Beginner’s Guide to Landing Pages

A well-designed landing page can greatly increase conversions for your PPC or email marketing campaigns. Rather than directing visitors from those sources to your general website (where they may have a hard time finding what they’re looking for), you can direct them to a specially-designed landing page that steers them in exactly the direction you want them to take.

But creating effective landing pages isn’t the same as crafting a successful website or email newsletter. There are certain guidelines you should adhere to in order to maximize your page’s success.

What is the Goal of Your Landing Page?

Landing pages, like any other part of your online marketing arsenal, need goals. Without concrete, specific goals, there’s no way to create an effective page. Your goal should be clear before you begin designing your page.

You also need specific expectations for your landing page, on which to gauge its success. These expectations can be based on previous experience, anecdotal evidence, or simply wishful thinking. But it’s helpful to have a specific number to compare your actual results with. This could be the total number of conversions, or the number of people who make it past your landing page, or some other number, based on your own goals.

A Clear Call to Action is Vital

Once you know what your goal for the page is, you need to come up with a clear call to action. This is possibly the single most important part of any landing page. Your call to action should be specifically tied to your goal, and should be supported by everything else on your landing page, from headline and body copy to images and overall layout.

37 signals backpack landing page example

The Backpack home/landing page has a very clear call to action, though they opt to first direct visitors to more information about their plans and pricing, rather than going straight for the signup.

Simple is Best

Landing pages need to be greatly simplified compared to many other website designs. This is because landing pages have very specific goals and shouldn’t include any extraneous information that might distract your visitors and prevent them from converting.

Clear and Concise Copy

Your copy should be clear and concise. It should be persuasive, too. Landing pages are not the place to show off your creativity, unless that creativity is clear, concise, and persuasive. Leave the creative turns-of-phrase for your blog.

It’s pretty safe to assume that most of the people who visit your landing page are already interested in what you have to say, because they’ve likely clicked through from a PPC ad or email. But just because they’re interested when they arrive doesn’t mean they’ll stay interested if you don’t get to the point.

Every single sentence and word on your landing page should serve a purpose, and that purpose should be to support your call to action. If it doesn’t do that, cut it. Be ruthless in editing your copy. Tell your visitors what they want to know in as few words as possible, and get them to respond to your call to action as quickly as possible.

videowizard landing page example

The VideoWizard landing page has a simple design with clear copy that has definite goals.

Only Ask for the Vitals

If your landing page includes a form, make sure it’s only asking for the most vital information. If you’re trying to get visitors to sign up for an email newsletter, make sure you’re just asking them for their email address. Anything more than that decreases the chances that they’ll finish and submit the form.

If you’re asking them to buy something, make it as easy as possible. Just ask for the vitals: billing and shipping information, plus a confirmation screen before placing their order. Keep it as simple and concise as possible. Wait to ask them for additional information until after their order has been placed.

vitals landing page example

This form only asks for name and email address, neither of which are likely to deter sign-ups.

clickable landing page example

This form, on the other hand, has too many fields. Do they really need a phone number and company name? And wouldn’t it make more sense to just ask for a name in one field, rather than two?

Design Considerations

The design of your page is just as important as the copy. A good design supports the call to action, while a bad design detracts from it. This is why, when it comes to landing pages, less is definitely more. The simpler your page and its design, the more likely it is to convert.

Remove Navigation Elements

The first major difference between your normal website and your landing pages is that your landing pages shouldn’t have your usual site navigation. Instead, the only clickable links should be your call to action, and possibly a link to more information for those who are undecided. Linking your logo to your regular home page can also be a good idea.

verisign landing page example

This landing page shows just the vital links, without a ton of extraneous navigation.

But forget about links to everything else. All they do is clutter up the page and increase the likelihood that your visitors will abandon your landing page (and ultimately, your site) without converting.

Simplify Normal Site Design

Your landing page should still echo the design of your regular website, though, to reinforce your branding. This can be done through the graphics, general look and feel, or your color scheme and font choices.

Long Page vs. Series of Pages

There’s some question out there about whether it’s better to use a single page for your landing page that requires scrolling, or if visitors respond better to a series of short pages (sometimes referred to as a “mini-site”).

Mini sites generally have multiple pages with short content that funnel visitors from one step to the next along the conversion process. This has the advantage of getting users in the habit of moving from one page to the next, which can help get them in the right psychological frame of mind to convert. The downside to mini sites is that they work best for conversion funnels that need a lot of content.

Landing pages, on the other hand, are perfectly suited to content that’s shorter. They also have the advantage of only having to load once, which can be a big consideration for companies targeting people in rural areas or developing nations, where bandwidth and connection speeds could be an issue. The downside to landing pages is that they can get overwhelming with a lot of content, and can come across as spammy if not well-designed.

cameraplus landing page example

The CameraPlus landing page is quite long, with all the information you’d need about the app. (The image above is split, as the entire page would be a couple thousand pixels long.)

groupon landing page example

Compare this page, which barely fills a single screen, and uses multiple steps to gather information.

Pay Attention to the Fold

While there’s a lot of debate as to the importance of “the fold” in web design, landing pages are one area where the fold is important. Make sure that your call to action is located near the top of the page, where someone can click it without having to scroll.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your visitors won’t scroll down the page to read more information. But hopefully, at least some percentage of your visitors will be ready to buy as soon as they arrive on your landing page, either because the email or link that brought them there already persuaded them, or because it’s not their first time visiting the page. Putting a call to action right near the top of the page just makes things easier on these visitors.

hummingbird landing page example

The most important navigation elements are located just above the fold, with the call to action well above the fold.

magnetize landing page example

The signup button is well above the fold here, too.

Below-The-Fold Calls to Action

That doesn’t mean you should neglect those users who scroll. Make sure calls to action appear at regular intervals on your page, tied into the page’s copy. This becomes more and more important as your pages get longer. Make sure that your users have to do minimal scrolling once they decide to convert.

freshbooks landing page example

FreshBooks includes links to a free trial or tour throughout their landing page.

Minimal Images and Larger Fonts

Your landing pages should use only one or, at most, two images. You want to avoid visual clutter on the page, or anything that detracts from the message and call to action.

Larger font sizes are also a good idea, as the last thing you want to do is cause your visitors eye strain. Just don’t go overboard and put everything in a headline-size font. The ideal line length for copy readability is 39 characters, so size your font (and column width) accordingly.

purdue landing page example

The typography becomes a major part of the visuals of this landing page, minimizing the need for graphics.

Centered, Single-Column

Studies have shown that centered, single-column landing pages convert best. And yet, there are still plenty of marketers out there who are opting for two-column designs. Make sure that you test single-column versions of any landing page design against any two-column versions prior to committing to a design.

campaignmonitor landing page example

A great example of a centered page that makes great use of the available space.

Match the Look and Feel of Email

If your landing page is tied to an email campaign, make sure that the landing page echoes the look and feel of the email. If the designs of the two are wildly different, your landing page visitors may wonder if they’ve ended up in the right place. The easiest way to do this is to carry over fonts, images, and colors from your email to your landing page.

Use the Tools Available

If you don’t want to have to use a web designer for your landing pages, there are options for creating great landing pages without any technical knowledge. Unbounce is one of the easiest to use, and lets you create landing pages without any IT experience. They have best-practices templates available that you can customize (or design your own page entirely from scratch), and flexible pricing (including a free plan for sites with limited traffic). Unbounce also integrates with Google Website Optimizer for testing, Google Analytics for tracking your traffic, and KISSinsights for gathering user input.

Don’t Forget Testing

Creating effective landing pages isn’t a one-size-fits-all project. What works for one site might not work so well for another. Finding the most effective page design is a matter of trial and error in a lot of cases. It’s important to test the different versions of your landing page to find the one that works the best for your particular situation. Without doing so, you might be leaving a lot of potential conversions on the table.

Stayed Tuned…

In our next landing page guide, we’ll dive into the basics of testing your landing pages, to ensure that you’re getting the best results possible.

About the Author: Cameron Chapman is a freelance designer, blogger, and the author of Internet Famous: A Practical Guide to Becoming an Online Celebrity.

  1. Holy crap. Suh-weeeet article, guys.

    I especially like “Landing pages are not the place to show off your creativity.” So true, and that’s something that I think MOST bloggers can take into account. Design and creative is important, of course, but function and content are the real reasons people come and stick around.

    I also like what was said about only asking for the most necessary content. I’ve seen a couple email newsletters that I *would* have signed up for… but didn’t because they wanted me to enter my phone number and mailing address. Post thoroughly enjoyed and retweeted.

    • Yes, the less information the better! People often get carried away simply because their caught up in their own mind. Once they realize that it’s about the users experience not there own, they’ll make the changes necessary to grow.

  2. I’ll echo and underscore all of Tristan Higbee’s remarks and add that I really love and appreciate all the examples and screenshots you’ve included.

    Thanks, Cameron — great job!

  3. any form that asks for a phone number will be turned down more often than not, and if that form is on the landing page then it has even less of a chance, after all, how many people will trust you with their phone numbers on a first visit? an email address with a name field is sufficient.

    sometimes breaking long pages into multiple ones is good, but the example you gave of the group on, it looks a bit useless to ask city on a page, email id on another page and then name on the last page and finish the form… those things can easily be put on a single page. And seriously, confirm your city? Why not use Geo location and automatically get the city, would have saved a page from the looks of it.

    nice guide overall, covers a lot. i do monitor my landing pages, it is important to see the stats and check how many people converts and how many does not, and keep improving the figures.

