Core Principles of Landing Page Optimization

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Step-by-step guides are a great shortcut to putting together a reasonably successful landing page . . . but you didn’t start your business off of a mediocre idea. You’re not pushing forward with a halfway decent marketing campaign. You’re not trying to promote a pretty okay service or product.

To put it simply, you’re not here to settle for reasonably successful.

The best way to create an attractive and successful landing page is to understand all the moving parts that go into one and how each element affects your visitors. Landing page optimization is a process of revision, so the better you understand the individual elements that make up a landing page, the more efficiently you can revise.

So buckle up. We’re diving into the core principles of landing page optimization, so you know exactly what to do, and what you can do without.

Your Homepage . . .

. . . is not your landing page!

Certainly, everything you learn about landing pages can be applied to your homepage and your website at large, but landing pages exist in parallel to your website with one specific goal: to get visitors to invest in something, oftentimes for purposes of sales generation or lead capture.

Were you enticed with a free e-book and clicked a link to see that you’ll get the e-book after signing up for a newsletter? Landing page.

Did you click on a special offer or ad that took you to a page specifically about a special offer? Landing page!

By specializing certain pages for certain tasks, you can increase their efficiency and chance of funneling visitors toward your intended goals, whether it’s signing them up for a newsletter, membership, or trial offer to purchasing a starter’s kit, introductory product, or information (e.g.: e-book).

In fact, any given business more than likely has multiple landing pages with different strategies all offering the same thing, essentially. The name of the game is hyper-targeting landing pages for very specific visitors based on where they’re coming from, but before that, it’s important to understand where and when to use a landing page.

When to Use a Landing Page

landing page optimization

The short answer is: All the time! For every marketing campaign!

Given all the time in the world, this would be the only answer needed. But time is money so in most cases, you’ll want to prioritize campaigns that focus on conversion: turning cold audiences (strangers with no idea who you are) into warm audiences (people who are familiar and receptive to your services or products). Newsletter sign-ups are one example of a conversion strategy for turning cold audiences into warm audiences.

So are there hot audiences too? Absolutely! These are your diehard fans and they’re worth their weight in gold. Landing pages targeted at your hot audience will function a bit differently in that you’re trying to turn your diehard fans’ hype into . . . MEGAHYPE!

Short-term marketing campaigns are another area that you’ll want to prioritize for landing pages, as your landing pages will work in conjunction with the marketing campaign and can funnel visitors from the short-term campaign into more long-term marketing funnels if so desired.

Another easy way to utilize multiple landing pages is to essentially have duplicate landing pages that are each tied to a different ad source so you can easily track which ad sources are working and generating more/better results.

But all of this will be less than useful unless you . . .

Know Your Audience!

If you’ve heard this before, then you haven’t heard it enough!

For all forms of marketing, you absolutely, positively, without a doubt need to know your audience inside-out, upside-down, front-and-back.

If you don’t know your audience, then you won’t know where to focus your marketing dollars or how to alter the course of your campaign (and there’s no surer way to derail your marketing campaign than to not make course corrections over time). To put it simply, knowing your audience is the difference between trying to market shoes to a fish and trying to market shoes to a millipede (and let’s pretend that in our simple world, certain animals actually need and use footwear).

Different Floats for Different Boats

Your target audiences for your landing pages will differ slightly from your business’s target audience. This is primarily due to how specific the goals of landing pages are and how important it is for your strategies and landing page elements to be laser-focused on who you’re targeting.

For example, if your target audience for your fitness business is primarily stay-at-home moms, you may end up doing some short- or long-term marketing campaigns focused on adding women who work from home to your core audience.

Since landing pages exist in parallel to your main site (meaning that, while they’re part of your website’s domain, the only way to get to them is through a direct link), you could create landing pages that specifically appeal to small business owners or women who work remotely without making any changes to your main website that might alienate some of your core user base (SAH moms).

The power in landing pages is that each page can appeal 100% to a very specific and very different visitor. It all comes down to your targeting parameters and how granular you want to get with your target audience detail (hint: get as specific as you can!)

