The Ultimate Guide to Landing Page Optimization

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Think about the last time that you met someone new. Maybe it was someone you hired onto your team. Maybe it was a barista at the local coffee shop.

What was your first impression of that person?

Did the way they wore their hair make any sort of impact? Perhaps makeup, jewelry, or clothing?

Chances are, if they looked put together, even in their own original style, they made a good impression. If they looked like they rolled out of bed five minutes ago, then, perhaps not so much, right?

Landing pages are much the same way. First impressions matter so much that they’ve been proven to increase conversion rates and profits, assuming they are properly created.

And that means it can’t just be a simple design with a CTA. You want it to be convincing, eye-catching, interesting… Everything that says “You need this.”

That’s a lot of pressure for one landing page, but much like people deal with judgement every day, this is not impossible. Especially with a guide like this one.

Keep reading for an in-depth rendition of landing page optimization that you can use to implement valuable tactics for your business.

Why Landing Pages?

Before we truly begin, a landing page is not your homepage. This is a common misconception amongst entrepreneurs, largely because both pages require plenty of effort, and do a lot of the same things (create first impressions, focus on CTAs, represent your brand, etc).

But a landing page gets its traffic from anywhere except your website pages. It’s usually linked to from things like pay-per-click ads, hence why keywords are so important. Avoiding general terms like “business,” and opting for more detailed terms, such as “B2B growth marketing business” is critical to success.

In fact, ad-specific landing pages outperform the generic ones by at least 115% in leads, which means you can’t afford to passively target interest. You have to know your audience, and know which keywords will convert like you want them to.

Again, that’s a lot of pressure. So, why are landing pages worth it? Do you even need to have one in the first place?

Well, consider your homepage. It’s connected to all of your other pages, and although it has CTAs, it’s a bit more general. Visitors can click around your website as they please.

On the other hand, a landing page is hyper-focused on one CTA, and doesn’t connect to your blog, for instance. There’s nothing to distract the visitors’ attention. They know where to go, they’re lead to the goal, no guessing involved.

This means you, the entrepreneur, have greater control over what the target audience does with the information and options they’re presented with, which eventually begins to affect your search engine rankings. The more visibility, the higher the conversion rate, the better the ROI.

But again, the landing page needs to be up to par, or else it won’t deliver. It should ideally be both short and relevant in order for it to be high ranking.

Knowing What Your Audience Wants

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Notice, then wording there: landing pages need to be relevant. But how can they be relevant to more than just your business? Obviously you want visitors to complete an action, but… what about what they want?

That’s where insider knowledge comes in. For a business to thrive, you have to know what your audience wants the most, and give it to them, enticing them through a landing page that they actually want to take the time to read.

Cue buyer personas.

These are digital profiles of your ideal customers. These people are specifically picked out as the most lucrative for your business based on demographics, like gender, age, education, monthly disposable income, and more.

For instance, maybe you’re selling home decor, furniture, everything that makes a home feel like home. Maybe your prices are high, and your materials are exquisite. That means you’re likely selling your items to older, more established men and women who went to college, and have large monthly disposable incomes. A 24-year-old, fresh out of college probably won’t be your ideal customer.

However, the thing about buyer personas is that although they help, they’re not fool-proof either. There are always exceptions to every rule, it’s what makes the world go around. Who’s to say a 24-year-old doesn’t have an extravagant amount of money lying around? Maybe they are successful in their line of work.

You can tailor your buyer personas all you want, but you’re never going to cover all the ground accurately. The net is always somehow both wider, and narrower, than you think it is.

That’s why many entrepreneurs choose a simpler method of figuring out what their audience wants: segmentation.

  • Attitude - how they feel about specific things

  • Aspiration - what they hope to accomplish

  • Opinions - their point of view on something controversial

  • Lifestyle - health, wealth, family and work

If it doesn’t seem like it relates to you, consider altering the narrative as necessary. For example, if you’re selling clothing, then it may seem like your audience won’t have an aspiration about it. But what if they’re aspiring to portray wealth and influence so they can land the job that finally gives them those things?

What Leads to Conversions?

Now that you’ve taken the time to really analyze your audience to see what it is they want from you, it’s time to look into how ads can benefit your landing page.

For starters, we briefly touched on PPC. Pay-per-click ads are great in that they are budget friendly, efficient, and flexible. They make it possible for businesses to generate interest, and even hypertarget the specific type of customers they’re going after, resulting in super effective traffic.

But there are things that you should consider before implementing the use of PPC. There are certain tactics that just don’t work, others that should be altered based on industry, and plenty that have proven themselves to be undisputed staples.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Keywords are key to PPC, traffic, and therefore, conversions. Avoid generic phrases like “coats.” Even 2-word phrases like “women’s coats” are a little better, though not ideal. Strive for more descriptive phrases, such as “red Patagonia womens raincoats.” Obviously, you’ll get less clicks, but each one will be highly targeted, which means you only pay for valuable clicks.

  2. Speaking of payment, set a daily budget, not a total one.

  3. Ad size is important. Including a variety of banner sizes to use across AdWords is a smart idea.

    • Mobile leaderboard - 320 x 50

    • Leaderboard - 728 x 90

    • Square - 250 x 250

    • Banner - 468 x 60

    • Small Square - 200 x 200

    • Large rectangle - 336 x 280

    • Skyscraper - 120 x 600, or 160 x 600

  4. Use ad groups to target each theme or keyword group, and eliminate the ones that underperform.

  5. If you have a physical storefront, add the Call and the Map extensions to your ads. This will make them much more interactive, and show curious onlookers where you’re located. Perhaps they’ll swing by.

  6. Select the best times for your ads to be shown. This may require some extra testing effort and research, but if you know who your target audience really is, this may become a little simpler. For instance, if you’re targeting college students, you may choose to target in the afternoon and evening, since most of them opt for morning classes.

  7. It may also be helpful to create a Google Plus account and incorporate that button into your PPC ad.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into getting that conversion rate up. This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg, but it’s a solid start. The important thing is to always experiment and alter as necessary. Don’t make the mistake of setting up a big budget from the start.

Testing, Testing, Testing

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Remember in science class when you had to test your hypothesis? You likely had to come up with a solid statement of what you expected would happen at the end of your experiment, and if it wasn’t accurate, you tried again, forming another hypothesis. Only that one was based on new data gathered by the failed experiment.

You got better and closer to success every time you failed. Like a brand new puzzle piece, everything made more sense with every guess.

Well, little did we all know that the scientific method would still be used as adults. Not only do we use it whenever we’re deciding on how to best approach our daily issues, or interactions with other people, we also use it in business.

Each time you test your call-to-action, or your headline, or the contents of a form, you’re using the scientific method.

So, in essence, for a while there, conversions don’t matter as much. You’re going to make mistakes initially, and that’s actually what you want, so long as they’re not drastic. By being smart about how you control your experiment (time, funds, clarity), you can fail and fail, and actually gather valuable data to then implement in your final result.

Of course, there’s a time and a place. If your website is still under construction, or you’re not even hitting 10 successful conversions goals per day, then it’s too soon to begin testing. At that point, you’d be wasting valuable resources on something inaccurate. So, finish the site, and get some traffic. Make sure the foundation is solid, before moving onto the testing.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s look at the testing process, step-by-step.

Setting the Stage

Before you test, you have to know what to test, so start by selecting the page with the highest bounce rate, or lowest conversion rate. Note, however, a high bounce rate isn’t always terrible. Sometimes you have short pages with a CTA to download something. When visitors download it, they leave, hence the bounce rate.

Ideally, you want to select pages that aren’t converting. Pages where people aren’t getting past a click, before they leave the page, if not the entire website altogether.

If you’re having issues finding this information, go to Content > Site Content > Landing Pages, and then select Comparison View.

Highest Paid Person’s Opinion

This is the person that runs things, like the VP, or marketing manager. If you have a marketing department, you already know how the highest paid person always voices his/her opinion, making choices that much more difficult at times.

And to be fair, a lot of the time, they have a point. They’re the highest paid for a reason, after all. They likely don’t want to taking on more than you can handle, and using up resources. That being said, sometimes, you just need to test things out to learn and alter. So, to compromise, try limiting the sample size of landing page optimization tests. A lot of software available allows you to limit to a very specific number of visitors, so try selecting one that your opinionated coworker is comfortable doing.

Area of the Page

Once you’re greenlit, it’s still not time to begin testing. Now you have to select the right area of a page. That’s right, it’s not enough to choose a page, you have to get specific, much like with keywords. For instance, maybe there’s a short landing page with a form on it. You’d want to test the form, because that’s your CTA.

Over time, you’ll test the rest of the page, but it has to be bit by bit. This allows you to make changes in each section that you test, over time, as you gather more insight. Too many changes to an entire landing page at once, and you’ll have too many variables to test. Suddenly, things become unclear, and well, it’s not as accurate. Talk about squandering resources.

Here are the things you’ll eventually test:

  1. Headline - It needs to capture attention from the start.

  2. Body Copy - Short, direct, offers a specific solution to a problem.

  3. CTA - Convincing, strong, solid.

  4. Offer - It needs to be something people actually want. If testing shows they don’t want it, try changing it. Note, video and courses have a higher conversion rate than bland ebooks. If you do opt for an ebook, make sure it’s catchy and helpful.

  5. Form - Gathers data, fulfills conversion, and allows you to contact them later. Remember, when testing this, you want to do more than just change its look or color. You want to change the fields, the designs, even the phrasing, all a little at a time while testing.

  6. Trust Seals - Try testing a different mixture of seals, like PayPal Verified, or Bill Me Later. These convey trust, but some seals work better than others at building it. Experiment a little at a time.

  7. Video - If professionally shot and edited, video adds a whole new element to your landing page, which suddenly becomes more than just another wall of text. Try testing it out, if you have the skills and tools required to make it high quality.

  8. Live Chats - Unless you always have someone ready to chat, this is actually a negative for your business. Here’s why: whenever it shows “unavailable,” it gives off the vibe that you don’t really care about visitor questions or concerns.

  9. Directional Cues - These incorporate a face, an arrow, or another object that draws people’s attention to the CTA, the copy, the headline, or all of those things. Are they working? Find out with heat maps.

Testing Methods

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Now that you know what you’ll test, and hopefully, at what pace you’ll do it, it’s time to select how you’re going to test it all.

And there are two common ways: A/B and Multivariate. Let’s learn more about each.

A//B

This is the most common testing method, the one we read about in all the guides, all the blog posts. And there’s a reason for that: it’s efficient at letting you compare two different versions of a page, preferably when a single thing has been changed. Again, you want to limit the number of variables, so don’t change several things at once.

To A/B test, use free tools, like Google’s Content Experiments. It will require you to fill out some fields of information, such as minimum time for the experiment to run, or confidence threshold, but once you’re done, you’ll be able to add up to five different variations. That means you can change five elements on your landing pages, and then test for the best possible outcome.

In a controlled environment such as this, where the option to test more than one element is available, it’s smart to do so. It’s free, and it’s efficient.

Now, it does work with code. So, if you’re up for it, do it yourself. Otherwise, sent an email to the webmaster. Google validates the code, so if it isn’t working, it will give you an error. Don’t ignore it, as it could skew your testing.

Multivariate

This is the complicated testing method, hence why A/B is so much more common. However, it’s worth it: it gives you faster results, and allows you to test several elements on one page at a time. In other words, you don’t need to adhere the golden rule of testing in increments, one thing at a time, here. Multivariate is designed for more, hence the name.

If you want to implement it, you can do so with Google Content Experiments as well, following the same steps as with A/B. However, it isn’t as efficient this way.

In fact, it’s very difficult to recommend a way to do it, because it requires large amounts of traffic. This allows you to see increases, or losses, in a short amount of time.

So, if you’re up for complicated, but effective, and have the traffic to do it, give it a try with tools like Visual Website Optimizer.

Value Proposition

Believe it or not, it’s not all about testing, laying things out, designing forms, and forming hypothesis. It’s also about providing value.

Without that value, there’s no reason to test. People won’t convert unless they feel that what you’re offering is actually worth the clicks and time.

So, how do you go about designing your value proposition? By selecting one of these three types:

  1. Delivering specific benefits (increasing your ROI in six months, or it’s free).

  2. Sharing how your product/service solves a problem in a way that’s up their alley.

  3. Giving them reasons to buy from you, instead of going to your competition. This is done by showing them how you stand out from the crowd.

Once you decide which approach you want to use, it’s time to answer three questions in a jargon-free way. Be as natural and honest as you can when answering:

  1. What are you selling?

  2. To who?

  3. And why should they care?

As a bonus, for #3, don’t forget to make it quantifiable. Use things like time frames, or money saved by selecting your service/product, to make your offer that much more valuable.

And feel free to add things like testimonials, reviews, or specific guarantees. With the use of hashtags on social media, it’s become that much easier for your established customers to rave about you online. If you see posts that make your offer shine that much brighter, feel free to showcase them, and thank the customer who originally posted it.

Once you’re done, take a step back. This is the copy that will wind up on your landing page. It may be altered for clarity and tone, but all in all, it’s your first draft, so congratulations. You’re on your way there!

Just remember that it takes more than copy. Value is conveyed in many ways, including images, video, trust seals, etc. If you’ve already forgotten, scroll back up to earlier sections of this guide.

In the Face of Failure

Once you’re ready to evaluate test results, it’s time to analyze and tactfully react.

There will be four major categories that you’re going to want to pay some extra attention to, categories which will make the results that much easier to figure out.

#1 Bounce Rate

Anything above 75% means your visitors aren’t finding anything of interest on your page. It means there’s a disconnect somewhere. Maybe they landed on your page because they were promised a solution to a problem, but they got something else instead. Maybe your copy doesn’t read well, or isn’t clearly stating how what you’re offering is actually relevant.

