Best Tactics in Landing Page Optimization

November 8, 2011
By Michelle Lowery in Internet Marketing Conferences

Everyone back from lunch? Or perhaps, an afternoon nap? Now that I think about it, that would have been a good idea. Jet lag is no fun, even when it’s the easier east-to-west kind. So I hope everyone’s refreshed, or at least well caffeinated, because this session promises not to disappoint. Not every site needs a landing page, but for those that do, if that page isn’t optimized, you could be missing out on a lot of conversions. Lucky for us, Brad Geddes, Tim Ash, and Joanna Lord are here to share some great landing page optimization tactics.

Moderator Ken Jurina introduces Joanna Lord who starts out by saying landing page optimization freaks her out. She’s going to break down the landing page optimization into actionable steps.

Your Landing Page Needs to Be/Have

  • clean and concise
  • bullets, small paragraphs, drop unneeded fields
  • call to action
  • big, clear, visually appealing, buzz word usage
  • branded, certified, trusted elements

Two sides of advanced landing page optimization

In-house tactics

how easy can you make it for everyone in the organization to create good pages? You need:

  • integration
  • education
  • checklists
  • integrate your CMS
  • automation
  • landing page templates
  • auto-expire pages
  • preview/Q&A system
  • champion results
  • data collection
  • spotlight efforts
  • circulate & educate

The more info you give your team to make good decisions, the less you have to fix later. You can push things out faster, but they’ll all have a good, solid foundation. Talk to your devs. Show them what you do, and ask them if they can see anything that can be improved. Recognize people’s efforts.

On-site tactics

She uses Starbucks as an example. Their landing page has a lot going on. They’re trying to do a lot on one page. When she goes to this page, she feels ok, she doesn’t think their bounce rate is bad. Hopefully they tested everything on the page. What you should have on the page:

  • Secondary conversions
  • E-mail addresses
  • RSS/Social subscribers
  • Social counts
  • Become member
  • Downloads/views
  • Engagement
  • Feedback
  • Loyalty programs
  • Virtual high five

You need to understand your conversions, and you need to understand them well. We all know how important it is to drive people to your site, but also to have them spend time on the site. As landing page testers, we owe it to our clients to push them up. Is there one facet of the page that should be highlighted over another?

Brand Strengthening

If you want to get serious about winning on your pages, you need to look at how you’re presenting your brand across that page.

Mission Statements

Ask yourself where else you can strengthen your brand on the page, and then test it.


Use words you know your target market will appreciate


If you’re going to have an award, it’s important to have something unique to you, not what everyone else is doing. Host awards if you need to, but give credit where it’s due.

Customer Counts

Do what Mail Chimp does. We’re the type of consumer who wants to see badges. Don’t just use text.


If you have awesome customers or partners, use their logos


If you choose a theme, use it throughout the page, from the theme to the images. Make it beautifully streamlined. There should be an emotional connection to how a page feels. That can be one of the easiest ways to tell a client you’re going to get results.


If you have free shipping, free returns, make sure there’s an element that draws attention to it. Text is too easy to overlook.

Press Mentions

And here, Joanna was about to mention the press mention on our own Outspoken Media page, but she was told she only had a couple of minutes left, so she skipped to the end!


She didn’t get to this one, but I’m going to assume she means keep your page positive. :-)

It’s a lot of work, there are a lot of great tools you can use. You have to test. And that’s it!

Now we move on to Brad Geddes. He says almost every activity ends with either a phone call, or a form being filled out, so let’s look at forms.

When someone fills out a form, they get something in return. What’s the value? It doesn’t matter. It’s the perceived value that matters.

What’s the minimum amount you need to know? Is the value of what you ask equal or greater than what they get in return? Because if it is, they’re not going to fill it out. If the values are equal, you’ll have good conversion rates.

Some questions that should never, ever be required

How did you hear about us?

That’s why you have analytics! The answers are going to be lies, and won’t help you.

Don’t ask questions that can’t be answered

Mortgage site as an example, a question that asks what the person’s desired loan program is. People don’t know what these mean. You gave them a list of search terms to go back to the engine to find out what they are.

The Marketing vs. Sales Fight

Sales wants to know the phone number, when they can call, etc. Make the form two pages. First page, name, email, phone. Second page, to enhance your experience with us, will you provide this additional information?

