"On the Web, people have the attention span of a lit match," said Tim Ash, co-founder, president and CEO of SiteTuners, a conversion rate optimization firm. "That's why your landing page needs to be focused and Zen-like, so the call to action immediately rises to the top."
Ash spoke in a session about landing page do's and don'ts at the recent Online Marketing Summit 2012 in San Diego. In the session, audience members offered up the URLs of their own pages for Ash's critique. We culled the following 10 tips from Ash's advice to the audience.
But first, some quick background about landing pages. A landing page is a Web page designed to promote or sell a product or a service, or to provide a navigational path to products or services. Often, the page is linked to from a direct marketing email or a pay-per-click ad relevant to the landing page's topic.
For instance, a Google AdWords ad that promotes automobile repair services would be linked to a stand-alone Web page describing the advertising repair shop's services in detail. A landing page's goal is usually to convert a visitor into a sales lead or customer.
Top 10 tips to Create Effective Landing Pages
1. Be clear about what you want visitors to do.
Too often, said Ash, landing pages lack focus, offer distracting elements, or don't quickly convey to the visitor what you want them to do, whether it's to call for more information, buy now, or delve deeper into the site. A successful landing page is hyper-focused, and its call to action is compelling and unmistakable.
2. Make sure your landing page loads quickly and provides relevant content.
When determining how to rank a page for a relevant keyword search, Google's algorithms take many factors into account -- including slow page-load times and high bounce rates. If your landing page takes too long to load (because it's loaded with Flash or other animations), odds are the page will not rank as highly in Google as another page might, Ash said.
Also, if the landing page's content doesn't follow up on the promise of an ad or other content that brought the visitor to the page, that visitor will quickly click away, which raises the page's bounce rate. (Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors who enter a website and then leave without viewing other pages on the site.)
3. Avoid rotating ad banners.
A rotating ad banner on a landing page indicates that "you've abdicated your editorial responsibility," Ash said. Too often, you give the landing page visitor multiple messages, which cause confusion and obfuscates your call to action. For example, a landing page's goal may be to offer navigation to help visitors dig deeper into the site. But, said Ash, "how am I going to do that with a big rotating banner ad distracting me?"
It's better to stick with one image that's clear and compelling -- and that supports the call to action. What's more, rotating ads are essentially animations that can "drag down your page's load time," which can adversely impact its Google search result ranking.
4. Don't distract visitors with photos of people.
"It's dangerous to have pictures of people, because visitors look at them and don't read the headline," Ash said. Given website visitors' short attention spans, do you really want them focused on people instead of something more important (like your call to action)?
5. Make images relevant.
Does the image (or images) on your landing page directly support the important conversion actions you want visitors to take? If the answer is no, get rid of the photos, Ash said. A pretty picture that conveys nothing about your business or the call to action is, at best, wasted space and, at worst, a lost opportunity to convert a prospect.