Lock-On with Target Profiles

On paper, it’s easy to write down some demographics like age, income, education level, hobbies, music tastes, etc. in order to create a target audience.

But actually being able to use this information is another story entirely.

When making marketing campaign or landing page optimization choices, it’s hard to visualize how “middle-class women with college degrees between the ages of 24 and 38 who listen to lo-fi” might respond. After all, even with these specific demographics, the kinds of people within them can be as different as night and day. As humans, we’re naturally more drawn toward other humans rather than statistics and categories.

Enter in the Target Profile, a marketing technique to turn your laser focus into a pinpoint orbital laser cannon.

Target Profiles are, in essence, your absolute ideal target audience members: you know their name, where they grew up, how much they make, what they’re into, everything.

And their one strongest trait: They’re completely fictional.

Using the demographics from the example above, a target profile might look something like this.

Samantha, age 26: BA in English, new mother of twins who listens to lo-fi while taking her kids out for a walk in their stroller, constantly worries about noise when kids are asleep, hasn’t had a chance to go back to the gym for a few months. Favorite foods include vegan chili and fruit tarts. Does not care for politics.

A target profile usually includes a stock photo so that you can match a face to a name, so to speak. Now, you may have noticed that some details don’t seem to matter too much in regards to your target audience: whether someone likes vegan chili or not probably has no bearing for the target audience of a fitness business (or maybe it does if the business chooses to expand into nutrition!).

The point is that these kinds of small details help bring your target profile to life.

The sooner you can start thinking of your target profile as a real person, the sooner you can upgrade your questions from, “How would my target audience react to this call to action and color scheme?” to, “How would Samantha and Elizabeth each react to this call to action and color scheme?”

With target profiles (and you’ll want a handful of them!), this important self-questioning evolves from a good mental exercise into a fantastic one.

And since your target profiles are fictional, you’re free to alter them—and you should! Remember: without course corrections, your marketing campaign risks running into a sandbar.

Now for the Good Stuff: Anatomy of a Landing Page

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Now that we’ve finished the introductory unit on landing pages, it’s time to get to the good stuff: each element that makes up a good landing page. There’s a lot to cover, but we’re going to make it as painless as possible.

You’re welcome.

Time Is Money

The most basic of the basic: nobody can view your landing page if it doesn’t load. But did you know that if your page takes more than a couple seconds to load that you could be losing almost 50% of your potential traffic? Speed matters and slowness kills. If you’re having issues with page loading speed, give Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool a whirl.

Be Attractive. Don’t Not Be Attractive

If looks could kill, you’d want your landing page to be a film noir femme fatale with a .38 special. Kiss kiss bang bang.

Nothing erodes confidence and chases people away faster than a bad looking webpage, so do everything in your power to at least make your page look like it is professionally designed. Use professional or professionally sourced photos, congruent color schemes, clean designs and organization, and stay away from the comic sans font.

(And if you’re really jonesing for that comic sans feel, check out the Comic Neue font)

Relevant Target Acquired

Fairly straightforward: a landing page is relevant and targeted. Do your best to avoid having “catch-all” landing pages that attempt to serve multiple goals. If you want people to sign up for your newsletter, don’t have your landing page ask them for their email for the newsletter and try to convince them to buy something. A much more effective way is to funnel newsletter subscribers to your “buy” landing page a little later down the line.

Good to the Last Drop

What do Starbucks and a landing page have in common? Consistency consistency consistency. No matter where you go in the world, a Starbucks is going to give you the same Starbucks experience. The same is true for your landing page: it’s consistent with your personal or corporate branding.

This consistency is key in managing visitor expectations and ensuring that your landing page gives off that professional and trusted vibe.

Call Me Maybe

If you want to instill a sense of trust and legitimacy to your business, one easy way to do that is to have easily accessible contact information, especially a phone number or real world address. There’s too much spam in the world these days, so take a second to do this small, simple thing to make yourself stand out.

Certified Badass

Any relevant certifications, awards, or endorsements should be displayed prominently. Be proud of the accolades your business has received! This acknowledgment from third parties also helps bolster your credibility and can be a key factor in conversion.

