Landing page optimization: full guide to increase conversions

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

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.





WORKSHOP:

OPTIMIZE YOUR LANDING PAGE FUNNEL

WITH A SERVICE LEVEL AGREEMENT




If your organization has a marketing and sales team working together, this workshop will give you the right input and resources to align them and reach a shared revenue goal.


If you want to succeed with your landing page digital marketing strategy, you need an agreement between the sales and marketing team.


Your marketing team has to deliver a certain number of leads to sales and the latter commits to contacting those leads within a given timeframe. This agreement is called SLA.


Ellie Mirman, marketing leader at HubSpot, defines an SLA (Service Level Agreement) as:


A contract that establishes a set of deliverables that one party has agreed to provide another. This agreement can exist between a business and its customers, or one department that delivers a recurring service to another department within that business.

When you have a landing page with the objective of generating leads, a SLA formalizes the sales and marketing goals to ensure the company is set up to reach its target revenue.


Download my free Service Level Agreement worksheet to start the workshop!



How to reach your revenue goal

Let’s start explaining each section of the worksheet.


Funnel stage: Service Level Agreement
Funnel stage. Page 1 section of the SLA (Service Level Agreement) worksheet by Alberto Carniel.

The image above represents a funnel stage. To fill it out, you can consider data from a marketing funnel to a specific landing page or from all of your marketing funnels to your website.


All the white boxes represent data that you should know and find in your Google Analytics account or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.


The first half of the funnel is the responsibility of the marketing team:

  • Prospects/visitors represent the traffic driven to your landing page (or website);

  • Leads are users converted by your landing page. In other words, they represent people who have openly expressed interest in your business, for example, by giving you their contact details;

  • MQLs are Marketing Qualified Leads. You don’t need to use this sub-category if your company doesn’t have an advanced lead generation methodology. They represent the most engaged leads that are ready to meet with the sales team.


The second half of the funnel is responsibility of the sales team:

  • SQLs are Sales Qualified Leads. They are leads marked as worthy to be contacted by the sales team for a follow up;

  • Opportunities are SQLs marked as potential customers. The sales team has decided to pitch at them;

  • Customers are leads that have completed the buyer journey and purchased from your business.


If this partition is too complex for your business, just use:

  1. Visitors;

  2. Leads;

  3. Opportunities;

  4. Customers.


Revenue goal: Service Level Agreement
Revenue goal. Page 1 section of the SLA (Service Level Agreement) worksheet by Alberto Carniel.

Here is the first part of the agreement.


What is the shared revenue goal of your sales and marketing team?


Fill the white boxes with:

  • The shared revenue goal. It’s an estimate that usually managers calculate to motivate their team and bring the business to the next level;

  • The average deal size. The average value of a sale;

  • Customers. How many customers do you acquire in a given period of time? You’ll write the timeframe in the grey box. Hint: it’s the same quantity you have placed in the Customers section of the Funnel stage table.


In the grey box write the timeframe to consider and the conversion rate between each stage of the funnel.


If you have properly set up your goals, you can find all this data on Google Analytics. If you don't know how to do it, read the next chapter called Metrics to audit landing page performance.



Service Level Agreement (SLA) example

Use my worksheet to create your SLA. You’ll need:

  1. The average conversion rate (e.g. from lead to opportunity, opportunity to closed sales…);

  2. The average value of a sale.


Now, let’s say:

  • Average conversion rate = 50%;

  • Average sale value = $1,000;

  • Timeframe = 1 month;

  • Shared revenue goal = $100,000.


How many new customers do you need to meet your shared revenue goal?



Revenue goal ÷ Average sale value = Customers needed



In numbers: 100,000 ÷ 1,000 = 100 (new customers per month).


How many opportunities do you need to meet your shared revenue goal?


Customers needed ÷ Conversion rate (opportunity-to-sale) = Opportunities needed


In numbers: 100 ÷ 50% = 200 (new opportunities per month).


