What is Landing Page Optimization?
Landing Page Optimization as a technique can be one of the most scientific methods of improving conversions and desired results of a landing page.
Whether you’re facing landing page abandonment issues, or you are searching for that much wanted small change that will produce a significant uptick in conversions, landing page optimization can help you.
7 Rules To Follow Before Starting Landing Page Optimization
In this guide, we will take you through the steps you need to know before starting landing page optimization. We will also cover what items in particular you should pay attention to while conducting landing page optimization.
First, let’s look at what you need to consider before you start.
Getting your landing page as close to right in the first place is the first step of landing page optimization. As they say, you can polish a turd, but underneath it will still be a turd (graphic, but true).
Conducting landing optimization on an inefficient page is a waste of everyone’s time, so here’s 7 items you can review on your existing landing page.
1. Craft a clear and direct headline – tell them why with a benefit
The headline is probably the first thing on your landing page that your potential customer is going to read. It needs to be clear and direct.
A good headline should answer the question, “why should I buy from you and not your competitor?”.
People have short attention spans, especially on the internet. You have only a fraction of a second to grab the attention of your visitor and this is the main element they are going to read first.
Have you narrowed down what sentence best describes why your customer should buy from you? If not, you need to do the next thing first.
2. Work out what your value proposition is and deliver it early and often
A value proposition is how you define what is valuable about your offer. There is no point doing landing page optimization without knowing what value communication you are trying to optimize.
What does your customer stand to gain by taking your offer?
Delivering a clear offer and value proposition goes a long way to increasing awareness in the consumer of what they are gaining by using your product over your competitors.
This is probably the #1 way to increase your conversion rates of all the advice in this post. By crafting and clearly communicating your value proposition you’re making the benefits of your offer crystal clear.
3. Have a strong call to action
This isn’t the time to be vague. When it comes to a strong call to action clarity trumps persuasion.
If it’s a button, the wording matters. Strong action taking verbs are the key. Make it clear what happens when you press that button.
Size of the call to action also matters especially if it’s a button because you really do want it to stand out as much as possible.
4. Persuade before your call to action
I know I just said clarity trumps persuasion, but there is a time and a place for persuasion and that’s just prior to your call to action.
If you just present the call to action without setting the scene or providing context it’s almost like a big slap in the face for your visitor.
Some people thing landing page optimization is just about adjusting your call to action. Sure it needs to be strong, but leading into it with a persuading paragraph can do incredible things for your conversion rates.
5. Be trustworthy
Trust identifiers are paramount to sales, especially online. These can include trust icons such as validation indicators and secure check out notifiers, SSL certified transaction pages and even things like testimonials from happy customers can play a part.
Being trustworthy also means having a professional looking appearance. Yes, even the design of a page is an important trust factor.
6. Know your business objectives
One of the key success points of landing page optimization is knowing what are you business objectives for your landing page?
Are you wanting signups to a newsletter as the entry to your sales funnel? Or is the point of your landing page to sell a product? By knowing your business objective for the page you can narrow down the focus of your landing page.
Again this comes back to knowing what your overall value proposition is and where this particular landing page is going to fit into that picture.
7. Know your customer’s business objectives
Likewise, knowing what motivates your customer is incredibly important for crafting the right type of offer. Does your customer even want what you are offering? Are you pitching it to the right audience? These are all things that can effect your conversion rates.
By knowing what your customer’s business objectives are you can address their every concern right there on the page which will give you a nice head start in getting them to trust you over the competition.
How to start landing page optimization
The rest of this article is going to assume you already have a landing page to optimize. I’ll also assume that you’ve been back through it analyzing each of the points above.
If you don’t have a landing page yet, then the following will serve as good reinforcement for writing the first version of your landing page.
First, a definition of landing page optimization:
Landing page optimization is the task of making small incremental changes to a landing page based on unvalidated assumptions of what could increase the occurrence of a desired action taken by visitors. The optimization occurs when the impact of the change is measured scientifically to determine if the assumption was correct.
In short, testing, testing and more testing.
Some people will run for the hills at that statement, other data nerds like me rub their hands with glee at the thought of quantitative results.
The type of testing you want to do is called “split testing”, also known as “a/b testing”.
Landing Page Optimization With Split Testing Tools
Of course, there are many different tools you can use to validate your decisions including some you can use before even publishing a landing page to get people to view your design and quickly tell you what it’s about.
This is sometimes called a “5 second test” because the premise is that you show someone your landing page for 5 seconds, then hide it and get the test subject to tell you what it’s about.
Split testing on the other hand is a landing page optimization technique that allows you to test pages in a live scenario, or in-situ.
