Did you get a brand new budget for 2016? How’re you going to use it?
Whatever you plan to do, consider this: What if you could get more results from every one of those dollars? What could you accomplish if every single one of those dollars went 10% further?
That’s what even a little improvement to your landing pages can do. Think about it: We pour so many resources into our landing pages. Thousands (or more) maybe of digital advertising. Months of content planning, strategy, and creation work. Those landing pages do a lot of work and create a lot of opportunities for you. They’re a critical part of the sales funnel.
So, how would you like to improve the conversion rates on your landing pages by 10%?
No miracles required. No huge testing budgets. Just a few simple principles, applied with patience … and some statistical significance.
So instead of overspending – or getting down because your budget’s small – here are a few ways to squeeze more dollars from your landing pages.
Lead generation landing pages
There are several types of landing pages. The type I’ll focus on here – lead gen landing pages – assumes there’s a form on the landing page. And because the defining element of lead gen landing pages is the form, let’s look at a couple of best practices for forms.
It all comes down to the form
Lots of things matter on landing pages. Headlines are super-important. Copy matters. Design matters. But when you get down to brass tacks, all the action happens in the form.
So don’t neglect it, okay? Make sure your forms obey the proven best practices:
- Generally, the fewer fields in a form, the better.
- Don’t ask for any information you don’t plan to actually use.
- Make the form stand out a bit from the rest of the page. A lightly colored background is usually enough.
- Label all the input fields clearly. If you need to simplify the design, put the labels inside each input field (instead of to the left of each field) like you see in the graphic just above.
For more ideas on how to optimize your forms, see our ebook, Frictionless Forms.
Test the call to action
For lead gen landing pages, when people talk about the call to action, they’re usually referring to the copy on the button. You know, where we usually see “Submit”.
I don’t recommend using “Submit” by itself on your forms. Now, somebody’s probably got a test somewhere that showed “Submit” beating out other copy. But generally, putting “Submit” on your form submit buttons is a lost opportunity. Even if you’re short on space, try using “Next”. According to Formstack’s 2015 Form Conversion Report, it converts 415% better than “Submit”.
Many copywriters still might quibble with “Next”. Most copywriters recommend a call to action that reflects the motivation you want the user to feel. That might be something like “Gimme the report!” or “Start my free trial.”
Note that “Submit Survey” was the highest converting option shown. “Submit Registration” also outscored ‘Submit” by itself, so perhaps if you really want to use “Submit”, you could test adding another word making it a more specific option.
Here’s an example of this in practice. It’s an A/B split test from WhichTestWon’s Gold Awards.
Here’s the original page, with its traditional-sounding call to action, “Download Paper”:
Here’s what they tested against the original page: “Get My Free Paper.”
The result? 25% more conversions. That’s why copywriters like more motivational button copy.
Get crystal clear about your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)
“What’s a USP?” Good question. Basically, the unique selling proposition of a landing page answers the question “Of all the other companies offering this, why should I get it from you?”
USPs are similar to tag lines – they distill your landing page’s raison d’être into a few words. You need to be able to know them cold, and deliver them with confidence and clarity.
Why does this matter so much? Because a landing page hopes to do a sales job in two minutes or less. And yet it needs to be as simple as possible, as clear as possible, and as convincing as possible. It’s almost impossible to pull that off without a crystal-clear USP.
A USP should also influence your headline. Heavily. So heavily, in fact, that in many examples the USP and the headline are the same… the headline is just a different way of stating the USP. And as you probably know already, if the headline of your landing page fails to engage, your visitor is as good as gone.
Match your landing page headlines to your ads
Consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but it’s a virtue when it comes to landing pages.
The classic example of breaking this rule is bringing people from an ad straight to a home page, skipping the landing page entirely. That’s a big fail, but I’m still seeing it happen all the time. (So actually, if you’re using landing pages at all, you’re already ahead of some of your peers. Give yourself a pat on the back.)
But just creating a landing page isn’t quite enough. Take it further: Keep the messaging consistent from your ads to your landing pages, to your follow-up email, all the way to the final conversion.
All this might seem overly repetitive to us marketers, but we’ve spent days, maybe weeks building the sales funnel. We know it like the back of our hand. Not so for your actual prospects, who will arrive and hopefully zoom through your pages with barely a second thought. For them, the repetition is reassuring. And inconsistency (in offer, look-and-feel, language, headlines, images, colors) may have them questioning if they’re still on the path they chose when they clicked that first link. Worse, inconsistency makes you look sloppy and disorganized, not qualities that foster trust. People don’t engage with companies they don’t trust.
Mobile. Mobile. Mobile.
I can’t overstate how critical it is for your landing pages to be mobile friendly. For many of us, there’s more traffic from mobile devices than from desktops. That’s been true for a while, as this chart from ComScore shows:
Repeat after me: “I will never publish another landing page without testing it out on my cell phone.”