How many leads do you need to meet your shared revenue goals?


Opportunities needed ÷ Conversion rate (lead-to-opportunity) = Leads needed


In numbers: 200 ÷ 50% = 400 (new leads per month).


Service Level Agreement example
How to determine how much traffic you need to meet a marketing and sales team shared revenue goal. SLA (Service Level Agreement) example.

The image above depicts this example. With this worksheet, you are able to know how much traffic, how many leads or customers you need to achieve the shared revenue goal.


In this case, the SLA between marketing and sales could be something like this:


Every month, marketing will deliver 200 qualified leads to sales and the latter will contact each of those leads within 24 hours of receiving it.



How many sales reps do you need to meet your revenue goal?

You know what an SLA is and how to use it, but how can you know how many sales reps you need to reach your business revenue goal?


When you launch a landing page, the marketing team does everything possible to promote it, drive traffic and generate leads.


But time kills sales.


The sales team has to jump in and deal with potential customers in the first hour of contact!


A study published by the Harvard Business Review (The short life of online sales leads by James B. Oldroyd, Kristina McElheran and David Elkington, published in 2011) showed how companies spend billions of dollars on internet-generated sales leads, but most are far too slow to follow up on them.


Based on 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 13 B2B US companies, those who reach out to customers within an hour are nearly seven times more likely to have meaningful conversations with decision makers than those who wait over 60 minutes.


This data demonstrates that the conversion rate of a landing page, in terms of actual revenue, is affected by the response time of the sales team.


Do you want to maximize the results of your landing page?


Let’s finish this workshop, then.


Individual sales rep weekly capacity
Individual sales rep weekly capacity. Page 2 section of the SLA (Service Level Agreement) worksheet by Alberto Carniel.

The image above represents the first part of the second page of my worksheet:

  • In the first line, write how many Marketing Qualified Leads a sales rep is able to review each week;

  • In the second line, write how many MQLs usually pass the review and become Sales Qualified Leads. For example, this number will be the half of the sales rep review capacity when your conversion rate is 50%;

  • In the third line, write how many MQLs a sales rep is able to contact every week and make them convert into SQLs. Sometimes, even if an MQL has passed the review in the previous phase, they can be moved back to the marketing team when a sales rep feels they still need to be nurtured;

  • In the fourth line, calculate how many Sales Qualified Leads become opportunities;

  • In the fifth line, calculate how many SQLs a sales rep is able to close weekly.


Sales SLA (Service Level Agreement)
Sales SLA. Page 2 section of the SLA (Service Level Agreement) worksheet by Alberto Carniel.

The image above represents the final part of my SLA worksheet:

  • On the first line, write how many Marketing Qualified Leads you need to meet your revenue goal. You can find this number on page one;

  • On the second line, write how many working weeks your organization considers in a year;

  • On the third line, calculate how many Marketing Qualified Leads sales reps need to review each week to meet the revenue quota;

  • On the fourth line, write how many Marketing Qualified Leads a sales rep is able to review each week;

  • On the final line, calculate how many sales reps you need to meet your revenue goal.


Example.


How many sales reps you need to meet your revenue goal
Use a SLA (Service Level Agreement) to calculate how many sales reps you need to meet your revenue goal. This example was created with the SLA worksheet by Alberto Carniel.

I already explained the first page of the worksheet, so here I’ll show you the calculations made on the second page.


Individual sales rep weekly capacity:

  1. Let’s say your sales rep is able to review 50 MQLs per week. You can find this number in your CRM system or simply by interviewing your sales rep and making an average;

  2. If the conversion rate is 50%, half of those 50 MQLs will pass the review. So, let’s write 25;

  3. To make it simple, let’s consider that all the MQLs are confirmed to be SQLs. So, let’s write again 25;

  4. Since the conversion rate is 50%, half of the SQLs will convert into opportunities. So, let’s write 12 (the exact number would be 12.5);

  5. At this point, the number of weekly closed customers per each sales rep should be 6: 12 x 50% = 6.


The bottom line is that every sales rep in your company should close 6 deals every week to meet the revenue quota.


