In the past when I read about web marketing, it sounded like voodoo black magic.
“It’s weird and too good to be true,” I thought.
But now that I’m taking action every day and learning from small experiments in my own business, I’m seeing that there is no magic involved.
In fact, much of the marketing tactics documented by others about how to get results actually work.
Take for example landing pages. A landing page is a a single page on a website where visitors come to get additional information on a product or service and usually respond to a direct offer of some kind. If visitors respond by making a purchase, requesting an appointment, or opting in with their email address, this is called a conversion.
In short, people create landing pages to send traffic to in the hopes of growing their bottom-line, usually as a result of generating a lead, opt-in, or a sale.
So how can you create landing pages that convert for your business?
According to KISSMetrics, you can use the handy “CONVERTS” acronym which encompasses most of the key elements of an effective landing page.
C = Clear Call to Action
O = Offer
N = Narrow Focus
V = VIA: Very Important Attributes
E = Effective Headline
R = Resolution-Savvy Layout
T = Tidy Visuals
S = Social Proof
While this makes it easy to remember key items to include in your landing page design, it ignores other important questions. So let’s start with strategy before jumping into each of the on-page tactics.
“Should my landing page goal be to make a sale, or drive leads?”
Before you do anything the goal of a landing page should be set based on the context in which a visitor is going to arrive on the page. For example, your decision to create a landing page that attempts to sell something vs. a page that requests an email opt-in should have very different kinds of visitors.
If you want to collect leads by having visitors fill out a form or by simply inputting their contact info to join your email list, this strategy is most practical in the following contexts:
- Paid Traffic – You’re buying search ads on Google, and visitors are people initially unfamiliar with your business and what you’re offering.
- Organic Traffic – You want to create an educational resource for prospective customers that ranks well in Google and is relevant to what they are searching for.
- Misc Visitors – A visitor or passive blog reader clicks over to your web page to learn more about what you might be offering.
In all of these case, you have a short amount of time to communicate your offering to the visitor, which is why a single page focused on triggering one specific action is effective.
If you want to drive sales for your product or service, that goal is best achieved under the following scenarios with a landing page:
- You’ve been nurturing a relationship with prospective customers through your email marketing tool. Thus subscribers are already educated about topics related to your product or service, and some trust and credibility has been built.
- You are selling something for around $200 or less (amounts larger than than usually — not always — require some person-to-person communication).
- What you’re offering is an easy to explain product, not a service.
As you can see, your decision on what result your landing page should produce for your business is dependent on thinking strategically about where visitors will be coming from and why.
“What will make someone convert on my page?”
As Brennan Dunn pointed out in his blog post this week, this is the mind that people have when they show up on your website:
- They don’t know who you are
- They are unsure of your expertise and credibility
- They are unsure about whether you’re capable of providing them value
So, in order to convince visitors to take action on your landing page, you’ve got to overcome the “inertia” of these feelings.
In order to do this, you should first understand a little bit about the psychology of influence.
In his famous book by the same title, Robert Cialdini lists six key principles that marketers can use to persuade people.
- Reciprocity – The idea that someone is inclined to give you something after you have first provided to them something of value.
Example: “Gold is a stable investment! Call this number now to request your free indepth report, which also includes a professional pen and stationary.”
- Commitment and consistency – If someone orally or in written form agrees to something, they are more likely to remain committed to the agreement even if the original incentive is removed. This is because it would otherwise be in conflict with their self-image.
Example: John said he needed to learn about trade in the far East so he purchased an online course to educate himself. Yet when the trip had to be canceled, John continued on with his class and decided against requesting a refund.
- Social proof – Who else says you’re awesome or uses your service? People are more inclined to buy products that they see others using too.
Example: Customer logos on websites like on Basecamp.com or autogrow.co’s homepage.
- Authority – If you are seen as an authority on a specific subject, people are more likely to comply
Example – If I wanted to learn about “travel hacks” I might think to check out Maneesh Sethi’s products to see what he has to offer because he’s becoming known as an authority on international travel and how to do it for cheap.
- Liking – People want to do business with people they like.
Example – Quality of food aside, people will often choose to give their business to a local pizzeria rather than a commercial chain like Dominos because the owner is a nice guy who is friendly with his customers.
- Scarcity – People want what is perceived as rare. Scarcity helps generate demand.
