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What Makes A Good Landing Page:
CRO Expert Tips For Firing Off More Conversions

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What makes a good landing page? That’s such a broad question. Are we talking about design, one that drives conversions? Sometimes we think we have to choose between form and function — and other times, we find a nice hybrid between the two.
 
I spoke with some of the best of the best when it comes to landing page design and conversion rate optimization to get and idea of how they define a “good” landing page. It was interesting to see where the overlap was and where some might have varying opinions.
 
Let’s see what they had to say (in no particular order)…
 

CRO Expert #1: Andy Budd

 
Andy Budd, Founder of Clearleft
 

“A good landing page needs to do three things successfully. First, it needs to be a natural continuation from where the user has just come from, giving them a clear signal that they are getting closer to what they need (also known as the scent of information). So, if they just clicked on an ad for widgets, they need to go to a page that is clearly focussed on widgets, rather than the home page or a generic landing page.
 
Next, a good landing page needs to effectively answer the core sales objections the user will have. That could how much the thing will cost, what features it has, what it will look like, how it’s different from the competition, etc., etc. So, talk to prospective customers, or when failing that your sales team, make a list of the most common objections and ensure these are dealt with.
 
Lastly, you need to offer a clear, simple and pain free way of moving to the next step in the process. In fact, you may need to offer several routes in. So, try not to overwhelm the visitor with other offers, secondary calls to action or requests for marketing information, until you’ve got them through the door. Otherwise, you risk robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

 
In addition to answers to the more broad question, our team thought it might be good to drill down into some specific questions as outlined for our next expert.
 

CRO Expert #2: Chris Lindekens

 
Chris Lindekens, Creative Director at ChargeTech
 
1) What components go into a top performing landing page?
 

“Aside from your standard header, hero, content, CTA and footer, a successful landing page needs to speak to your user in a way that will keep him or her engaged in what you’re trying to convey.  Bold headlines and colors, direct sub-text, robust keyword filled content, and eye catching call-to-action buttons are all aspects to consider. Make your content clear and concise with layout separations that flow cleanly as a user scrolls through your information. If your content is long, be sure to have call-to-action buttons throughout your page sections.”

 
2) Do you have an examples of how changing pricing (numbers, formatting, color, placement) affects landing page conversion rate?
 

“I worked for a company that preferred to have full screen video playing in the hero area with center aligned headlines, sub-text and call-to-action. After changing the hero to a background image with subject/person on the right side and headline, sub-text, and call-to-action on the left side, conversion rates went up almost 25%. This could have been due to many factors like users not having fast enough computers to process heavy page loading or they may be using older browsers not compatible with today’s tech. It’s best practice to cater to the most common user, if not everyone.”

 
3) What types of landing page design considerations should we consider depending on the type of traffic (warm/cold, display/search) that’s being sent?
 

“You always want to adhere to your businesses design standards–but it’s okay to deviate slightly with landing pages, as they are usually targeted to a specific market and require something more than what’s on your website.  At the end of the day, you want your landing page to be warm, inviting and to the point — whatever colors and layouts you need to portray that is up to the designer. There is no single, end-all, templates that will work for everything.”

 
4) How does the use of color on landing pages impact performance? Do you have a case study or example you can share with us?
 

“Color can portray many things on a landing page, and one of the most important ones is brand familiarity. Having a cohesive color scheme can remind the user that they are still under the umbrella of your content while they scan through a page that might not look exactly like your main website. There is nothing more sketchy on the web than choosing to purchase or see something, and the link takes you to a completely different looking site asking you for payment or the like. Like I said before, it’s okay to deviate–but if you do, make sure you have a standard header and footer using your company brand colors.”

 
5) How do testimonials (including them period, their placement, etc.) impact performance? Do you have a case study or example you can share with us?
 

“Trust is always something you want to cultivate with your customer base–and having testimonials, more often than not, perform better than not having them, especially if you’re trying to get a user to purchase something. It’s best practice to have those testimonials link to where they came from to further inject trust into your customers as they become more savvy about the ambiguousness of online reviews.  Lastly, don’t overload your page with reviews, you’re already competing for limited space, so 2 or 3 will get your message across.”

 
6) What percentage of traffic can be impacted by Dribbble worthy (aka aesthetically pleasing or pretty) pages vs. ugly but functional pages? Is there a way to still make it pretty and convert?
 

