What follows is a list of resources that can be applied specifically to landing page optimization.
We’ve organized everything to best simulate a visitor’s experience on a landing page from first click to final conversion.
To get the most out of this guide, please use each resource to focus on one area of your landing page experience at a time. Trust me, this will help you later on when you’re wondering what to test next.
I recommend you bookmark this page so you can come back to it when it’s time to create that next landing page.
Step 0: Really understand your target market
Do this: Really get to know your market. Conduct surveys and interviews to understand your customer’s pain points. If you have any existing copy, use Copytesting for audience research. For extra credit, make a list of websites they’re exposed to, and build a picture of what their “typical” online experience is.
Ask questions such as:
- Who are you? Tell me about your age, job, position in your company, etc.
- What are you using our product for?
- How is your life better thanks to it?
- Do you consider any alternatives? Why?
(Note: If you’re a startup, you’ll want to use customer development questions for your page to resonate with future traffic.)
These questions help you uncover trends within your market and tell you things analytics alone can’t. All of this is to inform a landing page design that’s in line with your target market expectations which plays a huge role in reducing the amount of friction it takes for them to convert.
The biggest problem I see in landing page optimization and design is that the page has no understanding of who the visitor is or their level of online exposure.
Surely, what “appeals” to a 54 year old mother of five who goes online to check Facebook and MetaFilter will be vastly different from a 27 year old power-user of social networks you haven’t even heard of yet. (Screenshot below is of the now defunct UseHipster.com.)
Landing page design isn’t a game where you flex your own aesthetic prowess.
It’s about connecting with the viewer and communicating value as quickly as possible. The more you accept that connection is on their terms, not yours, the better your pages will be.
- How to Identify Your Online Target Audience and Sell More
- Why You Should Focus On Clicks Before Conversions
- 20 Questions to Ask When Creating Buyer Personas
Step 1: Set up actionable analytics
Do this: Set up your conversion goals in Google Analytics.
Ask Peep about analytics, and he’ll tell you:
Metrics are there to provide actionable insight. You need to look at a metric, ask ‘so what?,’ and have an answer.
“Conversion rates for our top ads are way up. So what? We should increase our ads budget.”
Seems simple enough. Yet conversion analytics look so intimidating that many of us skip this step so we can get straight to making money.
Take the time. Learn to interpret your analytics data and make the most of it. Your marketing budget will thank you, I promise.
- 12 Google Analytics Custom Reports to Help You Grow Faster
- 10 Optimization Experts Share Their Favorite Analytics Reports
- Building Your Marketing Funnel With Google Analytics
- 6 Ways to Set Up Funnels in Google Analytics
Step 2: Make sure your ad’s message matches the landing page
Do this: Check the bounce rates on the landing pages you’d like to generate more business. If they’re too high and conversions are too low, you may have a message match problem.
To know for sure, look at the ads pointing to that page that receive the highest click through rates.
Does your page use similar language to what’s in the ad? Do the images in display ads reappear on the landing page?
If you miss the mark on this, your landing pages are destined to fail.
Why? Most times, messages in the ad don’t correspond directly to what’s on the page.
Ad images differ from primary landing page images. Ad headlines don’t correspond to landing page headlines and the page, generally speaking, is not what the user expected when they clicked the ad.
They land on the page and feel ungrounded. Where’s the headline that grabbed their attention? At the very least, have you inserted the keyword they were searching for in some prominent place on the page?
No? This is the result of lazy conversion optimization.
Instead of creating one page and throwing multiple, loosely targeted ads at it, create a handful of highly targeted landing pages that focus on tight-knit group of keywords. If your budget allows, experiment with a dynamic keyword insertion platform to automatically insert the keyword into the landing page.
- Give Your Advertising ROI a Serious Boost by Maintaining Scent (11 examples)
- The Science Of Landing Pages & How To Build One Backwards (webinar)
- Gmail Ad Fail – How Poor Message Match Can Kill Your Conversion Rate
- [Message Match] Project Management Software (video)
Step 3: Evaluate your landing page’s first impression
Do this: Search for your landing page’s primary keyword and click on the pages your primary competitors are creating.
The idea isn’t to copy what competitors are doing (they don’t really know either), but to get an idea of the first impression they’re trying to make.
See, it only takes 0.013 seconds for your brain to identify an image, and 0.05 seconds for visitors to form an opinion about your landing page.
The opinion they’ve subconsciously formed in between 1/13th to 1/50th of a second will influence every decision they make for the rest of their time on the page.
First impressions are why it’s vital that your message match is strong. It’s also why you should be designing your pages with some degree of familiarity.
Is your page laid out in a way that’s intuitive to your user? Do your product shots meet the standards your target market has from their web browsing experience?
Because the brain registers information faster than your user can even perceive, if these elements are even slightly “off,” it becomes an uphill battle all the way to conversion.
This is also why we make a list of websites in step zero, so you’re not answering these questions blind.
- First Impressions Matter: Why Great Visual Design Is Essential
- New Record for Human Brain: Fastest Time to See an Image
- Why Simple Website Designs Are Scientifically Better
- How Does Page Load Time Affect Your Site Revenue?
