Landing pages are visitor’s first impression of your business, and they can be a powerful tool to boost the conversion rate of your service or product. Where do so many of us go wrong, however?
Blink. That was 300–400 milliseconds. Visitors to your landing page form their first impressions in half that time.
You can stop blinking now, seriously … it’s getting creepy.
I’ll begin with a story.
The Story of Dan
Dan is a photographer. He spends hours upon hours honing his craft. His ability reaches the pinnacle of artistic achievement in the field, and only he—along with a few of his closest friends and family—knows it.
But Dan struggles with networking, especially meeting and closing potential clients. He wears ill-fitting, poorly coordinated clothes.
Not only that, his hair is too long, his glasses are ridiculous and, to top it all off, he makes strange facial movements (like blinking too much).
His appearance fails to communicate his value.
Besides his appearance, he’s quite antisocial. He mumbles semi-coherent sentences, jumping from one point to another.
Potential clients simply don’t understand him, and his mumbling fails to convince potential clients of his ability. He can’t understand why clients stop returning his calls…
Like Dan, many businesses offer brilliant, useful services or products.
Like Dan, however, they fail to prove this because the first impression they make is so awful. Bad landing pages often:
Confuse—through multiple ‘calls to action’ such as forms, links and requests, too much copy (that lacks clarity)—information overload!
Frustrate—slow, sluggish pages, unresponsive links and poor mobile optimization repels visitors quicker than Dan repels girls on date night.
Repulse—like Dan and his bright, ugly t-shirt, landing pages that suffer from mismatching/inappropriate colors and clunky, poor design lowers a business’s integrity and the time a visitor spends on the site.
Landing Pages—what they are and aren’t
There are a lot of misconceptions about landing pages. Yes, it is the first page that visitors will ‘land on’. However, it doesn’t have all the nasty navigational clutter that normal pages tend to have.
Home pages make for terrible landing pages; they are suited for information and navigation, and contain far too many distractions that undermine the simple goal of directing visitors to your ‘call to action’.
While landing pages can inform, the sole purpose of landing pages is to hook visitors and lead them to a desirable action—usually subscribing. Some of you are nodding, thinking, “Yep, knew that.”
Well, smarty pants, gold star for you.
Landing pages, at least, good landing pages, are examples of marketing at its most efficient and effective. Paul Jarvis describes landing sites as a ‘page on your website that funnels visitors to take one, specific action.’
If Landing Pages are Funnels, Your Visitors are Diamonds
Okay, funnel brings to mind an industrial process, and our clients are more than productive units (we’ll touch on the importance of that later). However, from a marketing perspective, Paul Jarvis is spot on.
He mentions that they work through a process of ‘elimination’, where distracting, redundant elements are removed.
Other experts have carried on the metaphor, talking of ‘plugging holes’ or ‘fixing leaks’ in your sales funnel, where the ‘call to action’ (subscribe now! Join us! Start here!) is the bottom of the funnel, and any potential distractions or weak points in the content are leaks.
Landing Page Design: a pragmatic world
Design isn’t about artistry, about creation, about creative innovation—at least, not in this context. This ain’t art school, bud. This is the cold, calculated world of marketing, and research has revealed that your landing page has 2/10ths of a second to form a first impression.
No, design is more pragmatic than how aesthetic or ‘pretty’ your landing page is.
The design of your page is how you select and organize your content—be it imagery, video or interactive hyperlinks—to maximize and hold a visitor’s attention.
Color is a widely speculated topic. Research into color theory and psychology has come up with some pretty interesting results. Blue is trustworthy, red is exciting, purple is wealth and luxury, etcetera.
While these points might be true, and worth looking into if you’re designing/redesigning your website, I wouldn’t overanalyze the exact shades to use. Your time is better spent elsewhere.
“Hmm, John. Whaddya think, orange peel #FF9F00 or UT Orange #F77F00? I think UT Orange is too bold, and orange peel is too youthful. Can we get the designers to mix the two?”
Pick a background color for your landing site that complements your main website.
For your ‘call to action’ button, use a color wheel to pick a color that contrasts with your chosen color.
This contrast is the main focus. You want your call to action, the ‘bottom of the funnel’, to be noticeable and appealing. When it blends into the background, like this:
Image source: https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/call-to-action-buttons-guidelines-best-practices-and-examples/
Your eye wanders, you lose interest and, ultimately, you get fewer clients. It’s a simple enough thing, but it is essential.
Contrast (in moderation, do not send your visitors into an epileptic fit) is a powerful, necessary element to landing page design.
How Images Can Make (or break) Your Landing Page
If there’s one thing to take away from this section, it would be that images are not fillers. Space on your landing page is usually limited. Make sure that images impart some sort of use or value.
A great example would be a portrait of one of your team members. According to an eye-tracking study, real photos of relevant people are highly beneficial to your landing page.
