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Home arrow Site Optimization arrow Optimizing Landing Pages 2006
Optimizing Landing Pages 2006
Tuesday, 23 May 2006
Synopsis

Topic: Optimizing Landing Pages 2006 — How making changes to a few key elements can increase landing page conversions by 40% or more.

We recently released the audio recording of our clinic on this topic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here:

Landing Pages 2006

With the growth of PPC advertising and email marketing, maximizing conversion rates on campaign landing pages has become a priority for many online marketers.

The need to build campaign-specific landing pages is now widely accepted. However, what is not so widely understood is how to build landing pages that deliver.

In our most recent research we addressed the broad question: Which changes to my landing pages will deliver the greatest increase in conversion rates?

More specifically: Which elements on a landing page have the most impact on conversion rates?

Findings

In a previous brief, we provided an introduction to landing page optimization. If you have not already reviewed that report, you may want to do so now.

Test 1: Developing a New Control Page

Our first test covered a two-week period in April of 2006. Our primary objective was to determine whether a small number of specific changes to an offer page would improve overall conversion for a company selling hypnosis products.

We applied the Marketing Experiments Variable Cluster Testing Methodology. In this way we were able to test multiple variables with a single factorial "A/B Split Testing" test design.

The optimized page included:

  • Improved credibility factors, including photo, credentials, and signatures. Greater visibility was given to testimonials, and it included a money-back guarantee.

Here were the two pages tested:

We set up an A/B split test to gauge the effectiveness of these two pages. Here were the results after two weeks of testing:

Landing Page A/B Split Test
Overall Improvement in Conversion Rate 40.7%

Check boxWhat You Need To UNDERSTAND: Conversion improved by more than 40% by making a number of key changes to the original page.

It's important to note that the headline and body copy of both pages were identical. An improved eye path, and improved credibility factors (photo, credentials, and signature) all led to the overall conversion improvement.

KEY POINT: Begin with a variable cluster test to establish a new control page with improved performance. This is the fastest way to improve page results and increase revenues. Then follow up with A/B split tests of individual elements on the page to further increase the page's performance.

In this case, the next round of additional tests could include testing the page...

  • with and without the photograph.
  • with bold text to strengthen the eye path.
  • with change in the design and text of the "Add to Shopping Basket" button.
  • with a strong postscript (P.S.)
  • with more time-urgency built into the offer.

For more on A/B testing, see our recent report on that topic.

Test 2: Optimizing Page Copy with a Sequential Test

Our second test sought to determine the optimal presentation of information for a discount health care offering. Unlike our first test, this test was sequential.

Each page ran for two weeks and generated the following results:

Landing Page Copy Optimization
Metric Page A (Short Copy) Page B (Long Copy)
Unique Visitors 7706 9290
Sales 182 192
Conversion Rate 2.36% 2.07%

Check boxWhat You Need To UNDERSTAND: The short copy page performed 14% better than the long copy page.

In the past, we have generally found that long copy out-pulls short copy for many sites. But as the above results show, this does not always hold true for every business.

However, there may have been other factors in the second testing period that caused the long copy to perform poorly. For example, the company in question made some changes to their PPC campaign during the second testing period. This may have resulted in a different quality of traffic to their site.

KEY POINT: A sequential test can quickly help you improve the performance of a page, and guide your thinking on what to test next. But remain aware that by testing sequentially within two separate time frames, your results may be skewed by outside factors.

For more on long copy vs. short copy, see our report on that topic.

Test 3: Optimizing Price Presentation

Test 3 was an A/B split test performed on behalf of the same discount health company as Test 2. This time we sought to answer two preliminary research questions:

  1. If we create two versions of a page, one with the price shown, and one without, which would result in users clicking deeper into the site?
  2. What impact will removing the product price from the landing page have on overall site conversion?

The period of testing was two weeks.

As expected, removing the price from the landing page resulted in more users clicking deeper into the site. However, here were the results on overall conversion:

Landing Page Price Presentation
Metric Page A (with price) Page B (no price)
Unique Visitors 2837 3858
Sales 32 41
Conversion Rate 1.13% 1.06%

Check boxWhat You Need To UNDERSTAND: By removing the price from the landing page, conversion dropped by 6.6%.

By putting the price of the product deeper into the order path, we were able to get 25% more people at least one page deeper into the site. Although overall conversion dropped, this may warrant further testing using a basket recovery process. For more on order recovery, see these reports:

Guidelines:

The following list of guidelines is expanded from our previous work on landing pages. They should help you derive the greatest success from your page optimization efforts.

  1. Are you sending people to the right landing pages? If you are using any paid advertising (such as PPC engines) where you can choose the landing pages of your campaigns, it is essential that the visitor is directed to the most specific page related to the keyword or product they clicked on. In the majority of cases, this is NOT your homepage unless you have very few products or a small service offering.