Example: “There are only 50 coupon code available, plus this deal expires at midnight tonight.”
Another more subtle strategy for effective landing page creation that will motivate people to act: the page should be easy to navigate, and easy to understand.
In otherwords, there should be no confusion about what is being offered, why it’s valuable and what to do next. Effective copywriting is all about clear communication, which leads us to…
“What are the key design elements that my landing page needs to have?”
To simplify things, let’s break this section down into two parts: copywriting (as in, writing sales copy to convey your message to visitors) and design (the colors, layout, user-experience, HTML code, etc.).
#1 Most Common Mistake to Avoid: Writing the copy for your page should be done first and SEPARATELY from the design. This is because many people try to fit their messaging into a pre-designed layout.
This is a bad idea because your words are restricted, rather than complimented by the design. Furthmore, excellent, well-written copy is all about having a “conversation” with your target customer.
That being said, here’s what the copy should include:
- Headline / value proposition – In one short sentence at the top of your landing page should be your value proposition. This is your clear, straightforward statement about what incentive your target customer has to keep reading. For instance, “Learn the #1 way to improve your basketball jump-shot without practice for weeks on the court.”The more numerical and concrete you can make it, the more compelling the value proposition is. A good one that I use on this site is “Double your leads in 30 days without spamming or spending thousands on ads.”
- Define the problem – Regardless of whether you are selling a product or offering a freebie of some kind, you should explicitly state the pain point which your offer (see point below) will address.The problem should be phrased in the language of the customer. For example, on Saber Blast, my target market is growing, small businesses in the USA who already have some basic knowledge of online marketing tactics, like SEO or running ads. So I use language like, “Wouldn’t it be easier if you didn’t have to leave the office or put yourself at the mercy of Google?” Using phases like “at the mercy of Google” helps to show that I understand one of their possible frustrations.
- What does it help you do (features and benefits) – What are the top three features of what you’re offering and how do those features benefit the end-user?For example, a feature of an ebook might be that it’s 20 pages long. But you’d want to explain why that’s a good thing: “20 pages of easy to understand, indepth explanations, FAQs, and step-by-step walkthroughs makes it simple to start taking action immediately.”In this example, length = detail = ease of understanding = you (customer) are going to have no problem putting into practice what I’m about to teach you.
- Social Proof – Not only is this one of Robert Cialdini key factors of persuasion as discussed above, but it’s also Wikipedia defines it at “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behavior for a given situation… driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more information about the situation.”In other words, social proof is simply a fancy way of saying, “Hey, look at how many other people have used our product / downloaded this offer.” It means showing through the use of statistics (97% of our customers would recommend us to their friends and family), trust symbols (e.g. Better Business Bureau, local chamber of commerce logo), or the words and pictures of credible people or customers themselves — that what you’re offering is real and you should have confidence in it because hey, these people over here do.
- Testimonials – This is one of the most common forms of social proof. This is where you have a customer or someone who has used your product say something positive about it. If you talk to your customers or clients on a regular basis, getting testimonials can be easy, especially if you give them the following template to work from:
Killer Testimonial Formula
[ X benefit received ] in [ Y amount of time ] without [ Z doing what they used to have to do before they tried your solution ] They can put it in their own words, but the closer they follow this template, the more compelling each testimonial will be.
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – This is less necessary for pages that offer free reports and free courses (after all, it’s free!), but when it comes to websites that offer higher ticket items, like Excel & MS Office programming services for Fortune 500’s, the target market visitor to this page will be more analytical and rational so an indepth FAQ helps to build confidence and overcome latent objections, leading to a request for consultation. On a page offering a free course, less depth is necessary since risk of time or money is extremely low. Filling out the opt-in form on such a page is more of an impulse or emotional decision.
- Call to action text (on buttons) – In the case of free offers and product landing page, tt’s considered a widely held best practice nowadays that the text that will go on your “call to action” button should re-enforce your value proposition and reference the benefit desired. For example, on SaberBlast.com’s homepage, the text on all of my buttons is “Yes, Get Me More Leads!” Another, text combo we might test there is “Yes, Grow My Business!”
