I want to start this post with a reality check. You’ve been lied to about landing page optimization in the past. You’ll probably be lied to again in the future.
95% of the stuff you’ve read about landing page optimization is bogus sales fluff. I want to set the record straight, but its going to take me about 2500 words. If you make it to the end I hope it’ll give you a different perspective on why your landing pages aren’t converting right now.
I have a big interest in landing page optimization. And a probably unhealthy fixation with squeezing the best conversion rates out of my landing pages, so I read quite a bit on the subject. It was a video I saw on the subject this week that pushed me over the edge. In this video one of the presenters “8 best practices for landing page optimization” was to make sure you’re using photos of people smiling on your landing page.
I won’t link to that video, that’s not the point of the post, but there’s 2 things at play here:
- these top tips, were spurious nonsense from someone who I’m guessing had never run a real campaign in their lives and…
- the publisher behind it was a software platform that, among other things, allows you to publish and A/B test landing pages. Hmmm…coincidence?
And herein lies the problem. Most of the information about landing page optimization out there is created by people with a vested interest in A/B design testing whether it’s software vendors or agencies, and so it follows that the way landing page optimization is taught goes along the lines of;
- Choose a pre-built landing page template, plugin your content
- A/B test it against a version with a different headline or a different design
I’m not saying for a minute that there’s not a place for A/B design testing in landing page optimization. But what I’m saying is that that place is right at the end, not at the beginning.
I see so many marketers who have brought into this idea, been sold on a piece of software and then seen terrible conversion rates, inconclusive A/B tests and no idea where to turn next.
So let’s, for the sake of variety, start at the beginning…
- Landing page optimization is not A/B testing, it’s not software and it’s not the colour of your buttons or the wording of your call to action. Its not even your choice of stock imagery or the omnipresent padlock symbol next to your opt in form.
- Landing page optimization IS developing a strategy that makes more of the people who hit your landing page convert to the next step. Whatever that step may be.
So here’s how I look at landing page optimization in 5 not so easy to digest steps, because frankly, landing page optimization isn’t actually that easy.
Step 1) The People
Forget about “users” or “visitors” for a second and think about people. The people who visit your landing page are not lifeless drones who will follow the most statistically likely path you set out for them. And they can’t be tricked into buying from you by slick design.
“Oops my finger slipped and I accidentally entered my email address”
Your visitors are individuals and they will respond differently from one another. For one thing that means any landing page optimization advice will never apply universally to all campaigns. For another it means you have to start the process by understanding and optimising the people who are hitting your page.
So forget about the page for a minute. Assume it’s perfectly “optimised” already. The problem is probably that you’re getting the wrong people onto the page.
No amount of A/B testing of the page is going to fix that.
Look at your ad campaigns. Where’s the traffic coming from, what ads, what keywords. There’s almost always more to gain from improving your visitor quality than trying to squeeze an extra % of conversion out of the wrong audience.
Some traffic sources just don’t work for some campaigns. Take the hit, suck it up and move on.
Step 2) The Offer
If we assume that everyone who hits your page is bang on the money, in your target audience, primed and ready to convert, then what?
A landing page in its simplest form is for me, a page with a single offer. The “offer” is different to the “conversion”, so don’t mix them up;
- The conversion is what you care about – the sale, the email address, the click through
- The offer is what the visitor cares about- it’s what they’re getting in exchange.
Let’s imagine 2 hypothetical landing pages to drill home the point;
- The first is giving away iPhones to anyone who enters their email address. No strings attached.
- The second is entering someone into a competition for a chance to win an iPhone in exchange for their email address.
Which do you think will convert better? The one with the stronger offer. Every time.
Too many marketers make the mistake of assuming their offer is perfect and it’s their landing page that’s not selling it effectively. The truth is that until you’re giving away iPhones to every visitor, your offer can always perform better.
Offering Ebooks and webinars that require little capital investment might be great for you but they’re of limited value to most of the people who hit your page and your conversion rate will reflect this.*
Stop thinking about landing pages as barriers that you need to shove your users over. Start thinking of them as doors that they’re going to want to run through on their own.
Give away something of ‘real value’ and see how quickly your conversion rate increases.
Put your money where your mouth is.
*theres an exception here to be aware of. If the people hitting your page already have a lot of trust invested in your brand, then the perceived value of even a weak offer will be infinitely higher. So a webinar run by Toby Robbins for example would be seen as more valuable than one run by me. But honestly there are few people in this position and those people won’t need any advice on landing page optimization, they could write their offer on a post-it note and pin it to the wall in a public WC and it would convert like nobodies business.
Step 3) the copy
By step 3 we’re assuming that;
- everyone who comes to the page is bang on the money, interested in what you’re offering and
- the offer is as good as it can be
By this stage you should be converting pretty damn well anyway.
Anything you can do from this point out is more about reducing abandonment, increasing clarity and instilling trust to get people over the line.
This brings us onto the copy.
I’ve been doing this stuff for a decade and I don’t remember a single example of a landing page test where anything was a more powerful driver of conversion than the copy when all other things were equal (same audience, same offer).
When you strip a web page back, what people are doing on it is reading.
They’ll spend a second considering the design and minutes (hopefully) mulling over the copy. So your landing page optimization efforts should reflect this.
Spend your time on the elements people interact with the most. Its not that photo of a smiling lady, its the copy. The idea that people don’t really read web copy is a nonsense spread by lazy marketers to sell cheap tricks.
