Tests are the backbone of landing page optimization — after all, if you don’t test, you won’t know how to further refine your pages so that they continue to convert well.
Lets create some testing hypotheses to get started.
Rather than testing based on your “gut instinct”, you’ll ideally want to test based on what your website data is showing you. For example, if you use eye-tracking heat maps and you see that a great deal of visitors are leaving the page before they get to your lead generation form further down, it’s a good idea to test moving that form above the fold to see if it increases engagement.
Other tests might include changing the call-to-action, the headline on the form or even what the form is offering in exchange for a name and email address.
It’s Not All About Conversions
Many conversion rate optimization professionals will talk solely about increasing conversion rates, and we’ve talked about it considerably in this guide — but that shouldn’t be your only focus. What you truly want are more sales — either greater revenue per purchase or a higher order volume — and those are the kinds of conversions you’ll want to look at boosting. Remember, click-throughs and subscriptions can only take you so far.
Now, before we jump into the tests themselves, there are a few instances that you should know of where testing will actually hurt your marketing efforts before you’re even out of the gate. The first is, understandably, if your site is still under construction or your web host has a planned outage. If only a few people can get through successfully, it will skew your testing data and give you an incorrect result.
A second issue is if you’ve just launched your site and you’re still trying to get traffic:
If you’re not even getting a successful 10 conversion goals a day, it’s best to wait until you have more traffic before going ahead.
That’s because landing page optimization and the conversion optimization that comes with it are all about statistics and probability. Not having the sheer numbers needed to be able to make an informed decision will just cut all your efforts short. If your analytics graph looks like this, work on traffic first, optimization second.
Finally, there’s the rare case of seasonal traffic skewing results: Here’s an Alexa ranking showing 1800Flowers and their relative traffic around Mother’s Day (May, in the U.S).
In the days leading up to and even after Mother’s day, you have some very different segments of users coming to the site. Before the big day, you have the planners — the people who want to ensure their gift is affordable and nicely package. Right up to and following the holiday, you have the last-minute shoppers who are rushing around to find a good gift for mom before the deadline. They don’t care (as much about) how neatly the product is arranged or how much it costs – they just want it to get there on time.
So as you might imagine, you’ve got two different subsets of shoppers placing an emphasis on two very different features at two different times. This wouldn’t be the time to try a hot new marketing tactic or make tweaks to the site — it’s the biggest shopping season of the year for your business, and your customers need to know that they can count on you and not be surprised by sudden changes.
With those things being said though, if your site doesn’t match any of these issues, it’s a safe bet that you can start optimizing your landing pages right away and see noticeable improvements in a relatively short amount of time. Let’s start by taking a look at the first step — determining which pages to test.
Selecting the Right Page to Test
The first area to analyze is the page itself. To find poorly converting pages, you’ll want to note things such as the bounce rate or the conversion rate (from the conversion goals we set earlier).
To find your bounce rate in Google analytics, go to Content > Site Content > Landing Pages — then click on Comparison View from the icons at the top. Finally, choose Bounce Rate (compared to site average) from the drop down menu:
An example of bounce rates in Google Analytics
Now, keep in mind that a high bounce rate isn’t always a bad thing. If you have a user manual on your site that deals with troubleshooting or instructions, for example, a user may find exactly what they need, print it out and leave the page. But if you have a call-to-action and aren’t getting many people past that click — it’s time to take a serious look at the bounce rate.
Beyond the bounce rate, you can also consider points from analytics including:
- Average Visit Duration (how long are people staying on the page?)
- % New Visits (how many people are brand new visitors?)
Avoid the HiPPOs
One surprising reason behind a lack of proper landing page optimization (which usually manifests itself at this point) is the HiPPO — or the Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Maybe your marketing manager or VP is reluctant to run tests because they don’t want to alienate visitors by showing them a remarkably different version of a specific page, for example.
Fortunately, you can overcome this objection and get everyone on board if you limit the sample size of the landing page optimization tests you’re running. Most split-testing software will let you serve your optimized pages to X number of visitors — so making sure you have a proper sample size to split test between is important. Plus, this way, it will also relieve some of the anxiety your team’s HiPPOs are feeling about new marketing initiatives.
So once you’ve discovered the poorer performers from among your pages, it’s time to put them in for an overhaul.
Selecting the Right Area of the Page to Test
This can be tricky, since you’re likely feeling eager to test the whole page at one time. But too many changes, too soon, will give you mixed results without ever giving you any definitive answer on what really worked.
