Your email campaigns are invitations to your audience to visit your home online and do something – buy, sign up, read. And if your website is your home online, it makes sense that your landing page is the front door. You make sure it’s clean, spiffy, and bright, and that your site’s got plenty of curb appeal. It’s why so many brands put their best assets there.
But if you don’t put just as much work into optimizing all the other ways users reach your landing page, you could be leaving money, social shares, or new customers on the table.
Thinking about all of your sites and what kind of experience they deliver, should be a crucialpart of your web strategy. By making easy, consistent upgrades, you’ll see increased traffic and decreased bounce as you deliver a better experience for your visitors.
Know where your customers come from.
That doesn’t mean that desktop is dead, or that your web designers have to eliminate those gorgeous wall-to-wall images that win them design awards. It means you need to know and embrace where your users are coming from. Use your analytics tools to gain a clear understanding of what percentage of your users are arriving from mobile versus desktop platforms. Then make sure that’s included in the creative or project brief.
Speed is everything.
Whether accessing your page on desktop or mobile, load times are crucial. Poor load times affect everything from bounce rates to organic and paid search results to Google Ad Rank.
Even if you’re not running digital ad campaigns, bad experiences drive users away. Smartphone users are 62 percent less likely to buy in the future if your site’s mobile experience is negative. Slow load times are a great way to encourage new users to stay away in droves.
You’ve got lots of options to evaluate load times. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool and their new Lighthouse tool in Chrome are a great place to start. With PageSpeed Insights, you just load a URL. Google analyzes the page, then gives you a quick rundown of that page’s load speed for both desktop and mobile. Lighthouse requires that you use the developer tools in Chrome, but it gives you information about how your site runs on mobile.
Of course, Google is just one option. Most SEO platforms have integrated page load speed analysis tools that can help you identify issues that already exist, as well as testing pages before launch.
Better content gives your bounce rates the beatdown.
Bounce rates are a fact of life. Easily distracted visitors make split-second judgments on your landing pages. What do they see? Does it match or align with the email, social post, or digital ad that brought them there? Does it load quickly? Every one of these micro-factors feeds into a nearly sub-conscious decision to stay or go.
If they stay, low-quality content is a turn-off. Think low-res graphics. Walls of text. Lack of headers and other graphic elements that enable your viewer to navigate quickly and confidently. Your strategists should be guiding your creators to provide vibrant, active content for your developers to work with. Your developers should be looking for every opportunity to make that content run as efficiently as possible.
What’s the right picture worth?
A thousand words, right? But nailing the visuals is even more important on your landing pages than on your homepage. Consistent, relevant photos and graphics create a smooth transition from the perfect email to the perfect landing page to a completed transaction. Eliminating the surprises helps speed your email recipient or viewer through the funnel and towards the Buy button. Using high-quality stock photography can be a great way to add visual interest if your creative resources are limited (and you can find lots of free resources, too). Don’t forget to properly resize, optimize, and tag your images. Image quality in one of the seemingly countless factors that search engines evaluate when they crawl your site.
A clear call-to-action is good. Five CTAs are not.
Landing pages are often noisy, chaotic places. A pop-up begs for an email address. A survey invites to vote and share an opinion. Like and share. Play a game. Digital ads, possibly unrelated to what you’re serving, muddy your message. Your intent may be to maximize the interaction you get from a visitor. But the outcome is likely scaring them off.
Think of your online properties as being a room full of pre-schoolers right before snack time. Fractious, distracted, eager for the cookies and afraid they’ll never arrive.
Teachers know that the way to bring order and peace to the room involves lowering their voices and giving one clear instruction at a time. “Now it’s time to put the books on the shelves. When you put the books on the shelves, then you can have a snack.” In a moment, the books are shelved, and the children are waiting patiently for their animal crackers and a juice box. It’s like magic.
Sticky pages that convert work the same way. Clean, calm design creates the visual and mental peace. That puts your users in the mood to act. A single call-to-action with a clearly articulated benefit tells your users what to do and why they should do it.
Look for opportunities to clean up existing landing pages by focusing on the experience. What one thing do you want the user to do? How quickly and easily can they do that one thing and move on?
Have mercy on your readers.
With so much emphasis on creating a graphic, visual space to show, sell, and tell, reading text is still a significant part of the online experience.
As witty and concise as it is, your copy might be creating a barrier your visitors won’t bother climbing over. The Nielsen Norman Group identified key behaviors of how web users read that are as applicable today as they were waaaaaay back in 1997. They bear repeating:
- “Scannable text.”
- “Meaningful sub-headings (not "clever" ones)”
- “Highlighted keywords [and] bulleted lists.”
Of course, your copy has to be engaging, and brand-consistent. But first and foremost, it must be readable. Shooting for about half the word count of conventional print or blog copy is a good target for most landing pages and almost every product page. At the same time, while opinions differ as to the ideal reading level of a landing page, most marketers use a third- to fifth-grade reading level as a good goal to start with.
Numerous tools exist to help reach that goal, but one of the easiest to use is Readable.io. The freemium service enables your copy or content writers to copy/paste or upload files and run the copy through a battery of readability measures. It’s quick, easy, and allows you to quickly identify changes that can dramatically improve your landing page’s readability.
Like any analytical tool, use Readable’s results as a guide rather than a requirement. Elements of more visually appealing copy like subheads and bulleted lists can sometimes tweak the tool to score the overall readability scores as more complex. In the end, you’ll likely find that shorter words and shorter sentences have an immediate and noticeable impact on readability.
Test and iterate
Finally, take time for testing. While internal delays, endless revisions, and last-minute changes are an inevitable part of building your landing pages, set time in the schedule for testing them before they go live. Then, hold yourself, your team, and that antsy client or brand manager to it. When you first start testing, add a checklist of necessary tests to run in your project management tool, and reuse that checklist for every landing page you create. Double (and triple) check backlinks, load times, breakpoints, and dozens of other elements that impact how well your landing page works. This work pays for itself.
And don’t forget to test the entire customer journey through the funnel. From launching a page via an email link on a 3G network to launching from a desktop with the gig-speed internet, you need to know how your pages will perform before you throw the switches.
Are you ready for an upgrade?
While your homepage may get all the design attention, your landing pages should be the workhorses of your site – telling your products’ stories, engaging your audience, and turning a click into a conversion. Paying attention to what’s going on under the hood can result in a more enjoyable experience for your customers, and a dramatically better-performing site for you.
Author: Web Webster is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, and writes about technology, education, healthcare for companies across the US. He rarely hits ideal readability scores with his first drafts.