The rate of change online used to be fun. Chasing the cutting edge was an exciting occupation with limited accountability. But now ROI, quarterly budgets, and the need to grow sales AND profits have replaced the cutting edge as the object of our efforts. Yet despite the transition to more traditional business goals and outcomes, the rate change remains the same.
Take keyword buys. This is still a relatively new phenomena, and many businesses are only just beginning to develop an approach to extract the benefits. Nevertheless returns have already been compressed as the cost of key words has quickly been bid up to their marginal rates of return—and in some case beyond. The ease with which results can be tracked has allowed the market to be extremely efficient in pricing keywords, making it harder and harder for the buyers of words to generate a return.
Pockets of gold still exist. Keywords that have been overlooked by competitors can still produce outsized returns. But these pockets will only shrink over time as more buyers enter the market chasing the same end customers.
To continue to extract value from keywords, marketers are going to have to turn inward. For most companies, getting the traffic is seen as the whole of the equation. But just as important is what you do with the traffic. So even as we are only starting to get the hang of keyword buys, we need to tackle landing page optimization.
To date, landing page optimization has been too hard and too expensive to generate a return. But with the returns on keywords contracting and the advent of new optimization tools, the math behind such efforts looks better everyday.
To date, most companies purchasing keywords have to settle with dropping a potential customer off at the home page. In some cases, they can send them to a category level page or to a particular product page. Going beyond this to a more customized landing page that better matches the keyword is simply too taxing in terms of time, people, and money. Simply getting the requisite page changes through IT is often a sufficient barrier in and of itself.
But solutions exist for these problems. Services like Offermatica (www.offermatica.com) and Verster (www.vertster.com) offer tools that allow marketers and merchants to cost-effectively manipulate a page to reflect any number of necessary variants. Now a home page can show language and featured products that clearly tie to the keyword that brought a potential customer to the site. Even product level pages can be improved, be it through highlighting particularly relevant product features, adjusting pricing and promotion, or showing related products—all of which tie back to the source keyword.
In the case of Offermatica, the tool works as a hosted application. Portions of a page are defined as "mBoxes" that are then filled based on the keyword source. The content can be anything you would normally put on a web page—text, images, links, forms, etc. Because it is a hosted application, it bypasses the need for internal IT while providing the responsiveness needed to keep up with rapidly changing marketing requirements. And best of all, both Offermatica and Optimost are priced as a service—eliminating both difficulty and cost as an excuse for doing nothing.
Keywords—at least the ones that work—are not going to get any cheaper. They will remain a valuable tool for driving qualified traffic. But increasingly buying the right ones will only be the first step. Generating a return on the resulting traffic through landing page optimization will be the key to continuing to generate positive returns.