A landing page is the first page that visitors see after clicking on your banner ad, PPC ad, or promotional email. It can be a specific page on your website or a separate page created exclusively for search engines. A landing page is designed to direct visitors to take a specific action, such as making a purchase, completing a registration, or subscribing to your mailing list.

Your landing page pretty much determines the success of your ad campaign. Good landing page = good ROI. Crappy landing page and you have just (needlessly) wasted your money.

3 rules you don’t want to break

Rule 1: Never send traffic from an ad to your home page

You should never drive traffic from your promotional campaigns – whatever they are – onto your website’s home page. Home pages are usually cluttered with information, there are many possible actions a visitor can take, and the most important one might be missed. Hence you want to drive traffic from your promotional campaigns to a page that is aimed at only one thing – getting them to take the action that is the goal of your campaign.

An effective landing page is a crucial component to helping you convert browsers into buyers.

Rule 2: Clarity and relevancy will make it or break it

Visitors spend just seconds looking at a landing page before determining its usefulness and relevance to their needs. If they can’t find what they’re looking for, or if your site has functional or usability problems, they will abandon the page.

Rather than let that happen, make the few seconds you have their attention count and answer the questions that are on their mind:

  • Does this place have what I am looking for?
  • Is there enough information?
  • Can I trust this site?
  • How long will this all take?

Your landing page must entice visitors to stay and complete the desired action for conversion, whether it’s filling out a subscription form or buying a product.

Rule 3: Good landing page follows a certain structure

  1. A benefit oriented headline
    The headline is the most important part. If the visitors came by clicking on an ad, it must correspond to the ad text that triggered the page. If your banner or PPC ad said „Breakthrough meditation system“, then this phrase should also be included in the headline of your landing page.
  2. Relevant and short copy
    Make it clear, relevant, concise. Don’t put too much text on the page, as the visitor has to be able to read it quickly. Use bullet points to drive the main points home. Make sure the language in the ad is also present in the copy of the landing page. Content relevancy to ads is now a more important factor in Google AdWords.
  3. The focus is on getting visitors to take one specific action.
    There should be only ONE possible action for the visitor to take – be it subscribing to something, making a purchase or something else. Don’t offer options or the conversions will suffer.
  4. There are no distracting navigational links.
    Remove all extra clutter – links, menus, buttons – that have nothing to do with the particular ad/campaign. The point is that the visitor cannot ignore your message by navigating away, and therefore focuses on only that page.
  5. There is a prominent subscription form or checkout option.
    The one action you want the visitor to take has to be big and obvious. Put a large sign-up form on the right side of the landing page, make it stand out. If the landing page is long enough for scrolling, duplicate the form or button in the very bottom of the page.
  6. Maintain your brand.
    Don’t make your landing page look different from your overall website and brand. Keep the same colors, font – the overall look and feel of your main site. This helps to enforce the brand awareness.
A good landing page also loads fast. People just don’t have the patience with slow pages. Use Google Page Speed to measure the speed of yours. It will also give you recommendations for improving page speed.

4 step process to start designing your landing page

Before you talk to your designer to create the landing page, draw one on the paper. Follow these 4 steps to get it right.

And make sure the designer works with the actual copy, not lorem ipsum. So write the copy first.

1: Identify your audience

Make sure the landing page talks to a specific audience. Know the problem, the need and want your target audience has.

Write the copy with a specific person in mind.

If you drive traffic to the landing page via advertising and run many different ads, create many different landing pages. They can mostly be the same, but with a different headline and tweaks in the copy.

2: Define your most wanted action (MWA)

MWA is the one action people should take on the landing page.

What that is depends purely on your product and strategy. Generally speaking if your product is somewhat expensive and complicated, it is better to just get their e-mail address and to start forming a relationship with them via email.

If you are selling cheaper and/or more straightforward products like wine or newspaper subscription, it makes more sense to go directly for the sell. If your product is software, I recommend offering a free trial version.

3: Define your Message

You know the audience, the problem they have and the solution you can offer. Now craft that into an easy to understand message. There’s no way to know for sure in advance what will work, so create a few hypothesis’s and split test them.

‘Clarity trumps persuasion’ is a good maxim to go go by.

4: Design Your Landing Page

You have your most wanted action in place, you understand your target audience and have a hypothesis as to which offer will appeal to them. How do you design a landing page that will motivate them to take action?

The first thing to do is to make a list of all the elements you need to have on your landing page.

What You Need to Include

  • a headline that speaks to the target audience
  • your company logo
  • a quick explanation of your offer above the fold (the fold is the portion of the screen that can be seen without the
  •  average user having to scroll down)
  • a longer explanation of the offer below the fold if needed (depends on the complexity of your offer and product)
  • an image of the product being offered
  • a simple form, with ideally just 1 to 3 fields (usually just name and e-mail, but do you actually need the name?).
  • a buy button or signup button depending on your pre-defined most wanted responsea link to your privacy policy (to keep people on the page, this should open up in a pop-up window and not load a new page)

Remember, the more fields you ask the visitor to fill in, the more friction you create and therefore the less people will fill out the form.

What You Should Leave Out

  • a navigation menu – remember to focus only on your offer
  • links to other parts of your sites such as “about”
  • any pictures or images that don’t relate to the offer; these will only serve as distractions
  • hard to read text, anything less than 12 px is bad
  • any links along the lines of “click here to subscribe” or “click here to read more.” If you can’t cram all your content into the upper fold of your landing page, just let the user scroll down. Scrolling is almost always better than clicking to the next page.
  • scary forms with unnecessary fields such as “title” or “fax”
  • “clear fields” button

There are always exceptions and you usually can’t copy best practices to use on your site, but this advice given here should be your starting point. Get the essentials in place first, and tweak from there.

