What is a Landing Page?
There are two ways you need to think of landing pages. It’s an important distinction because many conversions are lost by conflating the two.
The first way we use the term landing page is for any pages that are the entry point to your website. For example, say you optimized an informational page on “how to cook grasshoppers”. Someone does the search “how to cook grasshoppers” and your page ranks at the top of page one. They click through and enter your website on this page. For this search and visitor, the “how to cook grasshoppers” page is a landing page.
The second way the term is used is for a conversion-based landing page that’s tied to a specific advertising campaign. This page exists for the sole purpose of matching the ad that drives the traffic. All of the content on the page is designed to funnel visitors towards a single, specific action.
The key differences are:
- Conversion-based landing pages usually don’t have any navigation. This leaves the visitor with only one possible action on the page: to convert on the call-to-action.
- Conversion-based landing pages don’t have text hyperlinks for the same reason. The page is designed to focus on a single option.
- Regular landing pages may be arrived at by a variety of channels, including organic SEO, a link from another website, an internal link, a bookmark, or the main website navigation.
- Conversion-based landing pages can only be reached via the campaign driving the traffic.
- A regular landing page has a mix of general branding, information, and promotional material. A conversion-based landing page is promotional and focused on direct-response.
So here is the problem. Most businesses use regular website pages as landing pages for their advertising campaigns. Often, this is a generally branded homepage with a lot of information and links that don’t directly match the online advertisement.
This mistake puts cement shoes on your conversion rates.
The biggest problem for most business websites isn’t getting traffic. It converting that traffic into leads and customers.
A general landing page like a branded homepage has a different goal than a conversion-based landing page matched to an ad campaign.
The goal of most home pages is to orient the visitor so they know they are in the right place, convey a value proposition, and guide the visitor into taking the next step towards a conversion. This starts a process of navigation, content consumption, brand exposure and retargeting that funnels a visitor towards ultimate conversion. You are trying to create a sequence of micro “yes” moments that lead up to the macro “yes” which is a sale.
On the typical homepage, it’s a mistake to ask for the macro “yes” right away. The intent of the visitor is not strong enough. They don’t understand your value clearly enough, and likely need more time to make a decision.
An advertising campaign matched to a conversion-based landing page, on the other hand, has one objective. Its efficacy is tied to a single result.
The page has one conversion goal, with a call to action that is the focal point of the page.
For example, this ad from Hulu:
Does not go to the Hulu homepage. It goes to a landing page with no navigation and design focused on the call to action:
Because you’re motivating a specific action with a landing page, you have to target an audience that’s ready to take that action. If you ask for too much commitment too early, your landing page – that offers no other options – will fare poorly.
Plugging the Leaks
In optimization parlance, a leak is any way in which a distraction or added option siphons the visitor’s attention away from the conversion goal.
Leaks are the reason that the navigation menu is often removed from a conversion-based landing page. The simplicity of only having one option – when it matches the visitor’s intent – increases conversions. In one test, removing the navigation bar increased conversions by 100%.
This is not a steadfast rule for every landing page. The Hulu page above does link to the homepage and has a “learn more” link. But the focal point is the call to action that relates to the ad. If you have additional links on the page, you can judge their effect with A/B split tests (one version with the links, one without).
Too many options are not your friend on a landing page where you’re driving a single, specific action. This is why ad campaigns that use the homepage have inferior performance.
Matching the Message
Another important concept to understand with conversion-based landing pages is message match.
For example, say you’re an auto mechanic running an ad for an oil change special.
You will convert better when that ad goes to a page that specifically matches the message in the ad. When a person does a search for “oil change deals”, then clicks on your oil change ad, they want to go to a page that tells them how to get the deal.
And your conversion rates will improve if the only option is a call to action to schedule an appointment or print a coupon to redeem the oil change deal.
For example this ad:
Leads to this landing page:
It is a really common mistake to run an ad with a specific offer, then lose the message by having it click through to the homepage.
It takes more effort to create a landing page specific to each ad, but it’s one of the biggest difference makers in conversion rates.
Here are more tips on creating effective landing pages:
For both organic and paid search landing pages, the main goal is to give searchers what they’re looking for.
If someone does a search like “what foods keep you from getting the flu”, an effective page will be an informational list of foods with useful info on why they help prevent the flu.
If someone searches on “buy vitamins to avoid the flu”, the intent shows intent to buy. In this case, the best landing page would be a product page with vitamins that help prevent the flu.
It starts and ends with the user’s intent. Online marketing is not the place to surprise people. It’s a place to assure them that you have what they’re looking for.
That’s what a strong landing page does. For both SEO and PPC, Google rewards high-quality landing pages with higher rankings and lower bids. Better yet, customers reward you with more engagement and higher conversion rates, which is the point of driving the traffic in the first place.