trade-off looks like, but in many cases you can drive a lot better, long-term revenue growth by doing a good job at it.

Erin:  It really is funny how much the basics count for. You and I have seen absolutely horribly designed sites, things that just look bad that get a lot search traffic, and it’s because they are doing these basics right. Better than somebody who has done a lot of fancy footwork and employed a lot snazzy-looking design elements but not paying attention to the core structure and the real content that’s in the site. You can have the nicest looking site in the world, but if you’re only paying to drive traffic to it, then what we’re really talking about is a very expensive marketing driver at the end of the day and a site really doesn’t have to be that expensive to maintain if you set it up right.

Let’s finish up this part of it by talking about the next step. I’ll get into a little bit more of that in a second. The end of this is – the thing that you want them to do after they get to your landing page – even if you’re asking them to enter a draw or fill out a form or register for a webinar, you need to offer them a next place to go. You want to keep them with your brand as long as possible.

Amazon is really good at this by offering you things you might like, the little stuff you just added to your shopping cart. There are a lot of examples of really great things. If you get onto a page and you’re, for instance, looking up directions to a restaurant that they’ll offer to go ahead and be like, “Hey, make your reservation now,” or “Take a look at our menu and plan ahead,” or “Invite somebody to come with you to the restaurant,” whatever it is.

No matter what your business is, there’s a way to employ this next steps idea because if you basically stop once somebody has completed coming to the landing page, then I think that you’re really just leaving money and a continuation of the conversation on the table, you’re walking away at the best part of the conversation at the cocktail party.

Ray:  Absolutely. Understanding what action it is you want your visitors to take, it’s probably the most important thing. The problem is for marketers, again the challenge is… I would argue that probably nine times out of ten, if there are first time visitors, you want their e-mail address. Otherwise, you’re basically losing that opportunity probably forever.

When you start thinking about what you can offer people in order to get their e-mail address, it actually goes beyond creating that single landing page or actually having to create whatever offering you’re going to give them in order to get that e-mail address. That can involve weeks and weeks of content creation and planning everything else.

So, I fully understand that it’s a hard problem. But that’s really the way you should be thinking about it. “Hey, we’re just going to throw up a landing page and get people’s e-mail address” is probably not going to work unless you have someone really doing a good job of making it seem super buzzy [18:54 ?] which maybe works once but that’s kind of a gimmick anyway.

Over the long term, you really need to figure out what is the reason that people are going to give you their e-mail address. And spend time creating that content before you even start creating these landing pages.     

Erin:  The e-mail thing is really big on B2B marketing side. But when we’re looking at people on the B2C side, they may be looking for an opt-in, a newsletter. I can’t tell you the amount of ridiculous newsletters I get on a regular basis from consumer products. But here’s the thing. If you use Gmail or other types of mail systems now, they’re categorizing a lot of these things into the promotions category.

So, to me, e-mail marketing really has to step up their game and marketers need to step up their game and find other ways to engage with people because now if your messaging is automatically getting segmented out into these different buckets and people don’t give as much weight to something in promotions, or if you send out a promotional e-mail three times a week saying, “Mega sale, mega sale!” you can’t be having mega sale Monday, Wednesday, Friday every week all the time. That’s a little much. It goes back to the templating thing. People are getting – I think – a little bit sloppy and a little bit lazy.

They’re using this exact same template. Every week I get the same 25% off offer and really don’t want that. I want something better. I want something different. Come up with something different or just make the 25% off thing a part of your site for people who have given you their e-mail address. Once you’ve given up your e-mail address, fine. You always get 25% off or whatever.

Ray:  The promotions tab thing is a simultaneously big problem and also kind of a godsend because it’s a big problem for people who feel like they’re entitled to people’s inboxes and it it’s a godsend for users because of all these people who feel like they’re entitled to your inbox. There actually are things you can do to stay out of that promotions tab. But the primary way you do it is you create more engaging, more valuable content. And there’s some technical stuff that maybe we’ll be covering in a different show, but it’s something that is really challenging for people.

The point is it doesn’t necessarily have to be e-mail. There are other ways to get people’s attention over the long term. A lot of sites recently now are starting to see or using the Push Notification API for browsers. You can basically agree to allow push notifications coming directly from a website to your phone or to your computer. I never let people do that. But maybe there are a lot of people who do that. It could be a question of demographics and personality type. There’s obviously getting people to follow you on Facebook or like you on Facebook and that sort of thing.

