How is an Effective Landing Page Like a
Direct Mail Letter?

Image of Landing Page graphic

Answer: They’re both formatted for one column.

In his audio article, 6 Ways to Increase Conversions on your Web Pages, Nick Usborne, one of my favorite copywriter colleagues, talks about the multitude of testing he’s done on landing pages and column formatting. Long and short, the one-column format converts best every time.

This explains the stubborn effectiveness of everyone’s favorite (or not) online long-form sales letters. Garish? Sometimes. Too long? Perhaps. But they work, in part, because there are no other distractions for the reader. Even with all the insets, widgets and gadgets, each is firmly ensconced within the one column. Further, the one-column format lets readers know that there’s more to look for below the fold of the first screen. The convention of the letter-like, one-column design tells them so.

Like the traditional sales letter, the one-column landing page offers a step-by-step selling sequence for your reader. The headline moves the reader to the subhead, etc. Add columns filled with links, even something a simple as navigational links, and you’ve given the reader a reason to look and click away from your message.

Nick says, and I concur, one-column may be the best way to go. Test it yourself and see if it makes a difference.

About Audio Articles – Like ‘em or Not?

I found Nick’s article and several other audio articles at FreeIQ.com … Not sure that I like the audio-only format. Folks generally read much faster than they can listen. I would have liked some text and PPT or other slide-type visuals. I was a little frustrated having to just listen. I’d be interested in what Copyblogger readers think about the audio-only format. Convince me I need to add some of my own articles here … or not.

Maven’s Landing Page Makeover Clinics Update

I’m making progress! My Heifer International Gift Registry page is almost complete and I’m putting the finishing touches on how we’re going to make it all work. I’m hoping to have our first official landing page makeover candidate selected and critiqued by the end of June, if not before. More details to come soon.

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

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  1. Roberta, hello.

    I was a bit impatient as well, listening to his audio, and I’m primarily a podcaster!

    Some things are best read, and some things are best read aloud (or listened to).

    I think Nick Usborne’s points are valid and useful, but not to the point where delivering them via audio gives any advantage over reading the print version – and as you noted, skim reading has distinct speed advantages.

    One guide I use: if you could “get it” by reading it off the wall in a coffeehouse, write it in a blog entry; if to *really* appreciate or sell it, you need to sit down in a dark corner of that coffeehouse and have an intimate talk with someone, then podcast it.

    Peter Beck
    http://www.PodcastingForMedicalProfessionals.com

  2. Wow I didn’t know about that. Thanks for sharing. One thing I love about this blog is that I learn a new thing in almost every post.

  3. I’m going to think seriously about how I can minimise the links on my landing pages – but I’m having to make a mental shift from ‘links are good’.

    Regarding Audio articles – most of them are way too long for me, so I pick and choose. It’s nice to hear the voice behind the writing but they often seem loose and underprepared. It’s the difference between sifting for nuggets and having someone find it and buff it all nice and shiny for a written article.

  4. An audio only format allows us writers to get out of our box and free the mind a little.

    It allows me to go walking on the beach and get excercise whilst I can still call it work.

  5. if you niche or interest is internet marketing products then you can develop a bias as soon as you land on the one page sales letter page.
    Its like the telephone call you get at a uncommon hour and you just know it is a sales call and you have decided to say no to whatever they are selling before you even pick up the phone.

    I generally read through all the hype and just check out the features. I guess over the years you just get fed up of the over hype one page salesletter. Brad Callen in my opinion has done well with the diversity of the products he provides to entertain and engage his existing client page, the sales letters used for SEOelite and Keyword Elite are still very effective and he includes heavy testimonial and audios on these pages; however if you visit Digital Point forum you willl hear marketeers who discuss the overhype of the one page salespage.

    It is a different story for individual niche however that concentrate on the one page salespage, I guess because not all lot of sites dedicated to that niche have taken that approach. In the dawn of web 2.0 this is also changing with widgets, etc; this however gives an opportunity to those who hold onto this classic method to take advantage.

    Audio in my opinion can be effective with the power of persuasion. A speaker like Seth Godin springs to mind who is one of the most effective marketeers to produce audio format, another couple I would mention is Dr Stephen Covey and Anthony Robbins; however these are top players.

    The option should be tested by providing audio, however one must bear in mind that it is difficult to measure the effectiveness.; the sales page provides that ‘call to action’. Audio can work well in enticing visitors with free reports and in the process of a product launch.

    Brad Fallon of freeIQ emphasises heavy on the progression of video and not audio, it is an option that is available over at freeIQ and one that he does not condone, however most of his promotional work for freeIQ stresses on video as the next thing

  6. Brian, hi

    Thanks for the mention. These are the first “audio articles” I have done. I’m just trying out some new ways to deliver content. From the feedback I have received so far, some people prefer the audio format, while others still prefer a written article.

