Ten commandments. That’s soooo 1440 BC.
But what if they were given now? And what if they were applied to landing pages?
Really, landing pages should have their own rules. Rules that are evergreen and lead you down the path of success. Best practices if you will…
After extensive testing, copious research and surveys from professionals whose careers span decades, we’ve created that very list. Here are the ten things you must follow when creating and marketing a landing page.
Read on and download the handy 10 Commandments of Landing Pages PDF at the end of the article.
1) Thou Shalt Not Clutter
Clutter. You don’t like it in your house, and you shouldn’t like it on your landing page.
Landing page clutter can come in the form of too many images, high density of images, endless widgets, multiple content boxes and anything else that can overwhelm visitors.
What does clutter look like, exactly? Check this out:
What is going on here? Where in the world do I click? What’s the point of this page, anyway? There’s way too much going on to possibly know what to do once I land on this page.
But that’s an extreme case. What about a more common example like this:
On the surface, this looks like a simplistic page. Decent spacing, colors to differentiate separate sections, minimal imagery. However, this is the trap many landing pages fall victim to. Just because it may look like there isn’t clutter, our interaction with this page tells a whole other story.
The chief problem with this page is the sheer amount of calls to action. Specifically, seven of them (if you don’t count the navigation bar) in the first fold. You’ve got:
- A log-in section that also prompts a sign-up;
- Three separate squares that give a price quote option to three different audiences;
- A services bar with links to information sections;
- A free price quote section (that asks for your social security number!);
- An area to register your company for a database
It’s not visual clutter that does this page in. It’s the “amount of choice clutter” that brings it down.
With this example and many others that violate the clutter rule, two psychological terms come into play:
Information overload is the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue due to the presence of too much information. This definition more commonly applies in the context of content.
From a visual sense, information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Our minds have limited capacities when dealing with stimuli, so an overload of images and colors can render our comprehension and decision sectors virtually non-existent.
Overchoice is the act of making no choice when faced with an abundance of choices. What’s easier to answer:
“Do you want to go eat at McPorker’s or Danny’s?”
“Where should we eat?”
In the first scenario, you have two choices; one or the other. You can weigh pros and cons between the two and come to a conclusion.
In the second scenario, you have to choose from all the possible places to eat in a given area. That’s a tougher choice, isn’t it? When faced with that reality, indecision becomes rampant.
The same can be said of landing pages. Overchoice, like in the landing page example above, can drive visitors away because they have absolutely no idea what to do when given so many choices.
So when you design your interface, make sure you avoid all forms of clutter. Stick to simple layouts with essential content and few opt-in choices. The adage “less is more” should be taken to heart here. Here are a couple examples of pages that get it right with their clutter-free designs:
2) Thou Shalt Have A Clear Call to Action
Imagine you opened an email from Cool Company Inc. The copy is okay, but what really grabs your eye is an eBook they’re talking about. You get to the bottom of the email and you’re faced with this phrase:
Well, what does that even mean? Am I going to get more content from the email? Because I don’t really want more of that. What if it said this, though:
That’s much more specific than “More.” When you click that link, you know exactly what you’re getting. It’s a clear call to action, and it’s what drives conversions.
In the digital world, CTAs are more tangible and extremely important. The odds of someone clicking on any one random thing (links, browser buttons, a cat video) are so high that there’s a special need for clear, concise CTAs that stand out amidst the clutter. We’ve seen our own customers even increase their opt-ins by 50% just by changing small elements in their call to action.
We’ve written more about the importance of a call to action (and tips on how to craft a killer one), but there’s one essential thing we didn’t cover:
You have to make sure your offering delivers what your call to action promised.
Just because you get the click doesn’t mean your job is over. A visitor who never clicked on the CTA is exponentially better than one who clicked, was severely disappointed and took to the internet to voice his or her concern.
Here’s an example of a call to action not following through:
“I once added my email to an enquiry at a prominent software company to download a “free” paper. When I entered my email I wasn’t directed to a download page, but was simply auto-messaged “someone from our company will be in contact with you.” I definitely did not expect (nor want) that. It felt like it violated standard practices of permission marketing.” -Luke Otterblad.
That company didn’t follow through on their CTA, prompting Luke to unsubscribe and share this story. Just keep in mind this bit of advice when crafting a call to action: Make a clear promise you can uphold. Follow that, and you’re golden.
3) Thou Shalt Not Ask Too Much
Demographics are essential in marketing. If you know demographics, you (somewhat) know your audience. Know your audience, and you’ll be able to market to them more effectively.
That’s why marketers feel it’s their professional obligation to collect as much of that information as possible. Unfortunately, sometimes these same marketers try to do so in the worst possible section: the opt-in.