With this in mind, the most common areas of a landing page to test include:
Your headline is going to have to do the heavy lifting when someone first comes to your landing page. A weak, uninspiring or bland headline will never convince users to give the page another second of their attention.
The Body Text
This is the “meat and potatoes” of the landing page. Short, simple and to-the-point. You don’t need to elaborate on your business backstory or all the things your business does. Remember, these people are looking for a solution or an answer — they don’t have time to sift through a huge block of content that doesn’t immediately give them what they want.
The Call to Action
As you’ve seen, a strong call-to-action can propel people forward into the beginning of your sales funnel, whereas a tepid call-to-action will just cause them to click close and go elsewhere.
This is more than just changing a background color or a button — testing your form means taking more extreme steps to make the offer as plain as day to the prospect. Case in point, SecondWave, a mobile phone recycling service, split tested two very different landing pages. Notice that the form fields themselves didn’t change, but the design was immediately recognizable and the customer knew precisely which action to take based on these visual cues:
The original cell phone donation form
The updated donation form
The newly designed form got a 53% increase in donations with no extra spent on ads, the ad budget, or the bids themselves.
If you’re not getting the response you’d hoped for from your offer — why not try a different offer? For example, if you’re giving away a free ebook, what about turning it into a slideshow-based video presentation instead? Different offers will resonate with different people, and by shaking things up with what you’re presenting and how you’re presenting it, you could make a significant difference in getting and keeping their attention.
Plus, it’s worth noting that things like video or courses have a higher perceived value than generically branded “ebooks”.
Trust seals are more than just security buttons and badges. They can span a whole spectrum of “flair” designed to notify customers in a split-second that your site is a safe place to do business.
Examples of common trust and checkout seals
Is your business accredited? Are you a platinum-level seller? Do you have high user ratings or authentic testimonials? Do you accept specific forms of payment? These are all areas where a trust seal can make the difference between completing an action or not. Here again, it’s worth testing since some industries show mixed results with these types of seals.
This is a unique type of test in that it’s not commonly included among the “lists of things to test” that you often see when it comes to landing page optimization. Directional cues are points that incorporate a face, arrow or other embellishment that directs the user’s attention toward the call-to-action, the headline, the body copy, or all three.
Here’s an example from CrazyEgg:
The arrow forces the user’s eye to pay attention to the pricing area – particularly the free trial button
When used sparingly, arrows can direct our attention visually and encourage more people to follow where we want them to go. By the same token, our minds are instinctively wired to follow a person’s gaze as well. Here are two different page heat maps that show a baby — one looking at the viewer, the other looking at the headline:
Eye tracking — red areas show intense focus
Notice how much more intently the user’s gaze was focused on the content when the baby’s gaze was also focused on it?
Live chat can also increase conversion rates — but only when it can be staffed during normal business hours. Showing them that you’re “unavailable” during regular hours will lead them to unfortunately conclude that you might also be unavailable for them should they proceed with an order — and that’s definitely not the impress you want to give them!
In one split test, EZTexting.com wanted to see if the option of having live chat (shown in the lower right corner of the screen) would have an impact on their sign ups. Here is the version before the live chat was implemented:
EZ Texting’s sign up form before the addition of live chat
And here was the same page after the live chat option was added.
EZ Texting with Live Chat
Nothing else on the page had changed — but with the addition of live chat, the number of free sign ups increased by 31%, winning them a gold ribbon in 2012 from Which Test Won’s annual testing awards.
Video is another option that, when done right, can have a significant impact on conversion rates. Here again, having a video that’s professionally shot and produced will do far more to convince a customer to take action than a shoddily shot home movie made with someone’s cell phone. Explainer videos also do a great job of selling in ways that simple copy cannot.
One site, BuyRealTwitterFollowers, wanted to test the addition of video on their own site, so they created a simple explainer video along with a “How it Works” section beside it. This in turn shifted down what would have ordinarily been “above the fold” on their website — things like expert advice, along with the security and confidence customers can have if they buy Twitter followers online.
Here was the original page with the content appearing above the fold:
Buy Real Twitter Followers’ above the fold content includes guarantees, common questions answered and information on why to choose their service
The video page used the same content, except for adding the video file, and the “How it works” section. Nothing else on the page was changed:
The Buy Real Twitter Followers page with the video and “how it works” sections added
When this test was conducted, it was discovered that the video and “how it works” section increased sales on the site by 216% — an enviable number by any standard. It also proved that what the Buy Real Twitter Followers site team thought was the most important content (the guarantees, security notes and common answers) was actually not that important to visitors in the end — further emphasizing the point that one should always test, test, test!
