How to write an ad

Tips & ideas for advertising, copywriting and web content

Site Content & Landing Page Optimisation Ideas.

One size doesn't fit all.

There are no universal solutions so pick & choose to suit your business or product while prioritising the most important options rather than trying to tick every box. Some ideas below are large topics in their own right, so use this guide for idea generation and as a checklist to spot gaps.

What is a landing page.

A landing page is a web page that visitors land on, after clicking ads, links or search results.
It may be your home page for generic searches, or a page relevant to specific products or keywords.
Use this guide for ideas across your site as a whole as well as individual pages as appropriate.   

Well optimised landing pages give you 3 things:

  • They attract natural search engine traffic.
  • They reduce paid advertising costs as landing page quality and relevance affect quality scores.
  • They improve "conversion rates", the percentage of visitors who convert into customers, or take the next step in the conversion path.

    This guide contains around 200 ideas, but even if you can just find 25 small improvements that each deliver a 2% gain in conversion rate, that could mean 50% more sales from the same traffic. The reality is however that some changes can make much larger differences.

Prioritisation, Structure and Clarity

From your own experience you will know that most people don't read most content, especially if it's long, disorganised or cluttered.
A short paragraph that gets read by 80% of visitors may perform better than a whole page that gets read by just 1%, and yet your most motivated visitors may want the most details, so the trick is to break up content to let some visitors find key points quickly, whilst providing more details for those who need detailed answers to specific questions before they will buy.

  • Use simple, brief, direct language.
    Step 1. Rewrite content until it's shorter, clearer, more simple and direct, breaking out additional details separately if needed. Get to the point very quickly.
    Step 2. Repeat step 1.
  • Voice and tone. Decide how personal your tone should be for your audience. This might vary between your blog and your product information. Aim for an active (not passive) voice and include the "who" in your sentence structure. For example "We did" is better than "It was done". The "second person" (where the reader is directly referred to as "you") can also be more engaging.
  • Prioritisation is everythingif you try to emphasise everything you will emphasise nothing and visitors will feel lost.
    Fire your big guns first!
    Work out the most powerful messages, and what to split off, or leave out entirely. Prioritise important messages by position on the page, size, colour and navigation to build a clear visual hierarchy, and break up information logically using common grid and layout options.
  • Start paragraphs with a summary sentence or sub-heading so visitors know why they should read what follows.
  • Break up content with headings, subheadings, short paragraphs, short sentences, lists, boxes and images. Clearly distinguish essential key points from full details. Avoid long sections of unbroken text. Use compelling subheadings, images or call-outs to break up text and to serve as hooks to keep visitors reading or to make it easy for visitors to skip to what interests them.
  • Pretend you're a visitor to ensure the top information needs of different visitor types are met.

Navigation, usability & conversion path.

  • Content must be clear, simple, uncluttered and logically structured and easy to use without thinking.
  • Some landing page factors affect quality score in AdWords which affects cost-per-click but will also help with organic search results.
    • Landing pages should prominently include the keywords targeted.
    • Fast page loads. Test here. More a problem if slow than an advantage if very fast.
    • Mobile friendly design improves ad-positions (and organic rankings) on mobiles. Test here.
    • Transparency: Have a privacy policy that makes it clear what information you collect, how you use it, and how you use cookies - especially in relation to advertising tracking features like remarketing.
    • Intuitive Navigation allows visitors to find what they want quickly but also orientates visitors as to where they are. Breadcrumbs may also help on large sites.
  • Readable fonts: Around 15-16 pixels on desktops with good text-to-background contrast is optimal for maximising time-on-site. Clearly distinguish heading styles to help visitors find what they want. A thin font in mid tone grey may look classy but the price may be a large fall in visit duration. Light text on a dark background should be avoided unless you carefully evaluate the stylistic merits against trust, credibility and the negative impact on readability and comprehension.
  • Consider conventions like putting contact details in the top-right, logos that link to the home page, and include a "home" link in your main navigation (not just on the logo) if space permits.
  • Contact options should be easy to find and logically placed, possibly in multiple locations such as the footer, top right, the final link in your navigation, as well as in featured links or buttons, or even in simple contact forms.

