Landing pages are all over the web, but very few are actually designed with best practices in mind. Marketers have had years to test and compare all kinds of landing pages to figure what works and what doesn’t and today, we can clearly see the patterns common among the most successful pages out there.
In an effort to nail down exactly how to maximize the probability of getting a conversion on the page, the folks over at marketingexperiments.com analyzed over 10,000 trials of landing page testing in order to extract a single “formula” for the correctly optimized landing page.
Before I go any further, you don’t have to be a whiz at math in order to grasp this and apply it yourself.
In fact, when broken down into each of its components, it’s actually very simple and straightforward to understand. What’s more, it’s basically universally applicable to just about any kind of landing page.
Alright, this is what it looks like:
If it looks scary, pump the breaks. Let's break it down step-by-step:
C is for Conversion
The goal here is simple: how do we achieve a conversion? It could be a purchase, a subscription, a simple downloadable piece, or anything else you’re offering.
While we can never guarantee a conversion, making the right adjustments to the page can increase the probability or likelihood someone will convert.
Let’s take a close look at each part to see exactly why it’s crucial to earning that conversion.
M is for Motivation
The number values before each of the elements here only indicate how much weight they have on the overall probability of conversion. In this case, the motivation of the visitor has the greatest impact.
The renowned direct marketer Gary Halbert came up with a pretty clear way to communicate how this works in real life:
If you and I both owned a hamburger stand and we were in a contest to see who could sell the most hamburgers, the biggest advantage one side could have over the other is a starving crowd.
Although you can't easily change a visitor's level of motivation when it comes to achieving a conversion on the page, closely monitoring the sources of traffic can give you a good way to measure whether or not people are simply stumbling upon the page, or are ending up there after looking for your offer specifically.
If a lot of people are making their way to the page but very few are doing anything when they get there, you may be targeting the wrong group of people.
Simply put, if they don’t care, they won’t convert.
It’s easy to sit around and think about all the reasons your offer provides some kind of value to customers, but if you’re not able to make that value clear to them on the page, don’t expect them to take your word for it.
People aren’t willing to spend a lot of time trying to figure out if an offer is right for them or not––they want it spelled out right in front of them.
For landing pages, clarity trumps cleverness. No one is there to appreciate your smart use of language, they want to know what they get in exchange for their information as quickly and easily as possible.
I is for Incentive and F is for Friction
This is pretty simple. The incentive needs to be clearly articulated without the friction of unrelated offers, images, text and navigation that only distracts them from the point of the page.
The more you give people to click on, the less they’ll click on what you want them to.
A is for Anxiety
It’s natural to get a little anxious and/or nervous when clicking on a call-to-action or filling out a form online. If we look back up at the equation, you’ll notice there’s a negative symbol in front of this one.
The better able you can reduce the user’s anxiety with a tasteful combination of guarantees and social proof, the more likely that person will go through with it. Security seals, testimonials, customer reviews, and third-party endorsements are great for mitigating conversion fears.
Understanding how each element works together
So we know what’s in the formula, but how does it actually work?
One of the biggest mistakes made among marketers is a tendency to optimize all the components separately of each other.
“What can I do to generate some traffic to my page cheaply?”
“What headlines tend to work better than others?”
“What kinds of offers work best?”
The better way to approach this is to combine these questions as part of a system. Ask yourself what sources of traffic are going to actually want this offer and then craft a value proposition those people will find attractive and compelling.
Codecademy pretty much hits the nail on the head when it comes to putting this formula to work to fuel sign ups to their online coding classes:
Motivation: Codecademy is one of the best coding resources out there, so it’s likely this page receives tons of organic traffic from people using search engines to find a good coding service that offers a painless sign up process.
Value proposition: This a great example of clarity over cleverness. The value here is learning how to code for free in an interactive environment. They could have teased each of these points out in clever-sounding sentences, but instead, they communicated all three of those points in just six words: “Learn how to code interactively, for free.”
Incentive and Friction: The incentive is made clear through a clear value proposition and the implication that after signing up, you’ve taken the first step towards enrollment in a coding class. Friction is remarkably low. There are only two other possible things to do on this page:
Learn more about signing up. (Useful for those who aren’t sure what they’re getting.)
Watch a testimonial video to see what others have done after learning how to code.
Both of these are designed to compel the hesitant visitor to take the next action. They don't link off the page or deliver some kind of unrelated message.
Anxiety: There’s little to be nervous about here. All they need from me is a name and email. Plus, if I’m not feeling confident or want some more information first, I can “Learn more” instantly or watch a 51-second video to inspire me to keep going.
Although these are commonly referred to as the “five pillars” of a successful landing page, the formula illustrates how much weight each of these pillars needs to support in order to stay standing.