- Make the offer – You have to make an offer, otherwise there is no point to a landing page, and a “transaction” (whether that be contact info or money) will not occur without it. Your offer is the solution the problem you define above. It can be almost anything: a service, an ebook, an online course, a video, a free report, etc. (Quick note: In the first example at the very top of this post there an example of a landing page from ManPacks.com where a conversion means clicking a button to move to the next page but I’m strongly doubt the effectiveness of this kind of “offer” so I don’t really count it as a real landing page per se.)
- Bonus incentive – If your landing page’s goal is to get potential clients to fill out a “Request for consultation” (or similar) form, I strongly encourage you to consider pairing it with an option to simultaneously download a PDF ebook or a free online course.Your conversion rates will likely be higher as long as the additional incentive is relevant. For example, if your business is to help baseball players perform at their peak, you might want to tie into your free consultation request a free PDF case study on how one pitcher was able to throw the ball faster while avoiding injury.
- Bullets and Numbered Lists – People love bullet points and numbered lists. It makes everything easier to skim and scan for key information most relevant to the reader.
- SEO Copywriting – After you have written your copy for people, it’s time to add to it and tweak it for search engines. First, have a look at what search terms are related to the subjects you’re writing about on your landing page. You can use Google’s Keyword Planner tool to find related words, and then Google Trends to discover which keywords and phrases have the highest search volume AND are highly relevant to the subject matter. After you’ve done your research, make sure you optimize the following HTML tags:> Title tag
> Meta Keywords tag
> Meta Description tag
> H1 and H2 tags
> Anything that is bolded on the pageThose are the basics for SEO copywriting. Do those to start out and you’ll be in good shape.
- Advanced Copywriting Tip #1 – Keep your tone of voice casual. Some might say this is a style preference but I would say it’s essential write in a tone that is both professional AND relatable. Almost, conversational, you know? (joke)This goes back to Robert Cialdini’s “liking” influence factor. People have difficulty relating to “corporate speak” because it sounds detached, high-level and written in the context of “we” rather than “I”.
- Advanced Copywriting Tip #2 – Derek Halpern wrote an excellent post not too long ago on the perfect line width for web content. It’s a fascinating read when it comes to copywriting and designing landing pages, but the key takeaway is this: the human eye prefers to read content with a shorter line width; consider keeping your line widths to between 500-600 pixels wide (or 40-55 characters long), while introductory lines should be between 200-300 pixels to help draw in first time readers (see example in first couple of sentences in this blog post).
Page Design (and coding)
As I said above, the design and layout of the page should compliment the copy, not the other way around.
Here are the key elements of any effective design that’s going to maximize your conversion rate:
- Organization & layout – If your page is short (mostly above the fold) then you should understand how the human eye typically views a website. Studies have found that the eyes often move across the screen in an “F” shaped pattern (see image below).
Based on this, it’s best to have your headline left aligned at the top of the page, and call the action button positioned on the right side of the screen. This way, the reader can understand what you’re offering, read the details, and then know quickly how to get it (1,2,3). Very linear and logical. For long form landing pages where much of the content is below the fold, you want to can do something similar but have multiple calls to action throughout the page.
- Colors – Colors play a huge role in conversion rates. Here’s proof:If you want the full version of that infographic, check it out here.When you choose colors, you want to make sure they match well with not only your goal of maximizing conversions, but also branding goals, and professional aesthetics (they should not clash). If you’re not sure which variables matter the most when it comes to color, focus on the call-to-action button. Getting the color “right” on that element can yield outsized conversion results.I recommend starting off with either an orange, yellow, or red gradient for the call to action. On this blog, in the top right, you’ll see my free course offer where I use something between orange and yellow, with a hard bevel and emboss effect to make it “pop.”
- Visuals – This is probably the most critical element to have on a landing page if you want a high conversion rate. Pictures can convey ideas faster than words in many cases. So integrating a picture at an interval of approximately every 200 to 300 words is only practical.Another way to take advantage of this fact that people are visual learners is to add a video if you have the time and budget to produce one.In a recent study, Crazy Egg was able to increase it’s conversion rate by almost 64% as a result of adding a 2 and a 1/2 minute video to their page even though the script in the video was quite similar to what was already written on the page.
- Form Length – Although you might think you need to know a potential client’s zip code, industry, or even birthday, if you want the maximum number of people to convert on your landing page you’ve got to keep it simple. Here’s why…In a recent test by marketing software company, Marketo, they ran a split test where in one version of their page, their form had 9 fields, in another 7 fields, and in another only 5 fields. The one with 4 less field converted at a rate 34% higher than the control (9 fields form).In addition, I recall reading recently (if you know what I’m referring to, send me the link and I’ll add it here) that for eachadditional form field on average, your conversion rate for that form will drop by 5-10%.