It all comes back to what’s the incentive for them. That’s going to be the core takeaway here. We’re not saying anything new here. Everyone talks about this stuff all the time, but the fact that we have to say it is probably a really good indicator that companies are still being pulled in so many directions that it’s hard for them to prioritize this. I would say that this the thing to prioritize.

Erin:  It’s 100% that. It’s the basics and it’s the unsexy side of stuff, so people don’t want to spend their time on it because it’s really hard to convince somebody that what you want to spend a chunk of your time as a marketer doing is something that looks so uncool – something that doesn’t look awesome when you’re talking about doing it.

But let me tell you where it looks awesome: on reporting. When your traffic is going up into the right and when your ROI is going up into the right. Think about the fact that while the actual work part of this doesn’t look awesome, the payoff really looks good on report. It’s like working out. Working out is a sweaty, grunting, toiling task for most of the part. The payoff is that after the workout, you look really good.

I think that that’s what you really have to look at a lot of these developmental pieces of marketing. You need to do the basics. You need to get the foundation built correctly. Once you start really figuring that out and it becomes a natural progression… You don’t have to do this every day. A lot of this stuff once you build it is built correctly and you come back every few months and make some changes. But then you can do the fancy stuff and you built the fancy stuff on top of a rock solid base.

We talked a lot today about making sure you’re dealing with landing pages in a smart ROI driven way with those five core steps. I want to wrap up with some suggestions for tools, services, tricks, etc. for marketers when it comes to this stuff. I’ve got a few favorite things that I use on a regular basis, kind of a cross-spectrum. Ray, I’m sure because you are the tools fanatic of the team that you’ve got some stuff that you’re trying out or that you love, as well. Any suggestions?      

Ray:  Some of the ones that we’ve used for a while at Ginza now that I keep coming back to: one is Intercom. I really like Intercom. Another one is Segment which actually integrates very nicely with Intercom. If you think about what you get from a marketing automation platform like Marketo or HubSpot, you basically get a couple of main components. One is individual identification of each user on your website. You get landing page creation and you get e-mail publishing. To me, those are three things that those solutions really tie together. Maybe lead scoring is another one.

What Intercom does is that it only does the individual identification of users on your website. Actually, we went to the site a couple of months ago that did this in a way. Still waiting for somebody to come in and say, “You can connect Intercom, MailChimp, and WordPress to replace HubSpot or Marketo.” But it’s something that would take a lot of juice to make that happen but I think it could be done.

Anyway, that’s one of my favorite tools from that perspective. It does require you, of course, getting people’s e-mail address and contact information in the first place. That’s a prerequisite.

Segment is a really nice one where you can use it to send data to any backend source. They actually released something recently that appeals even more to developers where you can take a visitor to your website. You can tag them with pretty much any sort of free flow metadata including stuff like their e-mail address and send them to Intercom. You can send them to MailChimp. You can send them to data warehouses now like one provided by Amazon called Redshift, as long as you can do a lot of really cool backend analytics.

There’s another one that we don’t use just because we’ve had some technical – nothing with them but just basically we’ve redone our website and everything. It hasn’t really been a forefront option but I know it’s a really awesome platform – it’s called Keen.io – where they allow you to do these order of things, where you’re basically creating a lot more intelligence around behavior of your users. Those are some cool ones on probably the more techie side of things.

I’m seeing Erin’s not currently moving, so I’m not sure we lost her signal. In case I don’t get her in the next couple of minutes, I’ll probably go ahead and try to wrap up the show unless she comes back here on the last second.

In today’s show we were talking about landing pages and how you can create higher quality landing pages, what you can do in order to ensure that they are being actually engaged with people. The main point of course is figure out what tools you’re going to use. Decide on your stack but really spend time researching your targets. Basically create content that is going to provide value to your visitors, whether or not they actually end up buying something from you and whether or not they end up even giving you their e-mail address. It’s really more about with everything that we’re trying to do here is help people understand that as part of the Internet ecosystem, your job is to add value. That’s pretty much true in anything that you would do here.

Thanks for joining the show today. We apologize for the technical difficulties at the end here. We look forward to seeing you again on our next show.        

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