Paid search doesn’t exist in a vaccum, although it frequently operates in one. We spend our days, brain power, and sweat building and rebuilding links in the chain of customer attraction and conversion only to have other important links in that same chain be effectively mismatched, perpeturally ignored, and often broken. These realities have a direct impact on our results and yet have been pushed out of sight and out of mind too much of the time. It’s no secret that the people responsible for driving traffic to the website very often aren’t in control of user experience once visitors arrive. This disconnnect is undoubtedly responsible for more waste and poor performance than even the worst bidding strategies, the poorest match type choices, or almost any other optimization mistake. We began this series with the premise that each search is a question and each text ad an answer, or more accurately the promise of an answer. The answer of course has to be delivered on the landing page and website that the user is invited to visit. A great many of the subsequent items in the series have focused on diversifying the questions you’re targeting, and differentiating them in terms of at least the ad groups and ad copy. Of course they should also be differentiated in terms of landing page too. In some cases this is simply a matter of choosing the right landing page, but much more frequently it should also be a matter of creating new landing pages. Even if you have a large site with lots of highly targeted landing page candidates to choose from, your keywords and the search queries they attract will cover many different intents and personality types and buying cycle stages that aren’t addressed on existing versions of those pages. Of course, almost nobody actually builds landing pages that aligned with all of their user segments because the resources aren’t available. Website developement tools, which for years ignored the basics of SEO but almost a decade later have finally included simple capabilites like title tag optimization and friendly URL structures, need to step up and make these types of page variation creation and management as easy as CSS has made on-the-fly font size or other design changes. A precisely targeted and tactically aligned landing page is only the first step in the post-click conversion process. Many of the others – offer quality, purchase path, checkout process, etc – get even less attention than landing pages, on most sites. Yet despite some level of commercial visibility and conference session coverage, very few websites get any testing or tuning after deployment. The exception seems to be in the lead-gen world, where offers are few in number and very high in value, extensive post-click testing is a necessary element of survival. But retailers and b2b marketers, in what seems like the vast majority of cases, do not have a culture of testing or the post-click resources are really necessary to work on an on-going basis on the entire start to finish process. Is that your experience? Is there a good explanation for this?
The Real Issue
There are two problems with all of this. First, paid search is judged and measured, and tuned and optimized, based on the results it produces despite the fact that it only controls a part of the sequence. PPC may be sending qualified buyers who are bungled post-click. Yet PPC generally gets the blame and has to adjust. Second, full revenue potential is not being realized. Forgetting who is responsible and why, the fact that full end-to-end optimization isn’t happening is limiting our results. Those additional sales would benefit the entire organization, including of course the PPC team and the site owners and everyone’s larger business and economic interests. This is a gigantic problem. It’s a failure of tools, training, resource allocation, and people. Paid search is a 40B industry for a few search engines, but on the spend side it’s made up of hundreds of thousands of relatively tiny advertisers who don’t have the scale, knowledge, or resources to get anywhere near optimization. Something has got to change. Any ideas?
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