- Advanced Tip #1 – Exit detection and response – Many sites are becoming more and more dynamic these days with how they track and respond in interactive ways to the actions of visitors, both on and off site. One example of this growing in popularity is “exit intent.”This refers to the scenario where a visitor is on your page, and then, as they move their mouse and about to leave the website, the website shows a screen overlay pop-up to try to divert the visitor from leaving by urging them to go forward to the next step, or offering something of value for free in exchange for an email.The results this type element has produced for others has been remarkable because it allows you an opportunity to try and “turn around” what would have been a lost sale. I’m using something similar to this on Saber Blast.com right now and it is helping us collect more emails.
One product that has come out to do this is Bounce Exchange (but they charge $3,000 and up for their service). Frankly, this is crazy, but I can understand why they price it the way they do (value-based pricing, market leader, etc.).I’m planning on offering a WordPress plugin that does the same thing for a fraction of the price (1 time cost, not monthly) in near future. If you’re interested and this your website could benefit, just enter your email below and I’ll keep you posted when it launches.Fill out my online form.
- Advanced Tip #2 – Mobile optimization – Another design consideration for your landing page is will people be able to view it on their tablet or smartphone? A responsive layout may be called for depending on how you plan to market your page. Having the layout for the site be adaptive to whatever screensize the visitor is using can help boost the conversion rates significantly for mobile users.
- Advanced Tip #3 – Retargeting – Retargeting is similar to exit detection which I talked about above because it allows marketers to be automatically proactive in reaching out to would-be customers who did not take the desired action on a website.In the case of retargeting, let’s say you searched for “website design company nyc” and you came across autogrow.co. If you arrived on the site and didn’t fill out our contact form chances are that you’ll start seeing our ads “follow” you around the internet, trying to get you to come back to the site.The current leaders in the retargeting space are Adroll and Perfect Audience. There are others like Retargeter.com, but they are a bit “shady” with their pricing (minimum is $500 per month but their website isn’t so clear on that). I’ve recently written another article on the the topic of how to properly do retargeting to bring visitors back to your website so you can convert them.
- Advanced Tip #4 -A/B Testing (setup before launch) – A/B Testing, aka “split testing,” is when you randomly show different visitors on your webpage different design variation of that page. The purpose is to find out which design variation will produce the best results.There are free and inexpensive tools available to help you do A/B testing (Google Website Optimizer, now know as Content Experiments, is great if you’re working on a budget). If you expect that your landing page will be a significant source leads or sales AND the traffic to the page have at least 2,000 or more visitors per month, it’s worth setting up an A/B test to run before your page launches. If you don’t expect that much traffic at first, don’t invest time on this, wait and see how it goes after you launch it.Here are the key variables you’ll want to consider A/B testing:
> Call-to-action button text & color
> Form length
> Offer description
> Layout of key page elements (e.g. left-align video vs. right align video)
“Should my landing page design be long or short?”
The short answer is that it depends. Similar to how you make your decision about whether the purpose of the page is to sell a product or drive leads, context matters.
Another way to answer that question is that the page should be as long as necessary to answer key questions and overcome objections that prevent a conversion.
Here is a simple set of questions to consider when choosing which form will work best for your page:
- Am I selling something or do I want people simply to fill out a form? If I want people to fill out a form (i.e. simply give me their contact info), the page length can be shorter (keep it above the fold in most cases). This is an industry standard best practice. Afterall, what you’re offering in this case is free so its usually an easy decision.On the other hand, if you’re selling a high ticket item like consulting or coaching services which will cost $1000+ your goal will be to get visitors to fill out a form to request a quote, consultation, or evaluation.However, even though the option to do this is also free, no one who is a qualified buyer will the decision lightly. Instead, they will have a number of key questions that you’ll want to anticipate and answer in your copy.These are good rules of thumb if you’re just starting out, but to know for sure though which length is best you should A/B test different landing page designs.
