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What are the secrets of successful landing page design? Why some landing pages are gold mine while others are black holes? What are the mistakes you may be doing right now that are hurting your conversion rates? In this two-part article, you will learn about the 7 deadly mistakes you have to avoid if you want to create great landing pages. Are you ready to take your landing pages on higher level?
What Is a Landing Page
Let’s start this article with making absolutely clear what landing page is and what it isn’t. In the simplest terms, landing page can be described as page that lives separately from your website and the only purpose of its existence is to receive traffic on your website. Thanks to this separation from your main website it is much easier for you to implement analytic tools that will monitor and measure your conversion rates.
The next question is “how can you use landing page?” Landing page on its own is not reserved for some specific type of content, product or service. In other words, you can use it to almost anything., from selling your products and services, offering discounts to your customers to capturing email leads or promoting and selling a web design conference. You can also use landing pages to sell your products before you release them. This is a well-tested strategy to find out if you should invest your time in developing it at the first place.
When you use landing page to promote your product or service before its launch, it can help you “warm up” potential customers. Meaning, it will capture their attention and make them interested in what you are going to be selling. The only thing that really matters is how you design your it.
Two Types of Landing Pages
There is one more ting you have to know before we will dive into the mistakes you might be doing. In general, there are two types of landing pages. The first type is called lead generation landing page. The purpose of this type of landing pages is to capture leads, or capture emails of people visiting the page. When someone gives you his email address, mostly through shorter or longer form, it is basically a permission for trying to convert this visitor into customer. You can imagine it like having a brick and mortar store.
In this example, capturing leads via form is the same thing like inviting passers into your store. When they enter – give you their email address – your job is to try to convert them into your customers by selling them something they either want or need. I used these two specific words intentionally because your job as a sales person is to sell people solutions to their problems. We’ve already discussed this in Selling is helping article, so I will not start this debate again.
The second type of landing pages is called click-through landing page. These pages are often used in the world of e-commerce to provide buyer with information about specific product and make them ready for the next step – making the purchase. You can imagine these pages like a channel between the product and shopping cart. Or checkout, in case of brick and mortar business. In some sense, one convenient metaphor of a click-through landing page can be menu in restaurant.
The purpose of this menu is to give you all the information necessary to purchase the food. This information include name of the dish, list of ingredients, total amount of food and, finally, the price. It acts as a channel between the product – food your want to eat – and the check out. Yep, this is a great example to demonstrate click-through landing pages. One question. In case you are owner of a restaurant, how optimized is your menu?
Let’s summarize this section. There are two types of landing pages – lead generation and click-through. Lead generation landing page is used to capture leads – email addresses, numbers, etc. Click-through landing pages are used to provide potential buyer with information about product and prepare them for purchase.
Mistake No.1: Features Over Benefits
The second deadly I see people often do is to use their landing page to pitch features of their product. In my own case, focusing on features was one of the biggest mistakes I was doing for a long time. Let me give you an example. Couple ways I used to pitch my services as a freelance designer and web developer was to talk about cleanliness of the code, incredibly optimized assets, low number of HTTP requests and asynchronous loading of scripts and styles (I will talk about this subject and more in the future post).
What’s more, in description of services on my website I was using terms such as mobile first design, modular design and even progressive enhancement. To make everything worse, where do you think I went for feedback? Yes, I turned to designers and developers. Frequent response was compliments about skills, examples of work and clean design. Despite that, I was not getting more clients. What was the problem? There were two problems. First, I wasn’t pitching the right things. Second, I wasn’t asking for feedback the right people.
Let me rephrase the first problem. I was not using the right language in my pitch. Meaning? I was pitching what I was doing and what would my clients get for their money. Unfortunately, it was not in their language. Think about it. If you are a freelancer, how many of your clients know terms related to your industry? In case of web design and development, terms such as clean code, HTTP requests, asynchronous loading, mobile first or progressive enhancement? The answer is: “close to zero.” That’s it. You can’t get new clients if they don’t understand what are you talking about!
Are you still confused what is this monologue about? In a short, I focused on pitching features instead of benefits. The problem is that clients and customers are not looking for features. They are looking for benefits! Client doesn’t care how many kilobytes can you save, how fast the website will load or how many cool tricks and what technologies have you used on the front-end or back-end part. Clients don’t give a sh*t about such things.
All they care about is what benefits or value will they gain. Small demonstration … Think back to the last time you bought a camera. What made you do the purchase? Was it the number of megapixels or the size of memory? Or, was it sharpness of images, easy manipulation and setting and how many images can you take and store in the camera? Do you remember how Steve Jobs announced the original iPod? It was this: “1,000 songs in your pocket.” See? There is not a single word about memory size, performance or sleek design. These are the features.
Instead of presenting the features of iPod, Jobs focused on highlighting the most appealing benefits of having an iPod – 1,000 songs in your pocket. You should do the same thing for just everything you sell. In other words, forget about listing all the features your product offers. Instead, think about the benefits people will gain from purchasing your product. If you are selling services, follow the same approach. What if you are not sure what benefits should you mention?