Conversion path & calls to action

  • Make it obvious what's clickable with clear, prominent buttons and links.
  • Draw visitors into the site with quick, visual access to products and the top information your visitors are seeking, or your most enticing content. For example a video of how your product works or what it delivers may engage visitors more rapidly.
  • Useful resources like articles, whitepapers, tools, videos and guides may not seem like a part of your conversion path, but anything that holds visitors on your site longer will strengthen brand awareness and the relationship with your visitors while giving them a reason to come back. Resources demonstrate experience, capability, expertise and value.
  • Use clear & prominent calls to action to guide visitors easily to the possible next step(s) in their conversion path. Calls to action are used throughout your site inviting people to
    • See, view, compare, go, read more, click, learn, get, next, browse, find…
    • How to contact, enquire, buy or visit: simple forms, clear contact and location information or a map if useful.
    • Related information or products
    • More in-depth details such as specifications, technical documents or case studies

      To some extent every text link, navigation link, button, headline or subheading is a call to action, even if the action is simply to continue reading or see more. Think about clarity, messaging and styling in these items to engage your visitors and keep them moving through your site.

  • Contact forms should be short and simple. Any fields that might cause visitors to hesitate should be removed, or split off into a separate form for detailed submissions.
  • Make calls to action appropriate to the visitors current place. E.g. calls to "view" or "compare" may need to precede calls to "signup" or "buy", especially in locations like page-titles or meta-descriptions that appear on Google search results – seen before a visitor even lands on your site.
  • Different visitors have different needs so don't treat conversion paths as linear. Some visitors will be ready to buy or contact you immediately so don't shoe-horn your visitors into a fixed path. Important choices should be accessible from anywhere.
  • Language should include your customers usage as well as industry jargon:
    • For SEO, include the keywords that customers search for in your content
    • Everyday language may be more accessibility to some audiences
    • Some customers will search Google using professional jargon, or may see it as more credible, so use both. Such visitors may also be more educated in your product and more ready to buy.
  • Don't frighten visitors with pushy interactions or unclear commitments.
    • For example a newsletter subscription popup that lurches into view 3 seconds after landing on the site might feel aggressive to some visitors.
    • If freight charges are not clear, a customer may abandon their cart and buy from the next result on Google that makes delivery costs clear.
  • Don't interrupt or distract your visitors from their path with popups, movement, sounds, or annoying features unless you a/b split test to first ensure it's helping.
    AIDA may stand for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action but it can also stand for Activity, Irritation, Distraction & Abandoned-visits!
    Ads need to grab attention and distract readers from surrounding content, but when a visitor is on your website, they are there voluntarily. Loud or attention grabbing features will only distract visitors from your own content.
  • Plan typical conversion paths that different visitors might take and place action links to let the visitor move through those paths without thinking.
    Example Conversion Path:
    • Who we are, what we offer & where we provide it (yes we can meet your needs!)
    • Specific product information
    • More details, specifications & pricing
    • Address concerns and credibility about your products or company
    • How to: Buy / Enquire / Compare / Call / Visit / Download / Free Trial etc.

Messages that convert visitors into customers.

  • Who, What, Where, Why, How. Clearly tell the visitor:
    • Who you are: branding, trust & credibility, about us, staff etc.
    • What you offer: product & service information.
    • Where you provide it: location relevance.
    • Why they should buy your product, & why they should buy it from you (unique value proposition) wherever you have an advantage over competitors.
      • Try to brainstorm as many ideas as possible on the "why" question.
      • Think about the emotional payoff of your product and what your business brings to the equation.
      • Decide which ones to deal with implicitly through branding, tone & images.
      • Decide which ones are self-evident or embedded in the product name, description, or product images – and feature such products images and details prominently if they are amongst your more powerful messages.
      • Rank and prioritise your messages to decide which to feature most prominently or even which to leave out or split off if they're creating clutter. Jumping straight into product images and prices may be your most powerful message, or it may be  7 reasons to choose WidgetCorp, or the benefits & features of what you sell, or it might be an image that captures the right feeling or an aspect of your brand identity.
    • How they can take the next step in their path to becoming a customer.
  • Often the key messages, motivations, purpose or emotions will self-evident or clearly embedded in the product itself, in which case the top message of your site may simply be:
    • Content that demonstrates that you have the products the visitor just searched for, with messaging that shows:
      • Product categories, images and details.
      • Good quality, at fair prices, available now
      • What the next step is to compare, visit, call, enquire or buy.

Simply providing clear navigation, with quick access to product and service information may achieve this - demonstrating that you meet visitors needs rather than getting in their way with self-promotion.

