12 Critical Elements of Successful Landing Pages
In digital marketing, a landing page is a web page that a user arrives at after clicking a search result link or online ad. Also known as a destination page or lead capture page, a landing page is used to generate leads or sales by getting visitors to respond to a call-to-action (CTA). A successful landing page is optimized to drive conversions—getting more users to take the desired action. A CTA linked to gated content is critical for SEO success.
Marianne Sweeny, Search Information Architect and Principal Consultant with Professional Services at BrightEdge, helps our clients achieve their digital marketing goals and revenue targets with customized SEO recommendations. Here are her suggestions for optimizing landing pages.
1. Scannable content focusing on the user
Quality content is readable, useful content. And though quality is internal to an organization, a landing page’s content should support both the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision) and the conversion funnel (awareness, interest, desire, and action). As with wit, brevity is the soul of effective communication. Content focus should be narrow and the user path clear.
Landing pages with straightforward and simple headlines convert better than those with creative titles. A headline should follow the newspaper model, describing the entire article with focused keywords found in the body content.
Information presented in sections accompanied by keyword-rich headings enables users to better comprehend what is on the page. A user should be engaged with the page, following along with the content and arriving at a decision to act.
Long descriptions work best for expensive, complex, and conventional products, while short copy works best for simple, inexpensive, or free products, or when the CTA costs nothing. A bulleted list of features and benefits clearly imparts what the product can do for the user.
2. Quick to load
Page load speed plays a critical role in user retention and conversions. Quicker loading leads to higher conversion rates; slower page response time results in an increase in bounce rates and a reduction in conversions—a decrease by as much as 7% for every second of load delay. Page speed is also important for search ranking as it impacts user experience.
More than half of all search queries come from mobile devices. Google's Accelerated Mobile Protocol (AMP) framework is designed to improve the speed of content displayed on mobile devices. Responsive design sites adapt page layouts for individual screen sizes, ensuring a better user experience. Users may not convert from a mobile device because it can be hard to do, but many initial and successive page visits are made via mobile.
3. Big CTA
The most essential element of a landing page is the CTA. A landing page should have one value proposition, one clear message, and one dominant CTA. While there may be pages with a combination of CTAs displayed, design and layout should promote one “macro conversion” as the most important for user attention.
The best landing page CTAs are unmissable. The color palette of a landing page can affect user interaction based on emotional and gender factors. But a likelier influence on user behavior than color scheme is “pop.” CTAs need to be isolated on the page with either white space or color. Readability is also crucial. “A CTA is ideally white text on a dark background—it converts more than dark text on a light background,” Sweeny says. “Anything is better than dark-on-dark—no one wants to go there.”
Positioned close to the CTA, a guarantee improves the chances of a conversion. Reassuring a user at the moment of decision provides a level of comfort that can aid action.
4. Addresses user fears and hopes
Psychology plays a part in landing page optimization. Specifically, people are loss avoidant. As such, users facing uncertainty will overweight low probability outcomes and underweight high probability outcomes around scenarios that could result in loss. Emphasizing the low probability outcomes, any form of guarantee or other plans to mitigate user loss will have a positive impact on user engagement. Effective landing page messaging assures relief.
The desire for happiness can also move users to action. Artful storytelling inspires users to associate a product with joy, fulfillment, acceptance, love, etc. With the right cues, a landing page can lead a user to act to satisfy an emotional craving. However, overpromising can undermine credibility.
The value proposition of the product or service should be obvious, clearly distinguishing it from similar products on the market. Users respond favorably to easily scanned comparison charts that show the difference between versions and articulate the value of each. For these comparisons, competitors need not be named.
5. Delivers on its promise
A gated white paper download, unlocked video, a contest entry, or a prize can be a powerful incentive to users and will boost SEO. Users will part with something of value if what they’re getting in return is perceived as being of higher value.