    Soon I will be adding more content that is voice + PPT. In other words, I’ll be recording some of my 60 and 90 minute presentations.

  7. Hey Nick, thanks for stopping by. This article was actually written by another fan of yours, Roberta Rosenberg. So the thanks goes to her. :)

  8. Small world Roberta. Back before 2001, our company did some web coding work for Heifer.

    Good advice. Thanks
    Shane

    (ps. Like Nick, I still find myself assuming that Brian is writing all these articles. It’s funny how my eyes don’t see the “by so-and-so”, even though it’s right in front of me, right under the headline. )

  9. I have been reading Nick’s work for some time.

    It was interesting to hear his voice with the Australian accent (he also speaks well).

    I find it harder to sit and listen to his voice while looking at a black box that I expect will have some visuals.

    Mike

  10. Michael…thanks for saying I speak well, but I’m not quite sure how I picked up the Australian accent. I’m English, with a layer of Canadian I have picked up over the last 15 years. ; )

    As I read the comments, it’s making me think I need to add a viual component. Either slides or myself…which would mean combing my hair in the morning. Slides sounds good.

  11. Generally, I dislike audio. Though, I only enjoy the radio in the car, and rarely listen to music on my computer or while working.

    So that said, I don’t think my opinion much matters. =)

  12. I prefer both, although I wish Nick’s stuff was in a podcast format. (I’m guessing the Flash format is a protective measure)

    The audio format is excellent to load on an ipod and listen in the car on the way to work. With as many blogs as I read on a daily basis it’s nice to catch up on some that I don’t have time for by loading the audio and taking it with me.

    It’s much more effective in the car because you pretty much have my full attention unlike me having to mostly skim some written work.

    I know it’s not for everyone, the morning drive is soooo boring and radio these days sux the big one. It’s nice to have someone interesting to listen to. Just my 2-cents for Nick.

  13. I’m working on my home page now, which is basically a sales letter. should I put my links at the Bottom?

    Lawton

  14. Nick, aren’t you glad I made your audio articles a focus of my post for Brian? Amazing feedback, to be sure.

  15. Lawton, to answer your question, the only links you want on your sales page are those that will actually drive sales. You’ll want to test placement to see which locations work better for you.

  16. Dear Gods man, I almost fell out of my seat. Vertigo wise that ‘sales’ image is one of the most disturbing and disorientating images I think I have ever seen in my life.

    If that was sometime trying to sell me something I’d note the url, close the window and IP ban them for eternity!

  17. Sorry about that Malachim… at two in the morning when I posted this for Roberta I thought it looked kinda cool. :)

  18. Wicked case of vertigo here too :)

    IT did catch my attention though.

  19. Roberta, hi

    Yes…thank you for the mention. It has been interesting and very instructive to read the various comments.

    On the issue of podcasts, I do save the audio as mp3 files. But FreeIQ then seems to wrap them up in flash. Given that the audios are free, I’m not sure why they don’t make them available for download as mp3s.

    Nick

  20. Thanks Roberta. I am trying to get as good as possible at copywriting and with Copyblogger, Halbert, Dan Kennedy, Gene Schwartz and Michael Senoff, I think I’m on the right track.

  21. I’m in the middle of doing some testing for a client and found that there was one key increase when I shifted to a two column layout which was an increase in sales. By shifting the booking engine into the top section of both columns sales have gone up from that page. The column layout has allowed me to in many ways seperate the visitors into two disctinct groups: buyers and researchers. The text is used to convince and push the researchers into the booking process through another route. Whilst the buyers, those looking instantly for the ability to buy when they visited an ability to buy not seen before.

    I tried this with the booking engine wrapped inside the text in a one column layout and got poorer results. My thought is that the columns provided a psychological seperator for users which allowed them to choose a distinct path during the process rather than reading a section of text and entering the sales process.

  22. Good article, Roberta. This is something I was already aware of, but it’s nice to get a reminder once in a while.

    On the issue of audio presentations, I’m not a big fan. For a variety of reasons–primarily speed–I prefer text. Audio is great for in the car though. If you want to learn something, making use of your travel time is an excellent way to do it. Unfortunately, FreeIQ puts everything in Flash, so you can’t do that unless you want to sit a laptop on the seat beside you while you drive!

  23. Michael, do you have a page example you could share? I’d love to take a look.

  24. You can combine audio with text using DAISY software, originally designed for blind or print disabled readers. The software combines audio with text using xml markup giving it great navagational features, but it has lots of application for mainstream users. If you’re interested in learning more you can go to http://www.daisy.org a website for the non-profit international consortium the developed the concept.

  25. About audio articles: We are in the process of creating audio files for many of our Health Facts webpages to assist people with sensory disabilities. While a podcast is a great idea, the deaf community won’t be able to “tune in” unless a print version is available as well.

