In the “Build A Better Website” series, we’ll dissect a website page by page and put it back together with purpose and great content so that each page of your site can build trust, earn credibility and drive revenue for your business.
If you’ve played along with this series so far, I hope you’ve picked up a few tips to improve your site. And now that you’ve got it all spiffy and shiny, you may wonder why you need a landing page.
Aren’t your product pages gorgeous? Service pages full of benefits? Contact page all spruced up and generating leads?
Sure, but landing pages, also known as sales pages, can be a powerful tool in your website arsenal and even if the rest of your site is a compelling, lead-generating machine, you’d be surprised at how effective a single, laser-focused landing page can be.
The good news is that landing pages are easy to put together if you keep some key points in mind.
Some of these tips are pretty standard and I bet you’ve seen hundreds of pages that use these techniques. It’s formulaic for a reason: because it works.
And some are more about infusing the page with your own brand and personality.
So next time you have a product that you want to move, an eBook to sell (or give away in exchange for an email address) or a service that you want someone to purchase right now, try a landing page on for size and see what it does for your conversion rate.
Start With An Attention-Grabbing Headline
By “start” I mean “put it first on the page”. Nice and big and bold. The headline, much like your blog post title or email subject line, is what’s going to get people to read more.
But it may actually help to write the headline last.
I can tell you from personal experience that it’s really easy to get hung up on the headline. You want it to be interesting, clever, inviting, enticing. And so you (or at least I…) obsess. For a long time.
And the page doesn’t get done.
And suddenly the page seems like a huge project.
And you forget the page and go eat a cupcake instead.
Wait, that’s still me.
Remember, I said a landing page is easy to do. I didn’t say a headline was easy to do. So percolate on it for a while, jot a few ideas down, however bad or goofy, and when you’ve worked on the rest of the page and have a little inspiration floating around in your brain, work on the headline.
Make it short – if your first few ideas are two sentences long, pare it down to one. Six words, pare it down to five. Maybe you can and maybe you can’t, but try. Keep it punchy and direct. You can always add a smaller subheading with a benefit but try to get the first heading to one line.
Nix the jargon – think of your headline as the first and only shot you have at grabbing someone’s interest. If you fill it with unrelatable, boring words, you can kiss your conversions goodbye.
Be specific – tell people what they’re going to get. “Increase your conversion rate by 29%” would get my attention. And yes, people do like oddball numbers. 29% is more specific than a round 30% and thus sounds more legitimate. It’s psychology. Use it!
Ask A Question, Then Offer The Solution
A great way to hook someone is by asking a question they can automatically relate to and answer in their mind. It’s the mental equivalent of nodding their head and when you put someone in an affirmative mindset they’re more likely to respond positively.
But wait, there’s a catch… you have to follow that up with some super-hot benefits.
Let’s break this one down into psychology for a second because if you do it wrong you could be sabotaging your own efforts.
In some pretty recognized studies, it’s been found that nodding or shaking your head can influence your opinion. Nod your head yes a lot and you may be more inclined to agree with something you hear/read. Likewise, shake your head no and you’ll be less inclined to agree.
This appears only to hold true when there is supporting evidence.
And that’s where your benefit points come in. If you can get someone in an affirmative mindset then provide them with the answers they want, then Zing! Pow! Zoom! Watch out conversion rate!
Let’s use this example:
Do you want to generate more leads through your website?
(Ok, who’s not nodding, at least mentally? Now you’re in an affirmative mindset, ready to be convinced.)
Download my eBook and I’ll teach you how to write powerful headlines. Instead of obsessing about your headlines, use my examples and follow these six simple exercises shown to increase conversion rates by 29%. Do less work and generate more business.
Hey, that sounds like an eBook I should write…
Use Testimonials. No, Really. Use Them. This Is Not An Option.
Ok, so my example above was not the most eloquent. If I was writing a landing page instead of a blog post I would’ve obsessed about it a bit more.
But the point is there – get someone in an affirmative mindset, provide them the solution to their problem, then close the deal… with a testimonial.
My paragraph up there may be a little lacking in pizazz, but if I had two or three glowing testimonials from people talking about how my methods really worked, you might be convinced anyway.