When requesting user information via a form, less is more, so ask for only what is absolutely needed. “A birth date shouldn’t be necessary for a white paper download,” Sweeny says. If longer forms are required to collect additional information, there should be tracking to indicate progress with percentage of process completed or “page 2/5,” for instance.
6. Video and images
Video can communicate complex concepts, entertain, and provide value. Embedding video in a landing page prompts prospects to action in a way text-only content cannot. Just make sure the length is tight, that the video is hosted on the page or on YouTube—not on a stack-o’-video page—and that it is optimized for search with an associated title and description and closed captioning.
Visual content captures users’ attention, helps deliver information, and lowers bounce rates but should not slow down the page’s loading time. Successful use of images rests on contextual relevance to the article topic or fit with the page’s message. Lifestyle images are effective as long as they represent use of the product in an authentic way, are effectively incorporated into the design, and are not overly familiar, which is a hazard with stock photography. Random images can also distract visitors from converting.
7. Simple design
The simpler a page’s design, the better. Simple sites are easier to load, process, and use. “The reason we can use practically any microwave is because they all follow basic constructs,” Sweeny says. “It’s the same with websites.” Global navigation is expected at the top of the page with the search box in the upper-right corner. If it’s placed somewhere else, the user will be at a loss and will likely leave the site unsatisfied.
8. Earns user trust
Product-specific testimonials from people relevant to the target audience earns users’ trust. These testimonials can be case studies or reviews culled from social networks, media, or customers directly. Reviews are the dominant form of endorsement as people rely on other people’s experiences. Awards, membership in professional organizations, and business partnerships should also be prominently displayed.
Links to relevant and trustworthy third-party sites are useful to visitors and help establish the trustworthiness of the referring site. External links to contextually relevant and supportive resources are effective in reinforcing the authority of the landing page. However, overreliance on this technique with too many external links can cause users to leave the page and even dilute the landing page authority. “True authorities don't need a lot of support,” Sweeny says.
9. Multiple points for interaction
Online chat, social links, email, a contact form, a phone number, and a physical address (with map) are all ways users can engage with an organization via a landing page. Multiple options allow users to choose what’s most convenient for them right then, whether they’re at work on laptops, commuting with their phones, or at home with their tablets. When prioritizing, onsite messaging via a “contact us” form or page is preferable to a mail-to email link.
Social buttons should initiate sharing of the landing page or associated product from the user’s accounts, as opposed to adding the user as a follower to the organization’s accounts. “As a user, I want to share a piece of content, not communicate with the brand,” Sweeny says. A product endorsement shared to a user’s following is an unsolicited evaluation and recommendation.
10. Thank you messaging
Confirmation of a successful purchase or form submission is a reassurance that the transaction was completed. Users should receive a Thank You message on-page or in a confirmation email.
11. Tracking and testing
Data can boost the value of a landing page. Continuous experimenting with subtle or not-so-subtle changes to a landing page helps gauge what works and what doesn’t. Variations on content, CTAs, headlines, or any other elements of the landing page may improve user engagement, lower bounce rates, and increase conversion rates.
A/B testing of a landing page works best when making changes to one thing at a time: if you try to test the placement of the CTA and the color and the messaging, you won’t know which one contributes to the increase or decrease in conversions. There should also be enough time for testing to provide a proper comparison.
Overall performance data helps inform decisions regarding the landing page and marketing campaigns in general. Understanding ROI—return on ad spend, cost per conversion, and conversion rate—drives optimization of marketing budgets.
12. Matches referring source
Users arrive at landing pages via referrals from other pages or sites—most often search engine result pages. Ideally, a landing page is customized for different audiences based on where users arrive from: a user arriving at a landing page from a social post is different from a user who clicked on a PPC ad. Regardless, the user journey should be consistent across the referring source and the landing page to best match the user’s need. Contextual relevance between a search query or ad text and landing page copy is a key ranking factor for Google AdWords. The contextual match should be tight.