How Crappy Landing Pages
Kill Email Campaigns

Image of Landing Page graphic

“Oh, the humanity …”

The folks at SilverPop recently published a study, “Eight Seconds to Capture Attention: Silverpop’s Landing Page Report”, where it reviewed the email campaigns of 150 top online companies. Long and short? They discovered that email campaigns that opened with promise and decent click through ratios generally died on the vine with ill-conceived, poorly designed or just plain, lazy-ass landing pages. Bored, confused prospects quickly took their conversion clicks — and wallets — elsewhere.

Even the “big boys” with the deep pockets still fail to think about their email/landing page campaign as a whole project. So what happens is that all the care and craft is lavished on the email part, while the landing page — if used at all — gets “ugly sister” attention.

Silverpop examined 14 different elements in their study:

  • Use of readable URLs
    KEY FINDING: B2C companies were more likely to use readable URLs than B2B firms.
    This is probably less important in a PPC campaign, but for email I can see where a readable, memorable URL makes good sense.
  • Repetition of email promotional copy
    KEY FINDING: Nearly 50% of the landing pages studies failed to repeat the email’s call-to-action.
  • Primary conversion goals
    KEY FINDING: 6 out of 10 companies use landing pages to sell products/services, other goals include lead generation, branding, and education (educate target audiences, support product usage.)
  • Location of the landing page
    KEY FINDING: 17% of e-mail marketing campaigns — mostly B2C — dumped recipients at the company’s website home page as opposed to a unique campaign landing page.
  • Whether the look of the page matches the email and/or website
    KEY FINDING: 35% of landing pages failed to match the look, feel and tone of the original email.
  • Landing page design
    KEY FINDING: Only 36% of the landing pages used the recommended one-column format, 25% of the pages used 2-column formatting.
  • Placement of the primary call-to-action
    KEY FINDING: 9 of out 10 landing pages had the main call-to-action above the fold. But of those pages that had copy continuing past the natural fold, only 11% had additional calls-to-action adjacent to the below-the-fold copy.

I’ll review the remaining 7 elements in soon-to-come Part II. Here’s a sneak preview:

  • Inclusion of navigation bars
  • Use of forms
  • Copy length and need for scrolling
  • Use of subheads within the copy
  • Types and numbers of links
  • Inclusion of hero shots and animation
  • Email opt-in requests

More surprising and illuminating KEY FINDINGS to come. Keep in mind that many of these issues will also apply when driving traffic to a landing page from a blog post or a feed reader.

Stay tuned for Part II (and more details about Maven’s Landing Page Makeover Clinic, coming to your feed reader very soon!)

Roberta Rosenberg is The Copywriting Maven at MGP Direct, Inc.

Print Friendly

Smarter is Better Solutions for Smarter Content Marketing

Here’s what we’ve got for you:

  • 15 high-impact ebooks on content marketing, SEO, email marketing, landing pages, keyword research, and more.
  • A 20-part Internet marketing course that lays out a comprehensive path for your own online strategy.
  • An organized reference guide to the “best of the best” of Copyblogger.com, and how it all profitably fits together.
Free Registration

Take The Conversation Further ...

We'd love to know your thoughts on this article.
Meet us over on Google+ or Twitter to join the conversation right now!

Comments

  1. Those are all good observations. I didn’t realize so many B2B companies didn’t realize their customers were human. lol

    I’d say the most common mistake is dropping people on the homepage. It’s like “Come get your dreams fulfilled” then they land on Wikipedia’s homepage? A company is lucky if the customer isn’t distracted with an email, instant message, voicemail or something else in between clicking the link in the email and landing. How do they expect to make it through the search function before falling way off track?

  2. Very interesting how email respondent behavior differs from natural and PPC search traffic.

    We tested 2-column with navigation for PPC bumped conversions nearly 10%. The opposite was true for email traffic. Single column with no navigation was almost 20% better.

  3. Dear Brian,
    I love Copyblogger. I love it so much that I added it to my feedreader. I’ve been reading it for quite a while now, and I’ve also forwarded some of your copywriting resources to my friends. It was the only copywriting blog I read.

    Brian, I have bad news. After reading this article from the Copywriting Maven, Roberta Rosenberg, well I…I… *sigh* I just don’t know how else to say it so I’ll just come right out: I cheated on you!

    I went to her blog and added it to my feedreader! :-( Brian, I’m so sorry. I still love Copyblogger. It’s still my #1 copywriting blog. Can’t we love two copywriting blogs at the same time?

    I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me…please? Brian? Please?

  4. Hi Brian,
    When you say “recommended one-column format”, was that their recommendation based on their findings?
    I would have thought 2-column would work best – IF – the second column (on the right side) was a call to action, or short form to complete.
    I guess as Tim says – the key is to test for your own site & measure (isn’t that always the answer?!)
    Cheers,
    Mike

  5. By readable URL, you’re talking about the simple ones right? Not the ultra-long string full of obscure codes?

  6. I strongly agree with both posters above who mention testing a variety of landing pages.

    The age old two-column vs. one-column argument is almost pointless to continue. Some two column designs work better with some traffic, other times one columns will win. The number of variables involved is far to large to make a sweeping statement.

