Most of the time, online display ads, social posts and marketing emails click through to a webpage. Often, “traditional” print, broadcast and outdoor ads also direct people to a website. Rarely will directing such traffic to a website’s home page result in the optimal user experience or the desired marketing outcome. Normally, this kind of experience is most effective when it’s crafted to take the user through a seamless journey from click to conversion. While developing the optimal user flow, it is not uncommon for marketers to consider the pros and cons of directing ad traffic to an existing web page versus building a custom, stand-alone campaign landing page.
A custom, stand-alone landing page is a special web page (or series of pages) that exists apart from a website’s normal content. Typically, users can’t navigate to a landing page like this using the main site navigation (thus, the term “stand-alone”). Rather, the page is designed to be a special destination for traffic coming from specific advertising or other marketing channels. (Users can, however, often navigate to other pages on the site using the main navigation, although this isn’t always the case.) Landing pages may have a “vanity URL” (e.g. SomethingMemorable.com or YourBusiness.com/SomethingMemorable) that makes it easier to promote in non-clickable media like Instagram, broadcast or outdoor advertising.
In this article, “custom, stand-alone campaign landing page” will be referred to as “campaign landing page,” and a website’s existing page that serves as an ad landing page will be referred to as a “standard page.”
Pros and cons
There is no single correct answer to the question of whether or not a campaign landing page is the best approach to achieve a campaign’s objectives. Rather, there are pros and cons to using one, versus a standard page on the site. The most obvious argument in favor of using a standard page is that no extra effort is required to create a special page. The page already exists, so why not use it? It’s a simple solution, which makes it a tempting solution. Will the level of effort required to create a special campaign landing page pay off in increased conversion? If not, there’s no reason not to use a standard page. The rest of this post will help answer that question.
Landing page best practices
Whether you are building a landing page from scratch or trying to decide if it’s better to direct ad traffic to a campaign landing page or a standard page, ask the following questions. A great landing page will feature as many of these attributes as possible:
- Is there good continuity between the visuals in the ad and the landing page?
It’s critical to give users an instant visual cue that they have landed in the right place. Clicking on an ad with one look and feel, then landing on a webpage that has different colors, photography/illustration style or other graphic elements can be confusing at worst (“am I in the right place?”), or at best, can make the user stop and think, which is anathema to good user experience.
- Is there good continuity between the messaging in the ad and the landing page?
The next most important factor is continuity in messaging. An ad that features an offer should pay it off as soon as the user hits the landing page, not after being forced to first read other content.
- Is the CTA in the ad clearly and directly paid off on the landing page?
This idea closely follows question #2, but it’s more specific. If the ad contains a CTA (call to action) that says, “sign up now,” then the first thing a user should see on the landing page is a signup form. If the CTA says, “find a dealer near you,” then the page should immediately show a location-specific store map.
- Does the landing page have a single-minded focus on conversion?
A good online ad, social post, email or other tactic that links to a webpage should have a very specific, single-minded purpose, and the destination webpage is often where that purpose is realized. Such purposes include things like lead capture, store search, information request, video view, etc.
Trace the user’s journey from the ad to the landing page and evaluate if that single-minded focus on conversion is simple and clear (or if there are distracting details, which can often be the case with a standard page). Competing messages may distract users from the desired conversion path. If conversion is measured by video views, the video should have priority placement on the landing page, without other elements to distract users from hitting the play button. If conversion is measured by lead capture, the form should be immediately visible, with the surrounding content focused on why users should provide their personal information. In any case, content or design elements that distract from the desired conversion action should be minimized or eliminated.
- Does the landing page provide a personalized experience?
When appropriate, one-to-one, personalized experiences are always best. Brands that speak to existing customers like they know who they are can strengthen their relationships. For example, when a current customer clicks through to a webpage from an email, the brand should welcome the customer by name, show their preferred store location, serve up tailored product recommendations and so on.
- Does the landing page contain mechanisms to track conversion or other key performance indicators (KPIs)?
Good analytics systems should allow any page on a website—whether a campaign landing page or a standard page—to track the source of the traffic. More technical conversion tracking may require specialized data analysis, so it’s important to assess if the tracking mechanisms on the landing page are sufficient to measure the defined KPIs or desired conversion goals ahead of time.
If you’re able to answer all (or most) of these questions in the affirmative, then your standard page can function as a landing page and produce the desired marketing results. As appealing as it may be to direct ad traffic to a standard page, more often than not, a custom campaign landing page is best. It’s rare that existing standard webpages feature most or all six of these attributes.
Standard pages don’t usually provide the best user experience or highest conversion rates
A common problem with using a standard page for ad traffic is that often, standard pages don’t have the same visuals or messaging as the ad, and therefore cannot deliver on its objective as well as a custom campaign landing page can.
Generally, standard pages are designed (or should be) to address the needs of any user landing on the website from any source (for example, from a Google search). With the context of knowing that each user’s starting page could be any on the site, the website’s job is to make it easy to find content that is most relevant to their needs. The site’s main navigation and on-page content play key roles in that user journey, which is somewhat different than traffic arriving via an ad click. Let’s look at organic traffic first.
Typical KPIs for organic search may be factors that indicate levels of engagement, including:
- Number of pages visited
- Time on page
- Bounce rate
For organic traffic arriving on the website from a Google search, a good user experience leading to an eventual positive KPI (for example, a form submission), could look like this:
Google search > Standard page > Standard page > Standard page > Form submission
It takes several pageviews in this example before the user lands on the form page:
These users could bounce at any point along the way, and so a custom campaign landing page, designed to streamline this process can improve conversion. It may look like this:
Social post > Campaign landing page > Form submission
This example shows how an ad click that leads to a landing page specifically designed to capture a form submission delivers the opportunity for an immediate conversion.
Although this list of questions may provide enough help to make the right decision about a campaign landing page versus a standard page, decisions based on data are always best. If your marketing automation system, ESP or ad platform allows it, the ideal way to determine the best landing page is to send traffic to different pages for the purpose of A/B testing. Send half of the ad traffic to a campaign landing page and half to a standard page, and measure conversion or other KPIs in order to determine the most effective page.