Check out these examples of great first impressions:
Step 4: Does your page have emotional resonance?
Specifically, we’re looking for clues to let us know which emotional triggers will resonate the most for visitors to the page.
This goes hand in hand with first impressions, but it’s important we make a clear distinction between the two.
If first impressions start by ensuring everything is in a familiar location, emotional resonance is about enhancing these elements to create a mood, hook the visitor, and draw them deeper into the page.
Emotions like joy, pleasure, shock, horror, expectation, exclusivity, and surprise are just a small part of what you could be designing for.
Only after you’ve picked the mood of the page do you look at things like colors, fonts, photography, and video.
Determine how you will balance these elements to support the mood of the landing page. Don’t just arbitrarily pick colors and fonts for the sake of eliciting a certain emotion. Blue doesn’t automatically equal trust, and red isn’t always angry.
How each element plays with and supports each other is what really determines the overall mood of the page.
- Not Just Pretty: Building Emotion Into Your Websites
- Is Emotion Necessary To Make More Sales?
- Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things
- The Psychology Of Color In Marketing & Branding
- The Effect of Typography on User Experience and Conversions
Some notable examples:
Step 5: Craft a clear and compelling value proposition
Do this: Ask if your value proposition…
1. Directly addresses who your customer is (e.g., Stripe = online payment processing for internet businesses)
2. States what your product does (e.g., Markitekt, the version of CXL from a long time ago = we make websites sell)
3. Tells why you’re unique (e.g., Zoom = communications suite for meetings and chat that ‘just works’)
4. Shows the end benefit of using it (e.g., Airbnb = book unique places to stay and things to do)
Now that your page is loaded and a first impression has been made, your visitor subconsciously decides if the page is worth reading.
At this point, your visitor’s only decision is “Does this site have what I need?” or “Should I look somewhere else?” Because judgement was already passed a fraction of a second ago, all you’re doing now is reinforcing whether that initial judgement was right.
When your value proposition answers all of the questions above to help your visitor quickly decide if this page is really what they’re looking for, you stand a much better chance at keeping their interest throughout the rest of the page.
If your value proposition doesn’t answer those questions, you make the path to conversion far more difficult than it needs to be.
- How to Create a Unique Value Proposition (with Examples)
- In a Commodity Market? Here’s How to Craft Your Value Prop.
- Writing Value Propositions that Work
- Use these 3 points to create an awesome value proposition
Step 6: How will images reinforce the message?
Do this: Select, design, or capture images that reinforce the mood of the page and speak directly to your target market.
Looking at the SoundCloud page above, you get a very distinct sense that the site is for late teen/early 20s, hipsterish, music/soundphiles.
The Alexa data we looked at a while ago supports this. SoundCloud’s primary audience is:
- Some college education;
- Accessing the site mostly from school.
The top referring sites and linking sites also provide further evidence that SoundClouds core audience is hip and trendy.
Ideally, the images on your landing page should have a representative of your target market. But beyond that, sell the emotional value of the product or service your visitor will get after “conversion.”
Images can also be used to “hack” our natural viewing patterns, and direct our eyes where to look next by following some simple compositional rules.
Remember in the last section I said a viewer’s natural instinct is to look for a dominate headline when a page loads? That instinct is superseded the moment you introduce real people or “humanoids” into the mix.
I always strongly recommend working with a professional to create any visual elements, and stay away from stock photos if you’ve got the budget.
- How Images Can Boost Your Conversion Rate
- Image Carousels and Sliders? Don’t Use Them. (Here’s why.)
- 3 Ways to Increase Your Conversion Rate With Images [Case Studies]
Here’s a notable example of the effect of images on web viewing:
Step 7: Should we create an explainer video?
Do this: Ask if there is something unique about your service (or brand) that can’t easily be communicated with static text and images.
For Spotify, a streaming music service, it certainly makes sense to incorporate audio/visual elements to flesh out their value proposition.
For Brookdale, a community for senior citizens, sticking with video would have cost them $106,000 in monthly revenue.
While the statistics suggest visitors will be anywhere between 64-85% more likely to buy because of video, you have a few things to consider:
Can my target market watch video?
Your prospect’s immediate circumstances may dictate that video isn’t the optimal communication method.
For instance, if they work in a quiet office or are around noisy children videos may be forbidden or difficult to watch.
Age, poor internet connection, or outdated computer hardware may also impede on your prospect’s ability to click play.
Explainer videos are not pitch festivals
Repeat after me. Online videos are not television commercials.
TV commercials were designed to stop you and grab your attention in between you switching from station to station.
With explainer videos, visitors chose to be on your channel. They click play because they want to see more. Be cool. You don’t pitch them to death.
How will video enhance the experience?
This goes back to my question from earlier: what can video do that text and images can’t?
If you can’t answer this, wait to make your video.
For a company like Dollar Shave Club, the video showcases the brand’s humor to endear the visitor to what might be an otherwise dull premise—razors shipped to your door starting at a dollar a month.
Nemo’s enthusiasm for Unbounce radiates as he walks you through the product’s core features. He also implies that Unbounce is partially responsible for 2-3x growth his team to achieve—perfect for prospects who share Nemo’s acquisition title and have to justify the monthly expense for their company.