Never was the copy more important and the design of a landing page less important than right now. Thats because if you’re driving traffic to your landing pages from Facebook Ads, from email campaigns, from Google search, from Twitter, chances are anything from 50-90% of your traffic is going to be looking at your page on a mobile phone and that numbers going to keep rising. And what happens to the landing page layout that you spent hours mulling over on a desktop? It shrinks down, hides the superfluous design and just shows the copy anyway!
So by all means when you get to this stage test – but test the copy and keep everything else the same.
If you’re using a video instead of, or as well as copy, on your landing page it’s almost exactly the same. Just read “video” for “copy” in the paragraphs above and the concept is the same.
Step 4) The Action
No, not the “call to action”.
If I had a penny for every landing page optimization article I read that talked about “having a strong call to action” I’d be a rich/ fat/ happy man.
The action is the thing you want someone to do. (The call to action is simply how you ask them to do it.)
Chances are your action will be something like;
- Opt in to some sort of list
- Signup to some sort of webinar/ training event
- Click through to another page
- Buy something
- Download something
- You get the idea
If you’ve got to this stage you’ve already got the perfect audience of people hitting your page, the perfect offer to present them with and the best possible copy to sell it. But this can all be for nothing if the action you’re asking for from the visitor is greater than the perceived value of the offer.
If you’ve ever done sales training, this would probably be called “objection handling”.
I like the offer but…
- The price is too high
- or I don’t know the price
- I can’t be bothered to complete that form
- I don’t want to give my email address
- Why do they need my phone number
- What if I’m not free on X date/ time
I see this all the time, marketers do everything right with their ad, their offer and their landing page but they get greedy when it comes to the action. Charging too much whether thats currency, information or time, for too little.
But luckily for you that doesn’t mean you need a new ad campaign, a new offer or new copy, you just need to change what you’re asking for.
- Drop the price
- Increase the price
- Ask for less information
- Ask for NO information (just give me the f**king ebook if its that great I might just buy something from you anyway)
- Or at the very least explain WHY you’re asking for the information you’re asking for.
- Seek feedback and ask real people whether they’d take you up on your offer
The beauty of marketing is if something doesn’t work you can just change it. And changing your action is the last high reward play you can make to get better results from your landing page.
Step 5) The Design
So we finally got to the design and to recap if you’ve got to the stage with your landing page that you’re testing design elements you’ve already fine tuned your traffic, improved your offer, nailed your copy and sense checked your action.
Which means you’re probably already getting a stack of conversions through your landing page by the time you get on to looking at the design.
And thats kind of the point, because anything you do from here in is going to need a lot of conversion data to validate in an A/B test, will take a lot of time and traffic to test properly and will in most cases only deliver marginal, single digit gains to conversion. Hence you don’t want to start at this point, spend 2 weeks and a couple of grand testing 2 versions of a design only to find out your offer is wrong.
You just can’t test design elements until you have some conversion data to baseline against.
Without seeing your landing page I really can’t tell you what you could improve on the design, and of course design is subjective so my personal tastes might be different to what a person in your audience might have. But for me there’s 2 massive, fundamental mistakes people make with landing page design & A/B testing in particular;
1) Forgetting about brand
The problem with every landing page builder I’ve come across to date is that they all want you to start with someone else’s design. A landing page might sit externally to the rest of your site but its a touchpoint with your brand and if it doesn’t look like the rest of your collateral, even if this is the first touchpoint people have had with your brand, then its going to negatively impact your conversion further down the funnel.
2) Tweaking rather than shaking
So what I mean by tweaking is changing the colour of a button or moving the form from the left to the right. This sort of design testing is only valid on very large campaigns where you have a ton of traffic to work with. The less traffic you have the more radically different your design needs to be to illicit a statistically different response between versions, thus giving you clear results about the better converting design. So shake it up, don’t tweak it.
If you’ve made it here you either;
a) skipped to the end or
b) got at least a bit of what I’ve been getting at, maybe even agreeing with some of it
If the latter, will you do me a favour? Next time you read an article purporting to have a short cut to landing page optimization success that doesn’t go to the core of the issue and instead jumps straight to the design. Call BS on it. Challenge them to provide real examples of landing pages where rudimentary design changes have significantly improved conversion. Don’t give the snake oil salesmen an easy ride 😉
ps. Here’s a secret that no marketing guru will ever tell you. The reason their offer pages look a bit, well… shit, is that they’re not marketing to the most savvy and intelligent people who hit their page. The most valuable visitor for a self professed marketing guru is the person gullible enough to spend $5000 on an e-course thinking it’s going to unlock some secret marketing formula.
There is no secret formula with landing page optimization. There are no shortcuts or tweaks you can make to your page to go from a 1% conversion rate to 50%. There’s no software that can make people convert. Landing page optimization is most often just real life business decisions (often hard ones) that might require you to invest time, money or both before you get it right.
pps. This post is not meant to hate on the idea of A/B testing either. By all means test things. But for goodness sakes test the big things first not the small.
Here’s some landing page tests that are actually worth running on pretty much any campaign and will almost always deliver a result (and the nice thing about split testing is that any result is a good result);
- Audience A vs audience B
- Offer A vs offer B
- Long vs short copy page
- Text vs video
- $99 vs $9 action
ppps. I have on occasion started a project by completely redesigning a clients landing page when I’ve known from experience that what they’ve got is not going to work. Thus contradicting everything I’ve said above!