In traditional marketing most advertising is linked to a measurable action; advertisements are generally used to drive traffic, or to increase sales. Which is why they are often paired with a new product launch or a time-specific promotion. Online marketing should be no different, and this is why landing pages are so important for any online business.
What are landing pages?
Landing pages differ from the rest of your website in that they are focused on a single objective, either informational or transactional. Landing pages provide highly specific information in the form of text, images or other dynamic elements and the ultimate goal is to convert visitors into customers. The conversion can be immediate, in that the landing page is designed to funnel visitors towards an actual purchase, or it can be a gradual conversion through lead generation.
The most common landing pages are built around the following conversion activities:
- E-commerce: A familiar mistake in e-commerce is to link directly to either the shopping cart or registration page, but this does not convert a visitor to a customer. Instead you should link directly to a specific product – a hero product – and provide detailed information on the product and its value proposition.
- Lead Generation: The offer here is usually a white paper, free eBook, Webinar, trial subscription or discount coupon. To qualify for the offer your visitor is required to complete a registration form, with the understanding for both you and your visitor that this may lead to a sale in the future.
- Relationship: These landing pages are about establishing an informal relationship with your visitor by getting them to opt-in to your mailing list. Over time this may turn into a commercial relationship, but the implication is not as overt as with lead generation pages.
- Membership: A membership oriented landing page requires your visitor to register in order to use a specific service. This could be a paid or free membership, with the understanding that the member’s activity data will be measured, and possibly used to drive other conversions in the future.
Landing pages should not be confused with splash pages, bridge/doorway pages, jump pages, pop-ups/overlays and microsites.
There are many benefits to an effective landing page, but the implementation requires careful consideration, and ongoing testing and measuring. This article looks at the essential elements and optimization of a compelling landing page.
Use Strong Headlines
Good landing pages use action-oriented language, beginning with the headline. Your headline should mirror or build on the promise made in the link that brought the visitor to your landing page, without being complex or vague.
Writing for CopyBlogger, Demian Farnworth presents an excellent analysis of how to craft your headline according to your audience’s level of sophistication. Using your headline to make the promise, and your sub-headline to describe the mechanism, a basic headline could read
Defeat Credit Card Debt With Only a Calendar and Spreadsheet
while a headline in a market that has already reached a high level of saturation might read
Wall Street Journal Accountants Swear This is The Fastest and Easiest Way to Defeat Debt
Every market has a life cycle and you need to constantly adapt your landing page and copy to whatever stage of the cycle you are in.
Bold Call to Action
Barring your headline, the call to action (CTA) is the most important element of your landing page. Except in the case of e-commerce landing pages, your CTA should convert your visitor instead of directing them further into the conversion funnel. This means that the registration form should be part of your landing page so that, in responding to your CTA, your visitor has already been converted.
Minor changes to your headline and CTA can impact your conversion rate significantly, and these two elements normally undergo the most amount of testing in landing page optimization. Things to consider when testing your CTA include:
- CTA Button: Test variations in size, color, wording and placement. The wording of your CTA should be relevant to the offer and convey value. For example, “Try XYZ for 30 days” versus “Free Trial”.
- Registration Form: Only ask for information you actually need. The more fields a visitor needs to complete the less likely they are to convert, unless the perceived value is really good. Should you ask for a telephone number if you never intend calling any of your leads?
Be Clear on Value
Traditional advertising allows you to imply value through images and clever text, but you should avoid this on your landing pages. You will convert more visitors if your value proposition is stated clearly. Use bold statements and don’t be afraid to highlight the value multiple times using subheadings, captions and bullet points. Show credibility by being as specific as possible – if what you are offering can save your audience time or money, state how much.
Above all else, be honest.
Your visitor is interested in how your offer, product or service can benefit them, and your copy should always emphasize this. Action-oriented words are essential, but the words you use will vary according to your value proposition, and could include:
- Helping Actions: Assist, Learn, Build, Solve or Work.
- Leadership Actions: Implement, Achieve, Prioritize, Manage or Execute.
- Productivity Actions: Eliminate, Maximize, Accelerate, Boost, Simplify or Reduce.
Focus on writing your copy in the second person, using You and Your and eliminating We, Our and your company name wherever possible.
Get Rid of Unnecessary Elements
Images can clutter up your page and distract users from your message, so try to limit yourself to only using 1-2 images. Remember that every single element used should serve a purpose: converting a visitor into a lead or customer. Including social proof in the form of logos or company names of existing clients, and even a few testimonials or reviews, offers a great boost in the credibility of your value proposition.
Use a Guiding Layout
The sole purpose of any landing page is always to convert your visitor into a lead or customer, and the layout should always guide your visitor towards this. Your copy can be hot, tight, even award worthy, but if the layout of your landing page is confusing your conversions will still suck. Short paragraphs, bullet points and subheadings increase readability by making it easier for your visitors to understand what to look at, and in what order. When designing web pages, your layout options aren’t as limited as in print, but you should always be mindful of how people read. Structure your page using either the F or Z layout as your guide.
In their Landing Page Handbook, MarketingSherpa reminds us that there are very few perfect landing pages. Those that are perfect are the result of extensive testing, and even then the marketers responsible are still interested in running more tests.
This same discipline should be applied to your own landing pages; always have an A/B test running for every landing page, with only a single change in body copy, layout or CTA. Sometimes the simplest change can result in a higher conversion rate, and increasing your conversion rate is always your end-goal.