Landing Page Optimization
How Landing Pages Fit Into Your Marketing Arsenal
A landing page, simply put, is any page that gets traffic from anywhere other than the same pages on your site — hence the name landing. It’s most commonly associated with pay-per-click ads like Google Adwords, where you can drive traffic to a specific URL that has been designed to receive those visitors. We’ll talk more about Adwords in chapter three, but for now — it’s back to basics.
The problem with most landing pages is that they’re created around broad categories like “jeans” instead of being more specifically focused like “women’s skinny jeans” or “juniors bootcut jeans”. These days, people intuitively understand that when searching the web, the site whose description most closely matches their search is likely to be the winner. And when you’re paying for clicks — you’re losing money every time a customer goes elsewhere.
Does Keyword Relevancy Matter?
You may think that once you’ve caught the user’s attention (and their click) with a highly targeted ad — that your job is done. Retailer California Closets wanted to test this theory out for themselves. Would an ad-specific landing page outperform a more generic one?
Although it’s unclear what the original ad text was, one could theorize that it was “get organized” — which then leads people directly into the site with organization tips and products.
The ad-specific landing page outperformed the generic page by increasing lead form submissions by 115%
With this in mind, a landing page is generally your first and only opportunity to make a first impression with your customer. It’s your chance to start a conversation, ask a question, invite discussion and welcome clicks on into your site. For many sites, particularly those in high-competition areas, it may be your only chance to reel in a visitor and convince them that your offer is worth their time and attention.
That means you simply can’t afford to get it wrong.
Fortunately, setting up and using landing pages in your overall marketing plan is relatively easy. It’s just a matter of creating a web page that combines all the components needed to make a page successful for your specific customer.
Of course, entire books have been written on the subject, and it’s still very much an evolving science. But this guide will work hard to dispel the myths, lift up your conversion rates, and get you on the right track.
Is My Home Page a Landing Page?
It is if your visitors type in your URL directly. But this is likely because they’re familiar with your brand and site already — not that they just happened upon your site mysteriously. Typically, your home page is a more broad, generic introduction to what you have to offer, rather than being narrowly focused to one particular topic.
Many marketers mistakenly direct pay-per-click traffic to their home page, thinking that their visitors will “figure out” where they want to go. Bad news — they won’t. There’s just too much competition, too many opportunities to comparison shop, and limited time to do so. And all these reasons are why we create landing pages — to simplify and streamline the entire process.
Why Should I Use Landing Pages?
Landing pages let you narrow your focus and remove the clutter from your pages that could distract your visitor from taking the action you want them to take. It allows you greater control to direct them and help them find what they’re looking for much faster — and this, in turn can ripple out to affect your search engine rankings too.
Even if people have landed on your page and know exactly what they’re looking for — they want to take the quickest action possible to get results. This was exactly what Time Doctor, a productivity software tool wanted to test in their own landing page. They created a long, detailed page which covered all the major features of their program (see screenshot) and tested it against a much shorter, single “screen-width” page:
The shorter version converted 36% more customers than the longer version. However, it’s worth noting that not all short copy pages will outperform their longer counterparts. Depending on the item being sold — a higher price-point product would likely have required a more in depth showcase of features and benefits.
So What Does This Mean for My Search Engine Ranking?
Since search engines like Google are all about relevancy, they want people to find what they’re looking for. If your site does a good job of that in a straightforward way, then chances are, you’ll steadily outrank your competitors for being the answer to the searcher’s needs — it’s a win-win!
Good landing pages, in turn, can improve your conversion rate — which is the percentage of visitors that ultimately took the action you wanted. These people have been converted from visitors to interested shoppers to potential buyers and hopefully, lifelong customers.
Landing pages are like signposts that direct buyers at each stage to take that next all-important step.
When is the Best Time to Use a Landing Page?
Not all pages are cut out to be landing pages. That’s why, ideally you’ll want to use them:
As destinations in your pay-per-click ads Create a different landing page for each keyword and group so that you can test, track and see how each one performs.
To create anticipation about a product launch
Landing pages are a great way to promote a “coming soon” teaser — even if the product isn’t finished yet.
To segment your offers No single offer will appeal to everyone. Some people prefer printable coupons, while others would rather redeem promo codes online. Landing pages can help you steer visitors exactly where you want.
To segment your audience Just like your offers, not every visitor should be directed to a generic “one-size-fits-all” landing page. Attract different groups with pages tailored specifically to them and their needs.
How Do Landing Pages Fit In with Other Online Marketing Strategies?
Landing pages aren’t meant to replace any other forms of marketing, but rather add to them.
Unlike most other marketing strategies, however, landing pages follow a keep-it-simple approach. When it comes to design, content and other aspects of a page — less is more. This means that it’s not uncommon to see landing pages with the entire site navigation stripped away so that few elements remain on the page.
