When it comes to increasing conversion rates, few strategies are more effective than the implementation of landing pages. Yet, these crucial linchpins to the optimization process are often rushed or overlooked completely in the grand scheme of marketing.
Here at Crazy Egg, we believe it’s past time to give these hard-working pages a little more attention, which is why we’ve created this complete guide to landing page optimization. Even if you consider yourself a landing page pro, you’ll want to read this guide to make sure your pages are on track and converting as well as they should be.
Why Landing Pages are So Important
Landing pages act as digital guideposts that direct your customer into taking the precise action you want them to take. Unlike a homepage (which may have many of the same elements as a landing page), a landing page has a specific goal in mind and everything not related to that goal is eliminated in favor of a more streamlined, actionable approach.
Landing pages have a variety of uses in the conversion optimization and marketing world, and they tie in nicely with everything from social media to pay-per-click advertising. Most notably, they’re used to:
- Create buzz about an upcoming product or sale
- Segment offers according to a specific audience or their preferences
- Verify the efficiency and performance of specific keywords or groups in pay-per-click ads
- Provide new visitors with the opportunity to take the next step in your funnel (such as requesting a white paper or guide)
However, they are NOT the same thing as:
- Long-form sales letters – a landing page can be longer (more about that below), but it’s not an opportunity to go into great detail on all the benefits of your product at that moment.
- Name-Squeeze pages – These “Enter your email address to get something” pages look like landing pages at first glance, but landing pages have more substance and clear, concise, actionable content.
Landing pages are much more precise about the end goal in mind and don’t hesitate to eliminate anything that doesn’t add to that goal in some way. So now that you better understand what a landing page is and why you need them, let’s take a closer look at the different types available. This is by no means an exhaustive list but is rather meant to get you thinking critically about the types of landing pages that would best suit your particular end goals.
Understanding the Different Types of Landing Pages
You’ll design your landing page based on what you want it to achieve. Many people get so hung up on the design that they lose focus on what the end goal should be. To help prevent this, you should build your landing page in reverse – that is, begin with the end in mind.
Figure out the objective you want visitors to interact with, and then decide how to attract and entice them to do so. This may include any one (or even a combination) of the following types of landing pages:
The Click-Through Landing Page
The click-through landing page has one mission: to get that all-important first click deeper into the site. It achieves this by generally asking the user a relatively harmless question – yet one that they’d like to solve. Bills.com does an excellent example of this through their landing page:
By simply selecting how much you owe, you’ve taken the first step in their funnel. As the process continues, they learn more and more about your preferences and goals, and you get a customized solution to help with your financial concerns – a win-win.
Here’s another example from Lyft that includes multiple calls to action. The first, as you’ll notice, is designed to encourage people to apply to become a driver. However, not everyone is instantly enthralled with the idea of entering all their personal information up front. As the old sales mantra goes – they want to know what’s in it for them.
Fortunately, rather than just letting them leave the site entirely, Lyft gives them the option to do a quick calculation to see how much they could earn, simply by inputting the number of hours along with the city they plan to drive in:
This is an excellent strategy, as they help minimize the risk that people will simply bounce off of the site entirely if they don’t feel immediately comfortable giving up key information like their email address or phone number.
The Lead-Gen Landing Page
Another example of a landing page, and one you’re likely already familiar with, is the lead gen landing page. This is designed to get users to simply type in their name and email (or just email) to continue the process. Here’s an example from Plated –
Clicking the “Get Started” button will take you to a form, whereas you can also choose to simply read more. The bottom of the page includes a link to create a plan that works with your lifestyle – again, a win-win for both parties.
Real estate site Trulia follows a similar principle by asking you a simple question – how much is your home worth? Most people don’t know, but would like to know if they’d ever considered selling their home.
The lead gen page is deceptively simple, since it offers the promise of finding out your home’s worth just by typing in your address. But computers aren’t quite that sophisticated yet, and filling out this form leads you to yet another handful of questions:
The disclaimer here is that you’ll be connected with a real estate agent who can go through the steps necessary to give you a basic estimate on your home.
At this point, you’ve already filled out the other form fields, so for many people, the curiosity factor outweighs the concern that “my information is going to a third party.” The Sunken Cost Fallacy is prevalent here, and many people will continue to fill out the form because they’ve already come this far.
The App/Mobile Landing Page
Whether you’re looking to increase downloads of your app, or you want to provide a reliable experience on mobile devices, size does matter. It’s not about how much information you can fit into a small screen space, but rather how easy it is for the user to want to act on the information you present.
