The PPC Guide for Beginners, Part 3: The Landing Page Dilemma


This is Part 3 in a 5-part series. Read the rest of the series here:

When a visitor knocks on the door of your home, do you chase her away? Invite her inside? Pour her a drink of iced tea?

PPC Visitors

Your response depends on who is knocking, doesn’t it? The same principle applies to landing pages. Every person searching on a keyword or term related to your business is an individual—why not recognize that individuality and serve up a proper reception?

What do summer camp and PPC have in common?

This morning, I put my boy on the bus, headed to a 4-day summer camp. Getting back in my truck, there were tears in my eyes. I missed him already, and I was worried whether he would fit in with the others.

Zebadiah is only 12, you see, but he’s a precocious little guy. He doesn’t go in for much horseplay and is disgusted by goofball antics. He would rather talk about new technology, or save the world via video game than tell fart jokes. Zeb’s not athletic. He doesn’t run fast, and he has trouble catching a ball.

But he’s strong. And he’s wise beyond his years. And he’s mine.

What does your customer care about?

Do you think, over the next four days, I’ll be hypersensitive to any news about a bus wreck, a boy lost in the wilderness, or anything else remotely related to my son and his welfare?

And, if I saw an advertisement about a soon-to-open technology camp that allows parents to video chat with their children in the evenings, do you think I would be interested in checking it out?

You bet I would. In a flash.

For anything related to my son and his camping experience, I am definitely a part of the “target audience.”

Let me ask you: What are the parameters of the target audience for your business? Who cares about the work you do? Who is listening?

Know thy customer or perish

It’s the first commandment of any marketer, and it is especially important in the realm of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. When you are spending your hard-earned cash to get people to click on your ad, you want to be as sure as you can possibly be that those ads are speaking to people who need (preferably already want) and can afford your product or service.

The second commandment follows: When you design a landing page, begin with customer identification.

Do I really need a landing page?

Every time you click on a link, you are transported (metaphorically speaking) somewhere else. You may be redirected to a news release, to a particular article within a blog, or to a signup form for free toothpaste—but if the link is working correctly, you go into the rabbit’s hole known as the “world wide web,” and come out somewhere other than where you began.

And that “somewhere” is the landing page, where marketing is concerned.

Perhaps the easiest and most popular place to send visitors is the company’s home page. For a pay-per-click campaign, however, that is probably not the best selection. It’s like giving every visitor who knocks on your front door a tour of your home. That’s a nice gesture, but chances are the letter carrier doesn’t have time for that and the kid selling magazines doesn’t care.

The best landing pages have specific calls to action (CTAs) tailored to specific queries.

How many landing pages does a PPC campaign need?

How many PPC landing pages?

I know.  You don’t have the time or resources to develop a separate landing page for every potential customer. The good news is you don’t have to do that. In reality, you could probably circle 80% of your customers with just a handful of motivational descriptors—and that is really all you need to know to get started. (More about customer identification and motivational descriptors coming soon in this series.)

Remember that boy at camp? I sure do. I am an anxious parent, and I want to know there is a better solution than four days of no communication with my son. I don’t want to sign up for your mailing list, buy your logo gear, or read all about your work with Outward Bound. I searched for “how to stay in contact with your child at camp,” and that’s the information I’m after.

Tell me about how your camp can ease my worries, please, but don’t try to recruit me for anything else.

There are two questions you want to ask for every Ad Group in your Campaign:

  1. Does the text of the ad accurately illuminate the question you want to answer and encourage the target audience to click through to discover it?
  2. Does the landing page accurately answer the searcher’s question and provide the next logical step to easing the tension that brought them here?

Remember: the words you employ in the ad will select the question you want to answer. You need enough landing pages to answer the questions and solve the dilemmas of the situations for which you have a product or service to address. No more. No less.

The most important steps in PPC

PPC experts can ring all the bells and sound all the whistles. They can take your PPC campaign and squeeze it like a lemon to get every drop of value from your efforts. You don’t need to be an expert to get started, though. If you have access to a few necessary tools and can grasp the basics of PPC management, you’re good to go.

That is the purpose of this PPC Guide for Beginners. My aim is to help raise your confidence level up high enough to feel good about starting your PPC engine. Or, if you’ve already been around the track a few times, help you make the necessary adjustments during this pit stop and get you back out there to brave the competition.

This sequence is the heart of pay-per-click. Ignore it to your peril, and write it in permanent ink on your whiteboard if you wish to prosper:

  1. Know who needs, wants, and can afford your offer
  2. Word your ad carefully to attract (only) those searchers
  3. Present everyone who clicks on your ad with exactly what they need to take the next logical step towards realizing the benefits you provide

Do that, my friend, and you win. Don’t do that, and you may be wondering where your money went. Other marketers can, perhaps, afford to be sloppy, but sloppiness is the bane of PPC.

Your landing page must match your advertisement, and your offer must be congruent with both. In other words: Stay focused and sensible. Don’t confuse or mislead your customers.

How does your PPC campaign taste?

Dr. Michael Haley sells pure, raw aloe gel from his location in South Florida. He doesn’t provide the pasteurized pseudo-gel you find on the shelf at the grocery store, but aloe straight from the field, hand filleted and quick-frozen. If you’ve ever used aloe to treat a burn or wound, you know it is amazing stuff.

Dr. Haley knows he has a high-quality product. You can’t get aloe any fresher or more natural, without walking out to the field and harvesting the plant yourself. One would think the universally favorable reputation of Aloe vera, coupled with the fact that it is the most popular natural remedy for burns on the planet, would have customers beating a path to Stockton Aloe’s front door.

That may be true in Pompano Beach or Coral Springs, but when it comes to online customers, the first problem is to get found by the right people, and the second is to assure those people they found the right company.

PPC Landing Pages for Beginners

Haley puts it like this: “Is the landing page salty? Does it interest the viewer and create a thirst for more?”

Then, with a little thought he adds, “After all, isn't that the goal? The seller must lead potential customers to the solution for their problems, while making them think they found it all by themselves.”

Every part of your online advertising campaign must be aimed at getting the attention of those who want and can afford your product or service, then prompting that person to click on your link to arrive at a landing page that motivates them to get your product or service, then presenting them with a call to action that makes them feel like the whole thing was their idea to begin with.

After all … it’s their search.

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


International Opportunities
Aug 09, 2013

I would like to thank the writer for your contribution in this wonderful and clear understanding about basic PCC guide. I will recommend it to my friends too. Thanks a lot.

Robert E Kraus
Aug 09, 2013

This has been an excelent series.  I've gleaned a bunch of good information from it so far and look forward to more in the series.

Don Sturgill
Aug 09, 2013

I appreciate the thumbs-up, guys. Sometimes, a "Guide for Beginners" is a tough row to hoe, especially on a thought-leading site like WordStream. The truth is, though, there is real value in maintaining the "beginner's mind" and going back to the basics over and over again. I am enjoying the conversation here, both on and off site. WordStream gets the world's best (and most successful) readers. One thing I know for sure is that we need one another. Iron really does sharpen iron.

Dr. Michael Haley
Aug 09, 2013

Hey, thanks for the mention, Don. When you get a chance, come on over to and check out the new ultra-healing cream. (Only if it's your idea, of course). Really ... it's a fine line between offering products people want and need and using a hook to pull them to the store. Sometimes, it pains me, knowing we often have a solution to a problem someone has been trying and trying to solve with doctors and drugs ... when Nature (starting with raw Aloe gel, in our case) could quickly help address the situation. I'm not so sure evolution really is a correct theory. We seem to be getting dumber, not smarter, when it comes to health:)

Don Sturgill
Aug 09, 2013

I'm with you, Doc, on the evolution theory. At some point, our smarts get the best of us. I am positive that has happened in agriculture, and I love the "DDT is Good For Me" advertisement reprint on your blog. Some folks say Google is pushing people too far, too fast -- that game theory will eventually turn around to bite them on the butt. Any way you cut it, this is an interesting time to be alive. You never know what will happen next.

Randall Magwood
Aug 10, 2013

I often have landing page issues with my Adwords account. One day it's fine, the next day they want me to change it. I can't keep up with how many times i've changed my landing page for Adwords. Mind boggling.

Don Sturgill
Aug 12, 2013

Tread cautiously, Randall. If you err, do it on the side of prudence. You don't want to get whacked. It hurts!

Jun 19, 2016

Saved as a favorite, I adore your blog!

Mike Carlson
Aug 15, 2013

Thanks Don...this series is very eye-opening for me

Internet Marketing
Aug 16, 2013

I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite certain I’ll learn plenty of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next! 

Gregg Hamilton
Aug 29, 2013

Don -- What a terrific post and message:  Click-throughs will only convert if the visitor believes that the advertiser intends to and is capable of delivering something that the visitor needs.  Thus, the advertiser must empathize with the needs of the searchers and thus of the visitors that the ads "lure" to a click-through.  Recognize that there might be multiple 'flavors' of needs among those visitors; and then offer up a landing page that pays off on the most likely need.  If the advertiser changes their ad copy, they should probably change their landing page.  (And certainly if their offer changes.)  Empathy is the key.

Leave a comment