Do's And Dont's of Landing Page Optimization
The world is full of awful landing pages. During my research for this article, I threw up a little bit in my mouth on at least four separate occasions.
Sadly, some landing pages are woefully bereft of any compelling reason to stay, click and convert.
That’s why the world needs more landing page optimization. It’s while writing articles like these that I realize why I have a job.
Please note, with all due respect to the hard-working people who design landing pages, I must share examples that exemplify the tragic truth of my observations.
You can easily avoid these annoyances. The mere fact that you know about them is a good start. By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll be alerted to some of the most egregious errors in landing page design, and have the ability to avoid making the same mistakes.
Mistake No. 1: A landing page that has no connection with my intent.
The problem with "intent" occurs when my search query returns results that are different from what I was looking for.
My query for “iPhone cases” returned this landing page:
First off, I need to pay them a small compliment:
Decent design, sharp imagery, and nice way to give me just a couple of options rather than 540 of them.
But why are they providing options for tablet cases, and Samsung Galaxy cases? (This is completely irrelevant to my search for “iPhone cases.”)
By failing to respond to my search intent, they are minimizing their likelihood of my conversion.
Instead of converting on a specific iPhone case option, I’m going to look for a landing page that is directly speaking to my intent.
The same thing happened when I searched for “home office desk.” I got this:
Why the heck are you trying to sell me a window air conditioner, let alone a drill, cylinder tank storage cabinet and soft rubber things to stand on? Where is my home office desk?
Takeaway: Make keyword bids carefully, and create accurately. You can optimize your landing page as much as you want, but if it doesn’t speak to the user’s intent, it’s a complete failure. Create ad campaigns and landing pages with careful intuitive understanding of users' intent.
Mistake No. 2: A landing page that doesn't grab me within a split-second.
If a landing page fails to grab me — with an image, a headline or otherwise — it has failed in its primary mission.
A landing page needs to grab and hold a user’s attention.
This landing page, unfortunately, does not grab me.
It’s design, reminiscent of the early 2000s, has a bland headline and a complex layout. They’ve lost me.
Let me provide a welcome contrast.
The landing page of Taskeasy.com is succinct and to the point on just about every level.
The headline, the image and the flow are very compelling, and I’m ready to convert as soon as I feel my search intent has been met with 100 percent confidence.
A page that grabs me immediately is able to keep me longer.
Takeaway: Create a landing page that has interesting and engaging design elements.
The landing page elements that have the greatest power to grab users are 1) evocative headlines, and 2) pictures of people.
Headlines and photos aren’t hard to add. Give it a try, and see if you can attract attention in a more powerful way.
Mistake No. 3: A landing page that has way too many options.
Whenever possible, limit the options available to the user. In some cases, it’s fine to provide an array of choices.
For example, if the search query is a head term or a generic transactional term, you may want to help narrow the user’s decision-making process using a differentiating landing page.
But more often than not, landing pages with an overwhelming array of choices lead to choice paralysis.
This phenomenon is also called "option overload" or the paradox of choice. When a user is faced with too many choices, they end up making no choice at all.
For example, my query for “coffee mug” turned up this page:
I’m faced with 185 products. That’s way too many options.
My query for “coffee mugs” is generic. Thus, a well-designed landing page would help me navigate to a point of mental clarity.
I need information that gently moves me to understand that the world doesn’t sell “coffee mugs.” The world sells ceramic mugs, classic coffee mugs, two-tone mugs, travel mugs, latte mugs, bistro mugs, campfire mugs, barrel mugs, square handle mugs, and disposable styrofoam cups.
It doesn’t take a landing page with 185 options to do that.
It takes a landing page with a few categories so I can narrow down my thinking.
My query for “men’s gold chain” pulled up this landing page:
I have a few quibbles with this landing page, but I’m using it to point out a workaround for the multi-option conundrum.
What this retailer has done is encouraged me to “make a selection.”
Apparently, there are many types of “men’s gold chains.” Now, I have to choose the karat level, color, and other features of my chain.
Perfect! Rather than being blown away by the sheer quantity of choices, I’m able to narrow my selection.
Takeaway: Limit your landing page options. If you’re selling a low-cost item with lots of choices (e.g. coffee mugs), it’s fine to present several options.
However, the best approach to a generic multi-option transactional searches is to help the user narrow down the decisions, not inflate them beyond all reason.
Mistake No. 4: A landing page that lacks flow.
One of the most important features of landing page optimization is logical flow.
The landing page must understand what the user is looking for, and track their mental process, leading them to a purchase.