  26. “Long and short, the one-column format converts best every time.”

    Roberta: The landing page testing you referred to; was it conducted for consumer sales, or were B2B “corporate” sales also included?

    My data is very limited, but my last two corporate “enterprise software” launches seemed to do better with a two-column “e-newsletter” style as opposed to a “letter” format.

    This isn’t straight split run data, so while the preference seemed clear, the conclusion is suspect.

  27. Hi Tom, that was Nick’s conclusion from testing he conducted for landing pages from various industries/markets, etc.

    I think the point is that the one-column format – doesn’t necessarily have to be a letter – works better than multi-column format. (The traditional letter, of course, is almost always one-column.)

  28. We’re moving toward more audio products for our clients and for our personal info-products.

    One or two slides, along with the audio, the way our friend John Reeses taught us to do it, seems to be just right.

    Our current service gives us that ability.

    Webinars leave me wanting more than was shown and straight audio is not quite enough.

    I spend a LOT of time driving and am using that time to listen to podcasts and other mp3 audio products.

    I can speak WAY faster than I can type, so teleseminars are easy and so far, my guests have given away more juicy info when speaking than when creating text products.

    How ’bout you Brian, you ’bout ready to do a webcast/teleseminar ?

  29. Mike, I’ve been kicking it around, but also working on full multimedia stuff. I suspect that the audio format still has plenty of kick left, especially when you factor in the car/commute issue. I lose sight of that because my commute is a simple stumble down the stairs.

  30. I never listen to audio on my computer. I will sometimes download something of interest and burn it to a CD so I can listen to it at my leisure. In general print articles work best for me.

  31. Hey Brian,

    As you could see from John’s manifesto’s and such, he’s tested and tracked the response and finds that a few slides are all that’s needed to hold interest, rather than full webinars, which tend to leave people wanting more than they can deliver.

    When I watch a webinar, I feel cheated that it’s not any better video quality than it is. Some guy scribblin’ on a whiteboard ain’t as good as Scooby Doo in the late 60’s.

    But if you’ll follow the rules of a good presentation, give them just enough slides to get a point across, using those few slides kinda like subliminal suggestions, that’s all that’s needed and allows you to direct the “listener” to a website at the end to purchase, opt-in or view whatever you choose for them.

    Print is a terrific medium, but it’s really hard to emphasize and get emotion across in print.

    Selling’s an emotional business.

    With audio, it’s just like a sales call – you can raise and lower the voice to emphasize and to get the prospect to click a link.

    I’ve had teleseminar hosts tell the listeners to stand up and I actually stood, even though I knew he’d never know if I did or not.

    THAT’S what voice can do that print will never be able to do.

    And there’s millions of iPod’s out there waiting for you and me to give ‘em something to listen to.

    Like Debbie Harry said so well – ” Call me. “

  32. It makes sense that the 1 column layout would work best, but thanks for making the information so clear.

  33. I prefer reading over audio. I would rather have the opportunity to skim over parts that are less interesting to me. That’s not an option with audio. I have to sit and listen to every word the speaker is saying, and I don’t typically care about every word. I never click on audio links online, but I read lots and lots of articles, posts, etc. I think giving people the option to listen to audio or read is the best way to go.

  34. Some feedback on the freeiq audio…

    I cannot get into audio when it is captive in the page like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love audio books and listen to them every day. I found myself hitting stop and scanning the page for a way to download for later inclusion in my ipod playlist.

  35. Let’s extend this little analogy to pop-windows which mimic inserts, sidebars which function like margin notes, and entry fields in place of reply cards. And in the spirit of one too many direct mail letters, these types of landing pages are so oft overwritten that you actually take a bit of pity on the poor copywriter who must face his children at the end of every workday.

    If bad direct mail is junk mail, we shall from this day forward call a bad landing page a crash landing page. (Groan…)

  36. Thank you for the refresher into why the one column makes the most sense. Your example of the links making them go off from the message is very persuasive.

  37. Nick,
    Try keeping audio down to 2-5 minute snippets. Remember, the listener has just as long of attention span as the viewer to a web page. We are of a generation of people raised on tv and have (at most) an attention span of about a half hour before the mind wanders (a bit longer in the mornings). I think incorporating visual references is a good idea. Why not do video blogs instead? Just bite the bullet and go to video-You can post on youtube,facebook,twitter and get more google hits to your site from all the social networking hoo haa!
    Leave the powerpoints for the board room.
    Just a thought!

    Thanks!

  38. Link to audio is broken…

    • I agree that audio alone is frustrating.

      Much easier to retain visual info combined with audio. And,
      as Roberta says, it’s a lot faster to read copy than to listen
      to someone talking.

      People have very little spare time these days, and anything
      that draws the learning process out is a big turn off.

      I never listen to audio files in isolation. So, please don’t use
      them, Roberta.