Anatomy of a Successful Landing Page

Any web designer will tell you, there's an art to creating landing pages, the specific pages on which somebody lands after clicking an advertisement or other link.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Any web designer will tell you, there's an art to creating landing pages, the specific pages on which somebody lands after clicking an advertisement or other link.

There is a science as well, as Brian Massey, self-proclaimed "Conversion Scientist" will tell you. Brian established Conversion Sciences in 2006 to help businesses design the kinds of landing pages and websites that convert site visitors into customers, or at least better-qualified prospects.

I asked Brian about the anatomy of a successful landing page and expected to hear about the usual suspects of good copy, polished design and pictures of happy, confident people. While these characteristics do matter (except for one, which I will touch on later), the real anatomy of a landing page -- which distinguishes it from any other web page -- involves two components:

  • You must keep the promise you make.
  • You must entice the visitor to take action.

Notice that each one begins with YOU. The visitor did his or her part by voluntarily clicking on your link. The onus is on you to deliver. Let's look at each one.

Successful Landing Pages Deliver on Your Promise

Visitors that get to a landing page arrive there by way of invitation, like a banner ad promoting a new product or an email offering 10% off. That's what the recipient wants and expects to get, so first and foremost, the landing page must hold up your end of the bargain and deliver on your promise.

As elementary as this may be, I am continually amazed at how often the promise is broken. I have clicked on ads and other links and often have been directed to a page with content that is only marginally related.

Brian gave me an example from one of Conversion Sciences' clients, Zumba Fitness, a fitness apparel shop. Zumba Fitness published a beautiful display ad showing a model dressed in appealing workout clothing from a particular collection. However, users that clicked on the ad, ostensibly to see that outfit or something similar, landed on a page on which the only connection to the ad was color. The landing page did not show the model in the ad, let alone the product she was modeling. It failed to even mention the name of the collection. The promise of the ad was not kept on the landing page.

Brian cited the concept of "the scent", coined by user interface and web usability expert Jakob Nielsen. You don't want your visitor to lose the scent. You must tie your landing page content as closely as possible to the promise that leads people to it. The promise is the easy part. Getting the visitor to take a desired action requires a bit more effort. It's where the science of conversion kicks in.

Successful Landing Pages Entice Action

The other required component of a landing page is enticement to action. From Brian's perspective, a page that only delivers information is not a landing page. Of course every landing page must include more information; but if it doesn't also prompt the visitor to do something (complete a form, call a phone number, download a file), the anatomy is incomplete.

Even with an appealing promise that is made and delivered, the action you want your visitors to take may cause them to pause, if only slightly. Pausing opens the door to the kind of action you don't want -- abandonment. Conversion Sciences relies on a chemistry metaphor to communicate abandonment using the periodic table symbol for Argon, a very inert gas that does not form true chemical compounds.

Following are his tips for creating landing pages that form true chemistry by reducing abandonment and enticing action.

Eliminate Distractions

A landing page should be focused on the promise and devoid of distractions. Brian describes a mistake many businesses make when developing a landing page: "We often see these pages full of brightly-colored social media icons. The thinking is, 'We're building a landing page. If they don't want to take advantage of the offer, maybe they'll like us on Facebook or connect with us on Twitter'."

While he acknowledges that the icons can serve as symbols of trust, this benefit is outweighed by the lure of what's going on in the visitor's own world of social media. Conversion Sciences advises against social media icons on most landing pages; in their view, it simply sends your traffic to Facebook and Twitter.

Other distractions:

  • Including your website menu or other navigation, which creates more ways to back away from the action you want visitors to take.
  • Excessive design elements like sliders or hero images.

Garner Trust

The way to garner trust is to show that you are trustworthy, and an easy way to show that on a landing page is to display recognized badges, logos and other icons. Not only do these symbols confer trust from other organizations, they stand out visually on the page.

According to Brian, "The most popular in the e-commerce world is the McAfee badge that says "This site is safe" and everything. Most visitors don't really know what the badge means, but they've heard of McAfee and they've seen it everywhere else, so they believe it must be trustworthy."

Other examples include:

  • The Better Business Bureau, especially effective for local businesses.
  • Client logos that are recognizable, either as an established company or an industry peer. This is effective for service companies and business-to-business (B2B) marketers.
  • Credit Card symbols -- while informational, the badges for Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and others also build trust. Brian says, "The perception is that Visa certainly wouldn't allow their logo on this page if these guys weren't on the up-and-up, right? There is comfort that comes from that sort of thing."

Show Proof

Back up whatever you say with proof. His conversion scientist advice for a white paper landing page, for example, includes the following proof points:

  • Show the table of contents.
  • Include a nice abstract or reveal a graphic or picture that is part of the paper.
  • Inform them how they will feel, what they will learn after reading it and how it will help them make a better decision.

When it comes to lower-converting landing pages, Brian says: "One of the errors we see is bringing visitors to a page that promise some content or offer, and then spends the entire body of the copy talking about your business and how wonderful your products and services are."

Show Product

If your offer is for a physical product, showing it is easy and obvious. Yet what marketers often neglect is the kind of detail that entices action: clear, high resolution pictures; the ability to zoom in and out; showing different angles; showing the product modeled or being used.

Offers like white papers can also be shown, with pictures that are rotated enough to show thickness and depth. Services can be "shown" with examples or descriptions of deliverables or short videos of clients attesting to outcomes.

As Brian says, "The goal of the images are to help me visualize owning and having whatever it is you offer."

Eliminate Hurdles

When it comes to asking for information, you must balance your needs for qualification against their hesitation to reveal personal information. Brian advises caution when asking for what he calls the "conversion killers" which include Social Security numbers and mobile phone numbers. The rule of thumb is that the more fields you have, the lower your conversion rate is going to be. Yet if the most highly-qualified, motivated prospects are what you're after it could be the way to go.

Eliminate "Business Porn"

I mentioned at the start of this article my expectation of photography of smiling, happy, confident, attractive people as part of the anatomy of a successful landing page. Brian is not a fan, using terminology I am seeing more often to describe this common tactic: business porn! Brian believes there is a better way to incorporate photography:

"I've done some work with healthcare companies and they want to express their multiculturalism. So, they find stock photography that's got people of all different races. But I really think it's pandering. They could be showing pictures of actual nurses or doctors in their network, with the person's name captioned below. Captions are one of the most read parts of any page. I would even put your offer in the caption. The point is, why not spend that time thinking about how you can really communicate something of value with an image?"

Basic Anatomy, Many Ways to Incorporate It

The anatomy of a successful landing page is elementary: Deliver Your Promise and Entice Action. How you go about doing it involves the right mix of art and science.

I think most landing page developers give most if not all of their attention to the 'art' and devote their resources to how it looks. Brian Massey at Conversion Sciences introduces that other important element -- science. The most successful landing pages come from the best mix of the two.

Read Brian Massey's blog.

John Fox is the Founder and President of Venture Marketing, a B2B marketing consulting firm enabling sales reps to win more deals with disruptive, challenger marketing, compelling their customers and channel partners to re-examine how they do things and consider new alternatives. To talk with Venture Marketing and ask your B2B marketing questions, please contact us at Venture Marketing.

Go To Homepage