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If you are driving clicks through paid advertising, you are probably using landing pages. And if you are like most marketers, your results are probably so-so or unremarkable. On average, only about 3% of paid clicks convert. That's a lot of conversions left on the table.

Luckily, there are things you can do right now to dramatically improve your online conversions.

1. No More Landing Pages

Make a paradigm shift to stop thinking in terms of landing pages and focus instead on creating conversion-focused experiences.

It's hard to convince respondents to convert when you dump them onto a single page. A well-designed conversion experience, however, can seduce a lot more conversions from your audience by creating a relevant path from the click-through to the conversion.

2. Message-Match

Make sure your ad message and your landing experience match. And I don't mean colors or pictures. I mean messages and promises. To get the user to click, your ad implies a promise: CLICK HERE, GET THIS. Your landing experience needs to immediately, directly, and simply fulfill that promise.

When it does, you will build trust with your respondent; and when you build trust, you will automatically build desire. We call that the conversion path trust cycle: Make a promise, pay it off on the next page; continue doing that until you ask for, and receive, conversion.

When you have message-mismatched ads and landing pages, you damage your brand and make your respondents less likely to click the next time they stumble upon you. Ouch.

3. Keep It Simple

When users click on your ad, they aren't making a considered choice. They are reacting to a simple little ad message. Whether your ad is a banner, an email, or a paid search ad, the click on it is a split-second impulse. Either users saw something that caught their eye, or they were searching for something and your ad seemed like it might lead somewhere relevant.

When we dump those ad respondents onto a landing page with a ton of copy, links, choices, or a form, we break the rhythm and expect them to do all the work. No wonder our conversions are at 3%! This "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to building landing pages doesn't work.

To keep users flowing through our conversion experience, we have to simplify each page. Get rid of all the distractions. When we simplify the page—including the message, the copy, and the choices—users will ultimately flow through at a much higher rate of conversion.

So create an experience that keeps them in the "split second" flow that they are in when they click on the ad. Keep them moving by presenting them with simple, relevant choices and letting them flow through a conversion path to the point of actually converting.

When you simplify the experience, your conversions will increase.

4. Offer Choice

You can keep the conversion experience simple by using strategic respondent choices. A page with a ton of copy, links, or a form is WORK for the user. Too many choices, too much distraction.

Rather than putting everything on the page, keep it simple by offering only a couple of choices. Once the user makes a choice, the next page pays off that choice with relevancy.

Let's say you are running an ad for a credit card. You could dump respondents on my application form or send them to a page of long copy about the card and then take them to the application form (if any of them actually makes it through my long page of copy).

Or you could usher respondents to a simple landing page with a three-way choice for information on the right card for establishing new credit, rebuilding bad credit, or rewarding great credit. You give the respondents a simple choice. They know which group they fall into, and they don't have to think. They can make that simple choice and move on.

Once they have made the choice, the next page can pitch and persuade in a meaningful way. Rather than reading about the card that's right for everyone, the respondent sees copy that is right for them. You've created an experience rather than a page, built trust by matching the ad, and kept the pages simple by giving the respondents choice. Bang! Your chance of conversion has gone through the roof!

Giving your respondents relevant choices lets them have a more relevant experience. And when an experience is more relevant, you will be far more likely to get a conversion.

5. Think Apples to Oranges

The final thing you can do right now to improve your landing experiences is to test, test, and then test some more. But you need to conduct the right kind of testing.

As opposed to page optimization, we talk a lot about "apples to oranges" testing in order to achieve dramatic improvements to conversion quality and quantity.

That's because if you test a single page to optimize it (headline color, image, call to action), you will probably increase your conversions a little. Or if you are testing the footer font for the hundredth time, you have definitely lost sight of the big picture.

So rather than focusing on optimizing elements on a page to increase conversions, think about testing widely differing experiences in order to see what really moves more people through your funnel. Sure, maybe the headline size on my credit card landing page is going to entice a few more people to convert. But by testing the choices you offer, the number of choices, and the total number of pages, you have a lot more freedom and flexibility to see which experience is the most conversion-friendly.

Take a big-picture, somewhat heretical approach to your testing, and you will see bigger changes in your conversion rate.

* * *

If you implement the five action items above, I know you will increase your online conversions or improve your conversion quality.

Above all, have fun and start thinking out of the box with your landing experiences.

Be sure to check out the free MarketingProfs online seminar, High-Performance Landing Pages that Boost Your Bottom Line, for more great tips on how to transform your landing pages into profitable online marketing tools.

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image of Anna Talerico

Anna Talerico is executive vice-president of Ion Interactive, a company that pioneered in post-click marketing. Anna and her colleagues provided professional guidance and assistance in the development of SmartTools: High-Performance Landing Pages specifically for MarketingProfs PRO members.

LinkedIn: Anna Talerico