In a study, visitors spend more time looking at portraits than written content, even though the written content takes up 316% more space.
Make sure your subject’s expression is warm, positive and trustworthy. Looking shifty or scowling might intimidate visitors into subscribing. Unfortunately, we lack statistics on this.
People—if you’re going to have an unrelated picture of someone smiling (most likely a stock image of a group of ethically varied people for political correctness), or another generic picture unrelated to your content or business, at least have the image do some of the heavy lifting.
Pictures are infinitely more valuable on your landing page if they actually provide some sort of use. Take a look at the below example:
Image source: https://unbounce.com/conversion-centered-design/
First, the image of the couple is relevant to the subject (the movies). The most important factor, however, is the direction that they are looking towards (the fill in form) and their expression of surprise/amazement. This is a directional cue.
Visitors will automatically be drawn to where the characters in images are looking. Their reaction also sparks curiosity. Another example:
Consider WriteWork’s signup at the top of the page. It displays a blue background and orange search bar / arrow (excellent color contrast). Not only that, the highly visible orange arrow points towards the desired action, in this case, searching their database.
These are two perfect examples of directional cues using images. It is the most literal method of ‘funneling’ or directing visitors to your desired call to action. It’s bold, but it’s effective, and your landing page would benefit from the use of well-thought out imagery.
If you believe the age-old adage that an image is worth 1,000 words, a video is worth 1.8 million! At least, in theory. Sean Bestor over at Leadpages has some fantastic guidelines to successful, memorable videos:
Good writing—narrative lies behind everything, including video. Writing for videos should be concise (you want to make the most impact with the least words) and conversational (you want to relate to your audience, not alienate them with an off-putting salesperson tone)
Impactful visuals—imagery in videos is key, and they should be able to assist the concepts of your video through simple, effective design and demonstration—they should be effective, even without sound
Immersive sound—sound is an underrated element in video, but it can be a powerful, immersive element in supporting your video’s narrative
Emotional appeal—appealing to your viewers emotions; desire, love and guilt, for example, is an extremely powerful way of getting them on board
Show product advantages—videos that show relatable, practical uses for your product are far more effective than simply listing its benefits
Powerful call to action—videos should include a powerful, climatic call-to-action at the end of the narrative that moves and motivates viewers
Follow these tips, invest a bit of time/money into your landing page videos, and you could increase your online sales by 144%.
This isn’t Feng Shui, but…
Space your content out! Nothing screams ‘annoying sales pop-up’ like a cluttered, ugly landing page. Visitors will run to the hills. I know that you’re limited for space.
Gaps will ensure that visitors pay more attention to the existing content. Quality over quantity.
“Content is King”
The content of your landing page—in other words, the written copy, including any forms or buttons—forms the bulk of your landing page, and is your opportunity to either grip and compel readers, or confuse, frustrate and repulse them. If you prefer the former, write with these points in mind:
Readers are easily confused by bad copy that fails to therefore really make a discernable or measurably effective and understandable impact and ends up meandering pointlessly and lowering your conversion rate word by word.
Be clear. The worst mistake you could make would be to confuse your readers. Make sure that, from your opening headline to your fill-out form, the process is understandable and uncomplicated. Leave no room for thinking or interpretation.
Say what you need to say, and use one word instead of two (unless it’s a really long silly word like antidisestablishmentarianism). Writing copy for your landing page is not an opportunity to fit in as many big fancy words as you can! Being clear and concise will also ensure that you hold the most valuable asset; your visitor’s attention.
Most landing pages benefit from a shorter length. While longer pages might lose you a chunk of visitors, they tend to generate trust and credibility. You should typically use as few words to communicate what is required to stimulate interest and encourage action. If that translates to a longer landing page, c’est la vie.
Nothing could annihilate trust quicker than the insincere, robotic sales-pitch that so many ‘copywriters’ adopt when trying to sell their product. Remember two simple facts: you’re a human, and your reader is also a human. Write like a human! Be conversational, empathize with your reader’s problems, and be honest in your intentions.
There are other (sneaky) techniques that can increase your reader’s trust. These include the aforementioned use of portrait images, use of real, specific testimonials, and a variety of other points that will all be covered in the following section.
The value you exhibit is how effectively your product aligns with your reader’s pain, problem, or position. The trick is being able to express this effectively!
Don’t write from the perspective of ‘our business, our product’. Write from your reader’s perspective. How will this make x easier? What benefits will z impart? Presenting your product as a vital, imminent solution to your reader’s problem will create a sense of urgency.
If your clients believe that you’re doing them a favor, you’ve flipped the dynamic entirely.
Clarity, Conciseness, Trust and Value (CCTV). If the written content of your landing page contains these qualities, you’re way ahead. Now that we know the approach we need to take, let’s look at the key content elements of a landing page:
The headline sets the tone for the rest of the content, and are a vital element of successful landing pages. Headlines should be clear, concise, and indicate value. Trust comes later, but you can maintain it by being honest and personal in your writing.