For example, here’s an app called Over that lets you overlay your existing photos with text effects. Not only does it showcase what the result looks like on iPhone and Android, but also gives you one-click access to download them right away:
Another example is an app called Weathertron. Rather than show you what it looks like on different devices, Weathertron’s landing page presents the app in the kind of scenario it’s normally used in – while traveling. It also gives the user the option to download it or watch a video. You can tell by the coloration of the buttons which action is most likely to stand out:
Going Beyond Examples to Create Your First Landing Page
It’s one thing to show you examples of great landing pages to inspire you, but another thing altogether to give you the tools and guidance you need to create them. Much of how you’ll proceed depends on answering several questions in sequential order, so let’s start there:
Step 1: Decide on the Type of Campaign You Want to Run
Will your landing page be tied to a social media ad campaign? A pay-per-click campaign like Google Adwords? Or will it be for purely organic traffic?
You should know that if you’re considering a pay-per-click campaign, 85% of clicks resulting from a search will be on the organic (non-paid) links. However, by the same token, nearly 65% of high commercial intent (a high likelihood to buy) searches will click on the paid keywords.
This translates to beginning users being more likely to click on non-paid search results, whereas as they travel further through the funnel, they go from simply gathering information about a choice, to clicking on paid ads to make a more informed decision and comparison shop between providers.
One is not necessarily better than the others, as you may be targeting beginning users in the “information gathering” stage, or you may be looking more toward those users who have “done their homework” and are moving on to purchase – or both! With that in mind, however, you’ll want to craft separate landing pages – each with unique calls-to-action and offers that are dependent on these prospects’ place in the funnel respectively.
Continuing the Narrative
No matter which type of campaign you want to run, it’s absolutely vital that you continue the conversation with your user in a way that makes them feel comfortable and certain that they’ve come to the right place.
This means there should be no “mental disconnects” between what the user is searching for, and when they end up on your landing page. For example, if I click on a paid Facebook ad for lawn care services, the last place I want to end up is on your landing page for landscaping.
One is a more broad term, while the other is more specific. And the more specific you can be in tying your landing page to your ad – in terms of content, design, and flow, the better it will convert. This is known as “continuing the narrative”. You can have a landing page for landscaping, but it may be better suited to organic, local traffic than a paid ad since the competition is so high.
The Importance of Quality Score
Beyond helping you to convert more users to potential customers, a landing page which more precisely matches the search terms you’re interested in can also help increase your Quality Score in Google Adwords. The Quality Score is a combination of algorithms in Google Adwords that make it more likely that your paid ad will appear when someone searches for your keyword or phrase. It’s calculated by determining a wide range of things – most notably how many people click your ad, how long they stay on your pages, and what they do after landing on your page.
A high Quality Score doesn’t just mean a better chance for your paid ads to show, but it also may mean that you pay less for them. You get to attract more targeted customers by paying less, and Google gets to continue on its quest to match relevant ad results to its users – everybody wins.
Once you’ve determined the type of campaign you want to run, the next step is to actually set up the pages:
Step 2: Designing Your First Landing Page
There are lots of options available to you when creating landing pages. If you’re particularly design or development savvy, you may wish to create a template of your own. There are also landing page themes available for various platforms and languages (WordPress, HTML5) from sites like ThemeForest which can give you a starting point toward customizing your own landing page.
If you’re admittedly not that technologically inclined, you can still create gorgeous landing pages by using online page building platforms. Unbounce and Leadpages are two of the leading landing page creation tools. Both are heavily centered around the ability to start with a blank canvas or a template, and then drag and drop images, text and form fields to create a page.
Unbounce Landing Page Platform
Unbounce is one of the original and perhaps the leading landing page creation and optimization platform. With their system, you can create an entirely new landing page from scratch, use an existing template as a basis (they have dozens of them), or even import a template from the aforementioned ThemeForest site, if the theme supports Unbounce integration.
Leadpages Landing Page Platform
Leadpages is another type of drag-and-drop platform that lets you create a landing page starting from a blank canvas, or using an available template much like Unbounce. Unlike Unbounce, Leadpages does not have any specific themes designed around it – but it does have a WordPress plugin to allow you to use your Leadpages-designed landing page within WordPress. Here is a helpful guide to show you how to get started with Leadpages.
Instapage Landing Page Platform
Instapage is a powerful landing page platform that’s good for any size operation. Instapage offers unlimited domains and it gives you all the tools you need to make a customizable landing page to fit your brand’s needs. With thousands of fonts and images to choose from and over 100 templates it definitely has a lot to offer. Click here to learn more.
What Makes a Landing Page?
Once you start creating your landing page, or even browsing through the templates that these platforms offer, a pattern will start to emerge. All of the best landing pages draw upon several best practices including:
The Headline: Be Brief and To the Point
Some of the best landing page headlines don’t just showcase your product or service – they illustrate it in a way that the user can easily identify with. Look at this example from Pinterest:
Image Source: Kickofflabs
“They Used Pinterest to Plan a Dream Trip” – Even if you’ve never heard of Pinterest, this would likely spark your curiosity. It’s quickly followed up by a subheadline that further clarifies what’s being offered “Join Pinterest to find (and save) all the things that inspire you”.
In just seconds, Pinterest not only tells you what you can do with it, but inspires you to get started. The points at the bottom – that it takes 45 seconds to sign up (and that it’s free) and that there are 25+ billion pins to explore already show you how quick and easy it is – and addictive!
The Hero Shot: Showcase Your Product or Service in a Way that’s Easy to Understand at a Glance
Square is one of my go-to landing page copy inspirations, and when you see it, you’ll see why.
The “hero shot” – here, an image the perfectly illustrates Square’s product, is fresh, exciting and easy to understand. The headline “Start Selling Today” shows how quickly you can be up and running – and which platforms and phones the service runs on.
Many people choose to use video as their hero shot – but with mobile bandwidth concerns and loading time, this is definitely something you want to split test to determine if it really has the impact on your users that you hope for. Would a simple image like this one suffice instead?
Add Visually-Digestible Points that Support the Headline
The numbered points on the Square website above further support the headline by telling you exactly what steps to take in order to “Start Selling Today” – namely that you request them to mail you a reader, download the app, plug the reader into your phone, start the app and sell. It’s a quick process that can make a significant difference for online retailers, and Square has captured that in its concise, succinct copy.
Craft an Irresistible Call to Action
Your call to action is the “moment of truth” on your landing page. It’s where the user decides to take action or not. So this is not the time to wimp out with your copy.
Many sites choose the standard route of “Learn More” – but all things considered, that’s a pretty weak call-to-action. What will I be learning, exactly? Most “Learn More” buttons actually take the user to a long page full of info, that they likely don’t have the time nor the desire to read.
Since this button is so important, it’s the perfect time to think of ways that you can eliminate any uncertainty or reluctance in your visitors. Why settle for “Learn More” when you could have “Sign Up for Your Free Account (It takes less than 45 seconds)” or “Click Here to Start Your Free Trial” (no credit card required”) – things like that tell the user on a subconscious level that you’re not out to bog them down with complicated forms or account “gotchas” where your first month is free and you pay just $699/month thereafter.
Seal the Deal with Trust Indicators
And finally, if the call to action, the headline, the hero shot and the benefit-oriented points don’t seal the deal, it’s time to call in the backup with trust indicators. Many people think of these as special seals showing that your site is safe from hackers, has SSL encryption (which is nevertheless important), and so on, but those aren’t the only types of trust indicators out there.
For example, you could include user testimonials, the number of happy customers or users you have, how many downloads of your app there have been, and so on. Anything that tells the end user “you’re not alone – people love us and this is why!”
So now that you know the different types of landing pages you can create and the kind of copy that converts users who land on them, you’ve likely decided on the type that best fits your goals. But just building the page out is only the first step.
You can have the most beautiful landing page in the world – but it’s useless if there’s no traffic going to it. Although it seems easy enough to tie a landing page to a Google Adwords or Facebook ad campaign and measure its performance, say, at the end of the week — you’ll be much better off if you split test your pages and understand how to identify a “winner”.
What to Focus on When You’re Creating Your Landing Page
It can be tempting to look at all of these landing page examples and brainstorm ideas of what to test. But the only things that really matter are:
- The headline
- The offer
A solid headline and a compelling offer can easily double the performance of your landing page. All of those other, superfluous things like button color and font size are just too minuscule to really squeeze out wins. Too much effort without much of a payoff.
In fact, you can even hold off on creating the landing page itself until after you’ve collected some basic data with Facebook ads as to how the copy is doing. Split test a couple of offers that way before diving into your landing page so that you don’t waste time crafting an offer that falls flat with your target audience.