Unique selling points. What sets you apart. Why buy this product from you?

  • Decide if you need to sell the product itself, or why a visitor should buy from you. For example if the value or need for the product itself is obvious, taken for granted, or if your products are well known brands or commoditised, then you may need to sell why they should buy from you.
  • That could be as simple as the fact that you quickly show the visitor that you have what they want while addressing major concerns like location-relevance, credibility, price, reliability, and availability and the fact that you make buying easy. Depending on your business, around half of all visitors may have already decided what they want by the time they get to your site.

How to work out the messages, emotions or appeals that motivate your visitors

  • Simply ask yourself why a customer would or should buy your product and why they should buy from you (or why they should take the next step in the conversion path). To find obstacles and concerns repeat this process by asking "why they might not", or why they haven't bought already.
  • When you have the answer, ask why that is important, or what benefits it would enable or what problems it would avoid.
  • Then repeat, until you get back to something fairly basic or emotional.
    Ultimate emotional benefits should be implied. Immediate benefits can be explicit.
  • Ask your customers (literally ask them) why they buy from you.

Common emotional appeals.

Think of emotion as "e-motion" or "e-motivation". Literally the feelings that cause us to move or act.  Emotion regulates our attention, effort, decisions and behaviour. Logic can bridge any non-obvious links between a product and its benefit, but ultimately the benefit or the "why" will be a feeling. The motivation for why a visitor buys the product itself (which may be a given), versus why they buy your product or buy it from you (your unique value proposition) may be very different, so prioritise whatever makes sense for your business.  
Below are some common basic motivations and emotional appeals:

Physical needs & sensations

Comfort, reduced physical effort (quick/easy/effortless/save-time), reduced mental effort (easy/simple),  physical sensations like pleasure, avoiding pain, temperature (keep warm/cool), taste, hunger, thirst, being or feeling healthy. For food: appeals to cleanliness and purity might be important. e.g. fresh, pure, clean, healthy.

Security & safety

Physical, social, financial & health security. avoiding fears, worries and threats, protection, shelter. What if?

Social needs (including professionally)

Being valued, liked, included, respected, accepted or loved. Approval, our appearance, attraction, status, success, social competition, wealth, friendship, connection, belonging, family. How we're evaluated by others and ourselves; being noticed when we're doing a good job, avoiding public mistakes, appeals to authority, meeting duties, expectations or obligations. This is not a guide on branding, but appeals to how people see themselves, their relationships and their identity are also important.

Certainty, visibility, control. Situational awareness. Knowing ones options. Avoiding risk.

News, better information and awareness (plays to security and agency). Easy simple choices and clear decision making options rather than confusion, doubt or uncertainty. Clarity.

Purpose, drive, achievement, satisfaction, dopamine

Acquisition, consumption, getting, more, better, progress, doing, pride in achieving something or doing a good job. Achieving or succeeding at something. Competing or winning.

Excitement, stimulation, novelty

Adventure, discovery, new experiences, curiosity, fun.

Agency: resources, money, assets, skills, freedom, choice, independence, autonomy.

Make or save money, value (getting more for less), wealth & material prosperity, success, self-improvement, acquisitiveness (getting stuff), having more options, freedom or choices. Such values also interact with many other values, for example wealth may be about social status. Getting a bargain may be more about winning and achievement of purpose than the underlying resource value.

Nesting, family, home making, home improvement.

Such drives may be about security, connection, belonging, status, achievement and improvement or perhaps something more instinctive and fundamental.

How to engage needs and emotional appeals without wasting visitors time.

  • Content must pass the "what's in it for me" test.
    Whole sentences about how a product will make your visitors feel or affect their lives will bore visitors and discourage further reading. More immediate appeals about how your product solves a need or problem can be explicitly dealt with (though a simple product image may achieve this) whilst more remote emotional benefits (such as social status) should be suggested implicitly without elaboration.
  • Use underlying emotional appeals to guide your choices of:
    • Headlines, sub-headings or individual words.
    • Images
    • Tone
    • Visual prioritisation of your content and resources
  • Consider what matters most to your visitors, and what information they'll need to decide whether they buy from you, then provide access to that as quickly and as clearly as possible as your top priority. Perhaps the visitor has already decided to buy and simply cares mostly about price, availability, and reliability of you as a supplier, and how easy you make the process, rather than how your product will make them feel.
  • Using images
    Wherever an image communicates more clearly than text, use the image.
    • Product images especially if they illustrate needs, problem and solutions, can instantly convey value and benefits far more clearly than text.
    • People: friendly smiling faces. You're dealing with real people, not just a web site.
    • Branding messages. Images (including your logo) that create associations with the desired emotions, personality and identity of your business and your customers, their problems, needs or your solutions.
    • Credibility indicators. See below.

