How to Build SEO-Friendly Landing Pages
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How to Build SEO-Friendly Landing Pages

Last updated on November 10, 2016 by Ted Vrountas in Conversion Rate Optimization
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We love helping people, like you, create high-converting landing pages.

We preach building great pages that feature bold headlines, powerful calls-to-action, engaging media, and benefit-oriented copy.

But there’s something you should know about all that…

None of those things guarantee conversions.

You could pay top dollar to have the best copywriter in the world write the most engaging, jaw-dropping content you’ve ever seen, and your page still wouldn’t be assured conversions.

That’s because in order to accomplish its goal, your page needs one other very important thing (hint: it’s one of the other two-thirds of your conversion equation).

Give up? It’s targeted traffic.

And not just any traffic. You need the right traffic.

Without anyone to land on your landing page, it serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever.

So, hypothetically, let’s say you went a little over budget on your copywriter. Now you’re going to need to figure out another way to generate visitors without using paid methods like PPC or social media advertising.

Luckily for you, today we’re going to teach you about a favorite source of organic (unpaid) traffic for inbound marketers: search engines.

Then we’re going to show you how you can capitalize on the more than one trillion searches that get typed into engines like Google every year.

What is search engine optimization?

Search engine optimization refers to the process of editing a web page’s elements to make it more likely that page shows up in search results when someone types in a relevant query.

For example, I’ve just typed in “inbound marketing report” into Google. Here’s the search engine results page (SERP) that’s presented to me:

This picture shows how to master SEO and get ranked highly in Google search results.

All of the results on this page that don’t have a little yellow box next to them that says “ad” are pages that have been optimized to rank for the search query “inbound marketing report.”

Google’s number one priority is showing me, the searcher, what it thinks are the results that most closely match what I’m looking for when I type a query into the search bar. So, based on signals it gets from all the pages on the Internet that might be pertinent to the term “inbound marketing report,” it decided to show me the ones in that photo in descending order of relevance.

It’s important to note that there’s no secret to ending up on page one of Google’s (or any search engine’s) results page. However, there are some best practices you can follow to make it more likely that your landing page will pop up there.

What are SEO landing pages?

SEO landing pages are those optimized for search engines — with features that make it particularly appealing to the algorithms that decide whether or not a page is valuable to searchers.

Because most marketing campaigns are relatively short, people assume it’s not necessary to optimize landing pages. And they’re partially right. Most promotions are finite — they have a short lifespan and (inevitably) almost always end. However, there’s one big thing wrong with that assumption.

A lot of people end their campaigns prematurely, mistakenly believing them to be short-term when they’re really long-term.

If you’re running a one-time promotion for a few days or weeks, the number of visits you’ll generate by optimizing your page for search are minimal. But, if you’re running a promotion for a few days or weeks every year, you could be missing out on some serious search traffic (more on that later).

And what determines whether or not you get it is how valuable your page is to searchers. Simply put: how appealing is your page to Google’s algorithm?

Google’s ever-evolving algorithm

Like a chef protecting his recipe for a famous “secret sauce,” the world’s biggest search engine has been known to keep the details of its proprietary algorithm close to the vest.

Over the years, Google has learned more about what makes pages valuable to searchers. They’ve made countless algorithm updates — the big ones named after animals, like “Hummingbird,” “Panda,” and “Penguin.”

As fuzzy, friendly, and adorable as these updates sound, they’re anything but. Google’s updates have gained a reputation for giving search engine optimizers major headaches, and wiping out entire networks of websites from SERPs.

It used to be a lot easier to rank highly in Google. People used “black hat” tactics like keyword-stuffing, link farming, and sneaky redirects to shoot to the top of search results.

Today, many of the sites that benefited from techniques like that never recovered, and anyone who tries them now risks being blacklisted by Google — a stark reminder that cheaters never prosper.

That’s why it’s best to focus on earning search engine traffic the right way — by creating a valuable landing page for people looking for what you have to offer.

How to create an SEO landing page

When building your next landing page, consider the following tips and best practices as an SEO landing page template:

1. Publish to a custom URL

Oftentimes when you create a page using a content management system, you’ll have the option to publish to a subdomain of the service provider.

For example, when you build a page using Instapage, you have the option to publish it to your own custom domain (www.yoursite.com/yourlandingpage), or keep the “.instapage.com” on the end of your URL and let us host it for you (yourbrand.instapage.com).

At first, the simplicity of letting us handle your hosting might be tempting to take advantage of. But it's not a good idea in the long run to build landing pages for seo purposes this way.

Not only do you risk confusing your prospects by muddling your brand consistency, but you miss out on any valuable search engine authority your website has built up since it’s been online.

By publishing your landing page to your own domain, you get the added advantage of a small rankings boost when people search for your page’s keywords.

2. Determine your keywords

This is super important.

It’s the part where you pick the words that you want search engines to rank your page.

Keyword research can be a very long and drawn out process. But as with anything, the more research you do, the better prepared you’ll be.

The abridged version looks something like this:

Make a list of the terms that are relevant to your page, and try to figure out what combinations of those terms (called long-tail keywords) someone might type into Google with the intent of finding what you have to offer.

For example, let’s say I’m a lawyer based in New York City who’s creating a landing page targeted to clients who are car accident victims. Instead of trying to rank for broad terms like “lawyer” or “car accident lawyer,” I’m going to try for “car accident lawyer in New York City.” Or something, even more, precise than that, like “car accident lawyer in Brooklyn.”

Long-tail keywords are easier to rank for than their shorter counterparts, and often produce a higher ROI.

3. Include your keywords strategically on your landing page

Once you’ve determined your target keywords, you’re going to want to place them strategically on your landing page. Here’s where to put them if you want to get ahead on SERP’s:

Title tag: This is the title of your page. It’s the big blue link that represents a page on SERPs, and it’s displayed up at the top of the page in your browser’s tabs. Focus on making your title compelling to encourage click-throughs.

Meta description: This is the short description of the page you see underneath the title in SERP’s. Use it to give the searcher an idea of what they’re going to find on the page if they click through.

Header tags: In HTML, title tags are arranged in a hierarchy from H1 to H6. Your page should have only one H1 tag and it should be your main headline. If you’re going to have subheadings under that H1, use H2s. If you plan on having subheadings under your H2s, use H3s, and so on and so forth. This prioritizes your content. Putting words into an H1 says to Google “These are the most important words on my page.”

Image file names: Always try to give your images descriptive file names. Since Google can’t physically see your images, it has to go off the written description that you give those images in the file name. An image title containing your keywords will help improve ranking (separate words by dashes, not underscores, too).

Your copy: Your keywords should be peppered throughout your copy, but sparingly. By using them too much, a tactic known as “keyword stuffing,” you risk being penalized by Google.

4. Don’t worry about the length of your page

Traditionally, we’ve heard that search engines favor long content over short. And that completely contradicts what we’ve all been taught about creating great landing pages.

For the most part, landing pages are supposed to be brief and concise. So how does this work when it comes to creating landing pages for SEO? Is there some middle ground we can reach?

Not so fast.

While data has shown that long content ranks highly in search engines, according to Neil Patel, the relationship is more about correlation than causation.

Here’s what we mean: There’s no conclusive evidence that only increasing word count will boost your SERP position. The fact that not all long-form content ranks well is proof of that.

Then why is most high-ranking content long?

Neil hypothesizes the reason isn’t because of its high word count, but because it’s well researched and full of valuable information — which attracts more readers, more shares, and more clicks. All of these signal to Google that your page deserves a rankings bump.

So with your landing pages, don’t obsess over length. If you’re still worried that too much text is going to drive away your prospect, try taking advantage of collapsible divs.

These are bits of code that, when included in the back end of your landing page, allow you to hide content under a headline which the user can open and collapse at will.

Here’s an example of a very sample div:

This picture shows how marketers can use collapsing divs in their landing page HTML to increase their SEO ranking.

They’re an excellent way to present a lot of information without overwhelming the reader.

Ultimately, the important thing to remember here is: stress quality over quantity and Google will reward you.

5. Secure backlinks to your page

Getting people to link to your page is still the number one way to boost search engine rankings organically.

Why?

To Google, if someone likes your content enough to link to it from their website, they are vouching for you.

So how do you do this without creating groundbreaking viral content that reaches all corners of the Internet?

There are many different ways, but a combination of great content and targeted outreach is a tried and true method of building links.

First: Create original content. Take results, data, case studies from others if you want, but don’t directly copy (even better if you’ve conducted your own case study). The more original, well-researched, and valuable your content is, the better it will be received.

Second: Identify influencers in your industry. Use a combination of referrals from friends, email sleuthing, and social media research to find the contact information of people who would find your content relevant.

Third: Reach out to those influencers using the meticulous technique that Fractl Agency did to get backlinks from Upworthy, TIME, and Wired.

Remember: Not all links are created equal. A link from Bill’s Dog Blog won’t do nearly as much for your SERP position as a link from Animal Planet will.

Start smaller by attempting to get links from bloggers. Check out their blogrolls for more people to contact, and work your way up to the bigger influencers.

6. Leave your seasonal landing page online

Earlier we talked about how some people confuse long-term campaigns with short-term campaigns. These people are potentially missing out on loads of traffic.

Every time you build a new landing page it’s almost like wiping the SEO slate clean and starting from zero.

That’s why, to compete with bigger businesses featured on page one of Google, an electrical retailer in the UK named “Curry’s” decided to change up its Black Friday landing page strategy.

Since 2014, they’ve kept their Black Friday landing page online all year-round. Although it’s design has changed and it’s no longer a true landing page, you’ll notice that “Black Friday” is mentioned numerous times, including the URL. Now, they don’t have to toss out any SEO authority they built up in the last year by building a new landing page in the following one.

If you run any annual campaigns like Curry’s, consider leaving your landing page up all twelve months of the calendar year.

7. Speed up your page

Page speed is one of the few SEO ranking factors Google has come out and confirmed.

Since, according to Kissmetrics, 47% of people expect pages to load in less than two seconds, and 40% will abandon it after three seconds. This comes back to improving the user experience.

Plug your page into Google PageSpeed Insights to tell whether it’s up to par.

If it’s not, try speeding up your page load time by:

Using smaller image files that don’t compromise quality
Switching to a faster web host
Shutting off all plugins or extensions your page isn’t using

8. Make your content shareable

Social indicators like Retweets, Facebook shares, and “+1’s” were once thought to directly affect a page’s SEO.

But in the last several years, Google has come out and specifically said that its algorithm doesn’t.

This led to some studies that showed a correlation between social signals and search rank — all of which proved nothing, like the relationship between long content and higher SERP position.

However, just because Google says social indicators don’t directly influence SEO doesn’t mean you should ignore social media altogether. In fact, just the opposite.

There’s something more to those correlative studies than meets the eye.

As was the case with content length, the reason that many high-ranking pages had so many social indicators is because they contained high-quality information. As a result, people wanted to share them on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Again, it comes back to producing high-quality content. Leverage social proof by including social media “share” buttons on your “thank you” page so that once your prospect has claimed your well-researched ebook, she can share it with everyone in her network.

Start capitalizing on search traffic

To begin creating your own SEO landing page and start capitalizing on search traffic, start here with one of Instapage’s 100+ professional templates.

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