This is the third article in an eight-part series which describes the role of a digital media strategist in improving the website operations of a company or organization.
A landing page is a specific page on your website designed to be the place where a website visitor “lands” after clicking on a link on an external website (a banner ad or pay-per-click advertisement, for example) or typing in a web page address they have learned of elsewhere. The goal of a landing page is to persuade a visitor to perform a certain action (make a purchase, fill out a form, request further information, etc.).
It is vitally important to develop landing pages which provide continuity between the messaging which leads the visitor to the website (the messaging contained in your promotional vehicle) and the call to action the visitor encounters when arriving at the website. For example, if one of your objectives is to sell romantic comedies from your online DVD store, you might send a promotional email blast to your mailing list which advertises a sale price on the newest date movie on DVD. But if clicking on the image of the romantic comedy DVD in the email blast brings people to the home page of your website (which features a variety of movie genres — comedies, dramas, documentaries, science fiction, etc. — and which doesn’t mention the sale), the person who clicked on the offer in your email blast will be confused. There won’t be continuity between the message contained in the promotional email blast and the message reflected on the landing page (in this case, the home page). Instead, the offer in the promotional email blast of a discounted price on the newest date movie on DVD should lead the person who clicks on the offer to a landing page which: 1) presents only the DVD which is on sale; and, 2) which has only one goal — to persuade the visitor to purchase the DVD.
In addition to evaluating the continuity between your promotional vehicle (email blast, pay-per-click advertisement, etc.) and its corresponding landing page, your internet strategist will evaluate three important aspects of your landing page:
- its initial appearance;
- its copy; and,
- its usability.
Landing Page Appearance
The typical visitor to a website, in his/her initial visit, will only wait a few seconds before deciding whether to stay or move on. Therefore, the initial appearance of your landing page is very important. These elements will encourage visitors to your landing page to stay long enough to consider your copy and hopefully take action, so these are some of the elements of your landing page which an internet strategist will evaluate:
- a professional design and layout;
- a way of identifying your company or organization (typically through inclusion of a logo in the upper left-hand corner of the page) — this helps create continuity between your promotional vehicle and the landing page; and,
- a large “hero shot” photo of the product you are selling, an illustration depicting the service you are offering, or an image which otherwise conveys the benefit your visitor will gain by performing the action which is the goal of your landing page (like all other elements on your landing page, the image should provide continuity between your promotional vehicle and your landing page, ideally by being an image which also appeared within your promotional vehicle).
Ideally, all of these elements will appear “above the fold” (vertically within the initial screen so that the user is not required to scroll down to view these important initial elements).
Landing Page Copy
Your digital media strategist will evaluate the effectiveness of the words on your landing page. He will use a variety of criteria:
- Correct spelling and grammar are obvious, but should not be overlooked.
- Every word of copy on your landing page should be focused on persuading your website visitor to respond to the offer which reflects the one goal of your landing page. No matter how important or interesting you think other parts of your site are, the copy on your landing page should ultimately only pertain to one goal — the action you want your visitor to take.
- The copy on your landing page should be simple and straightforward (as opposed to flowery). It should primarily employ the second person (“you” and “your” rather than “we” and “our”). It should focus on the benefits your visitor will receive by completing the action you want him to execute. And your copy should specifically ask the visitor to take your desired action.
- The headline on your landing page should repeat the headline in your promotional vehicle, word-for-word if at all possible (at the very least, the specific messaging should be the same). This provides continuity between your promotional vehicle and your landing page and lets your visitor know they are in the right place.
- Your first paragraph should provide a summary of your offer and the benefits your visitor will receive if they make a purchase or otherwise respond to your call to action, and if at all possible, this summary paragraph should appear in its entirety “above the fold” at the most common screen resolutions employed by your visitors. Studies have shown that most readers are able to effectively comprehend the first 300 words of a body of text. So including a summary of your offer and its benefits in the first 300 words of your copy ensures that the largest number of visitors will comprehend your offer. This is not to say that your copy should never be longer than 300 words because both short and long copy have been shown to be effective in persuading visitors to take action. But if you do employ long copy, simply remember to include the essence of your offer within the first 300 words of that long copy.
- If long copy is used, the copywriter should employ various aids to help visitors, the majority of whom will be scanning rather than reading word-for-word:
- major points should be highlighted through the use of subheaders, bold text, pull quotes, etc.
- the most important aspects of each paragraph should be included near the beginning of the paragraph
- paragraphs should be kept short
Landing Page Usability
Your digital media strategist will evaluate the usability of your landing pages. In performing this evaluation, she will use the following criteria:
- Standard navigation on your landing page should be minimized so that your visitor is not distracted from the action you desire her to take. In most cases, if your visitor leaves your landing page, they will not return to it and you will have potentially lost a conversion (the completion of your desired action by your visitor). So your landing page should minimize the navigational opportunities for your visitor to leave the page.
- The steps necessary to complete your desired action should also be minimized. Each additional step in the process represents another opportunity for your visitor to abandon the process and navigate away from your landing page and/or your website. So tighten up the process as much as possible.
- Any forms included on your landing page (shopping cart, newsletter signup form, etc.) should work and be intuitive for the visitor.
- Forms should ask for all information necessary to complete the desired action and no more. For example, if your desired action is the purchase of a product and you can collect all of the necessary information on the landing page itself (which would probably require either one flat-rate shipping fee or the use of Ajax technology to present variable shipping costs on the same page where you collect address information), you will have minimized the chance that your visitor will abandon the landing page without completing his purchase.
Obviously, much more goes into the development and effective use of a landing page than what I have covered in this article. But my purpose has been to simply describe some of the most basic criteria a digital media strategist will use to evaluate your landing pages.
In the next installment in this eight-part series, we will discover that a digital media strategist will assess the overall design of your website and propose revisions where appropriate.