Again, there are various tools you can choose from, however it would be remiss of me to not mention our split testing plugin, Simple Page Tester.
If you’re running a WordPress based website, there’s really no better plugin out there that will have you up and running conducting split tests with less than 60 seconds effort.
What To Test On Your Landing Page
Primary images, especially images of people
Imagery can be incredibly emotive for your visitors and as such they should be treated as any other physical element on the page and tested thoroughly.
If you are including an image containing a person or even an animal then you need to be very careful about the kinds of emotions the image resonates.
For example, a picture of an old man fishing by a lake could mean a number of things such as having a happy and relaxed retirement, being fulfilled in life, living to a ripe old age, being happy with where your life is going. It would make a great image for a retirement plan, or even life insurance.
The direction of the subject’s eyes also matters. As humans we are drawn to look at things that other people and animals are looking at and you should use this to maximum effectiveness online. Eye gaze direction is a fantastic subtle visual cue for people to fill out forms, subscribe to things, click on particular buttons, etc.
Finally, testing unique imagery over stock photos is a good idea because a lot of the time people have seen stock photos somewhere else and it will conjure the same emotions they had when examining that other product/page. This is where being too generic can harm your chances of conversion.
The primary headline
The primary headline is the place to formulate your hook. It’s the first bit of text on the page that your visitor will see and you know what they say: first impressions last.
Make sure your headline is provocative yet clear. Your overall benefit should be summed up this one phrase, this is not the time to waffle. A sharp and clear headline can do wonders for your overall conversion rates.
Keep an eye on the legibility of your headline as well. It needs to stand out, so as such should be larger in size than your body text, the color should be contrasting to the overall page to pull it out as the primary element.
The chosen font needs to be readable first, and fancy second. There’s no point having a cracking headline if people have trouble reading it on standard monitors, make sure it’s readable at any font size even if it means avoiding script fonts.
Your introductory text (or first short block of text)
You want to boost the chances of the first paragraph of text being read or at least skimmed by the visitor so you should keep the line length short. This refers to how many words are in a line before it wraps around to the next line.
Studies have shown that shorter line length tends to be read more than longer line length so consider putting a picture or something to shorten the line length of the first couple of paragraphs.
This is another spot where you need to be clear about the benefits you are offering, but you do get more of a chance to explain what the headline is all about. Keep it consistent with the headline and answer any questions straight away. Also, avoid bias.
The call to action (including leading paragraph/text)
The call to action for the page needs to be a strong verb based cue to the visitor. You should be telling them what will happen if they press that button and there should be no doubt in their mind.
For example if you’re testing a newsletter signup try different verbs such as “Sign Up”, “Subscribe”, “Enrol”, “Take Course”, etc. There are hundreds of combinations and you need to figure out what is going to be best for the page. The key take away is to make sure it’s a strong directive type phrase, otherwise it might some out sounding like this: “Please sign up here, you know, if you want to, maybe.. oh forget it, it’s stupid.”
Whitespace is very important when it comes to calls to action. Whitespace refers to the amount of negative space around your button. Having it feel too enclosed or crowded has been shown to have a negative impact on conversions. Make sure your buttons have room to breathe!
Directional cues can be helpful as well and should be tested. An image of a mouse cursor hovering over the button can work well, as can arrows or the gaze of someone in a picture as mentioned before. Does the visitor get subtly drawn to fulfilling your call to action?
Finally, the leading paragraph coming up to the call to action can be the most important text block on the page as it sets the tone just prior to them pressing the button. It should be directive and conclusive, this isn’t the time to leave open ended questions hanging.
The color and size of buttons
Button color is a hotly contested issue among landing page optimization circles. Does it make a difference? Does size matter more?
Honestly, it depends on the page, but I think that making use of the color wheel is not only a smart idea for landing page optimization, but it’s good design practice in general.
Color theory is an interesting subject (something that could take up a whole blog post or even an essay I think) but the basic gist for call to action buttons is that you want to make use of the color wheel. Complimentary colors to the page work well because they stand out while still fitting in with the overall color scheme.
As mentioned the size of your button should be looked at as well. In general, studies have shown larger buttons perform better than smaller ones, but how large entirely depends on the page itself and the surrounding elements.
The goal here is to make sure it is the primary element, the one thing that gets noticed above all else.
If you’re filling out a form you want it to be as obvious as possible how to submit that form because that’s the action that matters. Now, apply this to your scenario. Does your button size make sense and could you perhaps test bigger buttons?
Forms (both information collected and length, can you move some to another page?)
Ahh, good old forms. You’ve been a staple on the internet pretty much since it’s inception. But goddamn, you’re an ugly sum’bitch and we sure hate filling you out.
