Updated August 2022
You can learn a lot from a company’s landing pages.
It’s one of the best measurements of how well their marketing is run, especially how effective their PPC landing pages are.
First of all: Do they have any landing pages at all? According to HubSpot, businesses with 31 to 40 landing pages generate seven times more leads than businesses with five or fewer landing pages.
Still, you only have to click a few online ads to find companies sending traffic to a generic page. You can see this all-too-common mistake on social media, in search ads, and even in emails.
Many marketers still don’t use landing pages. Instead, they send expensive traffic to a confusing page with 24 options for their visitors to pick from and then wonder why their conversion rate is so low.
Hopefully, you’re already using landing pages. But every company can benefit from optimizing its landing pages, especially considering how much money and resources are invested in driving traffic to those pages.
To improve your ROI, you’ll need to understand how to optimize your landing pages.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Get Clear On Landing Page Goals
Without the right goal, even the best planning and execution won’t bring in results.
Hopefully, if you’re reading this, you already know what you want to optimize for. If not, make a list. Depending on your business, your landing page goal might include:
- Drive purchases
- Increase newsletter subscribers
- Download gated content
- Build brand awareness
- Increase demo sign-ups
- Sign up for a free trial
Unsurprisingly, most marketers want to increase conversion rates. And that’s smart. But a lot of marketers aren’t optimizing their landing pages for more conversions.
Perhaps instead they want to increase visitor traffic (half of all marketers do). Or maybe they just want leads that convert into customers more quickly, thus shortening the sales cycle. Or they want less expensive sales-qualified leads (SQLs).
Whichever KPI you’re after, make sure it’s tied to a business goal. Otherwise, you’ll end up with beautifully optimized pages that don’t earn meaningful results.
2. Optimizing Landing Pages Might Reduce Sales — At First
This principle is particularly slanted towards testing, but it can apply to any optimization change.
Not everything you do is going to work.
Not every change improves results. In fact, when split testing or A/B testing your landing pages, most of your tests will not perform as well as your control.
This rarely gets talked about, but it’s the first thing you’ll notice when you start optimizing your landing pages.
Testing requires a backbone in this regard. When I had one of the biggest wins of my career with landing page testing, we were actually on the fifth test of a particular page. I had to plead with the owner just to get them to test the page in the first place. They were sending $12,000 a day of Google Ads traffic to this page, and they had never ever tested it.
By test five, I was starting to get not-so-subtle messages from the owner that he was tired of my fancy ideas about landing pages.
But I persisted. I bet on one last test. A super-simple button copy test. A test of changing three words on the button – the call to action.
By the next week, one version of the new button copy had doubled the conversion rate. One little test – set up in two hours, changing just three words – saved the client over $1 million in ad spend per year!
But we lost about $25,000 worth of sales in the process of finding those magic three words.
So know this: Landing page optimization will cost you some business before you see even a 10-30 percent lift. But if you can keep the powers-that-be at bay and hold steady, you can absolutely increase conversion rates by 30-50 percent over time (like over 3-6 months.)
You can only do that if your boss doesn’t freak out because they got 20 percent fewer sales last week because you ran a test that didn’t beat the control.
There is one way to address this problem: If your landing page has enough traffic, you don’t have to send 50 percent of your traffic to version A and version B. A sophisticated split-test tool will let you direct, say, 10 percent of your traffic to your test page. This lets you test while minimizing the damage if the new page is a dog. But it may also extend how long the test has to run.
If you have enough traffic to do multivariate testing (where you test multiple variables – the headline, the CTA, the image, the bullets, the offer all at once), you can often find that magic variable faster. But be ready for a dip in conversions until the test is done.
This is optimization, after all. Not magic.
3. Early Results Do Not Equal Final Results
Landing page optimization tests are kind of like horse races.
Early on, you may see one version look really hot. Your boss may be thrilled. That same variation may be going strong when you check in the next day. Your boss, always hoping to move things along, may start bugging you about ending the test early–especially if you hit day 3 and still have an outsized winner.
Don’t do it.
Don’t give in to testing impatience. It’s all too common for a particular variation to look really good early on. But over time, they often fall away.
This is particularly disappointing when one variation looks like an early, strong winner. It is really tempting to just call it a win and run through the office proclaiming the good news.
Again, don’t do it. Because every test – every single test – must run for at least a full week. No matter how awesome one version appears to be performing early on.
You may have to fight to keep your test running. So be it. Come to think of it, most conversion rate optimizers actually are kinda scrappy. They need the backbone to make sure all their tests are statistically valid.
Ending a test early means you’re not a doing statistically valid test.
And that means you could be picking a version that will reduce your conversion rate.
Bonus tip: Don’t run tests in weird weeks, either. It will throw off your results. “Weird weeks” are any major holiday, slow period, or during a massive, remember-for-a-generation type of news event.
4. Keep Your Messaging Consistent
Do your landing pages match the messages that brought them to the page? In other words, do they see the same phrase on a landing page they saw in the ad? Do they see the same message on the landing page as they saw in the email?
It’s critical to keep your messaging consistent throughout the process. Otherwise, your visitors can feel disoriented. Or worse – they’ll think they’re on a page that doesn’t match what they want and they bounce.
