By David Chaffey,
Which factors make for the most effective landing page? Is a 'perfect landing page' even possible? Here's a summary of the top 12 must-dos to get your website looking tip top. Dave Chaffey will be discussing 12 digital marketing trends for 2012 at ad:tech London. Register now.
Before I jump in with your 12 top tips, it's worth keeping in mind these four aims that need to be combined to make any landing page effective:
- Develop trust in the brand
Remember that guidelines are only guidelines, they of course, have exceptions. The only way to be sure of what works for your audience and your market is to conduct tests such as usability studies, A/B testing or multivariate testing. Having the right web analytics tool is vital to this.
1. Deliver RELEVANCE
Unlike casual visits by browsers, visitors arrive on a landing page with a directed goal or intention in mind. So the first thing you have to do is instantly show relevance to help visitors achieve that goal. A clear headline should show relevance and also engage the visitor to scan down the page. You need to show the visitor they have selected the right place to find the brand, product, deal, information or experience they are looking for, so the headline must clearly indicate this. Other key "relevance messages" should be readily scannable through chosing the right headlines and with panels drawing the eye to the different areas. Tests tend to show that larger fonts give better response. Since hitting the landing page is often the first experience of a company, we have to answer basic questions that the customer has about the company such as "Who are you?", "What do you do?", "Where are you?" "Do I trust you?" You may do these on the home page, but does the navigation on the landing page allow these questions to be answered. Standard menu options such as "About Us" or "Contact Us" can achieve these.
2. INTEGRATE with referral source(s).
The customer journey to your web site started elsewhere. To deliver relevance also requires consistency with what they have already read and seen to meet their expectation. So in terms of message, branding and creative the landing page needs to deliver an integrated communication. This applies particularly to offline ads, interactive ads and e-mails. The key message on the landing page needs to be consistent with the key message of the referral source. So again, you need to show the visitor they have selected the right place to find the brand, product, deal, information or experience they are looking for, so the headline must clearly indicate this.
3. Provide sufficient DETAIL to support the response decision.
More generally, the whole experience needs to be right to generate response. For me, one of the most important aspects of landing pages, and one that is often not right, is that there isn't enough detailed information on which the visitor can decide to signup. To help determine the right-level of information, best practice is to use design personas to identify typical information required and the gap relative to what you deliver. Also think about the level of "domain knowledge" the user has -- do your technical product descriptions make sense. Also think about "tool knowledge" -- where your landing page requires using additional tools what knowledge is required to use them effectively and are you providing the right explanations.
4. Start the user on their journey.
The design should make the next step clear and minimise the number of clicks required for response since every extra click required in response will generally reduce response by 10 per cent. It is best practice to include the initial data capture on the first page. If the response mechanism is on another page use multiple calls-to action to gain response since some visitors will respond to images and some text hyperlinks. Make all images clearly clickable, for example by making them look like buttons.
Form-related approaches to improve the journey:
• Limiting the options on each page is an effective technique.
• Grabbing attention in first 30 seconds through a headline and lead that reflects ad copy and "isn't too clever", i.e. be direct.
• If it is a multi-page form, then draw users in with easier initial questions.
• Allow the form to be saved part way through the quotation
• Use dynamic headlines related to referrer including search keyphrase to help deliver relevance
• Use focus groups to decide what to test -- marketers who are too close to the problem may disregard factors that are important to customers
The words used to form calls-to-action are critical to create a scent trail that users of the site follow. An effective scent is delivered where the words match what the user wants to know or achieve.
5. Use the right PAGE LENGTH.
This is a difficult one to give guidelines on. The right copy or page length is one that minimises the knowledge gap between what the user want to know and what you tell them.
Some designers would suggest that content must fit on one page that doesn't require scrolling at 800 by 600 resolution. But short copy is often inconsistent with Guideline 1. Also tests have shown that page can be scrollable -- users will scroll if they appear scrollable. However, it is best if key information include response mechanism are above the fold. To summarise, I would say, make it short (for impulsive readers) AND long (for readers who want to read more). Of course, the only way to get the length right is to test. This marketing experiment suggested that long-copy outperformed when driving visitors to a product page from Google Adwords.
6. Use meaningful graphics.
Graphics must be consistent with the campaign and generate empathy for the audience. Don't understimate the importance of quality graphics -- stock graphics rarely work. It is difficult to assess how graphics influence conversion rate, so the implication is test.
7. Remove menu options?
Another guideline that causes disagreement. Removing menu options will often increase conversion rate since less choice of where to click is offered, but for those who don't respond will give a poor experience and prevent them browsing other parts of the site. Often a compromise is best with a reduction in menu options to top-level options only.
8. Consider using a 'flowable' or liquid layout design
This maximises real estate at a given resolution -- Amazon do this, Orange don't. Although this can work well for a retailer to show more products above the fold in a category, this is achieved with a loss of control of design. For landing pages, a controlled, fixed design will often work best.
9. Remember search marketing
There are three aspects to this. First an offline campaign will lead to people searching on your brand or the campaign strapline. Make sure you are using paid search to direct visitors to the relevant pages particularly during the campaign. Second, if the page is integrated into the web site and will be used in the long-term, optimise it for relevant search keyphrases using the search engine optimisation techniques described here. Three, Google sends out a robot "Adbots Google" to test landing page for relevance and speed, so make sure your, headings and body copy include the keywords you’re using to trigger your ad and including in ad copy.
10. Remember the non-responders
Provide a choice for those who don’t respond despite your carefully crafted landing pages. Provide a reasonably prominent (trackable) phone number or perhaps a call-back/live chat option. Also provide some options for them to browse or search elsewhere on the site.
TIMITI is a term coined by Jim Sterne, author of Web Metrics. It stands for Try It! Measure It! Tweak It! i.e. online content effectiveness should be reviewed and improved continuously rather than as a periodic or ad-hoc process. Because the web is a new medium and the access platforms, user behaviours and competitor approach all change continuously, what works at the start of the year will certainly not work as well by the end of the year.
12. Consider landing page longevity
Landing pages are often used for short-term campaigns. If so, you need to carefully manage when they and links to them from within the nav are expired. Risks include out-of-date offers and visitors typing in URLs which are no longer valid. Use of a custom 404 error page is essential to manage these problems gracefully. Finally, remember that there are always exceptions to guidelines and some have suggested that many of the commonly held usability guidelines are myths.
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