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What is a Landing Page? Do I Need One?

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Digital Marketing

How to Create a Landing Page

Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or a fledgling entrepreneur, the term “landing page” can be somewhat of a mystery. While the term is frequently used in discussions of online marketing and often described as a “must-have” feature of marketing campaigns, it’s not uncommon for people to have plenty of questions about it.

So, what exactly is a landing page? Why are landing pages important? And perhaps most importantly: do you need a landing page on your website? (Spoiler alert: Yes, a quality landing page is an excellent tool for business owners and marketers alike.)

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to introduce you to landing pages, including how to build and use a landing page on your website in a purposeful way. Once you’re done reading, you’ll have a better understanding of why landing pages are so valuable and how yours can be an effective marketing funnel.

What is a Landing Page?

Before we can jump into the “hows” and “whys” of a landing page, we need to cover the basics: what are landing pages?

At its most basic level, a landing page is the first web page that a user will “land on” after clicking a certain link. Technically, everything from your home page to a blog page could qualify as a landing page – but not when we’re talking in terms of digital marketing.

For marketing purposes, a landing page is a web page that is specifically built to receive the traffic from a digital marketing campaign and produce conversions. Breaking it down even further, the “conversions” are actions that you want users to take on the landing page, for example:

  • Purchase a product or service
  • Contact you via phone or email
  • Submit their contact information on a form to become a lead
  • Sign up for a free trial
  • Subscribe to an email list or newsletter
  • Register for an upcoming event

Although each of these actions are different, they ultimately serve the same goal: moving online users towards the transition to paying customers.

Elements of a Landing Page

Typically, a landing page is composed of five essential elements, with a few of those elements being built from individual components themselves. Of course, the type of landing page may vary depending on the intended purpose, and the elements can change shape as well.

However, this basic, five-part framework is a good start for learning how to build a landing page that achieves its goal.

1. Above-the-Fold Content

Interestingly, the term “above the fold” was actually pulled from the newspaper industry, making it just one of the many phrases that’s made the jump from the world of print to the digital sphere.

VDS-SubHeader-1280×400-atf-1In newspaper publication, “above the fold” describes the content that a person literally sees above the fold of the paper. So, it’s the first content they encounter when interacting with the paper on a newsstand, in their driveway, or at the local convenience shop. An online marketer uses the term to refer to the top section of a landing page (above the top 600 pixels or so).

VDS-SubHeader-1280×400-atf-2When a user arrives at your landing page, this is the content making that critical first impression. Just like an attention-grabbing headline in the Monday morning newspaper, it can either draw potential customers in, or it can lose their interest entirely. As you can imagine, crafting compelling above-the-fold content is extremely important.

The exact nature of the content will depend largely on the intended purpose of the page, but some of the most common parts of the above-the-fold element include:

The main headline

An excellent headline manages to serve multiple functions at the same time.

First, it communicates to users that they have arrived at their intended destination (a page that makes sense in relation to the link they clicked) and what they can expect in terms of user experience. But beyond that, it should also capture the user’s interest and be that nudge they need to keep moving forward.

The types of headlines you use will be shaped by your business, the products and/or services you provide, and your specific goals for users visiting your page. In fact, different landing pages will have different headlines to suit their unique purposes.

For example, if you operate a culinary school and hope to spur new enrollees, the headline might say something like, “Learn how to cook like a professional today!” However, if your focus is driving users to provide their contact information for lead gen, you might write a headline that reads, “Get more information about our culinary classes.”

Writing a strong headline requires you to know three things:

  • Who your target audience is
  • Why they have come to the landing page
  • What problem you can solve for them

With those three ingredients, you have the basic recipe for a solid headline for a landing page.

The supporting headline

In some cases, covering all of the key information in a single, concise headline can be difficult. If you find yourself struggling to condense the “who,” “why,” and “what” within your headline, use a supporting headline. Here, you can fill in the gaps that are necessary to your purpose.

Keep in mind that your headline should still be the star of the show. It’s where you’ll make your best efforts at leading users towards the goal line. But if you think that just a little extra information can make or break the page, then go ahead and include a supporting headline.

Let’s build off of our example of the culinary school mentioned above. If your landing page headline was, “Get more information about our culinary classes,” your supporting headline might say: “Do you have an interest in cooking that you’d love to explore? Develop important culinary skills and expand your talents in the kitchen with our classes designed for all experience levels.”