Here’s an example of a Google Ads ad and a landing page that doesn’t use the same core phrase.
When someone is zooming through pages, scanning to find exactly what they want (and filter out the rest), the inconsistent messaging here could make them think this landing page isn’t what they want.
And here’s the landing page for the second ad:
Another spin on this principle is to test different ads or emails before people get to the landing page. A different email may change the conversion rate of your landing page. A different ad might, too.
5. Think About The End of Your Sales Funnel – Not Just The Beginning
“What? Aren’t we doing this to get more conversions?”
Sure, you can just aim for more conversions. But it might not work out the way you expect.
As you may already know (especially if you’re in sales), not all leads are created equal. It is possible to double the conversions for a landing page but to end up with less business.
We talked about optimizing for KPIs besides conversions at the beginning, but let’s take it a step further here: make sure any landing page optimizations you do aren’t hurting more durable, meaningful metrics like lifetime value.
Sometimes, the page that gets barely a five percent conversion rate ends up being the golden gateway to your highest value clients. You wouldn’t want to “fix” the landing page to get 30 percent conversions up front, only to end up with low-value, one-time clients, right?
6. You Can Increase Conversions Without Touching the Landing Page
Case in point: A landing page for an old client of mine – a family practice law firm – was getting a 5 percent conversion rate. The traffic coming to the landing page was from a Google Ads campaign targeting the broad match keyword, “New Mexico adoption.”
After some poking around in the account, I discovered the person who set up the account never added any negative keywords. So the ad and the landing page were getting clicks from people searching for phrases like “New Mexico dog adoption”.
After the negative keyword problem was fixed, the conversion rate for the landing page tripled.
Lesson learned: Traffic matters for landing pages. A LOT. In fact, one of the favorite tests of CRO professionals is to send two different traffic sources to two identical landing pages.
For example, page A gets social media traffic. Page B gets Google Ads traffic. Or one of my favorites: Page A gets mobile traffic, and page B gets desktop traffic.
It can be an educational exercise. A profitable one, too.
7. Don’t Test More Than One Thing At A Time
This is one of the most frustrating parts of optimization, but it’s a rule you must follow: Don’t run two tests simultaneously.
Why? Because if you’ve got two tests going at once and your results change, how will you know which test caused the change?
Honestly, this is a rule people break routinely. And it mucks up all sorts of testing and optimization work. Almost no marketer I’ve met is willing to test only their landing pages simultaneously. That would mean no ad copy testing while a landing page test is running. And no testing of emails. And no testing of lead nurturing follow-ups, and no… you get the idea.
So don’t expect to be perfect on this point. But at least try to minimize the damage.
8. Speed = Conversions
Want one step that almost guarantees improvement?
Cut the load time in half.
Seriously. People bail on content that takes too long to load.
The easiest way to do this? Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to see what is holding you back. Check out your landing page tool features (if you’re using one); they may have features to speed up your page.
One final tip: just having your pages zip to load isn’t enough. Those forms have to work, too. Or you’ll lose just as many visitors as you would if the page was slow.
9. Most Test Won’t Blow The Doors Off
If you read marketing sites a lot, you might be forgiven for thinking landing page tests result in massive improvements. Like going from a 2 percent to a 27 percent conversion rate, for example.
Unfortunately, that’s just not true. If you start a brand new landing page optimization program and don’t get a couple of big wins right away, some people may start to question your work. They’ll wonder if testing and optimization don’t work or maybe you don’t know how to do it correctly.
Just keep calm and test on. If you follow good optimization practices, your rewards will come. Expect at least a 20 percent improvement in conversion rates within three months.
10. Focus on Visitor Intent and Your Value Proposition
Often, copywriters are the people tasked with defining a value proposition, which is a mistake. Value propositions are a mindset – they’re what your company offers people. They are the benefits of what you offer, not the features.
You need to align what your customer wants from their click with what you offer on the page. If you can get those two things to intersect – the visitor’s intent and what you’re offering – your conversion rates will soar. Marketers often understand these concepts better than a copywriter, so make sure to get clear on this before you have copy written.
Take a look at the 66 percent increase in event registrations The Global Leadership Summit got by applying this tactic.
They did it simply by zeroing in on the value proposition of their landing page and changing it from what marketers thought it was to what market research told them it was.
Final Thoughts on How to Optimize Landing Pages
Whew – that’s a lot to know about landing pages! But don’t let all the information get you down.
Instead, 80/20 it.
In other words, look for optimization strategies likely to earn the highest return for the least amount of work.
The best area to focus on will depend on where your landing pages are. Maybe you’ve already made sure every landing page is mobile-friendly and easy to use. Maybe you know every last page loads in a blazing two seconds or less. Then it might be time for some split-testing.
Or maybe you’re like the one out of three marketers who doesn’t necessarily want more conversions. You want better conversions – leads that close faster and bring in more business.
So once again, before you get too specific about your marketing to-do list, remember your business goals. Every piece of content you have – including landing pages – should be designed and managed to optimize those priorities.
Otherwise, you run the most risk of optimizing for the wrong things. And that’s no good.
Need help with your ad landing pages? Reach out to the KoMarketing team today!