The rationale behind the strategy is, in theory, solid. You offer something, people want it, you use that desire to capture information about the visitor.
However, take a look at this chart on opt-in forms from Pam Neely:
More and more marketers are asking less from their visitors. Why? The less opt-in data you ask for, the more people will sign up.
Copyblogger believes it. HubSpot believes it. We at LeadPages believe it, too. Even the great Neil Patel removed one section from his opt-in form and saw a 26% increase in conversions.
The more you ask for, the more likely you won’t get that valuable email address. Once you build trust and credibility with your user, then you can slowly ask for further demographics information.
4) Thou Shalt Think Like The Customer
“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”
Advertising genius David Ogilvy said that. While the terminology is a bit dated, the core concept remains flawless.
Write like a human, to humans.
Too many landing pages get into the habit of writing detached, robotic sales pitches that sound like something straight out of a template from a used car emporium. For some reason, message crafters freeze up and think they have to write in some sort of foreign sales speak when addressing clients and prospects.
A successful landing page does quite the opposite — it engages and captivates while talking about the product.
It doesn’t put features in big, bold type. It reiterates benefits and how the product can improve the consumer’s life.
It doesn’t talk at the consumer, but rather with them.
To do that, you must put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and see things from his or her side of the table.
Remembering whom you’re writing to can be tough. If you need a push in the right direction, resident copywriter Will Hoekenga has a really cool technique that can help you out in a major way when you’re trying to get inside your consumer’s mind.
Keep in mind why consumers would want your product and what they would listen to. Then write for that purpose.
5) Thou Shalt Not Sit Idly By
In a perfect world, your highly engaging landing page would generate thousands of leads the moment you press the “Publish” button. The traffic would flow like Niagara Falls and you would sit back in your golden chair admiring the massive mound of money you’ve acquired.
Unfortunately, this isn’t that world.
Successful marketers know the real work begins after the landing page goes live. Sitting around and hoping for traffic won’t get you anywhere. To get traffic, you need to drive traffic. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Social Media: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, Vimeo, LinkedIn, blogs. All of these are platforms with built-in audiences to spread your message to. Start small, focus on one of these platforms and build a loyal, dedicated following.
- Ads: Banner ads and Google AdWords are a great place to start in terms of getting your name out there. The Google Display Network alone reaches 90% of web users worldwide, and other ad placement networks help fill in the rest of the cracks. Facebook and Twitter also have solid advertising programs to take part in. You have to pay to play in this realm, but there’s no better guaranteed way to get your product in front of eyeballs for the money.
- SEO: 92% of traffic from search engines comes from first page listings. Getting your landing page on that first page should be priority number one, and search engine optimization can help you get there. Content generation, keyword research, great load times and link building are just some of the ways to accumulate strong SEO.
- Link Structure: Don’t forget to drive traffic within your site when visitors get to your landing page. Site flow can be just as important as traffic flow. Link to existing content whenever possible to generate more page views, increasing the likelihood of an action on your site.
Even a great product will die with the absence of traffic. Once you publish your site, keep improving your marketing efforts to drive as many visitors to your site as possible.
6) Thou Shalt Two-Step Opt-In
Let me see you one-two step.
Not just reserved for catchy Ciarra songs, the two-step opt-in has raised landing page conversion rates across tons of different industries.
Unlike the traditional one-step opt-in seen below, the two-step opt-in places an opt-in form in a pop-up window that appears when a visitor clicks on a hyperlinked line of text or button.
- The Give/Take Dynamic: Your page can look like one of two things: a giving page, or a taking page.When someone lands on your page, there are certain elements that signal “giving” and certain ones that signal “taking.” A traditional one-step opt-in form signals “taking” right away because people are so used to websites asking for their information that way.Since the opt-in form is not visible until visitors click the button or text, the two-step opt-in signals “giving” when people arrive on the page.
- Creating Behavioral Inertia: If you can get someone to say “Yes” at a very low level of commitment — perhaps by clicking on a button that says “Register Me” –then they’re much more likely to commit at a higher level of commitment by filling out the form that pops up post-click. Sales people call it the “foot in the door” technique coupled with “yes compliance,” and it works the same with the two-step opt-in process.
- Forces a Decision: When visiting a website that has a form on it, you can ignore the form — you can browse around the page, see some things and then leave. However, once you’ve hit the button that says “Free Instant Access” (for example), and you see that form, you have to make a decision — one way or another — if you want to close the pop-up or if you want to opt-in. You’ve forced the decision, which is a way to increase your conversions dramatically.
7) Thou Shalt Not Cheat
Remember those ethics questions you were asked in school? The ones where you’d shake your head and proclaim, “Nooo, I’d never do that.”
It’s easy to say that when you’re a detached 3rd party with no vested interest in the matter. But when it’s the third consecutive month your site has had less than 10 visitors and someone offers a shady way to get guaranteed visits…that’s when your morals are really tested.
In the world of internet marketing, it’s easy to succumb to the allure of easy stats. Links can be acquired and visitors can be obtained. All for the right price.
I’m here to tell you that you can be ethical and successful.
For a thorough look at landing page ethics, we highly suggest checking out our article on the dark side of landing pages. It touches on many unethical scenarios you would face, as well as how to counteract and get better results in an ethical way.
8) Thou Shalt Design for Direction
“Movement makes a good composition. Directing users with graphics in a design is important for conversions.”
That’s from LeadPages designer Sarah Chaussee. In layman’s terms, it means design where you want visitors to look.
Here’s a very literal example of that method in action:
Two strong design elements are in play here:
1. The very noticeable woman looking directly at the signup form. Since there’s white space all around her you’re drawn back to her face, where her eyes guide you back to the signup form.
2. The signup field is surrounded by a blue text bubble that originates from the woman’s mouth. Now you have two design elements that constantly keep your eye moving to the signup area.
We’ve also seen the importance of designing for direction in our own LeadPages templates. Take this split test resident Conversion Educator Tim Paige ran on a LeadBox for a Gumroad case study
Here’s what he tested against:
Clearly, he was designing for direction with this second option.
The result? This simple change increased opt ins by 99%.
Leading your customer’s eye via design is a powerful way to control the sales flow of your site. Concentrate your imagery around one call to action on your page for effective results.
9) Thou Shalt Maketh Accessible For All
4.25%. That’s approximately how many people in the world are colorblind.
4.3%. That’s approximately how many people in the world are visually impaired.
Why should those numbers matter to you? You’re no optometrist. What are visual problems to you?
Well, those folks use the internet too, don’t they?
One of the biggest mistakes I see marketers make is a web page or email that doesn’t work for everyone.
Yes, you just wrote copy that would make David Ogilvy red with envy. Too bad the font is too small, leaving Jared from Salt Lake City unable to read your words due to his degenerative glaucoma.
Yes, you just designed the coolest email in existence. Too bad our colorblind friend Anna from Seattle can’t read it because the words on the color boxes blend together.
When I say “Thou shalt make accessible for all,” I don’t mean that actual message. We write and market to specific audiences, so the content needs to resonate with that audience. Trying to pander to everyone in existence will get you nowhere.
No, what I’m talking about is making it accessible from a usability standpoint. That happens to be something you can control, as universal design shows a conscious effort in caring about all the people that can hit your site. Here are a few examples of groups you should keep in mind:
- Colorblind: The main thing to remember is colorblind people have trouble with color combinations. Red and green are the most common color deficiencies in this group, so remember these two design tips: Avoid potentially difficult color combinations, and make sure colors aren’t your only method of conveying information. When in doubt, just run your design in this colorblindness simulator to see if it all checks out.
- Poor Sight: Poor sight already means inherent frustrations with computer-based experiences, but your site doesn’t have to add fuel to that fire. Your font should be sharp, contrasted and large enough to be distinct and easy to read. That’s a good rule of thumb for any design, but it especially rings true for this group.
- Blind: Those with no sight use text-to-voice programs to interpret the content on your page. But did you know those programs also describe the pictures on your site? When you insert images, you have the option of giving those images individual descriptions. These descriptions are then read word-for-word by the text-to-voice program, which helps blind people enjoy a fuller experience on your landing page.
And when mentioning accessibility, we would be remiss to exclude the accessibility of a landing page on a mobile device. In January of 2014, 55% of internet usage was conducted from a mobile device. That’s the first time EVER that mobile overtook desktop in internet usage.
At LeadPages, we ensure every landing page template is mobile-responsive for that very reason. Your site is the storefront for your product, and if your storefront is distorted or broken on a mobile device you needlessly lose potential customers.
Universal accessibility is one of those rare things that doesn’t hurt and can only help you. There are many other groups to consider when creating communications, but this is a great place to start in your design efforts.
10) Thou Shalt Test
This is the big one. The rule that dominates all other rules.
Test. Test often. Test smart. Test everything. For nothing is so great as to stand alone forever.
I can’t stress enough how important testing is. For marketers, the advent of testing has been an absolute gift, one that has enabled us to give our customers what they want in a more efficient and inspiring way.
Stop and think about what we’ve been given. Before the Internet, testing used to be a massive chore, undertaken only by the ambitious and deep-pocketed. Even then, it would often take months to implement and run the tests before significant results could be found.
Now, we can set up split tests in a matter of minutes. It’s as easy as this:
If it lives in a digital realm, it can be easily tested. With simple testing producing results like a 200% increase in conversions, there’s simply no reason NOT to test.
If you’re looking for some of the more impactful things to test out, try these five key aspects:
The headline is the one thing every successful landing page has, so testing out word choice is a great place to start. Consider what advertising titan David Ogilvy said about headlines:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
Your headline is generally the first thing people read, so it’s wise to put time and effort into crafting something catchy.
To give you a simple example, look what happened when a LeadPages customer changed just one word in his headline:
By changing one word, he increased his conversions by over 30%. One simple change had that much of an impact.
The Body Copy
Although the headline is generally the most important element of copy on your page, testing different body copy can also have a dramatic impact on your conversions. You can test things like length of sentences, sentences per paragraph, bolding vs. underlining, word coloring and message restructuring, to name a few.
Or, you can completely remove a section like Humberto Inciarte did. He wanted to see if testimonials had an impact on his landing page’s email opt-in rate. Here was his test page:
And here was his control page with testimonials:
Guess what happened? By removing testimonials, his conversions increased by 200%! It just goes to show how universal best practices can sometimes surprisingly be ineffective or received poorly by your specific audience. Experimenting with content is a quick and relatively easy way to impact your bottom line.
Remember the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover?”
Unfortunately, while it’s nice to pretend looks don’t matter, the stats I’ve seen prove otherwise.
Here’s a landing page from Eric Ferreira. He wanted to see if the background on his page made a difference in conversions, so he ran a split test. First, his control page:
Now the page with his background test:
That’s a pretty stunning image. If you’ve followed the theme of this section so far, you’ll know that the second background was more successful.
But did you think it would increase conversions by 204%? In fact, that’s exactly what happened. Changing the background on this page paid dividends for Eric.
An entire background change is pretty noticeable, so what happens if you change a more subtle design element, like a single color? John Westley was curious, so he created a test based on the color of his background and countdown timer.
Here’s the control page:
Now here’s the test page:
As you can see, he changed the dark blue to a lighter shade of blue, as well as switching the date boxes from red to blue.
That simple changed yielded a 141% increase in registrations.
Switching up things like background images, button shapes, colors and more can impact much more than just the look of your site — these tests can also impact your conversions.
Call to Action
We dedicated a whole post to the importance of a call to action, but there’s one phrase you absolutely need to take away from it:
“One word can make the difference.”
The call to action is vital in conveying what you want. You have less than six words to convey so much: What should your visitors do? Why should they click? What, specifically, will they get?
A famous example touches on that “specificity” adage. There was a call to action button that read, “Get your membership.” The site’s creators wanted to make the call to action more specific to the user, so they tested out this phrase: “Find your gym & get membership.”
The destination behind both buttons was the same, but the second call to action included three words that made a world of difference in conveying personalization. By adding those three little words, conversions skyrocketed up 213%.
Testing direct mail pieces must have been tough back in the day.
You’d craft your letter, send it out (3 days), then wait for responses to trickle in (weeks to months).
That’s the cool part about emails. Now we can learn what works and what doesn’t almost instantaneously. Specifically in the “is this engaging enough for someone to open?” realm.
An email’s subject line is like the outside of those direct mail envelopes. The packaging, if you will. Just like direct mail, either the subject line will or will not entice you to open the message. The subject line is your gateway into the content, so split-testing is a wise choice here.
For instance, take the example of an email alerting customers to new condos opening up. Instead of sending one subject line, this test tested two different lines to learn what their audience responds to. The two subject lines:
Nautica in Rutland Opens Soon!
Help Spread The News!
Two different approaches. The first line is straight on, conveying the core subject sans intrigue. The second line is more mysterious, leaning on the inherent curiosity of others to see what the news is.
The end result? A 79% open rate on the first line, with the second line stumbling in at a 10% open rate. By all means, the second headline isn’t bad, but the list this email was sent to seemed to respond better to the first subject line.
Until you test, you just don’t know.
Type “best time to send emails” into Google and you will find hundreds of sources claiming they know the best time to send tweets, emails, Facebook posts and anything else sent out digitally.
The reality is, none of them are wrong. Those times work for their audiences. Not to mention, consumer behavior changes so quickly that a best practice can shift with the turn of an hour hand.
That’s why it’s your responsibility to test various send times in order to see what resonates for your audience. Try out polar opposite times and days to cast a wide experiment net when you first start, then test slightly varying times to hone in on that sweet spot.
That’s not to say that existing test results are useless. In fact, they can serve as great reference points for your own tests. Just don’t stop at reading someone else’s results and assuming they apply 100% to your audience.
If you follow these 10 landing page commandments, I guarantee you’ll be light years ahead of most marketers. But I’d love to know…is there a different rule that you think should’ve made this Top 10? Let me know in the comments below!