There’s an old saying that applies as much to your website as it does to meeting new people for the first time: “The first impression is the last impression.”
Of course, like all generalisations, the saying isn’t always true. As people, we can certainly overcome a negative first impression of others by spending more time with them—enough time to get past our initial assumptions. But the key word there is time.
A prospect’s time is the one thing you won’t get if you fail to make a good first impression. It takes only a few seconds for leads to decide your product isn’t what they need, tap the back button, or close their browsers—never to visit your site or consider your product again.
Your landing page dictates the first impression you make on potential customers. And if it’s not a great first impression, it will probably be the last impression you get the opportunity to make.
Broadly speaking, a landing page is the first page a new prospect visits on your website. Using that definition, a landing page could be any page on your site that a potential customer visits first—your pricing page, a blog post, or even a thread on your support forum. In fact, in Google Analytics, you can pull a report showing the pages of your site that visitors land on most often:
If you connect your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts, you can access a report in Google Analytics showing the pages your visitors land on most often.
But in digital marketing, the term “landing page” typically refers to a page that you intend for new visitors to land on. All websites have at least one landing page: your homepage. But some marketers also create standalone landing pages to use with specific ad campaigns or to target specific customer personas:
ING uses this standalone landing page to promote its Savings Maximiser product through a Google Ads campaign.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to discuss landing pages using their digital marketing definition: specific, conversion-focused pages you intend for new potential customers to land on. In particular, we’re going to focus on your most important landing page: your site’s homepage.
First, we’ll identify some of the best practices of building high-converting landing pages. Along the way, we’ll look at how some of your favourite products employ those best practices. Finally, we’ll take a look at some tools you can use to build high-converting landing pages for your website.
When prospects visit your homepage for the first time, they have a single question in mind: “Is this the solution I’m looking for?”
A specific need or problem brought that prospect to your website. The goal of your homepage is to highlight exactly how your product or service satisfies that need or solves that problem.
That leads us to the first best practice of high-converting landing pages: assume nothing.
Certainly, you’ve done the appropriate consumer and competitive research and know two things: what value your product delivers to your customers, and how it’s different from/better than your competitors’ products.
That’s the story to tell on your landing page: here’s what we do, here’s why you need it, and here’s why we’re better than the other products you may be considering.
Assuming nothing means you know—from conducting consumer research—exactly who your ideal customers are and what they need from your product. It means you know—from conducting competitive research—exactly what your product does better than competitor products. And it means that you’re not going to assume that visitors already know these things.
Don’t assume that new visitors have upfront knowledge of your product. They may not. And if they do, they’ll take time to navigate to other pages of your site to find the more granular information they’re looking for.
The goal of your landing page is to make your unique value proposition as clear as possible in the most direct way possible. It’s not a place to be clever, coy, or innovative. Make it easy for your prospect to identify the value your product provides, and they’ll be much more likely to stay on your site, spend more time with your brand, and ultimately convert to a paying customer.
Finally, make sure you review your page in both desktop and mobile formats. Chances are your first impression is going to be on a user’s mobile device.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a modern office worker who hasn’t heard of Slack. The messaging tool is nearly as ubiquitous as names like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.
Still, Slack’s homepage doesn’t assume its visitors have prior knowledge of the tool. It clearly states what the tool is upfront—”a collaboration hub”—and follows its introduction with a brief list of its most unique and desirable features: channels, search, integrations, and security.
Another place where clarity is key is with your call-to-action (CTA). After consuming the information on your landing page, what, exactly, do you want the prospect to do? And more importantly, what one thing do you want that prospect to do the most?
Sometimes, brands make the mistake of giving prospects too many choices of what to do next. They cram a link or call to action into every section of their homepage: “start your free trial,” “request a demo,” “join our email list,” “read our ebook.”
The problem with offering a variety of options for what to do next is that people find too many choices debilitating. And if they’re feeling overwhelmed, they may simply leave instead of taking any action on your site.
Don’t provide a plethora of choices for prospects to consider. Instead, determine what the most logical next step is, and highlight that step in your call-to-action.
The most logical next step depends on many different things. If you’re a B2B company with long sales cycles, a CTA that captures the lead’s email address may be more effective than a CTA for a free trial. If you’re a B2C company, a free trial may be a better CTA because the consumer has the ability to make a buying decision instantly.
Dropbox makes it clear and simple for prospects to take the next step: sign up. A sign-up form displays as soon as you open Dropbox’s homepage—users don’t even need to click through to another page to perform the desired action.