    Testing wins out : )

  7. Sherwin – I have no trouble being the “other” copywriting blog in your feed reader. You have 2 feet, 2 ears, 2 eyes, right? Why NOT 2 copywriting-focused blogs :=)

    Mikey/Mason – it’s always in the testing. We can look at the results of other marketers and see what’s worth testing for our own pages.

    Rico – yes, simple, readable URLs like the one for this post.

  8. The biggest Landing Page faux pas remains not having one, still an epidemic among corporate marketers not quite up to speed.

    Also, I alluded to this in an earlier Roberta post, but the results of a recent corporate campaign are in (enterprise level software — lead generation, not sales).

    We did better with a two-column landing page, which reinforces my belief about rules of thumb, and sets up a coming post on my blog.

    As usual, valuable information — the kind we used to get only by expensive testing — is offered free of charge by the Maven. Great stuff Roberta!

  9. I have been enjoying this blog and would like to share some of the testing we have done with landing pages.

    In our test with email and landing pages, we tried two version of emails. A real short three sentences one and a more detailed one that drove people to the same landing page (http://www.naehas.com/case_ncdm.html).
    Response rate on the shorter email was 2x the long one but alas the conversion rate was 1/3 less. In terms of total responses, the smaller version with the landing page still delivered more leads.

    In all our testing, we have not found a big conversion difference different columns. It still always comes down to a few factors : relevance, offers, usability and creative with creative being the lowest leaverage item. We have also taken some of our learnings and put them in http://www.naeahs.com/freereport.

  10. Question Of The Day: What do you do with leads once you generate them? It is often the cause of failure in what would otherwise be effective web/email marketing campaigns. The common-sense answer is easier said than done: Have your best employees respond to them quickly and consistently to qualify them into prospects.

    Our research shows that the average salesperson only makes four to five attempts to contact them the first week. This means only 55% of a company’s web leads will actually get contacted.

    There are solutions available that trigger callback attempts within seconds. They will continue to make twenty or more attempts at different times of the day and different days of the week to boost contact rates above 85%. Also, these solutions can automatically market to these leads and continue to generate prospects every 3-4 weeks for 2 years or more.

    Speed is critical. We are finding that most leads sit somewhere between forty-eight and seventy-two hours before the salesperson actually attempts the first live contact. Much of the slowdown in routing leads is because there isn’t a pre-defined process to decide which salesperson get’s to work the lead. Many sales managers still dole out leads by hand after taking time deciding who is best suited to work each of the leads.

    Bottom line: Acquire a system that immediately and systematically pushes the leads to the best qualified
    salespeople. A system that also allows the salespeople to immediately and frequently respond to leads and turn them into prospects. Again, this simple but overlooked approach can boost net results by 20 to 200%.

  11. I’m not suprised at the results of the SilverPop study. Landing pages are plagued with numerous weaknesses and problems that are only magnified when combined with message mismatch and poor design. Whether users are coming from email, banner, or search engine marketing, conversion rates for landing pages are in the single digits. Should we really be satisfied with 3% conversion rates? There’s a lot more potential for marketers to reach and engage users – and we’ve been able to tap into that potential by creating conversion paths instead.

  12. Great information thanks, I know of the importance of landing pages, I’m trying to convince my boss to check them and start experimenting with different options.

  13. Very informative observations.

  14. Have you tried Performable yet ( http://www.performable.com/ ) – while they are in closed beta, they are looking for all the feedback they can get before launching out of the beta phase. Also, would love to see some more uploads to A/B Tests ( http://www.abtests.com/ ) a place that was built for the testing community to use, and learn from.

  15. Do you have the link to the full report? I’m kinda interested in what companies and specific landing pages were tested.

    Also, I should note that “the ‘big boys’ with the deep pockets” are some of the HARDEST places to make process changes to fix problems like the ones listed above. I work with a large place… and let’s just say I sometimes feel like Mr. X of American Airlines…

  16. @Ted, check the SilverPop site for their white paper archives.

  17. I can’t believe we are still talking about proper Landing Page execution 10 years after the concept was proven successful!

  18. Well, Jim, let’s be fair … I wrote this piece 2-1/2 years ago … we’ve learned a little something since then … or have we? Judging from the landing page makeovers I do, we still have a lot in front of us.

  19. Jim, do you actually believe the methods we used 10 years ago are sufficient to be competitive in the marketplace today?

    As Roberta said, this is something that is constantly evolving and changing. To be competitive, it’s essential to continually test, improve, refine, adapt and optimize.

  20. Tim, if by “methods” you mean technology, sure, that has changed. But the fundamental idea of connecting the initial Interest to desired Action though a logical, smooth as possible path is as old as headlines in a newspaper or teasers on an envelope.

    You will always get better results when there is a logical, connected path to follow – be it web sites, email, blogs, social media, or whatever comes next. Changes in technology do not change how people process information.