Long forms suck.
For the corporates out there, please oh please take a hint. We hate filling out twenty fields just to get a newsletter or a quote. What do you really need from us straight away? An email address, maybe a name and a phone number.
For membership sign up forms, get rid of addresses, birthdays, pet’s names, mother’s maiden names… why do you need all this info right now?
Let’s look at what is really required for membership? An email address, that’s pretty obvious. A Username, some would argue not because the email can be the username, but ok. And a Password.
Everything else can be collected once the user is signed up as a member. Force them to fill out their profile instead, once they’re in the door they will happily oblige.
Other tips for forms are making the fields physically large, this can help clarify the intention of the page. Make your labels easy to read and clear for what you are expecting users to enter.
It can also help if you communicate the benefits of filling out said form. Why do I want to become a member again? A 1,2,3 benefits list beside the form will help reinforce that.
The key takeaway is to use engaging design to make it really obvious why and how people should fill out your form. Try not to collect too much information straight away, leave that for later. The less field you have the more conversion you’ll get.
Page layout and alignment (very audience dependent)
Page layout and alignment can vary quite a lot with what audience you’re targeting. In some cultures Right-to-Left reading feels most natural so their eyes will automatically start at the right hand side of the page. In most western cultures Left-to-Right is dominant.
Depending on where you visitors are coming from and what is the primary culture of your target audience you should design according to this methodology.
This can effect things like your call to action placement and how you use visual cues to direct the eye in a natural manner.
Page layout also means include plenty of whitespace in the right places. Having your call to action stand out by the clever use of whitespace can increase your conversions.
Remove any other distractions on the page as well. This could even mean removing footers, menu navigation, and sidebars if the page doesn’t call for it. The last thing you want is for your visitor to be distracted by an irrelevant link taking them off to somewhere else. Make the one action you want them to take ultra clear.
Things to remember about landing page optimization
1. Humans are crazy
Landing page optimization is inherently a human behaviour observation and we all know that human behaviour can be very erratic at times.
The science behind landing page optimization tells us to break these changes down into small, quantifiably testable assumptions to reduce the risk of making a change based on incorrect data.
2. Landing page optimization is about improving an already working page
As mentioned earlier in this article, you need to be sure that you’re not conducting landing page optimization on a page that isn’t working in the first place.
Using landing page optimization a page that has serious flaws is a mistake. Your first step when doing any sort of testing like this is to conduct an audit on the landing page in question and correct any major flaws.
From here to need to establish a baseline measurement. This could mean taking statistical data on click through rates and conversion rates for a period of time that you consider statistically significant (which can vary depending on your traffic, see #3 for more on this).
Once you have your baseline, then you can start making changes, observing your variance from the baseline and implementing if you have a winner. This is the basic process of landing page optimization.
3. You need a statistically significant amount of visitors to validate your assumptions
Statistically significant in this case can be a bit like the old “how long is a piece of string?” question. How many visitors is enough?
As per statistics, statistical significance is when a result is unlikely to have occurred by chance. Significance here doesn’t mean meaningful, it means that there is a level of significance.
The purpose of this article isn’t to define what is statistically significant (check out wikipedia for a great explanation).
To generalize the concept though, what you want to see is enough visitors so that you can measure without doubt that your change has caused a positive or negative net effect.
Depending on your industry, your offer, your change, and plenty of other variables, achieving statistical significance can take a small number of exposures or it can take a lot.
If you take a benchmark prior to implementing a change for what you consider to be a statistically significant amount of data, then implement your change and measure how much difference it makes either way then you’re more than likely going to be making a good judgement call on whether your assumption was true or false.
4. The two keys to landing page optimization are traffic and time
Landing page optimization is conducted over a time period by making small incremental changes.
It then stands to reason that the two things you need in quantity are traffic (eyeballs on your landing page) and time.
How much time directly depends on how many eyeballs you get on your pages.
5. Steady as she goes, rushing it isn’t going to help
I hope my riffing on statistical significance has sunk in, but just to reiterate one more time: landing page optimization takes time.
Rushing the process will lead to mistakes.
The field of landing page optimization is vast, there is so much to learn and so many resources out there to help you.
The best teacher though is always yourself, and your observations. If you conduct a thorough and impartial analysis and test your assumptions properly then you’re going to have excellent success with landing page optimization.
Using the right tools helps as well, so just to remind you, we have a fantastic tool here for WordPress website owners. Our split testing plugin lets you setup landing page optimization tests in a matter of seconds, so the technical barrier to landing page optimization has essentially been removed.
I hope you enjoyed this introductory guide to landing page optimization.