football landingpage1

Landing pages dot the Web like shells on a beach.  They’re almost everywhere you turn, in all their various flavours and colours.  Yet most of them lack one vital quality that transforms a “meh” landing page into a “wow!” landing page.  Today, I’m going to tell you what that one thing is – and how you ensure your page has it.

Science (including social sciences) doesn’t just study the esoteric or mysterious.  Some really obvious things also come under the microscope.

Take this study conducted a few years, where a group of students were separated into two groups:

  1. One group that did homework
  2. One group that did not

Guess which one performed better academically?

No, this is not a trick question.  It’s completely, utterly and painstakingly obvious.  

If your answer was number 2 – ummm, just pretend you answered number 1.

There are a lot of boxes to tick when writing a first-class landing page.

  • Exhaustively researching your prospect and product
  • Establishing the message hierarchy and message matching
  • Squeezing every ounce of your creativity to find an irresistible headline
  • Devising a “hook” to lead into the page with
  • Crafting an offer that has readers frantically clicking the “Buy/Sign-up/Whatever” button

But one totally obvious thing often gets overlooked.

What you want the page to do.

Your page goal.

Or – “what do I want from people who land here?”

Now, this isn’t a problem for a lot of people… because they don’t spare a single thought about it.  They simply direct traffic from their customised, targeted Adwords or Facebook ads straight to their non-customised, non-targeted home or product page.

Big mistake.  

One problem arises from potential message matching conflicts between your ads and page.  It explains why why getting someone (or hundreds or thousands of someones) to your page can mean diddly squat (a topic covered in an upcoming post).

But messaging aside, what’s the big deal?  It should be mission accomplished.  We – or at least our ads – have done the hard work of getting the visitor to our site.  Surely our customers-to-be will instantly sign up for the program, hang on every word in our blog or plow their hard-earned into our shopping cart.

Well, here’s the thing – without telling them what you’d like them to do and making that loud and clear on the page, visitors will wander onto your page.  They might look around.  Then they’ll wander away without doing anything.  

People get distracted easily.  They hesitate when confronted with several options (or worse, no obvious options).  And they lose interest real quick when they can’t find what they’re looking for.

Unless you’re trying to raise “brand awareness” – a true marketing euphemism – sending traffic from highly-specific ads to a highly non-specific home page is going to be a waste of your money.

But if you happen to be committing this “marketing crime”, don’t beat yourself up.  Waaaaaay too many businesses are doing exactly this and crossing their fingers, hoping a few visitors might stick around long enough to do whatever it is their business wants.

What are you REALLY trying to do with your ads and page?  

What is the ONE thing you want readers to do when they click through that ad and land on your page:

Sign-up for a newsletter?  

Buy a certain product?

Download a free report that’s a lead generation tool for you?

Start a free trial?

Well, make sure they sure as heck know about those things as soon they arrive.  Don’t let them wander aimlessly on, around and off your page or site.  Don’t dangle distracting, secondary links that don’t serve the page goal in front of them.  You’re attracting them to that page for a single reason – make it as quick, simple and pleasant for them as you possibly can.

The Links!  The Links!

zoho projects top
Zoho Products circa June 2017

Product: Zoho Projects
Page Goal: “Sign up for free” (to Zoho Projects)

What It Gets Right

  1. Prominent sign-up form
  2. Has a lot of good marketing elements on page (e.g. social proof)

What It Gets Wrong

  1. Distracting app download links
  2. Distracting feature links
  3. Marketing elements are positioned too far down the page

So, this is a landing page from a Google Ad, which is actually a product page on the Zoho web-site.  While not ideal, it’s understandable why you’d do this (side note: in a perfect world, build a targeted landing page that doesn’t have all the extra guff).

The page goal appears simple: get people to “sign up for free” to Zoho Projects.  In other words, fill out that inquiry form hovering to the right at the top of the page.

The form is prominent, so that’s a great start. There is a “Watch this Video” link just to the left of the form, but it doesn’t take you away from the page (and potentially cost you the conversion).  So no problems with that.

But but but but – if you scroll down the page just a little bit, they have app download buttons!  <Darth Vader tone>Nooooooooooooo!*</end Darth Vader tone>

OK, deep breath, stay calm.  They open in new tabs so the visitor isn’t going to lose the landing page.  But they do have an extra page open now, so are more likely to be distracted.  It’s great those apps are available, it gives people who use the product plenty of options.  It’s not great if we want people signing up, though – after all, that’s what this page is built for.  Showing them the product has options like that is something we can communicate another way, or after getting the sign-up.

Oh, that screenshot between the hero section (top of the page) and the app download links is also clickable – and takes you away from the main product page.  Great, features!  That reminds me about that feature wall in the living room I was supposed to paint last week – now, where was I?

And for the die-hard scrollers who’ve managed to resist the siren’s call of the screenshot and app download links, the coup de grace: a bevy of even more feature links to drag all but the most dedicated off this page.

The page feels designed to ensure as few people as possible get far enough down to view some pretty important components of the page.

Like the fantastic assembly of businesses using the software (i.e. social proof).

Or the explanation of what Zoho Projects is (which seems odd coming so far down the page).

Or the glowing testimonial.

When it comes down to it, this isn’t a bad page.  It’s simply pulling extra shifts.  The landing page aspect is the part-time, moonlighting gig compared to the 9-to-5 work of being a product page.  

But when you’re paying for those oh-so-precious (and oh-so-expensive) ad clicks, you’ve got make the most of each.  And a tight, dedicated focus towards your page goal is the best way to do that.

If that means a separate page rather than having your product page be a “page-of-all-trades”, it’s a cost certainly worth bearing.

That’s Not a Landing Page – THIS is a Landing Page

saas for dummies
Oracle SaaS circa June 2017

Product: Oracle SaaS
Page Goal: Sign up to (and get free e-book)

What It Gets Right

  1. Ultra-targeted, ultra-focused page
  2. Simple UI practically screams at the visitor what to do
  3. Gives a demo of the product offering

What It Gets Wrong

  1. Quirk of widget over text might be momentarily distracting

Here is another landing page fresh from a Google Ad.  And it’s an almost perfect illustration of a landing page with a single, laser-guided goal.

Don’t be put off by the simplicity of the page – it’s completely fixated on giving users one offering and getting that email (presumably to start those prospects down a sales funnel).  Sure, there are a few links in the footer, but the the page itself is link free.  Well, except for the “Download E-Book” – exactly where they want you to go.

As a bonus point, it’s also a fantastic example of a core principle of copywriting: demonstration.  Readers get to peruse what they’re going to get before they commit to signing up.

There really isn’t much more to say about this page, other than “mission accomplished” (yes, you get to say that if your page really does serve the page goal).

So if you’re spending cold, hard cash to get visitors to your site only to find them wandering off once they arrive, take the time to examine^ the page you’re sending visitors to.  

Ask yourself 3 things:

  1. Is it obvious (REALLY obvious) what I want them to do on the page – is my page goal loud and clear not just to me, but to everyone?
  2. Is my call-to-action – the button, text or form I want visitors to interact with to fulfil the page goal – completely, utterly and unavoidably obvious?
  3. Are all distractions (especially those secondary links) kept to the barest minimum, or even better: is everything on the page working towards that page goal?

Don’t let your visitors come and go without a shot being fired.  If they leave, they should leave under your terms – knowing exactly what your page was designed to do  and what it was offering them.  

Get that right, and you’ll give your landing page a fighting chance to convince visitors to make that click or fill in that form.

It’s that utterly obvious.

* This is an example of a distracting link… I know, you want to keep clicking that big, blue button

^ After all, the unexamined page is not worth visiting.