Selecting How to Measure Results
There are two common ways to measure results, depending on what you’re testing and how much traffic you’re getting. The most common method, and the simplest one to get started, is the A/B split test. There’s also multivariate testing, which is more complicated, but if you have a lot of website traffic, can give you more results in less time. This graphic (source) illustrates the different types of tests:
A/B Split Testing
This is the most common method of testing landing pages and lets you compare two different versions of a page (ideally with a single thing changed) against each other to see which one converts best. If you change too many things on the competing landing page, it will be difficult for you to tell which change actually increased the conversion, which is why it’s best to change one thing at a time.
To set up an A/B split test using freely available tools, you can use Google’s Content Experiments. This is like split testing on steroids — and it’s free.
If you’re already using Google Analytics (remember the conversion goals we set up earlier?) then you’ll be glad to know that Content Experiments can be found in the same area. Simply login to your Google account, go to the Behavior section, and click on Experiments in the sidebar.
If you’ve created content experiments before, you’ll see your current experiments here. If this is your first time, you’ll want to click the Create Experiment button.
There are several simple form fields to fill out when you create an experiment:
- Name for this Experiment — Give it a name you can easily track and remember.
- Objective for this Experiment — This is the goal or outcome you want. You can use this to analyze existing analytics metrics or ecommerce metrics, or create a new goal entirely.
- Percentage of Traffic to Experiment — How much of your site’s traffic do you want to leverage in this experiment? The higher the number, the quicker you’ll see results.
- Email Notification for Important Changes — Do you want to be notified by email if there are major shifts in your experimental test? (the answer to this is YES!)
- Minimum Time Experiment will Run — What is the least amount of time you want your content experiment to run? During this time, Google Analytics will not declare a certain page as a “winner”, since you want to reach statistical significance with your numbers.
- Confidence Threshold — How sure do you want to be that a certain page is the winner? Keep in mind, a higher number here will take longer, but it will also increase the certainty with which you know that a page increases conversions, sales or signups.
Once you’ve filled out all these sections, you’ll be taken to a page that looks like this (image source).
Defining the pages for an A/B split test
What’s interesting here, is that you can add up to five different variations — so if you want to change five different elements on your landing pages and pit them all against each other, this will give you that option. You’ll also see thumbnails of the pages you want to test, helping you to be sure you’re testing the right pages against each other.
You’ll then be taken to a step wherein you can either implement the code yourself, or send an email to your webmaster and have them do it for you. Google will also take the extra step of validating that your code is working. If it isn’t, you’ll get an error message. You can skip validation, but it’s recommended that you not skip it (particularly if you’re getting an error) since there’s some kind of disconnect between your site and the content experiments code — and that could skew your testing results.
You’ll then be taken to a success page if everything checks out:
Success! Your A/B split test has launched
Once your experiment is running, you’ll see these options:
- Conversion Rate — The conversion rate of the landing pages, based on the criteria you specify as a “conversion”.
- Stop Experiment
- Disable Variation — Turn off one or more of the variation landing pages that you’re testing against.
- Segmentation — This particular option is very valuable — it lets you see how a specific landing page is performing for a certain segment of your audience.
An example of a split test using multiple variations
As you run more tests, your tests and their results will remain visible in your Content Experiments dashboard:
From your content experiments dashboard, you can also see the status
of different tests
Multivariate testing is more complicated than your typical A/B split test, but has the potential to give you results even faster — particularly if you want to test several elements on one page at a time.
Multivariate simply means that there are many variables being tested at once. It’s possible to do a type of multivariate testing following the same steps above with Google Content Experiments, in that you can test multiple pages with a single element changed among each one, however it may not give you the control or the results you want.
The truth is, it’s very difficult to honestly recommend multivariate testing unless you’re getting massive amounts of traffic where you’ll see gains (or losses) in a relatively short amount of time. For most sites just starting out, the premise of multivariate testing sounds great (more testing results in less time!) but the truth is, your results will have very little statistical significance in the time it takes to actually reach the numbers you want.
With that being said, if you want to set up a true multivariate test, you can do so using web analytics services such as Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer.
Creating a Value Proposition
Why is a section on creating value down in the “how to” section of setting up, testing and tracking landing pages? Because in the midst of all the code, technology and tools, the core reason of why people visit a site and elect to stay is all in the value you’re creating — and it’s easy to forget that part.
But the real question is — how do you define something intangible like “value”?
