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The 7 Elements of Landing Pages That Marketers Must Test

By Aug 27, 2013

In order to maximize the effectiveness of their landing pages, marketers have to be able to question and analyze a number of on-page elements, even if they’re satisfied with the current performance.

“You will never improve over baseline if you don’t try something new,” said Lucy Orloski, marketing director at Yottaa, at a recent session at HubSpot’s INBOUND 2013 conference in Boston.

How to think of landing pages

“I really think about landing pages as the fishing nets that you’re using as marketers to go out and capture the traffic that’s sitting on your website,” Orloski said. “It really is a wide ocean out there, and as marketers you can’t successfully talk to those people in a relevant and engaging way if you don’t know who they are.”

Enter landing pages, one of the best tools marketers have to learn more about their prospects—what their needs and interests are and how you can help them.

“Landing pages are really your primary tool to turn your anonymous, unknown site visitors into contactable leads,” she said.

On a more tactical level, Orloski said landing pages are a way to get people to do what you want them to do, whether it’s filling out a form, downloading an asset or taking another action.

Three “golden rules” for landing pages

1. Tell visitors exactly what you’re offering in every possible way (e.g., words, pictures, etc.);

2. Tell them why they can’t live without what you’re offering—if you’re having trouble articulating this, rethink what you’re offering; and

3. Tell them what they need to do to get what you’re offering (e.g., use arrows, clear wording, etc.).

Improvement through testing

Even if a marketer’s landing page is performing at a high level, they’ll never know if it’s yielding the best possible results unless they conduct some testing.

“People have been saying this for years and I will say it again: You have to test,” Orloski said. “You have to experiment with different ideas on your landing page.”

Before diving into experimentation, she mentioned two things marketers should check off their lists:

1. Tracking URLs: these help marketers segment different piles of traffic; and

2. frequency: test as much as you can, but if you’re short on time and resources, focus on testing the pages that are hurting you the most (e.g., landing pages that have conversion rates below 20%).

Seven key areas to experiment with on landing pages:

1. Positioning and lead-in call to action (CTA): “Your call to action is how you’re setting expectations with the user,” she said. If you promise something in your CTA but don’t deliver on it on your landing page, the conversion rate will suffer. Orloski noted the importance of perception. For example, what a marketer might call a “kit” might be a smaller package than what a user is expecting. Testing can help determine whether or not perceptions are in line.

2. Navigation: Orloski recommended that marketers exclude website navigation on landing pages. However, marketers can test to determine whether or not their particular audience responds well to site navigation on landing pages. “But on the whole, when in doubt, just go without it,” she said. “You’re making it easier for them to understand what it is they need to be doing. You’re not giving them all those many different paths to walk down.”

3. Copy: The copy on a landing page is the primary way to communicate what you’re offering, why the user needs it and what they can do to get it. Headlines, body introductions, bullets, conclusions/CTAs, image captions and content previews are all areas of the copy that can be tested. Since marketers have very little time to communicate the value proposition, any elements that don’t contribute to making the offer clear should be excluded. Orloski added that it’s OK to be a little bit redundant on landing pages, since visitors will typically read just one chunk of the page.

4. Pictures and previews: “If there’s only one area that you’re going to experiment with on your landing page, this should be it,” she said. Areas for experimentation include the thumbnail preview, content preview image, brief trailers for video content, and embedded SlideShare previews for e-books or presentations. Marketers shouldn’t be afraid to reveal core elements of the content they’re offering. “Don’t worry that if you give away the great nugget of information that’s in your e-book right here on your landing page that no one will download it – that is not the case,” Orloski said.

5. Forms: “I always talk about a form as a wall that you’re asking someone to jump over, so the more you’re asking for in your form, the higher that wall is. So if you’re asking for a big jump, that offer better be really, really valuable.” Orloski said a good rule of thumb for forms on landing pages is to ask only for what you need. This requires an understanding of what marketing and sales each needs, as well as a commitment to being “frugal.” The form headline, number of fields, field content and submit button are all areas to test. Orloski added that not enough marketers are testing risk-reversal statements—that is, areas on the form that explain why a marketer is asking for that particular information and how giving that information will improve the experience.

6. Alternative CTAs: This element on a landing page offers a clear alternative path to walk down, according to Orloski, who admitted that this might appear to go against some of her other advice. “This is really powerful—this can take your overall landing page conversion rate from, say, 15 percent to 30 percent, if you do it right.” These alternative CTAs are aimed at visitors who are either earlier or later in the buying stage than what that specific offer is speaking to. For instance, a landing page offering a free account signup is meant for a late-stage visitor. An alternative CTA might be placed below the primary CTA button and say something like, “Not quite ready yet? Download our free self-evaluation form instead.” Marketers that use alternative CTAs must avoid conflicting with the primary offer and clearly differentiate the two CTAs from each other.

7. Page load speed: This is a basic element most inbound marketers fail to check, according to Orloski. “Landing pages need to load fast. People won’t stick on them for longer than three seconds. So if your landing page is still chugging along loading after three seconds, it doesn’t matter what you put on it – no one’s going to see it, they’re going to bounce, they’re not going to convert.” Orloski referred to WebsiteTest.com and WebPageTest.org as two free tools available to help marketers gauge how fast their landing pages load.