Landing Page Strategy - A Lost Art?
Over the past few years I have carried out many email marketing training courses, both public and in-house at companies. What I have often found among delegates is that their focus has usually been on getting their email strategy, design or technology right prior to point at which the visitor ultimately lands on a particular web page - otherwise known as a landing page.
Given that the landing page is the last point in the user journey prior to conversion, it is crucial that your landing page performs super efficiently for you.
Let's take a step back to define landing pages...
Landing pages defined
A landing page is the page a visitor arrives at, having clicked on a hyperlink found either in an email, a pay-per-click ad or an organic search result. A landing page is also a page that a visitor arrives at after seeing a URL published offline e.g. in a press ad or article.
Most commonly, landing pages will either try to capture data through a data capture form or they will be selling an item or service to the visitor.
A data capture form example might be an insurance company offering visitors to "get a quote". Whereas a website selling an item or service might be an ecommerce website - the landing page often being a product detail and product category page.
Landing page types
Website designers, digital marketers and web analysts often refer to two variants of landing page:
Variant 1 landing pages are pages that are already integrated into your website architecture and are therefore most efficient in terms of content creation (as they're already serving standard web visitors).
Whilst they appear to be the easiest option for marketers, there is an opinion that they might not convert direct referrers as efficiently as they are not customized to some visitors' specific needs. Secondly, these pages will often be search optimised which can increase page clutter and possibly costs.
Variant 2 landing pages are pages created specifically for a campaign and therefore live outside the main website architecture. These landing pages are often only used for visitors referred to from emails or PPC campaigns. The focus here is on converting visitors from a particular campaign; visitors therefore might well be presented with a stripped down page with less content or navigation, which could otherwise prove to be a distraction.
The positive is that this can often result in higher conversion rates but equally they can require more effort and cost to create. So, you would need to weigh up the cost effectiveness by comparing design and build fees against the possible increased conversions against a variant 1 landing page.
Some argue that a variant 2 landing page that has been conspicuously modified from the main site can result in poorer user experience if the target visitors are used to using that site.
Measurement of success
Effective landing pages are far more likely to convert visitors, and therefore play an integral role in email marketing (as well as pay-per-click marketing and search engine optimisation).
Typical measures of success or failure of landing pages include: bounce rates and conversion rates.
A high bounce rate implies that lots of visitors arrived at the landing page, but didn't click any further and therefore "bounced". A low bounce rate implies that many visitors clicked on links and therefore engaged with the page.
A low conversion rate implies that many visitors arrived at the landing page but weren't convinced enough to either purchase the product advertised, or fill in a data capture form (usually for lead generation purposes).
Bounce rates and conversion rates are typically measured with web analytics software such as Google Analytics, Omniture, Clicktracks or Yahoo! Web Analytics (formerly Index Tools) among others.
How do we interpret poor results?
A click from an email to a landing page normally implies a reasonable level of interest, so for someone to bounce at the landing page (effectively the last hurdle) means that something could have been lost in between the email and the landing page.
This could possibly be down to poor website design where the offer or navigation options weren't clear or at worst the offer being completely different to that advertised in the email.
A poor conversion rate (coupled with a reasonably healthy bounce rate) often implies either a lack of trust maybe due to a poor design or brand identity, or in a checkout situation where points of resolution (such as refund and returns policies) are not clearly explained.
Poor conversion rates can also often be caused by processes (such as checkouts) that make your visitors have to work too hard. Examples include excessively long forms, poor validation or poor error checking that forces the user to have to start the checkout or form filling process again.
Landing page success factors (summary)
So, to summarise landing page success factors:
- Ensure the landing page integrates with referrer source; if they are arriving after clicking an email, ensure there is synergy between the email and the landing page.
- The landing page should demonstrate synergy with the original offer, with clear headlines and engaging content. This will lower your bounce rates.
- Ensure that the landing page helps the visitor response decision but without too much clutter. In other words, ensure that calls-to-actions such as "book here", "get a quote" or "buy now" are very clear.
- The landing page should start the user on their journey with a minimum choice of clicks. Too much choice confuses visitors. On a variant 2 landing page, you'd consider removing the unnecessary navigation.
- Ensure the most important content - the offer and call-to-action for example - are above the fold.
- The landing page should have meaningful graphical content (if at all) that has consistency with your email campaign's look and feel.
- Remember that not everyone will want to fill in a form, so support those who choose not to respond in the conventional online way. Offer other means of communication such as support phone numbers (freephone numbers are best) or even a live chat facility.
- And finally, adopt the mantra: "Try it! Measure it! Tweak it!" a quote by Jim Sterne, author of Web Metrics when referring to web design. Use your web analytics solution to continually measure and hone your landing page performance until outcomes can be measurably improved.
What's in the next installment?
Well, landing page strategy doesn't just stop once you've delivered your email or your PPC campaign. If you are going to re-use your landing pages on a regular basis, you really want to carry out a continuous improvement programme to ensure that your landing pages are performing as efficiently as possible.
To do this, you would normally carry out structured testing such as A/B or multivariate testing. This implies that you are serving different landing pages to different audiences to measure which pages create the best bounce and conversion rates.
However this is for the next installment so watch this space!