Before & After: The Optimization of a Flawed Landing Page

    by Corey Eridon

    Date

    February 10, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    moon landing intermediate

    Marketers talk a lot about advanced techniques for working with their leads: lead flow, lead management, lead nurturing. But all of that is meaningless without consistent lead generation, and landing pages are the strongest tools in a marketer's arsenal to meet that looming monthly lead goal.

    Because landing pages are so important to lead generation, attention to detail is in order to ensure you have the highest conversion rate possible. And as it turns out, landing page visitors are pretty darn fickle about which pages they'll convert on. To show you how to prevent landing page abandonment, we took a HubSpot landing page and broke down what it looks like before optimization, and after. See if you can identify the mistakes and how to fix them!

    Subpar Landing Page

    Here's an example of a landing page to access HubSpot's ebook that explains how to build your Google+ business page. It's not ugly, it's on brand, and it's professional; so what's wrong with it? It's not optimized, that's what. That means conversion rates will be low, and page abandonment rates will be high. When it comes to landing pages (and almost everything else in marketing, for that matter) pretty is great, but functional is better.

    I've identified all of the page elements that are either missing or incorrectly executed in the screenshot below. Take a few moments to try to identify what's wrong with those page elements I've called out, then scroll down to see an improved landing page with explanations for why the new page elements will yield better conversion results.

    incorrect landing page   Copy

    Optimized Landing Page

    Now let's take a look at the second landing page treatment and dissect why each change helps improve the performance of this landing page.

    correct landing page   Copy

    1.) URL Architecture - An optimized URL will help your landing page rank higher in search engines. You probably don't want the ebook PDF itself or the thank-you page it lives on to rank (that's why you have a form in front of it), but if your landing page appears in search, think of how many more leads you have the opportunity to collect. Instead of optimizing for www.hubspot.com/google-plus, the URL structure www.hubspot.com/how-to-use-google-plus-for-business is ideal because the phrase for which this page is trying to rank -- Google+ for business -- is in the URL. And be sure to separate words with dashes instead of underscores; Google's crawlers have an easier time reading dashes.

    2.) Navigation - Notice how there is none? Including a navigation on your landing page like we did on the first treatment gives users another place to exit your landing page before they become a lead. The more choices you give site visitors, the more confused they will be about what action they are meant to complete on the page. And confusion among site visitors means lower conversion rates. You can bring back your navigation on the thank-you page where new leads land after they complete and submit your form.

    3.) Page Header - First, notice the inclusion of the keyword phrase "Google+ for Business" in the header; remember that this also helps search engines identify the keyword phrase to associate with your page! But this isn't the only reason this header is a drastic improvement from the first landing page treatment. The copy used in your landing page header is one of the most important page elements, because it's what helps your page pass a user's blink test. The blink test refers to the commonly accepted 3 seconds which every web page has to orient users once they land on a new web page. This particular header tells us that this is the page where you can access a new ebook, and what the topic of that ebook is, helping users quickly orient themselves and continue reading to get more information and complete the lead-capture form.

    4.) Form Header - Our first landing page didn't even include a form header, a major faux pas but quick fix. Your form header should simply tell the visitor what exactly filling out that form will do. In this case, visitors know if they fill out the form, they can download their ebook. And when can they do it? Right now!

    5.) Image Selection - The first landing page included an image of two business people collaborating, but it wasn't as relevant as it could be to the topic of this landing page. The image of the actual ebook visitors will see if they complete the form provides greater relevancy and helps hammer home the benefit of completing the form.

    6.) Privacy - Privacy is a real concern for folks nowadays, and the last thing you'd want is for someone to abandon your form because they weren't confident you'd handle their information securely. Including a link to your privacy policy helps alleviate those concerns so more visitors convert.

    7.) Keyword Optimization - Just as the keyword phrase "Google+ for Business" is included in the URL and header, the second landing page treatment includes the long-tail keyword phrase to help the page rank well in search engines. Targeting long-tail keyword phrases like these on your landing page will not only drive more relevant search traffic and be easier to rank for than a head term, but it will also help you rank for those short-tail keyword phrases like "Google+" too.

    8.) Value Building - While short is good, the extra copy in the second landing page treatment will actually improve conversion rates, because it displays the value of completing the landing page's call-to-action. Sure, the promise of an ebook on Google+ for business is good, but explaining what you'll learn if you download and read the ebook is even more enticing. Make the end benefit of completing the download crystal clear with the copy you include on your landing page, even if it does mean a few more lines of text.

    9.) Readable Format - You can make those extra lines of copy more easily digestible by separating the value of the offer into bullet points. The extra copy is needed to convey value and drive conversions, but readers won't absorb the points you're making if they're too visually overwhelming. Using bullet points, numbered lists, dashes, and headers helps make those chunks of text easy to scan through.

    10.) On-Page Social Sharing - You might think including social sharing buttons is a distraction just like the navigation in the first treatment, but on-page social sharing buttons don't take a user away from your landing page. Let users share your landing page with their network for more leads, and still let your current visitor easily convert during their visit with on-page social sharing, just like on your blog posts!

    11.) Pertinent Form Fields - The fewer form fields you can include on your landing page, the better. However, this is one element of your landing page that should be subject to the most scrutinizing A/B tests! It's important not to overwhelm visitors with so many form fields that they abandon mid-form, but you also must collect the information you need to appropriately qualify your lead. The first landing page treatment's form fields, while admirably low in count, don't sufficiently qualify those who convert.

    You'll notice that the second treatment also includes red stars that indicate which fields are required, and which are optional. If there is information that isn't absolutely necessary to qualify leads for your business but helps provide a more personal sales experience, include the fields and simply leave out the red star that indicates the field is a requirement.

    12.) Action-Based Button - The last barrier to receiving a brand new lead is clicking the "Submit" button. Or if you're looking at the second (and better performing!) landing page, the "Download Now" button. Your form button should contain active and instructive language that tells the user exactly what to do. "Submitting" a form doesn't mean all that much, but pressing a button that says "Download Now" tells users that by clicking, they will be able to complete their ebook download -- and complete it immediately.

    Have you experimented with new structures for your landing pages that flout any of these best practices? Share your experiences building landing pages in the comments!

    Image credit: dcysurfer / Dave Young, AGmakonts

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