Just be sure to keep those accolades relevant. Your youth karate tournament trophy isn’t relevant (sorry, grasshopper).

Eat Dessert First

Simply put, skip the boring stuff and go right to letting your visitors eat dessert. Your most interesting content should be top and center and the rest of your content should be just as interesting. You should be inspiring hype and trust in your visitors, not giving them flashbacks to boring lecture halls.

Save the dry jargon and walls of text for . . . well, don’t save them: throw them in a dumpster and set them on fire.

Keep It High and Tight (Clear and Organized)

Someone should be able to take the proverbial white glove, run a finger over your landing page, and have the glove come up white as a ghost. Along with putting your most interesting content first, you must ensure that everything on your landing page is well organized and sleek.

Your visitor should know exactly what your landing page is about within five seconds. The faster the better. If you’re having trouble figuring out where to tighten things up, show your landing page to a few pairs of fresh eyes and ask them where/when they lose interest. Chances are, you’re including superfluous information that you an easily cut.

The aesthetics of your landing page will also play into how clean and organized things look. Keep in mind that your target audience will determine what kinds of aesthetics will be the most effective. There is accounting for taste, after all.

Two-Faced, Three-Faced, Four-Fa—

We mentioned it before but it bears repeating again: a crucial element of a good landing page is that there’s not just one of them (insert Star Wars prequel meme here). You’ll want a landing page for every occasion and for every audience.

You’ll especially want separate landing pages for when traffic is driven by affiliates or influencers: this is an easy way to keep track of the traffic they send your way for metrics and accounting purposes. And don’t forget to throw their logos onto their specific landing pages! It’s a nice touch the adds consistency and professionalism.

Multiple landing pages also allows you to perform split testing (more on that later!), track geo-targeting tactics, and more!

Keep the Hype Train on the Rails

Your landing page should be a single experience that your visitor can’t navigate away from. This is why your landing page exists in parallel to your site: if it were part of your site, your site menu might cause visitors to leave your landing page to explore your website. This is by most accounts not good, as your landing page is trying to accomplish a very specific purpose.

Likewise, try to avoid including any hyperlinks. Every link on your landing page is an opportunity for you to lose a visitor. You put effort into getting them to your landing page, so don’t give them opportunities to click away!

Once your landing page has accomplished its goal though, everything’s fair game.

Be the TL;DR

Why use lots words when few words do good too?

Don’t drown your visitor in text. Remember, a visitor should know what a landing page is all about within five seconds. There’s a time and place for a potential client to learn about the thrilling backstory of your company, but a landing page is usually not that time nor place.

Keep it brief; keep it impactful; keep it interesting; and keep them from getting bored.

Tip-Top Call to Action

Simple enough: your call to action (“join our newsletter!” “purchase your trial kit!” “get your free book!) should be before the fold. In fact, it should be at the top. A visitor should never have to scroll to see your landing page call to action for the first time.

Don’t forget about the callback to action, a CtA at the bottom of your landing page so your visitor doesn’t have to scroll back up to see your CtA!

Pictures That Speak a Thousand Words

This is the internet, which means you should take full advantage of multimedia. Animated videos are currently hot, but what about GIFs? How about a short webcomic? Even a good old fashioned image or infographic can be good.

Feel free to experiment with different forms of media on your page to keep things interesting and exciting, but make sure to always always do so in a well-executed and professional manner. And for the love of all that is good and wonderful in this world, don’t autoplay music: this isn’t MySpace circa 2003.

A Small Taste of the Rainbow

Sex sells and color is sexy. But don’t just go throwing random colors together: be sure to stick to a professional looking color scheme. Use complementary colors that are on brand for you or your business and don’t be afraid to experiment.

Push Da Button

What turns a boring link into the must-click icon of the year? Buttonizing! Don’t just “click here” to subscribe to the newsletter or purchase your starter kit, turn that link into a flashy, eye-catching button! Buttons can “pop” off the page and draw extra attention to themselves, which is exactly what you want.