#2 Traffic

Traffic coming from Twitter want short, simple copy. Those coming from Facebook want something more informative. Those from LinkedIn want as much value and actionable information as possible.

In other words, the referrer will determine what that particular segment of traffic wants from your landing page. And you can’t please everyone. The best you can do is craft a landing page that pleases them all as best as you can, while understanding that there will be a limit to that.

#3 Conversion

Compare different versions side by side. Which element change was for the better? Which one failed to perform? Conversion rates can drop as a result of changes, so be sure you know what’s causing it to plummet. Change it back, or try another method as you see fit.

#4 Behavior

Here’s something people don’t measure or focus on often. It’s not just about conversion rates and traffic, it’s about what visitors are doing on your landing page.

The best way to find out what they’re doing is by using heat maps, which were mentioned previously. Crazy Egg is famous for providing some of the top-used heat maps, which show you the actions taken by visitors.

The best part about heat maps is that they show you the mouse movements, where they linger, what they skip, and where they get stuck.

That’s important. If your visitors find something that’s obstructing them from… say, converting, then that’s something you need to address.

These bottlenecks are almost always caused by content that isn’t clear, and a value proposition that feels lacking. Of course, if your landing page feels like a mismatch of content that doesn’t all work together toward a common CTA, that’s clearly the issue.

Tools to Use

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Obviously, the chances are high that you’ve already created a landing page or two. You’re probably reading this guide as a way to improve what you already created. However, some of you may be reading prior to creating anything, and that’s an even better position to be in.

Whatever your story is, you’ll benefit from a list of helpful tools that can make the landing page creation experience that much easier.

Let’s take a look at some page builders for starters:

  • Instapage - This resource features templates for different uses, such as click-through and lead generation. It also learns based on the visitors you get, making testing that much easier.

  • Unbounce - This is a popular resource because it allows people to build and test landing pages without the need of an IT department. It’s a paid tool, but it’s not the priciest on this tools list, so don’t eliminate it from your list of possibilities if you can help it.

  • Wordstream - It features landing page elements, a form builder for leads, and even themes to split test. All with a drag and drop editor, making it user friendly.

  • Launchrock - A social and list-building placeholder, this page builder has some pretty useful tools if you want to try the “get X sign-ups, get Y” approach. It’s also free to use.

Since building a landing page isn’t enough, take a look at these testers:

  • Optimizely - Great for beginners, with low monthly prices and a trial period. That being said, it won’t give you the right tools if you’re experienced, unless you’re looking to shell out quite a few hundred dollars each month.

  • HubSpot - This is a no-brainer, HubSpot it well-loved for a reason. They’re super knowledgeable. Their tracking and testing service lets you handle different testing segments based on each buyer persona that you have, so you can better gauge the effectiveness of your page changes. However, it isn’t cheap. Choose HubSpot if you can afford it, otherwise, opt for a cheaper solution that’s still full of options.

  • CrazyEgg - This heat map tool is amazing, because it allows you to see everything your visitors do, and don’t do. If they don’t care for your new banner, you’ll know. If they love your offer, you’ll know. If they think your video is terrible, you’ll also know.

  • Ion Interactive - This is a very expensive solution to testing, so don’t use it unless it’s well within your budget. The reason it’s several thousands per month is because it’s very intricate, featuring just about everything you’d need for testing. If you want to at least give it a shot, and see your page score based on a 13-point checklist, try out their free trial.

  • The Five Second Test - It takes visitors seconds to decide if your page is worth their time. And this resource will give you that insight in just five short seconds. See what visitors see, what they think. This is invaluable if you’re trying to make a good first impression, as you should.

  • Usabilla - Capture user feedback on any device, so you’re well-aware of bugs, faulty features, and more. This is something that sets Usabilla apart from most other testing resources available, and it proves super useful. You want your landing page to be functional, rather than just easy on the eyes.

  • Browser Shots - This tool allows you to test your landing page on several different browsers, so you know how well, or poorly, it’s performing overall. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s a way to test for both new and older versions of browsers.

  • Pingdom Site Speed Test - This is an essential tool to testing website speed. You want your landing page to load up quickly, especially since for every 100 millisecond people wait, the drop off rate rises by 1%.

And always remember, if any of this seems a little too complicated or time consuming, you can always hire outside help, such as consultants.

First Impressions

Like it or not, first impressions matter, especially in business. What you do to first get your potential customers’ attention sets the stage for what’s to come, and they know it. That’s why a well-designed landing page can increase your numbers so quickly. When used properly, it’s an incredible tool.

So, do you feel like your landing page is successful? If not, what problem areas do you feel need addressing?

Leave a comment below with your answer, would love to hear some feedback!