11 Ways To Improve Landing Pages

I held off on announcing this to give Digital Web readers a head start. Recently, I wrote an article for Digital Web covering a few easy tweaks that could improve the conversion rate of your landing pages. Hope you enjoy it.

I encourage you to drop by the Digital Web version – their layout is much nicer than mine.

11 Ways To Improve Landing Pages

You’re about to launch a big online marketing campaign complete with media buys, search engine placement, banner ads and blog buzz. You’ve tested your creative and your clickthrough rate is strong. You know once you go live, tons of targeted traffic will be hitting your site.

Time to sit back and relax, right? Not quite yet.

Conversion’s the Word

Upon arriving at your site, you want the visitor to do something (e.g., register for your newsletter or buy your product). Your site is not successful until that desired action is taken. When a visitor takes that desired action, you’ve had a conversion. If you have millions of visitors coming to your site daily and no one converts, not only do you have an unsuccessful marketing campaign, but also a big hosting bill.

Attracting traffic is easy. The tricky part is converting it. And that’s the purpose of your landing page.

What is a Landing Page?

A landing page is the page visitors arrive at after clicking on your promotional creative.

Your landing page has to convince the visitor to stay and (depending on your goal):

  • Fill out a form (but people hate filling out forms)
  • Provide personal details (but people hate getting spammed)
  • Buy something (but people hate being scammed)
  • Read a lot of information (but people really hate reading)

As you can see, there are some major obstacles to getting visitors to do what you want on your landing page. You have to convince people to do things they hate. This is why typical conversion rates are extremely low. Here are some rates from the Fireclick Index.

Conversion rates from Fireclick Index
Vertical Conversion Rate (%)
Catalog 6.1
Specialty stores 3.9
Fashion/apparel 2.2
Travel 2.1
Home and furnishing 2.0
Sport/outdoors 1.4
Electronics 1.1
All verticals 2.3

We’re talking about a very low rate, from 1-6%.

Before we get into the details about landing page design, let’s think about the visitors.

Think About Your User

Most people don’t come to your landing page and look at every single design element. They come looking for clues to quickly answer their questions.

They want to know:

  • “Is this the right place?”
  • “Is this how I imagined it would be?”
  • “Should I click the back button?”
  • “Does this look trustworthy?”
  • “How much time is this going to take?”

Your landing page needs to address all these issues immediately. If your design elements are not focused enough and/or distract the visitor, expect high page abandonment.

Next, visitors think: “Should I accept this offer?”

This is where your marketing copy and pitch comes in. Visitors will scan your intro copy, media content, product information, testimonials, and design value and decide whether or not to convert.

Even after a customer has decided to accept your offer, the conversion can be lost. Any flaw in site functionality and usability can cause you to lose the conversion, so ensure your privacy information is posted and there are no hiccups in form processing.

11 Tips to Improve Your Landing Page

1. Define Your Conversion

Before you start to design your landing page, define that page’s conversion activity. For a newsletter landing page, the conversion activity is entering an email address into a form and clicking “Accept.”

2. Do a Little Research

A little demographic research goes a long way. Figure out what your visitor is looking for and what offers work. Build a profile of your ideal visitor. Keep this person in mind when creating your landing page. Do not construct the page for anyone else—generic and broad pages are proven to fail—and keep everything “on target.” Your ad campaign already funnels traffic to your landing page, so visitors are expecting a very targeted message. Tailor the pages to them.

3. Eliminate unneeded Elements

Distractions kill conversions. Strip any unneeded elements from the page. This is not your home page. Anyone who comes to your landing page has already been screened by your ad. They expect a very specific message.

4. Match the Creative

The landing page and creative should match. The easiest way to clue visitors in that they have arrived at the right place is to use the heading from your ad creative.

5. Remove Navigation

If you can, remove the navigation bar. Of course, don’t remove it if it is essential to the conversion process. Remember your message, and if a link has nothing to with it—chuck it!

6. Stay Focused

Avoid the urge to promote or link to other areas of your site. The point of the landing page is to prevent your visitor from wandering. You want them converting, not clicking around to other parts of your site and marveling at your Flash animations. Imagine if GAP encouraged shoppers entering their stores to leave and walk around the mall. Once they stop thinking about your offer, you’ve lost them.

7. Important Elements Above the “Fold”

Pay attention to the virtual fold (the bottom of the screen before scrolling). Place enough content above the fold to allow your visitor to make a decision about continuing on the site. If a visitor has to click or scroll to figure out what your site is about, the only thing they’ll click is the back button.

8. Provide Conversion Exits

Make it easy for your visitor to convert. Place conversion exits above the fold and at every scroll-and-a-half of screen space.

9. Lead the Eye

Use typography and color to your advantage. Lead the eye along the page towards the conversion exit. Thoughtful use of whitespace, large copy and graphics can make a long page seem much shorter than it really is. Be careful though—a great image will demand a lot of eye time and if misplaced can ruin the flow of your message.

