by Michael Mothner
Founder & CEO, Wpromote, Inc.
Whether you are a mom-and-pop business or a Fortune 500 company, you are most likely dependent on the success of your online advertising campaign. Chances are that you are leaving money on the table because you do not have a landing page that is achieving it’s potential.
While Landing Page Optimization is an endlessly vast topic, this month we will cover 6 easy-to-implement tips to help your landing pages perform better today, and help you increase your sales or conversions without spending a dollar more on advertising!
1. Tell Users They Have Found What They Are Looking For Right Away – Creating a better landing page can be thought of simply as the “battle against the back button”. When a user arrives at your website, you have about 2 seconds to let the user know that he has found what he is looking for before he hits the back button and continues his search. This is why having a clear, concise and relevant headline is an absolute must for every landing page.
Resist the urge to be overly creative. Forget fancy flash intros. Save your accolades for later. When users first arrive at your landing page, tell them where they are and why it is right for them.
2. Match Your Headlines To User Traffic – If a user is arriving at your site from a PPC campaign, for example, it is incredibly important to send the user to a page that lets them know immediately that they are in the “right place”.
If you sell luggage online, and a user searched on Google for “rolling suitcase”, the landing page they arrive at should closely reflect this. A headline such as “Rolling Suitcases in All Styles, Free Shipping!” would instantly confirm that I had picked the correct link and am at a place that has rolling suitcases for sale.
The same logic applies if you are generating leads and send to just a single landing page. If possible, you want to have landing pages customized for different ways that a user might search for you. This can be done either dynamically or even by manually creating a series of landing pages with different headlines. For example, if you provide credit card applications online, have a landing page for each type of credit card that a user might search for (one page for Discover Card, one for American Express Blue, and so on).
The underlying theme is to always think from the user’s perspective. If you just arrived at your landing page, would you feel that you are in the right place, or would you keep searching?
3. Do Some Basic User Testing – This one is easy. Go show other people your landing pages; the farther removed they are from your business, the better. Ask them to navigate around, and watch what they do. You may be shocked at what you see. You will find users clicking on images that aren’t clickable, getting confused by directions or filling out forms wrong, or simply unable to do what you ask of them. Watching other people interact on your site is an unbelievably helpful way to learn how to improve the user experience.
One of the best stories I have heard about website usability is from social-networking behemoth MySpace. A room full of MySpace executives and managers were recently asked to pull up their accounts and change their profile picture – one of the most basic tasks on any social network. Almost comically, not one person could quickly figure out how to get this task done. Now these executives may not have been regular users on MySpace, but if a room full of computer-savvy people cannot intuitively figure out how to tackle an easy task like this, then millions of other people must be suffering from the same difficulty. Not surprisingly, less than a week later, MySpace streamlined the process of updating a profile picture on their website.
4. Make Sure Everything Is Compatible – This seems almost too obvious to say, but we see dozens of sites each day that are simply not universally browser compatible, and there is just no excuse for this. Before you even think of spending a dollar marketing your website, go test the site in Internet Explorer 6 and 7 (28% and 40% market share, respectively), Firefox 2 and 3 (11% and 12% share) and Safari (3% share) on both a PC and a Mac. Even with Safari’s measly 2.5% market share, it is foolhardy to lose 2.5% of your potential customers because you don’t test sufficiently. Always, always test your site in all currently used browsers and operating systems. We cringe every time we see a client spending thousands of dollars per month on advertising a site that doesn’t work correctly on Firefox, effectively throwing away a quarter of their money.
5. Make Your Forms As Simple As Possible – If you are generating leads from your website, one of the most important factors in your conversion rate is the layout and make-up of your web form. The rule of thumb to always follow is to make the form as simple and user-friendly as possible. Don’t ask for any piece of personal information that you don’t absolutely need to qualify and follow-up on the lead.
We had a mortgage client that had a form which requested a social security number, though it didn’t need that until later in the mortgage qualification process. Removing that field alone doubled conversions.
However, don’t feel that you have to strip down your form to just name and email/phone. Users expect – even look for – certain pieces of related information to be asked of them. For example, in our lead forms, we ask users their advertising budget, their time-frame for getting started and the services (PPC, SEO, Landing page optimization) that they would like to learn more about. We tested these forms with and without these optional fields and saw no difference in results. However, when we asked for a mailing address, conversion rates fell.
6. Don’t Let Users Get Distracted – When we launched our new website early this year, it contained tons of great new information on our team, technology, clients, and more. But, much to our chagrin, when we turned it on, our conversion rates fell.
After much testing, we discovered that the problem was actually the depth of content available to the user. When we tested a version of the site without the top-level navigation available, conversion rates skyrocketed. Needless to say, this was a major wake-up call; despite the fact that our content was great, would-be customers ended up getting distracted or lost on the site and neglecting to actually sign up for service! We now send our advertising traffic to sections of our site with navigation limited to the service they searched for, with far improved results.
This lesson can be applied to virtually every type of site online, and has been incredibly valuable to our clients. Try limiting the scope of options, content and links available on your landing page. Ideally, you want to give just the amount of information required to achieve your sale or lead.
Of all the pieces of the online marketing puzzle, landing page optimization gets pushed to the back of the line time and time again. Admittedly, it is a daunting concept. Most people launch a landing page before it is ready and hope for the best. Doing so, however, will inevitably mean you are loosing out on maximizing your profits. So give it a shot, put some ideas to use, and grab a bigger piece of the pie that is rightfully yours!