“It’s crucial to have a good balance between functionality and form. For a landing pages sake, there really isn’t too much functionality to worry about other than making sure your page does what it’s supposed to do and go where it’s supposed to go, and be responsive for all browsers and devices. In my time, I’ve seen ugly pages convert great, and gorgeous pages perform bad–so its difficult to make a percentage. It’s up to the designer to know their market and what converts in that space.”

 
7) Have you had any top performing campaigns in 2017 that we can mention with landing page/ad images and performance percentages?
 

“Yes, my Black Friday campaign converted 17% more revenue from our website than the previous year.  This was due to a more aggressive email campaign that led users to industry targeted landing pages with sale products and giveaway details.”

 
Our next expert really wanted to focus on the offer as it relates to the landing page in his discussion of landing page performance and effectiveness.
 

CRO Expert #3: John Tedesco

 
John Tedesco, Chief Customer Officer at Leadpages
 
As John Tedesco puts it:
 

“Every great landing page much have these 3 primary ingredients (at least):

  • Compelling offer
  • Urgency for getting the offer right now
  • The technology to deliver the offer

 
A Compelling Offer:
 
Whether it’s a downloadable file, a physical product, or a ticket to a live event, what you offer on your landing page must be clear and must clearly benefit the visit as quickly as possible. Assume the landing page visitor will only see this page one time. Use your headline, imagery, and text to entice the visitor to say ‘yes’ the first time. The offer should connect the dots between the pain points, challenges, or problems experienced by the visitor at the present as well as the results they can expect by taking you up on your offer.  
 
Urgency of the Offer:
 
As a marketer, your chief job is to get your landing page visitors to make a decision about your offer as fast as possible. Ambivalence doesn’t do you nor your visitor any good. Use a countdown timer to highlight the urgency of choosing–and when the timer hits 0, redirect the page or change out your offer automatically to reinforce this urgency. Also, point to the landing page visitor’s frustration with their current situation, and encourage their quick decision to overcome that situation by getting your offer now instead of waiting around in a state of mediocrity.
 
Delivering the Offer:
 
Behind the scenes, a great landing page delivers on what’s promised automatically. Make sure your landing page is connected to your email service provider or CRM to deliver the promised offer within seconds or clicking the submit button. Use clear communication on the offer’s Thank You page to guide the new subscriber or customer to what’s next, and what they can expect from you moving forward.”

 
Our next expert, Karl Gilis, questions whether I’m asking the right question to begin with…
 

CRO Expert #4: Karl Gilis

 
Karl Gilis, Managing Partner at AGConsult
 

“Web design is not about adding stuff; it’s about keeping only the elements that add to the bottom line. Maybe the question should be: what should be left out to make a good landing page? Many landing pages have too much clutter and distractions — things such as sitewide or company navigation, visual overload (sliders, background videos, huge header photos, stock photos, etc.), bullshit text (marketing lingo about how great the product and service is).
 
In my opinion, essential ingredients for a good landing page include the following:
 

  • Copy that’s about the situation, frustrations, dreams and hopes of the visitor. Don’t make it about you; make it about them, especially making that clear at the start of your page. Only after that, start talking about your solution.
  •  

  • Repeat your CTA. People that make it to the end of your page are very interested, so make sure there’s a call to action waiting for them.
  •  

  • Build a relationship. When your landing page is about a product or service, you should realize not many people will become a client during a first visit. So, don’t focus everything on the one and only conversion, because most visitors won’t be ready for that. Try to start a relationship by offering interesting offers (something to download, read or learn). Make sure this is really worth it. Nothing is more frustrating for someone who’s interested in your product or service than to receive a generic white paper or ebook with tips that are just common knowledge.

 
To sum it all up, this is your moment to make an impression. Use it.”

 
Sometimes the answer to a question is really quite simple, and we’re just overcomplicating it. Our next two experts give us short and sweet responses of what they think makes a good landing page.
 

CRO Expert #5: Brian Massey

 
Brain Massey, Founder of Conversion Sciences
 

“Most landing pages don’t work, because they’re not landing pages. They’re something else. A landing page has two jobs: to keep the promise made in an ad, email, social media post or link; and to ask the visitor to make a choice. If you don’t know what promise is bringing someone to your page, you’re not building a landing page. If you have anything on the page that isn’t designed to make a visitor feel comfortable and confident taking action, you’re building something else.”

 

CRO Expert #6: Peep Laja

 
Peep Laja, Founder of ConversionXL
 

“It needs to focus on what’s in it for the user. Spend most of your time crafting a compelling value proposition.”

 
There are so many elements that can make up a landing page. Which elements hold the highest priority? Our expert, Bryan Eisenberg, will cover that next.
 