What Is a Value Proposition?
A value proposition, at its core, is your promise of delivering value (such as having a problem solved) to your customer. This is typically done through your headline, your subheadline and your first three bullet points. You can also add a visual to convey things that limited words cannot.
There are three major types of value propositions — including:
- Giving your customers reasons to buy from you, instead of your competitors (delivering value based on your differentiation from everyone else).
- Delivery of specific benefits (by a quantifiable amount – i.e. “You’ll lose XX lbs by the New Year or it’s FREE).
- Shares how your product or service will solve the customer’s problem in a way that’s relevant to them.
Perhaps most importantly — this is not the time to use marketing jargon. Your customers don’t care if your “solution” has “synergy” and offers a “collaborative experience” to “streamline” their “sales cycle”.
Imagine that your value proposition is your elevator speech — your 30 seconds or less to tell someone exactly what it is you do (and why they should care). Could you imagine telling them using any of the terms above?
Didn’t think so.
This is why, when creating a value proposition — you have to use the words your customer would use. Tell people what you do in their language, not yours. It all boils down to three distinct answers:
- What are you selling?
- Who are you selling it to?
- Why should they care?
In one landing page test, Sytropin, makers of an HGH(human growth hormone) spray, wanted to test which landing page would increase their sales — except that they changed numerous points on the landing page (so a multivariate test would likely have been a better option here, since it wasn’t clear what specific option increased sales).
The first version features a happy, fit couple along with the product image, together with different benefits in the subheadline, and more text, along with clear, noticeable sub-headlines, while the second one features a peaceful waterfall together with the product image and more checkmark bullet-points rather than several paragraphs of text.
There were definitely a lot of changes to consider between both of these tests…but which one do you feel communicated more value overall to the customer?
The first version, with the happy couple and sub-headline outperformed the waterfall version by turning nearly 85% more visitors into buyers. The traffic source, offer, the product itself, and the copy beyond the subheadline all remained the same.
Why do you think this version converted so much better? Here are a few ideas to think about:
- Noticeable guarantee— Positioned to the right of the copy immediately attracts the eye as opposed to the guarantee being lost in the sidebar
- FDA approved— carries a much higher weight and confidence level among U.S. shoppers
- Guarantee— Specific timeframe (90 days) versus satisfaction guaranteed.
These are all points to consider when crafting your value proposition — as they are all facets that matter to consumers who are interested in this type of product. What sorts of statements would your own customers identify with? What would strengthen their confidence in buying from you?
What a Value Proposition is NOT:
With that point being said, many people think they instantly “get it” and jump right in crafting their value proposition with gusto — but you should know that a value proposition is NOT the same as:
- A slogan— It’s not meant to be cute, catchy or clever
- A hype-fest— It’s not an opportunity to seize on how great you are
- A positioning statement— like the “number one, doctor-recommended brand”
Here’s a perfect example of a great value statement from Shopify — makers of web-based shopping cart and ecommerce software:
Use Shopify to Create Your Online Store
Everything You Need to Start Selling Online — Today
An example of a solid value proposition
This is also not an opportunity to dance around the issue or problem that you solve. Customers don’t want to have to guess — or get half way through signing up or checking out to learn that your service isn’t right for them.
Another test that involved using copy to increase perceived value came from an Australian e-commerce site known as Deals Direct.
The first version included a background overlay under the “Your Shopping Cart” text, along with text that informed customers of the site’s security and payment options. It also included links to information about the site’s online safety as well as its return policy:
The second variation (with the different headline — View Cart) explained how customers can check out. It did not include information about online safety or returns.
As you might have guessed, the first version, with an emphasis on secure shopping, accepted payment methods and return policies, outperformed the first by increasing completed purchases by nearly 3.60%. That may not sound like much, but on a large ecommerce site like this, added hundreds of thousands of dollars to the company’s bottom line.
Writing Your Value Proposition
So with that being said — how do you create a memorable value proposition that actually gets noticed?
Make it Clear What Problem You’re Solving
Don’t tip-toe around the problem. State it outright and let people know how you’re going to solve the issue.
Share How You’re Different
Don’t just tell people that you’re better than your competition — show them how. Price isn’t the only factor. You have a solution that’s different than anything else out on the market. Even if your values are the same as your competition in every way but one — you need to capitalize on that ONE thing that makes you different. It could be relatively simple, but that’s okay, because people need to know about it.