    I realize it is easier to copy “best practices” for every new technology than it is to learn the underlying drivers and apply that knowledge to each new technology, but it sure wastes a lot of time…

  21. I realize it is easier to copy “best practices” for every new technology than it is to learn the underlying drivers and apply that knowledge to each new technology…

    Jim, you must be new to Copyblogger. We’ve been debunking the “social media” “Web 2.0″ “whatever” is brand spanking “new” and “totally alien” bullshit for 4 years now. Human psychology hasn’t changed in 3,000 years, only the technology has.

    But Roberta’s right. Just because you, her, and I knew this 10 years ago doesn’t mean everyone knows it. In fact, I think we’re just scratching the surface of educating those who need to know this stuff.

    Happy days ahead. ;)

  22. “Changes in technology do not change how people process information.”

    Actually, I’d disagree with you here. I come from a direct mail marketing background where the message was printed in letter form on a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. We know that most folks read approximately 300 words a minute in that format.

    However when we translate the letter to the screen, here’s what happens … the letter becomes harder to read because the eye has to track wider … reading speed slows down … prospect grows tired and antsy. To compensate, we write shorter sentences and paragraphs – use more bullets and subheads.

    While the offer and emotional hooks and drivers may remain the same – the technology (print vs screen) has changed the processing for the reader.

    A story may be a great story, but the media we use to tell it alters the audience’s perception. A play isn’t a novel isn’t a movie isn’t a … you get the idea. :)

    Great discussion!

  23. Roberta, I think we simply have different definitions of “process information”. I agree with your “translate letter to screen” scenario, and using my definition of “process information”, we would realize the differences when we looked at the screen and compensate appropriately. A usability kind of thing.

    Brian, I’m not new to CB and there’s no question the audience of those who don’t know is larger than those who do, and many business models depend on that.

    My question, to nobody in particular and largely rhetorical, is why people don’t translate an idea that works for one technology with a few tweaks into an idea that works for a new technology? More broadly, why do we onliners keep repeating these same patterns over and over, but very few people recognize the ability to directly transfer them?

    The answer, I suspect, is “it’s easier to copy than learn” but in the long run, that attitude prevents you from becoming a first mover in just about anything on the web.

  24. I don’t think you can have what I call logical line extensions – for example, direct mail marketing techniques translate to internet marketing techniques – AND – have something brand new as part of the mix.

    If people respond to the same emotional triggers in the same way, aren’t we just tweaking around the edges no matter what the promotional medium?

  25. Yes, and that’s my point. Then we get to disagree on the definition of “tweaking around the edges”, I suspect ;)

    Seriously though, many online marketing folks would benefit greatly from taking a course in Consumer Behavior or even a basic Psychology course so they can recognize the basic patterns of human behavior that repeat over and over, no matter what the media or technology.

    Failing that, a book like “Why We Buy” points out a lot of these decision-making patterns, which also occur for decisions outside the realm of e-commerce.

  26. Jim, I think internet folks would benefit from a lot of offline training, learning and experience – like selling face to face.

    But I’d also add that Why We Buy is sorta easy to answer … we buy to relieve/eliminate pain and increase pleasure. Relieving pain, however, is more powerful. Now there are a ton of emotions/needs/desires under those two big buckets, but the pain/pleasure dichotomy pretty much underscores the drivers.

    Now to the process of How We Buy, that’s a different question. ;)

  27. Agreed. That’s why I suggested the book as a “fail-back” to taking Courses on Consumer Behavior, Behavior = How.

    Clearly, there some people who would rather endlessly iterate to the answers they need. But it would be a shame if there are folks out there who would prefer to have a framework for understanding what to expect, but don’t know these frameworks already exist.

    For example, in testing. You can try 100′s of different approaches until you find the best one, or you can go into the test knowing where the big levers most likely are.

    In an environment where speed seems to be so important, it’s kind of surprising people are willing to iterate on the same issues over and over, rather than learning the fundamental drivers and applying them to future problems.

  28. Another two reason that I find landing pages kill email campaigns are:

    1. The email campaign itself sends people to a landing page with an expired offer because the links were never updated in the mailer.

    2. The landing page has the same look that was used 20 million times so people close their browser before looking at the offer which may of may not be new due to the “old” look which they mentally match to the old offer.

  29. Thanks for the additional thoughts, Dror. There is no excuse for sending visitors to out-of-date pages or bland, generic landing pages.

  30. Karen Nardella :

    I completely enjoyed all of this series Brian, on Landing Pages and I have a lot mor to read and learn. That said, Roberta, I feel like I know you much more than at the start. I respect your experience and the knowledge you so freely shared. I’ve learned a lot here so far. The comment thread was even a stimulating debate. I just want ot thank you Brain and all your friends and colleges that post on here and share their expertise with new students like me. I am so grateful for it. I love Copyblogger. Thanks.

  31. Karen Nardella :

    I am not as mean looking nor as serious as my gravatar appears. Am I able to change that some how??