A lack of flow occurs when a landing page has no organization — no logical flow or persuasive logical pattern.
The landing page below is very confusing. There are many elements, all competing for my attention. I’m unable to determine how or where to navigate to next. In this way, the landing page is obstructing my ability to make a decision or convert.
Compare the following two landing pages.
They are both results for “Seattle haircut,” but have two entirely different approaches to landing page design and optimization.
Here’s the first option:
Here’s the second option:
The main difference between the two landing page is flow. One page has flow. One page does not have flow.
Takeaway: Make a careful effort to construct your landing pages in such a way that they have a clear and logical flow. Do you know what the user is looking for and how they are thinking?
Once you understand, you’re able to design a landing page that addresses the user’s need.
Mistake No. 5: A landing page that has no clear Call To Action.
The goal of every landing page is to convert the user.
That conversion action varies according to the product and the specific page intent. However, there should be a call to action.
When a page has multiple CTAs, it can effectively destroy the chance at gaining any conversion.
For example, check out this page below, and just try to guess what the main CTA is.
The fact is, I’m not sure. This isn’t a landing page.
This is an exercise in UI futility. There’s entirely too much going on.
This page was the No. 1 result for “body building nutrition.” But now I’m not sure whether I should learn more, look at their top-selling foundation series products, meet some strength, or join a massive online community.
Besides, there are a bazillion products below the fold that I could click on if I weren’t so bewildered by the cluttered junk above the fold.
The page below is full of design panache.
If I were judging a page simply on the basis of its visual appeal, this one would get high marks. (The mouseover action is killer.)
As a landing page, however, there is no clear CTA.
My search was for “small business server.” But instead, I have a Windows 8-style bunch of colorful boxes, each competing for my attention with zero clear CTA.
Takeaway: The CTA is the landing page’s most important element. Make it obvious. Resist the temptation to snag clicks in other ways — social media, mailing lists, etc. Just go for the goal — the conversion CTA.
Allow your landing page to cut a straight, clear and unmistakable path directly to the CTA. That’s the goal. Go for it.
Mistake #6: A landing page that doesn't have any photos.
Images are crucial to landing pages.
The brain processes images thousands of times faster than text.
With images, you create an instant connection to a user’s mind, improving their engagement with the page.
Without images, a user takes longer to develop interest in the page.
Instead of seeing spots that attract her attention, she is seeing a wall of text. Engagement is nil, and bounce rates are going to be high.
My query for “granite countertops san francisco” returned this page as the top result:
The problem with this page is that it is completely devoid of images.
If I’m looking for “granite countertops" it’s because I want something that will beautify my home and enhance its functionality.
Obviously, images are going to create a compelling experience.
What better opportunity to present images than a page about granite countertops?
This landing page for a hotel in the Asheville, North Carolina, area is a remarkable and welcome contrast.
The imagery is engaging and compelling.
Takeaway: Please. Just use photos. I’m not a huge fan of stock photos, but use photos. Whatever it takes.
Mistake No. 7: A landing page that doesn't offer enough explanation.
One of the most important features of a landing page is the headline.
The headline should explain what product or service is being sold.
One mistake that landing pages make is replacing an explanatory headline with a feature-focused headline.
Here’s an example:
The headline reads “Fast, agile, resilient and future-ready.”
This headline does not explain what the product is. It merely explains the benefits and features of the product.
Hoping for some clarity, I read further to be apprised that this is the “IBM X6 System.” Still, this doesn’t help.
The sub-sub headline discusses “deploying IBM X6 system” and reducing the database cost. Again, no help.
This page gets a fail because they haven’t explained what they want me to buy. I should know this within a split-second of landing on their landing page.
Takeaway: What good is a landing page if the user doesn’t even know what he or she is looking at? Your landing page has a moral obligation to express itself clearly and forthrightly to the user.
State in no uncertain terms what the landing page is about.
Are there other problems with landing pages? Definitely. Should you work hard at optimizing your pages, regardless? Yes.
If you’re aware of these main issues, you’ll avoid major conversion losses. I suggest you take a step back and try to look at your landing pages with fresh eyes.
Ask questions …
- Does this landing page address what a user is probably looking for?
- Does this landing page grab a user’s attention?
- Does this landing page limit the options to make it easier for the user to make a choice?
- Does this landing page have a logical flow that tracks with a user’s mental processes?
- Does this landing page have a single and focused CTA?
- Does this landing page have photos?
- Does this landing page explain what it’s about?
What are some other things that you have seen that annoy you constantly on landing pages?