We’ll discuss the exact anatomy of a winning landing page further on in the chapter — but for now, it’s important to understand the role that landing pages play in your overall marketing plan:
Landing Pages and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Landing pages are designed to go hand-in-hand with search engine optimization. Any optimization strategies that you employ across your site should also be used on your landing pages as they can only benefit from it.
Landing Pages and Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
Landing pages and Pay-Per-Click advertising go together perfectly, and landing pages being used as destinations for PPC ads are one of their most common and most popular uses. But you should also know that landing pages can be used just as successfully with organic search engine rankings — they’re not reserved solely for paid ads.
Landing Pages and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
It’s a very common misconception that conversion optimization (the act of getting your customers to take the action you want them to take on your site) is done solely by landing pages. Conversion optimization involves many more aspects — but landing pages are a strategic part, and just one of the ways you can convince customers to come further into your site and interact with it.
Landing Pages and Social Media Marketing
Landing pages also work well with social media, and many businesses have one or more pages for their fans on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites they frequent.
As you’ll see, landing pages give you an easy way to create a customized destination for every customer segment, marketing campaign, special offer or pay-per-click add. As such, they’re immensely powerful.
But, as with all great marketing strategies, there are some things that they can and cannot do. Let’s take a closer look:
Landing Pages are NOT:
Long sales letters
This is not your chance to go into great detail about how great your product is, but rather to provide the user with exactly what they’re looking for — immediately. Remember, relevancy is key here. If they want to know more, they’ll come back.
“Name Squeeze” pages
These are part of an old internet marketing tactic that presented users with a choice: enter your name and email to get a freebie, or go elsewhere. Landing pages are more evolved than this.
An opportunity to push a hard sell
This is also not the time to pressure your buyers. For many people, this is the first impression and likely the only one. You want them to take the next step into your funnel — you don’t want to shove them into it!
A once-and-done strategy
Landing pages need to evolve and change as the market and demands change. You should always be testing and refining your message so that it is more relevant, more helpful and more on target with what your customer wants. This is a long but thoroughly rewarding process as it gets you closer to achieving your overall marketing goals.
The Problem with Most Websites
The issue that most websites have is that they are built from either a design or development perspective.
With a design perspective, there’s an emphasis on the aesthetic. A great deal of attention is paid to typography, color, consistent branding, the tone and “voice” of the content and other creative areas.
With a development perspective, there emphasis is on the platform. How is content published and managed? What kinds of content are accepted? How will the platform evolve as needs change?
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these points of view, they’re missing the marketing element which should be at the foundation of any site designed to sell. Because we’re so caught up in design/development changes and their various stages, we often forget to put the customer first and ask — what are they looking for? And more importantly, how can we deliver that experience and make it flawless at every step of the way? This is where the design and development points come in.
Case Study: How Much Should You Include on a Page?
The question then becomes — what’s the right amount of content and design on a page? Confidis, a French credit loan service, tested two variations of its landing pages — one which removed images, navigation and even customer support links, and the other which included all of these elements:
Here was the original page: (Source: WhichTestWon)
The updated Confidis landing page without navigation, images or support links
The results were astonishing — a full 48% more people signed up as a result of viewing the shorter, “stripped out” landing page. It was shorter, more compact and all of the information the user needed loaded “above the fold” — within the first 1/3rd of screen space.
These are just a few of the ways that a reworking of existing screen space, and prioritizing different elements can have a dramatic effect on increasing conversion rates and bringing in more customers with less effort, time and money spent.
But how do these changes affect search engine optimization? You might be surprised to learn that landing pages aren’t designed to replace SEO at all.
SEO vs. Landing Pages
Search engine optimization is a component of landing pages — but it isn’t designed to compete with them. Now that Google is hiding keyword data — marketers can no longer put as much of an emphasis on keyword research as they once did. Now, the strategy shifts from pure optimization to pure intent.
“What did the customer have in mind when they found our page?”
The first step, therefore is to bridge the gap between what the user’s intent is, versus your landing page. As an example, someone searching for “cheap flights to Paris” may only be in the starting phases of planning their vacation, whereas someone searching for “cheap flights to Paris from Denver in May” may have their calendar all planned out and might optionally be looking for car rentals, hotels and activities to do during that time.
That’s the difference — and power — of intent.
Once the user determines that your page most closely matches their question or issue — they’ll give you a click. But your job isn’t finished yet.
Scanning for Visual Clues
Web users are, by nature, “scanners” rather than readers. They don’t have time to read all that content you worked so hard on writing. They want to know — at—a—glance, whether or not your page is going to meet their expectations. They’re also secretly judging you, asking themselves, “Can I trust this advice? Is it safe? What else should I know about this?”
Matching Headlines with Search Queries
One of the most important steps that you can take to improve both your landing page conversion rate and your search engine optimization is to match headlines with your user’s search query.
