Last week I decided to disregard everything I know about fast food and order a Big Mac for the first time in my life.
I was walking around downtown San Diego when I happened to see a giant billboard that made the fast food burger look like a gourmet meal. The patty looked juicy and tender, the lettuce crisp and refreshing, and sesame bun soft and filling.
Hungry, curious, and short on time, I made my way to the closest McDonald’s to place my order.
Now, I didn’t expect the sandwich to look exactly like the picture on the billboard, but I also didn’t expect it to look something like this.
My expectation of the burger was far different from reality. As a result, I didn’t even eat it when it finally came out, and I probably won’t be going back there anytime soon.
The reason every AdWords campaign needs its own landing page has to do with that very same phenomenon of expectations versus reality. I’ll explain more, but first…
Google AdWords vs. every other ad
A Google AdWords ad is kind of like that advertisement I saw while walking around downtown San Diego. McDonald’s knows that a city center is full of potential customers, so they pay for ad space there to entice everyone into eating at their chain.
The only difference is, AdWords ads more targeted than the billboard I saw on the street.
You see, everyone who walks by that ad sees it, regardless of whether or not it’s relevant to them. It doesn’t matter if they’re vegetarian, they don’t eat fast food, or they’re not even hungry. They all see that giant billboard as they walk through downtown.
By contrast, the only people who see a Google AdWords ad are people who search Google for a specific keyword or keyword phrase. That means, unlike that billboard, an AdWords ad is only shown to people that it’s relevant to. If I search Google for “soccer cleats,” any result that comes up with the yellow “Ad” box next to it, like this:
… is a Google AdWords ad attached to a specific campaign. The pictures above happen to be for the keyword phrase “soccer cleats.”
Through a bidding system and “quality score,” businesses can show ads to people who search for terms relevant to their line of work.
Now some of you might say, “I see those ads all the time, but I never click on them. That sounds like a waste of money.”
Well, you’re dead wrong.
Paid ads account for 64.6% of all clicks by searchers, and they’re a great method of driving targeted traffic to your landing pages (if you create them the right way).
Create them the wrong way, and Google will penalize you by lowering your Ad Quality Score.
What’s an Ad Quality Score?
AdWords’ Quality Score
When you run an AdWords campaign for a specific search term, you’re essentially promising web searchers you have what they’re looking for on your landing page. Whether or not you deliver on that promise affects your Ad Quality Score. To use Google’s words:
“The 1-10 Quality Score reported for each keyword in your account is an estimate of the quality of your ads and landing pages triggered by that keyword. Having a high Quality Score means that our systems think your ad and landing page are relevant and useful to someone looking at your ad.”
- Expected click-through rate
- Ad relevance
- Landing page user experience
If I type in the search query “Twitter analytics tool,” any result with a little yellow box that says “Ad” inside it should take me to a page for a Twitter analytics tool. That’s my expectation as a searcher — the same way it was my expectation that I was going to be biting into a delicious cheeseburger after walking into that McDonald’s.
As I found out, the reality was much different when it came to the Big Mac. Let’s see if it’s different when it comes to landing pages for Twitter analytics tools.
Here’s an ad and landing page combination for an analytics software called “Spotfire” from TIBCO:
Where’s the mention of the Twitter analytics tool I was promised in the big, bold title of that ad?
Nowhere on this page is Twitter mentioned even once! I have questions:
- Does this analytics suite actually include a way to measure my success on Twitter? I assume yes because the ad headline said “Twitter analytics tool,” but I also don’t see any mention of it here on the landing page.
- What kind of key performance indicators will I be able to analyze? Followers? Engagement level? Click-through rate? This landing page explains none of that.
Instead of digging deeper to find out the answers to these questions, I’ll do what most users do when they reach a landing page that’s not relevant to the ad that brought them there: Hit the back button, and click on another ad.
A landing page like the one above will contribute to a lower quality score from Google because it’s not as relevant to the keywords “Twitter analytics tool.”
Same goes for this one from Pixlee:
I can find a vague reference to social media software, but still — no Twitter analytics tools.
So again I retrace my steps to the search engine results page for “Twitter analytics tool” and I click on another ad.
Ahh, this landing page from Sprout Social is more like it:
Look at that — a big bold reference to Twitter analytics right there in the headline. That’s great message matching.
Below that you’ll see three paragraphs explaining the benefits of using Sprout Social’s software; and when you scroll down, even more about the key performance indicators you’ll be able to measure with it.
Message matching like this is hugely important to providing a great landing page experience for your user, and that’s true in the case of time-sensitive promotions as well.
If you’re a retail company running a holiday promotion, don’t just use the same landing page for your Black Friday sale that you would for your Memorial Day sale. That’s silly. Again, this goes back to message matching. You want to create as much trust with your visitors as possible — and message matching helps with this significantly.
What would you do if you landed on this page after clicking a link for a Memorial Day sale?
You would probably think you clicked on the wrong link accidentally, then use the “back” button to turn right around. That quick abandonment would indicate to Google that this landing page didn’t provide a good user experience. As a result, Ad Quality Score would suffer.
But it’s not enough to just message match. To deliver a great user experience, your landing page needs to be easily usable and organized. A great way to do that is by using relevant AdWords extensions for each of your campaigns.
For example, a mobile AdWords campaign for a flower delivery service might take advantage of the “call” extension, which lets searchers see the phone number of the business right in the ad. The landing page for that ad would be optimized for mobile, with several click-to-call CTAs.
But maybe the same campaign on desktop would benefit from using the “callout” AdWords extension, which lets businesses highlight a specific service they offer right in the ad, like this:
Instead, that ad’s callout would draw attention to their same-day delivery for online orders, and its landing page would be optimized to solicit those.
And that’s why EVERY AdWords campaign needs its own landing page.
The more specific and targeted you make your ads, the higher your ROI is going to be.
If I’m searching for Twitter analytics tools, and I click on an ad for Twitter analytics tools, I expect to find Twitter analytics tools. I also expect that if I click that ad on mobile, the landing page I click through to is going to be mobile-responsive, easy-to-use, and optimized (click-to-call CTAs, shorter forms, etc.).
Anything less will drive me — the prospect — back to the search engine results page. You — the advertiser — not only lose my business but future business as well after your quality score takes a hit for delivering a bad landing page experience.
The lower your quality score, the less Google will show your ad to future searchers.
To avoid losing out on any future search traffic, make sure you optimize your PPC landing pages and create an individual one for each one of your AdWords campaigns.
To create your personalized PPC landing page, download the 35 best landing page techniques here.