Don’t Forget the Numbers
Making your value proposition quantifiable is important to giving the customer a time frame or a reference as to how soon they can expect to see a resolution of their problem, or how much money they can expect to save. Car insurance commercials have latched onto this by trying to outdo each other on how much their customers can save. They do this because, quite simply, it works.
Let Other People Add to Your Value Proposition
You’re not alone in sharing your value proposition with potential customers — especially when your previous customers have already added to it for you. Social proof, specific guarantees, testimonials, famous customers or brands, and media placements — all of these things will bolster your proposition by doing the selling for you by extension of their own reputation.
Want more examples to learn from? Check these out!
Now that you know how to set up landing page tests, it’s time to let them run. Once you’ve got data coming in, the next step will be to properly analyze it. This is often a place where people make mistakes. There are a few common pitfalls that plague even the most beautifully designed and structured landing pages.
In the next section, we’ll take a closer look at how to evaluate your landing page results, and what to do if your conversions go stagnant. You’ll also learn about common issues that can hinder your landing page tests, and how to correct them so you can get back on track quickly.
Read. Review. React.
When analyzing your landing pages, there are going to be four major categories you’ll want to look at in your analytics:
1. Bounce Rate
We’ve already covered the bounce rate quite a bit, but if your bounce rate is 75% or higher, it’s a clear indicator that visitors aren’t finding what they’re looking for on your pages. There could be a disconnect between your ad copy and your landing page, for example — one promises one thing and the result delivers something entirely different.
2. User Behavior
User behavior can give you some interesting insights that pure data alone won’t. For example, you might know what keywords you’re targeting and how many visitors you’re getting to click on your ads — but user behavior, either through an online testing service like usertesting.com or a heatmap service like CrazyEgg.com will show you precisely what the user’s actions were and where they might have gotten hung up in the process.
Understanding user behavior is crucial to uncovering any unforeseen bottlenecks in your landing pages that could be keeping users from progressing to the next page. These could be as serious as technical errors or as simple as “muddy” content that isn’t clear on what the offer is, or why the user should care.
3. Traffic Segment Variance
This is just a fancy way of saying “traffic that comes from different referrers.” For example, users that are coming from Twitter may expect something short, sweet and to-the-point, whereas users from Facebook or Google+ may be looking for a more informative article. Understanding your traffic segments, where they’re coming from and what they expect can give you invaluable information on crafting landing pages that look as if they were custom built just for that particular users’ needs.
4. Conversion Rate
We’ve also covered conversion rate quite a bit in this guide, but looking at your analytics will let you compare two pages side by side to see which has the higher conversion rate, and what element on the page might be causing that increase. In some cases, your conversion rate might also drop as a result of changes. The only way to know what works is to test and track!
How to Conduct a Landing Page Analysis
Analyzing your landing pages is about much more than looking at the four categories above and making a decision. Granted, each of the points above does play a role in how well your landing page does its job, but to truly see how your pages are performing, it’s wise to start with the right data.
First, you’ll want to see how your landing pages are converting based on organic search results. In Google Analytics, navigate to Content > Site Content > Landing Pages.
In our case, we just want to see how landing pages performed based on organic searches, so we’ll want to filter out paid search traffic. From the Advanced Segments section, choose “Non Paid Search Traffic”.
Then, sort by visits to see which landing pages attracted the most traffic from organic search. As a “secondary dimension” you can also see which keyword users typed in to arrive at your landing page:
An example of a landing page with “keyword” as the secondary dimension (image source)
Remember that it’s also entirely possible that the same landing page will come up when different keywords are used.
Here again, bounce rate can come into play. Notice in the image below that landing pages 4, 9 and 10 have lower bounce rates while 2 and 6 have higher ones. You’ll want to consider the differences between your specific landing pages to determine what could be causing these points of friction with your users.
Conducting a Link Analysis
While it’s true that most landing pages don’t (or shouldn’t) contain links, that doesn’t mean that you can’t link to them from other pages in your site to give them some much needed organic SEO exposure.
Traditionally, we were taught that incorporating keywords in your link text was the way to go, and to put links in our site footer to encourage the search engine robots to delve deeper into our site map and index all our luscious pages.
These days, search engines have evolved and adapted — and while linking still matters (perhaps now more than ever), the way to go about it to make sure your landing pages benefit from maximum optimization clout is a bit different than you might expect. For example:
- If you have two or more anchor links on your landing page, only the first one carries any kind of “link juice” in it.
- External links from other sites provide more optimization clout than internal links (that means you can get rid of the overstuffed site footer!).
- Anchor text links are more valuable than alt-text-added image links.
