Crafting unique landing pages has become deceptively simple. With the advent of so many drag-and-drop builders, plus a ready supply of professional templates, anyone with basic computer skills can create fairly professional designs. If done correctly, landing pages can improve conversions over your main homepage by funneling your visitors into information tailored very specifically toward their query, priming them to more easily convert. The danger is that, without best landing page practices in hand, you can easily end up doing more harm than good to your conversion rate by crafting pages without strategy and usability standards in mind.
A lot of strategy and testing has gone into developing the best practices for conversions, which designers can be trained in to help them avoid the pitfalls of ineffective landing pages. User interface and user experience design (UI / UX) is the study of how these best practices can be used to give your marketing a big head start. Here are several key best practices to keep in mind when generating a new landing page.
10 Guidelines for Designing Landing Pages:
- Create compelling copy.
- Prioritize your critical real estate.
- Make strong benefit statements.
- Create directional design hot spots.
- Highlight your product or service in action.
- Remove navigation and limit distractions or offsite links.
- Include (authentic) social proof and reviews.
- Load performance really does matter.
- Design and test well for mobile.
- Split test and continually modify your landing pages.
The first rule of landing page best practices is this: they are a starting point to help you construct your best attempt at what you think will work. After that attempt is published, you will want to run experiments that let your customers decide what they think is the best-conversion tactic for the landing page. With that in mind, let’s describe some further detail on the 10 best practices listed above.
1. Create compelling copy.
When it comes to messaging for nearly any marketing: simple always wins. The easier it is to understand the uniqueness of a given offer, the more likely the visitor will see the value and make the conversion. However, it is often more difficult to simplify a message than it is to add to it. Remember that your user is going to read mostly headlines and bullet lists, so make sure that if you read those aloud, they highlight the most compelling details of your service or product.
2. Prioritize your critical real estate.
“Above-the-fold” (ATF) is the area that shows up within one view of the site – on a PC screen, on a tablet-sized screen, or on a phone-sized screen. The messaging and visuals in this upper area are critical to establishing your best first impression. If the users are not engaged with information pertinent to their search, they will be much more likely to hit the back button to seek out a different search result. This is why large hero graphics with a few partial sentences stating what the site is about and why the user will want to continue are so common. Think elevator pitch within a five-second time frame! In the ATF area, you want to clarify three things:
- What do you offer?
- Why is it unique in the market?
- And how to get started.
3. Make strong benefit statements.
When it comes to creating compelling benefit statements, the best practice is to describe a better future for the user. If the visitor can picture themselves with your product or service, your conversion is already in hand. Omitting this is one of the most common mistakes made on landing pages. Often, pages are created that only offer features and fail to link those features to the user’s feelings when enjoying them. For example, stating that a subwoofer has a 60Hz range is a feature-based statement. It might mean something to technical folks, but it will go right over the heads of many visitors. On the other hand, stating that a subwoofer has deep, rich bass tones that will transform your home theater experience, is a benefit that just about everyone will understand and that they can easily imagine for themselves.
4. Create directional design hot spots.
This landing page best practice stems from eye movement studies that showed a very common direction that most users follow. Imagine a ‘Z’ overlaid on your page. That is the path most users follow when viewing a site for the first time. This is why you rarely see vertical navigation and why most sites seem to agree to put the phone number and call-to-action button in the top-right corner. This is a visual pause point in a visitor’s left-to-right scan and is the best place for your header CTA for a higher conversion rate. This is also where our best practices have actually reinforced the tendency. Now, this has become an expectation for users. Similarly, the bottom right is also a rest for the eyes and is usually the most common spot for chat features. This is also a case of design best practices in action.
5. Highlight your product or service in action.
This might seem obvious, but it is often overlooked to actually show the product in action. You might only show your product on a white background, which looks clean and minimal; however, if you are selling a running shoe and never show someone crossing the finish line on your site, you might add that to your list of A/B testing. It is a simple fact that users want to relate to the product via association with your imagery. This helps us form more lasting memories of a product if we can associate it with an emotion, which is easier to do when photos include people enjoying themselves. This is done so much that people now often see stock photos as displaying over-the-top emotions. Think of people laughing over salad or too happily paying a bill – the point is it can seem insincere if overdone. Authentic imagery is usually better. Paying a photographer to do it right is advisable.
6. Remove navigation and limit distractions or offsite links.
This is one of the more counter-intuitive aspects of landing page creation. You don’t want the visitor to leave until they’ve taken action. So, links to read more, learn more, research more, etc., will actually detract from your goal of conversions. Additionally, adding too much information can get the user to the point of info overload, where making a decision is something they may now want to think over. There is a balance of providing enough information to entice without overwhelming the users with too many specs and comparisons. Using page length and depth of scroll as testing opportunities is something that you may want to consider adding to your split tests. If you do find that you need to direct the users off of your landing page, using Google Analytics can help you track the user journey through your site.
7. Include (authentic) social proof and reviews.
Everyone reads reviews to validate their purchases. Most of us do so with some level of skepticism due to past errors in our purchasing judgments. Therefore, it can be hard to get your reviews to be read at face value. For this reason, marketers have found that adding photos next to the review often increases conversions by implying that the reviews must be real if they have the photo to prove it. Often, these are unsuspecting stock photo actors, wholly unaware of their participation in selling your product or service, but it still works. Better are services like TrustPilot and other aggregators that validate reviews. Social proof is also a great way to give confidence to your purchaser because it is harder to fake. Authenticity wins, so using video is often a better idea because your visitor can “read” the person to determine if they believe the brand story or not.
8. Load performance really does matter.
Google has been demoting websites’ search rankings due to poor load times for years now. Amazon found absolutely startling conversion rate improvements when it cut down its load times. It is not a theory at this point, as it has been proven. People are impatient. That simply means that if your site loads faster than your competition, your user is likely going to give you more attention on their visit. If your landing page loads slowly, the visitor most likely will start out the relationship frustrated, waiting for your site to come up. This becomes even more critical on mobile devices. Load speed is a big deal. Without it, all of your other efforts may be limited. Site bounce rate and cart abandonment are both proven to increase due to poor site response times. Don’t let technical challenges hold back your success. Work with a specialist that can address this before directing paid traffic to a site that can’t perform.
9. Design and test well for mobile.
The world has embraced mobile phone browsers in a big way. The mobile channel of website traffic has taken the lead, as the majority of web traffic in just about every industry comes from phones. So make sure that your site works well, looks good, and above all else, is easy to navigate on a mobile device. There is no excuse for not doing so. Test on different platforms and different browsers at different sizes. Use emulator tools to show your site on a myriad of different screen sizes to spot any obstacles that will prevent a conversion.
10. Split test and continually modify your landing pages.
This is the fun part, where you now have a nice-looking page that presents your message quickly and persuasively. It is engaging, enticing, and easy to get the narrative and take action. Now you are able to start pushing traffic to it, and you can split your traffic between two versions of the page to begin testing which approach works best. Over each test, you should only really change one variable to be able to directly correlate the reason for each test winner. You can then take the winning layout/messaging and create another variation to keep fine-tuning until you have learned what makes your audience tick.
Following these best practices will ultimately help you bring in more conversions in a shorter testing period for your landing pages. It is important, however, to note that these are guidelines, not rules. You should always be willing to “paint outside the lines” when it comes to marketing. Some of the best innovation comes from going completely contrary to the general standards. That said, using what has been proven to work is where most businesses want to be to get the most for their marketing investment. So test those left-field ideas with limited percentages of your traffic just to be safe.