You’ve spent thousands of dollars on professional landing pages: professional design; professional copy; professional images. The pages drip professionalism and you’ve watched more dollar signs float out of your wallet than a bird has feathers. According to that fast talking sales person, people should be throwing money at you by now.
You feverishly check your merchant account for the fiftieth time in the last week. It’s empty; the promised “landing page ROI” just isn’t happening. Either people have forgotten your site existed or your landing pages are bombing worse than Bouncing Betties ever did.
- Landing Pages vs. Preferred Landing Pages (PLPs)
- Traffic Check 101
- Are Your Preferred Landing Pages Blocking Traffic?
- Your Preferred Landing Page Checklist
- Secrets of Strong Conversion
- Testing, Testing, Is This Thing Converting?
Read on, oh information seeker!
People often get confused by the term landing pages. They assume this means a special type of page. Instead, a landing page is just any page a visitor lands on. For example, if a visitor has landed on your contact page first, your contact page is a landing page.
A preferred landing page, however, really is a special type of page. Pages designated as PLPs are the ones you’d ultimately like your visitors to come to. You want them to see these pages first, before anything else. They’re generally set up as sales pages, with direct calls to action and so on. These distinctions are important, and we’re going to use them for the rest of the article, so don’t forget!
It’s easy to think, “I’m not getting customers so my landing pages must be bad.” It’s easy to jump the gun and start changing everything in an attempt to get something – anything – to happen.
Well, we’re not “throw a noodle at the wall to see if it sticks” type professionals. We’re “systematic research and strategic approach” type professionals. The first thing is to look at what your traffic data has to say, because it does no good to change pages if visitors aren’t reaching your pages in the first place.
Most servers have some kind of traffic tracker available. Don’t worry; you don’t have to delve into the data. What you do need to do is see if something has changed in your reported traffic.
In the image to the left, for example, there’s a noticeable drop in traffic for February and March of this year. This probably means something happened with this site’s web presence rather than with its landing pages specifically.
Your server stats and GA stats aren’t ever going to measure up exactly. We aren’t looking at numbers at this point, however, so that’s okay. We’re looking at peaks and valleys.
When comparing stats from different programs, it’s important to pay attention. What appears an obvious drop in the site stats is barely a dip in Google Analytics. Having said that, GA is actually showing a peak of 1,000+ visitors in March before dropping back down in April (May has just started, so it makes it looks like a huge drop – don’t freak out if you see this in your stats).
What you’re looking for are noticeable drops in traffic, indicating an issue with your site’s online visibility (i.e. ranking, publicity, engagement, etc.). If your traffic is maintaining a steady flow, you can (somewhat safely) assume there’s something wrong with your pages. Let’s go look!
Now, if you performed some due diligence, you should have marked in your analytics when you made changes to your landing pages. You can do this in Google Analytics by adding annotations. Once you have at least a roundabout idea of when you installed those landing pages (or the updates), here are a few things you can do:
- Compare pre- and post-installation information. These are simple metrics, but they give you a good idea of trouble areas.
- Are you getting more/less traffic to these pages?
- Is the bounce rate noticeably higher than pre-install?
- Has the time on page changed?
- Compare pre- and post-installation traffic per PLP.
- Where is the most traffic coming from (referral, direct, search)?
- Have any search terms changed (include “not provided” and “not set” information)?
- Has referral traffic changed (more/less than usual)?
What you’re looking for:
It’s not easy troubleshooting by cookie cutter, but what you’re looking for is something that stands out. Optimization is 75% training, 10% trail/error, 10% instinct and 5% fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be so many kinds of SEOs. For example, you might see:
- A 14% drop in organic traffic, which could mean things like:
- Your topical focus no longer matches terms the page was originally ranking for (i.e. search engines don’t see the relevance and the page dropped out of the SERPs)
- Your title and description aren’t marketable (i.e. they don’t invite click-throughs to the page)
- Something 404’d (error not found) somewhere along the line
- A heavy drop in time on page, which could indicate:
- Your new content doesn’t draw the visitor in
- Your new content is great, but calls to action fail
- Your new content is great, but the page isn’t correctly targeting your market
- A heavy rise in bounce rate, which could indicate:
- Your page doesn’t provide what your ad/search snippet promises
- Your page is off putting in some manner (i.e. Too many images, too much content, not trustworthy, etc.)
- A heavy drop in referral traffic, which could mean something as simple as your referring sites dropping off the map.
If you can’t figure it out, don’t start throwing noodles. Hire a professional SEO expert for a consultation and get rid of the guesswork. At least that way, any work you do has a much better chance of succeeding!
If it turns out that your PLP is the problem, don’t scrap it. You wouldn’t want to waste the thousands of dollars you watched fly out the window. Almost any content/page can be salvaged, it just takes a strategic approach.
