Landing page optimization: full guide to increase conversions

Updated: 2 days ago

You have a landing page, but it doesn’t get enough conversions?


Why?


In this full guide, I’ll explain what elements make a landing page great for conversions and how to increase conversions by making key improvements based on actual users’ data.


I’ll teach you the most important metrics to monitor for understanding the performance of your landing page and what freemium tools you can use to improve the conversion rate (CRO: Conversion Rate Optimization).


Let’s start from the beginning.



Table of contents:

  1. Attention: the real goal of a landing page;

  2. Digital marketing strategy for landing pages;

  3. Workshop: optimize your landing page funnel with a Service Level Agreement;

  4. Landing page copywriting for a killer conversion rate;

  5. Design elements for a successful landing page;

  6. Landing page builders;

  7. Metrics to audit a landing page performance;

  8. On-page optimization strategies;

  9. Off-page optimization strategies;

  10. A/B testing: dos and don’ts.






ATTENTION: THE REAL GOAL OF A LANDING PAGE




You build a website to achieve three main goals:

  1. Inform;

  2. Generate leads;

  3. Sell.


If you don’t include one of these three key objectives, you actually don’t need a website.


But if you include all of these three goals, you need landing pages to focus users’ attention on each specific objective.



What is a landing page?

Expecting a high conversion rate from a web page designed to achieve multiple goals is foolish.


While your website should give a general overview of your business and guide users through different sections, a landing page should focus on them completing an action.


In fact, a landing page is a web page that prompts users to take one specific action.


Everything on this page should be built and optimized to increase the conversion rate, whatever it means (sale, event registration, subscription and so on).



The origin of landing pages

The term landing page was first used by Microsoft’s IT department in 2003 when they started developing a strategy to remedy poor online sales of their core product: Office.


At that time, landing pages were very different from what you see today.


The images below represent two examples of old landing pages that Greg Edwards, CTO at EyeTools, inserted in his presentation: Landing page eyetracking study published by MarketingSherpa Store in 2005.



And these are examples of old call to action buttons used in the same year, can you believe it?


Old landing page CTAs
Examples of old landing page CTAs (Call To Actions).

In 2005, Dave Chaffey’s, co-founder of Smart Insights, shared an article (now updated) with the immutable laws of a successful landing page.


Chaffey defines a landing page as a:


Specific page(s) on a web site created for visitors referred from marketing campaigns, which are designed to achieve a marketing outcome.

Two main global factors have affected the way we build landing pages today:

  1. Technological development;

  2. Short attention span.


Landing pages were stand-alone. It means they were hard coded by a developer within the main website and weren’t usually connected with third party apps or tools.


Only in 2009, startups like Unbounce allowed people to create landing pages with external integrations and easy to use editors.


Ah, by the way, I hate Unbounce and I don’t recommend it. Keep reading to see what I recommend in its place.


The second reason why we felt the irresistible desire to jump out of the window after seeing the previous landing page examples is because we have a short attention span.


In the past, there wasn’t a lot of competition for online content. Now, online content is overwhelming, because everyone can easily publish it.


So, we need fewer words, more space, better design, proper colors and other elements to help us digest content and keep focused.





DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY FOR LANDING PAGES




Now, you know why you should create a landing page, but what digital strategies do you use to market it?


A digital marketing strategy for a landing page is composed by four phases:

  1. Generating traffic: what happens before the landing page;

  2. Conversions: what happens on the landing page;

  3. Secondary conversions: what happens in the thank you page (up-sell, cross-sell, other subscriptions and so on);

  4. Retention: what happens after the thank you page.


In the image below, I’ve outlined an example of a digital marketing funnel for landing pages.


Example of funnel for landing pages
Landing page funnel example.

A marketing funnel is the result of a flowchart. If you want to learn how to design your company’s processes to strategically guide users in their buyer journey, read my guide about the service blueprint.



Driving traffic to a landing page

If you noticed, I used the word “drive” and not “attract”. A landing page is mainly created to support outbound marketing strategies where you use advertising and other forms of paid promotions to bring your target audience on that page.


SEO doesn’t work.


I will explain why in the following paragraphs.


Use whatever paid channel you want as long as it allows you to reach your target audience.


In fact, the major factor for landing page success is traffic quality.


So, how does it work?


Use the targeting options in each advertising platform (Facebook Ads, Brandzooka, LinkedIn Ads, Google Ads and so on) to place your message in front of people interested in your offering.


Your message should communicate a “promise” that you are going to keep on the landing page.


It means users, after clicking on your ad, have certain expectations. The landing page must match those expectations.


Otherwise, visitors will exit your web page after a few seconds and you will achieve nothing.


That’s why click baiting and other shady techniques are useless.


Your objective is to convert on the page. You are not interested in page views.



Landing page example: Slack launch campaign (case study)

At the end of 2015, Slack launched its first marketing campaign, Make work better, in Cleveland, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.


The following image is one of their ads promoted with Facebook Ads.


Slack's Facebook ad example
First Slack's Facebook Ads campaign launched in 2015.

They used a few different creative variants for men and women, and let Facebook Ads’ AI rotate them. In this way, the AI showed the most performing version.


