Online Marketing Lesson 52: Introduction to Landing Pages

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In this lesson, we will explain the concepts of landing page and conversion rate optimization. They are essential to any online entrepreneur or marketer, because they can have a dramatic impact on the success and profitability of websites.

Landing Pages

A landing page is simply the first page that a visitor will see on your website. In other words, it is the page where a visitor will land.

This means that all pages of your website are potential landing pages. If you write a blog post, for example, and after a while that post starts receiving organic traffic from Google, the post would be acting as a landing page.

In fact there are two main types of landing pages: natural and artificial landing pages.

Natural landing pages are the normal pages of your website, including the homepage, that will end up receiving visitors from external places. Those external places can be search engines, as we mentioned above, but also social networks and any website that will link to your pages. We call them “natural” because they are not created to work as landing pages. This happens spontaneously.

Artificial landing pages, on the other hand, are the ones that will be created deliberately inside your website. We call them “artificial” not because they are fake or simulated, but rather because they are created for a very specific objective. For instance, you could create a landing page to receive the traffic from an advertising campaign or to sell a product.

Optimizing Natural Landing Pages

The main difference between natural and artificial landing pages is the fact that the former will have a wide rage of purposes and objectives mixed together, while the latter will have a single and very clear objective.

Let’s consider a blog, for example. All the single blog posts are also natural landing pages, because they will receive traffic from search engines and from other blogs that will link to them.

When a visitor lands on one of those blog posts, the blog owner has several objectives to achieve. For example, he might want the visitor to:

  • read the content of the post,
  • click on to read a second or third post,
  • submit the post to a social bookmarking site,
  • subscribe to the RSS feed or email newsletter,
  • visit other sections of the blog,
  • click on the ads, or
  • click on affiliate links and make a purchase.

Optimizing natural landing pages is about finding an equilibrium between these different objectives and prioritizing them effectively. If your main goal is to grow your audience and engage your new readers, making visitors able to read your content without distractions is a must, and you should therefore avoid any type of intrusive advertising. If your main goal is to make as much money as possible, on the other hand, you probably should be more aggressive with the position of the ads.

The Paradox of Choice

Every visual element and every link inside your pages are choices that you offer to your visitors. They have the choice to pay attention or not to those elements, and they have the choice to click or not on those links.

While optimizing your natural landing pages, it is important to remember that more choices will not necessarily benefit your visitors. In fact, it might just confuse and annoy them.

In economics there is a theory called “The Paradox of Choice.” It states that increasing the number of choices will improve the user experience, but only up to a certain point. After that point, the added choices will actually be counterproductive.

Several studies have confirmed this theory in a wide range of segments. One of them, for example, found that individuals in a supermarket are 10 times more likely to make a purchase if they have to choose from among 6 rather than 20 flavors of jam.

How does this theory affect the optimization of your pages? It is simple: you need to identify the main objectives that you are trying to achieve, and then you need to work around them, giving your visitors a reasonable number of choices.

Let’s suppose that you are figuring out what you should include below your single posts. You could add:

  • links to related posts,
  • links to your most popular posts.
  • links to individual tags.
  • a message encourage the visitor to subscribe to your RSS feed,
  • a subscription form for your newsletter,
  • social bookmarking icons,
  • a “Twitter this” button,
  • a banner with advertising,
  • a picture of yourself with a brief bio, or
  • links to affiliate products

Adding all of the above below your posts would be a mistake, because you would just confuse your visitors. By selecting only two or three of them you would improve the user experience and increase the chances of your visitors taking the action that you want them to.

Why Create Artificial Landing Pages

People create artificial landing pages whenever they want to achieve a very specific objective. Those landing pages will receive traffic from known sources, and they channel the attention of the visitor towards the action that is supposed to be taken.

Suppose that you have a blog and that you just wrote an ebook. Creating a section on the sidebar with an image of the ebook and a “Buy now” button would not be effective, because that section would be dividing the attention of the visitor with all the other elements in your blog.

Instead you should create a landing page that has the sole objective of selling your ebook. You would use sales copy to convince your potential customers, and make sure that they would not be distracted by external elements. After that you could place an image on the sidebar of your blog pointing to that landing page.

Here are four common uses for artificial landing pages:

1. Landing Pages to Receive Advertising Traffic

Whenever you purchase advertising for your websites, blogs, products or services, you should create a landing page to receive that traffic. The most common mistake among mainstream companies that spend money on PPC advertising, in fact, is to buy thousands of clicks and send that traffic to the homepage of their websites.

Why is this a mistake? Because those visitors will go to the site looking for something specific, related to the ad that they clicked, and the homepage only contains some general information about the company, so visitors will need to look around and find what they are looking for. As a result many of them will give up and go somewhere else.

Ideally you want to create a different landing page for each advertising campaign, making sure that the content of the page will match the ad as closely as possible, and that visitors will be able to take action without the need to click to a second or third page.

2. Landing Pages to Pre-sell Affiliate Offers

As we mention in the “Affiliate Marketing” module, pre-selling is a very powerful strategy to drive sales to affiliate offers. A pre-sell page is nothing more than a landing page that will have the objective of driving traffic and sales to the website of the merchant that you are promoting.

In some cases your landing page will not be the first page that a visitor will see in your website. Suppose that you joined the affiliate program for a web hosting company. You could place a banner in the sidebar of your website saying “We recommend the XYZ hosting company. Click here to find out why.” You would then make that banner point to an internal landing page where you pre-sell the affiliate offer. The only traffic source for this landing page would be your own website.

3. Landing Pages to Build Email Lists

One of the most effective ways to build an email list is to create a landing page where you will offer an incentive to visitors in exchange for them them subscribing to your list. This incentive could be a free ebook, report, audio file, video or software.

On the landing page itself you will include the copy and the subscription form. Once the visitor subscribes and confirms his subscription he will get access to the material.
Once the landing page is ready you can send traffic to it from any source that you can find, from PPC advertising to online forums and social networks.

4. Landing Pages to Sell Products or Services

The classic use of landing pages is to sell products and services. Convincing people to buy stuff is not easy, and that is why it is essential to use a page where all the elements are focused on closing the deal.

You will notice that many sales pages have only one clickable item: the “Buy now” button. Other elements that are commonly used in sales pages include testimonials, lists of product features, lists of benefits for the buyer, guarantees, proof of concept, and copy to build trust and engage the prospect.

Conversion Rate Optimization

The most common metric to analyze and optimize landing pages is the conversion rate. This is basically the percentage of the visitors landing on your page who will take the desired action. If you created a landing page to build your email list, for example, and for every 100 visitors you get 4 new subscribers, your conversion rate would be 4%.

In order to improve and optimize your conversion rate you will need to test, and test a lot. The basic test that you can perform is an A/B split test. This means that you will create two landing pages, and track which one converts better. After that you create a third landing page and try to outperform the previous winner. So on and so forth.

The second type of the test that you can use is the multivariate one. With this one you basically test the performance of individual elements inside your landing page. These can be headlines, images, buttons and so on.

These tests can be performed manually if you have some technical skills. Alternatively, you can use a service from Google called Website Optimizer. It will automate the whole process for you, and it will also provide detailed reports and help you analyze the results.

Action Points

  1. Review the difference between natural and artificial landing pages.
  2. Analyze the natural landing pages on your website or blog and make sure that they are working around your primary goals.
  3. Remember that offering too many choices might actually damage the user experience and block the visitor from taking the desired actions.
  4. If you are going to create artificial landing pages, consider using Google Website Optimizer to perform tests with them.

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