- Did I define the goal of this PLP (what do you want to achieve)? Decide what the goal is for the landing page. Are you trying to collect contact information? Sell your product? Talk about your services? Whatever goal you’re going for needs to be the central theme of the landing.
- Does the title/description for the search snippet or ad match the content on the PLP? Your ad has a call to action also, so match your landing page with the ad. For instance, if your ad says “The best professional SEO specialists money can buy”, you want your landing page to say something like “Level343: The Best Professional SEO Specialists Money Can Buy.” Use the same phrases on the ad and the page.
- Is the page focused on its goal?
- Is the content call-to-action-focused or is there extra information? Keep it simple and direct without a whole bunch of extra words. Here, you have to keep the content as focused as possible on the call-to-action.
- Have I kept the navigation to a minimum? Limit or eliminate your navigation. You don’t need links around your website on a landing page; these are only ways for them to leave the page. If they leave the page before conversion, you’ve lost them.
- Have I kept distractions to a minimum? Do you need those images or are they just eye candy? Is that YouTube video important? Look at each aspect of your page and ask the same questions.
- Is the content easy to scan (bullet points rather than paragraph copy, for example)? Research has proven that individuals are more likely to click away from a wall of text. Keep paragraphs short and break them into bullet points if possible. Quick bullet points at that!
- Have I kept the sign up or contact form to a minimum? The more complicated it is and the more information you ask for, the more uncertain your visitor will be about giving that information. A good rule of thumb is, “if you don’t absolutely need it for the sale, don’t ask.”
- Does my PLP inspire trust? If you’re a member of your local BBB, provide Paypal or are registered with HackerSafe (for example), use these logos on your landing page. Logos take little room, and these specific logos inspire trust.
- Did I test the PLPs before implementation?
Traffic, in and of itself, is just traffic. However, when you have good ad placements, that traffic becomes expensive. Therefore, you have to place a higher commitment on the PLPs those ads lead to. You have to be willing to dedicate time to those pages, because your conversion rates can always get better – unless they’re already 100% (in which case, contact us with your secret).
A strong landing page, much like a news piece, answers Who, What, Why and How. Who are you targeting, what are you offering, why should they be interested and how do they act? Each step of the conversion process has to do its part in answering those questions.
The Conversion Process
How does conversion actually work? If you don’t know, you’re missing a vital piece of information, so pay careful attention. When you place an ad or have a paid search result, the last thing you want to do is have that link go to a generic page. Why? Let’s look carefully at the steps:
Step #1: Seeing your ad – Either your ad is on a site or you’ve paid for placement on a search engine. Whichever, a potential site visitor (not even a potential customer, yet), sees the ad or search result.
Step #2: Clicking through to your landing page – Either it catches their interest and they click, or it doesn’t – and they don’t. Clicking on the link (click-through rate) implies a certain degree of interest.
Step #3: Reading your landing page – Once they get to the page, either they read – or they don’t. If they see copy that doesn’t fit the link, the chances of them turning away are higher. For this reason, your landing page should be relevant to the search term you targeted. For example, if you have search placement for “free business cards”, your headline and content needs to reflect “free business cards”
Step #4: Understanding the offer - Buyers are savvier than ever. They’ve learned about the fine print, marketers, so be careful with what you put in there. Somewhere in the content, they’re going to be trying to answer: what’s the offer; what’s the catch; what’s the cost? You’d better be prepared to answer these questions within the body of the landing page itself. As a rule of thumb, it’s always best to lead with benefits and follow with features.
Step #5: Accepting the offer and ACTING – They understand the offer, catch and cost, and are now looking for a clear-cut sign of what to do next. Make this step very clear and prominent. You don’t want them hunting for it. Make sure they know what will happen next when they do act, whether they’ll receive an email, start a download, etc.
Step #6: Gaining security and trust – At some point, depending on how long it takes them to see some results, the converted individual will have second thoughts. They get that slightly nauseated “uhhh” feeling. Rather than let them have any time to get that feeling, give them some kind of encouragement, such as a thank you page that says, “You will be receiving an order confirmation in the mail. However, in the mean time, please accept this free gift as our thanks” – or something to that effect. Don’t let them leave without some sort of thank you and acknowledgement of their action.
Each step above is an important part of the conversion process; the ad itself draws them in, the call to action (and thank you) completes the process. If you’re not getting the ROI you expected – or any ROI at all – there’s something wrong in your conversion process.
Testing works to pinpoint the errors in a systematic way once you know your problem isn’t an overall site problem (such as getting iced by Penguin, in which case, call us). However, when it comes to testing and changes, you start backwards in the conversion process.
At each point, using A/B testing gives you a better chance of strengthening your PLP as you make changes. The changes are incremental, which allows you to pinpoint weaknesses while keeping the strengths.
We hope this article has provided you with enough information to really beef up your preferred landing pages to get the strongest conversions possible. Feel free to drop any question that comes to mind in the comments, and we’ll do our best to answer them.