If Landing Pages Were People – 3 Nasty Habits That Drive Prospects Away

Landing pages and people are not as different as you might think. That’s because landing pages are written by people. Sounds obvious now I mention it—but the fact is, it can sometimes be hard to keep the worst parts of ourselves out of what we create. Here are three very bad habits common to landing pages (*cough*marketers*cough*), which tend to depress conversion rates.

1. Self-importance

self important landing pages

“Hello Peter—what’s happening. Uuuh, I’m going to have to ask you to…go ahead and…yeeeaaah. That would be great…”

No one wants to be this guy. Not even awful, self-important bosses. He thinks he’s good with people. He thinks he’s making things happen. But…no. Just no.

Unfortunately, just as with bosses, it’s terribly easy for landing pages to get like this. Here are a few common ways:

Trying to be clever instead of trying to be clear

This is a particular problem for headlines—using puns, for example, or trying to play on pop culture references. I once saw a headline on a chef-related site saying “Got food?” I suppose it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it doesn’t imply any promise to solve a problem or answer a question.

But cleverness can be an issue for far more than just headlines. On the website below, the attempt at cleverness starts with a confusing, seemingly irrelevant headline—but then cascades down until the entire design ends up looking like a Star Trek fan’s space enthusiast site:

another self important landing page

Nattering on about themselves

“The CRM Software Leader,” ZohoCRM’s landing page declares. And this is really what self-importance is all about. Boasting. Not thinking of what others are interested in, because you’re too entranced with your own excellence. A particular problem, I’m afraid, for creative types—of which I regrettably am one. There’s only one thing prospects are interested in, and it ain’t you. It’s whatever problem they have in mind when they get to your page. Talk about that—or they’ll bounce. Here’s a web designer who lost the plot on this one:

landing page that does not convert

Trying to sound impressive

I’m sure we’ve all met someone like the Harvard grad student in Good Will Hunting. You know, the one in the bar with the pony tail and penchant for passing off quotes from history books as his own original ideas? He likes apples.

For landing pages, the epitome of the equivalent egregious proclivity is characterized by such latinate vocabulary and nominalized language common to corporate marketing copy. Stuff that uses big, vague words to say very little, but sounds very grand doing it. It’s like Rice Krispies—takes up a lot of space; has virtually no substance. A thin layer of some tasteless, nutritionally-deficient material, blown up with a lot of hot air. There’s nothing to sink your teeth into:

self important conversions

But it doesn’t have to be complete marketese to turn prospects off. Here’s a page that tries to walk the tightrope between a conversational style and buzzword-infested fuzz-puff—but falls to its inevitable demise:

landing pages

2. Impatience

impatient landing page

Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny-Penny!

We all want to make a sale. And we’d prefer to make one sooner than later. If we had our druthers, a landing page would consist of one big call-to-action button right at the top.

Unfortunately—we realize this—our prospects need a little more to work with before they decide to do whatever it is we want them to. But not, you know, a lot more:

another impatient landing page

Fourteen words should enough for anyone to join something that involves investing—especially when we’re talking millions of dollars. Right?

Hrmm, maybe not.

The problem is actually not being impatient for an action. Rather, it is being impatient for a big action. For joining or signing up or paying or talking to a salesperson or whatever the case may be. Because actually, prospects are impatient too! They don’t want to read lots of copy, or have to put in a lot of effort. They want things quickly, they want things easily, and of course they want things cheaply. But this doesn’t translate into landing pages being able to ask for big actions right up front.

Rather, it translates into being able to ask for small actions. Prospects want to do things—but they also want to take baby steps. Like men, they’re afraid of commitment. They like to feel they’re being active, rather than passive. But they don’t like to take actions without knowing what they’re getting into. So give them small actions. Ones which will move them toward taking the big action you ultimately want, by gradually helping them learn about it and see that it’s for the best.