In this example from Search Engine Watch, the search phrase was best health insurance plans for single men. The resulting first ranked entry was the Ask Men website, with the title “best health insurance plans”.
This communicates two points — that the site is a recognized authority and it likely has the answer the user is searching for. It’s also easy to visually scan and understand within seconds — all things that searchers want:
The AskMen homepage explores the best insurance plans for single men — its headline is right on target with the searcher’s query
The page above could do with a lot less clutter — but considering that their galleries and advertising are the biggest money-makers for the site, rather than the articles, it still does a good job balancing out the user’s inquiry with what it needs to keep earning profit.
Now that you understand how landing pages are different from other marketing methods — the question you should be asking is “what do my users want from my landing page?” They won’t readily tell you, but enough marketing tests and psychological profiles have been done to tell us which types of pages typically perform best no matter what the user is looking for:
Headlines with Direction
Users want to be told where to go, what to do, and how to do it. That’s why the best performing landing pages have a clear, concise headline that immediately speaks to the reader’s wants, fears or needs. Here’s just such a headline from Carelogger, a diabetes tracking system that instantly addresses the user’s concerns:
Anyone struggling with diabetes wants to keep themselves in better shape and keep their blood sugar on target— and by highlighting what it tracks, as well as the words “Optimal Health”, Carelogger was able to increase their conversion rate by 31% because they matched their headline to what their audience wanted.
Clear, Concise Language
The Encyclopedia Britannica was able to boost their conversion rates by an astonishing 103% just by adapting their copy to include everyday language which included bullet points that highlighted the best reasons to buy now:
Apple’s marketing team are masters at “less is more” when it comes to selling some of their most powerful benefits. How would you describe something as complex as Siri in just a few words?
One sentence. Unlimited possibilities.
Focus on the Customer
People visiting your landing pages want to know that they’re important and valued. Using self-centered language like “I” and “we” gives the impression that you only care about yourself or your business/solutions rather than the customer.
Email management service AwayFind once used the headline “Let us find urgent messages” — but in a test, they replaced it with “Let urgent emails cut through the clutter and find YOU”. Not only does this sound much less “stalker-ish” and give less of an impression that the company decides what’s urgent or not — but it puts the user in a position of control and convenience.
As a result, AwayFind increased signups by 91% — a remarkable achievement by any measurement.
Adding security seals, such as what Mint.com employs on their page, ensures that your personal and financial data is safe with them — and that they have the third-party credentials to back up their promise:
Let’s quickly go over what we’ve learned so far
Landing pages are designed as a springboard for users to step further into your site. They do this by being relevant and focused on a single point — such as the user’s search inquiry. They are most commonly associated with pay-per-click pages such as Google Adwords but are certainly not limited to that platform.
Using landing pages is all about maximizing your return on investment for each customer. The more specific, simple and streamlined a page is, the more likely the user will take the desired action.
Ideally, landing pages should be used to segment your offers, your users, as destination pages for your pay per click ads, and/or as a way to create anticipation about a product event (and encourage users to sign up as the event comes closer).
There are certain things that landing pages are not built to do — mainly act as long-form sales letter or simple name-squeeze pages. Your landing page is essentially the “welcome mat” that draws visitors into the rest of your site. Provided that you have a captivating offer that resonates well with them, you’re digitally encouraging them to walk through the front door.
Some of the best converting landing pages embody the philosophy of “less is more”. It’s common to remove superfluous graphics, navigation, testimonials and even customer support options to help the user focus on a single action you want them to take.
Search engine optimization isn’t meant to replace landing pages or vice versa. SEO adds to landing pages, and when done right, landing pages can in turn increase relevancy in the eyes of the search engine and potentially increase your rankings.
Users have certain expectations you must fulfill if you want them to take the next step, mainly: a headline that matches their inquiry, clear, easily-understandable language, a focus on their needs and the elements of trust and credibility in choosing to do business with you.
These are the main ingredients customers are looking for when they land on your pages. And, they want all of these things in a fast-loading, easy-to-browse, and user-friendly environment.
Sound like a tall order to fill? Not when you apply the strategies we’ll learn in Chapter 2. Targeting your customer is just as important as targeting your pages to meet their expectations. Bring in the wrong type of customer and no matter how good your pages are, they won’t convert.
That’s why, in chapter 2, we’ll be learning about your target market, including creating personas that you can use for various “test runs” of your landing pages to determine that you’re including the information customers are seeking. You’ll also learn about the different components that make up a landing page, and how to use them for best results.
Finally, we’ll jump into one of the most important aspects of landing page design and development — testing and tracking. This part is vital to ensuring that you’re making the right decisions with all of the available data, so that as you gain more and more insight about your buyers, you’ll be able to make changes that encourage even more interaction and higher conversion rates.
Sound exciting? Let’s dive right in!