Beyond testing to make sure your pages look good on mobile, you should also view your pages in a cross-browser testing tool. There are dozens of sites that offer this, either for free or as a paid service with more features. What looks good on Chrome may not render correctly on Firefox or Edge (etc.).
Ask someone who doesn’t know your product to review your landing page and assess the goal of it.
The most likely candidates for this job are spouses, roommates, and friends. Friendly people on planes are a good choice, too. But no co-workers allowed.
To get the best results, explain the basics of your campaign. For example: “We sell online accounting software for small businesses. We’re sending people who have searched for those services and clicked on our ads to this page.”
Don’t give information that’s too specific, like “We’ve been having a lot of trouble with conversions.” Many non-marketing people don’t know what a “conversion” is… they’ll think you’re trying to start a cult or something.
Use a timer to see how long it takes them to finish the task (Extra credit: Get them to do this on their cell phone). Ask them to talk you through what they’re thinking.
Common red flags include:
- They say, “What do I do?” Message to you: Your call to action and the purpose of your landing page are not clear enough.
- Silence for more than 1 minute. Your landing page may be too confusing.
- They wince or flinch upon first sight of the page. Your headline may alienate them, they may not like the design, or an image you’re using might be putting them off.
- They have any trouble filling out the form. You’ve got a conversion-suppressing form.
- If they are on a mobile device: They either hold the device up close to their face or try to zoom in on something. Message to you: The typeface is too small, or you need to simplify the landing page design.
Take notes on how the reviews go. It’s helpful to get feedback from five different people. That’s an old best practice from usability tests. After the fifth user test, you’ve typically triggered at least the biggest problems.
Of course, the best “test subjects” for this are people who are in your ideal audience … and people who are not your friends. If you can’t find anyone like that, check out a service like UserTesting. For $49 they give you ten videos of different users interacting with your site, page or app.
Obsess over speed
Speed matters online. A lot. Especially with landing pages. Some studies have shown that every extra second it takes for a page to load, conversions go down 7%.
Any more than a 3-second load is almost certainly costing you conversions. And anything more than a 2-second load is probably costing you at least some.
Don’t forget video
Video is more important every day. And while we might first think of it as “just” a content marketing format, don’t underestimate the power of the right video on a landing page.
The key word there is “right”. Not every video is going to spike your conversion rates. But videos do very well on landing pages, and I urge you to test one or two. Consider a short animated explainer video if you’ve got the budget. Or just put your best human explainer in front of a camera and have them talk to your visitors. Intercut a few screen shots, with voiceover.
Here’s a thumbnail list of best practices for videos on landing pages:
- The ideal length is anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds, depending on who you ask and which study you cite.
- Put the most important parts of your message near the beginning.
- Give enough information on the page so a visitor could decide to go forward without seeing the video.
- Make the first frame of your video (the image that shows before the video plays) count. Don’t just show a salesperson standing in front of the camera.
- Don’t set the video to autoplay. This one is controversial … quite a few landing page experts would disagree. But pretty much everybody acknowledges that auto-play videos are annoying. Having a video auto-play in the middle of a silent office is awful for the user because it irritates everyone around them. They’ll bail on your page as fast as they can.
- Assume nothing; test everything. That’s true for pretty much every piece of advice in this post. Best practices are great, but you’ll never know what works for your own audience until you test. That’s why testing comes in as the #1 way to improve landing page conversions in Ascend2’s Landing Page Optimization Survey Summary Report.
Not all conversion optimizations are good
Wuh? Don’t we want more conversions? More is better, right?
Not always so. Especially conversions near the beginning of your sales process.
Here’s why: Too often marketers focus on only one stage of the sales funnel at a time. This can result in an increase in conversions near the beginning of the sales funnel, but not necessarily at the end (where it counts most).
Say you optimize a landing page and get 20% more sign ups. Awesome, right?
Not so fast.
Maybe you’re getting a bunch more sign ups now, but are those new people converting at the end of the sales funnel? Are they becoming actual paid customers, or are they just looky-loos?
With every change you make, ask yourself: Are you truly increasing the quality of your customer base and the profitability of your business? Not all customers or clients are created equal; more is not necessarily better. Optimize your landing pages not just to get boast-worthy conversion rates, but to actually improve your company.
You could spend a lifetime learning how to optimize landing pages. Some people have. But once you’ve got a few principles under your belt, you know enough to dive in and start using and testing what you’ve got.
That’s the beauty of landing pages: They improve over time. They’ll never perform any worse than on the day you first publish them … if you’ve got an ongoing testing program.
Back to you
Got any tricks for improving landing pages that you’d like to share? Any favorite case study where one change made an amazing difference? Tell us all about it in the comments.