A Thorough, Modern Definition of Landing Page Optimization
By Brian Deagan
The term “optimization” is dangerously close to becoming a victim of overuse and relegated to meaningless buzz word status. But the word does retain a valuable definition that marketers and Web masters alike must internalize and apply. To prevent optimization’s definitional decline it is crucial to understand the meaning of the term in its evolved state.
The pillars of support for strong optimization are content testing and audience targeting. The effective combination of these two core direct digital marketing functions fosters success. Historically, however, many organizations have taken a divide and conquer approach to the roles and responsibilities of testing and targeting. As these organizational silos take shape, production speeds slow and landing pages are drained of their effectiveness.
The right approach to landing page optimization can be thought of as a triangle where the three points of intersection are labeled “data,” “testing,” and “targeting.” The data, at the top of the triangle, flows down to each function. A central location for the data is important because the data environment must constantly feed the content testing and the audience targeting.
Landing Page Optimization Starts with Data
The ideal data environment for landing page optimization is a universal profile management system. The system is designed to do two things. First it stores valuable data points like enterprise customer data and purchase history information. Second, it captures behavioral information like browsing patterns on a landing page affiliated Web site, and keyword or banner click entry points to the landing page. The combination of known information on authenticated site visitors and behavioral information helps marketers build unique segments and lay a great foundation for successful testing and targeting strategies.
Test and Target in Tandem
Once the data situation is properly setup the optimization process can begin. The most important truth to understand about good landing page optimization is that testing and targeting must work in tandem. When launching a new landing page project, a strategy conversation that begins with an initial need to test content may end by identifying a real need to target shipping rates based on geographic region. The ability to be flexible and easily add testing or targeting strategies to the landing page environment is important to meet conversion goals and adapt to a constantly changing consumer.
Selecting Landing Page Optimization Software
Like anything else in the on-demand software business, optimization tools fall on a continuum of low cost and capability to high cost and complexity.
It is easy to love Google because they offer helpful tools for free. But it is important to understand that free means there is a trade off somewhere. In the case of Google Optimizer, the trade off is a free testing tool for one that is incapable of targeting. Low (or no) cost tools are tempting, but the combination of testing and targeting is mandatory for landing page optimization success. The trade off just isn’t worth it.
On the other end of the spectrum, many tools that provide both testing and targeting cost a fortune in money and time, given their complexity. As usual, the right optimization software falls in the middle where reasonable cost meets up with a full feature set. The middle spectrum optimization tools are the ones technologists seek because they are easy to use. Marketers need them because it is easy to update copy or swap images without ongoing input from an already stretched IT group.
An Optimized Landing Page Example
Without sacrificing anything regarding the load time, here is an ideal setup for a landing page that takes advantage of the best optimization strategies.
Our example landing page has eight different dynamic content zones. Six of those zones are identified as content testing zones. The testing zones can rotate many different versions of content based on the data available about the page’s visitors. The content variations can range from a few lines of copy to different product offers. The remaining two zones are setup for audience targeting. Both zones use geographic data, one to populate a localized phone number and the other zone targets on the daypart to display local store hours. This example is a single landing page, but it is completely optimized for every unique visitor, dramatically increasing the page’s chances of success.
Extend Landing Page Optimization by Learning From Other Channels
While these optimization principles are outlined primarily within the context of landing pages, they also apply to each function of direct digital marketing. Good optimization in email marketing, mobile marketing, and onsite targeting improves overall direct digital marketing campaign performance. But cross-channel optimization also adds valuable data points that can be leveraged to create better landing page experiences. Remember that landing pages are one part of an overall direct digital marketing strategy. The data that powers them, and the data they record, must connect to a central database that focuses on the site visitor and coordinates the experience across the entire direct digital marketing landscape.
Achieving Optimized Landing Pages
A successful landing page creates two outcomes for marketers. The landing page conversion translates either to a lead for other marketing programs to nurture, or an immediate transaction that triggers a retention/up-sell marketing cycle. Data powered optimization is the best and most proven approach for achieving both outcomes, whether a transaction happens immediately or must be nurtured for several months.
Next generation optimization software platforms do not view testing and targeting as separate functions. Both share the same focus – optimizing the landing page experience for each individual site visitor. When data, testing, and targeting all have a seat at the table, a more complete and effective landing page strategy is served.
Once a central database environment is properly configured, develop a landing page strategy that is not beholden to the limitations set by specialist vendors that encourage silos. Software tools exist to help avoid silos and prevent trading off testing in favor of targeting, or vice versa.
Web masters and marketers control the landing page optimization software market. If content testing and audience targeting are demanded, vendors will adapt and supply. The end result of applying a thoroughly defined landing page optimization strategy is a more coordinated user experience that dramatically improves conversion rates and performance. That outcome is as important as it is feasible. Don’t settle.
About the Author: Brian Deagan, a thought leader in direct digital marketing, is cofounder and CEO of Knotice, a direct digital marketing solutions company.