5: Putting it All Together

Once you’ve created your page layout and the copy, the next step is to put it all together and upload it to your site. We recommend using simple URLs that users can easily recognize. Sometimes it’s a good idea to register a whole new domain for your landing page all together – exact keyword domains get more PPC traffic.

If your landing page is about job offers to work on an oil rig, your URL could be either www.OilRigJobOffers.com or www.somesite.com/oilrigjoboffers.

Such URLs often generate better than normal click through rates on targeted Google PPC ads. A searcher who types ‘oil rig job offers’ is more likely to click on an ad with a keyword URL.

Length of a landing page

Long or short? There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer. In most cases when the offering is free, a short copy works better and if you ask for money, longer copy performs better. The more money, the longer the copy.

As per Bob Kemper from Marketing Experiments there are 3 factors affecting the efficacy of body copy length on a landing page:

  • Nature of visitor motivation
  • Initial level of Anxiety about product/company
  • Level of cost/commitment associated with conversion.

So in a nutshell short copy performs better when the offer is free, very cheap or in some other way not intimidating. Also, when it’s an impulse buy or gives an emotional satisfaction (concert tickets, candy, something beautiful).

Long copy is more suitable for expensive or complex product. When rational thinking and analysis are factors for purchasing something, longer copy helps you make a more compelling case by adding explanations, proof, testimonials. Products where more information can help people make up their mind.

Many people avoid using long form copy as they associate it with hype, spam and cheesy get-rich-quick type of landing pages. Don’t hate the length, hate the content.

In a case study by Conversion Rate Experts where they tremendously improved the conversions of SEOMoz landing page, one of the key changes they made was the length of the copy:
Image source: Conversion Rate Experts

They’re not the only ones, of course. Take a look at product pages on Amazon – the copy for Kindle is VERY long. Amazon is known to test everything.

There are some long form landing pages for free offers that convert well, but the one in the example is a rather complex product, so that’s why a longer copy could work better here.

When using long copy, make sure it’s obvious that people can and should scroll down – encourage them to do so. You can use CrazyEgg or Clicktale to see a scrollmap that shows how far down the page people are scrolling.

Test, test, test

Once everything is up and running, make sure you test the effectiveness of the landing page based on your pre-determined most wanted response. You should always create at least 2 alternative versions of the landing page, test them, measure and improve.

Read our article on conversion optimization to learn how to do it all.

Landing page critique

I just googled a bunch of keywords and clicked on some ads to find different landing pages. I couldn’t find a true perfect landing page during my limited search, but that’s life. I skipped the totally awful landing pages.

Here there are along with what they have done well and what I’d recommend changing.

University of Phoenix

What they have done well

  • An emotional headline and image
  • Easy and clear call to action
  • Clear branding

What I would change or test

  • I would decrease the orange area and make the form more prominent
  • Increase headline and form font size
  • White text on orange is difficult to read. I understand the branding part, but still.
  • Too much information, the important stuff is not emphasized – which means I won’t read any
  • Unless that link to program disclosure is required by law, I’d remove it.

Zoho

What they have done well

  • Benefit oriented headline
  • Social proof
  • Hero shot of the product
  • Key benefits listed
  • Clear call to action
  • Clear branding

What I would change or test

  • Remove the pricing link – I think that’s distracting. Sign them up for a free plan and they have the option to upgrade later. It’s important to get the customer in right away.
  • Put privacy info into a popup or a folding text box on the same page, don’t link out
  • Reduce the number of checked items to 3, make the font darker
  • A different call to action text on the button – indicate what happens after they click

CreateSpace

What they have done well

  • Concsice, key benefits brought out
  • Call to action evident
  • Clear branding

What I would change or test

  • Design. This looks like a noob created it with FrontPage
  • The headline sucks, lacks a value proposition. No point using the brand in the headline.
  • The “Request a Free Consultation” button takes to a page with the same form as on the right. Why duplicate?
  • Request a Free Consultation – on what? Instead of selling me the consultation, they try to lure me in with a free booklet on promotion. But I am on this page because I’m interested in publishing!
  • The form is too long
  • I would try a whole new call to action / offer all together, something more related to publishing. Consultation causes too much friction, I’d be afraid of high pressure sales situation.

Allstate auto insurance

What they have done well

  • Brand reinforcement
  • Plays on the key issue: saving money on car insurance
  • Clear and totally friction-free call to action

What I would change or test

  • Cheesy and badly photoshoped stock photo. Try a more real image.
  • I would test a different wording on the image.( The ‘important to you’ part along with a photo of a car bothers me, and I’m sure I’m not alone.)

Text Link Ads

What they have done well

  • Clear branding
  • 2 key benefits outlined
  • Most important call to action emphasized
  • A screenshot that gives an idea of how it works

What I would change or test

  • What does it exactly do? Should be explained in a paragraph on the page.
  • Get rid of the menu on the landing page
  • Remove additional calls to action and links
  • Try a more conventional layout: this one looks cool but is complicated and requires visitors to think. It’s doesn’t play to natural eye movement on the site.
  • Separate landing page for different audiences (publishers and advertisers)
  • Add (social) proof. When it’s about advertising, people are worried about ROI.

Tools for building landing pages

There are many great tools for building landing pages. Check out these options:

Any other good ones you can point out? Post in the comments.

Getting visitors to subscribe is just the first step

Getting a customer to subscribe to your offer / newsletter is not enough. After a customer subscribes, you must sell her on actually consuming your content.

A large part of your visitors that complete signup forms WILL NOT actively consume your offer.

How to get your subscribers to consume your content and eventually buy your stuff? Watch out for the follow-up post in the coming days.

What great landing pages would you point out as great examples? Would you like me to give my 2 cents about your landing page? Let me know in the comments.

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