The headline serves as a prompt that tells users that additional details are available after they provide their contact info. The supporting headline takes it one step further, addressing those three ingredients we mentioned above:

  • Who: People that have an interest in cooking
  • Why: They are interested in exploring that interest
  • What: Culinary classes for all experience levels, where they can learn new cooking skills and refine their talents

Now, the user experience has been personalized specifically for the landing page’s target audience, making it that much more effective.

Hero shot

Even the strongest headlines can’t necessarily invoke the level of emotional response you’d want to help users progress towards taking action. Or at least, they can’t do it alone.

But with the addition of media, specifically pictures, your landing page can be a slam dunk success.

The type of picture that is generally used to inspire landing page action is often referred to as the “hero shot.” It’s an aesthetic element that communicates what it would take hundreds (or thousands) of words to say: This is the right place for you, and this is a brand/business you can trust.

Even with the same headlines and supporting headlines, a landing page can have markedly different results depending on the hero shot. For our culinary school example, consider these two possible hero shots:

  • An image of a diverse group of people gathered around a cooking station and appearing entertained and engaged as a chef demonstrates a culinary technique
  • An image of a young couple enjoying a romantic, candlelit dinner at an Italian cafe

Which one do you think would drive higher conversion rates? While both images involve food, only one is suited for our purpose: the people participating in a culinary class. This may seem like an overly obvious choice, but you would be surprised at how many landing pages make a mistake in the selection of their hero shot.

At its best, a less-than-ideal hero image can fail to be the catalyst for user action. At its worst, it can confuse the users and make them feel as if they’re on the wrong page – resulting in a quick click away.

Benefit summary

The summary of benefits might not always end up in the above-the-fold content. However, when it does, it becomes especially important.

Think of the benefit summary as the link between your above-the-fold content and the rest of the page. It should persuade the users to either take the action that meets your conversion goal right now or continue scrolling for more information (and ideally, then take that action). Keep it short and simple, and try to avoid getting too pushy – users can sniff out an inauthentic sales pitch right away. Consider it your elevator pitch, a last-ditch attempt to secure any users that aren’t yet certain that they’re interested in what you have to offer.

Use it wisely.

VDS-SubHeader-1280×400-composition2. Call to Action (CTA)

Usually, most marketers put the landing page’s call to action (CTA) above the fold. However, we believe that it’s such an important element, we dedicated an entire section to it.

Long before you start creating your call to action, you’ll need to figure out what your goal is. What do you want people to do when they arrive on your landing page? What action can they complete that will serve a goal and your business? How can you connect your advertising campaign (which brought them to this page) with a specific conversion goal?

Even though it’s tempting to cut corners and figure out your call to action along the way, it’s a mistake you don’t want to make. Not only do you risk forgetting to build in a clear and effective call to action, but you could also end up incorporating multiple conflicting CTAs and confusing users – the exact opposite of what a landing page should do.

Instead, honing in on a simple, consistent CTA makes the next step obvious to the page visitor. We know that the average online user makes quick decisions, making it all the more important that you provide the necessary information as efficiently as possible. The easier it is for a landing page visitor to spot your call to action and process it, the better the odds that they will convert.

It can also be beneficial to offer users a specific benefit that is connected to the CTA. When visitors feel like they will receive something in return for taking a specific action, they are far more likely to act now.

For example, our culinary school could use the CTA, “Contact us now!” Or, they could incentivize it by using, “Contact us now to receive 20% off your first class!” From the perspective of a page visitor, it’s pretty easy to see which CTA is more compelling.

Finally, it’s always a good idea to use visuals to help your CTA stand out. One option is to use an eye-catching color for a prominently-placed CTA button. It commands attention and is easy to find, no matter where on the page a user is browsing.

3. User-Centered Benefits

You’re already in a good spot when a user is scrolling down your landing page. If they’ve moved past the above-the-line content, the interest is there – now, you just have to seize the opportunity to turn that steady interest into a conversion.

It’s here that businesses most frequently struggle because they tend to center themselves in the conversation. As a business owner, you’ve worked tirelessly to learn everything possible about how to be the best in your business. You know exactly why your products or services are superior to those of your competitors and why you’re different from comparable businesses out there.

But here’s the thing: the people arriving at your landing page aren’t interested in hearing any of that.

