At Search Engine Strategies in March, Tim Ash walked up to me after my speech and handed me his book. I (ashamed to say) did not know Tim and had not heard of his book before then. I leafed through it quickly and told myself, "This looks good," and promptly dumped it in my pile of books that take forever to get read. I told myself I'd eventually read it, but it took me quite a while to do so. That was a big mistake.
But I've corrected that mistake now. Landing Page Optimization is a gem of a book that provides the big picture and the details for an all-important Internet marketing subject, one that search marketers especially need to understand.
Landing pages have been discussed ever since the first banner ads (oh, now they want to call them display ads because banner ads developed a reputation as being worthless). The page the ad clicks to is the landing page. E-mail marketers use the same nomenclature for the page that an e-mail links to on your Web site. In our book, Search Engine Marketing, Bill Hunt and I extended the term "landing page" to also refer to the first page a searcher lands on when they click a search result.
And, in both that book and in my second book, I've provided tips on optimizing landing pages. But this book is an eye-opener. Tim Ash's Landing Page Optimization is 350 pages of "all landing pages, all the time."
Written in a conversational style, Tim covers all the landing page improvement tips you'd expect (and a number that I did not expect), but he also explains how to make a page persuasive—it's not just logical, analytical arguments, but it's appealing to emotion. But it's more than design and copywriting—it's also extensive testing.
Tim's genius is in contrasting these left brain and right brain thoughts to give you the complete picture of how to greet someone to your Web site. He doesn't just tell you how to conduct a test, he shows you the pitfalls of what you might do wrong. He doesn't merely explain how to optimize landing pages, he explains all the possible things you could change and helps you prioritize which ones need the most attention on your pages.
And, in case you need it, Tim even provides an overview of how the brain works, to help you understand just how you persuade each part of your customer's brain with your landing page.
Even though I've been part of Web site tests for years, I found myself learning new techniques in every chapter. I didn't really know how to spot a biased sample. And I think I tended to change parts of a page that would persuade me, rather than my average customer. Also, multiple page flow testing was something I truly did not know how to do before reading Tim's book—I understand it now. In addition, testing for multiple goals formerly made my head spin, but I have a better handle on it now.
It's rare that I find a book that almost every Web marketer ought to read, but this is one of them. Every Web site has landing pages, but most don't think enough about them. Most Web sites create their landing pages as their campaigns launch, and they leave them alone until they collapse under their own weight.
If you pay attention to Tim's tips for designing and producing the page, and his tips for making it persuasive, and top it off with a devotion to testing variations until you truly optimize your landing pages, you'll have increased the value of every marketing program you have. See, most people don't realize that the real value of marketing is dependent on what you do with those visitors you attract to your site.
Remember, the difference between your site, for which you know you should bid just $1 for your biggest search keyword, and your competitors', for which they happily pay $1.25, is not that your competitors are crazy. It's that they convert more of the visitors they get, so each one is worth more to them than to you. That's why they can profitably bid higher.
So, as marketing becomes increasingly competitive, because more and more companies discover the value of Internet marketing, your only recourse is to increase the return on your marketing investment. Improving your site's conversion rate and increasing the average order amount are the two ways to do that. When you do, the same number of visitors are worth more money, because they convert more frequently than they did before. That's why you can increase your marketing expenditures to attract them.
Tim's book holds the keys to increasing the persuasiveness of your Web site. Ignore this book only if you're happy that your business is already successful enough. It's not? Oh. I guess you better read it then.
Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.
Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.
Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.
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