Landing Pages, Not Just For PPC. Hello SEO.

Do you create landing pages for your PPC ads?

Do You want to maximize their SEO benefit?

Being raised with a thrifty mindset and borderline hoarding tendencies, I am compelled to use every website asset to further SEO success.  This article will reveal to you:

  1. How to know if your landing pages are causing duplicate content for organic search engines
  2. How to eliminate duplicate content penalties
  3. How to reclaim unused back links
  4. Long term strategy to build organic traffic using your paid search landing pages

Are Your Paid Search Landing Pages Causing Duplicate Content Penalties?

A lot of clients don’t realize that their PPC landing pages end up in the search engine index.  If your landing pages have nearly identical content as each other or other pages of your website, they will potentially cause duplicate content penalties without you realizing.  Your website will not completely drop out of the search results, but those individual pages will waste resources (link authority, PageRank, crawl budget) that should go into other areas.  And, Google will remember that your website has useless duplicate pages, which affects your website’s overall profile.  Over the years Google has told us to disallow, redirect and apply canonical links to those pages.  Depending on how you address duplicate pages can hold back your potential for Google PageRank and high search engine rankings.

Check Google for your landing pages by searching…

A lot of times I find duplicate versions of the same landing page in Google or Bing, the only difference being different strings in the URL.  The URL may have some random looking string at the end such as ?src=W4THMJHWWZRP. Because these have different URLs, the search engines assume they are supposed to be different pages. They may have identical content with only slight differences. Unfortunately, search engines are penalizing you for duplicate content in the organic results.  You can turn this around to your advantage!

So the first thing you’re probably wondering is how do these pages find their way into the Google or Bing index?  You don’t have any links to them, they are complete islands, pages hosted on your server with no links from any part of your website.  So how does Google find them?

Easy… someone else landed on the page from your PPC ad and created a link to the page.

Here’s the proof.  Once you find a page in a search index using the “site” search above, check that page for backlinks. Go to Yahoo Site Explorer and enter the URL for the page. Make sure you click “Inlinks” and chose the drop down “Except from this domain”.  Here you will see other websites that link to that landing page.

How to find backlinks to your landing page

How to Eliminate Duplicate Content Penalties

Some people would say to use your robots.txt file to disallow search engines from listing those pages in their results.  For a long time, this has been the standard way of addressing duplicate content.  However, there is always the potential for other websites to link to your landing pages.  Even if you don’t see back links in Yahoo Site Explorer, there may still be back links not shown (search engines just refuse to show you everything they know and there’s nothing we can do about it), you need to plan on the possibility of people creating links in the future.  Using the robots.txt to disallow a page with potential back links does not let you take advantage of potential back links.

How to Regain Unused Back Links

Every back link you have is one more that your competitor may not.  With organic search engine optimization, there are so many factors not under your control.  With all the competing websites each with their individual approach to outrank you, the only way to maximize your success is to make the best use of everything under your control.  You can’t force other websites to link to you.  If they do link to you, take credit for them all.

Instead of using robots.txt to disallow pages with potential back links, use the canonical tag.  The canonical tag can point the back link PageRank to a page intended for organic search engine ranking.

Implementing the canonical tag is something you can do right away with very little effort.

  1. First figure out which landing pages would be considered duplicate content.  If you use the same content and only change out a keyword or two, those should be considered duplicates.
  2. Next choose a page to represent the duplicates.  This will be your organic landing page.  It may be a page already on your website that your PPC landing pages are patterned after.  Or if your paid landing pages are written differently from any of your organic website, it may be one of your paid landing pages.  You may end up with several groups of duplicate pages where each group has its own representative organic page.
  3. Place the canonical tag in the head section of each duplicate landing page.  The canonical tag on each landing page will point to its organic representative. Code for the canonical tag looks like this:

With the canonical tags in place, all your actual and potential back link authority is transferring to preferred organic landing pages.

Strategy to Build Organic Traffic Using Paid Search Landing Pages

As you have time, page by page, you can build out these duplicate pages into powerful organic search landing pages.  We will assume duplicate landing pages are targeting different paid search campaigns.  Content for these pages are slightly different in that they aim to convert a different audience, whether it be based on keyword search, geographic area, time of day, etc.  Let’s assume you did a great landing web page design which may follow this example from John Saddington at Church Create.

Paid Landing Page Template

Your headlines and content above the fold should be customized for the specific audience.  Since this is slightly different from an existing organic landing page, we will optimize this page to target a variation of that existing page.  We will turn this marginally different page into a completely different page without affecting is as a paid landing page.  The areas we have to work with include:

  1. Title tag
  2. Meta description tag
  3. Content below the fold

Define the theme of this page and choose your targeted keyword phrase(s).  Create an optimized title tag and description.  Make your keyword phrase(s) prominent in the title.  Gear your description to convert your target audience, but be sure to include your keyword phrases here too.

Below your current content, write out 200 or more words of optimized content.  Keep the code for this text simple.  200-400 words of text should not add noticeable load time to the page.  Human visitors may or may not scroll down to read the text, but search engines will definitely read it.  This should be highly optimized with excellent information geared toward or even about the target audience.  This text can be used to further qualify the audience. Talk about their interests and problems.  Break the text apart into paragraphs with H2 coded sub-headings.

Once your content is complete, remove the canonical tag and add this page to your sitemap.  Create links to this page from other pages of the site.  If appropriate, link to this page from your navigation.

Enjoy free traffic on this paid search landing page.  By tackling these pages one by one, you can make transforming your paid landing pages into organic landing pages a long term strategy.

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