If what you sell is difficult to understand, requires demonstration, or needs a little extra push so your target market “gets it,” video is an avenue worth exploring.
Also, always work with a professional when it comes to video.
- How To Use Video To Increase Conversions
- Everything You Need To Know About Creating Killer Explainer Videos
- 5 Dimensions of Rockstar B2B explainer videos
Example of an awesome explainer video:
Step 8: The importance of social proof, authority, and testimonials
Do this: Create a social media listening dashboard to track mentions of your brand across the social web.
Next use Open Site Explorer to find any of the high authority websites linking to your site.
From here, reach out to the customers who most closely resemble your target market and the websites people within your market view as high authority.
This part is critical. There’s a psychological phenomenon known as implicit egoism that basically says people gravitate to people, places, and things that reflect a favorable self-association.
The more your visitor sees “themselves” in the reviews and authority sites, the more receptive they will be to your page.
Send emails asking permission to feature any images or logos along with their testimonial on your landing page.
Why go through all the trouble?
Research shows that businesses who increase their brand advocacy by 12% see an average of double revenue growth.
It’s also been documented that 63% of consumers indicate being more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.
Seems like a pretty big payout in exchange for setting up a few filters and sending a few emails, no?
- How to Use Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion to Boost Conversions
- Social Proof: What It Is, Why It Works, and How to Use It
- How to Get Testimonials (and Why to Get Them) + Tons of Examples
Notable examples of social proof:
Step 9: Does the copywriting make you want to read more?
Do this: Get four to six peers together to conduct a peer review for the headlines and ledes on the landing page.
Ask the question, “Does this make me want to read more?” and rate gut level responses on a scale of 1 (low) to 4 (high). If the average score is below 3.2, get specific suggestions on what to change. Click here for more on this process.
Now that your visitor has been on your landing page for half a second, they’ve had all the time they need to process the visuals and decide if you’re trustworthy.
At this point, the conscious mind kicks in and they really start consuming the copy on the landing page.
Of course, you want the copy to communicate benefits, but if you want your visitor to sink their teeth in, reinforce the tone established by the visual elements on the landing page. It will resonate with your visitor in a way they can taste.
Why? Because science shows using language that teases the senses will fire up the sense centers in the brain.
Want to sell a running shoe?
Make the sweat sting their eyes. Get their heart thumping so loud it’s all they hear besides their feet hitting the ground and the quiet voice whispering “you’re almost there.”
- Website Headlines: 3 Formulas that Work for Homepages
- 5 Landing Page Headline Formulas You Can Test Today
- The Science of Storytelling & Memory and Their Impact on CRO
- 14 Copywriting Examples From Businesses With Incredible Copywriters
- The 7-Point Checklist for Powerful Landing Page Copy
- How Do You Know If Your Copy Is Any Good? (My 4 Step Process For Copy Testing)
Step 10: Does your call to action communicate clearly?
Do this: Ask if your CTA (and surrounding area) clearly says what it does, triggers a response, and is designed in a way that contrasts with the rest of the site.
The way I see it, the entire landing page experience is just one big interactive story. Your visitor has a problem, searches, clicks, reads, and decides.
If you’ve been focusing on all the details of the story, your call to action is just a gate to the next chapter where whatever pain they were having doesn’t exist any more.
- Mastering the Call to Action: Words, Color, Size, & Location
- Sell More Stuff Online By Eliminating Click Fear
- Which Button Color Converts the Best?
Here are some notable CTA examples:
Step 11: Start A/B testing
Do this: Create a document all of the alternative ideas you’ve had for copy, design, images etc. and form hypothesis as to why these may also work.
If this is your first time creating a landing page, you have two options:
- Build one page to test challenge the existing, low converting page. Run it, collect data, and form a hypothesis on how to improve the desired metric after the test is complete.
- Build two equally strong pages targeting the same keyword, run them both, see which performs better, and optimize the winning landing page accordingly.
In either scenario, all you’re really trying to do is collect enough data to validate your assumptions about your target market and formulate objectives, goals, and performance indicators for future tests.
Objective: “Get more people to buy software.”
Goal: Do X (insert more descriptive copy) to increase Y (Buy Now clicks) and reduce Z (cart abandonment).
They reason you document your ideas is to have a record of what you’ve done that works and what it’s increased. Even though many of your ideas will wind up being wrong and thrown out, it’s much better than forgetting good ideas that could have earned you more.
- A/B Testing Mastery: From Beginner to Pro in a Blog Post
- 12 A/B Testing Mistakes I See All the Time
- Case Study: How We Improved Landing Page Conversions by 79.3%
You could also test the media type of your email opt-in offer—this study says that PDF and web content convert better than video. Do your own testing.
So much of a visitor’s landing page experience happens in less than a second, and most landing page optimization focuses on the entirely wrong side of that experience.
If you think of your landing page as a way to tell the story of how your prospect’s life gets better, and use what you know about how the brain processes text and images, you can create a “hook” that gets them wanting more.
In that case, landing page optimization is just a way to make the story better every time it’s told.