Tuesday, 29 May 2007

PPC & Usability - Some Tips

The greatest advantage PPC has over other forms of marketing is its measurability. It's possible to see, down to each individual click, what revenue has been earned for what amount spent. In fact, just about every metric imaginable is measurable - ad views ("impressions"), clicks, click-through-rate, total cost, average cost per click, revenue, actions, cost per order, cost per action, and so on. Couple this with web analytics packages, and you have the complete tracking solution. Compared to other media like, say, television, it's head and shoulders above the competition.

However, the caveat to this is that a PPC campaign is only as good as the results gained. And to get good results, you need to have a streamlined, water-tight campaign from beginning to end - that's from initial impression to final action. You need to make sure your initial searcher - pulled in by your PPC ad - turns into a confirmed purchaser. What I'm trying to say is, no matter how good your keyword choices, ad positions, creative messages and qualifiers, it counts for little if your destination web pages aren't usable. If they're not usable, you could have the greatest PPC campaign in the world and your ROI will still suck.

This is why usability is a PPC marketer's friend. The more usable the destination website, the more likely the PPC visitor is to convert into a customer (thus adding to your magic ROI number...or cost per order, cost per action, or whatever your chosen metric). Here are some basic tips on best practice in PPC usability:

1) Qualify visitors as much as possible before reaching your website - your keyword choice and advert creatives are your first opportunity to influence how usable the destination site will be. You can filter out unlikely customers and encourage "good 'uns" by choosing the right keywords and giving out the right messages in your copy (e.g. if you are a luxury brand, with what is in all likelihood a fancy, flash-based website, steer clear of the words "cheap" and "discount" and use words like "luxury" or "designer" in your copy). By properly qualifying your visitors, those arriving on your site are likely to have a more positive experience (which is ultimately what usability is all about).

2) Deep link wherever possible - don't assume your home page is always the best destination for your visitors. Whilst this is in all likelihood the most visually impressive site on your page, it is probably not closest to the conversion goal. A good rule of thumb is, the further down the conversion funnel you can send your visitors, the better (if your visitor is looking for pink golf balls, take them right to that product - not to the homepage, or even the main golf balls page).

3) Provide information - consumers like to be provided information and providing it on your site makes conversion more likely. So, if you only offer free delivery on orders over $10, let the visitor know this; if you don't deliver outside the UK, make this visible too. Removing doubt and providing info creates customers.

4) Keep things consistent - if your homepage has links down the right hand side, and drop down menus on the top, try and make sure these core navigational elements remain consistent across all your other pages on the site. Likewise, if you highlight links using underlined blue text on one page, don't use italicised red text on another. Try and keep things consistent. By doing this, users know exactly where they stand and will feel comfortable and confident about navigating through your site.

5) Create a clear sales funnel - know where you want your visitors to go when they land on your site, and make this pathway as clear and easy to navigate through as possible. For example, if you want people to send you a contact form, make the link to this form as obvious as possible (without it being so big it interferes with the basic usability of the site).

6) Make checkout nice and easy - the number one stage at which customers drop out of the sales funnel is during checkout. We've all done it - you get all your purchases ready in your basket, go and total up the costs, then, for whatever reason, decide not to proceed. There are two main reasons - one is that checkout is somehow complication (perhaps requiring registration first, or maybe it asks for too much information or is vague in what info is required) or there's something dubious or unexpected at the checkout point (hidden charges or an error message of some kind). In any of these cases, expect conversion rates to plummet. It really is in your interests to ensure checkout goes well - after all, this is the home straight to conversion, and the point to which all your hard marketing work has led!

No comments: