Landing Page Optimization

Landing Page Optimization

Written by Neil Patel & Sherice Jacob

Chapter Six

Read. Review. React.

When analyzing your landing pages, there are going to be four major categories you’ll want to look at in your analytics:

Bounce Rate

We’ve already covered the bounce rate quite a bit, but if your bounce rate is 75% or higher, it’s a clear indicator that visitors aren’t finding what they’re looking for on your pages. There could be a disconnect between your ad copy and your landing page, for example — one promises one thing and the result delivers something entirely different.

User Behavior

User behavior can give you some interesting insights that pure data alone won’t. For example, you might know what keywords you’re targeting and how many visitors you’re getting to click on your ads — but user behavior, either through an online testing service like usertesting.com or mouseflow.com or a heatmap service like CrazyEgg.com will show you precisely what the user’s actions were and where they might have gotten hung up in the process.

Understanding user behavior is crucial to uncovering any unforeseen bottlenecks in your landing pages that could be keeping users from progressing to the next page. These could be as serious as technical errors or as simple as “muddy” content that isn’t clear on what the offer is, or why the user should care (see “Creating a Value Proposition” at the end of chapter 5).

Traffic Segment Variance

This is just a fancy way of saying “traffic that comes from different referrers.” For example, users that are coming from Twitter may expect something short, sweet and to-the-point, whereas users from Facebook or Google+ may be looking for a more informative article. Understanding your traffic segments, where they’re coming from and what they expect can give you invaluable information on crafting landing pages that look as if they were custom built just for that particular users’ needs.

Conversion Rate

We’ve also covered conversion rate quite a bit in this guide, but looking at your analytics will let you compare two pages side by side to see which has the higher conversion rate, and what element on the page might be causing that increase. In some cases, your conversion rate might also drop as a result of changes. The only way to know what works is to test and track!

How to Conduct a Landing Page Analysis

Analyzing your landing pages is about much more than looking at the four categories above and making a decision. Granted, each of the points above does play a role in how well your landing page does its job, but to truly see how your pages are performing, it’s wise to start with the right data.

First, you’ll want to see how your landing pages are converting based on organic search results. In Google Analytics, navigate to Content > Site Content > Landing Pages.

In our case, we just want to see how landing pages performed based on organic searches, so we’ll want to filter out paid search traffic. From the Advanced Segments section, choose “Non Paid Search Traffic”.

Then, sort by visits to see which landing pages attracted the most traffic from organic search. As a “secondary dimension” you can also see which keyword users typed in to arrive at your landing page:

An example of a landing page with “keyword”
as the secondary dimension (image source)

Remember that it’s also entirely possible that the same landing page will come up when different keywords are used.

Here again, bounce rate can come into play. Notice in the image below that landing pages 4, 9 and 10 have lower bounce rates while 2 and 6 have higher ones. You’ll want to consider the differences between your specific landing pages to determine what could be causing these points of friction with your users. We’ve also addressed some of the more common issues in this chapter.

Conducting a Link Analysis

While it’s true that most landing pages don’t (or shouldn’t) contain links, that doesn’t mean that you can’t link to them from other pages in your site to give them some much needed organic SEO exposure.

Traditionally, we were taught that incorporating keywords in your link text was the way to go, and to put links in our site footer to encourage the search engine robots to delve deeper into our site map and index all our luscious pages.

These days, search engines have evolved and adapted — and while linking still matters (perhaps now more than ever), the way to go about it to make sure your landing pages benefit from maximum optimization clout is a bit different than you might expect. For example:

  • If you have two or more anchor links on your landing page, only the first one carries any kind of “link juice” in it.
  • External links from other sites provide more optimization clout than internal links (that means you can get rid of the overstuffed site footer!).
  • Anchor text links are more valuable than alt-text-added image links.
  • The higher a link appears in the HTML code, the more valuable it appears to be.
  • With that in mind, links in the body of the website have more value than links in the header, sidebar or footer.
  • Linking to highly-relevant content is far more beneficial than just throwing out a link to something that may or may not be truly relevant to the user’s query.

What About Google Hummingbird?

When Google made major changes to some of its algorithms a few years ago (known in marketing circles as “Penguin” and “Panda”), marketers scrambled to try and recover. Most of the sites that were penalized were “content farms” that deserved the demotion that they got. Just recently, Google rolled out a new variation, called Hummingbird. But what does it do — and how is it different than Penguin or Panda?

More importantly, what does it mean for your landing pages?

In a nutshell, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land calls Hummingbird something like a replacement engine for an old car. Everything might work fine on the car, but it’s not built to accept unleaded fuel and other modern enhancements – so the engine gets replaced. Hummingbird is essentially like a new fuel-injected engine – it’s a modern upgrade on an older but still perfectly fine-running system, whereas Penguin and Panda were more simply algorithm updates.

What does that mean for your landing pages?

It means that Google is shifting how it returns search results, in its bid to deliver even more relevance to users. In Google’s own language, it means that the search giant is placing more of an emphasis on “conversational search”. In one example, a user might type into Google “Where can I buy an iPhone 5s close to my home” — and a traditional search engine would return online electronics sites with “buy” and “iPhone 5s” in the title.

Hummingbird tries to understand the intent behind the question and, if Google already knows your location, could possibly provide you with a map, citing stores near you that might have the iPhone 5s in stock.

In another example from Google, a user might search for “acid reflux prescription”, which would traditionally bring up a list of drugs that treat the issue. Now, it brings up educational articles that discuss treatment options — to the point where a user may learn that they might not even need a prescription at all.

More to the point about specific landing pages,
it means that you should now be:

  • Using your landing pages to understand the intent that users have when searching for the word or phrase you’re trying to rank for
  • The provider of actual answers to the questions people have rather than trying to be a catch-all “solution” for everyone and everything.
  • Able to leverage social signals, knowledge graph, semantic search and other alerts beyond keywords that deliver a more personalized result to the user.

What About Keyword Data that Comes Back
as (not provided)?

Around the same time as Hummingbird was rolled out to all Google searches, many SEO professionals started noticing that keyword data became 100% “secure search” oriented — meaning it was hidden from marketing and analytics tools. Users’ keyword searches went from a few “not provided” queries, to complete “keyword blindness”.

Keyword (not provided) from Google Traffic (image source)

Google searches now redirect users to a secure Google site for their results pages — effectively rendering organic keyword research as we know it extinct. Of course, Matt Cutts, a Google engineer, essentially told SEO professionals not to panic — that, so long as they concentrated on delivering a good experience, they’d continue to succeed in the search engines.

Paid search users were also not affected, since paid results still return the keywords that users searched for to land on that specific ad or landing page.

For example, optimization and research criteria that was once available, including:

  • Conversions by keyword / keyword tag
  • Keyword traffic patterns by URL
  • Long tail keyword traffic patterns

And other analytical data is gone — however, you can still measure the truly important factors that go into landing page optimization, such as:

  • Overall organic search traffic by engine
  • Total conversions from organic traffic (by URL)
  • Search rankings for critical terms / page tags and types / keyword tag

So, essentially, the major measurements are still there — just the way they’re reported has changed and shifted to meet the demands of an ever-increasing and technologically-savvy audience.

So rather than trying to find out what keyword led someone to a particular page, the question then becomes...

Did the result deliver on the user’s expectations — and if not, how can we make it better?

That’s why continuing to analyze, refine and update your landing pages is so crucial to the overall optimization and improvement strategy. It’s not a one-off thing… it’s a continuing series of changes that lead to more of what you really want:

More conversions…more customers…more profits.

How Do I Do Keyword Research for My Landing Pages
if the Keywords Come Back as (not provided)?

The days of easy keyword research are over — the emphasis has instead shifted to smart keyword research. Of course, your analytics data is the primary goldmine of potential long-tail keywords, but you can also use:

  • Pay per Click and Paid Search Data
  • Google Keyword Planner (formerly known as the Google Keyword Suggestion Tool)
  • Third party tools such as SEMRush, Wordtracker, etc.)

In a sense, you can still uncover valuable keywords — you just have to dig a little deeper to find them. For example, although you can’t see the keywords that are driving people to come to your landing pages, you can correlate what they might be searching for along with the keywords your landing page is trying to rank for and make some informed decisions that way.

You can also still use Google Webmaster Tools to discern potential keyword data, as well as Google trends to see if any major keyword/search shifts have occurred within a specific timeframe.

Beyond the keywords themselves, it’s important to maintain the right focus when determining what to optimize on your pages. Every conversion can be broken down and categorized into two sections: macro conversions, and micro conversions.

Optimizing for Macro Conversions

Many times when we talk about conversion optimization, it’s all too easy for professionals, even with the best of intentions, to get bogged down in testing all the little things that can contribute to a slight conversion uptick.

These “little things” are known as micro conversions, and can include:

  • Viewing a product page
  • Proceeding to checkout
  • Connecting via social media (following on Facebook/Twitter, etc.)
  • Time spent on site over a certain amount
  • Number of page views over a certain amount

Newsletter subscription — an example of a micro conversion (image source)

“But Neil, I Thought Those Were
the Very Things We Wanted to Increase!”

They are — but they only lead to marginal increases overall. Instead, you want to optimize for macro conversions.

These are the BIG things that lead to major conversion shifts over time — like:

  • E-commerce order completion
  • Paid membership sign up
  • Contact form submission
  • Phone call from a prospect
  • Inquiry form submission (for lead generation)

These are the major drivers of conversion-based revenue — the bottom line that every profitable website strives to increase.

You can think of macro conversions as large, revenue-boosting changes, while micro-conversions are like guideposts along the way.

How to Track Micro Conversions in Google Analytics

It’s important to track micro conversions, because these will give you a sense of the level of engagement your customers have with your site (which can, in turn, power the macro-conversion engine).

In Google Analytics, you can track micro conversions depending on the type of conversion you want to track:

Email Subscription Goal

You’ll want to create a URL destination goal ­— with your “Thanks for subscribing!” page as your goal page. You’ll need to establish a value for this goal, which can be tricky — but consider it like this:

Since the average visit value is going to be calculated from this number, you’ll need to consider how often visitors who reach the goal page ultimately become customers. For example, if 10% of your subscribers ultimately make a purchase, and your average purchase price is $50, you might assign a value of $5 (10% of $50) to your goal.

Created an Account

Similar to setting up an email subscription goal, you’ll want to set the Account Creation Completion page as your URL destination. You should also set up a funnel for this goal, in case any prospects drop off along the way in the account creation process. This can help you uncover hidden bottlenecks or points of friction that are keeping them from completing the goal.

Number of Pages Browsed per Visit

If you want to track the number of pages visited beyond the normal threshold, you’ll want to create a pages/visit goal. Ask yourself what you consider an extensive visit according to your existing analytics data.Take the average number of pages a customer visits before they buy and use that as your guide.

PDF Download

This is a bit trickier. You’ll need to create an event in Google Analytics and then edit your site’s code to add an “OnClick” element to your download link. The event needs to call a special command called _TrackEvent so that Google Analytics can track it accordingly. From Google’s own help file, an example of such a link might look like this:

How to Track Macro Conversions in Google Analytics

This is a bit more involved as many macro conversion steps involve editing your website’s source code to include the appropriate Google Analytics pieces that enable tracking.

You can also add individual shopping cart tracking depending on what goal you want to measure. For example:

Remember you’ll want to make optimization changes with the big, macro conversions in mind — but don’t neglect the little things either!

What to Do When Your Conversions Flatline

So, let’s assume up to this point that you’ve done everything right. You’ve created true-to-life personas of your ideal customers. You’ve diligently set your conversion goals. You’ve created pages that are clean and clutter-free — but people still aren’t clicking.

Before you start wringing your hands in frustration, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common reasons that conversions turn stagnant, along with examples you can learn from.

Too Many Calls to Action

Chase’s home page imploring users to learn more

Having too many calls to action is a sure sign that you’ve got a lot of products or services that you know people will love — but you aren’t sure which one they’ll click first, so why not introduce them to a little of everything?

It’s a well-intentioned goal but far too many links and far too many calls to action will only backfire — causing the user to be distracted and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out which product or service it is they wanted in the first place.

Although you ideally want a single call to action on the page, there will be times when you need multiple calls-to-action. If that’s the case, you should emphasize the main one by way of a color change and larger button, and de-emphasize the lesser important actions:

Mac software Ember’s free trial button immediately attracts the eye with its contrasting color scheme as opposed to the App Store download buttons

Wrong Call to Action

This is the landing page equivalent of “what do you want me to do here?” You may have a lot to say and a relatively small space to say it in. The wrong call to action doesn’t give your prospect any motivating reason to want to click.

Even well-known companies struggle with this — especially if they have multiple branches or product offerings. Check out Starbucks’ coffee gear site and see if you can figure out what action it is they want you to take first:

Lots of different directions (and distractions) for potential customers landing on Starbucks’ coffee gear website

If your landing pages are guilty of this, one way to remedy it is to have a “New? Start Here!” link with a little tour through the different areas of a site. This will help new users get acclimated to what your site has to offer without overwhelming them with choices. Otherwise, you can create individual landing pages — one for each type of product that you sell. For example, different types of apparel, gift cards, coffee deals, etc.

Too Much Text

This is a problem that plagues many landing pages ­— particularly if it’s not entirely clear what their offer is about.

Check out this landing page for IBM’s DB2 database platform — and all the text on it:

The text is segmented well — but it doesn’t answer the core question:
Why should I care?

This is one of those cases where the landing page doesn’t answer the core question on the customer’s mind — namely, why should I switch my current database software for this? Or even, why should I pay attention to this offer at all? The headline “industry leading performance, scale and reliability on your choice of platform” is just a gaggle of marketing buzzwords with no real substance.

The first paragraph simply restates the headline while the sidebar encourages a quote request, a free trial, and a case study (finally!) showing the benefits of the platform. Although it’s understandable that database geeks can make out the alphabet soup of content here, it doesn’t provide the user with any compelling reason to switch, much less consider switching at all.

Title/Content Mismatch

Speaking of compelling reasons to do things, Lowes had about seven of them earlier in the fall when most home improvement projects are in full swing. Upon entering the homepage, the user was assaulted with a variety of discounts — everything from doors and windows to water heaters and greenhouses.

This is a classic case of “throw everything at the landing page and hope some of it sticks”.

For the record, I was looking for a generator…

I actually clicked on an ad to see a selection of generators they had on sale, when I was presented with this page, and while discounts are almost always welcome — it was the wrong place, the wrong time, and even the wrong page to be showing me. Whenever you have a big disconnect like this, it’s almost certain that even if you were offering “Free Money”, users would bounce right off again, not seeing an answer to their inquiry.

Too Many Ads

This issue was more-so a problem when Google Adsense and paid text ads were hot. Thankfully, the frenzy has died down some, but there are still sites, particularly affiliate landing pages that will follow in the footsteps of discount-loving brands like Lowes and throw a heap of ads at the user, hoping that they’ll get at least one click from them.

What often happens here is similar to the issue of too many calls to action. Rather than deciding on one path and taking it, the user will leave the page completely. As with site navigation, remove ads from your landing page that could distract your user from taking the action you want.

Too Much Information Requested

Lead generation sites are particularly guilty of this one — and it’s actually understandable. In order to deliver the best possible service, they need to know a lot about the person they’re hoping to reach out to. But these days, people are leery of scams, spam and other issues, and don’t take kindly to getting pressuring sales pitches from telemarketers.

So it’s easy to see why they don’t feel comfortable parting with much of their personal information, even if they could save several hundred dollars on their car insurance.

If you’re asking too much of users on your landing page, try to dial back what’s really required. Depending on what you’re offering, this will vary. For highly personal information that’s absolutely needed to deliver on your offer, you’ll want to incorporate secure form processing (ask your web host about setting this up) so that the information they submit is fully encrypted, just as a payment transaction would be.

Beyond that, incorporate many well-known trust and authority seals to showcase that you’re serious about protecting your customers’ personal information. See the section on trust seals in a previous chapter for some of the better and more well-known options to choose from.

You should also try asking for more information at a later date, when you’ve earned the customer’s trust (by providing valuable information to them over a period of time). They may be more willing to part with a few more details than if you had just “met”.

Putting it All Together…

So far, we’ve looked at a wide variety of landing page techniques for getting the most optimization out of every change you make. But this doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone!

The good news is that there are plenty of tools, services and websites available to help you with everything from creating landing pages, to setting up heat maps and tracking your improvements over time. In the next chapter, we’ll look at some of the best tools to help you accomplish these goals.