I picked this ad as an example, because you can see several well designed elements:

  • It is eye catching. Thanks to the bright colors, unicorns and rainbows, it stands out from Facebook’s news feed and the bubbly style reflects Slack’s brand;

  • The CTA is clear. You can understand what their promise is: they give you a reason why you should click the ad;

  • You understand what the app does. The link description is informative and, in one phrase, summarizes what Slack does. Users perfectly know what it is all about.


In November 2015, AdWeek interviewed Brad Morris, Slack marketing director, who said:


If you run a large company, it's almost impossible to make a change that improves productivity by 30%*, so that kind of result can be transformational. We wanted the campaign to express the very real benefits of Slack to people who have never heard about us, while also addressing the aspects of working life that everyone can relate to in a playful way that was in keeping with our brand.

*They published another ad version where they claimed Slack was able to increase productivity by 32%: “What it feels like to be 32% more productive”.


Now, let’s see where they drove the traffic.


Here is Slack’s landing page (this is a 2017 version, I wasn’t able to retrieve the exact screenshot from 2015).


Slack's landing page example
One of the several Slack's landing pages in August 2017.

As you can see, they kept the promise and matched users’ expectations with the content (copywriting and design).


I like three key elements in this landing page:

  1. The CTA is one and clear.

  2. There is no friction in the onboarding process. They allow you to try the product for free (they also have a free forever version) and getting started requires just an email address. Removing friction in each step of the buyer journey is the priority number one for modern inbound marketing strategies;

  3. Each section is well defined. It takes a blink to perfectly identify every part of the page and understand what there is in it. In other words, users’ attention is guided and facilitated.


I will not dwell on other design aspects, since I’ve dedicated an entire chapter in this article to describe the successful elements of a landing page. Keep reading.



Why does SEO NOT work for a landing page?

Billions of content is published everyday worldwide. As the volume of content increases, so does the competition.


According to the Annual blogging survey by Orbit Media, the average length of a blog post was 1,236 words in 2019. This number grows year after year.


Length in words of a typical blog post
Length in words of a typical blog post. 2019 Annual blogging survey by Orbit Media.

Content creators have already set the minimum amount of words at 1,500 in their 2020 guidelines. If you want to win with SEO, you need to write pieces at least 3,000 words long.


Are you able to write 3,000 words on your landing page?


Are you sure that a 3,000 word landing page is also efficient for conversion rate?


The same survey by Orbit Media discovered that 55% of bloggers reported strong results with articles that pass 2,000 words.


How many words a blog post should have
Percentage of bloggers who report "strong results" based on length of a typical article. 2019 Annual blogging survey by Orbit Media.

Now, do you remember the 2005 landing page example of MarketingSherpa Store inserted before?


Let’s face it. It’s improbable to focus users’ attention and successfully prompt them to take an action with long text in a landing page.


Does it mean that SEO is not important at all?


No, SEO is still important.


For example, you don’t want to publish a landing page without a meta title and description. Similarly, you want a landing page to load fast and possibly to be an AMP (Accelerated Mobile page).


The bottom line is that a landing page is made for paid channels and not for organic search. Unless your landing page is about a super specific topic with low competition, but in that case, that is the (very rare) exception to the rule.


Different is the case when you attract visitors with a blog post and use scattered CTAs to direct users to a landing page. The latter will receive traffic indirectly from SEO.


Maybe, the only advanced SEO activity I would invest in is structured data. I would generate custom Schema markups to help search engines contextualize and better understand the landing page content. Above all, if you have reviews, FAQs or other elements that can prompt a rich snippet.


Thank you page and secondary conversions

After converting on a landing page where do you direct users?


A best practice is to land them on a thank you page.


A thank you page is important for two main reasons:

  1. Analytics. You can insert a tag to track conversions with different analytic tools like Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Google Ads, Facebook Pixel and many others;

  2. Secondary conversions. You can prompt users to move forward in their journey by up-selling/cross-selling products or services, suggesting blog posts to read, subscribing to a newsletter and so on.


I didn’t mention the fact that a thank you page can be used to deliver the content or material promised on the landing page, because, in my professional experience, it’s not a good practice.


If you exchange users’ contacts with premium material and deliver it on the thank you page, you risk giving it away for free when users lie about their contact details.


For this reason, I usually prefer to deliver the promised material via users’ contact points (e.g. email, text message and so on).


The following image is an example of a thank you page I have on my website.


Thank you page example from Alberto Carniel
Thank you page example from Alberto Carniel's website.

As you can see, you don’t need amazing design or secret copywriting techniques. Being clear, simple and convincing is enough to achieve great results.


The image below is another example of a thank you page where users are prompted to share an invitation to join an app.


Thank you page example from Moneycado
Thank you page example from Moneycado, created by its co-founder, Oliver Mitchell, with Kickoff Labs.

Let’s understand how you can use a thank you page for monitoring purposes.


Hide the thank you page from search results by inserting a noindex tag.


In this way, people will reach this page only after converting on the landing page.


Insert a tracking tag to measure goal completions and conversions. For example, if you use Google Analytics:

  1. Click on the gear icon at the bottom left of the page (Admin);

  2. Click on “Goals” in the third column called “All Web Site Data”;

  3. Click the button “+GOAL” to create a new goal to track.





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