- The higher a link appears in the HTML code, the more valuable it appears to be.
- With that in mind, links in the body of the website have more value than links in the header, sidebar or footer.
- Linking to highly-relevant content is far more beneficial than just throwing out a link to something that may or may not be truly relevant to the user’s query.
What About Google Hummingbird?
When Google made major changes to some of its algorithms a few years ago (known in marketing circles as “Penguin” and “Panda”), marketers scrambled to try and recover. Most of the sites that were penalized were “content farms” that deserved the demotion that they got. Just recently, Google rolled out a new variation, called Hummingbird. But what does it do — and how is it different than Penguin or Panda?
More importantly, what does it mean for your landing pages?
In a nutshell, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land calls Hummingbird something like a replacement engine for an old car. Everything might work fine on the car, but it’s not built to accept unleaded fuel and other modern enhancements – so the engine gets replaced. Hummingbird is essentially like a new fuel-injected engine – it’s a modern upgrade on an older but still perfectly fine-running system, whereas Penguin and Panda were more simply algorithm updates.
What does that mean for your landing pages?
It means that Google is shifting how it returns search results, in its bid to deliver even more relevance to users. In Google’s own language, it means that the search giant is placing more of an emphasis on “conversational search”. In one example, a user might type into Google “Where can I buy an iPhone 5s close to my home” — and a traditional search engine would return online electronics sites with “buy” and “iPhone 5s” in the title.
Hummingbird tries to understand the intent behind the question and, if Google already knows your location, could possibly provide you with a map, citing stores near you that might have the iPhone 5s in stock.
In another example from Google, a user might search for “acid reflux prescription”, which would traditionally bring up a list of drugs that treat the issue. Now, it brings up educational articles that discuss treatment options — to the point where a user may learn that they might not even need a prescription at all.
More to the point about specific landing pages, it means that you should now be:
- Using your landing pages to understand the intent that users have when searching for the word or phrase you’re trying to rank for
- The provider of actual answers to the questions people have rather than trying to be a catch-all “solution” for everyone and everything.
- Able to leverage social signals, knowledge graph, semantic search and other alerts beyond keywords that deliver a more personalized result to the user.
What About Keyword Data that Comes Back as (not provided)?
Around the same time as Hummingbird was rolled out to all Google searches, many SEO professionals started noticing that keyword data became 100% “secure search” oriented — meaning it was hidden from marketing and analytics tools. Users’ keyword searches went from a few “not provided” queries, to complete “keyword blindness”.
Keyword (not provided) from Google Traffic (image source)
Google searches now redirect users to a secure Google site for their results pages — effectively rendering organic keyword research as we know it extinct. Of course, Matt Cutts, a Google engineer, essentially told SEO professionals not to panic — that, so long as they concentrated on delivering a good experience, they’d continue to succeed in the search engines.
Paid search users were also not affected, since paid results still return the keywords that users searched for to land on that specific ad or landing page.
For example, optimization and research criteria that was once available, including:
- Conversions by keyword / keyword tag
- Keyword traffic patterns by URL
- Long tail keyword traffic patterns
And other analytical data is gone — however, you can still measure the truly important factors that go into landing page optimization, such as:
- Overall organic search traffic by engine
- Total conversions from organic traffic (by URL)
- Search rankings for critical terms / page tags and types / keyword tag
So, essentially, the major measurements are still there — just the way they’re reported has changed and shifted to meet the demands of an ever-increasing and technologically-savvy audience.
So rather than trying to find out what keyword led someone to a particular page, the question then becomes…
Did the result deliver on the user’s expectations — and if not, how can we make it better?
That’s why continuing to analyze, refine and update your landing pages is so crucial to the overall optimization and improvement strategy. It’s not a one-off thing… it’s a continuing series of changes that lead to more of what you really want:
More conversions…more customers…more profits.
How Do I Do Keyword Research for My Landing Pages if the Keywords Come Back as (not provided)?
The days of easy keyword research are over — the emphasis has instead shifted to smart keyword research. Of course, your analytics data is the primary goldmine of potential long-tail keywords, but you can also use:
- Pay per Click and Paid Search Data
- Google Keyword Planner (formerly known as the Google Keyword Suggestion Tool)
- Third party tools such as SEMRush, Wordtracker, etc.)
In a sense, you can still uncover valuable keywords — you just have to dig a little deeper to find them. For example, although you can’t see the keywords that are driving people to come to your landing pages, you can correlate what they might be searching for along with the keywords your landing page is trying to rank for and make some informed decisions that way.
