The Anatomy of a Killer Landing Page
By Pam Neely
Ever designed a landing page from scratch? It can be a scary undertaking. There you are, alone against the blank white page. Where do you start? What should you include? What should you not include?
It doesn’t have to be so daunting. Even if you decide to forego a landing page template (which can reduce some of that blank page anxiety), there are some common elements almost every landing page has. We’ve rounded them up here.
So have no fear the next time you stare down an empty landing page. Just keep this post by your side. It’s got all the elements you need for a world-class landing page.
1. The USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
This first one is tricky. There may be no one specific element on the page that 100% embodies your unique selling proposition (except sometimes the headline). The USP is more of a mindset, a worldview, a raison d’etre. But one thing is for sure: A strong USP is an essential ingredient of any successful landing page.
So what is it? The USP is a short, specific statement that explains why your company/product/offer is unique and why your audience will like it.
USPs can be tough to write. They take some thought. But once you’ve nailed yours, you’re a long way towards having the landing page you want.
According to copywriter Joanna Wiebe, a successful USP has to hit five key points. They are (in her words):
- It states what’s unique or different about you
- The thing that’s unique or different is DESIRABLE to your prospect
- It is specific, not a watered-down summary
- It is succinct (again, without losing specifics – yikes, right?!)
- It is more likely to be remembered than forgotten
Here’s an example of a great USP from Harry’s. The USP shows through in both the headline and the subheader.
Here’s another strong USP from Apple. They’ve managed to trim their message down to three words here. Even the copy reflects a dedication to minimalism.
Some of you may be thinking, “That kinda sounds like a branding statement.” You’re right. Your USP fits somewhere between your brand and your headline. It is a squishy type of element to include in this list, but without a strong USP, your landing page is at a disadvantage from the start.
Still murky on the USP? Check out Convince and Convert’s article, 5 Ways to Develop a Unique Selling Proposition or Fizzle’s ebook, 20 Examples of Killer Unique Selling Propositions.
2. The headline.
Okay, everybody knows how important headlines are to landing pages. They’re so essential that if you had to, you could probably distil a landing page down to a headline and a call to action. Both of those would have to do double-duty to embody the USP as well. But you could do it.
Headlines for landing pages are similar to headlines for blog posts, but they don’t have the SEO requirements that blog titles are bound to. There are other differences, too – headlines for landing pages are often emotion-driven, and might not make sense on their own, the way a blog post title has to.
Those differences are problematic because there are several good tools that can give you a decent idea of how well a headline for a blog post might perform. I don’t know of any similar tools for landing pages. If you do, please tell us about them in the comments.
So without a plug-and-play tool to work with, what have we got? Well, there are some well-tested headline formulas for landing pages. Here are a few of them:
- Who Else Wants [blank]? – As in “Who Else Wants to Have a Push-Button Business?” This is probably the oldest headline formula. Yet it continues to work… at least sometimes.
- What [Experience, Celebrity, Object] Can Teach You About [Your Topic]
We published a bunch of headline formats like this not too long ago. They were intended for blog posts, but more of them could be used for landing page headlines, too.
However, you might not want to use them. Peep Laja, a conversion expert, isn’t impressed with those type of shake and bake headlines. He doesn’t recommend them. He does have some guidelines for headlines, though:
Want to know more? Check out the GetResponse Landing Page Optimization Guide. It’s where Peep’s headline tips came from.
3. The subheader (sometimes).
Subheaders and body copy often get merged. Here’s an example of a very minimalistic landing page with almost no copy. It’s so short, the subheader (aka “subtitle”) serves as the body copy:
4. Body copy.
Here’s an example with a subheader right above the call to action (that big green button). The body copy is below – it’s the three short paragraphs below the images. This type of 3-column layout does very well for some companies. If there are three key aspects or benefits of your product, it might be worth a try.
Speaking of benefits…
Benefits can appear a couple of different ways on a landing page:
- Sometimes they’re listed as bullet points.
- Sometimes they’re shown as images (like a photo of the rich guy with the fancy car)
- Sometimes they’re more invisible, absorbed into the headline, subheader or the USP itself. For instance, Apple’s “Bigger than bigger” is about benefits.
When marketing people talk about benefits, they’re almost always contrasting them against the twin sister of benefits: features.
It’s important to understand the difference between a benefit and a feature. Benefits are what people can expect to get as a result of using your product. Things like more free time, the approval of your peers, or a freer lifestyle are all benefits.
Features are more concrete. They’re more focused on the product itself. Things like what the product is made of, what operating system it runs on, and how much it weighs are all features.
Newbie copywriters often want to write about features. They’re trying to sell all the cool stuff about the product to their audience. Pros write about benefits. Pros know people don’t care so much about the features – people want to know what’s in it for them. People are focused on how cool something will make them look, or how they won’t have to worry about some thorny problem if they buy your product.
Features are about the product. Benefits are about what the buyer really wants.
6. Images (and maybe a video).
There are landing pages that don’t use images. Many of them are very successful. But images often help a lot. And I’m sure you’ve heard about how videos can help even more – for awhile there were plenty of reports about videos doubling or even tripling conversion rates on landing pages.