Testimonials are pretty much a requirement. Tinker with questions, answers, benefits and content all you want, but plunk those testimonials down. Preferably with a smiling photo of the person who gave it. A photo will go a long way toward adding credibility.
And testimonials need not be gushing. People don’t need to be starstruck, they just need to know that someone else out there tried your offer and found it worthwhile. In fact, a slightly less-gushing and more real testimonial would be my personal choice.
Keep It Clean, And For The Love Of God, Get Rid Of Links
Your landing page should be the plainest, simplest page on your site. Get rid of your graphics. Get rid of your navigation. Get rid of your sidebars, headers, footers…
Brand it – with your colors and logo of course – but otherwise just leave it be. Fight the urge to pretty it up. It’s plain for a reason, and that’s because it’s singularly focused on directing your visitor’s attention to your offer and getting them to take action.
Now, there’s a difference between plain and plain-ugly. The same formatting rules apply as for any page of your site: use headings of various sizes wisely. Keep paragraphs short and readable, use bulleted lists, use bold and italics for emphasis.
Use imagery sparingly. Photos of your smiling supporters are ok. What’s often referred to as “the hero shot” is also ok – your product in all its glory, a photo of you (great for personalization) or a highlight of some benefit.
Video is also a great option and a great way to showcase your products or benefits and add interest and personality. Just please, no 7-minute talking-head “me in front of my webcam” video.
No cramming allowed!
Finally, I implore you to avoid taking anyone off your landing page. That means no links to the rest of your website. No links to your Facebook page. No links to “more information”.
I guarantee you’ll sabotage your conversion rate if you give anyone the option to do anything but take action on your offer.
Which reminds me…
Tell People How To Take Action. But Don’t Ask Them To Submit.
People are funny. The seemingly smallest things will have the oddest impact on our behavior. And when it comes to forms, asking someone to “Submit” must conjure up subconscious images of kneeling submissively in front of some powerful tyrant.
Using the word Submit on a form has been shown to dramatically decrease conversion rates.
Don’t be the tyrant of your landing page. Instead of asking someone to “submit” to your offer (sounds kind of weird, now that I think of it that way!) try another phrase like “get it now” or “click here”.
The most important takeaway here is that you’re telling someone what to do. I’ve talked about that on this blog many times and the advice here is the same: tell your visitor what you want him to do, tell him loud, tell him clear. Whether your call-to-action is a single email field or a full-on contact/checkout form, be sure you’re very clear about what action you expect someone to take.
Say What You Need To Say Then Don’t Say It Again
There is a school of thought when it comes to landing pages that you need a headline followed by a benefits list followed by a testimonial followed by a call to action followed by some more benefit points followed by some more testimonials followed by another call to action followed by another headline followed by an extended benefits list followed by more information followed by a testimonial followed by a headline followed by a call to action…
I’m as exhausted after writing that as I usually am after reading one of those sales pages.
If you can’t convince someone (without scrolling) that you’ve got an offer worth their time then you’re not going to convince them in the next 300 paragraphs.
Those pages are usually A) Ugly and B) Boring and C) A hard sell disguised by abundant happy-smiling-satisfied customers.
If you make a clear, concise statement (headline) in the beginning, get your visitor’s interest with a question or pain point and then provide a benefit-driven solution then you don’t need to do that ten more times.
I don’t have any studies on that but personally, when I see those long pages, I read the first paragraph if it sounds interesting enough and then just go away. Because I don’t have time to read the rest. And I figure there must be something the author thinks I’m missing if he’s still going on and on and I can’t possibly make a decision about his offer unless I read every word.
And so I do neither.
On the other hand (isn’t there always another one?) if your page is too short then I’ll leave, too. These are the pages that say “download the report now” and give you three bullet points telling you why. I need more than that. I bet you probably do too, even if you only have to give up your email address.
So find that happy place between three bullet points and 300 paragraphs.
Do A/B Testing Because It’s Not As Scary As It Sounds
I admit the first time I heard about the concept of A/B testing I freaked out a little. I took a ton of statistics courses in college and hated every last one. So when someone talks to me about anything that hints of numbers I tend to get a little wobbly.
But when it comes to A/B testing a landing page, it’s one of the simplest things you can do.
