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A Smart Guide to Landing Page Optimization


Gone are the days when you had to assume that nearly all of your website traffic would enter through the front door (i.e. the ‘Home’ page). Now, it’s all about targeting and segmenting your web traffic, and subsequently building a specific landing page strategy aimed at each particular grouping. In other words, you want the pages a visitor sees on your website to be targeted to their needs. That’s where landing pages come into play. As a result, the onus of general website optimization has morphed into landing page optimization.

Landing pages are a great way to convert your website traffic into users, email subscribers, or customer leads. This is done through a simple transaction, which involves the target website visitor entering an email address into a web form in exchange for some marketed offer, or having them take a specific action, such as to follow a link to a download.

The offer could take the shape of an ebook, a white paper, a how-to guide, or simply provide access to other areas of your website. Regardless of the particular offer, however, the goal is always to convert as many visitors as possible into leads or contacts, namely by having them engage in the transaction being offered. 

The good news is that, as landing pages have risen in popularity and use in the marketing world, some basic components of landing page optimization have emerged as best practices that will help you turn a higher percentage of your site visitors into contacts. In this article, I’ll focus on uncovering those basic, yet proven strategies that you can adopt quickly. 

Choose a Clean Layout

When designing your landing pages, there are a few key themes to keep in mind to enhance your optimization efforts (many of which can be applied more generally to web design). 

Less is More

As a rule of thumb, don’t overdo your landing page from a design or content standpoint. Practice being clear and concise. Stick to a layout that isn’t overly lengthy. The goal is to minimize scrolling to the extent that you’re not sacrificing the overall quality of content, and thus conversions.

Embrace Spacing and Avoid Clutter

Piggybacking on the notion of less is more, avoid cramming too much content into small spaces. Use big fonts and fewer words, but be mindful of spacing and overall aesthetics. 

A good, quick test is to judge how long it takes for a user to spot the headline and gain an understanding of the landing page offer. If it’s not clear to a viewer what the offer is within the first few seconds, consider testing new layouts before iterating on content copy.

Let the Headline Shine

A great headline can go a long way towards capturing your audiences’ attention and engaging them to the point of conversion. Above all other content (literally and figuratively), let the headline shine within your layout and use the remaining space on the page to support this core message.

Don’t Hide the Call to Action (CTA)

In addition to quickly grasping the offer of the landing page, use a CTA hat is designed to make it overly clear to your visitors where you want them to click. Sure, it sounds obvious, but too often the conversion point gets lost amidst the clutter of a crowded page. So, use large, brightly colored CTA buttons that your viewers can’t miss. 

Remove the Header Navigation

Because you want to drive a certain action from your visitors (such as click-through on the CTA), remove the header navigation buttons from your landing pages. This serves to remove any and all temptation from the visitor to explore other areas of the site rather than converting. 

Speak Your Customer’s Language

The most important thing to keep in mind when writing your landing page copy is to speak in terms that convey value to your customers. It’s easy to fall into the trap of using shoptalk, since you use it day-in and day-out on the job. But follow these steps and you’ll avoid driving people away with tone-deaf copy. 

Make the ‘Why’ Obvious

Why does anyone need what you’re offering? State the answer to this question upfront in your content, ideally with the headline. Including a value proposition in the title of your offer is a simple way to ensure that the why is clear and obvious to your visitors.

A/B Test Different Headlines and Content

Accept that you’re not going to nail it on your first try. At the same time, practice A/B testing as many elements of your landing pages as possible. By changing just one (or a few) variables at a time, you should get a sense through an iterative process of what works best with your customer base. 

37Signals has a thorough case study on A/B testing where they have documented their results on how specific changes they applied to their Highrise landing page designs proved to dramatically improve their landing page results. 

They applied this mantra from their founder Jason Fried: "We need to test radically different things. We don’t know what works. Destroy all assumptions. We need to find what works and keep iterating—keep learning."

Segment Customers with Your Messaging

Not all customers will respond to the same marketing messaging, so use variations of your landing pages to target specific customer segments. For example, you may want to use different language to speak to visitors who arrive on your landing pages from Facebook versus those who arrive from LinkedIn. 

Show You’re the Best

Credibility goes a long way towards increasing conversions. Explore creative ways to seamlessly incorporate your customer testimonials, case study data, or key validation points in your design. If you’re using a customer quote, then make sure the message fits with your target audience. Customer testimonials work best when the language hits on the value proposition you’re selling.

