Jeremy Smith Oct 27, 2014 8:17:35 AM 31 min read

The Five Dangerous Expectations of Landing Page Visitors

Every single user who visits your website is expecting several things. This could be very good or it could be very bad.

It all depends on what the user is expecting.

  • If your landing page does not meet the user’s expectations on some level, then you lose. Your landing page is ineffective.
  • If your landing pages do meet those expectations, then you win. A conversion is likely.

It is possible to know, in general, what users are expecting. In the article that follows, I’m going to explain those expectations, and then deliver recommendations that will allow you to address the user’s expectations and gain more conversions.

Introduction to Expectations

What are expectations?

The dictionary definition is this:  A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

What are expectations

In the case of landing page expectations, a user assumes that when she visits a landing page she will see certain things and be asked to do certain things. These “things” are in her mind even before she clicks on the link to be taken to your landing page.

How are expectations shaped?

Expectations are shaped based on several key factors. Although there are several key expectations that characterize virtually every landing page visitor, these expectations will have different emphases and features. Here are some of the significant factors that affect a user’s expectations:

Keyword or query

This is, by far, the most important expectation shaper.

queries provide us as marketers with the information that we need to determine the user’s intent.

SEO professionals swear by the policy of queries not keywords. Keywords, as they assert, are dead. Instead, users are inputting queries. Those queries provide us, as marketers, with the information that we need to determine the user’s intent.

In a recent article on this blog, I wrote:

By failing to adapt to my search intent, they are minimizing their likelihood of my conversion.

That’s precisely the whole point of user intent. If your landing page doesn’t cohere with what a user just typed in to find your landing page, then you’ve failed before you’ve even started.

Intent sounds pretty close to expectation. That’s the key. A user’s query affects what he or she is expecting.

A user’s intent can be broadly categorized in the following ways:

  • Navigational: The user intends to find a specific website, e.g., “JeremySaid.”
  • Informational: The user intends to find information about a specific topic, e.g., “What men’s jeans are in style right now.”
  • Transactional: The user intends to buy something very soon, e.g., "Buy men’s skinny jeans online.”

The way that the query is tilted reveals the user’s intent. The user’s query intent, in turn, shapes their expectations.

SERP Position

Where a landing page appears on the SERP (search engine results page) helps to influence the landing page the user will go to.

As you’re aware, PPC (pay-per-click) ads are featured in several places on a typical Google SERP.

The place of a landing page on the SERP helps to influence the user’s landing page.

The position of an ad informs a user’s expectations in the following ways:

  • Top ad position: Highly relevant result, hard sell, big company, slick landing page, expensive product.
  • Sidebar ad position: Slightly less relevant but related result, less-slick landing page, more cluttered, less likely to convert
  • Carousel ad: Expect to see the product pictured after clicking through.

Ad copy

What the ad says influences what the user expects. Obviously, PPC ad copy is short. There’s only so much you can say with a few words. Nonetheless, those few words have a powerful impact on what the user is expecting to see or experience.

Take, for example, the ad copy here:

What the ad says influences what the user expects.

There are a few things going on in this ad copy. Each feature affects the user’s expectation in the following ways:

  • URL: What page am I going to land on?
  • Pitch/CTA: What product or service am I going to be sold? What will I be asked to buy?
  • Google+ following: How popular is this company?
  • Site links: What other pages on the website can I visit?

Seeing the ad above, the user expects to be asked to try something for free or to buy it. The CTA in the ad copy is overt and unmistakable. Thus, the user expects to be sold something in a very direct way.

And the page, after clicking on the ad, does not disappoint:

LANDING PAGE should mathc users expectation from source

Those are the general principles of expectations. Expectations are shaped by keyword/query, SERP position, and the ad copy. As marketers we need to have a general understanding of how users' expectations are influenced based on these features.

Beyond that, we need to understand the five general expectations of nearly every landing page visitor.

What are those five expectations? Without further ado, here they are:

  1. I expect the landing page to sell me something.
  2. I expect that this will meet my need.
  3. I expect that this will relieve my pain.
  4. I expect that this will make me happy.
  5. I expect to remember this page, and be able to come back to it when I choose.

Let’s figure out how we, as marketers, should respond to these expectations.