- Is my goal to get people on my email list and then nurture that relationship over time OR am I comfortable with a hard-sell? This as much a philosophical question as much as it is a strategic question that you need to answer for your business.When it comes to landing pages as a means to grow your sales, both approaches have been shown to work. A hard-sell strategy usually means you going to make an effort to close the deal while the prospect is on your page. Therefore, the page is usually longer and the copywriting more direct. The list-building / follow-up approach usually means a landing page that is shorter in length and more focused on giving value.One thing to keep in mind though is that many people are turned off by the hard-sell technique since a number of network marketers and spammers have over-used the hard-sell strategy in an effort to quickly turn a profit. I’m a fan of the former, since there’s more “good karma” associated with it, it’s sustainable, and it also happens to have a higher conversion rate.
- How complex is my offering in comparison to others? A more complex offering needs more time to be explained on the page before a visitor will decide to convert. Where ever possible, of course, you should simplify your offering. If this is not possible because of the nature of your product or industry, longer form landing page design is probably your best bet (make sure to add lots of visuals to compliment though!).
“How do I get started building my first landing page right now?” [ recommended resources ]
Here are a few options to help you get started, even if you don’t know how to code a website.
Instapage.com – You can try it out for free, price starts at $14 / month if you want to go beyond simply kicking the tires. I’ve tried this tool recently and it’s actually very user friendly. The fact that they also built in A/B testing, can integrate with your website domain name (example.test.com), and have a WordPress plugin are also pluses.
Unbounce – These guys have been around for a while and have much of the same features as Instapage above. The main difference is the introductory price point of $49 / month. I’m not such a fan of their user-interface, but that might just be my personal preference, not necessarily your’s.
AutoGrow – This is my web marketing company. We produce high-end custom landing pages. So unlike the above options where you start from templates, we create something tailored to your brand and goals. We also do all of the copywriting for you with our award winning team. The price point for this service is fixed and obviously significantly higher than the above options because it’s a hands-on service that includes research and 1-on-1 collaboration with our clients.
Bonus: Best Landing Pages – 7 Great Examples
I choose each of the examples below not only because I know they produce results, and also because I wanted you to see different goal scenarios (e.g. consultancy lead-generation vs. product sales vs. free offer).
App Design Handbook, by Nathan Barry (Product) – Great visuals, clear copywriting, and a longer page design since the product cost is ~$250.
Build a Consultancy, by Brennan Dunn (Service) – Brennan is a friend, but he’s also a great copywriter and entrepreneur. Though the visuals may seem basic, the layout and images work well to compliment the copy, which is crystal clear. Note also that Brennan is selling a high ticket item here ($1000+). For this reason people usually arrive on this page after being on his email list for some time (i.e. there’s more trust already built up), or any they have already purchased one or two of his other products.
Crazy Egg (Product) – This is probably the most polished design and copywriting example for a landing page/homepage I’ve seen thus far. It’s all based on (without a doubt) hundreds of split-tests and likely hundreds of thousands of dollars invested to do one-on-one research, talking with customers to really understand them.
Excel Help (Service) – This page was designed and written by the AutoGrow team. It is great example of how a landing page for a high-end service targeting primarily medium-to-large sized businesses and Fortune 500’s should look. One change we recommend for the future is to test a simplified “Request a Consultation” form.
Fuild Surveys (Product) – Well design and polished homepage / landing page. Note the simplicity and prominence of the form, as well as the social proof above the fold (logos).
Promoshin (Service) – I am not personally familiar with this company, but I was struck by the quality of design for this landing page. It’s fairly complete in terms of my list above of what an ideal landing page should include. However, it’s a little light on the sales copy (probably because their business is video production, go figure).
CartHook (Product) – This is another good example of a landing page that also works as a homepage since the sales funnel is very “tight,” meaning the path to a purchase is highly linear. Notice how there’s also a free incentive offered in exchange for entering your email address. One of the key elements missing from this page that would make it much stronger is examples of social proof.
Planscope.io (Free Offering) – Notice how everything on this page is above-the-fold. Since the course being offered is free, it’s an easy decision to sign-up or not for visitors. They don’t need a lot of information.
Landing pages are one of the best ways to build an email list, drive leads, and sell products on the internet. This is because they are focused on moving the visitor towards taking a single action, and nothing else.
Can you think of any other excellent examples of high converting landing pages? If so post them in the comments.
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You can also leave me a comment with your feedback and any ideas for what you’d like to me to write about next.Image Credits:
Heatmap eye tracking image – UseIt.com