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Creating effective landing pages - optimization tips

The term "landing page" crops up a lot in marketing articles; so what are they, how do you create them, optimize them and use them effectively?

What is a landing page?

In marketing terms, it's a specialized page that visitors are directed to once they've clicked on a link, usually from an outside source such as a Pay Per Click ad. The page is usually tightly focused on a particular product or service with the aim of getting the visitor to buy or take some form of action rapidly that will ultimately lead to a sale.

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A different view on landing pages

To me, a landing page also refers to every single page on your site. Many site owners believe that the way the visit to sale process works is this:

  • Client arrives on their home page

  • Client selects an option from a menu or an offer on the page

  • Client arrives on the page with the offer/product

  • Client purchases.

Of course, this does happen, but it's my experience that every single page on your site should also be considered a "home" page. 

On Taming the Beast.net, the number of people who enter the site via search engine listings to sections other than the home page; or links from other sites to specific articles, far outweighs the number of people who hit the home page first. Over 90% of people who visit Taming the Beast start their visit on pages other than the home page.

Many landing page  strategies are relevant to all pages of your site and are worthwhile considering in general page writing and development.

Landing pages - the two schools of thought

Some marketing experts will tell you that a landing page should be wholly and solely dedicated to one offer, and nothing else. Others will say that it's good to provide easy access to other areas of your site and mention other offers in case the visitor isn't interested in the main offer.

The right way for you to go will be down to experimentation, but my general view is that if you are using PPC advertising to drive clients to a specific offer, then writing a dedicated page with little mention of anything else is the best strategy. After all, PPC ads are usually very targeted, so traffic from this source will be quite focused. 

The basics of developing landing pages

There a few questions to ask yourself when creating a landing page:

  • What are you offering?
  • Who do you wish to appeal to?
  • Why would they be interested in your offer?
  • What do they need to do to participate/purchase?

Write down all your ideas, make it as lengthy as you like. Then, bring it down to it's core elements, making it as motivating as possible without it being over-hyped.

Think of your landing page as a summary of all the usual pages connected with the product/service you are offering. The goal of the landing page is to usually convert potential clients *quickly*, or  to have them take some sort of action rapidly so you can follow up with them later.

Call to action

Ensure you have included a call to action towards the top of the page. This will work on more impulsive people or those who are already familiar with what you are offering. There should be calls to action sprinkled throughout the remainder of the content as different people have different tipping points in the sales process. The call to action should be linked to the order page or subscription form. 

A call to action is simply telling the potential client what they need to do in order to receive whatever you are offering e.g. "purchase today!",  "buy now, limited offer!" or "subscribe now!"

Short statements

There's no need to get long-winded on a focused landing page. Your sentences should be brief or dot-points, but provide valuable bite sized chunks of information. Always offer an avenue of communication for further information for the more inquiring and discerning potential clients.

Length of pages

This will vary greatly and there doesn't appear to be a general consensus as to how long a page should be. I feel that the more costly an item is, or the more unique it is, the more content will be needed to convince a buyer to purchase or explore the possibility of purchasing further; but remember that calls to action should be within easy reach throughout the page and not have to be hunted for.

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Ask and answer questions

Ensure that the major questions someone may have are addressed in your marketing copy. Pose a few questions yourself, then provide the answer. For example:

"Are you tired of paying big money for Flombles?
Save 50% on these quality Flombles - purchase today!" 

Logical sequence

Ensure your marketing copy follows a logical sequence and that you don't bounce around from point to point as it will only serve to confuse.

White space, headings and colors

Where appropriate, use headings and blank lines to organize your content so it is neat instead of a textual barrage. Separate some elements with different, but complementing colors.

Provide a bonus

Everyone loves a freebie and on a landing page it can be especially effective. Even if the visitor doesn't take up on the main offer, by offering a free report that requires their email address in order to download, it will give you a second chance at acquiring their business through ensuing follow ups. For example, a free newsletter subscription will allow you to to build a relationship over time with more cautious clients.