If you do manage to find a better offer, it might seem to be counter-intuitive to test a second offer. After all, wouldn’t you want to keep improving upon a winning formula? Not always. Sometimes the offer you test could end up trouncing your winner – a finding you never would have known if you were busy micromanaging things like line space and form design.
That’s not to say, however, that those things aren’t important – it’s just that in the grand scheme of things, especially as you keep testing new offers and launching new products and services, you’ll need to start prioritizing campaigns that have the potential to deliver impactful results without a lot of time and effort wasted. In essence, you’ll become a well-oiled landing page optimization machine!
Landing Pages for Inbound and Organic versus Paid Funnels
On the surface, it might seem to make sense to apply the same process you used when creating your inbound/organic traffic landing pages versus your paid channel landing pages. But you’ll need to take a completely different approach, since you’re spending money on every paid ad, and you want to test and tweak everything to determine what really resonates with your audience.
Organic and inbound landing pages only need a couple of solid offers to check off all their conversion boxes. Needless to say, the copy, form, type of offer, headline and other points of the landing page are completely different when comparing paid versus organic campaigns. Paid channels get you traffic right away, whereas organic may need some time to get up to full speed depending on the traffic you’re already getting.
Seeing Data All the Way Down the Funnel
It’s worth noting that unless your data is set up to see conversions all the way down the funnel (and not just the top of it), it may not even be worth split testing your landing pages at all until you can see that data. You don’t want a high converting landing page that fills the top of your funnel with promising leads only to have them leak out right before you’d recoup your investment in getting them that far.
For some businesses, this process is simple and straightforward. For others, it can be a tangled mess. However, in order to get the most actionable data, it’s necessary.
Step 3: Understanding Split Testing and Statistical Significance
Split testing, also known as A/B testing, involves taking two similar versions of the same page, and making one change between them, then directing 50% of the traffic to version A, and 50% to version B, and seeing which one converted more users.
What is the “one change”?
If you browse the web for things like “split testing ideas”, you’ll see they mention everything from changing the color of your form button, to changing your offer entirely. We recommend focusing on bigger changes – changes that will could lead to major lifts in your conversion rate. The only way to know what truly works for you is to test and see.
So how do you create a split test? If you have a Google Adwords pay-per-click account, you can learn how to split test your landing pages by using their Content Experiments.
If you’re using Facebook to post links to your landing pages or running Facebook ads, you can follow this handy guide by Social Media Examiner to learn how to split test posts and ads.
If you’re using Unbounce or Leadpages as your landing page design platform of choice, you’ll be glad to know that both have built in split testing features. Unbounce’s step by step guide to creating an A/B test is here, while Leadpages’ guide is here.
Starting out, you’ll want to direct half of your traffic to one version of your landing page, and the other half to the other version. You’ll want to get plenty of traffic to each version so that you can properly determine the “winner” – or which one converted better. How much traffic is “plenty”? While you could theoretically get by with directing 100 users to each landing page and then gauging the results, the more targeted traffic you can send to your pages, the more accurately you can gauge the results.
How Accurate Are the Results?
Let’s say you conduct a split test, and send 500 users to one landing page, and 500 users to another. After looking at the results, you see that one version is converting better than the other. But how do you know this is due to changes you made on the landing page, and not due to pure chance?
This is called achieving “statistical significance”, and it’s an important method to “prove” one landing page has converted better than the other, even taking pure chance into consideration. Many of the online platforms set the statistical significance at 95% by default (though you can change it). This means that there’s a 95% chance that one landing page converted better than the other because of what you tested on it, and not due to pure randomness.
You can even determine how many visitors you’ll need in order to achieve the conversion rate you’d like to see – based on what percentage of customers you think will convert, and how much of a change you want to detect. The good news is, the bigger the change, the less traffic you need, and the smaller the change, the more traffic you need. This calculator from Optimizely, lets you play with the numbers a bit to determine exactly how much traffic you need in order to get the results you want.
A/B split testing can be deceptively simple on the surface. But when you start thinking about statistical significance and what that really means, it suddenly becomes a whole lot deeper. Here are some of the most common mistakes and pitfalls to avoid:
Calling Tests Too Early
One of the most common mistakes people make is calling tests too early. Let’s say you have a test that’s telling you there’s an 80% statistical significance that the variation you’re testing will beat the control. Eighty percent is pretty good, right? It seems that way – but only on the surface.
If you call the test too early, you risk posting a new control that hasn’t had enough time for your audience to really warm up to it. It’s converting due to a small amount of traffic or a short amount of time. Even 90% statistical significance isn’t good enough. You want at least 95% or greater – and most of the split testing platforms on the market are geared toward getting your hopes up by calling their tests too early.