  4. Landing pages should reflect the website, we have done AB testing and found, people general ( if they don’t bounce) go on to browse the rest of the website.
    We have found any removal of navigation and links Increases our bounce rate.

    Remember these are landing page on to your website and NOT! Landing page to nowhere, from testing I seen and current User experience research the more you restrict a user the more they become defensive and negative users and bounce!!

    Plus each product and service is Subjective and requires a completely different design/layout approach.
    For example would you use the same landing page guidelines to sell a cheap software product for trying to sell airbus airliners?

    Plus I would like to see hard data bounce rates before I take this advice as grounded

    I have seen Bounce rates and AB testing data that contradicts some of your opinions on good landing page design.

    The way I see it you don’t need Landing pages if you have a good website.
    Because the same rules apply to why someone is purchasing on your website has on a landing page. Think about it!!

    The keywords is ‘Trust’ ‘confidence’

    • @bryan, you are right with have the same look and feel for the page as the rest of the website to reduce bounce rate, but creating individual landing page that don’t necessarily match the Website’s look and feel is also important when running PPC or Social media campaigns where the sole-focus is on generating more leads or even have users make a purchase quicker without other fluff that may be distracting.

      Increase or Decrease of bounce rate could only be measured IF AND ONLY IF the conversion rate is affected. You can have a bounce rate of 60%, yet the conversion rate could be 3% where as some websites may have bounce rate of 28% and conversion rate of 1.6%. Many time it doesn’t have to do with design of the website at all, but rather the intent of the user, clarity of your message and urgency of the user coming to the page.

      • The quality of the traffic would make a big impact as well. If you’re ranking for keywords that aren’t really connected to your products/services, you can’t expect the conversion rate to go up.

    • Bryan, like you mentioned it really does vary from site to site. Depending on the type of site you have and the industry you’re in, everything will be different.

  5. Good one Cameron. I thought that copyblogger had some lovely articles on landing pages. This one is detailed.

    There is a lot bloggers can learn from this post.

  6. Holy sh*t this is a great article! So well written and researched and very informative.

    I often wonder about the ‘Buy it now’ call to actions vs the ‘see more’ CTA button. I often find myself put off my buy it now buttons when all i want is to learn more about the product (for now). Buy it now implies i will be taken to a checkout and always leads me to look around more, clicking it only as a last resort.

    • Yes, sometimes ‘buy it now’ just comes across way to strong. Through some of our testing, we find the word “Get Started” works really well.

  7. You criticize The Clickable site, saying “Do they really need a phone number and company name?” But that’s exactly what the Get Started form on this site does!

    • It depends on your company. For some companies that provide automated products and services, it really doesn’t matter. For something like KISSmetrics, we ask for a phone number because it’s necessary to talk in detail about someone’s website and what their needs are.

  8. Thanks for the great article. Just a quick observation about form fields – with on of our clients in particular we have the challenge of trying to increase the quality of leads rather than the quantity. Having shorter form with less fields definitely does help conversion, but asking for a little more information can sometimes help qualify the lead..are they worth pursuing? Validating the info is also important, we have a double email field in an attempt flush out bogus information.
    As the article and the folks who have commented mention, it really depends upon your page goals, industry etc. Would love to see an article dedicated to improving quality rather than just conversions! :)

    • I think it’s still better to have shorter forms, but more specific questions to weed out the people that don’t fit your criteria.

  9. Exactly, the main purpose of your landing page should be to make it “call to action” so as to convert your visitors into sales.

  10. Just started a new job and this really helps me to get started with my current project!

  11. Where should you put your landing pages in relation to the rest of your website?

    Should you be able to browse to them from your main navigation?
    Should they be orphaned pages, only by a sitemap?
    Should they be 100% orphaned pages that only get traffic through PPC/Social Shares?

    Free, organic traffic through SEO would be the best, but then Google needs to be able to find your landing pages through your site somehow. That presents a small usability problem though, if there’s no clear way to get back to your core site (aside from the back button).

    Just curious what your thoughts were on the subject.

  12. Very helpful tips to design a kick ass landing pages

    thanks for sharing this

    :)

  13. Great article. Does anyone know of a company that has templates exactly like Groupon’s landing page?

  14. As a landing page design, this post help me a lot.

  15. Good one for beginners as a guide on landing page design. check some design done by me here http://www.mindxstudio.com/landing-page-design-4-sale/

  16. Extremely Marvelous… I get lots of info here…

  17. Great article! We’ve been stressing the importance of landing pages to our clients and I agree it’s more than just a good design. Check out what our account manager thinks about them @ http://www.insivia.com/the-importance-of-using-landing-pages-insivia-insights/

  18. Nice article, I recently bought some new squeeze page software that really does the business it’s called TLC Platform and I have to say I have been very impressed with it.

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