Meeting User Expectations: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

By Samantha Kerr | @samantha__kerr | CRO Manager

For those of you who missed our flash webinar a couple of months ago, today’s post will focus on meeting user expectations. As CRO manager, one of my main focuses is making sure users aren’t left confused or wondering where they are when they land on a page. We’ll look at a handful of examples today and discuss how the user expectations are or are not met. To do so, we’ll be focusing on a couple of main topics: congruency and intent. Through these examples, we’ll see how PPC & CRO both play a part in setting and meeting user expectations.


User Expectations


To start off, let’s understand what we mean when we say ‘user expectations.’ Users begin their search by entering a query. They are expecting to find ads related to their search. So, the first question we want to ask is, “Are we serving users an ad that speaks to what they’re searching for?”


Once we’ve garnered the ad click, we need to ask the question, “Are they finding what they’re looking for once they arrive on our landing page?” Users click on our ads because of the pronounced benefits or features, or they knew that was exactly what they were looking for. We want to ensure we are reinforcing what they saw in the ad on our landing page, which is a great segue into congruency.




When creating our ads and analyzing our landing pages, we want to ensure that our keywords, ad copy, and landing page are congruent, or consistent. As we mentioned above, users want to see an ad that speaks to their search. Therefore, we want to ensure that our keywords are present in our ad copy. The next step is making sure the messaging we use in our ad copy is reinforced on the landing page. Main points to focus on are headlines, call-to-actions (CTAs), and features/benefits. If we ensure we have congruency from keyword to ad copy to landing page, we’re going to be set up to meet user expectations. Here are a few examples of where we found congruency and where we didn’t.


Congruency – The Good


Search Query: size 4 soccer ball


Ad Copy




Landing Page




This example is a perfect case of what it means to have congruency. The keyword that was searched is present in the headline as well as the description line. We see that we’re taken to a page specifically for size 4 soccer balls. We’re also getting the exact “free shipping” messaging reinforced to us on the landing page. This is great because if “free shipping” was the reason users chose our ad over a competitor’s, they don’t have to wonder if they’ll actually get free shipping. We’ve met their expectations in the ad and on the landing page.


Congruency – The Bad


Search Query: patio furniture


Ad Copy




Landing Page




This example has a couple of problems. While we have included the words patio and furniture in the ad and on the landing page, we aren’t meeting all of the user expectations for a couple of reasons. The first, very obvious, issue is regarding the free shipping offer. The ad states, “Free Shipping on Items $499 or More.” This seems like an offer that would lead users to click on the ad. However, once they arrive to the site, they immediately see that free shipping is $599 or more. There are immediate conflicting messages here that could cause users to bounce right away.


There’s another offer stated within the ad: “Save Up to 40% on Patio.” This messaging is directly in the headline and a great discount on exactly what the user is searching. However, when the user gets to the landing page, there’s no mention of this sale and the offer has lost credibility. Users may not want to search to see if this offer is actually valid or not. These are just two small details that could cause The Home Depot to lose potential customers.


Congruency – The Ugly


Search Query: tv stand


Ad Copy




Landing Page




This example lacks congruency right off the bat. The user is searching for a TV stand, but when looking at the Value City ad, there’s no mention of this item. They’re going to have a hard time convincing the user to even click on their ad. The only thing convincing users to click is the chance to save up to $300 when you spend $999. However, this offer isn’t presented to the users on the landing page. The only thing that’s promising about the landing page is that we do see some TV stands pictured. We can barely even see the words “tv stand” in the breadcrumbs. It’s obvious that this ad needs to be better targeted to what the user is searching and the landing page needs to mimic the ad messaging.


Let’s now take a look at user intent.


User Intent


We have to consider user intent when creating our ads and analyzing our landing pages. Are users looking to buy a product? Are they still in the researching phase? We have to consider what the user wants to see when clicking an ad. Here are a few examples of where user expectations are and are not met based on their intent.


User Intent – The Good


Search Query: dog beds


Ad Copy



Landing Page




This scenario is a great example of user intent being perfectly addressed. The user, searching for dog beds, clicks on the PetSmart ad for dog beds. Expectations are clearly met right when the user gets to the landing page. Not only do we see the images of the beds and the headline “Beds & Blankets” but they’ve also placed a dog on the first image, above the fold, so there is no question what type of beds these are. Users looking to buy dog beds are going to find just the product they’re looking for.


User Intent – The Bad


Search Query: pink converse


Ad Copy




Landing Page


Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 9.36.55 AM


This Nordstrom example presents a couple of issues. The first issue regards intent. In searching for pink converse, users are delivered an ad for Nordstrom stating “Pink Converse” in the headline and a clear call-to-action of “Shop Now.” However, once on the landing page, users have to scroll to find the product. Above the fold, there are no shoes visible. This may cause users to believe they’re in the wrong place. We want it to be clear right away that users are going to find what they’re looking for. Therefore, the expectation to see converse on this page isn’t met.


The other issue is about the specific product itself. Remember that the user was searching for pink converse. We don’t see any pairs of pink converse shoes on the page. Users aren’t going to find what they’re looking for on this page and they’ll leave to find the correct product on another site. If we take a look at the ad, we’ll start to see the second part of this issue. The ad states, “Shop Converse for men, women & kids.” This messaging is great because the user didn’t specify gender. However, the users are taken to Converse for Women. So, what makes this a bad example? Users aren’t presented with product immediately upon landing on the page and will not find the pink converse shoes. Furthermore, if users are not searching for women’s pink converse, they won’t find product. Many of the user expectations are not met.


User Intent – The Ugly


Search Query: buying a hot tub


Ad Copy




Landing Page




The last of our examples is a pretty obvious one. We want to ensure that this problem never occurs, as it is the easiest way to lose potential customers. This user is looking at buying a hot tub and presented with an ad that gives many reasons to click through. The user can compare models, find a dealer, see financing and more. All these great options and the ad leads to a 404 error page. There’s a great chance this will result in an immediate bounce, the last thing you want to happen once you’ve spent money to get users on your site.




By looking at congruency and user intent, we can see how it’s important to set and meet user expectations when creating ads and analyzing landing pages. Both PPC & CRO need to be involved when going through this process to ensure expectations are met. As a reminder, when writing ads we need to be sure we are serving users an ad that speaks to what they’re searching. When analyzing landing pages, we need to be sure they’re able to find what they’re looking for without having to search for it. We’re more likely to convert new and potential customers by keeping their expectations at the forefront of our minds.