For example, Optimizely, by default, declares a winner when you have at least 25 conversions and 100 visitors. That’s not nearly enough to generate real statistical significance. You want at least 1,000 or more. That kind of outcome is designed to purely fluff up your ego. Unfortunately, as of this writing, there’s no way to change the minimum sample size before the system declares a winner. You’ll simply have to allow it to accrue more traffic let the test run longer to get to the real results.
Here’s an example from ConversionXL that shows precisely what happens when tests are called too early.
With this test, the variation was losing terribly. But notice that there were only about 110 visitors so far. It can feel tempting to want to abandon the test when you see a nearly 90% drop in your conversion rate goal. However, a little over a week later, and with more traffic and time, the results look remarkably different:
You’ll see with just a bit more time and traffic, the test has a much better outcome – and 95% statistical significance to show for it.
Calling Tests When You’ve Hit Statistical Significance
But what if your site gets a lot of traffic and you’re able to achieve 95% statistical significance in just 3 days? That’s great right? You can pack up your stuff and go home.
Because you need to take into consideration that seasonality and people’s whims in general change from day to day – so, for example, if you sell backpacks, you may conducting split tests that hit statistical significance very quickly during the back-to-school season – but that’s because the rush is on for backpacks. Let your test run a full 7 days just to be certain your statistics aren’t being swayed by seasonality and other outside factors. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a heavily weighted test that skews the significance based on things beyond your control.
What Happens if My Test Fails?
Let’s say you decide to change the headline of your page and test it, and it fails miserably. You swear off ever running a headline test again. It can be disheartening, but don’t let one failed test ever turn you off from running similar tests. Chalk it up to “well, that approach didn’t work – what else can we try?” and always be brainstorming new, meaningful hypotheses.
Stuff like button colors aren’t meaningful hypotheses. Stuff like call-to-action text, however, is. So make sure that whatever you decide to test, you’re making real, measurable and impactful progress. Even if what you’re testing fails, you’re still learning what, specifically, is resonating with your audience and encouraging them to take action.
Step 4: Going Beyond Split Testing with Heat Maps and User Tests
Split testing is just one of many ways you can gauge the effectiveness of your landing pages. It’s by far the most mathematically accurate way – especially if you need hard numbers to show progress to your boss. But there are other methods too which can reveal some surprising insights that standard A/B testing alone may not give you.
Getting the Big Picture with Heat Maps
Heat maps, such as the many types offered by Crazy Egg, show you where on your landing page user activity is centered. Is your call to action button really getting all the action? Or is something drawing your users’ attention away from the action you want them to take? The only way to know for sure is to use a heat mapping tool.
Heat maps, as the name implies, show concentrations of user activity, allowing you to eliminate any areas of friction that could be causing your users to hesitate or be reluctant to take action. By looking at your heat maps, you can see where their attention goes, and make changes to your landing page to direct them where you think they should go.
Getting Insights from Your Target Audience with User Testing
Another option for getting insights on your landing pages beyond what analytics and split testing can offer you is user testing. Sites like UserTesting.com allow you to connect with a group of people the fit your target audience profile.
Are you a car insurer who only wants users with an open claim to test your landing page to see if it gives them the help they need? You can specify that in your audience parameters. Want toddler moms to test your pages from a certain local community? User Testing takes care of finding you the right people – as close to your testing specification as possible.
They then record themselves interacting with your pages while you ask them written questions, such as “how easy was it to understand the offer?” “What questions came to mind when you saw the headline?” – and things like that.
Depending on how specific you want your audience to be, it may take some time for your tests to be completed, but the insights you can gain from the very people you’re targeting may surprise you, as it gives an inside look into the thought processes of your audience that you may never have considered before.
The Bottom Line on Making Optimization Work for You
Landing page optimization is one of the few areas of business that consistently gives you results that you can learn and grow from. Of course, they may not be the results you expect – or want, but they will definitely be a learning experience either way.
The most important thing you can do when it comes to landing pages is: simply start. Start small. Don’t try to create landing pages for every keywords or group in your pay-per-click account. Landing pages aren’t something that you set and forget. Rather, they’re an ongoing investment in growing your business, connecting with your customers and forging new relationships with prospects.
They’re a way to gradually filter and concentrate on the differences between your business and your competition while discovering what it is about your product or service that people truly love.
And you simply can’t get more optimized than that.