We review, test, and provide design input to more landing pages than any designer we know of. Our clients evaluate our services based on results, not traffic, so we take our role in landing page design very seriously. We are landing page testers, so we see what works and what does not.
Landing pages are created for prospects not customers and this distinction is important. When you meet a prospect for the first time you act and react differently than you to with your oldest and best customers and you should. A landing page is the internet equivalent of a first introduction and you only get one chance to make a first impression. That chance is your landing page. Web sites are designed to answer general questions and give customers additional information about your business. Landing pages are designed to answer their early questions and get the relationship advanced to the first level.
A response element is your “Call to Action” that asks for what you have decided is your objective for the landing page. There is no perfect response element but we have developed a number of guidelines that we use when evaluating landing pages.
Rule 1: Location, Location, Location
We often find the response elements buried at the end of the page like they were ashamed of asking for the order. We like to see the response element “Above the fold” on the right side. This means that it should be on the screen without having to roll or page down. The fold is different for each of the different sizes and resolutions so there are many possible fold locations. It is technically possible to be below the fold in both directions. I recently saw a landing page that was so wide that the only visitors that saw the response element were those with a 22″ or larger screen. If you think you lose exposure when it is below the fold vertically you do not even want to think about the loss when it’s below the fold horizontally! A general rule of thumb is that each user interaction required on a landing page is going to cost you 50% of the audience.
Rule 2: Standout
A response element should stand out on the page and it should be clear what you want. Do NOT attempt to be clever because everyone that does not get your amazingly clever button is one less conversion. I have seen more than a few response elements on landing pages that you had to know what it was and how to respond. It might seem very basic, but words like “Click here to” are perfectly acceptable on a response element.
Rule 3: Offer alternative responses
A response is a response and very few clients care how the business comes in as long as it does. Some people like to talk with people, some like email, some like online forms, and some like to visit the business. Make sure that you offer all the possible ways to contact your business so you are not forcing a prospect to use your preferred method. This causes some tracking problems because some of these are more difficult to measure but you have to ask yourself would I rather know where a lead came from or would I rather have the lead? Most of my clients tell me they want more and are willing to sacrifice some reporting ability for the additional leads.
Rule 4: Ask for the order early and often
There is nothing that says that you can only ask for the order once. We commonly see high performing pages that have a response element at the top of the page and another on the bottom. This is especially true if you are using a long copy approach to the landing page.
Rule 5: Ask only for what you have to have
This one is violated all the time and it costs you dearly in lowered responses. You do have to examine the business requirements but in many cases web sites ask for way too much information. The insurance industry is probably the best example of this. If I call an agent and have to leave a message I leave my name, phone, and a short message. If I do this on many web sites they want to take the entire application information before they will even accept a question. Never ask for information you do not need yet, or at least make it optional.
Rule 6: Lower the commitment level you ask for
Many people create landing pages with the expectation of taking a completed order. In some cases this is very reasonable, but ask yourself “Do you routinely go from inquiry to order in one call?” If the answer to that is no then your landing page should try to get to the first level in the process and not try to go from no relationship to a completed transaction in the first interaction. Another mistake made here is making a sales lead look like a committed order.
Rule 7: Listen carefully and talk about what the prospect cares about
Without rolling the page down are the benefits of your product or service clearly stated based on the search that the person performed? If the answer is no then the landing page performance will suffer. One of the great advantages of Adwords is that you know what the person asked about and you can control where they land in your site. If I did a search for Italian Shoes, clicked on your ad for Italian shoes, and then you drop me on a page total unrelated to Italian Shoes then you do not deserve a conversion. Very few products or services have a single sales attribute so your landing pages should not be the same. Before you invest in dozens of landing pages for every possible type of traffic make sure that there is enough traffic to justify the investment.
Rule 8: Leave your ego off the landing page
We see landing pages all the time that use 1/3 or more of the above the fold space simply for the company logo and identification. Do you really need that or are you feeding your own ego? It’s a fair question because that space could be used to answer the prospects question and that is the first step n developing new business.
Rule 9: Great copy sells
If you talk directly to the visitor on a subject they care about and you do it in an engaging way your landing page will work. There is a debate that has raged in the direct response field for decades and that debate is over long or short copy. I am not going to take a position on this one because I have seen both of them work and my recommendation is test both. Short copy has an advantage in that it seems to generate more leads but they also tend to be less qualified. Long copy generates fewer leads but they tend to be more qualified.
Rule 10: Never stop testing
You can never be done with a landing page because as long as there is traffic to justify the page development you should be trying to improve the response. Different people will respond differently to different page designs so find the best balance for your business, product, or service is a long term process.
Rule 11: Be seamless
Landing pages are not your web site although stylistically they should look and feel like your web site because you want them to integrate seamlessly. The reason for this is that if you engage visitors with the landing page they will often want to know more. You do not want to duplicate all the great copy and information you developed for your site so the simple solution is just attach the landing page to the rest of the site using the normal site navigation.
Did you notice that we delivered more than we promised? You got 11 ideas while the headline of this article only promised you 10. When you deliver more than expected in the web experience it moves your relationship with the prospect forward and starts to build the trust relationship you need. Landing pages are not as simple as these 11 rules and these are in no way an exhaustive list or even the most important. They are simply a primer to get you thinking about this highly complex topic. With Adwords you are paying for people to visit and you know what they are interested in so it’s almost a crime not to provide them with a great web experience so you can develop them into the customer they will become.