How Much Time?

Forms are time. He shows a form that’s three pages, and 700 fields long. They added one field that doubled conversion rates. “This will take you half an hour, or you can call us directly.” Let someone know up front how much time they’ll spend on filling out the form. No one wants more work. Be conscious of time.

Don’t Let Your Devs Write Your Content

Find the fields with the * to fill them out to complete the form. Don’t make people work to fill out the form. Make sure the errors are easy to find. Make errors friendly. Don’t use popup boxes.

Make the Form Shorter

If you have more than five check boxes, use columns. If you put everything on its own line, it looks pretty long. If you put the information next to each other, it looks shorter, and people are more likely to fill it out.

Don’t Prefill Fields

Our eyes are trained to look for empty fields. If they’re already filled out, people will skip over them.

Test Backgrounds and CSS Work

The problem with whitespace is there’s nowhere for people to focus their eyes. If there’s too much whitespace, people can easily skip questions. Put washed out horizontal lines on the form to draw the eyes down from question to question.

Date Fields

These can vary by country, if you’re international. Use a calendar picker so people don’t get confused. Or show obviously what element goes where.

Text to Field Alignment

You can use right justified, left justified, or over and under. Check out this post from UX Matters. It shows how long it takes people to read forms in each justification.

Don’t Use Redundant Fields

Don’t ask what kind of card they’re using. The first number actually indicates what kind of card it is. It’s a redundant question. If someone gives you a zip code, don’t ask for their city and state.

The Submit Button

Change “submit” to a benefit message. What do they get for hitting the button?

Don’t Use Captchas

Captchas stop conversions. There’s a great post on SEOmoz about this. Make a hidden captcha. If there’s no data in it, it’s valid. A bot will fill out the field, so you know it’s spam.

Set Expectations

Tell them what they’ll get for filling out the form, i.e., get a free quote.

Does Social Proof Help?

A study was done and showed that conversions doubled without social proof. Asking for a phone number is one of the most personal things you can ask for. Test forms with a phone number field and without. If you don’t really need it, don’t ask for it.

Be careful of logos and video on form pages. They draw the eye from the form. Take the colored logos, and make them grayscale.

Go test your forms! You really can increase conversion rates just by running a few tests.

Now we come to Tim Ash. He wrote a best-selling book on landing page optimization.

He says he’s going to do something different. No one has seen this presentation before. He’s going to show us 43 slides in 15 minutes or less. [Oh, good grief, my fingers! ;-)]

He wants to talk about the important stuff—the inside of our head. The brain and the visual system.

You have three brains, but only one is in charge. The most recent addition is the neo-cortex, along with the limbic system and the brain stem. The brain stem is the lizard brain, and it makes all of the decisions. It only cares a bout the four F’s:

Should I run away
Should I eat it
Should I kill it
Should I…I can’t blog that word. He didn’t say it, but the slide implied it. ;-)

Now he’s talking about rods and cones and tenth grade biology. [I hope there’s not a test later.] Your eyes involuntarily move around to find the interesting stuff. The principle applies to landing pages.

He uses the BestBuy landing page as an example. There’s too much change at the top, mimicking movement. This is bad. It draws the eye away from the rest of the merchandise at the bottom of the page. Vision is powerful and fast.

First impression of a web page is formed in 1/20th of a second, according to a study from Canada [which Tim refers to as the 51st state. His words, not mine. ;-)]

The standards for Web quality go up every day, so just say no to cheese. A picture is worth 400-500 characters, or letter shapes that we turn into symbols.

Three Ways to Get at What People are Looking At

  • Eye Tracking – You get a wealth of very accurate information. But it’s very time-consuming. It’s expensive, and you can’t use it as a threshold for doing stuff unless you have a big project. Tool: Tobii
  • Mouse Tracking – It’s accurate, although not perfect, but good enough. It’s less versatile because it’s not involuntary. You move a mouse whereas you don’t consciously move your eyes. Tool: Crazyegg and Clicktale
  • Software Algorithms – The brain looks for lines, certain shapes, motion, flicker, etc. They’re less accurate, not versatile, not good at “considered response,” but they’re very inexpensive and offer instant turnaround. (He didn’t mention a specific tool for this one)

Use data to develop your pages, and cater to what people are looking for.

And now it’s off to keyword research! See you in a few!

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