So less like this…

screenshot of a landing page

…and more like this:

image capture landing page

3. Coyness

coy landing page

I hope you’ve been practicing your telepathy, because although I’ll never ask directly, I’d really like you to plant one on me.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have those pages which seem to have forgotten the reason they exist. Pages which go to all the trouble of enticing a prospect, getting them fired up…only to come over bashful at the last second and think better of asking for anything. Pages like this:

another coy landing page

Some coy landing pages manage to at least whisper their desires with tiny buttons that fade into the background:

coy webpage

But in both cases, prospects aren’t inclined to stick around if they don’t immediately see what they can do. If they miss it, they have plenty of other landing pages to look at—which won’t be so reticent about asking for an action.

That’s 3 nasty habits—do you have any others to share?

Perhaps your landing pages aren’t condescending or pushy or shrinking violets. But they could be indulging many other bad habits. Have you encountered any? Share them in the comments.

d bnonn tennant

About the Author: D Bnonn Tennant is an expert in a rare trifecta: marketing, copywriting and web design. He is the author of the free email micro-course “5 Sales-Spiking Website Tweaks Gurus & Designers Don’t Know”. When he isn’t teaching entrepreneurs how to turn more visitors into customers, he’s either knee-deep in the guts of someone’s landing page, or schooling his kids in the manly arts of archery, fisticuffs and how to grapple a zombie without getting bit.

  1. Very nice article! We find that the majority of our new clients come to us with two of the three issues you mentioned…no obvious call to action and an unclear offer. Making some simple changes can make a world of difference as far as conversions go. I think another one could be consistency. Landing pages should still flow with your main website. Inconsistant designs can confuse visitors and shatter the trust level. Thoughts?

    • Its very important to have content on the webpages which are engaging and up to the point. Trying to write content only around “why we are the best’, “why you should opt for us” in order to just provoke thoughts will never sustain for longer periods as overly doing this make people think that they are being lured. This is kind of awareness post on why not to overly promote. Thanks Bnonn.

  2. Good post.

  3. Great article. Right in time. I am getting ready to launch my new landing page and as you mentioned, I am giving them small actions to eventually take them where I want. And of course I shall be tracking it all with Kissmetrics :)

  4. Great article, but I can’t help thinking this, like most Kissmetrics stuff, is pitched towards landing pages for specific products or services.

    I’m working on a redesign for an IT services company. They have multiple products and services, and it’s impossible to see a clear way to a solution that’s as tidy as:

    Simple proposition
    A modest call to action
    Some stuff to build trust (e.g. client logos)

    That I can do down at product landing pages, but what of the company home page? This page still needs to exist.

    Any advice for pages where there are multiple underlying propositions?

    Is it necessary to define a single, overarching proposition and then associate a CTA with that?

    In which case the problem is defining a proposition for a kind of amorphous blob.

    • Mark, that’s actually a very good question — and no doubt an excellent topic for a future article. I will add it to my editorial calendar :)

      I think David Evans is right to point to 37 Signals as a strong example of one way to approach a homepage when you have multiple offerings. Admittedly there are only three major offerings there, so if your company is selling a dozen products in a bunch of major categories, obviously this approach won’t work very well.

      Just off the top of my head, a couple of thoughts to ponder over and hopefully give you some direction:

      1. A lot of companies assume they must have only one homepage. I question this assumption. I don’t see why you can’t have several. For example, Yamaha makes pianos and motorbikes (an odd combination if ever there was one, but they are very good at both). They have a separate website for motorbikes — yamahamotors.com. I think it is actually very smart to separate your company into different websites based on product categories, if there won’t be any obvious overlap in customers.

      2. Focusing on an overarching value proposition for your company is a good idea if you have a single homepage for a diverse website. Individual products and categories may have their own value propositions, but ultimately you should still have an answer to the question: “Why should I buy from your company instead of another?”

      3. A modest call to action on a homepage like yours would actually be an offer to view the product category of interest. So a very critical part of the design will be clearly demarcating different categories in a way that is simple to follow and doesn’t confuse prospects (supporting their natural reading path will be very important here — you’ll probably need multiple columns with very strong headlines for each to help people immediately know which to read).

      Hope this helps — I’m sure there’s lots more that can be said, but that will have to wait until I’ve researched more and written an article on the topic!

  5. Thanks for posting alternatives to the examples. Explaining is one thing, but showing the improvement helps cement the idea. In the case of #2 with Fundrise, Base and similar large commitment type apps, is having a call to action to Join or Try on the homepage the best? We are currently seeing users click sign up from deeper pages – tour, pricing, etc. – but rarely from the homepage. Or have you seen people return to the homepage to sign up since it is what they can recall easily? We all hope people will click sign up straight from the first time they land on the page, but that is rarely the case.

    • Hey Matt, I wouldn’t bother having join/signup as a primary CTA on the homepage. I’d make it a primary CTA wherever it is the natural thing for a prospect to do.

      Remember, you’re not optimizing your website. You’re optimizing your prospect’s thought sequence.

      That said, don’t remove join/signup from the homepage entirely. There are people who will go back there, either from interior pages, or when they’re returning visitors. The homepage is like the anchor for your site — a safety net for people when they get lost or stuck. Just move join/signup to the top right, next to login. That’s where people expect it :)

  6. D Bnonn,

    When I saw this headline in my feed, I knew that you had to have written it. I’d recognize that kind of clever headline writing anywhere.

    I’m loving getting your Shirtsleeves Communique because it’s packed with practical and fresh advice for making my website effective.

    I’m taking a bold step with my home page at the moment. Much like your own home page, I’m trying to make it more like a full-on landing page, where I give a free resource to my potential customers and make that the entire focus. It’s only been up for a week or two, so I don’t have a good feel quite yet if it’s working how I want it to.

    Thanks for pointing out the huge opportunities for customer acquisition just by small tweaks in tone and purpose.

    Keep up the great work.

  7. This is a terrific post. Great tips. And just so you know, I laughed out loud at the line: “He likes apples.” Well played.

  8. I would add landing pages not design for the right audience. Not long ago I’ve reviewed the site with no toll-free number displayed despite the fact business has been selling to older customers who would be glad to pick the phone and place the order rather then going through the hell-shopping-cart-system owner has prepared for them. Surprisingly toll-free order number existed – it was hidden so deeply on the website it took me a long time to find it.

  9. Navneet Singh Apr 02, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Thanks D Bnonn Tennant for sharing this. But “Coyness” can be more elaborative

  10. Splash pages are a big one for me, granted every now and again you’ll find one that is absolutely necessary, but on the whole it’s like making you jump through a hoop every time you go to the supermarket.

  11. Fantastic post, insightful and a great read too. Love your terminology – “buzzword-infested fuzz-puff” :)

  12. I have one… Don’t be that guy who thinks he created the Internet… cough, cough, when he didn’t.

    Ever see a headline like this? “The Only Product That Matters…” or “The Best Web Designer Ever Born” or “The Greates Product In The Entire World.”

    Try to stay down to earth with your claims. I tend to like simple statements like… “Noble Creative, We are a marketing company. We make things that make you money.” I think people are too skeptical to believe outlandish statements.

  13. Yes!

    Thank you for this article. I especially love the Big Bang Theory reference. I can’t tell you how annoying it is to go to a website and having to search around as to what the purpose of the site is. Thanks for this awesome post.

    I’ve created a few Lead Capture Landing pages that can be used to maximize conversion and get the simple point across. Feel free to check them out at http://www.leadpagelabs.com/

    I loved the Office Space reference as well!

  14. Hi there everyone, it’s my first go to see at this site, and paragraph is in fact fruitful for me, keep up posting these types of articles or reviews.

  15. Love this line “the epitome of the equivalent egregious proclivity is characterized by such latinate vocabulary and nominalized language.” This really makes your point in a hilarious way. Isn’t that really what you are saying here. Great post to keep us all focused on the issues you have raised. Thanks, D Bonn.

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