Instead, they want to understand what you can do for them – and if you consider that they are deciding whether they should invest their time and money in your business, that makes perfect sense. A landing page visitor is asking themselves if your brand can make their life better in some way, so it’s up to you to answer that question.

Let’s go back to our culinary school and its landing page. Sure, the page could feature details about the instructor qualifications and the heartfelt story of the school’s founders. But that content is centered on the business, not on the user. Instead, the landing page content should clearly convey the benefits that are available to the user: by signing up for a class, they can enjoy exploring their interest in cooking and build stronger culinary skills.

Through that lens, the user can easily see what they have to gain – and lose – if they don’t take action.

4. Social Proof

In this day and age, consumers are smarter than ever before. While there’s always been a certain level of skepticism in regards to marketing materials, today’s online users better understand that virtually anything can be a means to sell them a product or service. As a result, they’re often wary of trusting what a brand has to say.

So, how can you combat this – especially when you are aiming to sell something? The answer is social proof.

Social proof is the evidence that shows users why they should believe that your product/service is exactly as good as you say it is. It’s the unbiased perspective that they feel confident in trusting because it’s from a source that doesn’t necessarily have anything to gain. In other words, social proof is marketing gold.

Testimonials are the easiest form of social proof, but even they aren’t guaranteed to be worth anything to users. Unfortunately, there are plenty of businesses and marketers out there that take no issue with writing fake testimonials – and users know this. A few bad apples have left a bad taste in the mouths of consumers everywhere, meaning you’ll have to work extra hard to ensure your testimonials are believable.

Reputable and verifiable sources are key to a testimonial that positively impacts a user’s decision to move forward with your business. Here are some tips for how to put together a testimonial that contributes to your landing page goal:

  • Don’t skimp on detail. The more detail included in a testimonial (for example, the submitter’s name, location, professional role, etc.), the more weight it carries. Even though the average user isn’t likely to attempt to actually track down the writer of the testimonial, the simple fact that it would be possible given the details is helpful.
  • Cite sources that have authority within your industry or the business world. Anytime you’re covering any topic, for any purpose, citing reputable sources is a good idea. If you can get testimonials from leaders for well-known businesses in your niche, or other recognizable sources, it adds considerable value.
  • Include photos and/or videos. Both photos and videos build a sense of authenticity, especially if they demonstrate an individual’s genuinely positive feelings about your products or services.
  • Embed content when possible. If your business has received positive feedback on sites like Twitter or Yelp, embed them on your landing page. Your website visitors understand that that type of content is extremely difficult to “fake” convincingly, so they are likely to trust what it says.
  • Incorporate a broad range of testimonials. The average customer knows that going through the trouble of providing a testimonial is something they’ll only do if they really, really love a company. So, if you can show a good variety of testimonials (for example, in a slider), users will assume that your brand must have a pretty solid following.

Not all testimonials are created equal, so quality control is an important step in determining which ones will be most effective.

Closing Argument (Reinforcing Statement)

Most website visitors that arrive on your landing page probably won’t ever make it to your closing argument, which is the very last segment. Hopefully, they’ve converted before they’ve reached the endpoint – but if they haven’t, this is your last chance to persuade them.

Your entire landing page should be built around your initial focus: what action you want a customer to take and the obstacles that may stand between them and that action. Piece by piece, you should be aiming to dismantle any hesitations they may have and show them what you have to offer in return for their conversion.

In your closing argument, you’re going to reinforce and summarize everything you covered up to this point. If you can think of any final selling points, now is the time to bring them out.

For the few users that do make it all the way down to this final element, it could be the last piece of the puzzle and the push they need to take action. Including a CTA here makes it easy for them to take that next step and allows you to seal the deal.

How to Create a Landing Page

Are you ready to learn how to make a landing page on your own? Learning about how to drive landing page conversions is all well and good, but putting those concepts into practice is an entirely different challenge.

When you’re prepared to create landing pages for marketing campaigns, you have a few options to choose from. You could:

  1. Manually build the landing pages directly on your website
  2. Use a landing page tool/landing page templates
  3. Hire a professional team to manage the process for you

Manually build the landing pages directly on your site

This option is pretty self-explanatory and involves you both creating and hosting landing pages on your existing website. The process is just like building any other types of web pages, but these will be campaign-specific.

