How to write website landing pages for SEO, readability and ad quality

Concise, objective (not hyped), scannable text is easier to read online and readers prefer it, according to research by Jakob Nielsen and others. I talk about this a lot on my blog, Bad Language, and I run training courses in it for Microsoft and others. But, like a doctor who smokes, it is sometimes hard to take my own advice!

I created Turbine, an online self-service HR application that takes care of holiday requests, expenses, purchasing and staff appraisals. It launched recently with a ‘minimum viable’ marketing website (in the language of the Lean Startup) and a suck-it-and-see online advertising campaign.

I am now in the process of optimising my ad landing pages. The design is the same and I am focusing purely on copywriting changes. This is an exercise in improving the copy and in improving the SEO of the pages and I’m learning a lot as I do it.

Why it matters

  • The keywords on this landing page should match the keywords in adverts to maximise the ad quality score
  • Good writing is essential for SEO and I need this page to bring in free, organic search traffic.
  • I want customers to read, believe, remember and act on what I say
  • I’m a businessman, dammit. People should read this and sign up for the Turbine free trial!
  • I’m a writer, dammit, I should be able to do this stuff!

Before

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Problems

  • The copy was not written with key words in mind. This is a problem for SEO and also for ad quality. The key words on the landing page should match up with the keywords I’m targeting in the adverts. This will improve their position on the page and reduce the cost. It also ensures that the language is consistent between the page and the advert, increasing reader confidence.
  • Not objective. There is some hype and marketing language, such as “couldn’t get any easier”. Ironically, although I want readers to believe this kind of thing, saying it can produce the opposite reaction. It’s a case of ‘show me, don’t tell me’.
  • Not descriptive. The holiday and time off system is very feature-rich but the copy doesn’t convey the information a potential buy needs to make a decision.
  • Images are too small. They only show a view through the letter box. What I want to do is give potential customers a better idea of how the system works and what the application actually looks like. This means bigger more meaningful screenshots.
  • Doesn’t meet SEO guidelines. There are fewer than 300 words of text and there isn’t a link towards to the top of the page. And a few other things.
  • Doesn’t include SEO keywords. This is a landing page for an online ad campaign so it needs to feature keywords from the ads and keywords for SEO; and I need to focus on the top three or four keywords to make sure that they are densely packed into the text.

Changes

  • Keyword list. I got the keyword list from our ad campaign, picked the three or four that I wanted to emphasis and then threaded all of them through the text.
  • Removed hype words. I tried to make it factual and objective while also mentioning some of the business benefits and scenarios where Turbine could help (e.g. compared to lost paperwork and the ability to make requests anywhere on any browser).
  • Showed more features. I put a scannable features / benefits list higher up the page and edited it.
  • Better images. I used 1:1 pixel screenshots to show what the application actually looks like. When I have time, I’d like to replace this with little videos and also redesign the page a bit so it looks like Basecamp’s tour pages with more design polish. But that’s later…
  • Metatags. Custom wrote a page title, description and keywords to tie in with the keyword list.
  • Tweaked. I tweaked the text and keywords until ScribeSEO gave me 100%.

Tools

Turbine’s marketing site is built using WordPress which makes continuous copy improvement very easy. But I added two other tools to help me optimise the process:

  • MaxA/B. This free plugin lets you test different versions of a page to see which one drives more traffic to an action page, in my case the free trial sign up page.
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  • ScribeSEO. This is a paid-for plugin for WordPress that evaluates pages for SEO and gives you actionable feedback to help you improve. It takes some of the mystery out of SEO-optimisation. It’s not cheap but I think it’s worthwhile for critical pages like this. It gives you useful feedback and instructions about what to do to improve your SEO. I started with a score of 82% and resolved the issues until I got 100%.
    image
  • All in one SEO Pack. This lets me edit meta tags and titles for the page to optimise them for SEO.
    image

Results

Well, you can see for yourself at: http://turbinehq.com/tour/staff-holiday-and-time-off-planner.

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If you have any comments, suggestions or tips that would help me (and others) do SEO or if you have any questions, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

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6 Responses to How to write website landing pages for SEO, readability and ad quality

  1. TC/The Writer Underground October 11, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Writing your own copy seems only marginally easier than performing your own invasive surgery.

    I write something that seems brilliant, and a day later I wonder which illiterate 19th century ghost was channeling through me when I wrote it.

    • Matthew Stibbe October 11, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

      I know, reading my own work sometimes feels like looking at pictures or (worse) video of myself. Just cringeworthy. I give myself the excuse that I write for a living. It must be much worse for novelists and poets.

      And when it comes to doing my own marketing, it is like the shoeless children of cobblers. Everyone else is a customer. I’m just the guy at the back of the line!

  2. Tony Kelsey October 12, 2011 at 3:45 am #

    I’m glad you mentioned an A/B testing tool. It seems that is a component that is frequently overlooked and yet so important in determining what is and isn’t working.

  3. Geert-Jan Brits October 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    May I suggest a thing for your landingpage? Make sure your screenshots – starting at ‘Time Off Settings’ are clearly marked as such. On a quick glance, I wanted to interact with it. I’m pretty sure this is not optimal for conversions.

    Screenshots are already indented a bit, just putting a (elegant) border around them would already improve things for example.

    Liked your post.

    • Matthew Stibbe October 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

      That’s a nice tip and I will do that. Thanks.

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