1. I expect the landing page to sell me something.

Users expect to be sold something. They know it’s coming. They’re prepared for it. Depending on their positioning in the buy cycle, they may or may not be ready to convert.

Those who click on PPC results, however, are in a phase of the buy cycle that is more conversion-ready.

 customer buying cycyle

Based on this truth, how should you respond?

Sell them something.

Let’s make sure we really get this point. You’re a marketer. They’re a customer. You’re selling something to them. They are voluntarily listening to your sales pitch. So what do you do? You sell it to them as straightforwardly as possible.

We tend to think that by selling a customer something, we’re intruding upon them. We think that we have to be really cautious about asking for their money. We tiptoe around, because we’re afraid that we’re going to offend the almighty customer.

In reality, we need to be a lot more bold about it. We’re doing the customer a service. They asked to look at our product, and we’re doing them a favor by showing it to them. What’s more, we have every right to ask for their money, because we’re offering them a revolutionary, game-changing, awesome product or service that is well worth more than what they are paying.

Don’t couch it in obscure terms. Don’t hide your CTA. Don’t be shy. Just sell the dang product or service.

Give them the CTA early and often.

Your CTA is the signal to the user that it’s time to convert. If they’re ready to convert, they will convert. If they’re not ready to convert, they won’t convert. It’s that simple.

However, you shouldn’t make it hard for them to convert if they are ready. They shouldn’t have to hunt around for a tiny button or an oblique reference to buying the product or service.

Don’t place any unnecessary barriers to a purchase.

In my research for this article, I searched for a variety of products and services to analyze how popular brands and top-bid PPC ads were featuring their landing pages. I searched for “shoe insoles” and Dr. Scholl’s topped the list.

Unfortunately, instead of selling me a product (what I was expecting and hoping for), Dr. Scholl tried to get me to take a survey. It was going to take 2-3 minutes to take the survey!

Dr. Scholls survy before purchase

What? I wanted to buy your insoles, not take a survey!

With all due respect to their desire to gain information on my browsing and/or insole habits, I am not in the mood for taking a survey. I’m in the mood for buying an insole.

By pitching their survey instead of their insoles, it’s highly likely that Dr. Scholl’s will lose potential sales.

They are introducing barriers to the purchase of insoles. It’s called friction, and it kills conversion rates.

It is extremely important to your conversions and to the customer that you don’t construct any barriers to their buying the product. Remember, they are positioned to buy. Eliminate all friction, and allow them to buy the product.

2. I expect that this will meet my need.

Why would a customer click on a PPC ad?

Here’s the answer:

  • They have a need, so ...
  • They want a product or service to meet their need, so ...
  • They expect what's being promoted by the ad to meet that need.

What should you do in response?

Know the customer’s need.

Understanding the customer’s need begins long before they visit your landing page. This is something that should presumably happen when you are researching your product or service and sketching your user personas.

Nonetheless, it’s important to keep this overarching need idea in mind as you create the landing page. The user is visiting the landing page with a need in their mind. This need is what is driving their action of clicking on the link to your page.

What’s more, this need is what will influence their decision to buy your product or service. You need to know what that need is.

Usually, this need is easy to identify based on the query.

when you are researching your product or service and sketching your user personas.

Other times, you want to go beyond, to a deeper need.

Speak to the customer’s need.

Knowing the need is just the preliminary step to speaking to their need. The landing page that you produce must help them to meet the need.

In keeping with the pest theme, here’s a landing page that speaks to the user’s need.

Terminix landing page

A successful landing page is highly relevant to the user. Few things are more relevant than the user’s need.

When you address their need, you’ve won half the battle for a conversion.

3. I expect that this will relieve my pain.

In a similar vein, users are experiencing pain. Their expectation is that the product or service featured on your landing page is going to alleviate their pain.

There are two main types of pain we need to be aware of when we are discussing the psychological pain in marketing:

  • Anticipatory pain.
  • Actual or current pain.

Don’t brush off the significance of anticipatory pain. Anticipating pain causes just as much neurophysiological discomfort as actual pain. In some cases, in fact, it is more acute, because it has a more direct role in the noxious sensory experience of the anterior cingulate, ventromedial prefrontal cortex and periaqueductal gray. (Like those words?) This affect-laden cognitive coping creates not only painful physiological experiences, but even anxiety and distress.

You don’t necessarily need to address both types of pain in every situation. What you need to do is address the type of pain that the user is most likely experiencing.

