February 28, 2012

10 steps to creating effective landing pages

To create a better landing page, follow these 10 steps.

So, you have marketing tactics driving people to your website. Great! The next question most marketers ask is, “How can I make the site work harder for me?”

1. Identify business goals.

Before you can figure out how to make a landing page work harder, ask yourself, “What was the business need behind the campaign?” Lead generation, patient education, engagement? Answering this will help define a call-to-action (CTA) to engage visitors on the landing page. It will also help you find effective ways to measure how well everything is working.

2. Define a target audience.

Your next question should be, “Who can help us achieve those goals?”

3. Develop marketing tactics.

Once you know whom you are targeting, you need to ask, “How can I get my message in front of them at decision-making time?” It may be that you have a few targeted messages for subsets of the audience. Which leads to another vital piece of this step — setting up a plan for reporting on individual tactics (messages, creative and placements).

At AB&C we use Google’s URL builder to append all links for easy reporting from analytics running on the landing pages.

4. Drive visitors to unique landing pages.

Sure, when someone clicks a link in one of those places, you could send them to the home page and they should be able to find the desired content (the whole site is well-designed and easy to navigate, right?). But why make them work that hard? You have a specific message — why not send them to a landing page focused on that message?

Now the fun begins. How can we make the landing page convert visitors into action-takers?

5. Deliver on off-page promises.

Since you built the marketing campaign driving traffic to the landing pages, you know what visitors were reading immediately before they arrived. Your page title, URL, headlines and body copy should all relate directly to the message that got someone to the landing page.

This will help them quickly realize that they are in the right place and prevent high bounce rates (a lot of people leaving the page without taking any action). It will also boost your quality score for PPC ads like Google AdWords, which could save you money on your ad bids.

6. Don’t make visitors think.

Keep the message on the page focused and simple. Eliminate distractions (too many choices, navigation to the rest of your site, etc.). Create a bright, shiny and irresistible call-to-action.

If the visitor came from an email, chances are you might know some of their personal info. Talk to your IT team to find out if they can pre-populate the form fields in the landing page’s CTA. At AB&C, we have had conversion rates of more than 50% by pre-populating form content.

7. Build trust.

People will bounce if you don’t establish trust. Web surfers are a savvy bunch and will bail out of any site that feels like a spam trap created to get their personal info.

When visitors hit your landing page, you need to assure them that they arrived at a legitimate destination. Tell them where they are. Show your contact information, accreditations, awards, etc., to help create a sense of authenticity.

Avoid overuse of capitalization and punctuation. “AMAZING!!!” or “NEW!!!” might as well read “SPAM TRAP!!!” “RUN AWAY!!!”

8. Optimize your call-to-action.

OK, you have identified the right people, driven them to the landing page and given them a concise message. Now, how do you get them to take action? On the web, it’s often a lead-generation form. Here are some tips to make that form process simple for your visitors.

  • Outline the benefits.
    Let visitors know why they should fill out the form. What’s in it for them?
  • Keep it short and simple.

I always start by asking, “What fields can we remove from that form?” If you don’t have an immediate use for a piece of information you’re asking for, remove it. More important, remove any field that might make visitors ask, “Why would they want that?”

  • Create a simple scan line.

Line up fields and titles to keep the user from having to jump around to understand the form. This will make even complex forms less daunting.

  • Make the form easy to read.
    Make the type large enough for your target audience to easily see (the older the audience, the larger the point size).
  • Don’t skimp on white space.
    Give your form some breathing room. It will make it less intimidating.
  • Identify required fields.
    This shouldn’t be necessary if you have done your job in eliminating unnecessary fields. But, if only some of the fields are mandatory, mark them.
  • Inline validation.
    Don’t make visitors hit the submit button before they find out that they didn’t enter a valid email, or they skipped a required field.

9. Measure results.

If you are using Google Analytics and have properly tagged all inbound links, it should be fairly easy to see what tactics are driving the best traffic. Look at how many people hit the site versus the number of completed actions. Now, ask yourself, “What can I do to get more people to convert?”

10. Test, test, test.

Try some variations on the page to see how they affect conversion rates. Fight the urge to test multiple variations the same time. If you do, how will you know which one made the difference? Run A/B tests with two variations; observe and refine as you learn from visitor responses. Here are some variables to throw into your A/B testing.

  • Headlines
  • Graphics and other images
  • Multiple CTAs
    Some people will click the first shiny object. Others may read through your content before deciding to get involved. Make sure that second category doesn’t have to hunt back up the page to find your CTA. Sometimes a secondary CTA could work for someone who isn’t fully committed
  • Button colors
    Try colors that blend with the page’s palette, and colors that contrast. There is no perfect formula. Some say that green means “go” and red means “stop.”  Others say red evokes a strong emotional response. Some say blue is the standard link color, so use that for buttons. Whatever color you choose, make sure it looks “clickable.”
  • Button text
    Label your button something that ties into your CTA, like “Request an Appointment” or “Apply Now.” Avoid labels like “Submit” or “Go.”
  • Form variations
    Try your full form. Then, try simply asking for a name and email. Somewhere in between lies the perfect blend that doesn’t scare people away, but still gives your staff the info they need to follow up.