Get out of your cave and ask people. Seriously. Reach out to your previous clients and ask them what was the upsides of hiring you or purchasing your products. What if you are starting from scratch and reaching out to satisfied clients is not an option? In that case, you still have couple options. First, you can reach out to people who might be interested in what you are selling and ask what are they looking for when they want to hire someone or buy something.
Your second option is to find people with experiences in your domain and simply ask them. These people have been in the game for some time so they know what you should put on your landing page and what you should avoid. The third and last option I will suggest is that you try to look at your product from the customer’s perspective. I intentionally left this option as the last because not everyone is able to take impartial stance. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. Simply ask yourself “why would you buy this product or hire yourself?”
What benefits would you want to gain from it? How would you recognize whether it was a good investment? One thing that will help you find better answers to these questions is looking for the pains your potential customers or clients might have. You can even create couple scenarios to make this “game” more realistic. In this game, you have only one goal – question everything. However, if you don’t want to spend the whole week playing with ideas that may not even fly, there is a shortcut you can take.
Find people who could benefit from your services or products and ask them on what pain do they have. Unfortunately, people may not consciously know they have a problem. How can you evade this issue? Depending on how much time and space do you have, you can organize focus groups. The purpose of these groups is learn by observing people’s behavior. People lie, their body (signs and behavior) does not. Or, you can do a focus group on smaller scale – with a few random people on the street. Just remember to always dig deep and don’t stop with obvious answers.
Features are boring and your clients and customers don’t really care about them. Benefits are what’s exciting and your clients and customers crave them! Use this to your advantage. Instead of outlining the features of your products or services, talk about the benefits people will get. Talk about the pain they will get rid of. If you don’t know what these benefits or pains are, go out and ask people who might be interested in what you are selling.
You can also reach out to other people from your domain with more experiences and ask them for advice. Remember that the worst thing that can happen is rejection. It may be uncomfortable, even painful, but it will not kill you. Another thing is to look at your proposition from customer’s perspective. Any of these approaches can help you find out why people could want to buy. Just remember that people are buying benefits, not features. They want 1,000 songs in your pocket.
Mistake number people are often doing is forgetting to include some social proof. This goes farther than just a landing page design. Take a look at many business websites or freelance portfolios and you will see the same thing. These websites are lacking any social proof to support claims about offered products or services. Basic example of social proof is a testimonial. That being said, it’s not that simple. Filling up your landing page with a pile of testimonials will not necessarily do the job.
It is not just quantity what matters, but the quality. If you want to get the biggest gains from your testimonials, you have to push forward the best pieces. In some sense, you can think about testimonials as your portfolio. Stuffing your portfolio with average or even inferior work would significantly decrease any chance of you being hired or employed. On the other hand, just a few high quality pieces can make miracles. The same is true in case of landing page design.
How can you choose the best testimonials to present on the page? One of my tips is to go back to mistake number one – features over benefits. Meaning, great testimonial will describe some of the benefits your customer or client from buying your product or working with you. Lets’ take a camera again. I will give you two examples of testimonials.
“New for serious photographers is the Leica Q (Typ 116), a fixed lens compact camera with a 24MP CMOS sensor and a 28mm F1.7 Summilux lens.”
“This camera is amazing! I tested this camera on birthday party of my daughter. I was afraid first, but the photos are great! After I showed the photos to my friends, there are constantly asking me how much did it cost to hire professional photographer. Some day, maybe I will tell the truth :).”
Which testimonial do you think is better? Which testimonial would you convince to, at least, think about buying that camera? I don’t know how about you, but I would choose the second one. When you compare those two testimonials, the biggest difference is what kind of information they present. The first example is clearly talking about the features of the camera. The second is more personal. It describes customer’s actual experience from using the camera.
My second tip for you is to never ever try to fake it. In most cases, people will smell fake testimonial from afar. So, if you don’t have any testimonials to show, don’t try to “supplement” this temporary shortage with lies. I would rather suggest that you skip this step until you will have some. Remember that you have only one chance to build trust between you, what do you sell and your customers. If you screw it, you may get yourself out of the business forever.
My third tip for great testimonials is to include photo of the person if you can and have the permission. It is one thing to show plain only text. When you give people chance to “connect” the testimonial to real human face, it’s something completely different. It will take credibility of the testimonial at least one level higher.
My fourth and last tip for testimonials in general is to not overdo it. Yes, it is better to show more high quality testimonials than less. However, there is a certain point when it’s just too much. For example, one of the books I’m reading at this moment, H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick features twenty-two testimonials or reviews. I think that this amount is close to, maybe right on, the edge. Don’t get me wrong. Testimonials presented in the book are all from well-known people and are keeping the quality high.
