You spend the time to develop the right keyword list and write very targeted ads to help increase your traffic, click through rate and ultimately quality score. But that is only one piece of the equation – where are you sending those visitors once they click? Your landing page is the first visual introduction to your brand and it should bring a positive experience to the user. To help make sure you are getting the most out of your landing pages, I have put together a list of best practices.

Before optimizing your page, it is important to understand how users see your page. People read a landing page similar to how they would a book or magazine – they scan from left to right, then diagonally across and down the page and then finally back up to the top. That means you need to put your message across the top and the next most important piece on the right. Keeping this basic pattern in mind will help while you take a look at your copy, images and conversion form to help improve your landing page performance.

While these are a list of best practices, there isn’t a sure fire formula that works for everyone. As with all things in PPC, it is important to test variations until you find the right combination that works for you. The Google Website Optimizer tool is a great way to test different pages to see which elements perform best and are contributing to a higher conversion rate.

Make sure your headline is visible and relevant. Headlines should be relevant to the user, convey your key benefit and be located at the top where the user is going to look first. Try to work in your keyword into the headline to help a visitor confirm they clicked on the correct ad and improve your PPC quality score. Ask yourself if the headline reinstates the users potential problem or gives a brief definition of the service/product offering. If yes, then you are on the right track.

People don’t actually read landing pages, they scan. Think about it, when was the last time you read an entire landing page top to bottom? Keep your copy short, sweet and to the point. Give the important facts and experiment with using paragraph form versus a bulleted list of short statements. You might find that a bulleted list performs much better.

Design a clean, simple and visually appealing landing page. A few images can help bring a page to life, but keep images to a minimum. A landing page should lend itself to a quick and simple recognition of the ‘key message’ and should not be confusing. Too many images, callouts or messages create clutter and confuse a user. Keep in mind that visitors have likely been searching through several ads and landing pages before getting to yours, if they don’t quickly see what they are looking for, they are gone. You have 3-6 seconds to get your message across, make sure your visitors doesn’t spend that time trying to focus their eyes.

Strategically position your conversion form on the right. Going back to how people read landing pages, after scanning the headline, a visitor’s eyes are going to move to the right. If you have a conversion form, place it on the right-hand side to follow the behavior. If you have a shopping cart button instead, follow the same logic. Make sure any required fields are marked with an asterisk or similar notation. If you have a phone number field that won’t accept dashes or dots between numbers, explain this and provide an example so people aren’t discouraged if it doesn’t work correctly. They will not try to submit multiple times, so make sure it is as straightforward as possible.

Simplify your conversion form. Cut down the conversion or contact form to as few fields as possible to help minimize the visitor’s perceived risk of submitting information. Do you ever use the telephone number to follow up with customers? If not, don’t make it a required field as you may be funneling out valuable leads by requiring the information. Users consider what information is being requested and how long is it going to take to fill out the form before deciding which action to take next. If users feel you are asking too much based on what they are getting in return, they are gone. Sometimes it is better to get more conversions with less information than to get very few conversions but a complete history and profile on a person. Make sure you weigh what is important for your business strategy and adjust accordingly.

Keep the important stuff above the fold. Headlines, forms, and call to action should all be on the top third of the page in order to help guarantee a visitor sees it. Make sure you prioritize the elements on your page along with your content – if you don’t prioritize it for your user, they will on their own and may take away the wrong message or action.

Tell people what they are getting, in plain English. No one wants to submit personal information unless they are sure they know what they are getting. No matter what you are offering, whether it is a PDF whitepaper download, catalog in the mail or simply a request for a follow-up call, make sure you spell out everything a user is getting prior to them filling out the form. They want to know what the reward is before they hand over their contact info.

Keep quality score in mind along with user experience. Make sure you include keywords on your page to help improve your PPC quality score but also consider load time. Page load time is also a factor in quality score, and you have roughly 3 seconds – any longer and your quality score is likely being impacted. Avoid using flash animation, which can increase your load time and result in usability issues for some users.

Allow people another place to go from there. Include a logo that links to your homepage or other deep links within your site. A visitor may not be ready to commit yet but are still interested – give them an option to learn more about your products or company.

Try different messages, images, layouts and colors to find a combination that gives you the highest conversion rate. You may be surprised what a few simple adjustments can do for the performance of your PPC campaign.