    For example, if someone searches Google for "Canon digital camcorder," you have a much better chance of closing a sale if you send them directly to a page featuring Canon digital camcorders (complete with pictures, products specs, price, and so on) than if you were to send them to the homepage of your camera retail site. Including you keyword "Canon Digital Camcorder" in your headline of that landing page has also proven to improve conversion rates and is worthy of testing.

  2. Make an effort to understand your traffic. Define the major sources of incoming traffic to your site (and be as specific as possible). Within each major source of traffic, define the most popular click you are receiving and which page they are landing on. From the click-through information, identify the main reason they clicked through to your page:
    1. Did you have the lowest price?
    2. The best company rating?
    3. The largest selection?
    4. A special promotion or offering?
    5. The highest ranking on a search engine?
    6. A specific keyword from a pay-per-click campaign?
  3. Using the information developed in point 2, design your landing pages specifically for the reason they clicked through.

    For example, if you had the lowest price make sure you include headline text such as "The lowest price on Dealtime.com."

    If you have the highest company rating, use text like "The highest rated company on ResellerRatings.com" (and include your actual rating).

    If they clicked because of a special promotion or 10% discount, use a headline that applies the discount to the product they clicked.

  4. You must use an effective "hook" to keep the shopper on your site. You have only 5 seconds to grab his or her attention, so don't waste valuable page space on irrelevant information.

    Besides click-specific information (point 3), you should also emphasize your company's value proposition. Focus on elements such as these:

    1. Product guarantees or money back guarantees
    2. Free or discounted shipping
    3. Quantity purchases or bulk discounts
    4. Same-day or next-day shipping
    5. Special offer or sale information
    6. Exceptional customer service or satisfaction guarantees  
    7. Free trials and no-risk offers
  5. Utilize third-party credibility indicators. Third-party credibility indicators are one of the most effective ways to communicate that you have a reputable company (no fraud), that customers' privacy and personal information are safe, and that other customers have had a positive experience shopping with you.

    Some examples of credibility indicators would be:

    1. Comparison engine ratings (Yahoo!, PriceGrabber, DealTime, etc.)
    2. Ratings from sites such as BBBOnline, Bizrate, ResellerRatings.com etc.
    3. Site security and protection indicators (Verisign, Trust-e, Thawte, SSL Certification, Hacker Safe).
    4. Testimonials from your existing customers.
  6. Utilize effective sales copy that is devoid of hype. Focus on implying integrity and accuracy. Review our article "Transparent Marketing" for information on how to earn the trust of skeptical online shoppers.
  7. Do not overwhelm the visitor with too much information on the page. Strategically placed bold, colored, highlighted, italicized, or enlarged fonts can help to organize content for the reader. Beware of using long paragraphs on the Internet. Use bullets, headers, and white space. Allow the page to breathe.
  8. Test background colors, link style, and button styles.  Many times marketers do not realize the impact background colors, links, and button styles have on the effectiveness of websites, but our recent multivariable test makes the impact very clear. Here are some best practices from our multivariable and A/B split tests.
    1. White backgrounds usually perform better than patterns or colors. (If you have not tested a white background on your site, it should be a priority.)
    2. Drop shadows and "3-D" looking buttons: these effects make the buttons look more "clickable" and easier for the customer to find.
    3. Blue text links with underlines outperform rollovers and alternate colors for most sites. Blue text links with underlines are what web pages started with since the inception of the Internet, and no other link style today is as recognizable as standard blue with an underline. (That's why we use them too.)

    The full multivariable report is available here.

  9. If your landing page includes any sort of forms, only require the least amount of information possible to achieve your objective. You should design your pages and forms with the least amount of "friction" as possible.
  10. Capture the customer's email address. The primary objective of your page is typically to get the visitor to the next page, to get an order, or to complete an action. Capturing email addresses as a secondary objective is a way for you to monetize more customer visits even if the customer does not make a purchase. Here are a few examples of how to capture email addresses:
    1. Giveaways or sweepstakes
    2. White papers
    3. Online courses
    4. Email courses
    5. Newsletters (that significantly help the customer)
  11. Test your offer price. If you are charging too much or too little for your product or service, the other optimizations will lose some if not all of their effectiveness.

    For more on testing your offer price, see our recent report on that topic.

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RELATED MEC REPORTS:

Literature Review

As part of our research, we have prepared a review of the best Internet resources on this topic.

Rating System

These sites were rated for usefulness and clarity, but alas, the rating is purely subjective.

* = Decent | ** = Good | *** = Excellent | **** = Indispensable

About This Brief

Credits:

Editor — Flint McGlaughlin

Writers — Brian Alt
Nick Usborne

Contributors — Eric Stockton
Guy Tasaka
Jimmy Ellis

HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer

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