Still, I don’t want to be told twenty-two times that something is worth reading or buying or someone is worth hiring. Just couple times is enough. If five people I know will tell me to check out something, I will take a look at it. Sure, in this situation I know these people and their tastes so five is enough. However, I dare to say that this is applicable to people you don’t know as well. Unless there is some conspiracy in behind, when five or seven people will recommend you something, it may be worth your attention.
Back to the right number of testimonials. Well, there is no “right” number. However, I would suggest that you stay between seven and fifteen testimonials per one landing page. That should be enough to do the work without overwhelming people or unnecessary stretching of the page. Remember that you want to convince people to buy not to test how long are they willing to scroll.
Note: The first testimonial example is from DigitalCameraReview. The second … Is made up.
Always include some social proof to support the claims about what do you offer. People will be more likely to buy from you if they see someone else did the purchase as well and was satisfied. Also, make sure you are showing only the best pieces because quality matters. Never try to use fake testimonials. They will hurt the trust between you and your customers or clients. And, don’t overdo it. Keep the number of testimonials between seven and fifteen.
Mistake No.3: Bad CTAs
The third mistake that’s often done is either using bad CTAs (call-to-action) or not using them at all. One rule often applied to CTAs on landing page is to make them actionable. In other words, the label on the button should describe some action visitor should take. The most often used examples would be “Subscribe”, “Join”, “Send” or “Buy”. Although these examples will work, they will definitely not help you get any advantage or increase conversions. The problem I see on all these examples is that they are too vague and dull.
When you one of these CTAs, it will not surprise you. You almost expect that they will be there. Sometimes, if they were not markedly colored you may not even notice them. On the other hand, what effect do you think it will have if you use something more unique? Example from Crazy Egg: “Show Me My Heatmap.” Another example I like is made by Basecamp: “Use Basecamp free for 2 months – it’s on us.” So, my first advice is to make your CTA unique, original and distinct. Don’t try to copy or emulate someone else. To be unique, you have to come up with something new.
What are some other ways to improve your CTAs besides uniqueness and originality? Simplicity! You CTAs have to be simple and direct. Don’t spend hours talking about how awesome it will be for your customer to purchase that or hire you. Whatever the action you want the visitor to take is, it must be simple, short and appealing. The worst thing that can happen is to let the visitor clueless. Remember that every time visitor has to guess what’s the next step, your chances of converting him into your customer are going down.
How to make your CTAs more direct? Use simple language. Why do you think so many websites are using labels such as “Get started”, “Login with …”, “Sign up now for free”, “Sign up using …”? Although these labels are not unique nor original, they speak clearly. They leave no room for guessing. They are also using action words to compel visitors to do what you want them to do. Sometimes, it is better not to try to re-invent the wheel and just used what is already working. The world of design is perfect example.
You can spend the whole day inventing new type of navigation for your website. Unfortunately, by doing so you may only confuse the visitors and make it worse for them to navigate through your website. That’s why we have design patterns. Yes, it may be boring to see the same pattern across many websites. However, people are used to these patterns and are expecting them. What will happen if they will not find them? You may lose them forever. So, don’t shot yourself in foot. Remember that sometimes it is better to use well-tested solutions instead inventing new ones.
Another tip for great CTAs is to make them urgent. Just think about how many times did you act because there was some short-term discount. Use the same approach on your landing page as well. Make your message look like your visitors are missing a great opportunity if they will not act immediately. You have to induce belief that by delaying their decision they will lose some opportunity. Remember that people have something called loss-aversion.
It is proven that the majority of people will refuse to make a bet unless they will gain at least twice the amount they may lose. Try to induce the same feeling. In other words, you have to show visitors that they might lose a lot by not taking an action. This takes us back to showing the benefits and testimonials. Show your visitors how much can they gain if they will act immediately. Then, add some factor of urgency. Take Amazon as an example. Their calls to action such as “Buy now to get 50% off.” are pretty clear.
One of the well tested approaches is to show the price and mention that the offer is available only for a short time and that the price is likely to go up once that time is over. To do so, use words such as “today,” “now,” or “immediately”. If you can, go with the last two examples.
The last tip for great CTAs is to make it incredibly simple to make the purchase, give the email address or whatever it is visitor should do. You have to do your best to make the whole conversion process as short and simple as possible. The less steps people will have to take, the more customers will you get. By the way, don’t forget to mention how easy and fast it is to do that step. For example, use labels such as “Sign up in less than 1 minute” or “It takes only 1 step to …”
CTAs are one of the most important parts of successful landing page. In order to maximize their power make sure they are simple and easy to understand. Never leave room for guessing. Always be direct and short. Also, don’t forget to make your CTAs urgent. Show visitors that they might miss a big opportunity if they will delay their decision. Make it absolutely clear that your offer is available only for limited time and that price will go up when time is over. You should also show people how much they will gain if they decide immediately.
Closing Thought on Landing Page Design
This is all for the first part of this article on 7 deadly mistakes to avoid in landing page design. I believe that just the information provided in the lines above will help you boost the conversion rates of your landing pages. In the second part, you will discover the last four mistakes you may be doing along with tips on how to fix them.
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