Landing Page Optimization

Landing Page Optimization

Written by Neil Patel & Sherice Jacob

Chapter Five

Putting Your Skills to the Test

Tests are the backbone of landing page optimization — after all, if you don’t test, you won’t know how to further refine your pages so that they continue to convert well. You learned how to set conversion goals in a previous chapter, so now it’s time to take that baseline data and create some testing hypotheses.

Testing Hypotheses

Rather than testing based on your “gut instinct”, you’ll ideally want to test based on what your website data is showing you. For example, if you use eye-tracking heat maps and you see that a great deal of visitors are leaving the page before they get to your lead generation form further down, it’s a good idea to test moving that form above the fold to see if it increases engagement.

Other tests might include changing the call-to-action, the headline on the form or even what the form is offering in exchange for a name and email address.

It’s Not All About Conversions

Many conversion rate optimization professionals will talk solely about increasing conversion rates, and we’ve talked about it considerably in this guide — but that shouldn’t be your only focus. What you truly want are more sales — either greater revenue per purchase or a higher order volume — and those are the kinds of conversions you’ll want to look at boosting. Remember, click-throughs and subscriptions can only take you so far.

Now, before we jump into the tests themselves, there are a few instances that you should know of where testing will actually hurt your marketing efforts before you’re even out of the gate. The first is, understandably, if your site is still under construction or your web host has a planned outage. If only a few people can get through successfully, it will skew your testing data and give you an incorrect result.

A second issue is if you’ve just launched your site and you’re still trying to get traffic:

If you’re not even getting a successful 10 conversion goals a day, it’s best to wait until you have more traffic before going ahead.

That’s because landing page optimization and the conversion optimization that comes with it are all about statistics and probability. Not having the sheer numbers needed to be able to make an informed decision will just cut all your efforts short. If your analytics graph looks like this, work on traffic first, optimization second.

Finally, there’s the rare case of seasonal traffic skewing results: Here’s an Alexa ranking showing 1800Flowers and their relative traffic around Mother’s Day (May, in the U.S).

In the days leading up to and even after Mother’s day, you have some very different segments of users coming to the site. Before the big day, you have the planners — the people who want to ensure their gift is affordable and nicely package. Right up to and following the holiday, you have the last-minute shoppers who are rushing around to find a good gift for mom before the deadline. They don’t care (as much about) how neatly the product is arranged or how much it costs – they just want it to get there on time.

So as you might imagine, you’ve got two different subsets of shoppers placing an emphasis on two very different features at two different times. This wouldn’t be the time to try a hot new marketing tactic or make tweaks to the site — it’s the biggest shopping season of the year for your business, and your customers need to know that they can count on you and not be surprised by sudden changes.

With those things being said though, if your site doesn’t match any of these issues, it’s a safe bet that you can start optimizing your landing pages right away and see noticeable improvements in a relatively short amount of time. Let’s start by taking a look at the first step — determining which pages to test.

Selecting the Right Page to Test

The first area to analyze is the page itself. To find poorly converting pages, you’ll want to note things such as the bounce rate or the conversion rate (from the conversion goals we set earlier).

To find your bounce rate in Google analytics, go to Content > Site Content > Landing Pages — then click on Comparison View from the icons at the top. Finally, choose Bounce Rate (compared to site average) from the drop down menu:

An example of bounce rates in Google Analytics

Now, keep in mind that a high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing. If you have a user manual on your site that deals with troubleshooting or instructions, for example, a user may find exactly what they need, print it out and leave the page. But if you have a call-to-action and aren’t getting many people past that click — it’s time to take a serious look at the bounce rate.

Beyond the bounce rate, you can also consider points from analytics including:

  • Average Visit Duration (how long are people staying on the page?)
  • % New Visits (how many people are brand new visitors?)

Avoid the HiPPOs

One surprising reason behind a lack of proper landing page optimization (which usually manifests itself at this point) is the HiPPO — or the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Maybe your marketing manager or VP is reluctant to run tests because they don’t want to alienate visitors by showing them a remarkably different version of a specific page, for example.

Fortunately, you can overcome this objection and get everyone on board if you limit the sample size of the landing page optimization tests you’re running. Most split-testing software will let you serve your optimized pages to X number of visitors — so making sure you have a proper sample size to split test between is important. Plus, this way, it will also relieve some of the anxiety your team’s HiPPOs are feeling about new marketing initiatives.

So once you’ve discovered the poorer performers from among your pages, it’s time to put them in for an overhaul.

Selecting the Right Area of the Page to Test

This can be tricky, since you’re likely feeling eager to test the whole page at one time. But too many changes, too soon, will give you mixed results without ever giving you any definitive answer on what really worked.

With this in mind, the most common areas of a landing page to test include:

The Headline

Your headline is going to have to do the heavy lifting when someone first comes to your landing page. A weak, uninspiring or bland headline will never convince users to give the page another second of their attention.