Sales SLA:

  1. As we discovered on page one, 800 is the amount of MQLs needed to reach the target revenue. You can find this number in your Google Analytics account or CRM system;

  2. Let’s say your employees are hard workers and your business considers 52 working weeks per year;

  3. Now, we need to transform 800, which is a monthly value, into a weekly value: 800 x 12 (months in a year) ÷ 52 (yearly working week) = 185 (about 184.6);

  4. We already discovered that sales rep weekly review capacity for MQLs is 50;

  5. Let’s divide the weekly MQLs quota by the sales rep weekly review capacity: 185 ÷ 50 = 4 (the exact number is 3.7).


The bottom line is that you need 4 sales reps to achieve your revenue goal. To be precise, you need to hire 3 full time sales reps and 1 part time.


You can verify the final number with a different process:

  1. If a sales rep closes 6 deals per week, they make $6,000: 6 x $1,000 (average deal value) = $6,000;

  2. Every month is composed of about 4 weeks, so each sales rep must make $24,000 every month: $6,000 x 4 = $24,000;

  3. The monthly quota is $100,000, so: 100,000 ÷ 24,000 = 4 (about 4,1).



Workload analysis calculator for sales reps

If you don’t have the time and think my previous SLA worksheet requires too much time to be filled out, I’ve prepared for you an automated asset.


Workload analysis calculator
Workload analysis calculator for sales reps.

Download my free workload analysis calculator to figure out how many sales reps you need to match your revenue goal!





LANDING PAGE COPYWRITING FOR A KILLER CONVERSION RATE




There’s a moment from high school I remember. My teacher made us read an essay and then summarize it.


“Alberto, you must learn how to select information”, she said.


You have to do the same when designing a landing page.


Before even thinking of patterns and design elements, you need to define the text to place on the landing page.


Select the relevant information to include and outline the titles of the different sections and paragraphs.


I usually structure the information in this order:

  1. Value proposition. What is it all about? Why should users keep reading? Be clear, informative and prompt users to take action;

  2. Benefits. Describe your offering and its benefits;

  3. Results achievable. Objectify your offering and show the numbers or data supporting the value proposition;

  4. Social proof. Outline a section for reviews and testimonials validating your offering;

  5. Demo, trial, examples. When possible, insert an example/demonstration of your offering or let users try it.


There isn’t a standard for text sections.


The only way to know whether your text is effective or not is to launch the landing page and check its performance (I’ve explained how to do it in the following chapters).


To mention the words of Dan Lok, a Chinese-Canadian businessman and global educator:


Copywriting is a form of writing that is designed to sell.

He usually structures a landing page with these blocks (The magic building blocks of persuasive sales copy that sell products like crazy by Dan Lock, 2019):

  1. Heading. State the claim as a question to attract prospects' attention. The only goal of the headline is prompting the audience to read the first paragraph;

  2. Opening. This is where you explain what the page or website is all about. Empathize with the audience, put yourself in their shoes and connect with them by starting from their common questions or frustrations. For example, if you launch a landing page about a real estate course, you can write something like this: “how can someone like me with no prior education in real estate, no skills and no experience start earning THIS year?”. Then, you answer the question in their mind;

  3. Credentials. Establish credibility: why should they listen to you?

  4. Offer. When you make your offer, show them how exactly you are going to solve their problem;

  5. Bullets. State the benefits of your offering. Each bullet corresponds to a benefit;

  6. Testimonials. This section provides third party validation by showing what other people think of your offering;

  7. Value justification. People are always weighing multiple choices when it comes to spending their money. Their question is: is it worth it? In this section, you need to write a few statements to justify the price and convince them to take action;

  8. Risk reversal. Prospects are afraid the solution you offer may not work for them. Dan Lock recommends giving a guarantee or refund policy. He basically ar