Specific Messaging Examples

Relevance to needs

  • Who, What, Where, Why, How (as above)
  • Specific product information visitors might be seeking
  • Price & availability
  • Range & choice
  • Capability & ability to meet the buyers needs

Credibility trust & reliability

  • Images or information about your staff, premises, signage, vehicles, showroom, warehouse, or retail space that shows visitors the business and people behind the web site
  • Contact details and location information
  • About us, experience, history, size, values such as professionalism or customer care
  • Certifications & expertise
  • Resources, tools, guides or useful information can establish expertise and build loyalty
  • Industry registration numbers, company details etc.
  • Affiliations (such as with peak bodies in your industry)
  • Awards
  • Case studies
  • Press coverage
  • Logos, brand messaging and consistency
  • Social proof:
    • Leading, top selling, number 1, fastest growing
    • Preferred by experts in the field
    • Testimonials
    • Case studies
    • Reviews
    • Client logos

Specific offers, bonuses or promotions

  • Price
  • Bonuses & extras, coupons, enticements, free shipping/spares/installation/warranty
  • Free guides
  • Free trials
  • Scarcity: limited stock, act fast, limited time, new.

Product information

Your best prospects are those who already want what you sell. Showing pictures of the things they want is one of the surest ways to engage and motivate them.

  • Photos of the product and it’s features
  • Photos of the product being used and the benefits being enjoyed
  • Price
  • Availability
  • Product names
  • Specifications
  • Part numbers
  • Options & spares

Concerns – ask why the customer hasn't already bought, or what might stop them buying.

Don't assume that addressing concerns should come later in prioritising content. Depending on your product addressing a simple concern like reliability or price might be the most powerful message that sets you apart.

  • Do you sell what I want in my location
  • Uncertainty and lack of knowledge (by prospective customers) about how to compare products, options, pricing, risks, features or benefits.
    Simply educating customers or providing comparison information may resolve this.
  • Pricing concerns or mistaken assumptions about price
  • Risks: lock-in contracts, will it work, what happens if it fails or doesn't arrive?
  • Reliability, warranty, refunds
  • After sales service & support
  • Spare parts
  • Compatibility
  • Additional stakeholders' concerns
  • Stock and availability, speed of delivery, service locations.
  • Hidden extras
  • Delivery time and costs
  • Safety
  • Security, checkout & credit card details (SSL/TLS/PCI), privacy, spam

SEO (search engine optimisation) considerations.

Write rich, unique, useful content that delivers value to customers and holds them on the site and keeps them coming back.
Google will try to discern the information value of your content directly, comparing it's language and structure to known authoritative or useful sources on the topic as well as how visitors engage with it, such as whether they click your search results more often, or if most people stay on your site or whether they quickly return to google to click the next search result instead.
"Keywords" refer to the actual words and phrases on your site, not meta-data keywords. Meta data keywords are obsolete, and haven't been used by major search engines since the days of Alta-Vista.
Include the keywords that people search for, especially focussing on

  • Product descriptors and language (as your customers use it)
  • Product modifiers (price, quality indicators, features, brands, specifications)
  • Business type (seller, shop, supplier, consultant, clinic, professional (accountant, plumber etc).
  • Intent indicators (reviews, buy, compare, download)
  • Location indicators (Australia, NSW, Sydney, Bondi, Eastern Suburbs)
  • Aim to capture the variety of how people search for what you sell

Place important keywords prominently in:

  • Page titles
  • Headings
  • Subheadings and
  • The content itself

Avoid excessive repetition, keep the language natural and avoid "tricks".
Google does not like "keyword stuffing" or content that is generally written with an unnatural density of keywords, that is written more for search engine robots than real people, or sneaky tricks to mislead their robots!
If you want to include more and more instances of keywords in various locations, focus on increasing the variety of words people might search for instead of using the same words repeatedly, especially if it's starting to look unnatural. Increase the quantity of useful content rather than unnaturally increasing the frequency of the same keywords in "thin" content.