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You've got roughly five seconds to answer the only question your new visitor has: "Why should I care about you?"

Do it well and maybe they stay another five seconds, and another after that until they eventually become the best customer you ever have? Do it poorly and you never get the chance to find out.

I talk to Google AdWords clients about making a good first impression with their landing pages (the first page someone sees when they click your ad), and I always say the same thing: when you have less than five seconds to convince a new visitor not to hit the "back" button, less is definitely more.

"I'm sorry this letter is longer than usual. I have not had the time to make it shorter."

Blaise Pascal of triangle fame said that, and it's one of my favourites. I especially love that he's apologizing for not getting to the point faster. This is something you should keep in mind when designing every aspect of your landing page. Here are a few tips:

  • No matter how great your Flash intro is, the longer I have to wait for it to load, the less impressed I'm going to be - assuming I don't lose patience and surf away just because you have one.
  • Don't use a five-dollar word when a five-cent word will do. If I have to look up a term to understand what you're selling, I probably won't.
  • Don't get cute with navigation. Show me clearly where everything is so I can experience your site on my terms right away instead of having to figure out how to read your mind.

My advice would be to test your landing page on at least your friends and family before it goes live and ask them for a few thoughts. "Everyone's a critic" is a saying for a reason.

Something else I appreciate about Pascal's quote is the acknowledgement that brevity isn't easy. A lot of companies try to impress visitors with the quantity of content on their landing pages. In doing so, they often bury the two most important pieces of information: what they're selling and why anyone should care.

I advise people to focus on quality and to get the most out of every word. As you write, keep in mind that each word serves two functions: to deliver the information and to set the tone. "This car is fun for everyday driving" says what it needs to say. "Errands are a hoot to run in this car" says the same thing, but more memorably because it's painting a picture and setting a tone.

Remember, unless you plan on updating your landing page whenever someone new visits, everyone will get the same answer to "why should I care about you". Make sure it's a good one.

Maybe you'll do it with a good laugh or a good cry? Maybe with a limited time offer? There are no wrong directions to take your landing page. Just get there quickly.

I especially like it when a landing page continues a thought started on the ad I clicked to get there. Maybe your ad poses a question and the landing page answers it? Or your ad issues a challenge and your landing page is the arena? By clicking through, a person is indicating that they like what you have to say. It makes sense to keep the conversation going.

If you would like to learn more about how to create great landing pages, try visiting this page at the AdWords Help Center.

- Brett Willms, Country Marketing Manager, Google Canada

This is a non-paid placement.

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