Insurance is an obvious example of a product or service that someone buys to alleviate anticipatory pain. The pain they anticipate is the consequence of death, illness, accidents, acts of God, or other less-than-favorable life events.

If a user types in “travel insurance,” you can assume that they are anticipating the pain of what might happen if they get a horrible viral infection while gallivanting in the Amazonian rainforest on their summer vacation.

The very nature of their query informs you of their pain.

The user sees this ad:

Travel insurance Ad

And clicks on it.

Although I have a medley of concerns with this landing page’s effectiveness, I do commend it on the pain-related comments (highlighted).

AIG use of pain in lanidng page

Allianz’s landing page is even more direct. They write:

Even the most intrepid traveler knows that sometimes, things happen that you just can't handle alone. Travel insurance is there to help when you become seriously injured or sick while traveling; when circumstances cause you to cancel or interrupt your trip for a covered reason; when your luggage is lost or stolen; or even when you just need help figuring out what to do.

Wow. Scary, huh? As if that weren’t powerful enough, they feature a story of a man who suffered from a heart attack while on a cruise in the Caribbean.

Allianz evidently wants you to experience the pain.

Allianz evidently wants you to experience the pain. And, clearly, they are offering to help relieve it.

Keep in mind how pain works from a marketing perspective. It’s your job not just to remind the user about their pain, but to actually help relieve that pain. There are two components to incorporating pain into your marketing:

  • Remind the user of the pain.
  • Show them how to alleviate that pain.

Once you’ve done that, you’ve met their expectations and delivered a solution.

4. I expect that this will make me happy.

Regardless of whether they realize it, every user who visits your landing page is expecting to be made happy. Many of the purchases made in the B2C industry are predicated upon user happiness or satisfaction.

Whether it’s Prada sunglasses or window cleaning services, the user has some expectation that their overall life satisfaction and/or joy will increase because they are buying your product or service.

Even something as mundane and unsexy as commercial cleaning, a B2B service, is purchased with the expectation that it will produce some level of joy.

Expectation of joy

How do you respond to this expectation?

Find the underlying emotional touchpoint.

Do your best to figure out what kind of happiness the user is targeting.

For example, an arthritis patient wants to enjoy life without the distraction of persistent pain in her hands. Thus, you know that her happiness is going to have something to do with relief and enjoyment.

The potential customer for a Gucci men’s wallet is looking for satisfaction in a different way. He wants to look successful. He wants to be confident. He wants quality. He wants popularity.

As the marketer, you recognize that these are emotional touchpoints and they need to be addressed on the landing page.

Prudential’s landing page drives directly to the emotional touchpoint of their user. The point of the landing page is to encourage the visitor to begin investing for retirement. They know that most people aren’t actively saving for retirement, because they are chronic procrastinators. Interactive elements on the landing page prove to users that they are bent toward procrastination, and speak to the user’s urgent need to invest.

Prudential’s landing page drives directly to the emotional touchpoint of their user

Show pictures of happy people.

One of the easiest ways to advance feelings of happiness is to use pictures of happy people. Many landing pages show pictures of people smiling or enjoying life, because it causes a reciprocal human response of joy and happiness.

Highrise does this with a lot of effectiveness:

Highrise use of happy people

Make the customer happy by showing them happy.

5. I expect to remember this page and be able to come back to it when I choose.

A final expectation that many people have regarding your landing page is that they will be able to remember it and come back to it.

The actuality, however, is that they won’t remember it, and they won’t come back to it in most cases. Many landing pages are changed on a daily or weekly basis. They’re not permanent.  In response, you must do two things:

  • Encourage a now response. If the user doesn’t act now, you’ve lost them. They need to know this. Implement the principles of scarcity and urgency to up the ante and drive a conversion.
  • Capture their email address for later. If a user does nothing else, at least get their email address. This will allow you to pitch your product or service to them again and again.


Are these dangerous expectations or not?

As I mentioned in the introduction, these can be very dangerous assumptions, especially if you do not address them.

A user bristling with expectations like these needs to have at least some of those expectations answered. The more successfully your landing page addresses those expectations, the more successful your landing page will be.




Jeremy Smith

Digital marketer with a penchant for dance; helping clients see the light through the jungle of tweets since before Twitter was cool.