That said, video might not work every time. Even an image might not work every time. But they usually help.
If you have only one image on your landing page, make it a “hero shot”. That’s the insider term for a photograph of your product. You might do even better if you can get a photo of someone using your product. And you might do even better still if the person in the photo looks like your audience. Why? Because the goal is to give people a visualization of what it will be like when they own or use your product. If you can get them to envision that, your chances of closing the deal go up.
If you’re an SAAS company or any kind of online service, consider making your hero shot an image of a computer, with your product or service shown on the screen. This helps people understand what you do and it gives you a nice image to work with.
7. A call to action.
Don’t dismiss this because it’s lower on the list. There is nothing more important than the call to action on a landing page. If you could have only one element on your landing page, make it the call to action.
Call to actions (like USPs, headlines and landing pages in general) are both an art and a science. There are best practices for them. There are also thousands of cases studies pointing to how one attribute or another works best. That’s all valuable information, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that applying those best practices will assure success. If it did, we’d all be using the same landing page by now.
The only way to know which call to action is best for your landing page (and for the particular audience you’re sending to that landing page) is to test it. But here are a few tips so that you’re at least testing two strong alternatives:
- Use a contrasting color for the call to action. You want people’s eyes to be drawn to it.
- Have the call to action reflect what the headline is about.
- Never use “Submit” on a call to action button. Though you could try “Get Started”.
- Use “My” instead of “Your”. As in “Get Your Free Report” rather than “Get My Free Report”. In the example below, from ContentVerve’s ebook, 7 Universal Conversion Optimization Principles, one company saw a 90% increase in click-through rate simply by using “my” instead of “your” in the call to action.
8. An opt-in form (sometimes).
Some landing pages want you to do nothing more than click on a button to continue. Others want more information. Much more.
This particular landing page wants quite a lot of information if you want to continue – maybe too much. But if they can get people to complete the form, their visitors won’t have just downloaded an ebook… they’ll have created an account and be well on their way to becoming paying customers.
Here’s an example of a much shorter form that’s more likely to get completed:
Notice the call to action here, too. It’s very specific. Also note the award icon in the upper right-hand corner, and the logos of the companies who use Wrike in the bottom part of the page. Those are examples of the next thing to talk about.
9. “Trust elements”, including testimonials or social proof.
These are the quality seals you see on some pages. Or the testimonials from past clients. Or just how many times a page has been tweeted about or shared on Facebook.
Trust elements are optional for landing pages, but they sure can help a lot. Here’s an A/B split-test from Visual Website Optimizer where an ecommerce site saw a 72% lift in conversions just by testing different trust symbols.
10. Magic pixie dust.
Alas, there is always some element of magic to a truly killer landing page. Maybe it’s a USP combined with a hero shot that’s so spot on it compels your visitors to act. Maybe it’s something else that isn’t even listed here. But all of the world’s greatest landing pages have something special going on. Their whole is greater than the sum of their parts.
This is why there is no perfect formula for a landing page. What works for one company, product or audience won’t work for another. It’s also why we test – because you never know which combination of elements will result in the killer landing page. Only the people who interact with your page can tell you.
Other attributes of a killer landing page
These aren’t elements per say, but they’re so important I couldn’t leave them out. Make sure your landing pages apply all of these best practices. Skipping even one of them could cost you a lot of conversions.
- It’s responsive (aka it’s mobile friendly). This one’s so important, we’ve got an entire ebook about it. Click here to get The Responsive Landing Page Design Guide.
- It loads fast (really fast).
- It’s scannable.
- It focused your visitors’ attention.
- It is not cluttered
- It does not have navigation links on it
- It resonates with the visitor – it gives them a vision, a motivation to act
- It keeps the “scent” of the page or ad the visitor came from. This is a mistake way too many people make. Whether you’re sending people to a landing page from an email message, or from a display ad, or from anywhere – make sure the landing page mirrors and expands on that email, display ad or prior page.
Conversion specialists call this “keeping the scent” from one step of the sales funnel to the next. It’s extremely important. Even a “perfect” landing page will fail if it’s a disconnect from where people just came from.
This is a good example of a landing page that “keeps the scent” of the display ad that preceded it. Image is from the GetResponse Landing Page Optimization Guide by Peep Laja.
To recap, here are the ten most common elements of a landing page:
- The Unique Selling Proposition – What makes your product or service special… and desirable.
- The headline – Should reflect the USP, and may actually be the USP.
- The subheader (optional)
- The body copy – Also optional. Especially on minimalistic landing pages.
- Benefits – Not optional, but may be already present in the USP, the headline, and other elements on the page.
- Images – Optional – many landing pages don’t use an image.
- A call to action – As essential as it gets. If you could have only one thing, you’d have a call to action.
- An opt-in form – Essential for lead generation. Less essential for other types of landing pages.
- Trust elements – Optional. Most studies show they help, but not all the time.
- Pixie dust – Because the whole is way more than the sum of the parts.
What do you think? Did I miss anything? Got any opinions about what should or shouldn’t be on a landing page? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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