The Body Text

This is the “meat and potatoes” of the landing page. Short, simple and to-the-point. You don’t need to elaborate on your business backstory or all the things your business does. Remember, these people are looking for a solution or an answer — they don’t have time to sift through a huge block of content that doesn’t immediately give them what they want.

The Call to Action

As you’ve seen, a strong call-to-action can propel people forward into the beginning of your sales funnel, whereas a tepid call-to-action will just cause them to click close and go elsewhere.

The Form

This is more than just changing a background color or a button — testing your form means taking more extreme steps to make the offer as plain as day to the prospect. Case in point, SecondWave, a mobile phone recycling service, split tested two very different landing pages. Notice that the form fields themselves didn’t change, but the design was immediately recognizable and the customer knew precisely which action to take based on these visual cues:

The original cell phone donation form

The updated donation form

The newly designed form got a 53% increase in donations with no extra spent on ads, the ad budget, or the bids themselves.

The Offer

If you’re not getting the response you’d hoped for from your offer — why not try a different offer? For example, if you’re giving away a free ebook, what about turning it into a slideshow-based video presentation instead? Different offers will resonate with different people, and by shaking things up with what you’re presenting and how you’re presenting it, you could make a significant difference in getting and keeping their attention.

Plus, it’s worth noting that things like video or courses have a higher perceived value than generically branded “ebooks”.

Trust Seals

Trust seals are more than just security buttons and badges. They can span a whole spectrum of “flair” designed to notify customers in a split-second that your site is a safe place to do business.

Examples of common trust and checkout seals

Is your business accredited? Are you a platinum-level seller? Do you have high user ratings or authentic testimonials? Do you accept specific forms of payment? These are all areas where a trust seal can make the difference between completing an action or not. Here again, it’s worth testing since some industries show mixed results with these types of seals.

Directional Cues

This is a unique type of test in that it’s not commonly included among the “lists of things to test” that you often see when it comes to landing page optimization. Directional cues are points that incorporate a face, arrow or other embellishment that directs the user’s attention toward the call-to-action, the headline, the body copy, or all three.

Here’s an example from CrazyEgg:

The arrow forces the user’s eye to pay attention to the pricing area – particularly the free trial button

When used sparingly, arrows can direct our attention visually and encourage more people to follow where we want them to go. By the same token, our minds are instinctively wired to follow a person’s gaze as well. Here are two different page heat maps that show a baby — one looking at the viewer, the other looking at the headline:

Eye tracking — red areas show intense focus

Notice how much more intently the user’s gaze was focused on the content when the baby’s gaze was also focused on it?

Live Chat

Live chat can also increase conversion rates — but only when it can be staffed during normal business hours. Showing them that you’re “unavailable” during regular hours will lead them to unfortunately conclude that you might also be unavailable for them should they proceed with an order — and that’s definitely not the impress you want to give them!

In one split test, wanted to see if the option of having live chat (shown in the lower right corner of the screen) would have an impact on their sign ups. Here is the version before the live chat was implemented:

EZ Texting’s sign up form before the addition of live chat

And here was the same page after the live chat option was added.

EZ Texting with Live Chat

Nothing else on the page had changed — but with the addition of live chat, the number of free sign ups increased by 31%, winning them a gold ribbon in 2012 from Which Test Won’s annual testing awards.

Try Video

Video is another option that, when done right, can have a significant impact on conversion rates. Here again, having a video that’s professionally shot and produced will do far more to convince a customer to take action than a shoddily shot home movie made with someone’s cell phone. Explainer videos also do a great job of selling in ways that simple copy cannot.

One site, BuyRealTwitterFollowers, wanted to test the addition of video on their own site, so they created a simple explainer video along with a “How it Works” section beside it. This in turn shifted down what would have ordinarily been “above the fold” on their website — things like expert advice, along with the security and confidence customers can have if they buy Twitter followers online.

Here was the original page with the content appearing above the fold:

Buy Real Twitter Followers’ above the fold content includes guarantees, common questions answered and information on why to choose their service

The video page used the same content, except for adding the video file, and the “How it works” section. Nothing else on the page was changed:

The Buy Real Twitter Followers page with the video and
“how it works” sections added

When this test was conducted, it was discovered that the video and “how it works” section increased sales on the site by 216% — an enviable number by any standard. It also proved that what the Buy Real Twitter Followers site team thought was the most important content (the guarantees, security notes and common answers) was actually not that important to visitors in the end — further emphasizing the point that one should always test, test, test!

Selecting How to Measure Results

There are two common ways to measure results, depending on what you’re testing and how much traffic you’re getting. The most common method, and the simplest one to get started, is the A/B split test. There’s also multivariate testing, which is more complicated, but if you have a lot of website traffic, can give you more results in less time. This graphic (source) illustrates the different types of tests:

A/B Split Testing

This is the most common method of testing landing pages and lets you compare two different versions of a page (ideally with a single thing changed) against each other to see which one converts best. If you change too many things on the competing landing page, it will be difficult for you to tell which change actually increased the conversion, which is why it’s best to change one thing at a time.

To set up an A/B split test using freely available tools, you can use Google’s Content Experiments. This is like split testing on steroids — and it’s free.

If you’re already using Google Analytics (remember the conversion goals we set up earlier?) then you’ll be glad to know that Content Experiments can be found in the same area. Simply login to your Google account, go to the Behavior section, and click on Experiments in the sidebar.

If you’ve created content experiments before, you’ll see your current experiments here. If this is your first time, you’ll want to click the Create Experiment button.

There are several simple form fields to fill out when you create an experiment:

  • Name for this Experiment — Give it a name you can easily track and remember.
  • Objective for this Experiment — This is the goal or outcome you want. You can use this to analyze existing analytics metrics or ecommerce metrics, or create a new goal entirely.
  • Percentage of Traffic to Experiment — How much of your site’s traffic do you want to leverage in this experiment? The higher the number, the quicker you’ll see results.
  • Email Notification for Important Changes — Do you want to be notified by email if there are major shifts in your experimental test? (the answer to this is YES!)
  • Minimum Time Experiment will Run — What is the least amount of time you want your content experiment to run? During this time, Google Analytics will not declare a certain page as a “winner”, since you want to reach statistical significance with your numbers.
  • Confidence Threshold — How sure do you want to be that a certain page is the winner? Keep in mind, a higher number here will take longer, but it will also increase the certainty with which you know that a page increases conversions, sales or signups.

Once you’ve filled out all these sections, you’ll be taken to a page that looks like this (image source).

Defining the pages for an A/B split test

What’s interesting here, is that you can add up to five different variations — so if you want to change five different elements on your landing pages and pit them all against each other, this will give you that option. You’ll also see thumbnails of the pages you want to test, helping you to be sure you’re testing the right pages against each other.

You’ll then be taken to a step wherein you can either implement the code yourself, or send an email to your webmaster and have them do it for you. Google will also take the extra step of validating that your code is working. If it isn’t, you’ll get an error message. You can skip validation, but it’s recommended that you not skip it (particularly if you’re getting an error) since there’s some kind of disconnect between your site and the content experiments code — and that could skew your testing results.

You’ll then be taken to a success page if everything checks out:

Success! Your A/B split test has launched

Once your experiment is running, you’ll see these options:

  • Conversion Rate — The conversion rate of the landing pages, based on the criteria you specify as a “conversion”.
  • Stop Experiment
  • Re-Validate
  • Disable Variation — Turn off one or more of the variation landing pages that you’re testing against.
  • Segmentation — This particular option is very valuable — it lets you see how a specific landing page is performing for a certain segment of your audience.

An example of a split test using multiple variations

As you run more tests, your tests and their results will remain visible in your Content Experiments dashboard:

From your content experiments dashboard, you can also see the status
of different tests

Multivariate Testing

Multivariate testing is more complicated than your typical A/B split test, but has the potential to give you results even faster — particularly if you want to test several elements on one page at a time.

Multivariate simply means that there are many variables being tested at once. It’s possible to do a type of multivariate testing following the same steps above with Google Content Experiments, in that you can test multiple pages with a single element changed among each one, however it may not give you the control or the results you want.

The truth is, it’s very difficult to honestly recommend multivariate testing unless you’re getting massive amounts of traffic where you’ll see gains (or losses) in a relatively short amount of time. For most sites just starting out, the premise of multivariate testing sounds great (more testing results in less time!) but the truth is, your results will have very little statistical significance in the time it takes to actually reach the numbers you want.

With that being said, if you want to set up a true multivariate test, you can do so using web analytics services such as Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer.

Creating a Value Proposition

Why is a section on creating value down in the “how to” section of setting up, testing and tracking landing pages? Because in the midst of all the code, technology and tools, the core reason of why people visit a site and elect to stay is all in the value you’re creating — and it’s easy to forget that part.

But the real question is — how do you define something intangible like “value”?

What Is a Value Proposition?

A value proposition, at its core, is your promise of delivering value (such as having a problem solved) to your customer. This is typically done through your headline, your subheadline and your first three bullet points. You can also add a visual to convey things that limited words cannot.

There are three major types of value propositions — including:

  • Giving your customers reasons to buy from you, instead of your competitors (delivering value based on your differentiation from everyone else).
  • Delivery of specific benefits (by a quantifiable amount – i.e. “You’ll lose XX lbs by the New Year or it’s FREE).
  • Shares how your product or service will solve the customer’s problem in a way that’s relevant to them.

Perhaps most importantly — this is not the time to use marketing jargon. Your customers don’t care if your “solution” has “synergy” and offers a “collaborative experience” to “streamline” their “sales cycle”.

Imagine that your value proposition is your elevator speech — your 30 seconds or less to tell someone exactly what it is you do (and why they should care). Could you imagine telling them using any of the terms above?

Didn’t think so.

This is why, when creating a value proposition — you have to use the words your customer would use. Tell people what you do in their language, not yours. It all boils down to three distinct answers:

  • What are you selling?
  • Who are you selling it to?
  • Why should they care?

In one landing page test, Sytropin, makers of an HGH (human growth hormone) spray, wanted to test which landing page would increase their sales — except that they changed numerous points on the landing page (so a multivariate test would likely have been a better option here, since it wasn’t clear what specific option increased sales).

The first version features a happy, fit couple along with the product image, together with different benefits in the subheadline, and more text, along with clear, noticeable sub-headlines, while the second one features a peaceful waterfall together with the product image and more checkmark bullet-points rather than several paragraphs of text.

There were definitely a lot of changes to consider between both of these tests…but which one do you feel communicated more value overall to the customer?

The first version, with the happy couple and sub-headline outperformed the waterfall version by turning nearly 85% more visitors into buyers. The traffic source, offer, the product itself, and the copy beyond the subheadline all remained the same.

Why do you think this version converted so much better? Here are a few ideas to think about:

  • Noticeable guarantee — Positioned to the right of the copy immediately attracts the eye as opposed to the guarantee being lost in the sidebar
  • FDA approved — carries a much higher weight and confidence level among U.S. shoppers
  • Guarantee — Specific timeframe (90 days) versus satisfaction guaranteed.

These are all points to consider when crafting your value proposition — as they are all facets that matter to consumers who are interested in this type of product. What sorts of statements would your own customers identify with? What would strengthen their confidence in buying from you?

What a Value Proposition is NOT:

With that point being said, many people think they instantly “get it” and jump right in crafting their value proposition with gusto — but you should know that a value proposition is NOT the same as:

  • A slogan — It’s not meant to be cute, catchy or clever
  • A hype-fest — It’s not an opportunity to seize on how great you are
  • A positioning statement — like the “number one, doctor-recommended brand”

Here’s a perfect example of a great value statement from Shopify — makers of web-based shopping cart and ecommerce software:

Use Shopify to Create Your Online Store

Everything You Need to Start Selling Online — Today

An example of a solid value proposition

This is also not an opportunity to dance around the issue or problem that you solve. Customers don’t want to have to guess — or get half way through signing up or checking out to learn that your service isn’t right for them.

Another test that involved using copy to increase perceived value came from an Australian e-commerce site known as Deals Direct.

The first version included a background overlay under the “Your Shopping Cart” text, along with text that informed customers of the site’s security and payment options. It also included links to information about the site’s online safety as well as its return policy:

The second variation (with the different headline — View Cart) explained how customers can check out. It did not include information about online safety or returns.

As you might have guessed, the first version, with an emphasis on secure shopping, accepted payment methods and return policies, outperformed the first by increasing completed purchases by nearly 3.60%. That may not sound like much, but on a large ecommerce site like this, added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the company’s bottom line.

Writing Your Value Proposition

So with that being said — how do you create a memorable value proposition that actually gets noticed?

Make it Clear What Problem You’re Solving

Don’t tip-toe around the problem. State it outright and let people know how you’re going to solve the issue.

Share How You’re Different

Don’t just tell people that you’re better than your competition — show them how. Price isn’t the only factor. You have a solution that’s different than anything else out on the market. Even if your values are the same as your competition in every way but one — you need to capitalize on that ONE thing that makes you different. It could be relatively simple, but that’s okay, because people need to know about it.

Don’t Forget the Numbers

Making your value proposition quantifiable is important to giving the customer a time frame or a reference as to how soon they can expect to see a resolution of their problem, or how much money they can expect to save. Car insurance commercials have latched onto this by trying to outdo each other on how much their customers can save. They do this because, quite simply, it works.

Let Other People Add to Your Value Proposition

You’re not alone in sharing your value proposition with potential customers — especially when your previous customers have already added to it for you. Social proof, specific guarantees, testimonials, famous customers or brands, and media placements — all of these things will bolster your proposition by doing the selling for you by extension of their own reputation.

Want more examples to learn from? Check these out!

What’s Next?

Now that you know how to set up landing page tests, it’s time to let them run. Once you’ve got data coming in, the next step will be to properly analyze it. This is often a place where people make mistakes. There are a few common pitfalls that plague even the most beautifully designed and structured landing pages.

In the next chapter, we’ll take a closer look at how to evaluate your landing page results, and what to do if your conversions go stagnant. You’ll also learn about common issues that can hinder your landing page tests, and how to correct them so you can get back on track quickly.