And if users scroll down the page to read more about Dropbox’s features, the “Download” link in the header transforms into a “Sign up” link, making it easy for users to convert at the exact moment that they’re sold on the tool’s benefits.
Another saying that’s apt when it comes to landing pages: “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
If your product is complex—or if you need to highlight the benefits of multiple products—an image, GIF, or video is often the best way to make your point as clear and brief as possible. In other words: don’t say it, show it.
Still, there’s an important caveat: any multimedia you add to your landing page should have a clear purpose. Like your landing page copy, the goal of multimedia should be to highlight the value of your product.
Images, GIFs, and videos that highlight key product features are excellent additions. Stock images and low-quality videos, on the other hand, add little-to-no value.
And according to some case studies, purposeless multimedia may actually lower your conversion rate. In fact, an A/B test conducted by HubSpot found that a version of the company’s demo form without any images actually converted at a 24% higher rate than a version that included an image of one of the company’s employees.
Atlassian’s Jira Software is a complex product. Agile teams use it to manage every aspect of their work: creating roadmaps, planning sprints, tracking bugs, and much more. But instead of building a lengthy and wordy landing page explaining all of those features in great detail, the company uses a GIF as its hero image, showing each of those features in the actual product.
The GIF starts playing on its own when you land on the site and is just over 30 seconds long. It shows three of the tool’s biggest features in about 10-second clips, giving prospects a good sense of the software’s major capabilities and, importantly, showing how easy the tool is to use.
State clearly and directly what value your product or service provides to your customers. Focus on a single CTA. Use multimedia purposefully. These are the three main best practices every business should follow when creating landing pages.
But what about all of those other best practices you’ve heard or read about?
Here’s the reality of high-converting landing pages: the rest is all about making educated guesses and testing.
Some studies say longer forms lower your conversion rates. Others say longer forms are better. Some say you need a navigation bar. Others say you shouldn’t have one. In the end, they’re all both right and wrong.
The bottom line: what works the best for conversions is going to be unique to every website, brand, and product. The only way to truly increase the number of conversions your landing page generates is to try different things, test those variations, and find what works for you.
The following tools help you do just that.
In order to improve your conversion rates, you first need a baseline, and you need to be able to track conversion rate changes over time. This is pretty easy information to get if you use Google Analytics to monitor your website’s metrics.
Start by setting up a goal in Google Analytics. On your admin dashboard, select “Goals,” and create a new goal. For this exercise, we’re going to create a goal to measure the percentage of visitors who land on our homepage and then click our CTA.
After setting up your goal, let it run and collect data for at least a week. Then, return to Google Analytics and view your goal performance under the “Conversions” menu item. Find your goal conversion rate in the “Overview” tab.
You can also do some very basic A/B testing using Google Analytics goals.
For example, say you want to test the copy on your CTA to see if one version works better than another. You can measure your conversion rate using the first set of copy for a month, then measure your conversion rate for the second set of copy for another month. After both months have passed, compare the rates to see which version of the copy drove more conversions.
For more advanced A/B and conversion rate optimization (CRO) testing, you’ll want to use a tool like Optimizely or Google Optimize. In addition to basic A/B testing (ex: which CTA copy drives more clicks), these tools let you run multivariate tests where you test the outcome of changes to multiple sections of a page.
These tools are simple for anyone to use with a visual editor that makes adjusting things like text, multimedia, and CTAs easy. You can even run tests at specific times, to specific users (ex: only visitors in Australia), or only to users on specific device types (ex: mobile phones).
During and after your experiment, you can access detailed performance reports to see which variations of your landing page drove the highest conversions.
If you’re looking to create landing pages for specific marketing or advertising campaigns, you may want to adopt a landing page builder like Unbounce. Unbounce makes it quick and easy to build one-off landing pages—using predesigned templates and a drag-and-drop editor—without the help of your development team.
Additionally, Unbounce comes with tools that let you A/B test the landing pages you build. Building a landing page that includes a form? Use Unbounce’s A/B testing feature to see if reducing the number of required fields leads to higher or lower conversion rates. You can even use Dynamic Text Replacement to personalize your landing page based on the search terms a visitor used to find it.
Your homepage is the most important page on your website. It creates the first impression potential customers have of your brand, product, or services, and if it’s not a good impression, you may not get a chance to make another.
Building a high-converting landing page takes time and effort. You have to know your customers and understand their needs and pain points. You have to know your competitors and understand what makes your product a better choice. And you have to conduct a lot of tests to make sure that your copy, multimedia, design, and CTA choices resonate with your target audience and encourage them to take further action on your site.
But if you put in the time and effort and are successful, an effective landing page can lead to significant business growth.