Whether you are running a Google search campaign, Google remarketing campaign, or Facebook Ads campaign, all ads must point to a destination. There are many options out there. You could point to your homepage or a standard service or product page on your existing website.
You could custom code a landing page designed specifically for the campaign. You could use a pre-built landing page template on a platform like Unbounce or Hubspot. Or, you could point to a microsite or one-pager.
Each option comes with its own pros and cons. Leading to your homepage takes zero additional resources, but it will likely lead to a low quality score and high bounce rate. A microsite might serve the topic perfectly, but it will take time and resources to develop.
Often, we see a hesitation to invest in custom landing pages. Especially when first starting out and before proving ROI, many campaigns lead to standard service or product pages. Even well-designed pages still won’t have the same impact as a landing page specifically engineered to drive conversions from paid ads.
In this blinded case study, we are going to look at one local campaign that saw a dramatic increase in conversion rate and slashed cost-per-acquisition (CPA) with the simple switch of changing the destination from a standard service page to a custom landing page.
The campaign we are going to spotlight is a branded search campaign run on Google Ads. A branded campaign is one where you bid on variations of your brand’s name. This can allow you to own additional real estate and control where users land on your site (versus the organic listing, which will likely be your homepage).
The landing page
Previously, the branded campaign was leading to a service page representative of the most common service offered. As a service page, it has a lot going for it. It has a clean and clear layout, detailed and specific content, and intuitive navigation. There are multiple calls-to-action (CTAs) directing people to their preferred form of communication (call, email, fax, store visit). It loads quickly and works well on mobile.
Wireframe of previous destination page – a service page on the main website
The existing ads were standard search ads. They hit on a couple key value propositions and were supported by extensions that highlighted the company’s longevity, service record, convenient location, and more. They include mention of the company’s policy for free on-site estimates and 24/7 service.
The ads didn’t take advantage of some of the more recent features, like responsive search ads.
The branded ad campaign itself was performing nominally well, but it was a relatively low conversion rate (3.36%) and relatively high cost-per-acquisition ($24.60) that triggered us to give the campaign a closer look.
With branded campaigns, there is an expectation that you can acquire leads for a much lower cost when compared with generic keywords. For one, the cost of bidding on your own brand name will be much lower (sometimes pennies on the dollar) since there’s less competition. Second, users who search your brand name are much more primed to convert as they’re likely at the bottom of the sales funnel and ready to take action.
Expected conversion rate and CPA will vary dramatically based on industry, market, and even seasonality. In this particular situation, we expected to see a conversion rate above 5% and a CPA under $20.
The branded campaign had the following statistics:
Google Ads metrics before the optimizations
The landing page
We used a landing page layout that follows best practices for driving conversions:
- Prominent and clear headline tailored to match the keywords in the ads (this increases quality score)
- Prominent contact form with a clear call-to-action
- Clear value propositions supported by trust factors like accreditations, reviews, and testimonials
- Clear summary of main services
- Images of real work and products (not stock)
- Contact information including phone number and address (further trust factors)
- Consistent keyword use in the URL, title tag, and H1
We took existing content from their website and wrote new content where needed for clarity or to better reflect value propositions.
Wireframe of the new optimized landing page
Originally, the page had some additional elements which were further refined by the paid ads team to increase conversions. For example, the page originally had a link back to the main site at the top of the page. We removed this because it could interfere with the primary goal, which is for users to convert on this page. We also removed links to more gallery pictures and links to review sites for the same reason. The content stayed, but the outbound links were killed in the name of conversion.
We originally had a file upload field on the form, but it had no text indicating what it should be used for, and could potentially be a barrier for users to complete the form. We added a simple instruction: “Upload a photo of your project below:” to make the expected action clear.
After additional rounds of Q/A internally and approval from the client, the page was ready to launch.
We paused the under-performing ads and wrote two new versions. One was an expanded text ad with better copy and better keyword use. Expanded text ads were introduced in 2016 and allow you to occupy more real estate in the search engine results page. Advertisers are afforded an additional headline field and two 90-character description fields.
The other was a responsive search ad. This feature was rolled out last year. As WordStream’s Mark Irvine explains, “Unlike traditional search ads, where you write headlines and descriptions together to create 1 static ad text, when writing a Responsive Search Ad you can write up to 15 different headlines and up to 4 different descriptions. Collectively, these headlines and descriptions can be arranged in 43,670 different permutations.”
We didn’t go quite that far, but we did put together 10 of the most compelling headlines and four rich descriptions.
We also reviewed the existing extensions and added new ones where needed. Extensions supplement your ad with additional information, whether it’s a map pointing to your location, your phone number, links to pages within your site, or text promoting your unique value propositions.
We enabled or optimized the following extensions:
- Sitelink extensions
- Call extension
- Location extension
- Callout extensions
- Structured snippet extensions
The new ads and landing page had an immediate impact. Within two weeks of launching, they earned the following metrics:
Google Ads metrics two weeks after optimizations
In just two weeks, we had cut the CPA in half and generated a 4x improvement in conversion rate. We also generated almost as many conversions in two weeks as we had in the previous three months combined. Most interestingly, the CTR actually dropped. A slightly smaller percentage of searchers were clicking on the ads, but they were four times more likely to convert when they did.
Since the launch of the new ads and landing page in February 2019, the new campaigns have generated the following results:
All told, the new campaigns have resulted in a 21% better CTR, dropped the CPA in half, and nearly tripled the conversion rate.
When running campaigns, it can be tempting to hit the ground running. Why spend time and money building a landing page when you have a perfectly good website to use? While these results may not be replicated in every situation, the methods used here are completely transparent. There were no fancy tricks, no advanced bidding strategies, no complex remarketing funnels.
If you are running any paid ads campaign, whether it’s on Google Ads, Facebook Ads, or another platform, evaluate the landing page you plan to use. Does it truly represent the product or service you’re advertising? Is it easy and intuitive for users to complete the intended action? Will it maximize your ROI? If you can’t confidently say yes to all of the above questions, you should consider upgrading to a targeted landing page instead.
Whether you choose to build from scratch, customize a template, or use a service like Hubspot or Unbounce, you can expect to see better metrics and more conversions. It is an investment that more than pays for itself.