Time and again I encountered this point in my research. Lisa Barone made the point in a blog for Bruce Clay. She was covering a MarketingSherpa seminar about its updated book on landing pages. The sentence that leaped out at me was “What makes a landing page effective is its focus around a single topic.” She wrote that in the context of fine-tuning the eye flow for a landing page, but it’s really what brings a landing page together: everything on the page focuses on one topic, with one goal: convincing your visitors to convert.
Hard selling belongs on your landing page, but it’s a special kind of hard sell. You must take your visitors by the hand and guide them to what you want them to do. Matthew Roche shared some insight as to the necessity for this in a February 2007 post in his blog. In the days before the web, consumers simply read and/or watched ads, which marketers could at least imagine led smoothly and directly to a sale. But it’s quite rare for a person to “go online, type a URL into a browser, visit that single site, accomplish a task, and leave the web completely,” Roche notes. “More often, we search, we dither, we explore, we lose track, we gain focus, we complete an action, we get bored, we get called for dinner, we log off.”
This is what you’re up against when you create your landing page. Your landing page needs to grab your visitors’ attention, hold onto that attention while giving them what they want and expect, and persuade them to do what you want them to do: buy the product, sign up for the newsletter, what have you. In marketing, this is sometimes referred to as the three Cs: capture their attention, communicate the value of your offering, and close the deal. In this article I’ll go over each of these points and what you can do to make sure your landing pages successfully carry them through.
A landing page is actually a “second impression.” The first impression is the ad through which the visitor clicked to arrive at the landing page. Since they left one page to go to another, it behooves you to make sure they know they arrived at the right place. Tell your visitors that the landing page is relevant to what they clicked through. Use the same colors and logos if you can. Use the same title as you used for the original ad. If you made a particular offer in the ad, it should be clearly visible on your page. Some landing pages that visitors arrive at through sponsored links on search engines even include search text: “You searched for Gibson guitar,” for example.
Once your visitors know they’re in the right place, it’s your job to keep them focused. Most people have a shorter attention span for online activities than they do for offline things. That’s even true for something as simple as reading. No matter how good your monitor is, it’s still much more restful to read a book or magazine offline than it is to read online (especially when many of us already stare at a computer screen all day at our jobs). This makes users restless; they’ll fidget, and fidgeting can mean they click away from your site if they’re bored.
Format your page for the shorter attention span and you’ll calm the fidgets. Think short paragraphs, bullet points, and highly relevant content. Consider your target audience carefully, starting with the search they did. Are they looking for information about a type of product, the features for a specific product, or what?
For example, in Roche’s blog entry, he compared landing pages from several different companies for a “chiminea” – a type of outdoor fireplace. He gave good marks to the second landing page he checked because it gave him definitions for several related products, as well as buying tips. He discovered that what he really wanted wasn’t a chiminea, but a fire pit. Normally, you’ll want to keep the copy on your landing page relatively short, as I emphasize above, but if you’re selling a product or service that requires some explanation, you may need to go into some detail to avoid confusion. To that end, you’ll want to test different landing pages, and different aspects of your landing pages, to compare how well they convert.
You know what kind of value your product or service offers, but do your visitors? Your landing page is where you tell them. As you compose your sales pitch, consider what Billy from Billy’s Blog says about the likely composition of your visitors. An intern for a marketing technology start-up in Seattle, he notes that you’ll encounter three types: those that will convert no matter what, those that are just window shopping and won’t convert, and those that are still thinking about converting. It’s that last group to which you’re trying to appeal.
Keeping that audience in mind might change how you construct the landing page. For example, you might actually include less information on the page to discourage the window shoppers but push along those that want to buy.
If you’re a relatively unknown company, you have a real challenge. Not only do you need to communicate the value of your product and service; you need to build trust in the mind of your visitor. You might want to consider including customer testimonials and certifications/logos from organizations such as eTrust or the Better Business Bureau (assuming you’ve earned the right to display them) to help build trust.
If you want to make sure your message gets across, have someone with fresh eyes look at your landing page. Leave them alone while you watch how their eyes flow over the page. Then ask them if there is anything you can do to make it clearer.
Speaking of clarity, it helps if you focus on one product or offer per landing page. Yes, you may have a whole line or several lines of products or services, but you don’t want to confuse your visitors. Remember what I said at the very beginning – you must present your visitors with a focused landing page. Keep them from being distracted and they’ll be more likely to convert.
What must you do to convince your visitors to convert? Consumers buy from those they trust. They should have a reason to trust you. Still, the landing page is where you should be pushing your product, not your company so much.
But you can at least avoid doing the wrong thing. When it comes time for them to fill out a form, ask for as little information as possible. You may need an address or a phone number; do you really need to know how many people belong to their organization or the size of their department’s budget? If you ask for this information when you don’t have a clear reason for needing it, you will find that many of your customers are giving you false answers – and many others will choose not to buy from you.
Even a little thing can make a difference. Does your registration form have a reset button? Does it really need one? Often this button is set where it is close to the submit button, and easy to hit by mistake. This leads to frustration, which is often enough to make someone abandon the purchase.
Make your call to action, and make it specific. You’re going to have to test this, though. Some swear by solid phrases like “Buy” or “Add to shopping cart;” others, like Jonathan Mendez at Optimize and Prophesize, suggest taking a softer approach. He specifically recommends using “Try it now,” giving visitors a soft impression with a message of immediacy (“now”). He also suggests you combine that with big red buttons and a persuasive message directly above the call to action to increase conversions.
Indeed, it might not hurt to have several calls to action, at the top, middle, and bottom of the page. In this way, your visitor can convert whenever they’re ready. And you should track these links – as well as any links you have if your landing page is part of a multi-stage process – to find out when visitors convert, and where they abandon the process so you can improve it.
Just as you got rid of the reset button to avoid having visitors leave in frustration if they accidentally hit it, you should also not make it easy to leave your landing page. I don’t mean you should make your landing page take over your visitor’s computer with special effects; I mean you shouldn’t offer them so many options that they get distracted or move along a path other than the one you intended. Once again, it’s a matter of maintaining focus.
Once your visitor has seen the process through to the end, you’re done, right? Not necessarily. If you’ve set it up right, a confirmation or “encore” page will appear reiterating what they have just done and thanking them for buying from you. This is a perfect opportunity to further engage with them. If they bought a product, offer them a free subscription to your newsletter. Or offer them another product, perhaps at a discount (“Like our Gadget X? Buy our book on 100 great things you can do with Gadget X for 20 percent off!”). You could even ask them to take a survey.
Your landing page should keep your visitors focused; one way to do that is to keep them engaged. Give them something to do – no, better; give them something to do that’s exactly what you want them to do. Make sure they have good reasons to do it, and watch your conversions increase.