CRO Expert #7: Bryan Eisenberg
 
Bryan Eisenberg, Co-Founder at Buyer Legends

 

There are 10 key elements that go into every landing page:
 

  1. Logo
  2. Headline
  3. Offer
  4. Descriptive Copy
  5. Product/Service Presentation
  6. Calls to Action
  7. Confidence Building
  8. Contact Information
  9. Link to More Information
  10. Template Elements

 
To make the landing page great, you want to continuously improve the Relevance, Value and confidence building (the “Conversion Trinity”) impact of each of those 10 key elements.”

 
Too many times, people try to answer every question as opposed to those that are most relevant or for which he or she has the most expertise. When I spoke with our next expert, I wanted to dive into his personal experience with CRO a bit more rather than just hearing regurgitated best practices that everyone has heard time and time again. Thus, he answered the questions for which her felt he could add the most value to our readership.
 

CRO Expert #8: Christopher Nolan

 
Christopher Nolan, Growth Manager at BigCommerce
 
1) What components go into a top performing landing page?
 

“It should go without saying that any landing page should accommodate the audience and user it is intended for. That means your messaging should reflect your top performing ad copy, email headline, etc. in the page headline and CTA.
 
Despite the fact that I tend to shy away from “best practices” when it comes to page optimization, there are a few components that tend to drive successful landing pages across the board. In general, your page should alleviate any choice on the part of the user: No duplicate CTAs (i.e. Try it Free and Call Now), minimal, or ideally no, navigation, and clear copy to answer your intended audience’s top of mind questions. Finally, a good landing page needs to portray trust and credibility to your audience: social proof is key and should be a feature of any landing page, especially for users still in the awareness or consideration phase(s) of your funnel.”

 

Example of BigCommerce landing page

Example of BigCommerce landing page


 
2) What types of landing page design considerations should we consider depending on the type of traffic (warm/cold, display/search) that’s being sent?
 

Your landing page design should be hugely informed by your traffic type. Cold traffic and leads from display ads are less likely to be engaged with your material or to immediately convert to an qualified lead or paid user–so short, succinct pages with low-risk CTAs (e.g. download this content, watch this webinar) and eye-catching, spontaneous headlines (e.g. ‘We saw 200% growth in 6 months with X Company!’) are typically more effective. With warmer traffic and paid search, you’ll likely either have some internal insight into the lead or at least knowledge of their keyword. That means you should cater, or even personalize, the content on the page to match your audience, and can afford more content and thus a longer page.
 
I’ve seen good success with use-case testimonials that speak to your audience’s specific pain points, rather than the kind of brand reinforcing trust you’d see with a colder audience (e.g. Featured in, Fortune 500 merchants using our product, etc.). And your CTAs should drive towards more concrete actions, like starting a trial, requesting a sales call or demo, or even converting to a paid user in certain cases.”

 
3) How do testimonials (including them period, their placement, etc.) impact performance? Do you have a case study or example you can share with us?
 

Testimonials can be hugely effective if implemented correctly. Ideally, your testimonials will directly address the top of mind concerns of your audience, and do so in a way that differentiates your product or service.
 
For example: We recently learned that users were attempting to engage with customer testimonials and imagery on landing pages, despite there being no inherent navigation, and a scroll drop off immediately following the testimonial module. To take advantage of this intent, we tested two variations and quickly learned that by implementing a carousel — which allows users to navigate between testimonials — we were able to improve scroll depth and user engagement.”

 

BigCommerce testimonials on a landing page

BigCommerce testimonials on a landing page


 
4) How do you decide when it’s time for a new conversion test or change?

“It’s always time to test. For our team, it all comes down to rigorous measurement and tracking. The beauty of a successful — or terribly unsuccessful — test is that there are almost always secondary or ancillary KPIs that are hugely indicative of the why behind your test result.
 

  • Maybe your CTA change drove more sign-ups or purchases, but did you see form abandonment rate decrease in tandem?
  •  

  • Maybe it’s time to tinker with the form or checkout. Maybe your layout or design change decreased engagement with your hero area and main CTA, but did it encourage scroll and increased bottom of the page engagement in a way you didn’t anticipate?
  •  

  • How can you modify that below the fold content that may have previously been seen as less important, or SEO-driven?
  •  

  • If you’ve redesigned a page and found success, are there components or facets of the change that may have actually been adverse to conversion increases but slipped through the cracks that could be back-tested?
  •  

  • If you’ve changed something simple like a button color or hero image and found success, what drove that change and how do you continue to pull that string?
  •  

  • Did your change affect scroll or bounce rate in a way you didn’t anticipate, despite increased conversion rate? And how can you take advantage of those behavior changes in your next iteration?