Use of images

Studies recently carried out in eye tracking indicate that a visitors eye is usually first drawn to images on the page. If the product promo image is on the right hand side, it requires more effort for the visitor to move their eyes back to the left, where your marketing copy will be. It sounds like such a minor detail, but in the online world every second counts when trying to convince a potential client that you are offering what they need. Landing pages are definitely not the place to have unnecessary, superfluous images.

Testimonials

A couple of testimonials can be a big help in converting a browser to a buyer - just be sure that the testimonial is believable and traceable. When trying to sell a product, a testimonial from "J.S" certainly doesn't have the power that one from "John Smith, Portland USA, john@dlkldfdlf.com " along with a photo does. 

Fast load times

Remember, not all the world has a broadband connection, and even if the bandwidth is available, you shouldn't feel you need to use it all. You need to get your message to the potential client as quickly as possible, so while your page needs to look good, it also needs to be lean.

PPC driven landing pages

If you are using Pay Per Click advertising to drive traffic to your landing pages, you may want to consider using different marketing copy based on your different keyphrase bids. It's  a little extra work, but given the prices of PPC traffic, it could be well worth the time.

Let's say you are promoting, a cheap but good quality product - let's call the product a  "Flomble". Some of the keyphrases you are bidding on may include:

"discount flombles"
"quality flombles"
"discount flombles cheap"

The "discount" keyphrase attracts the interest of those whom economic issues may be a primary concern. The "quality" keyphrase appeals to those whose primary concern is, well, quality :). The last phrase is targeted to those who want a balance.

Given that, you may want to implement 3 different landing pages, one that focuses on the financial benefits of purchasing through you, the other on the solidness of your product/after sales support and the other page a balance of the two. Relevancy of ad to landing page copy is very important in terms of PPC effectiveness.

Stuck for ideas?

If you're still at a loss in regards to ideas for landing pages for your product, try searching on Google on terms such as:

landing page case study industry 

.. where "industry" is your industry or niche of interest.

There's a stack of publicly available info on the web with strategies and results of various landing page campaigns. You may also want to check out the Landing Page Optimization book, which includes dozens of examples from campaigns that you can use as a base for your own.

Search engine considerations

If you are creating multiple landing pages with only slight variations in text, it's wise to ensure that these pages are kept away from search engine spiders. Make your general purpose landing page available for indexing, but use a robots meta tag or robots.txt directive to exclude the others. This is to prevent search engines from assuming that you are trying to spam their listings and consequently having duplicate content penalties applied.

Testing your landing pages

In the case of PPC, in order to test your landing page, you first need to settle on your Pay Per Click terms and ad copy. There's not much point changing your PPC target phrases *and* the landing page at the same time while in testing phase - it will be too difficult to gauge the effectiveness. 

Get traffic flowing to the page to the level you want, then tweak the copy. When editing your marketing copy, do it step-by-step; adjust, test, adjust, test. Too many changes as once can be as ineffective of making no changes at all.

A good general initial test is to ask friends and colleagues to view the pages for about 5 seconds. Don't tell them what the page is about prior to displaying it to them. Allow them to view it and rather than ask if they thought the page is "good", ask them what they remember about the page - their concept of the message you are attempting to relay. If it ties in with the question mentioned earlier of "what are you offering", you're on the right track.

If you are able to, use your web site traffic statistics software to determine how long people are viewing your page for - if it averages just a few seconds per visit, then it's obviously not grabbing their attention.

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As mentioned, especially in the case of PPC advertising, each click is costing you money - sometimes dollars per click. 

The best way to increase conversions and reduce your COA is to ensure that you have a well-honed landing page focused on the terms that brought people to the page. Put in the effort, don't throw away your advertising dollars by directing people to a general product page or your home page and you will reap the rewards.

Related learning resources

Studying web site traffic

Creating effective marketing copy

Pay per click advertising

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
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