Place the important stuff (whether it’s your copy or your image) close to the middle, and never distract your user from that focal point. Avoid putting interesting material in sidebars. This pulls the eye away from the main body. If it’s interesting and valuable, keep it close to the center and use it to direct the eye.

10. Fix Forms

Optimize your forms. Make the input cursor hop to the next field after a user finishes the current field. Allow the user to tab around fields. Auto-populate any fields you can.

Remove all unneeded fields. Don’t ask for city/state/province if you ask for a Zip or postal code. Focus on the essentials.

If you’re asking users to register for a newsletter, ask for only an email address. You don’t need their name now. Get rid of the reset button. It’s dangerous for both the user and you.

11. Test, Test, Test

After you have finished the design of your landing page, test it with a small user group. Go over a checklist with your design team:

  • Is the whole page focused?
  • Does the message match the advertisement?
  • Have you reduced all distractions?
  • Is critical information above the fold?
  • Are there enough conversion exits?
  • Does the page enhance your brand?

Case Study: A “Cheap iPod” Offer

Here’s a real Google AdWords ad for the search term “ipod” (URL has been changed, of course). The copy is decent: “80% off brand new iPod” is going to draw in a large number of clicks.
Screenshot of Google AdWords ad for the search term “ipod”

I expect to be taken to a page with some information about the deal and pictures of an iPod. Instead, I’m taken to what looks like a general product page with pictures unrelated to the original advertisement:
Screenshot of page with pictures of a plasma TV and a digital camera

If the page design matched the ad, I would be instantly assured I’d arrived at the right place. Instead, I’m forced to read the text in order to confirm that the offer I clicked on is available on this page.

I quickly glance over the headings and bold text and realize I am in the right place. However, I feel tricked because there is no explicit connection to the iPod offer. Instead, I see auctions for a plasma TV and a digital camera.

I scroll down the page and finally I see an iPod.
Landing Page

How to Fix This Broken Landing Page

Match the Creative

Provide a picture of an iPod on the landing page and match the style of the advertisement. Everything on the page should extend the original advertisement. Tailor the landing page text and use ad copy in the heading.

Remove unneeded Text and Links

Limit distractions before the conversion. This landing page draws attention to the auction information boxes. Why compete against yourself? Focus on the conversion and guide users toward the click you really want.

Emphasize Important Information

The iPod sales pitch needs to be more prominent. Currently, the clutter and generalized product information detracts from the goal. Every ad clickthrough is highly targeted traffic. Pitching an unrelated product is a waste of a warm lead. All the bold and colored text focuses on the auction process rather than the products. The goal is to sell a product, not promote the auction process.

Move Essential Elements Above the Fold

Abandonment soars when the most interesting elements appear below the fold.
Fixed Landing Page

Conclusion: The Case of the Cookie Maker

Tweaking your landing page is the most cost-effective way to improve your conversion rate. Increasing your total conversions by just 1% translates to 50% improvement in your conversion rate (based on 2% original rate). To get the same results you would have to increase your advertising budget by 50%.
What’s the Bottom Line?

Let’s say you sell gourmet cookies at $100 a box (you make some gooood cookies), and have a 10% profit margin. You make $10 for every box you sell. You get 5,000 visitors a day, so with a typical 2% conversion, you’re selling 100 boxes of gourmet cookies a day. You make $1,000 a day—not too shabby for a cookie maker!

But let’s say you spend that $1,000 to revamp your landing page and increase you conversion rate to 3%. Now you’re selling 150 boxes a day. Within two days you have have made up the cost of the revision and are on your way to making $1,500 a day.

This is a simplified example, but you get the idea.

Most landing page tweaks are easy to implement and test. Spending the extra time and work to improve your landing pages can help you realize your conversion goals.

13 thoughts on “11 Ways To Improve Landing Pages

  1. Wow, excellent article…I don’t even sell anything on my blog (other than AdSense,) but your post has given me some good ideas for changes to my layout. I bookmarked it because there is more info here than I can take in right now (yeah, I’m at work!)

    Thanks for a great article : )

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  3. I was expecting this article to help identify the techniques that are proving successful in improving conversions. Just a few percent can make a huge difference. Does anyone have proven ways to test and improve conversions?

    It seems a bit controversial to remove the navigation. I understand the point of reducing distractions but depending on the service, maybe the visitor will get lost not having other pages to browse to if they are not planning on converting today.

    Thanks

  4. uk-tax:

    This article is a general guideline of techniques that have been successful in improving conversions – but you should always test for your specific market. It’s fairly easy to setup several versions of your landing page and see which version is best.

    As for removing the navigation – again this is a general guideline and may not be the best for your particular visitor.

    You can see more discussion over at the digital-web version of my article.

    http://digital-web.com/articles/11_ways_to_improve_landing_pages/comments/

  5. thanks for the useful tips. I’m just learning, so I’m picking up ideas and absorbing as much as I can. This is a big help, I appreciate the post.

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  7. Thank you Michael! I’ve learned more in a couple screens from you than in many IM courses I’ve purchased over the years. You are direct and to the point. No fluff. It now makes sense to me. Thank you. Do you offer an extended course of ebook with more info in it?

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