Copywriting

Landing page best practices: 6 things that actually matter for more leads

Every business wants a high-converting landing page, but only a handful of landing page best practices reliably help your business.

The internet is full of landing page hacks that would have you focus on the most minute details, such as changing the button color or adding a countdown timer. And while you may nod and stroke your chin in deep thought because they do sound like magic, they are…

…often just misdirections.

Countdown timer "best practice"

FOMO doesn’t apply if your offer sucks to begin with.

If you don’t get the basics down (a good headline and offer), these don’t matter. How do we know?

We’ve run a lot of split tests, with subtle and sometimes drastic tweaks, because we are always curious to answer, “What if…?” In fact, we tried adding a countdown timer to one of our landing pages to see if it’d boost conversions by 20%:

Quick, you have less than five minutes left — AHHHHH!!!

We ran the test for a week, and the verdict?

Meh.

We decided to stick with the original, without the countdown timer, because extra fluff didn’t do much for us. Let this be a lesson to you. Not all landing page best practices are necessarily “best practices.” There are, however, six that you should pay attention to because they CAN make a big difference. And here they are.

1. Landing page best practice: Provide immediate context

When someone first arrives on your landing page, there are two questions on their mind:

  1. Why am I here?
  2. Am I in the right place?

Since your headline is the first thing that people read, a benefit-driven headline helps the reader tune into the alluring possibility that there are good things in store on this landing page (check out our whole spiel on writing kick-ass headlines here).

Girls Gone Strong

Example of a benefit-driven headline from Girls Gone Strong.

But perhaps more important, your headline needs to align with the reader’s intent and expectations, which could change depending on the source that led them to you — maybe it was a Google or Facebook ad, a guest post, or even the navigation bar from the home page.

Wherever they came from, they clicked on the link that leads to your landing page for a reason, and you need to connect that intent with an appropriate benefit-driven headline to confirm to the reader that they’re right where they should be.

Here’s an instance where that doesn’t happen.

I visited Zendesk.com and clicked on “Get Started,” the most prominent-looking button on their top navigation bar, and was brought to the following page:

Zendesk

“Let’s get star…” Er, what am I doing here again?

Consider the immediate impact of arriving on that page. I get zero context for the purpose of the page nor are there any details on what the act of signing up gives me in return. Huh, I just don’t know what I’m doing there, so I’m inclined to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and leave.

Without a headline that both captures a reader’s attention and tells them they’re not here by mistake, your potential customers would no doubt bounce too. So how do you know if your headline is lining up with their intent and expectations? Try this neat little test.

Audit whatever inbound links you have going to your landing page. Let’s say it’s a Facebook ad. Now lay your Facebook ad copy and landing page headline side by side and ask yourself:

Does my headline strongly match up with the promise of the ad and the reader’s expectations when they click on the ad?

If yes, boom, done. If not, you know what to do.

2. Landing page best practice: Give readers only ONE outcome

The goal of your landing page is simple in theory: guide the curious reader toward doing something and doing that one thing only.

If you want them to sign up for your email, focus your entire landing page on having them sign up for your email. That’s it.

No cramming links to your blog posts or any other shiny buttons (including social share or other navigation buttons) that could bog down the reader and inevitably distract them from the real goal of your landing page (to get their email, duh).

Unbounce calls this “the attention ratio,” and ideally, you’d want that ratio to be one to one, making it virtually impossible for your capricious reader to do anything else BUT the thing you want them to do. This page on our sister site, I Will Teach You to Be Rich, is a prime example of a page with a one to one ratio.

Only thing to click

“Get Access Now” is the ONLY thing people can click on that page.

There’s no chance for your reader to be whisked away elsewhere unless they intentionally exit out or click the “Back” button. If your conversions are lagging, removing extraneous links (that take people off the page) from your landing page is one of the easiest tweaks to test.

Basically, tattoo this on your forehead if you need to:

Your landing page = one outcome

You want to make the purpose of your landing page painfully clear to both you and the reader. Speaking of…

3. Landing page best practice: Be clear, not clever

In a perfect world, your potential customer would pour a nice, fizzy drink as they cackle at your oh-so-clever copy and be itching to sign up for your email. Alas, the world is instead growing ever distracted and impatient.

Being clear, specific, and to-the-point trumps being cute and clever.

Every element of your page should be aligned conceptually with the purpose of your page and essentially answer: what does your product do for them? Your reader doesn’t want to noodle so hard to figure out what your business stands for or what you’re offering.

What’s more, being clever or vague makes them less likely to trust you. To illustrate what I mean, I’m going to pick on Zendesk.com again.

Zendesk headline

Notice the MANY links here, which violates our earlier rule on giving readers ONE thing to do.

The headline “Make it right” could mean literally anything that literally any other business could’ve written. It takes going to the subhead below that, where Zendesk starts to shed more light on what this “Support” feature is. OK, cool, it helps me track, prioritize, and solve customer support tickets, but I’m still left wondering if this is right for ME.

What they could’ve done to improve this is invert the headline and the sub-head, with a few copy tweaks, to make it clearer. Observe:

Headline: Track, prioritize, and solve customer support tickets
Sub-head: Make it right with Zendesk Support

And presto! It’s much more to-the-point now. If I were a small business, this would seem appealing to me.

Try the five-second test on your page: If you can’t figure out what you’re offering based on the headline in five seconds, there’s a problem.

4. Landing page best practice: Have an offer readers can’t resist

After you’ve nailed the headline, the next crucial element is a mouth-watering offer that will make readers NEED to do whatever it takes to get it. Internally, we call this offer a “carrot.”