Use Authentic Images

The graphics you use on your landing page should directly support your offer in a very real way. In your A/B tests, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that graphics and images that show your visitors what they’re getting function best, even if the quality suffers due to the authenticity. 

As an example, a top performing landing page at my current company, seedRef, includes an admittedly less-than-eye-popping image of an ebook cover on a tablet device. Nevertheless, conversions jumped from about 25% to nearly 45% with the addition of the eBook photo. 

The 37 Signals A/B testing case study cited above also shows interesting positive results from using images of real people in their landing page design.

Only Collect What You Need

Conversion form fields should be looked at two ways:

  • The more information you’re requesting, the lower the conversion rate.
  • The more information you’re requesting, the higher the quality of the conversion.

In an attempt to balance these competing realities, only collect information that you feel you absolutely need to get started. Of course, if you’re a blogger looking to increase subscriptions, email alone will suffice. 

On the other hand, if you’re converting sales leads, for example, add some form fields to increase lead quality and segment your new contacts as they hit your customer relationship manager (CRM). 

A great way to segment incoming leads is by adding an optional open-ended question at the end of the form. That way, it will have less of an impact on conversion rate while giving you extra ammunition for the initial sales outreach in the event they offer a reply. To automate the segmentation process, add a multiple-choice question, with each response corresponding to a specific customer archetype. 

Build On a Solid Foundation

At the heart of your landing page strategy should be the offers you choose to attract and generate leads with. That is, what are you providing to your potential leads in exchange for their information? It goes without saying that, in today’s world, a weak offer doesn’t stand a chance of attracting a large number of visitors or converting a reasonable amount of those visitors into leads. So, spend the bulk of your time coming up with new, creative offers to drive your optimization strategy. For real-life ideas on creative landing page optimization strategies review these examples from customers of HubSpot marketing software.

Experimentation Leads to Growth

Experiment with various types of media to produce a variety of landing pages, accompanying offers, and, of course, results. You’ll get a sense early on of what works and what doesn’t for your goals. As you continue to add to your landing page arsenal, you’ll see exponential growth in the volume and frequency of contacts you’re generating. 

Have Goals, Don’t settle

Based on your specific goals, set a target conversion rate for each of your offers. As you launch different offers and landing pages, you’ll be in a position to set some realistic conversion targets. In general, I start off a new marketing campaign with the following conversion benchmarks in mind, then adjust over time:

  • Below Average: <10%
  • Average: 10-19%
  • Good: 20-29%
  • Great: 30%+

Regardless of where you’re at in the process, avoid becoming complacent in your optimization efforts. There’s always room for improvement!

Weigh Analytics Against Results

As you hone in on specific goals for your various offers, it’s important to consider that the quality of traffic flowing to your landing page will drastically impact the conversion rates. As an example, if one of your landing pages is organically ranking at the top of Google search results for a broad keyword with many implications, you’ll experience lower quality traffic and, thus, lower conversion percentages. On the other hand, if you’re controlling traffic flow to your landing pages (blog, email marketing, social targeting, etc.), you’ll experience less overall traffic but higher conversion rates. There is no right or wrong in this example, but it’s helpful to understand how various types of traffic directly connect to your results. 

Leverage Social for Traction

Involving social media in your landing page strategy is critical to maximizing your optimization efforts. Here are a few ways to incorporate social media into your strategy:

Enable and Promote Sharing

A fairly obvious step, but an important one nonetheless. Add social media buttons to your landing page and encourage visitors to click them by making them appear prominently on the page. Engaging visitors socially helps build viral growth faster than any other channel. 

Add Social Proof to Your Landing Pages

Social proof could be customer testimonials or case studies, as I described earlier, or it could simply be a post or tweet from a contact that took advantage of your offer. Either way, incorporating social media in your social proof further encourages visitors to be engaged, and engagement increases conversion rates.

Tip: Test New Offers/Ideas with Your Followers

Are you considering building new landing pages around a specific offer, but you’re not sure whether the offer is strong enough? Set up a free link and share it with your social followers to gauge interest. This way, you’ll have some idea as to what to expect (or not expect), when you launch your offer.  

Better, Smarter, Faster!

As you’ve likely gathered at this point, the craft and science behind landing page optimization is heavily dependent on a number of factors. You want your landing pages to work better, smarter, and faster for you. So, it’s good to start with industry best practices, as outlined in this article, then customize your unique strategy based on your actual results and testing.

Graphic Credit: Runway Crew designed by Kyle Tezak from the Noun Project.

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