You can also still use Google Webmaster Tools to discern potential keyword data, as well as Google trends to see if any major keyword/search shifts have occurred within a specific timeframe.
Beyond the keywords themselves, it’s important to maintain the right focus when determining what to optimize on your pages. Every conversion can be broken down and categorized into two sections: macro conversions, and micro conversions.
Optimizing for Macro Conversions
Many times when we talk about conversion optimization, it’s all too easy for professionals, even with the best of intentions, to get bogged down in testing all the little things that can contribute to a slight conversion uptick.
These “little things” are known as micro conversions, and can include:
- Viewing a product page
- Proceeding to checkout
- Connecting via social media (following on Facebook/Twitter, etc.)
- Time spent on site over a certain amount
- Number of page views over a certain amount
Newsletter subscription — an example of a micro conversion (image source)
“But I Thought Those Were the Very Things We Wanted to Increase!”
They are — but they only lead to marginal increases overall. Instead, you want to optimize for macro conversions.
These are the BIG things that lead to major conversion shifts over time — like:
- E-commerce order completion
- Paid membership sign up
- Contact form submission
- Phone call from a prospect
- Inquiry form submission (for lead generation)
These are the major drivers of conversion-based revenue — the bottom line that every profitable website strives to increase.
You can think of macro conversions as large, revenue-boosting changes, while micro-conversions are like guideposts along the way.
How to Track Micro Conversions in Google Analytics
It’s important to track micro conversions, because these will give you a sense of the level of engagement your customers have with your site (which can, in turn, power the macro-conversion engine).
In Google Analytics, you can track micro conversions depending on the type of conversion you want to track:
Email Subscription Goal
You’ll want to create a URL destination goal — with your “Thanks for subscribing!” page as your goal page. You’ll need to establish a value for this goal, which can be tricky — but consider it like this:
Since the average visit value is going to be calculated from this number, you’ll need to consider how often visitors who reach the goal page ultimately become customers. For example, if 10% of your subscribers ultimately make a purchase, and your average purchase price is $50, you might assign a value of $5 (10% of $50) to your goal.
Created an Account
Similar to setting up an email subscription goal, you’ll want to set the Account Creation Completion page as your URL destination. You should also set up a funnel for this goal, in case any prospects drop off along the way in the account creation process. This can help you uncover hidden bottlenecks or points of friction that are keeping them from completing the goal.
Number of Pages Browsed per Visit
If you want to track the number of pages visited beyond the normal threshold, you’ll want to create a pages/visit goal. Ask yourself what you consider an extensive visit according to your existing analytics data.Take the average number of pages a customer visits before they buy and use that as your guide.
This is a bit trickier. You’ll need to create an event in Google Analytics and then edit your site’s code to add an “OnClick” element to your download link. The event needs to call a special command called _TrackEvent so that Google Analytics can track it accordingly. From Google’s own help file, an example of such a link might look like this:
How to Track Macro Conversions in Google Analytics
This is a bit more involved as many macro conversion steps involve editing your website’s source code to include the appropriate Google Analytics pieces that enable tracking.
You can also add individual shopping cart tracking depending on what goal you want to measure.
Remember you’ll want to make optimization changes with the big, macro conversions in mind — but don’t neglect the little things either!
What to Do When Your Conversions Flatline
So, let’s assume up to this point that you’ve done everything right. You’ve created true-to-life personas of your ideal customers. You’ve diligently set your conversion goals. You’ve created pages that are clean and clutter-free — but people still aren’t clicking.
Before you start wringing your hands in frustration, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common reasons that conversions turn stagnant, along with examples you can learn from.
Too Many Calls to Action
Chase’s home page imploring users to learn more
Having too many calls to action is a sure sign that you’ve got a lot of products or services that you know people will love — but you aren’t sure which one they’ll click first, so why not introduce them to a little of everything?
It’s a well-intentioned goal but far too many links and far too many calls to action will only backfire — causing the user to be distracted and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out which product or service it is they wanted in the first place.
Although you ideally want a single call to action on the page, there will be times when you need multiple calls-to-action. If that’s the case, you should emphasize the main one by way of a color change and larger button, and de-emphasize the lesser important actions:
Mac software Ember’s free trial button immediately attracts the eye with its contrasting color scheme as opposed to the App Store download buttons
Wrong Call to Action
This is the landing page equivalent of “what do you want me to do here?” You may have a lot to say and a relatively small space to say it in. The wrong call to action doesn’t give your prospect any motivating reason to want to click.
