How & Why to Test Ads and Landing Page Combinations

By Brad

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Ad Testing, General

We were working with a mid-sized service based company that serviced all of Texas. As the state is quite large, they had a website that just said they’d do electrical work anywhere in the state but they didn’t focus on any one area for their website outside of the entire state.

They realized that with Google Ads, it is pretty easy to create a campaign for the major metros in the state and then talk about their services by metro in each ad. Once they set this up, they looked at their metrics for when they targeted the entire state versus spoke to each metro. Their click through rate had gone up, but their conversion rate was untouched. They had assumed that by being super specific in the ad, their conversion rates would increase. They did get more conversions as they got more clicks, but the experiment wasn’t done.

Next, they started making landing pages for the main cities, and suddenly their conversion rates increased. It took the combination of both the ad and the landing page to increase CTR and conversion rates.

Later on, we were working with a company that connects nannies and families together in the city of Chicago. As nanny services are entirely local, they wanted to be super local and target all the cities within Chicago as the Chicago metro area includes 24 cities with populations over 50,000 people. First, they created campaigns and ads for each city and started working on creating a landing page for each city. Once they had created campaigns, ads, and landing pages for every city and started to analyze the data, they found a completely different trend than the first company. For them, just adding the city to the ad increased CTR and conversion rates. Including the city on the landing page had no impact on their data.

While these are geographic examples, you can repeat the same story for running offer tests that are only in the ads, only on the landing page, or in both places. These offers could be comparing discounts, specials, trials, different calls to actions, various benefits, and so forth.

In today’s column, we’re going to look at how ads, landing pages, and ad landing page combinations affect your metrics and how you can setup your own tests.

The Ad’s Goal in PPC Marketing

An ad has two specific tasks to accomplish when it’s seen by a searcher.

Draw attention to itself. The first goal is to draw attention to itself. This is often accomplished by having a headline 1 highly related to the keyword, so it seems relevant and then having an attractive headline 2 (and possibly 3rd compelling headline). This gets a user to read the ad.

Attract clicks from those likely to take your desired action. The second goal of the ad is to only get clicked by people who are likely to complete your desired action. In B2B, this is often known as pre-qualifying an audience so you are only talking to B2B buyers. However, the goal of being attractive to those likely to do business with you applies to any type of advertising except for purely awareness/brand buys.

This means that the ad can affect CTR, conversion rate, CPA, ROAS, and any other metric. The ability to draw attention will increase CTR as more people look at the ad. The ability to attract clicks of those more likely to convert than other users can affect your conversion rate, and thus all metrics such as CPA, ROAS, ROI, etc that are involved with conversion activity.

Because ads can affect both CTR and conversion rates, we like to use conversion per impression for our ad testing.

The Side Effect: What marketers don’t always remember is that the ad sets the expectation for what will be found on the landing page. As the ad changes, the consumer will look for different information on the page. The ad and landing page don’t exist in vacuums from each other. As one changes, it can affect how someone views the other piece.

The Landing Page’s Goal in PPC Marketing

The landing page’s goal is quite simple, get those who visit the page to take action. This action could be a call, lead gen form, ecommerce buy, etc. The page isn’t trying to attract a specific type of traffic – it just gets the traffic sent to it. A landing page can’t affect your CTR.  Therefore, the page is talking to everyone who sees that page. The landing page is measured in conversion rates. Technically, it should be measured by conversion rates that are segmented for how traffic is sent to it. The segmentation could be keyword or ad group for PPC or channel, such as PPC, SEO, or social so you can see the difference in conversion rates by source to make the appropriate adjustments.

The reason we make multiple landing pages is to talk to someone based upon what they are looking to accomplish and included supporting information so the user can realize we can accomplish what they set out to achieve. If we have two ways of talking to someone based upon what they are looking to achieve or other characteristics, then we probably want two different landing pages.

For example, if we have a page that says we serve all of Texas, a user shouldn’t have to see the fact we serve Austin, Houston, Dallas, etc on the page – those are cities within our state. The reason we’d want to make a page for the city is to show the person we really are a local company, that we can quickly service that area, and to connect with the user. This can quickly get complex. If we serve 10 regions and we have 10 products, then we can make 10 region pages, 10 product pages, or 100 region product page combination pages.

These same principles work for ecommerce. If your ad says free shipping, should your landing page say that? If your ad says free returns, should your landing page say that? Between structured snippets, callout extensions, your headlines, your descriptions, there is a lot of text in your ad. When that text changes, does the page need to change to showcase that information as well?

Sequential vs Simultaneous Testing

A sequential test is when you first test one item and then you test another one. In terms of PPC, a sequential test often looks like then when it involves both ads and landing pages:

  • Step 1: Test multiple ads to find the best one
  • Step 2: Pause the losers, examine the winners
  • Step 3: Based upon the winning ad data (or just something else you want to test) design multiple landing pages
  • Step 4: Test the landing pages
  • Step 5: Find the top landing page and use the top ad with the top landing page

The benefit of that testing is you are designing your landing page based upon a known item, your top ad.

The downside is that you aren’t seeing how the losing ads would have worked if they were designed with specific landing pages echoing their offers or other information.

A simultaneous test is when you are testing the ads and landing pages in conjunction with each other. As the ads set the expectations for the landing pages, changing the ad can affect the landing page’s conversion rate as users are looking for different information based upon the ad or the ad is drawing a different set of users to click on the ad and view the landing page’s offer.

Simultaneous tests look like this:

  • Design 2 or 3 ads
  • Design 2 or 3 landing pages
  • Create an ad and landing page combination test to see how the ads and landing pages do in combination with each other

For example, if you have 2 ads and 2 landing pages, you have 4 tests:

  • Test 1: ad 1 / landing page 1
  • Test 2: ad 2 / landing page 1
  • Test 3: ad 1 / landing page 2
  • Test 4: ad 2 / landing page 2

To set up a test, you’ll just create 4 ads in the ad group, one for each test. You should use even ad rotation (the do not optimize setting as it serves ads semi-equally) so all the combinations receive equal exposure. As the conversion data for the landing page is stored with the ad’s metrics in your PPC account, you can just compare the conversion per impression (or revenue per impression for variable sale amounts) to see which combination performs best for your account.

Wrap-Up

Ads and landing pages have an effect on each other. As one changes, it will often affect the metrics of the other one. Creating a new offer in your ad might increase your CTR but decrease your conversion rate if that offer isn’t on the landing page. Putting a great offer on the landing page the user wasn’t expecting as it wasn’t in the ad could increase conversion rates or cause no changes to your data.

While it is easiest for most marketers to test ads over landing pages as often IT, designers, and other departments aren’t involved in ad creation like they are in landing page creation and deployment, just remember that if you are thinking about new website structures, changes to your account organization, or just want to see exactly how multiple offers will convert, using simultaneous testing with ads and landing pages often offer some great insights you can use across all of your marketing efforts.

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