From the November 2009 issue of Entrepreneur

More often than not, businesses that pay to advertise or promote their products or services send everyone to the same place: the home page of their company website. Unfortunately, when you send everyone to a home page packed with multiple messages and calls to action, and navigation that distracts from the purpose of your promotion, it's difficult to get your visitors to do exactly what you want them to do (not to mention nearly impossible for you to effectively track ROAI, or return on advertising investment).

Successful marketers, especially ones accountable for ROAI, regularly use landing pages to capture qualified leads and make sales. Website landing pages are like the endcaps you see in a store--the displays at the end of store aisles showcasing specific products and summoning customers to buy now. An effective landing page devoted to a single product or service offering, or one matching up with a message-specific referring advertisement, can significantly boost leads and conversion rates.

It Works For Me
As an acupuncturist for PRAHM, an alternative healing clinic in Vashon and Tacoma, Wash., Jessica Bolding has to keep track of dozens of clients and appointments each week. Her secret to spending more time on the needles and less at the keyboard? An online scheduling package called Appointment Quest. --Jason Daley

"I'm in private practice, so we don't have front office staff, and I do all the scheduling myself. Our old software had e-mail reminders, but I had to initiate them. Appointment Quest just sends out the e-mail reminder, which takes a lot of stress off of me. People get used to the e-mails--if they don't get the reminder, they don't show up.

My favorite thing about the software is that people can schedule themselves online, and immediately. Clients love that, and people come in faster."

To create a top-notch landing page, follow these five simple steps:

  • Anticipate customer expectations. Examine your ads to make sure your landing page is consistent with the messaging and expectations set in those ads.
  • Focus on a clear, unambiguous call to action. Everything on a landing page should funnel the visitor's attention to a specific call to action. Make that action as easy as possible to execute.
  • Incorporate SEO (search engine optimization). Carefully choose a page title and heading that include keywords people are likely to search to find your product or service. Use those same keywords--no more than five to seven of them--in the keyword meta tag for the page, and authentically incorporate those same words in the initial copy found on the landing page itself.
  • Reduce clutter. Endcaps succeed by isolating one product from the static of the store aisle. Excessive information and choices such as unnecessary links, navigation options, or buttons--especially ones that lead elsewhere--distract from your call to action.
  • Convey safety and trust. A professional design and carefully edited text are a good start. Add logos or seals for acceptable payment methods, money-back guarantees, memberships in trade associations or the Better Business Bureau, and any media outlets that have reported positively on your company, products or services.

One of the main advantages of creating a landing page devoted to one product or service is you can monitor your site's traffic and conversions more easily and quickly gauge the ROAI of advertising campaigns. After launching your landing page, use web analytics to identify and remove any obstacles to conversion. Minor tweaks can result in major gains.

At the end of the day, if your business is paying for traffic (either through display advertising in a magazine or pay-per-click or banner advertising online), you have every right to determine where on your website that traffic lands. Do your bottom line a favor: Create powerful yet succinct landing pages with strong calls to action that always relate to the advertisement that brings visitors to your page in the first place.