 
If you’ve run a number of iterative tests and seen inconclusive results (or plateaued), it’s time to focus on another component of the page(s) or try a more radical change.
 
Ultimately, it’s diligent measurement and analysis that informs effective ideation and untapped creativity, and proper measurement and analysis is foundational components of all of our testing and hypothesis creation. This allows us to not only maintain an insanely high testing cadence, but also to understand exactly what worked and why in order to move forward with the most impactful next tests.”

 
Well-put Christopher. The last question was my favorite as it gave some actual questions that are readers can pose when they’re continuing to test landing page performance.
 

CRO Expert #9: Brandon Weaver

 
Brandon Weaver, Director of Content at Instapage
 
1) What components go into a top performing landing page?

“Besides the obvious (e.g. headline, form, CTA button), top performing landing pages have the following:
 

  • A realistic image/stock photo that is not overly staged and cheesy
  • White space, so each element can breathe
  • Convincing social proof (e.g. testimonial complete with headshot, title, company, and specific quote about the problem being solved)
  • No easy exit points (unlinked company logo, no header or footer links at all, except for privacy policy or terms of use)”

 
2) How does the use of color on landing pages impact performance? Do you have a case study or example you can share with us?
 

“Regarding colors, it’s not about using colors based on their meaning (red=stop, green= go, etc.). It’s more about using contrasting colors, especially with forms and CTA buttons. Too often I see CTA buttons that are very similar colors as the background image, so they don’t stand out. Instead, you want opposite colors, so the form and button is very obvious (e.g. yellow or orange button on black background).”

3) How do testimonials (including them period, their placement, etc.) impact performance? Do you have a case study or example you can share with us?
 

“Testimonials should be specific and include:

  • Headshot
  • First name and last name (e.g. not “John S.” it should be “John Smith”)
  • Job title
  • Company name
  • How did the product or service make a difference at the company (e.g. save time, money, reduce cost, maximize sales, etc.)?”

 
4) Please discuss the importance of company branding across campaigns and respective landing pages. Could it drive more trustworthiness/accountability of a product or service, how relatable the brand is to its audience?
 

“Company branding absolutely plays a part in trustworthiness and accountability, because ads and landing pages are often the first touch for people and you want to establish your brand as trustworthy and able to solve their problem.
 
This question also relates to message matching and providing users with the best post-click experience from ad click to landing page and continuing on to the thank you page and nurturing emails. Your ad and landing page should have matching imagery, colors, offer, etc. so that when they click your ad and visit your landing page, they see the same thing and aren’t confused where they ended up (i.e. they don’t bounce). The more cohesive an experience you can offer prospects, the better chance you’ll have at converting them into a lead and ultimately a paying customer.”

 
5) Have you had any top performing campaigns in 2017 that we can mention with landing page/ad images, and percentages?
 

“One of our top lead magnet landing pages has averaged 45.5% conversion rate all time.”

 

The Instapage landing page referenced above.

The Instapage landing page referenced above.


 

Wrap Up on What Makes a Good Landing Page

It feels odd to even say I’m “wrapping” or “summing” up this topic, because it’s so extensive in what we can cover, especially for the many case scenarios and factors that determine whether best practices work or not.
 
I had an interesting chat with Ton Wesseling, Managing Partner at Online Dialogue, and he made some really good points. He mentioned how a best practices round-up of tips on how to create a high-converting landing page could cause the effect that people will stop thinking and just embed those lessons, which isn’t what they should do.
 
In his words, he says:

It’s about understanding your offer and understanding the needs of your users — putting lots of research in this, validating your insights and then incrementally grow to a top converting landing page. The key to success is in your process, not copying best practices.”

 
He even provided an example:

“What we most often see with e-ecommerce websites is that testimonials work really well for desktop/laptop users, because they’re still more in the ‘orientation process’ and need this info. To be able to make a better choice. On the other hand, on mobile, it’s more often vice versa — testimonials are lowering conversion rates — because users need more focus, are easily distracted on mobile and just needs to finish their task.”

 
As such, I invite readers to investigate with their own website and landing pages — try to learn if tasks differ on various devices, validate which content elements should be shown, and have more focus on what seems to work for your specific case.
 
That being said, best practices do give a baseline if you don’t even know where to look or start. Just make sure you’re not tied to them as a golden rule.

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