A Common Sense Approach to Building a Great Landing Page

    DartboardThis is part one of a three-part series I’m calling, Content Creation for the Rest of Us in Three Easy Steps. In this series we’ll discuss how ordinary small business owners with no SEO experience can create simple, yet compelling and actionable web pages that create leads.

    Throughout the series, we will use plain English and a commonsense approach to discussing prevailing SEO and web design practices used to build compelling offer pages.

    When we’re done with the series, you should know:

    • Step One: What combination of aesthetic ingredients comprise a great looking landing page.
    • Step Two: How to write awesome body copy that honors established SEO best practices.
    • Step Three: How to monitor your landing page’s traction using Google Analytics.

    Ok so let’s begin with Step one: What combination of aesthetic ingredients comprise a great looking landing page?

    In general, what you can learn about building great Website landing pages is close to limitless. I mean hell, the very speed at which the topic evolves makes studying landing pages – the good, the bad, the trending – a Herculean undertaking. As for covering the essentials in one blog post? Forget about it. There’s simply too many things to consider to cover it on the first lap. So for ardent internet marketing enthusiasts and passionate SEOs alike, daily reading on the topic is essential, but probably also a genuine pleasure.

    But what about the rest of us? Specifically, what about small business owner with little technical and practical knowledge of internet marketing? They frankly don’t have the skills, the time, the energy nor, least of all, the interest in being SEO mavens. And let’s no judge here either. These folks don’t lack any enthusiasm for marketing their wares on the internet. They want to succeed same as the most learned at the table. But they are small, till-minding dreamers with little time to step away from what works to try what they fear may not. So small business owners don’t want to become experts in optimizing their Website, yet they have a tremendous appetite for seeing it generate sales.

    This is the problem my customers face daily. They want internet sales, but don’t want an aneurism understanding how to get them.

    Defining the Primary Action: Call-to-Action or CTA

    As discussed, this is a large topic that can quickly lead to headaches for business owners pressed for time and short on information. So in this first installment we’ll focus on four fundamental rules of thumb for landing pages. They are:

    1. Limit Message Clutter: Our primary action (CTA) is the message/action we want, more than anything else on our landing page, to cut through the noise and reach our buyers first.
    2. Stand Out: The primary action should stand out from other parts of the page. We can test this using a simple “4-foot, 4-second rule.” We’ll discuss this more in a moment.
    3. Limit Conversion Obstacles: The primary action marks the entrance to a sales/conversion funnel that limits potential obstacles as buyers move through your lead gen process.
    4. Use Real Estate Wisely: The primary action appears within the viewable area of a browser window. This is the first 530 pixels. We’ll call the area after 530 pixels “beyond the fold.” This area receives far fewer views.

    Digging Deeper

    It’s not enough to just list rules arbitrarily. Little learning is had doing so. For me, the wisdom is acquired in the execution once I’m armed with the rules of the game. So let’s delve a bit more into each of these conventions and see if we can uncover a few ways adapt our landing page campaigns accordingly.

    Message Clutter:

    Add too little information, and you might frustrate buyers genuinely prepared to make a decision. Provide more immersive information, and you risk scaring off more casual window shoppers. It’s a tightrope yes, but still quite doable. Here’s how:

    • Propose something irresistible in your offer’s headline. You don’t have to use compelling language like “essential,” “must-have” or “crucial.” Moreover,  just ensure you have convinced buyers that the offer is of importance to them. Declare their problems solved in your offer’s headline. If you don’t know why your offer rocks, how will the buyer?
    • Follow the headline with a brief value proposition that states explicitly what your selling or giving away and what it does. Be efficient. This should be a simple paragraph, three to five sentences long and should likewise be a transparent statement of the facts. No keyword bloated, brochure copy here please. Keep it simple and keep it truthful. Anything else won’t work and will not play nice with Google and Bing.
    • Below the value proposition, add a few bullets that reinforce value and benefits. Describe briefly in each the immediate strengths and benefits of the offer, product or service.
    • If there’s room (and there should be) highlight what other buyers think. Few value statements resonate more with prospects than user testimonials.

    Stand Out:

    If you have multiple offers on a page, designing them similarly doesn’t give one a larger share of the spotlight over another. If you have an ecommerce site for instance, then naturally you’re selling lots of stuff on one page. But you can optimize lots of offers that share a single page too. Two, three or even four offers sharing the same general real estate might work better if you prioritize them. If they all look the same, they may all underperform equally and you’ll never learn more about what your buyers want. Give one offer a chance to truly shine by calling more attention to it with a unique design, combined with more real estate. If you’re selling winter coats beginning Columbus Day weekend, then highlight this offer with two or even three times the real estate and marginalize the other offers for a brief period of time. Remember, we want to know more about our customer’s needs. Singling out offers, one per page, does nicely to tell us if our buyers like what we think they like, and in this case, if they like them during the timeframes we think they like them.

    Conversion Obstacles:

    Once the buyer enters our conversion process, we need to ensure our offer tells a single story that doesn’t provide many opportunities for abandonment.The landing page should contain an intuitive story telling maturation that thoughtfully, yet surgically espouses the virtues of the offer itself. Page real estate should not get mired in other topics and offers that may cause the buyer to disengage from the progression. Remember, we want the buyer to move toward our lead gen goals, not whimsically meander through our site.

    Use of Real Estate:

    The “4-foot, 4-second rule” is the name I gave a simple test you can conduct yourself to help determine the effectiveness of page real estate. It’s been dubbed many things, so feel free to call it whatever you like. Here’s how it works.While sitting at your computer, point your browser at your website’s landing page and follow these steps:

    1. Get up out of you chair.
    2. Put your back to your computer’s monitor.
    3. Walk four feet away.
    4. For only four seconds, quickly turn 180 degrees and fix your eyes on your computer’s monitor and promptly turn back around.

    What did you see on your monitor? The element of your landing page that your eyes locked on to is most likely what your buyers experience first as well. So what did you see?

    • Is it, above all else, what you want your buyers to see first?
    • Did your eyes struggle to find something that stood out?
    • Were there too many places for your eyes to land?

    Remember, you have 530 pixels and four seconds to make your case. Anything beyond that is far less frequently viewed. So combined, that’s a tall order: make your offer fit into a small space and make it compel action immediately. You can do it! I know you can! Just play to your audience by keeping your offer above the fold and by making it scream, “I solve your problem!”

    Conclusions

    Yah see? Landing pages is a big topic even when you break it down into a few basic tenets.

    So let’s keep it simple.

    If we give buyers too many choices, they’ll take them all – every last time. Leads are hard enough to get. Don’t unintentionally talk them out of becoming one by giving them too many things to look at, interact with or engage. Let’s simplify the exercise for them. Let’s give them less to do and in the process, get them doing more of what we want them to do. This is achieved by focusing our content on a single offer and supporting it with content that proves and reinforces value to the buyer. Do this and you’ll reap the whirlwind.

    I hope you enjoyed this first installment in our three-part series. Next time we’ll discuss what the offer should actually comprise. We’ll address:

    • What makes for well-optimized offer headline, value propositions and bulleted benefits.
    • How, when and where to limit conversion obstacles.
    • How best to use images and video to support the offer.

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