Landing page optimization is old news.
Seriously. A quick google will show you that Unbounce, QuickSprout, Moz, Qualaroo, Hubspot, Wordstream, Optimizely, CrazyEgg, VWO (and countless others), have been writing tips and guides on how to optimize your landing pages for years.
Not to mention the several posts we have already published on the WiderFunnel blog since 2008.
And yet. This conversation is so not over.
Warning: If your landing page optimization goals are short-term, or completely focused on conversion rate lift, this post may be a waste of your time. If your goal is to continuously have the best-performing landing pages on the internet, keep reading.
Marketers are funnelling more and more money into paid advertising, especially as Google allocates more and more SERP space to ads.
In fact, as an industry, we are spending upwards of $92 billion annually on paid search advertising alone.
And it’s not just search advertising that is seeing an uptick in spend, but social media advertising too.
It makes sense that marketers are still obsessing over their landing page conversion rates: this traffic is costly and curated. These are visitors that you have sought out, that share characteristics with your target market. It is extremely important that these visitors convert!
But, there comes a time in every optimizer’s life, when they face the cruel reality of diminishing returns. You’ve tested your landing page hero image. You’ve tested your value proposition. You’ve tested your form placement. And now, you’ve hit a plateau.
So, what next? What’s beyond the tips and guides? What is beyond the optimization basics?
1) Put on your customer’s shoes.
First things first: Let’s do a quick sanity check.
When you test your hero image, or your form placement, are you testing based on tips and recommended best practices? Or, are you testing based on a specific theory you have about your page visitors?
Tips and best practices are a fine place to start, but the insight behind why those tactics work (or don’t work) for your visitors is where you find longevity.
The best way to improve experiences for your visitors is to think from their perspective. And the best way to do that is to use frameworks, and framework thinking, to get robust insights about your customers.– Chris Goward, Founder & CEO, WiderFunnel
Laying the foundation
It’s very difficult to think from a different perspective. This is true in marketing as much as it is in life. And it’s why conversion optimization and A/B testing have become so vital: We no longer have to guess at what our visitors want, but can test instead!
That said, a test requires a hypothesis. And a legitimate hypothesis requires a legitimate attempt to understand your visitor’s unique perspective.
To respond to this need for understanding, WiderFunnel developed the LIFT Model® in 2008: our foundational framework for identifying potential barriers to conversion on a page from the perspective of the page visitor.
The LIFT Model attempts to capture the idea of competing forces in communication, narrowing them down to the most salient aspects of communication that marketers should consider.
I wanted to apply the principles of Relevance, Clarity, Distraction, Urgency and Anxiety to what we were delivering to the industry and not just to our clients. And the LIFT Model is a part of that: making something as simple as possible but no simpler.– Chris Goward
When you look at your page through a lens like the LIFT Model, you are forced to question your assumptions about what your visitors want when they land on your page.
You may love an interactive element, but is it distracting your visitors? You may think that your copy creates urgency, but is it really creating anxiety?
If you are an experienced optimizer, you may have already incorporated a framework like the LIFT Model into your optimization program. But, after you have analyzed the same page multiple times, how do you continue to come up with new ideas?
Here are a few tips from the WiderFunnel Strategy team:
- Bring in fresh eyes from another team to look at and use your page
- User test, to watch and record how actual users are using your page
- Sneak a peek at your competitors’ landing pages: Is there something they’re doing that might be worth testing on your site?
- Do your page analyses as a team: many heads are better than one
- Brainstorm totally new, outside-the-box ideas…and test one!
You should always err on the side of “This customer experience could be better.” After all, it’s a customer-centric world, and we’re just marketing in it.
2) Look past the conversion rate.
“Landing page optimization”, like “conversion rate optimization”, is a limiting term. Yes, on-page optimization is key, but mature organizations view “landing page optimization” as the optimization of the entire experience, from first to last customer touchpoint.
Landing pages are only one element of a stellar, high-converting marketing campaign. And focusing all of your attention on optimizing only one element is just foolish.– Amanda Durepos, “Next level landing page optimization: Before and after the conversion”
From testing your featured ads, to tracking click-through rates of Thank You emails, to tracking returns and refunds, to tracking leads through the rest of the funnel, a better-performing landing page is about much more than on-page conversion rate lift.
An example is worth 1,000 words
One of our clients is a company that provides an online consumer information service—visitors type in a question and get an Expert answer. One of the first zones (areas on their website) that we focused on was a particular landing page funnel.