The downside to this option is that building landing pages for every marketing campaign – especially the dozens or more you’re likely to run over a period of time – can be massively time-consuming. In addition to plenty of time, you’ll also need design knowledge and coding skills. So, unless you’re a designer with a knack for coding that also happens to own a business that needs some landing pages, this approach might not be the best.

Using a landing page tool and/or templates

There are various tools for landing pages designed to help you build (and even host) a landing page through a third party. Of course, you can expect to pay a fee to use the majority of these tools. However, you do receive access to user-friendly interfaces and various testing options.

Some of the most popular landing page building and testing services include:

  • Unbounce
  • Instapage
  • LeadPages

The features vary from tool to tool, but most offer a variety of templates to use. But while having access to templates can be a benefit, it can also end up being a frustrating limitation. You might discover that none of the available options suit your needs or that there are just a few elements in each template that aren’t to your liking. Particularly if you have a solid brand identity, finding a landing page template that aligns with your branding can be a tall order.

VDS-Header-Image-1280×530-design-teamHire a professional team

Before you write this option off because of the cost involved, consider this: while hiring a marketing agency for landing pages might require the biggest financial investment of the three options, it can also offer the biggest payoff.

As experts in marketing strategy, an advertising team understands exactly how to make a landing page that drives conversions. They’ll know all about landing page optimization and can even help you funnel search traffic to the page. And even better, they can tailor the page to flawlessly fit your goals, business needs, and even your branding. The financial cost may be slightly higher, but the time and energy you can save – and the profits you can gain long-term – often make this option more than worth it.

Keep in mind that many digital marketing agencies will include landing page services within your larger strategy. So, they can interconnect landing pages with other tools and strategies such as email campaigns, Google Ads, and more. If you haven’t yet looked into getting professional support for your digital marketing plan as a whole, now might be the right time.

How to Test Your Landing Pages

So, you created a seemingly stellar landing page and stuck to every one of the landing page best practices we covered – but you’re not coming close to the conversion rate you were hoping for. What went wrong?

Unfortunately, predicting users’ purchase behavior isn’t something anyone can do perfectly. By nature, people can be unpredictable. Even if you have a solid grasp of your target audience and what they want from your brand, putting your finger on the perfect landing page design can be challenging.

However, you can try to learn what works (and what doesn’t) by testing different types of landing pages. Using a strategic and organized approach, along with some careful planning and detailed documentation, it’s possible to get a better idea of the right types of landing pages for your goals. Investing your time into a thoughtful testing strategy can pay off in the long run, bringing you a higher conversion rate and profitability.

Here’s how to test a landing page to determine what works best:

  1. Start with a landing page that you’ve built with landing page best practices in mind.
  2. Establish a prediction (hypothesis) for how you expect your target audience to engage with the landing page. Looking back at the “who, what, and why” of a headline, can you confidently say you checked all the boxes? Are all your visitors’ needs adequately addressed?
  3. After you’ve put together a handful of hypotheses, you can get started on a testing strategy. Ideally, your strategy will focus on a specific part of your landing page.
    For example, the goal of your test might be to determine the best CTA.
  4. Make a plan for documenting your test parameters and results.
    If you’re trying to test different CTAs to see which one promotes the best conversion results, you might plan to test three to four different hypotheses that relate to the CTA. “Claim your 20% discount and learn more” will drive more conversions than “Learn more now.” You can design an organization tracking method (we suggest a spreadsheet) to test the exact changes you make and the exact results.
  5. Now, because you have a clear tracking system, it’s easy to see connections between hypotheses and results. With each test, you’ll learn more about your audience and end up with a better way to guide users through the conversion process.

Let V Digital Services Help You Build a Landing Page that Serves Your Goals

Now that you’re well-versed in Landing Pages 101, you’re probably eager to start creating ones of your own. But like most elements of digital marketing, mastering the art of the landing page can be a challenge – luckily, you don’t have to do it alone.

If you want to build an effective, well-designed page that connects with your target audience and supports your larger business goals, partnering with a professional team can be the competitive advantage you need. V Digital Services is a full-serving digital marketing agency with the professional resources, skills, and expertise to help you develop and implement a full-fledged marketing strategy.

For help putting together landing pages for your brand or business and for more information about the marketing tools we can provide you, contact V Digital Services today.

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