Landing Pages and Ad Performance

Alex Raymond
Published on August 15, 2019
Landing pages have become a best practice for optimizing user experience (and conversion) when a visitor arrives at your digital experience after clicking on an ad, an email, or even a post on social media. Often, landing pages or landers are the first interaction a visitor has with your  brand as a whole. It goes without saying that these experiences can make or break individual campaigns depending how they are executed. Over the years, we have spent countless hours performing direct A/B tests aimed at squeezing the most out of a wide variety of landers.  While each experience is unique, we have identified several broader concepts that improve conversion rates in most instances.  While they are no cure-all, these concepts should go a long way in setting a lander up for success.
Before we dive in, let’s make sure we are all on the same page and go over what a landing page actually is.  Literally, a landing page or “lander” is simply a page that a user can enter your digital experience via an external link. In this sense, any page technically has the capability of being a landing page, so long as there is a way for a visitor to find their way to that page from an outside source. More colloquially however, a landing page nowadays refers specifically to a type of page that aligns content presented in ads, email campaigns, and search queries with an on-site experience. Often, landers are the first interaction a visitor has with your  brand as a whole.  It goes without saying that these experiences can make or break individual campaigns depending how they are executed. While they are no cure-all, the following concepts should go a long way in setting a lander up for success.
At first pass, a lander may seem like any other page on the site; the branding is probably present, the UX is likely similar, the layout may even share similarities with the main website.  Good landers, however, have one thing other pages do not: extreme focus.  Unlike main site pages, that may have to account for any number of ways in which a visitor might want to use them, landers have a singular purpose: do the thing you are here to do.  This, of course, can vary greatly.  Some landers are looking to introduce you to the brand with a video, some helpful information, or even just content that evokes an emotion.  Some are more conversion focused, offering a document or a chat with a sales person.  Whatever the case, good landers align their focus to the intention of the page and go all in, leaving the user with no question as to why they are there.
By now you are probably thinking “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man” and you’re right, it is.  That being said, we have run countless experiments for our clients aimed at determining different ways in which landers can be manipulated to produce their maximum yield.  Many of these experiments were our hypotheses and, trust me, we thought they were good ones.  Though the actual impact each experiment varied one thing remained very clear, the landers that remained the most focused performed the best.  Very rarely did adding something to a design that was tangential to the primary focus of the page produce an improvement.  The addition may have gotten some engagement but these gains almost always came at the cost of a reduction in engagements elsewhere.  Nothing was being improved, simply redistributed.
This might seem like an easy concept to grasp. Give visitors what they came for, no frills, no rambling.  Yet, some of the most common mistakes present on landers stem from the fact that in many cases, focus means simplicity and people are uncomfortable with that.  If you are offering a single asset, a whitepaper for example, focus your lander solely on that paper.  Remove or significantly cut the nav and footer, get rid of or significantly de-emphasize other CTAs, and get rid of as many links as you can.  It may seem nitpicky but I have seen things this small produce big impacts many times.  Some of the top ‘offenders’ of things that break focus are the following:
  • The lander unnecessarily contains a nav bar
  • The lander has too many offers
  • The content on the lander is not aligned with the source a person came from
  • The lander has an ambiguous next step
Now that you know what a non-optimal lander looks like let’s take a look at the characteristics a good one has.

Value of Product or Service Clearly Expressed

Talking endlessly about features, pricing, or competitors rarely expresses how capable your organization is in solving the problem a user is trying to solve.  The exact content of a landing page may change based on specifically why a user came to the site (general field research vs decision making research) but the main theme should remain why your product or service can meet a user’s needs and solve the problem they are researching to solve.

Offer Matches Expectations

Align what a user expects to see when they arrive with what is actually there.  If they come from an ad that informs them they will be getting a whitepaper, make sure the whitepaper is the main focus of the page.  If the ad is higher level and offering knowledge about a problem a user may have, make sure their question is actually being answered.  It is equally important here that ad content sets expectations.  If the visitor doesn’t have an expectation (or you do not know what that expectation is) when they click your ad how can you hope to have an effective lander?

Limited Distractions

This was touched on in the previous section but it bears repeating.  A lander should not be aiming to account for every “what if” scenario.  That is essentially planning for failure.  A visitor arrived on the page for a reason. The page should be structured in a way that makes it as easy as possible for the visitor to do what they came here to do.  This does not necessarily mean a bare page with only the 1 thing they were promised, but it does mean avoiding multiple, equally important looking CTAs above the fold all competing with each other.  In general, if a secondary element on the page is as easy to interact with as the main reason a visitor came to the page efforts should be made to either emphasize the main element or de-emphasize these ancillary elements.
Getting a lander just right can be a tricky thing. Even while following the best practices listed above you may find the conversion rate of your landers to be lackluster.  And while there is no silver bullet, finding the best formulation of practices that works for you is achievable by anyone if they are willing to test ideas.  Make different versions of a lander and compare them to one another, adjust offers and individual elements on the page, remove elements to see what is really necessary.  There really is no wrong test to run because each one will give you more data to work with and bring you closer to understanding what works best for you.  
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