I saw a new billboard while driving into work this morning. The headline reads, "In Jail?" It then goes on and talks about how this particular bail bondsman will bail you out of jail. It also has the phone number and the name of the company. This billboard got me thinking—if you're actually in jail then would you really be able to see this billboard and take advantage of their services? Probably not. Whether it's an ad on a billboard, a pay per click ad on a search engine results page, or a listing in the organic search results, you must tailor your message to the person reading the ad. Otherwise, your conversions and ROI will be less than stellar.
The bail bondsman who is advertising on this billboard got the location right. The billboard in question is located on a major interstate road within a mile of the local county jail. However, there's a big problem, in my opinion—they're not appealing directly to the person who is most likely to see the billboard. Sure, their ideal customer is someone who is in jail. But, if they're actually sitting in a cell they're most likely not going to see the billboard. So, it would be better to appeal directly to the people most likely to see the billboard, which might be a relative of someone who is in jail. Perhaps "Is Your Son in Jail? Call us and we'll help bail him out" might be a better message in this case.
What does the bail bondsman's billboard ad have to do with internet search engines? In both cases, the potential customer has only a few seconds to read the message and make a decision. If the ad is a pay per click (PPC) ad, then your potential customer has performed a search and is looking for a product that you sell. If you tailor your ad and speak directly to them, there's a better chance that they will click on your ad and visit your web site. And they will be more likely to convert into a customer or a lead if the landing page they get to after they click also appeals to them and shows them exactly what they're looking for. Search engine listings in the organic or "natural" search results have the same opportunity—make sure your title tags and meta description tags appeal directly to your target audience and you'll enjoy more quality visitors and better conversions. (In the organic search results, your title tag is the headline in the search results and the meta description tag is usually what "snippet" that's provided underneath the headline.)
Conversions and Conversion Rates
According to Anvil Media's search engine glossary, the conversion rate is "The relationship between visitors to a web site and actions considered to be a "conversion," such as a sale or request to receive more information. This metric is often expressed as a percentage." In the case of the billboard ad, the "conversion" for the bail bondsman would probably be a phone call or the combination of a phone call and them bonding someone out of jail. In the case of a pay per click ad, the "conversion" would most likely be a sale or request for more information. In search engine marketing, we highly suggest that advertisers set up what's frequently called a "landing page", the page a user gets to after they click on a PPC ad. By offering the user an action to take (a way to purchase the product online or an online form to fill out), we can measure the conversion rate and the effectiveness of the PPC ads. Many online advertisers send visitors directly to the home page of their website, which is a big mistake. By making the "landing page" your home page, you're most likely not going to offer the visitor a direct action to take when they get there—and the more they have to look around your site to find what they're looking for the less like they are to purchase something or make an inquiry.
The Headline and Title of the Ad
When I use a search engine to find something, I usually have an idea of what I'm looking for. If I'm looking to buy a telephone headset, then I'm most likely going to search for "telephone headsets". I perform a little research to find the prices, models, and compare the features. Once I've decided on which telephone headset model I want to buy, I usually search for the manufacturer and the model number. At that point, I'm ready to buy—if I can find a decent price from what appears to be a reliable merchant, I'll buy it. So, I turn to my favorite search engine and search for the manufacturer and the model number. I usually glance at all the headlines. If I see a headline with the exact manufacturer and the model number I'm looking for I'm going to click on it. I generally won't click on any ads that simply have headlines that read "telephone headsets" or the "name of the merchant". Those headlines aren't targeted, and I don't know if that merchant has the manufacturer and the model number that I want to buy. As you can see from my actions, the headline and the title of the ad is extremely important. It's what causes me to click on the ad and visit the merchant's website.
Description of the Ad
When it comes to looking at ads for telephone headsets, the description that appears right below the headline is an additional opportunity for the merchant to draw me into their website. Descriptions that include words like "guaranteed best price", "free shipping", and "in stock" will help entice me to click.
Landing Page of the Ad
Landing pages, as I described earlier, are the web pages the user gets to once they click on a pay per click ad. Once I click on an ad (keep in mind I'm still looking for a telephone headset and I'm not ready to buy a certain model), I expect to see exactly what I'm looking for, the manufacturer and the model number I searched for—the landing page should show what the product and the price. It should also give me an opportunity to buy the product. Obviously, a photo of the product as well as a description is helpful as well, as it will assure me that the merchant has exactly what I'm looking for.
Pay Per Click versus Organic Search Listings
Pay per click ads give us the opportunity to pick and choose the keyword phrase as well as the exact headline, description, and landing page URL. Organic search engine listings give us this same opportunity, although we don't have as much control over the keywords we're found for in the results. When optimizing your web pages, it's important to keep in mind that they title tag is the headline—you need to include your keywords in the headline, but you also need to appeal to your potential customers. The meta description tag is used frequently in the search results as well, so writing a unique description tag that includes your keywords as well as an enticing message for potential customers is important, as well. And, of course, your page is also a landing page—if it's a product page targeting a specific product then it should also include some sort of action for the visitor to take. While it's not generally recommended to constantly change the title and meta description tags of pages that show up in the organic search results, changing and tweaking the ad copy in your PPC ads is recommended. Set up a good landing page and watch your conversion rates. If you're not getting the conversions you're expecting, then change and tweak your PPC ad copy.
Think of who your ideal customer is—and appeal directly to them. The more targeted the message the better. In search (especially through PPC ads), we have the luxury of picking the keywords we're found for—the more targeted the keywords the cheaper they are. If you use targeted keywords you should make sure you're also using targeted ad copy--it will cost less and increase your conversion rate. Just like the billboard ad of the bail bondsman, appealing directly to your target audience will help your chances of converting someone into a customer. Instead of that "In Jail?" headline, perhaps a better headline might be, "Are you going to Jail? Call us when you get there!"
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Bill Hartzer currently runs a Strategic Online Marketing Consultancy that includes services such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, and online reputation management.
Bill Hartzer formerly managed the Search Engine Marketing division of Vizion Interactive and MarketNet, leading interactive marketing and website design firms in the Dallas, Texas area.
Hartzer is a successful writer, blogger, search engine marketing, and social media marketing expert. During the past fifteen years, some of his many accomplishments include: Search Engine Marketing Manager, Vizion Interactive, Search Engine Marketing Manager, MarketNet, Search Engine Optimization Strategist, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Webmaster, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Founder, Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, Owner/Author, Corporate Web Site Marketing, Administrator, Search Engine Forums, Frequent Speaker, Search Engine Strategies Conferences, Frequent Speaker, WebmasterWorld's PubCon Search Engine and Internet Marketing Conference.
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