Chances are, if there’s an under-optimized page on your site, your landing page is it. Yet many users’ first impressions are based predominantly on this page. When you first start reading up on CRO, you’ll find tons of “rules” about what makes a great landing page.

As we’ve already discussed, however, what worked wonders for someone else might not produce the same results for you.

In addition, much of the landing page advice you’ll find online relates specifically to pages that are created for the purpose of landing pages–pages tied to a paid advertising campaign to maximize conversion. Don’t forget, however, that people land on many different pages of your site.

With Google responsible for 25% of the traffic delivered to websites in the US [1], visitors are landing on product pages, contact us pages, blog posts and knowledge bases. When thinking about landing page optimization, it’s up to you to look at the top landing pages for your business and build a plan to optimize those pages for conversion.

The bottom line…

While it’s great to find inspiration from successful tests that others have run, don’t count on them to produce the same results with your audience. Create your own hypotheses and tests to find the winners for your business.

Landing Page Elements

If you scan several successful landing pages, you’ll probably notice they several key elements in common—and for good reason, as these elements communicate critical information to users. For this reason they are excellent candidates for testing and optimization. Use KISSMetrics “Blueprint for a Perfectly Testable Landing Page,”[2] cited below, as a jumping-off point for constructing your own winning landing page.

  • The headline— like on a newspaper, the goal of the headline is simply to get the visitor to read the next line and so on. A great headline is a great hook that grabs the attention of the visitor.
  • Hero Image— this is the primary image or creative element on the landing page. It should work with the headline, reinforce your value proposition and draw people further in, toward the call to action or benefits.
  • Proof points— these are benefits or other copy that “pays off” the promise laid out in the headline. If the headline is the hook, these articulate the promise.
  • Form or Call to Action— depending on the type of landing page you have, you may have either a form to collect data, a call to action (like a button to download your app), or both.
  • Social Proof— testimonials and other elements validate your brand or product. Our psychology is such that in the absence of perfect information, we will make similar decisions as others that we perceive to be like us.
  • Third-party endorsement— to create trust and confidence, you can leverage existing brands that are recognizable by your target audience. Has your business been featured in a known news publication or used by a prominent client? You can confer some of the trust associated by their brand by using their logo on your page (with their permission of course).
A Mnemonic for Landing Pages

In “How to Make a Landing Page that C.O.N.V.E.R.T.S.”, Beth Morgan offers a mnemonic for the landing page elements that lead to conversion. It is as follows:

How to Make a Landing Page that CONVERTS

  • 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

You’ll notice that Morgan’s mnemonic and the blueprint that comes before it have a lot in common and rightly so—these landing page elements work because they satisfy distinct and universal user needs and desires.

Long-form vs. Short-form Landing Pages

Let’s discuss a bit of dogma regarding landing pages—something you’ve almost certainly read again and again—the debate over whether landing pages should be short and minimal, or long and rich.

In the minimalist camp you’ll often hear that “long form” landing pages don’t sell. This is a myth. Long form pages can be very effective. In the long form camp you’ll often hear the opposite–that minimal landing pages don’t give visitors enough information to make a decision, and therefore are poor performers. This is also a myth.

As a general rule, we’ve found that longer-form landing pages work for products that are more complicated in nature or that are newer to the market and need to build trust with the visitor. Shorter-form landing pages work for products that are very easy to understand or have strong existing brand awareness and trust with visitors.

Below, you’ll find a few more guidelines for optimizing your landing page.

Let’s start with landing page copy…

  • Make whatever text you do have on your landing page as streamlined as possible through editing, refining and condensing. Your visitor will give you about 5 seconds before deciding to leave or stay. Your copy must be clear concise and attention getting.
  • But whether it’s five sentences or five pages, your landing page should engage users.[3]
  • Don’t jump the gun. It’s better to delay your “pitch” until visitors are fully engaged than present the call to action before they’re ready for it. In other words,capture your visitors’ attention before asking them to take action. This might mean presenting a quick product tour that shows them how they can’t live without your service before asking them to sign up for it.[4]
  • Consider that you might be neglecting to highlight the must-have experience. Why do your most dedicated users come back again and again?
  • Do you have resources—like promotions or testimonials from well-known clients—that are under-utilized? Make sure they’re prominently displayed.

