Who wouldn’t want Custom Landing Pages?
15 to 20 years or so ago I used to battle with the IT and Tech teams to try to make sure that Online marketers had the control they needed to market their brands, companies and products online.
We worked hard to ensure that you could have all your reporting and information in one joined-up place and could run a website in a singular easy away. And so did many other companies.
As a result, a mass of incredible Content Management Systems (CMS) and tools were built and offered to us. All we had to do was work on integrating email and other functions like sales and customer support into websites. Today this would also include CRM systems and E-commerce and the ability to enter into dialogue with customers and prospects directly through online channels.
Welcome to the world of outsourcing – even custom landing pages.
Today we use these tools more than ever as our users and our needs have become more sophisticated. In fact, any LinkedIn page will be filled with ads and messages about how you need the latest tools and abilities which can now be bought for a small monthly subscription.
Where we once worked so hard to install, build, manage and operate these tools ourselves today we just outsource every piece. Often each piece goes to a different vendor. Everything from CRM, Sales systems. website, accounts, email marketing, customer monitoring, web analytics, ads etc is outsourced to the latest and whizziest tool or system.
No one owns or invests in these systems any more (unless you have significant security risks like a bank). You simply sign up and pay your monthly fee and have an entire toolbox full of yummy marketing stuff – or so it seems.
I don’t have an issue with this approach and use many of them myself (these systems can, after all, be very cost-effective). Many genuinely integrate well and you need to understand that you don’t own any part of them or the information and data you put in them. I don’t think a lot of people read the terms of business or in fact have any clue about what they are getting into by joining all these tools together. But that is a different story for another time.
Custom landing pages providers.
One of the newer additions to the plethora or Marketing tools available are the custom landing pages tools, such as:
- Mailchimp’s landing page builder
These are just a few of the more common options I found with a quick poke around the web.
In this area, I am somewhat confused by the growth and demand for such tools. I keep thinking why do people need these and what problems are they resolving?
I can only surmise that marketeers and salespeople on the ground do not have the ability, skills or means to create the landing pages they need within their own websites CMS systems. Or perhaps if they do, they don’t have appropriate tracking or analytics available to be able to define the success of these pages or the overall effectiveness of the campaigns they belong to. If you use one of these why not add a comment below and tell me why you use one?
10 reasons why you shouldn’t use custom landing pages
For me using these custom page builders can be a disaster unless you are using one that generates pages on your own website. Even if that is the case the landing page you are about to build should fit into a comprehensive overall content strategy. Does it?
1. You will probably create duplicated or competing content with Custom Landing Pages.
Engines like Google simply like the idea of one great page of content at the end of one nice URL. This can be crawled indexed and ranked time and time again and has good authority and author attribution.
Duplicate content (a page that is 90% similar and residing within the same domain) is a major issue in SEO. Google will distribute your rank score across all duplicate pages it finds. So if you create landing pages that are pretty similar within your own websites domain (even if you use your landing page builder to do it) Google will drop the rank of the other pages.
Now I hear all you brainy marketers saying – “Oh, but my page builder doesn’t publish content into my domain, so that won’t affect me”. Well true, but the problem you now have is that the landing page content will compete with your on-site content for SEO rank. Furthermore, it’s quite possible – in fact likely – that the vendors’ domain has a better rank, traffic and authority than yours and so now your custom landing page gets the high rank and your main website pages no longer get any.
Well, what’s wrong with that I hear you ask? Well, over time your domain authority will continue to decline and suffer as you have less and less good ranking content on your domain. You are spending more time driving users, rank and authority to the vendors’ site and not yours.
2. Ownership and authority of the content often resides with the vendor, not you.
Have you checked the T’s and C’s of the vendor? Who exactly owns the tool and the content you put in it? Can they use your hard-earned content efforts for their commercial gain elsewhere? Once you run some integration and use a common shared login and password how vulnerable is this to security breaches and other data protection issues. Remember if they are not a European country GDPR does not apply to them and neither may other privacy laws we might expect.
Remember when you join 2 services together to “integrate” these systems you are also giving vendor A your login credentials and permission to access your content and data in vendor B. Once you’ve joined them all together and given each one the permission to access the content on the others you’ve created a lovely rich ecosystem of your users’ data that they might have permission to join together, access, use any way they like.
What happens now when a customer phones you up and says “can you please send me a copy of all the information you have stored about me in any system – as is my right under GDPR?” What are you going to do then? Can you really supply that data with a guarantee?
3. You will be relying on the vendors reporting system to understand landing page success.
You went to a custom landing page builder so you could better understand how well it works for you and the reporting on the vendors’ systems is pretty good I suspect. Once you leave the vendor (should you choose another vendor or direction in future) you will have no past campaign reporting at all. You might also find it impossible to integrate the activities on the landing page with the other pages your visitor chooses to see. Once again the reporting data isn’t yours.
4. You might become reliant on the service and feel you can’t live without it.
If the service is really good you will become reliant on it. If prices or packages change in the future you’ll feel obliged to stick with it and keep paying up whether or not it now represents good value for money. You’ve simply invested too much in someone else’s technology. Remember that good first-year deal you got on your car or pet insurance only to find that in year 2 it doubled?