Even well-known companies struggle with this — especially if they have multiple branches or product offerings. Check out Starbucks’ coffee gear site and see if you can figure out what action it is they want you to take first:
Lots of different directions (and distractions) for potential customers landing on Starbucks’ coffee gear website
If your landing pages are guilty of this, one way to remedy it is to have a “New? Start Here!” link with a little tour through the different areas of a site. This will help new users get acclimated to what your site has to offer without overwhelming them with choices. Otherwise, you can create individual landing pages — one for each type of product that you sell. For example, different types of apparel, gift cards, coffee deals, etc.
Too Much Text
This is a problem that plagues many landing pages — particularly if it’s not entirely clear what their offer is about.
Check out this landing page for IBM’s DB2 database platform — and all the text on it:
The text is segmented well — but it doesn’t answer the core question:
Why should I care?
This is one of those cases where the landing page doesn’t answer the core question on the customer’s mind — namely, why should I switch my current database software for this? Or even, why should I pay attention to this offer at all? The headline “industry leading performance, scale and reliability on your choice of platform” is just a gaggle of marketing buzzwords with no real substance.
The first paragraph simply restates the headline while the sidebar encourages a quote request, a free trial, and a case study (finally!) showing the benefits of the platform. Although it’s understandable that database geeks can make out the alphabet soup of content here, it doesn’t provide the user with any compelling reason to switch, much less consider switching at all.
Speaking of compelling reasons to do things, Lowes had about seven of them earlier in the fall when most home improvement projects are in full swing. Upon entering the homepage, the user was assaulted with a variety of discounts — everything from doors and windows to water heaters and greenhouses.
This is a classic case of “throw everything at the landing page and hope some of it sticks”.
For the record, I was looking for a generator…
I actually clicked on an ad to see a selection of generators they had on sale, when I was presented with this page, and while discounts are almost always welcome — it was the wrong place, the wrong time, and even the wrong page to be showing me. Whenever you have a big disconnect like this, it’s almost certain that even if you were offering “Free Money”, users would bounce right off again, not seeing an answer to their inquiry.
Too Many Ads
This issue was more-so a problem when Google Adsense and paid text ads were hot. Thankfully, the frenzy has died down some, but there are still sites, particularly affiliate landing pages that will follow in the footsteps of discount-loving brands like Lowes and throw a heap of ads at the user, hoping that they’ll get at least one click from them.
What often happens here is similar to the issue of too many calls to action. Rather than deciding on one path and taking it, the user will leave the page completely. As with site navigation, remove ads from your landing page that could distract your user from taking the action you want.
Too Much Information Requested
Lead generation sites are particularly guilty of this one — and it’s actually understandable. In order to deliver the best possible service, they need to know a lot about the person they’re hoping to reach out to. But these days, people are leery of scams, spam and other issues, and don’t take kindly to getting pressuring sales pitches from telemarketers.
So it’s easy to see why they don’t feel comfortable parting with much of their personal information, even if they could save several hundred dollars on their car insurance.
If you’re asking too much of users on your landing page, try to dial back what’s really required. Depending on what you’re offering, this will vary. For highly personal information that’s absolutely needed to deliver on your offer, you’ll want to incorporate secure form processing (ask your web host about setting this up) so that the information they submit is fully encrypted, just as a payment transaction would be.
Beyond that, incorporate many well-known trust and authority seals to showcase that you’re serious about protecting your customers’ personal information.
You should also try asking for more information at a later date, when you’ve earned the customer’s trust (by providing valuable information to them over a period of time). They may be more willing to part with a few more details than if you had just “met”.
If you aren’t optimizing your landing pages, you are missing out on a lot of revenue. By creating specific pages for different marketing channels, you’ll be able to customize your marketing message, which will provide revenue lifts.
We looked at a wide variety of landing page techniques for getting the most optimization out of every change you make. But this doesn’t mean you have to do everything alone!
The good news is that there are plenty of tools, services and websites available to help you with everything from creating landing pages, to setting up heat maps and tracking your improvements over time.
I hope this guide has helped you. But in case you haven’t had a chance to read it all (I know it is a lot), here is how you can optimize your landing page with 3 simple steps:
- Identify the main elements on your landing page.
- Edit the landing page so that it is search engine friendly and usable.
- Run A/B tests using quantitative and qualitative feedback.
To teach you how to correctly implement the three steps above, I decided to create an infographic that breaks down exactly what you need to do.
Click on the image below to see a larger view: