Optimizing Landing Pages for Effective Online Advertising, Part 1: Design

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In this first part of our three-part series on landing pages, we help you understand and implement the critical design and messaging elements that make landing pages work best.

One of the unsung heroes in online advertising (pay per click, display, mobile, etc.) is the landing page. Writing great copy and putting your ads on the Internet at the right time are critical, but the landing page is where the magic happens. It’s your chance to create conversions and generate new business, so it’s worth getting right.

A study conducted by Ascend2 found that more than 3 out of 4 marketing professionals dedicate most of their SEO efforts to landing pages, yet nearly the same percentage of organizations don’t optimize their landing pages for ease of use and visually attractive calls to action (CTA). So how can brands refine their landing page priorities to maximize their conversions?

Landing pages, when designed correctly, perform a wide variety of tasks for your website. They give you a chance to show that you truly understand what the customer is looking for and can provide it. They help your SEO efforts by including relevant keywords, monetize traffic with highly specific, graphical CTAs, and bolster brand identity by created a seamless user experience. Post-conversion landing pages can even help you create repeat customers.

Designing a beautiful and targeted landing page can help you manage and convert your customers, whether you’re looking for further brand engagement or more leads and sales.

Anatomy of a Landing Page

As reported by Hubspot, most Internet users decide in just a few seconds whether or not they’re going to stay on any given page. Graphic design, flow, and copy all work together to create conversions. They’re essential features for getting your customers to stay on the page – and click that “Add to Cart” button.

Shore up your headline
One of the best ways to keep potential customers on board is by matching your headline to your ad copy. That’s the primary way that customers understand that they’ve reached the right place – so try to use the exact same keywords the customer used to get to your page whenever possible. As author John Paul Mains says at MarketingLand, “The header has to capture visitor interest within the first 3 seconds of hitting the page. The rest of the page doesn’t matter much if the heading doesn’t match visitor expectations.”

The eyes have it
Users tend to read information in a very specific way. The Nielson Norman Group uncovered the “F-pattern” in 2006 as part of a landmark eye-tracking study. Most Internet users will scan across a page once or twice, then skim the rest of the page. Keep this in mind for both your headline and your copy – users will likely only read the first part, so make sure it’s up front.

Likewise, your graphics play a big role in how users look at your page. Usability tests have shown that human faces capture attention, and that people look in the same direction as other people. You can utilize this by including landing page graphics where people are looking at your headline or call to action.

Use basic design principles to your advantage
Graphic design tricks of the trade can be applied to landing pages to great effect. For example, you can use contrasting colors to attract more attention for your call to action. If your brand’s main color is blue, and you create a predominantly-blue landing page, a bright red button can help your CTA stand out.

You can also use directional cues to help people understand where to look on your landing page. Much like how people look where other people are looking, they will also follow any cues, such as arrows, that you put on your landing page. You might also consider using converging lines centered on your headline or even encapsulating your CTA within a graphic to draw the eye in.

Call attention to your call to action
The most important element of your landing page design is your call to action. There are plenty of ways you can write a call to action – and even more ways you can modify it to improve conversions. For example, one company simply changed the language in their CTA from second person to first person and improved their click-through rate (CTR) by 90%.

Make sure you’ve looked at a variety of ways to improve your call to action. Creating bigger buttons, changing the background or font color, or even performing minor language tweaks may all help your conversion rate.

Consider responsive design
On a desktop computer, users spend 80% of their time looking at content above the fold. However, today’s Internet users have a variety of different device, from laptops and desktops to phones, tablets, and “phablets”. Responsive design offers a landing page solution for people visiting on any type of device by rearranging content—essentially allowing the landing page to “adapt” to new screen sizes.

Even if you choose not to use responsive design, make sure you’ve taken mobile screens into consideration. 61% of mobile users conduct searches on their phone each day. You could be missing out on valuable clicks and conversions if you ignore mobile or other non-PC devices.

Customer Choice

As we’ve previously discussed, the human brain is wired to be more efficient at processing simple choices than complex ones. Landing pages that offer fewer choices may help speed up conversion, since having too many choices can slow us down.

In one famous example, Sheila Lyengar’s 1995 jam study, a jam company changed from offering 24 choices of jam to offering just 6. While 60% of customers stopped by the table with more options, only 3% of those same customers purchased jam. The table with fewer choices attracted fewer people—as only 40% of customers stopped to look—but 30% of those who stopped purchased the jam. That’s a 600% increase in sales.

Intentionally limiting choices on a landing page is like offering fewer types of jam. It may seem counterintuitive, but creating laser-focused landing pages could help you improve your conversion rates.

Add Credibility with Credentials

Just like you wouldn’t trust your social security number to a stranger, your customers will be less likely to give away their personal information—or their money—to your company. At least, not without proof of credibility. This proof comes in the form of “trust elements” like reviews, testimonials and privacy policies.

According to a recent study, 70% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase, while 63% are more likely to purchase from a site that has product ratings and reviews. Make your customers’ job easier by including reviews or other social proof on the landing page.

Sculpt Your First Impression

The best part about a landing page is that it gives you the opportunity to create the perfect first impression. Potential customers clicking through your PPC advertising will see your beautiful and well-crafted landing page. It’s a highly strategic element in your overall campaign, so it’s critical that you get it right.

Remember, all brands are different – use these strategies as a starting point. Think you have the world’s most beautiful and functional landing page? Next week, we’ll show you how to put those assertions to the test, so you can refine even further. The second part of this series demonstrates some of our favorite strategies for testing a landing page.

Are there any landing page design strategies not included above that have netted your brand measurable results? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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