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Am I in the Right Place? The Importance of Message-Matching

This is the fourth article in a series focusing on optimization strategies for landing pages and conversion rates. 
An effective landing page is your single best tool for capturing new leads, reducing your cost per student, and maximizing enrollments. However, a landing page is only successful if it is visited by the potential students you’re targeting. If a visitor isn’t immediately convinced from your landing page that your school is right for them, they’ll turn away and start researching your competitors.
One of the biggest obstacles to high-performing landing pages is a lack of ‘message matching’ and ‘message continuity. If your copy and overall message of what you’re offering doesn’t remain consistent, potential students are unlikely to give you another chance and spend extra time on your website to find what they’re looking for.
In this article we will look at reducing bounce rates by ensuring that the messaging of your Google ads match up with the written copy of the destination landing page.

Feeling Lost = A Lost Sale

Take, for example, a hypothetical story of an individual searching Google for new car tires. From the initial search they discover a Google Ad promising “50% Off Brand New Durable Tires”. Intrigued by the offer they click the ad only to be redirected to the autobody shop’s main website. No mention of the deal on tires. Rather than take the time to explore the entire site for tires, most people would rather bounce off the site and start researching other options. In this case, the ad’s destination link failed to reassure the consumer that they were in the right place and created confusion. The shop lost out on a potential sale that could have been secured by some simple message matching. Simply put, If I am looking for tires, the ad should take me to tires.

The same principle applies to landing pages in higher education. When a potential student is seeking out a specific program or campus, the ad they click needs to reassure them they’re looking in the right place. By matching the copy of the ad with the content of the landing page, we work to reduce confusion, and limit the chances of a bounce.

Studies Show Most Ads Fail to Effectively Match They’re Messaging

Shockingly, an investigation by Unbounce found that in 98% of Google Ads, either the headline, description, or call to action did not accurately match the copy on the sales page. Another case study in 2016 found that a simple correction in message matching could drastically improve conversion rates. In the case of a single landing page, one company was able to boost their conversion rate from 4.08% to 12.76% just by optimizing message matching between their ad and landing page.

How Message Matching Effects an Ads Performance

In Google Ads, every single ad is assigned a quality score. Essentially, an ad’s quality score estimates the quality of not only the ad, but also the keywords and the corresponding landing page. A higher quality score can help to reduce your cost-per-click and improve the position of your ads. In other words, if Google determines that your ad is effective, it will be placed higher up on the search engine results page. In determining quality score, Google looks at how well your ad performs as it relates to the success of the landing page. Ultimately, one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve an ad’s quality score is by crafting relevant ads that match up as close as possible with the landing page.

Strategies for Optimizing Message Continuity

Having already addressed the importance of message matching, let’s turn to some ways that we can craft an effective ad that matches up with the landing page. Within a google ad, key elements include the headline, description, value proposition, and call-to-action. All these parts of the ad should remain consistent not just within the ad itself but also with the ad’s link or landing page.

For example, if the headline of an ad states, “Two-Year Massage Therapy Program”, the description of the ad should reference the benefits of the program and invite the potential student to click the ad to learn more. Also, once they click the ad, they should be greeted with a landing page that contains all the same copy. The headline should reference a two-year massage therapy program, the copy should outline all the same benefits, and there should be a clearly placed lead form allowing the student to submit some personal information in exchange for learning more about the program.

When In Doubt, Consider User Intent

Throughout the process of building your Google ad campaigns, you should always put yourself in the shoes of the potential student. It’s important to imagine what kind of information they’re looking for. In doing so, you can design a pathway for them that meets their goals while maintaining message continuity throughout the entire process. Ultimately, the keywords they search, the headline of the ad, and the headline of the landing page should remain consistent.

If someone searches “Nursing Program in Vancouver”, both the ad they click, and the corresponding landing page should contain valuable information for your Nursing Program in Vancouver. Just like in the example of tires and the auto body shop, an ad that takes the potential student to your school’s main page or a landing page for a different program will elicit confusion, causing them to think they’re in the wrong place. In a matter of seconds, they’ll leave your page and start researching other schools. When this happens, it’s akin to throwing your valuable Google AdWords budget down the drain.

Your Turn

With an understanding of the importance of message matching, it’s time for you to look at your own Google campaigns and investigate how well your messaging remains consistent. Ask yourself, “Does your message match?” Is there consistency in the keywords used throughout the ad and the landing page? How close does the ad’s headline match that of the landing page? Most importantly, ensure that every ad takes the potential student to a landing page that matches the advertisement in as many ways as possible. Remember, the goal is to reduce confusion and bounces. A potential student should always end up exactly where they expect to.

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