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5 Keys to Designing Landing Pages That Convert

We were recently interviewed on the Smart Brand Marketing show with Tom Libelt on the topic of landing page conversion rate optimization.  Our episode will be published soon, in the meantime here's the accompanying article for our episode. 

1.  Keep messaging, imagery, and visual style consistent across marketing channels

A banner ad or email creative should click to a landing page with the same colors and images.  Any visual disconnect at this stage can cause a surge in fast bail-out visitors.  

  • Example: Plus-size apparel e-retailer Kiyonna changes the central image on their homepage to closely match the hero shot and offer featured in special email sales alerts. Their average email click to conversion rate for a house list mailing landing page is 3-14% depending on the offer.

Here’s a sample of a Kiyonna email campaign that got unusually high conversion rates: 

email creative.JPG

Here is the accompanying landing page, which was revised to match the content of the email creative:

landing page.JPG
  • Example: Gap Inc., which owns Old Navy, creates at least 4 to 5 new landing pages for various targeted campaigns per week. Here is the Old Navy "Rugby Bunch" email: 

Here is the Old Navy "Rugby Bunch" Landing Page:

rugby bunch.JPG

2. Reduce form fields to increase conversions

If you want to improve your landing page conversion rate, you need to remove anything that may be preventing your prospect from taking action. Nothing stops an interested prospect dead in their tracks like a long form that requires them to hand over lots of personal information.  

We encounter many clients who have no idea why they are collecting particular items that are required on their forms.  They are collecting data that they aren’t even using, meanwhile these unnecessary form fields are depressing their conversion rate.  To increase conversions, reduce the fields on your form to only the most essential pieces of data.

  • Example: Here is the original form prospects had to fill out to receive a free white paper from the American Advertising Federation.  This form required a copious amount of information from the prospect - 13 fields in all:


Here is the redesigned page that was tested against the original. Thirteen form fields have been reduced to 3, and with the extra space this freed up, an explanation of the benefits of the white paper was added:

The result?  The treatment page increased the conversion rate by a whopping 816%:

This test demonstrates the 2 key principles of conversion optimization - reducing friction and increasing value. To achieve optimal conversion rates, you need to remove friction, which is anything that may prevent your prospect from taking action.  You also need to increase the perceived value of the offer in the prospect's mind. You need to make the benefit that the prospect will receive far outweigh the cost to them - and yes, giving away personal information is a cost to the prospect, even when the offer itself is free.

Not only can unnecessary form fields discourage your site visitor from filling out your form, they could even be confusing your visitor during the process of filling out the form, and causing form errors that prevent your prospect from successfully submitting their information or making a purchase.  Here's an interesting article about how Expedia discovered one extra data field was costing them $12 million a year.

There's a lot more we could discuss about submission form optimization, but for brevity's sake here's an infographic that summarizes some key points.

3.  Thou Shalt Not Commit Stock Photography Crimes

Bad photos of real people tend to work better than professional photos, especially for testimonials. A slightly imperfect photo feels more real and believable than a glossy studio shot.

Example: Palo Alto Software tested this idea out, and found that slightly imperfect photos of customers giving testimonials worked far better than perfect shots taken by pros. Here's one of the images that beat out the professional photography:  

use this one3.jpg

This may not be professional quality photography, but you sure feel like he’s a real guy you can trust.


Stock photography often lacks relevance

Selecting the best images for your landing page comes down to relevance: how relevant are your images to your ideal prospect?  

Example: The original homepage for a consumer credit counseling service offering a free debt consultation featured a stock photo of smiling lady wearing a headset:

A variation of the page was created where the stock photo phone representative was replaced with a picture of the company founder (founder's face was intentionally blurred to protect client privacy):


The result?  When the recognizable image of the founder was used, visitors were 35% more likely to sign up for a free consultation:

So what's the lesson here?  Never use stock photography?  Not exactly – this is an issue of relevance. When selecting images to use on your website or landing page, the questions to ask yourself is "How relevant is this image to my prospect?"  A generic stock photo of an airbrushed model wearing a headset is an abstraction – it's a representation that doesn't hold any real meaning for your prospect, and as such it's mostly irrelevant.  Do you think your prospect really believes that smiling lady wearing a headset in a stock photo actually works for you?  It doesn't matter where your images come from, as long as they are relevant to your prospect.  

The following grid breaks down the relevance factors of smiling headset lady stock photo and the image of the company founder, and provides a useful framework for understanding what images are likely to be most effective (click on image to enlarge):

4. Video can dramatically increase your conversion rate (but not always)

There's a lot of data that showing video improving landing page conversion rates.

Example: Through his website, personal trainer Carl Juneau teaches men the best ab exercises for getting six pack abs. Carl carried out three split tests which conclusively proved that videos increased conversions on his website by as much as 46%.

However, there are some situations in which video can cause the opposite effect, and depress conversion rates.  Here is an example in which a static image outperformed a video.

Example: Brookdale Living offers community living solutions for senior citizens.  Two versions of the sign-up page were created and tested against the original sign-up page (not shown).  The first variation had a static photo of an elderly woman. This is how the photo version looked:


The second variation had a 1 minute 56 seconds heart-tugging video in which many elderly people talk about their positive experiences with Brookdale. In the second version, the video replaced the woman’s photo. Everything else on the page remained the same:


The designer expected the video version to perform better than the static image version.  Both versions - the image and the video version - were tested against the original page design.  

The result? The image version outperformed the video version. When pitted against the original, the image version recorded a 3.92% increase in ‘Find a Community’ searches while the video version recorded just a 0.85% increase in searches. The image version also achieved the statistical confidence of 99.99%. The test was run for 2 months on over 30,000 visitors.

According to the designer, the seemingly modest 3.92% increase in community searches will result in a more-than modest $106,000 additional monthly revenue.  

Why did the image version work better than the video version?  Here are some theories: 

  • Brookdale is already an established brand and the video acts as a distraction.
  • The video did not contain the type of information site visitors was looking for, and so only distracted users from finding the information they needed
  • The target audience tends to have lower than average access to high-speed broadband. The slower internet speed may lead to a painful video watching experience, and hence the image version worked better.
  • The target demographic may prefer to read instead of watching videos as a method to obtain information online. 

5.  Don’t make your visitor “click to convert”

The more steps you have in your conversion process, the lower your conversion rate will be. Bangkok Boxing Fitness makes this mistake by making a 1-step process into a 3-step process.  Homepage visitors must:

1. "Click here for free session" (shown below):

2.  Be taken to a secondary page where they have to choose which free class they would like (shown below):

3.  And finally - fill out contact form for free session

For improved conversions, Bangkok Boxing Fitness needs to turn this 3-step process into one step by allowing visitors to sign up for the free session on the home page.

A case study from Marketing Experiments shows the benefit that can be achieved by moving the sign-up form from a sub-page to the homepage.  Here a luxury home builder is seeking to sell homes to upper-class families, and in this test they are trying to increase the number of leads they receive from their website.  You can see below that in the Control (their original website) the sign-up form is a two-step process, much like that of Bangkok Boxing Fitness:

Experiment: Control (step 1)

Site visitors have to click on the “Request more information” button in order to be taken to a page where they fill out a form:

Control (step 2)

Treatment Here they tested moving the form from the secondary page to the homepage:

And the result?  A 166% increase in leads: