<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=763991110377089&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

The best landing pages activate a neurological trigger in the visitor’s brain that screams, “This page is exactly what I’m searching for. No need to look further.” If your landing page can do that, credibility flows like sweet, sweet awesomesauce to your site, company, brand, and product before the click-through occurs. You’re exponentially closer to meeting your site goals and life goal of buying a Hawaiian Island. If you build it, they will come, right? Not so fast, landing page guru!

It doesn’t always start with the landing page! It starts with the landing page before the landing page.

When a visitor searches specifically for your company or website (like “seo.com”), it doesn’t guarantee they’ll click. The search results page functions as the initial landing page for visitors—not the landing page you so brilliantly crafted and spent hours optimizing.

Take a look at the referring keywords for organic search in your analytics. You’ll see that you’re probably getting a lot of new visitor traffic from your business name/site terms, especially if you’ve been around for a little while.

If you’re like most, you probably aren’t doing SEO for your own name/site keywords (unless you’re SEO.com) so you probably don’t think too much about these searchers. What they find surrounding your name, even if it’s the top result, will shape their preconceptions about you and your brand before they go to your site.

Check out the first page results for “Moxie Pest Control.”

Moxie Search Results

Do you notice ComplaintsBoard, Better Business Bureau, and RipOffReport right below the Moxie listing? What would be your intuitive response to seeing those listings alongside a site you were just about to visit or give money to? You’ll likely either:

  1. Have some serious reservations about the company as you click through
  2. Not click through
  3. Visit one of the bad review sites and read horror stories about the company

That’s a failed landing page to the nth degree.

This happens all the time. If you look at the amount of click-through traffic you’re getting from keyword searches for your site and compare it to the amount of searches being done overall for those keywords, you’ll always notice a disparity. This disparity becomes huge in instances of bad reputation listings, like Moxie.

The obvious lesson is to minimize your listings in these negative review sites by being a great company. I, along with a couple other SEOs I’ve talked to, get the feeling that Google places too much weight on these review sites. Some companies who have really turned things around still pay the price for bad first-page listings because of reviews that are legitimate, but several years old.

While you don’t have full control over the SERPS, you need the first page to be either positive or neutral on the “sentiment scale.” So what do you do if you find yourself in the same situation as Moxie? (Assuming you’ve really changed your tune and don’t deserve the bad rap). Here’s what I’d do:

  1. The obvious – make sure I have the internal business controls in place to prevent some of the egregious mistakes that got me black-listed on negative review sites in the past.
  2. Reach out to my community of happy customers and incentivize them to create online citations that will contribute to current good reviews.
  3. Set up my digital eyes and ears through RSS and social media monitoring tools that allow me to watch for “incidents” and bad press, quickly investigate, and respond. Most of the time, when bad reviews are posted, they can’t be revoked, but they can be updated.
  4. Focus on getting indented listings for my own site with a targeted link-building campaign to build up some of the inner pages (Moxie has already done this fairly well).
  5. Buy a couple of keyword domains like moxiepestcontrolblog.com or moxiepestcontrolpests.com and build them up with quality, relevant content supported with link-building efforts. You can also do the same with free WordPress, Blogger, Posterous, etc. accounts with weaker results.
  6. Create high-ranking company profiles that use “Moxie Pest Control” in the profile name. Business profiles I’ve seen rank on the first page include Facebook Fan Pages (and Groups), Twitter accounts, LinkedIn, MySpace and MerchantCircle accounts. These can be bumped up above the review sites with consistent usage and a moderate link building infrastructure.

I wouldn’t waste my time trying to talk Google into devaluing the listings or asking RipoffReport to remove reviews. I wouldn’t build links to sites other than my own to boost them above the negative reviews. Even if you don’t have any negative reviews sites showing up on listings for your company keywords, these are good business practices that can help you shape the search results landing page.

So before you go building landing pages, don’t forget that people are never going to see your precious landing page unless they’ve connected with the first landing page–the landing page before the landing page.

Image credit: Devil Halloween Costumes