Visitors come from an ad, and land on page where they can ask their question. They then enter a 4-step funnel: Step 1: Ask the question > Step 2: Add more information > Step 3: Pick an Expert > Step 4: Get an answer (aka the checkout page)
Our primary goal was to increase transactions, meaning we had to move visitors all the way through the funnel. But we were also tracking refunds and chargebacks, as well as revenue per visitor.
More than pushing a visitor to ‘convert’, we wanted to make sure those visitors went on to be happy, satisfied customers.
In this experiment, we focused on the value proposition statements. The control landing page exclaimed, “A new question is answered every 9 seconds!“. Our Strategy team had determined (through user testing) that “speed of answers” was the 8th most valuable element of the service for customers, and that “peace of mind / reassurance” was the most important.
So, they tested two variations, featuring two different value proposition statements meant to create more peace of mind for visitors:
- “Join 6,152,585 satisfied customers who got professional answers…”
- “Connect One on One with an Expert who will answer your question”
Both of these variations ultimately increased transactions, by 6% and 9.4% respectively. But! We also saw large decreases in refunds and chargebacks with both variations, and large increases in net revenue per visitor for both variations.
By following visitors past the actual conversion, we were able to confirm that these initial statements set an impactful tone: visitors were more satisfied with their purchases, and comfortable investing more in their expert responses.
3) Consider the big picture.
As you think of landing page optimization as the optimization of a complete digital experience, you should also think of landing page optimization as part of your overall digital optimization strategy.
When you discover an insight about visitors to your product page, feed it into a test on your landing page. When you discover an insight about visitor behavior on your landing page, feed it into a test on your website.
It’s true that your landing pages most likely cater to specific visitor segments, who may behave totally differently than your organic visitors. But, it is also true that landing page wins may be overall wins.
Plus, landing page insights can be very valuable, because they are often new visitor insights. And now, a little more advice from Chris Goward, optimization guru:
“Your best opportunities for testing your value proposition are with first impression visitors. These are usually new visitors to your high traffic landing pages or your home page […]
By split testing your alternative value propositions with new visitors, you’ll reduce your exposure to existing customers or prospects who are already in the consideration phase. New prospects have a blank canvas for you to present your message variations and see what sticks.
Then, from the learning gained on landing pages, you can validate insights with other target audience groups and with your customers to leverage the learning company-wide.
Landing page testing can do more than just improve conversion rates on landing pages. When done strategically, it can deliver powerful, high-leverage marketing insights.”
Just because your landing pages are separate from your website, does not mean that your landing page optimization should be separate from your other optimization efforts. A landing page is just another zone, and you are free to (and should) use insights from one zone when testing on another zone.
4) Go deeper, explore further.
A lot of marketers talk about landing page design: how to build the right landing page, where to position each element, what color scheme and imagery to use, etc.
But when you dig into the why behind your test results, it’s like breaking into a piñata of possibilities, or opening a box of idea confetti.
Why do your 16-25 year old, mobile users respond so favorably to a one-minute video testimonial from a past-purchaser? Do they respond better to this indicator of social proof than another?
Why do your visitors prefer one landing page under normal circumstances, and a different version when external factors change (like a holiday, or a crisis)? Can you leverage this insight throughout your website?
Why does one type of urgency phrasing work, while slightly different wording decreases conversions on your page? Are your visitors sensitive to overly salesy copy? Why or why not?
For many marketers, personalized landing pages are becoming more normal. And personalization opens the door to even more potential customer insights. Assuming you already have visitor segments, you should test the personalized experiences on your landing pages.
For example, imagine you have started using your visitors’ first names in the hero banner of your landing page. Have you validated that this personalized experience is more effective than another, like moving a social proof indicator above the fold? Both can be deemed personalization, but they tap into very different motivations.
From psychological principles, to validating your personalized experiences, the possibilities for testing on your landing pages are endless.
Just keep testing, Dory-style
Your landing page(s) will never be “optimized”. That is the beauty and cruelty of optimization: we are always chasing unattainable perfection.
But your landing pages can definitely be better than they are now. Even if you have a high-converting page, even if your page is listed by Hubspot as one of the 16 best designed landing pages, even if you’ve followed all of the rules…your landing page can be better.
Because I’m not just talking about conversions, I’m talking about your entire customer experience. If you give them the opportunity, your new users will tell you what’s wrong with your page.
They’ll tell you where it is unclear and where it is distracting.
They’ll tell you what motivates them.
They’ll tell you how personal you should get.
They’ll tell you how to set expectations so that they can become satisfied customers or clients.
A well-designed landing page is just the beginning of landing page optimization.
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