Now for the other elements of your landing page…

  • Whatever behavior you’ve designated as a conversion, users shouldn’t have to search for it. Make the conversion visually obvious. A button, a phone number, a form. Whatever the element, it must stand out. Deemphasize, relocate, or remove other less important but visually distracting elements.
  • Don’t overwhelm visitors with too many choices. Provide a single call to action. If you have more than one choice, you haven’t narrowed your landing page down to meet the intent of the visitor.
  • Some people prefer audiovisual content, while others find text preferable. Make sure to test what works best for your audience.
  • Understand why people are coming to your site in the first place. Examine your best-converting or largest traffic sources and make sure your landing page and associated ads and keywords accurately represent your value proposition. You might learn that your bounce rate is high because visitors are under the assumption that, based on your ads, you offer something you actually don’t.
  • The best landing pages quickly build trust. Let your users know they can trust you by using elements such as safe shopping seals and trusted third party endorsements including: Verisign logo for e-commerce, logos of recognizable clients, publications you’ve been featured in, testimonials, etc.

If this chapter could be summed up in three words, they’d be: only the essentials. Think back to the basic definition of conversion rate optimization from Chapter 1—finding why visitors aren’t converting and fixing it. Keep this definition in mind when optimizing your landing page. You’re simply figuring out why visitors aren’t converting (call to action is impossible to find? they aren’t convinced of your trustworthiness? they’re distracted by unnecessary images and links?) and fixing it.

Case Study: Highrisehq Landing Page Optimization

In May of 2011, the folks at 37signals decided to run some A/B testing on their landing page design for[5] Jamie of 37signals explains their reasoning, “Signups were going well, but we were worried that customers still couldn’t get the gist of what Highrise did and why they needed the product.” The used their original landing page as their baseline during testing.

Be sure to check out Signal vs. Noise for the fully story (part 1, part 2, part 3).

First, they drafted a long form version of their landing page and ran it through an A/B split test—presenting either the original or the long form version to over 42,000 visitors. The Long Form page had a 37.5% increase in net signups. Awesome! But they didn’t stop there.

Despite the success of the Long Form design over the original, they implemented yet another A/B split test—this time a far shorter Person Page, which had a 47% increase in paid signups over the Long Form design.

Next they added more information to the bottom of the Person Page. The resulting Long Form Person Design did in 22% worse than the original—despite the original user preference Long Form design!

Since the Person Page was the clear winner, they decided to swap out the featured person to see how different faces affected conversion rates. Testing indicated that a specific person wasn’t as important as a big photo of a smiling customer. Jamie points out, however, that they are still “tweaking and measuring behind the scenes.” Just because the Person Page is the winner for now, that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually come up with a design that’s even better.

The 37Signals Test Implementation

Noah describes their testing implementation as, “two services and some home grown glue.” It looks like this:

  • They use Optimizely to set up the test.
  • In conjunction with the Optimizely setup,they use a Javascript snippet inserted on all pages (experimental and original) to identify the test and variation to Clicky.
  • They also added to Optimizely another piece of Javascript to rewrite all the URLs on the marketing pages to “tag” each visitor that’s part of an experiment with the experimental group. When a visitor completes signup, Queenbee—37Signals’ admin and billing system—stores that tag in a database so they can track plan mix, retention, etc. across experimental groups.
  • Finally, they set up click and conversion goals in Optimizely to serve as validation for the results from Clicky.

After the testing begins, their Campfire bot ‘tally’ takes center stage to help evaluate the test. They’ve set up tally to respond to a phrase like “tally abtest highrise landing page round 5” with the “conversion funnel” for each variation–what portion of visitors reached the plan selection page, reached the signup form, and completed signup.

Tally also provides the profile of each variation’s “cohort” that has completed signup, including the portion of signups for paying plans, the average price of those plans, and the net monthly value of any visitor to any landing page.

Anyone at 37signals can check on the results of any test that’s going on or recently finished anytime in just a few seconds via Campfire.

This is the anatomy of a great test—one bold change at a time,meticulous documentation,and full understanding of the cyclical nature of optimization.

Chapter 4 Notes

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