How "Message Match" Can Lift Conversion Rates by 212.74% [Case Study]

July 13, 2017
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Google offered to build a free mobile website for our past client. But rather than take them up on that very generous offer, they hired us to rebuild it for them (at about $20,000+ times Google’s initial estimate).

Smart or dumb?

The problem is that shoving an outdated legacy design onto a smaller screen won’t fix your problems. In fact, it’ll only amplify them. Instead, the trick is to zoom back out to the big picture. Then it’s a fairly straightforward process of:

  1. Figuring out who your customers are
  2. What they want
  3. And how they want it

That way, you can align all of the critical variables (thereby making your “messages match”) in order to improve their experience. Which, if done correctly, should also improve your bottom line; in the end, our client saw a 69.39% cost per conversion decrease with a 212.74% conversion rate lift.

Here’s how you can do the same.

How AdWords pricing works

AdWords is an auction. Kinda, sorta.

It’s an auction-based system where (typically) the highest bidder receives the best positions on the page. But that’s not always the case. It’s possible for someone to rank in the coveted 1–2 positions above you and actually pay less per click than you. (Not to mention convert those people at a higher percentage once they hit your site — but we’ll leave that until later.)

Any marketer worth their salt knows what’s coming up next.

The Quality Score begins to dictate effective pricing. It’s not the end-all be-all PPC metric. But it’s a helpful gauge that lets you know if you’re on the right path to prosperity and profits — or not. It’s a blend of several factors, including the expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Ad Rank is used in conjunction to determine position based on an ad’s performance. (That’s the 30-second explanation, anyway.)

Years ago, Larry Kim analyzed Quality Score in-depth to determine just what kind of impact it had on what you pay. You should read the full thing. But one of the key takeaways was this:

Note that if your Quality Score is below average, you’ll basically pay a penalty — up to 64% more per conversion than your average advertiser. In a nutshell, for every Quality Score point above the average 5/10 score, your CPA will drop by 16%, on average. Conversely, for every Quality Score point below the average of 5/10, your CPA will rise by 16%.

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Fast forward to just a few months ago, and Disruptive Advertising’s Jacob Baadsgaard analyzed their 2,000+ AdWords accounts (with millions in ad spend) to filter out a similar analysis. They ended up with strikingly similar results:

In fact, our results are strikingly similar to those reported by Larry Kim. If your quality score increases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion decreases by 13% (Larry puts it at 16%). If your quality score decreases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion increases by 13%.”

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Coincidence? Unlikely.

But wait, there’s more!

Jumping platforms for a second, Facebook introduced a “Relevance Score” recently. AdEspresso analyzed 104,256 ads over a 45-day period and saw a similar correlation between a higher Relevance Score and lower CPC rates. The inverse is also true.

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Okay. Three different analyses, by three different people, across two channels, with three similar results. What can we learn from this?

That the alignment of your ads, your keyword or audience targeting, and your landing pages significantly influence costs (not to mention, eventual results). And what’s the one underlying concept that affects these?

Your “message match.”

How to get message match right

Oli from Unbounce is a masochist. You’d have to be anyway, in order to spend a day clicking on 300 different paid ads, noting message match along the way.

The final tally?

98% of the 300 ads Oli clicked on did NOT successfully match. That’s incredibly bad, as this doesn’t take any PPC ninja skills. All it takes is a little attention to detail. Because what is message match?

You use the same headline, description or value proposition, and image from your ad:

great message match ad

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And include those same elements on the landing page people visit:

great message match landing page

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Sure, you probably don’t want to use clip art in your ads and on your landing pages in 2017, but at least they’ve got the basics down.

When you think about this concept holistically, it makes perfect sense. In real life, the majority of communication is nonverbal. Fifty-five percent, in fact, comes down to your expressions, gestures, and posture.

Online you lack that nuance and context. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to strike the same emotional chord with a text-only headline limited to 25 characters as you can through audio and video. It (literally) pays to be as specific and explicit as possible. And while it could take hours to distill all of this down, here’s the CliffsNotes version.

Step #1: Your audience/keywords

AdWords generated about 68% of Google’s revenue in 2014. Last year they made $75 billion. So we’re talking billions with a B here.