There’s no magic here; it just has to tug hard at their heartstrings. When coming up with your carrot, it should, at minimum, follow one or more of these elements:

  • Solve a problem for the reader (ex: Awkward at networking events? Here’s a Networking Event Prep Guide so you can show up with confidence and leave being remembered)
  • Be inspiring and/or relatable (ex: Struggling to find a business idea? Here’s an exclusive interview with John Smith — a father of two who reveals how he went from no idea to earning $5,000 per month using skills he already had)
  • Allow a person to take action immediately (ex: Approaching your next annual review? Here’s an exact script to use to negotiate a raise — even if your boss says “there’s no room in the budget”)

At GrowthLab, we abide by certain “rules” for creating a truly awesome carrot that’s both on-brand and compelling. We…

  • Avoid “get rich quick” or bogus, unsubstantiated content or false promises
  • Create carrots that are generally aimed at the beginner with a broad appeal
  • Make carrots something that people can receive (lists, e-books, videos, or PDFs)
  • Emphasize high-quality carrots that are specific to brand and content to filter out unqualified leads
  • Do not give away the key value of the carrot on the landing page itself

Taking it a step further, your carrot should also be congruent with the goal of your page and the rest of the content that leads up to it.

Screen Shot 2018 06 19 at 4.16.00 PM
Screen Shot 2018 06 19 at 4.15.56 PM

Additionally, here’s a real example of a page from Jennifer Kem with a tasty carrot:

Screen Shot 2018 06 26 at 8.53.14 AM

Her landing page teases this tantalizing offer without giving away the carrot itself. Note how Kem tells you exactly what her carrot gives you, which is congruent with her headline: “The secret to building your brand isn’t a secret. It’s a strategy.” Then she caps this with an interesting appeal to emotion within the call to action (which we’ll talk about soon enough).

5. Landing page best practice: Emphasize credibility via (smart) social proof

Social proof in the form of testimonials and reviews is powerful, but testimonials especially can also backfire when you abuse or use them willy-nilly.

Collecting the testimonials is only half the battle. The other half is to make them engaging, relatable, and above all, believable. Which would you trust more:

“This is amazing!”

Versus…

“Before taking Stephanie’s course, I just kept sending pitch emails into a black hole, never hearing back. But going through the first couple of modules really flipped my perspective of what it means to really talk to an editor and speak their language. Now when I send emails, I get responses about 64% of the time — way better response rate than before!”

Not only does the latter dive into greater detail and avoid vague hyperbole, it also highlights a specific problem and a transformation. That’s what prospective customers want to see.

One thing when asking for testimonials: Don’t depend on the customer to know what to say without rambling on and on. Steer them with guidelines along these lines…

  • “At first I thought…” (Barrier)
  • “Then I…” (Specific thing they learned from your materials)
  • “Here was the result…” (Specific result)
Testimonials

GMB Fitness includes detailed testimonials that showcase a transformation.

Readers also want to see that the people whose testimonials you’ve included are like them. This means that if your product is aimed at say, work-from-home moms who want to stay fit using only at-home workout equipment, you shouldn’t be including testimonials from non-moms who work in an office and do their workouts in the weight room. Do sweat the small details, K?

6. Landing page best practice: Have a very clear call to action (CTA)

After taking all the other elements into consideration, your call to action is an unambiguous, unmistakable command in the form of a button. It should also be click-worthy and in line with your offer.

You WANT people to click with action-oriented words and phrases, but also equally important: you want people to know what will happen when they do.

By doing so, you essentially help remove risk on the reader’s part by being upfront with what they will get and what they can expect. Take, for example, this test we conducted on this homepage of our sister site (control):

pasted image 0 10

Compare that to this new variant:

control

In the six-day test we ran, conversions soared by over 20% with the new variant. We theorized a few reasons as to why, but chief among them was that we added the bullet points to our offer so that visitors understood what they were getting more clearly. That extra clarity gives them more confidence to go for the carrot.

If you want to get a little into the weeds, experts have long theorized that different words and phrases can impact the likelihood of readers doing what you ask them to. Words like “Click” or “Download” seem to prompt people to do exactly those things, but when you change them to “Click here” or “Download now,” conversions go up slightly:

Click rates

Via Unbounce.

Interesting stuff right?

These could be worth testing after you have the other big rocks in place, but don’t get sucked down a rabbit hole with these subtleties. Focus on getting your call to action and the copy surrounding it clear.

There are many variables that you can tweak and test within a landing page, but know that not all of them will necessarily move the needle for YOUR business. Remember, these landing page best practices are meant to be used as guidelines only, then broken and reconfigured according to how your audience responds.

The A/B Testing Starter Kit

A good landing page can double or triple your conversions, but without testing what’s working and what’s not, you’re only guessing and possibly leaving subscribers (and money) on the table. That’s why we put together this A/B testing starter kit to help you pinpoint the tweaks that can actually skyrocket your conversions and growth.

If you want to dig deeper into A/B testing, this starter kit includes:

  • Spreadsheet template we use to manage our A/B tests
  • Article: 7 rules of A/B testing
  • List of recommended tools for A/B testing

To download the guide, drop your email in the box below.

Yes, I want the starter kit!

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One Comment

Join The Conversation

Hi Stephanie

Great post, and a lot of what I agree with. Interestingly enough I read a post yesterday, I think on Hubspot, that recommended a second CTA as an opt out.

I.e. the first CTA is to sign up/subscribe etc, but if the person isn’t quite ready then the second CTA along side it could be to watch a demo.

Would be interesting to get your thoughts on that? When it comes to landing pages I also thought you might like this landing page guide I put together where I cover almost every landing page tool out there.

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