Headlines are composed of two functions—the promise, and the mechanism. That is, what can you offer me, and how are you going to do it?
Let’s start with a bad example:
Image source: https://unbounce.com/landing-page-examples/landing-page-love-or-heartbreak-10-critiques/
Number one? Says who? Bold statements like this need to be backed up by evidence or real testimonials. This headline is so uninspiring, it had me yawning, and it’s my job to write about it.
Not only is it unimaginative, it also fails to include both a value promise and mechanism. “The #1 Small Biz Marketing Consultant”. ‘Well’, readers will think, ‘good for you…’ clicks off site.
How about something more like:
Headline: “Boost your business’s revenues by 1000%!”
Subheadline “I can personally teach you how to get more sales from your small business.”
Promise, mechanism. It’s clear, fairy concise, and indicates the value (1000%!) that the reader will benefit from. Using first person along with terms like ‘personally’ can also develop trust.
Headlines are important. Spend time crafting yours, remember CCTV and promise/mechanism, and you should be golden. Check out copyblogger for an in-depth guide on headline creation.
The body of your landing page should be a direct follow-up from your headline. It should build upon each of the CCTV ‘guidelines’. Here are some powerful techniques to do so:
Tell a story: documenting the story of your product will not only humanize you and your business (developing trust), it will also demonstrate how your product was used to overcome a particular obstacle that you identified (value).
Be specific: indicate exactly how your product will benefit your reader. Using relevant statistics can be beneficial.
Use (expert) testimonials: a testimonial from your average Joe won’t benefit you much, but one from an industry leader or expert will. Bonus points: include a testimonial that mentions specific benefits, e.g. “this product boosted our sales by 9,999%!”
Talk like a person—seriously, this needs repeating. Your readers are exhausted by sales pitches. Talking to them personally and approaching your product from their perspective will work in your favor.
The Brilliant, Exciting World of Forms
Every landing page should have a form. This is how you gather relevant information, and consequently turn your readers into clients. Forms might seem boring, but don’t be tempted to neglect them. Ensure that they:
Stick out—choose a contrasting color, and make sure your form is large enough to be noticed.
Aren’t too long—long forms put visitors off! Collect only the vital information that you require to lead your clients to the next steps, and make sure your questions are simple.
Call to Action
Ah, the fabled ‘call to action’. It leaves the impression of wartime, and the call to duty. It’s empowering. For those who have no clue, the ‘call to action’ is the little button thingie that visitors will click to submit their information, subscribe or buy.
‘Submit’ is actually the worst word choice for a call to action. ‘Submit’ isn’t empowering. ‘Submit’ is boring, submissive. Choose a ‘call to action’ that imparts the idea of value, like: ‘Join our community’, ‘Increase revenue now’, ‘Get your free Ebook’.
Your ‘call to action’ is the bottom of the sales funnel. Treat it with due respect! Make sure it is noticeable (contrast, size, placement) and impactful. For an effective ‘call to action’, provide your solution to their problem (increase sales / redesign your site / make x easier).
Visitors will associate clicking that button with said beneficial solution. Offering a free sample is a highly effective way of increasing your conversion rate. Why wouldn’t they click a button to get a free ebook/chapter/assessment?
Test, Hone and Optimize—Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
Landing pages truly are a condensed spectrum of design, copywriting and marketing. Naturally, you’ll need to practice and experiment with what works best. A/B testing is a key tool to this process.
A/B testing simply directs 50% of traffic to one version of your landing page (A), and 50% to another (B). It will then allow you to discover what content is most effective when it comes to converting viewers.
Use software such as Optimizely or CrazyEgg to analyse different versions of your landing page. Key elements to test would be your headline, your form, your call to action, images, and testimonials.
Honing your content in this way will take time, but will also ensure that you convert the maximum number of viewers possible. Experimenting with different ideas will most certainly pay off.
Never underestimate mobile optimization. Nearly 60% of online traffic is via mobile devices (iPads, smartphones, Kindles, etc). If your landing page is clunky, loads slowly and fails to interface with mobile users, you’re losing out on the majority of your clients.
Similarly, ensure that your landing page is generally optimized. Slow loading pages are death for conversion rates. Visitors are impatient, and they’ll click off your page after a few seconds of waiting. Images should be appropriately sized for this.
Goodbye! Now Go Forth and Conquer
We’ve been through the elements of design, and how to utilize them effectively. We’ve also gone into detail about the content structure of your landing page, and how to win your visitors over to your side with clear, concise content that establishes trust and value.
With all of this knowledge, you have no excuse not to write an awesome, powerful landing page that converts visitors into clients. Your service or product is excellent. It’s time to let the world know it.