A lot of that comes down to a searcher’s (1) intent and (2) urgency, where you bid on classically bottom-of-the-funnel keyphrases and convert ~2–10% of those clicks.

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(Facebook’s kind of a different beast, where you instead build a funnel for each step.)

Even though it sounds trite, the best ways to come up with keyphrases is a deeper understanding of what makes your potential customers tick (besides doing the obvious and dropping your competitor’s domain name into SEMrush or SpyFu to see what they’re all bidding on).

A nice, actionable example of this is The Ad Grid from Digital Marketer, which helps you figure out which potential “hooks” should/would work for each customer type. build-traffic-campaigns-img5.jpg

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From there, you would obviously hit the keyword research market with your Keyword Explorers and SEMrushes and then distill all of your information down into one nice, neat little package.

Again borrowing from the excellence of others, my favorite approach would be single-keyword ad group (SKAG) from Johnathan Dane at KlientBoost.

For example, one Ad Group would have a single keyphrase with each match type, like the following:

  • Broad: +marriage +proposal +planners
  • Phrase: “marriage proposal planners”
  • Exact: [marriage proposal planners]

This, unsurprisingly, seems time-consuming. That’s because it is.

Don’t worry, because it’s about to get even worse.

Step #2: Your ads

The best way to scale your PPC ad writing is to create a formula. You have different variables that you mix-and-match, watching CTRs and other metrics to determine which combination works best.

Start with something simple, like Johnathan + Klientboost’s example that incorporates the appropriate balance of keyphrase + benefits + action:

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For bottom-of-the-funnel, no-frills keyphrases, sometimes simple and direct works best. You don’t have to get overly clever with reinventing the wheel. You just slap in your keyphrase in that little headline space and try to emphasize your primary value prop, USP, or benefit that might get people to click on your ad instead of all the others that look just like it.

Ad writing can get difficult and messy if you get lost in the intangible fluffiness of jargon.

Don’t.

Instead, focus on emphasizing concrete examples, benefits, and outcomes of whatever it is you’re advertising. Here are some of Digital Marketer’s hooks to borrow from:

  1. How does it compare the before and after effect?
  2. How does it make them feel emotionally/?
  3. How (specifically) does it improve their average day?
  4. How does it affect their status or vanity?
  5. Is there quantifiable proof of results?
  6. What’s the expected time to results (i.e. speed)?

You can then again strip away the minutia by boiling everything down to variables.

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For more reading on this topic, here’s a deeper dive into scaling PPC ad writing on WordStream.

Step #3: Landing page

Okay — here comes the fun part.

Marketing efforts in general fail when we can only (or are only allowed) to make surface-level changes. Marketing doesn’t equal just advertising, after all.

Made a ton of updates to an AdWords account? Great. You’ll still struggle until you can take full control over the destinations those ads are sending to, and create new dedicated pages for each campaign.

In an ideal world, each of your SKAGs created above would have their own specific landing page too. If you’re good at math, that landing page total in your head just jumped another 5X most likely. But as we’ve alluded, it’s worth it.

You start with a single new landing page template. Then think of each element as its own interchangeable variable you can mix and match (get it?). For example, the headline, hero image, bullet points and CTAs can evolve or update for one type of customer:

Attorney insurance quotes

And be quickly duplicated/cloned, then switched out for another to increase message match as much as possible:

Dentist insurance quotes

Perfect. Another incredibly time-consuming task to add to your list to get done this week.

Fortunately, there are a few tricks to scale this approach too.

Possibility #1: Dynamic Text Replacement

Unbounce’s ready-made solution will allow you to create a standard landing page, and then automatically (or dynamically) switch out that content based on what someone just searched for.

You can enter these dynamic text fields using their visual builder, then hook it up to your AdWords account so you literally don’t have to lift a finger.

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Each section allows you to specify default text to use (similar to how you’d specify a fallback font for all browsers for example).

Possibility #2: Advanced Custom Fields

This one requires a little bit of extra leg work, but it makes technical people smile.

My company used Advanced Custom Fields + Flexible Content to create these variable options on the backend of…

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