We’ve all seen them, responded to some and maybe written a few as well – but what really makes a good, effective landing page?

This was the question behind Napier’s latest webinar, which delved into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of landing pages.

The webinar set out to answer the question, ‘What makes a great landing page?’ – but first, let’s explore what a landing page is. We can define a landing page as first and foremost simply a web page, but one with a very specific purpose. It displays directed sales copy that is a logical extension of the advertisement, search result or link or whatever drove the user to that page. They are usually intended to generate sales leads.

So essentially, a landing page is the destination pointed to from a specific web search, that then offers something directly related to that search – a white paper, a report or some other useful collateral that the target audience will be attracted to. In the process of downloading the item, the user will give contact information that acts as a source of potential sales leads for the landing page owner.

When trying to answer the question of what makes a great landing page, the suggestions are numerous and varied and there are many ideas of best practice – people have offered ‘scent’, colours, pain and pleasure as elements of an effective landing page – but essentially, the mark of a good landing page is that it works. It maximizes the number of high-quality leads and minimizes the number of time wasters. Ultimately, conversions are what matter most.

A four-step process

When developing a landing page, Napier follows a unique four-step process: Determine, Deliver, Focus and Enhance.

Determine is the planning phase, during which you’ll decide what the goal of the landing page is, how it fits into the rest of the campaign and how its success will be measured.

Focus is all about the audience and what is driving them to your landing page. It also looks at what stage of the customer journey they are likely to be in – established customers can be very different from potential prospects.

Deliver is where you follow best practice to come up with a design that gets the customer response you want.

The Enhance stage is where you measure the effectiveness of the page and test any tweaks, though you may only be able to test one change in a particular campaign as the volume of B2B leads is likely to be small. Be prepared to test and test again over many different campaigns.

The ultimate message here is that no amount of design hacks will compensate for a poorly planned campaign.

The elements of a great design

Although we’ve said planning is paramount, there are design elements that you’ll need to stick with to build a landing page that has a chance of succeeding.

Firstly, it must fit the flow of the ad or link that drove people to the landing page. You’ll also need a great, compelling headline, one that really resonates with your audience.

You also need a clear layout so that readers can see what they are getting by downloading your content, as well a clear call to action that invites the user to do something. There is no need for subtly here – get people hitting that download button – put CTAs in the headlines, in the body copy and even on the form submission buttons, like ’get my whitepaper.’

Copy needs to very direct and concise and tell people exactly what they are getting. There should also be an ‘inescapable why’, the challenge or problem that is solved by your product or service.

And introduce some urgency – ‘download now’, ‘get your white paper today’. Also be sure to match the form fields to the offer – you may think shorter is better here but if you are offering a high value service or tool, people will expect to have to provide extensive information to obtain it.

Investigating landing pages

Our webinar presented research into companies offering the best landing pages, based on a search for the terms ‘10kW variable frequency drive’.

Three of the top results in the ad spots returned a product page, which made it difficult to see if they offered the desired product, while one took users to the home page with even less relevant information. Generally, a ‘product family’ landing page doesn’t flow, will have a weak headline, poor copy, a confusing layout and will not be optimised for lead generation.

The ‘home page’ type is if anything even worse, as it presents content that is unrelated to the original search, is confusing and has lots of distractions – the lesson is, don’t use your home page as your landing page.

Turning to the software industry, the webinar looked at results for the search term ‘static analysis tool;’ a type of software debugging.

Researching this term, we found a landing page complete with a form. Although a pretty standard layout, it falls down by telling us about static application security testing, not static analysis. There’s also a lot of different menu options which distracts from downloading the report.

Another company uses bullet points on its landing page, a very effective way to increase conversion rates. However, the headline was anything but compelling and doesn’t actually say what they’re offering – you have to read the text to do that. The body copy is also all about how amazing the company is, which undermines the objectivity of the white paper as an informative tool.

Yet another company’s page offers a demo rather than downloading a white paper. This is possibly not the first thing people looking for information will want – you may get people requesting it, but you’re not targeting the right audience and you could end up not only wasting their time but wasting your own time. The form also has completely redundant fields.

There is also an independent report or white paper type landing page. One company we looked at did a reasonable job of the landing page but covered a slightly different topic than what we were looking for. This is a mistake with landing pages – companies with a great content offer sometimes try and offer it too widely.

Other mistakes that companies fall prey to are poor language in the body copy or headline and offering the chance to flag what you are searching for on social media – users are not very likely to take you up on this.

Do marketing automation companies do it better?

We also looked at marketing automation companies, who by rights should be the experts at this kind of thing.

Our research found that SharpSpring, which isn’t a marketing automation agency, is running Google ads against marketing automation agency – SharpSpring is probably not getting great results from this particular search. This is because people don’t want a platform they’ve got to run themselves, they want an agency to do it for them.

The company are experts in marketing automation, but they send enquirers to their homepage, on which there is a special offer on how to unlock the potential of marketing automation. But again, I don’t actually want to unlock it – I want an agency to unlock that for me.

Yet, they also have more relevant calls to action, such as a free ebook about what is marketing automation. So, they do have some offers that will route to landing pages that have forms – by clicking on the ebook, you see a standard two-column landing page with a form that only asks for first name and email address, which is well worth considering. Once you’ve got that email address, you can keep communicating, asking more questions to understand more about that person.

SharpSpring also had a ‘download and read’ button – highlighting that you’re not just going to download an ebook, you’re actually going to get to read it, showcasing the benefits.

The other company that appeared on the Google Ads was a company called Clevertouch. Here, Clevertouch don’t actually direct to a specific landing page, they direct to the page that talks about their Marketo services. This will get people coming who are looking for a marketing automation agency, but they then get routed to a landing page that might immediately turn them off.

These are two very different approaches from companies that are basically direct competitors, but overall, nothing particularly different from the previous companies.

Best practice

So, what’s current best practice? One of the things we looked at was HubSpot, a very popular marketing automation system, as well as a small competing company called Engagement.

Engagement has a very compelling, very direct landing page. Its message is ‘Don’t buy HubSpot, buy us.’ They’re also highlighting the pain, mainly the added expense of opting for their rival.

They also use very little body copy, instead relying on headings and bullets, making for quite a compelling landing page. They also only asked for an email address, allowing them to start engaging with people.

A similar approach is taken by a company called Active Campaign. They don’t use bullet points, simply asking for an email address, but offer lots of information about the product and again another form at the bottom. This page shows a lot of information and this may be an example of a landing page where a company is trying not to overdo the number of leads and focus on people who are genuinely interested.

To sum up ‘the competitive landing page’. A great example of a good compelling landing page is where you’re looking at comparing yourself against another vendor. The immediate trial is not unusual for software as a service, but probably won’t work in many other industries, particularly for B2B technical equipment that can cost a huge amount of money. It’s much more about providing information.

It’s interesting to see where some of the other marketing automation companies are going. Many are really focused on high-quality leads, rather than on quantity. Most of these are marketing automation platform companies, that will give you pure conversion rate and no indication of quality in the standard reporting. Looking at their own landing pages, they have worked it out, but maybe they haven’t quite fed that back into the tools.

If we look at content-rich pages, we can see different calls to action, and also different ways of achieving the call to action.

A good example is by Active Campaign, where each different section describes a little bit more about the products.

Salesforce have a long landing page with information – a guided tour offer, and more videos in the tour again and then a ‘talk to the experts.’ There’s also a free trial right at the bottom. So, Salesforce have believe that if people get to the end, they’re probably interested and so it might be a good time to try and convert them to a free trial.

All this content is mixed on the same page, which goes against the general rule of one call to action per page. But actually, all they’re trying to do is get you to engage. So, it’s the same offer, but with different ways to meet the needs of different people.

Content-rich landing pages often require a lot of effort to create – if you’re not at the stage of multiple landing pages, where the content on the landing page matches what’s driven the person there, don’t get into building them, as they’re very time consuming and expensive.

Having said that, some of these longer landing pages are actually very good for SEO – most landing pages are terrible for SEO, because the content is not there to make people read the copy, it’s to make people download the form.

For most clients, and for most campaigns, the standard two-column layout is probably the best and most effective way to create landing pages that will give you the best return on investment.

Top tips

So, what are our top five landing page tips?

Tip one is to create custom landing pages – don’t ever route people to your homepage or a product page, it just isn’t a good experience. Also, create many different custom landing pages so that the experience is as smooth as possible, from whatever search or LinkedIn ad, or even link on your email that you’ve provided people.

The second thing is getting the targeting right. If you have got the targeting perfect, and you’re only attracting potential customers, just get them to fill in the form.

I’d also recommend being very direct – be very clear about what you’re offering and why people should fill it in, and particularly on the calls to action.

We also mentioned getting the why right – one of the landing pages really highlighted the issue of cost and the limitations on HubSpot versus Engagement. That was a pain point for a lot of companies. And they were very clear about how they solved it by charging a lower price.

Don’t ask for too much information. Many of the forms that you get from the market information companies typically just ask for email because they know they can use the tool to get the other information about that person.

And then finally, your audience is unique. So do test different approaches – follow best practice, but not to the point that you’re not prepared to try different things.

In summary, landing pages take work, but if you’re spending a lot of money driving traffic to your website, getting the landing page right is really the key thing in driving the number of leads you’ll get.


To watch our webinar in full, please click here to view the on-demand version.