The key is to change one thing and see which page gets better results.
Can’t decide which headline you like best? Create a landing page using one of your favorites, and another landing page using your second favorite. Leave everything else exactly the same.
Not sure which layout will work best? Create one landing page with the form on the left and one with the form on the right. Leave everything else exactly the same.
Wondering whether “download my eBook” or “get my eBook” will entice someone? Change the call to action and… you got it… leave everything else exactly the same.
If you change more than one thing there will be no way for you to know which of those things made the difference. So you’ll have nothing to learn from the experience. But if you change one thing and test, you can learn something for next time.
Now, That Wasn’t So Hard, Was It?
Before you go, you may want to check out this infographic. I thought it was a really great and concise way of visualizing a landing page. And it leads me to one final point…
Before you build your page, you may want to sketch it out just like it you see in that infographic. A few minutes with a wireframing program or just a pencil and paper can save you tons of time later. It’s a lot easier to erase a box and move it to the left than it is to rebuild a whole page!
So first sketch out a rough layout for your page. If you know your product or service and stand behind it, you’ll be able to come up with some benefits pretty easily. With a little personality and perseverance you can write up an interesting page. And then you can go back and obsess a little less about your headline!
How about you? Have you tried using a landing page? Do you have any tips for what works and what doesn’t? Tell me your experiences in the comments!
Join the discussion 10 Comments
I have a hard time with writing the headline last Carol. That’s usually what I based my entire post around and also what I feel is the most important part of a landing page. You’re right though, we can take a lot of time trying to come up with the perfect title and waste a lot of precious time.
Asking the questions that they’re over their nodding their heads that they want the answer, brilliant move.
I’ve heard that testimonial really help sale the page and I’ve done my share of helping people by giving them mine. I also know from experience that when I hear other people’s opinion about whatever they are promoting that it does help with me making my decision.
I will admit that too many graphics really turn me off. Now I’ve yet to land on a landing page where they have links taking me somewhere else. That would kind of be defeating the purpose right!
I’ve done the A/B testing Carol and I must admit that the more plain landing page won out over the fancy one. I know for me I just need to get my curiosity up enough about something and you’ve got me. Keep it simple and don’t go on for days and I’ll usually opt-in.
Great points, all of them and of course you would be much better at this then me. I’ve done a few but only a couple have really been successful.
Great share here Carol, thanks!
I think I should have rephrased that… writing the headline first is ok but obsessing about it is not good! So usually I write something simple that i want the idea to be about then I go back later and get it perfect. Otherwise I just get stuck! I agree, the simple pages are the best. Long, busy pages are just distracting. You have to catch someone’s interest right away and POW! That’s it 🙂
Hey Carol, Landing pages for sure are important. I have had many many landing pages and tested them closely, yes you are right, the simpler ones do the best…….Great article, I felt you really explained everything well.
I think simpler anything does best! There are a ton of distractions out there so the easier we can make it for people, the better off everyone is.
Hey Carol, I must say that this article is very thorough and absolutely the kind you bookmark and come back to for future reference! Thanks for including all the points that make a landing page work including the best headline, lead, testimonial, call-to-action and above all keeping it simple!
Thanks Gazalla, I know it’s long but I did try to be thorough! Glad it’s bookmark-worthy 🙂
Well, I guess I’m making some of the mistakes you mention here. Now reading this I agree with you about the “submit” button, I personally never liked it, but I’m not internet-customer-logic expert, and since everybody else’s using it, I was too. But gosh do I agree with you, though. My question is why did they come up with this then?… Aren’t they “expert”?
I like simple design too, don’t like too much stuff that just distract the heck out of me. What’s the point to that?
I will have to bookmark this one, Carol. Very good stuff!
I think we are used to the button that says “submit” so its just the default button but it seems to work on us psychologically! I imagine with all the spam and bad offers out there, we are more hesitant to give out our email addresses and we are very sensitive to all those little things. Hey, if all it takes for better conversions is changing one word, it’s worth a try.
Hi Carol, great article and thank you for your advice. I feel my landing page is trying its best but needs some help to make it shine.
Well, it gets a gold star for trying 🙂 I hope you found a few tips you can try out here. Test some, let me know what you learn!