5. The conversion action doesn’t occur within your domain and might be impossible to track.
One of the reasons you might have gone down the custom landing pages route was to get better user metrics.
But this is just the conversions on an external page you created with the builder tool. Even if you integrate well you are unlikely to get this conversion data reported in a sensible way in other tools like Google Analytics. Remember GA can only report on things that happen within your domain (without a lot of extra work). Your own website data will show 0 conversions for this activity.
Conversion reporting will be the vendors take on how many people convert and how accurate is this? It is often in a vendors’ own interest to prove that the landing page you created converts well – that way you keep renewing. Is their measuring method really that accurate or is it simply how many users clicked the giant red GO button you made?
6. You will be unlikely to tie together the conversion action to other user activity on your site.
Useful reports inside tools like GA will not be populated because neither the conversion or the landing page occurs here. You won’t be able to make good comparison reports. Reports like conversion and page value will have no information because GA doesn’t understand the end conversion point.
The ability to create nice dashboards and custom reports that show how web visitors progress won’t be possible because the start point is not on your site. You will not be able to compare your landing page conversions against the same conversion from other traffic sources as the landing page is not here so the start of the journey is missing. You will not be able to compare landing pages to other metric data like countries or technologies or demographic data because they don’t land on your site.
7. You will create skewed web analytics within your own website’s data.
If you set up landing pages that have relationships with your own pages (ie a user can land on an externally hosted landing page and then go to your website and then back to the landing page) you will skew a lot of the other metric data you do have.
In basic terms, the user is entering and leaving your site many times during one session and this will be reported in tools like GA as multiple users, multiple sessions and multiple referrals. Worse still is that those very cool UTM tracking codes you created to track this will also over-inflate your campaigns figures dramatically.
8. The landing page is not guaranteed to do any better.
Just because you were able to create a very pretty page with a massive flashing “Buy now” button doesn’t guarantee that it will perform or convert any better than the equivalent page you could have created within your own CMS system or website. In fact, often it can be worse. How about trying that for your next A/B test? Create a Landing page with your whizzy page builder and one on your website and send half the traffic to each and see what the results are like. Go on, I dare you.
9. You might create an inconsistent brand and visual identity with custom landing pages.
Sometimes the reasons we are restricted within CMS systems is because we don’t have all the information or the skills needed to work them effectively. In short, the reason you are not allowed to just go off and create that amazing landing page you want is that you’re not a designer and don’t have any design skills. Your page won’t conform to Brand guidelines and well-researched design principals and it might be a horrid slow loading monster that doesn’t work on a mobile device.
If you’re using a page builder to get around this then expect to be stopped by the Brand or Marketing Director pretty soon. A big issue with external landing pages for me is that they are often so obviously exactly that as far as the user is concerned. Honestly, it’s pretty transparent to the user and they’re really not that thick. Your users will know the difference between; https://yourcompany.fancypagebuilder.com/brilliant-product-offer and https://yourcompany.com/products/offers/brilliant-product. Oh, and google will probably like that URL better too – did I mention that?
10. You’ll spend longer trying to ensure that integration between systems is working.
Lastly, whilst your page builder allows you to create fancy custom landing pages really quickly and easily, I think you will spend all that time you saved working on integration. You will spend time and effort wondering why your brilliant automation rules didn’t work and emailing support on vendor systems to see if you can get it to send some data to your AdWords account or HubSpot list. Of course, this will only work on the next campaign.
Why you think you need custom landing pages.
Firstly ask yourself why you need custom landing pages in the first place. There are a number of reasons why this is common, but most of them revolve around 2 key things:
- A lack of capability in your current CMS to create the page you want.
- A lack of measuring control to understand the effectiveness of the page or its acquisition.
Lack of capability could occur because the system itself is not user friendly, permissions deny you the ability to do what you need. Lengthy publishing and approval workflows persist. There is a lack of skills or support for the cms system you have. Lack of functional options and tightly controlled content rules that don’t allow you the freedom to design. An inability to add a call to action or engagement function where you need them are often core reasons for this.
You know you won’t be able to measure or understand the success of a page on your own website or how the campaign drove traffic to it. The reporting function is weak or non-existent and can’t tell you what you need to know. I love that one of the builders is called unbounce. It’s like the builder is going to stop people bouncing. But most people I meet don’t understand what a bounce is anyway – take a look at my post on bounce rates.
Is this happening to you?
What you should do instead.
The answer here is really simple.
Fix the core issues rather than go for the quick and easy solution. In medical terms – cure the disease rather than treat the symptoms!
Frankly, if your CMS system doesn’t let you create the content you need, then fix it or ditch it for something better. If it doesn’t integrate with the other systems you’re using get some decent developers in to sort it out for you. You need to do everything you can on your own website. In simple terms move the data, NOT the user.
If you can’t measure what you need in a useful way then get better web metrics or get people who can sort it for you. Really, there is no need to be here. Tools like Google Analytics and Data Studio combined with things like Tag Manager and search console deliver great reporting. Tracking user activities on your webpages is also perfectly doable with these tools.
If you need help getting your WordPress CMS working better or with Google Analytics or Tag Manager then come on one of my courses or contact me for more help or just a friendly chat about your issues.