Known Knowns, Not Unknown Knowns

Your landing page should only ask for information that you’re immediately going to use. The more information you require your visitor to input, the less likely that visitor is to complete the process. If you want an email address for a newsletter, don’t also ask for a phone number and date of birth as well. Whatever you think you might need that kind of information for won’t be worth the number of people you scare off.

Want more information? Then ask for it at times that actually make sense when someone will get a clear benefit from it (for example, they give you their address so you can mail them a free gift).

Gotta Go Fast! Like, Right Now

Instill a sense of urgency in your landing page to encourage visitors to actually act. “Sign up now!” as opposed to “Sign up for our newsletter!” Good landing pages give the impression that a visitor should act to take advantage of the offer they’re being given.

That being said . . .

Slime-Free Zone

. . . avoid sleazy sales tactics or buzzwords as much as possible. There’s a fine line between instilling a sense of urgency to your landing page and being too pushy. You don’t want to pressure a visitor into action but rather give them the impression that acting now is a win-win situation.

Other slime-free tactics include avoiding over-exaggeration whenever possible and backing up any claims with facts. You could even cite sources, though linking to a source would come into conflict with keeping your landing page on rails.

Bring Enough to Share with the Whole Class

Maybe your visitor realizes that someone they know might also want to take advantage of the offer you’re presenting! That’s awesome! Don’t make them copy/paste the URL.

Make it as easy as possible for your visitors to share on as many platforms as possible. This includes on your landing page and potentially also a quick “share now” pop-up after your visitor has signed up or gone through the process.

Participation Awards for Everyone!

Sometimes, a landing page will offer up a reward or gift for the visitor simply making it to the landing page. This is a good tactic, as it establishes value for the visitor who hasn’t even had to commit anything yet. These gifts/rewards can range from coupons on products to free consultations to free ebooks.

Many sites will use a free e-book as bait to sign up for a newsletter: one up them by giving your ebook away before they sign up for the newsletter. It may seem counterintuitive, but this kind of gesture can have potential audience members warm up to you much faster.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

You don’t necessarily need to be connected to the footloose better known member of the band The Bacon Brothers, but if you’ve got endorsements or testimonials, especially if they’re from prominent members of your industry or public figures that your target audience respects or admires, now’s the time to use them.

Social media can be a great way to get some digital sound bites from prominent figures. This is also where you can get creative. Some campaigns go the humor route with slogans like, “Check out the revolutionary cheese product that got Bill Gates saying, “Wait, who are you again?” If you can get a conversation going on social media about your business, chances are there will be plenty of material for you to mine.

Split Testing to High Heavens

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Just because we’re done covering the anatomy of a good landing page doesn’t mean that your work is done! And that’s because an amazingly optimized landing page is hardly ever born that way. For every good landing page you come across, there are dozens of slightly less good versions that other people have been subjected to.

In other words, in order to optimize your landing pages, you must become an expert at experimentation and refinement.

Just Like the Optometrist

“What looks better? A. Or B. One. Or two.”

Split testing is a simple way to determine which elements of your landing page work best. Essentially, you create two nearly identical landing pages where only a single element differs. This is your “A or B,” the split. You then direct your traffic to either page and track to see if that difference affected your statistics at all.

Everything from photos (or lack of photos!), types of media, testimonials vs. endorsements, short or full quotes, and more can be tested this way. Utilize the power of science to create a super attractive landing page!

Multidimensional Folding

Okay, it’s actually called Multivariate Testing, but it might as well be multidimensional folding. Multivariate Testing is to Split Testing as quantum physics is to that baby toy where you have to put the differently shaped plastic blocks in the correct holes. There are plenty of tools available if you’d like to take a crack at multivariate testing, but there are also plenty of marketing companies who will do this for you and save you time better spent on designing your landing pages.

So Much Time, So Little To Do

If only, right? Landing page optimization may seem overwhelming at first, but the important thing to keep in mind is that you don’t necessarily have to get it right on the first try. Optimization is a trial and error process, so don’t feel any pressure to succeed on your first go around. Focus on accomplishing those simple, laser-focused goals and things will stay manageable.

Good luck!

Already have a few landing pages under your belt? What worked awesomely? What failed magnificently?

Share in the comments below!