Seal the Deal: 10 Tips for Writing the Ultimate Landing Page

Image of Landing Page graphic

This is another addition to our ongoing series of tutorials and case studies on landing pages that work.

I have a client with a deep-pocket online media budget. Google Adwords PPC, banner ads on major news sites. We’re talking some sizable money to generate traffic and turn that traffic into customers.

I bet you’re thinking a big part of their budget was earmarked for landing page development and testing. I would have thought so, too, before they became a client. But what I quickly discovered was this – there wasn’t a series of landing pages. There wasn’t even one landing page! All of the clicks, all of their costly PPC traffic was being directed to the homepage.

Literally, their best prospects were being dumped off at the front door with little direction or guidance as to how to proceed.

Yikes.

Now just to be fair, literally any page of your site or blog is a landing page of a sort. To my mind, every page should be optimized to move your visitor along whatever path you’ve set forth toward a sale, a newsletter or blog subscription, what have you.

But for the purposes of this post, I’ll confine myself to those landing pages where your prospect initiated some sort of response to an ad. This could be a PPC (pay-per-click) ad like Google Adwords, a banner or text ad, or even an email. In this scenario, your prospect has initiated some sort of relationship with you. Your landing page acknowledges this and provides additional information – benefits/features – and a clear path to the next step.

So let’s look at 10 key steps to writing and designing a landing page that will help get you the results you’re looking for:

ON WRITING

1. Make sure your headline refers directly to the place from which your visitor came or the ad copy that drove the click. Match your language as exactly as you can. (Close is good, exact is best.) This way you keep your visitor oriented and engaged. This is by far the most important part of your landing page.

2. Provide a clear call to action. Whether you use graphic buttons or hot-linked text (or both), tell your visitor what they need to do. I use a minimum of 2 calls to action in a short landing page, 3-5 in a long landing page. Copy tests here will give you the biggest bang next to testing headlines.

3. Write in the second person – You and Your. No one gives a rat’s patootie about you, your company, or even your product or service except as to how it benefits him or her. (The bigger the company the more time I spend rewriting their stuff from We to You.)

4. Write to deliver a clear, persuasive message, not to showcase your creativity or ability to turn a clever phrase. This is business, not a personal expression of your art. (Every copy coaching student hears me say this at least once.)

5. You can write long copy as long as it’s tight. I always err on writing a little long on the first drafts because it’s easier to edit down than to pad up skimpy copy. Your reader will read long copy as long as you keep building a strong, motivating case for him/her to act. However, not every product or service will require the same amount of copy investment. Rule of thumb: Think longer copy when you’re looking to close a sale. Think shorter copy for a subscription sign-up or something that doesn’t necessarily require a cash commitment..

6. Be crystal clear in your goals. Keep your body copy on point as a logical progression from your headline and offer. Don’t add tangential thoughts, ancillary services, and generic hoo-hah. (Hoo-hah makes the client feel good but wastes the readers time.) Every digression is a conversion lost.

7. Keep your most important points at the beginning of paragraphs and bullets. Most visitors are skimming and skipping through your copy. Make it easy for them to get the joke without having to slow down.

8. In line with #7, people read beginnings and ends before they read middles. Make sure you keep your most critical, persuasive arguments in these positions.

9. Make your first paragraph short, no more than 1-2 lines (that’s lines, not sentences.) Vary your paragraph line length from here. It helps create visual dissonance and makes it easier to read your copy. And no paragraph should be more than 4-5 lines long at any time.

10. Write to the screen. Take a piece of paper and frame-out where your text, buttons, and design elements will go. Consider how much of your content will be seen “above the fold” or at the first screen. You can still go long and have visitors scroll downward. If so, you’ll want to make sure you repeat essential calls to action, testimonials and other components so no matter where your visitor is, an ACT NOW link or button remains is visible.

3 BONUS TIPS:

11. Remove all extraneous matter from your landing page. This includes navigation bars, visual clutter, and links to other sections. You want the reader focused solely on your copy, your supportive visuals, and the offer you’re making without being tempted to wander around the room.

12. Don’t ask for what you don’t need. Ask for only enough information to complete the sale or the desired action. This isn’t the time to conduct a marketing survey. Every question you ask, every piece of information you require will chip away at your response. Be judicious.

13. Assume nothing. Test everything.

These tips and techniques will get you started, but they just scratch the proverbial surface. Design elements are critical, too — color, images, layout — as well as video, audio, and other interactivity elements whose purpose is to more deeply engage the reader and boost response. They all merit a deeper look and testing where it makes sense.

Recommended Resource: The one book I recommend without reservation is Landing Page Handbook, How to Raise Conversions — Data & Design Guidelines. Published by Marketing Sherpa, this is a compendium of everything “landing page” that copywriters and designers should heed and study deeply. Not a cheap reference at $247, it is, however, the one to own if you’re serious about learning the science and technique behind great landing pages.

Get more from Roberta Rosenberg at her blog, The Copywriting Maven.

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  1. Slurp, slurp … (the sound of me drinking in wisdom from this post)

    Thanks Roberta. It’s amazing what a good landing page can do and Brian has some great examples right here at this blog.

  2. Excellent post.

    The only thing I’d add is “work hard to convince the client that you know what you’re doing”. Clients can get obsessive about trying to pack too much detail about their product, at the expense of focussing on its core benefits.

    Sometimes the details can get pretty wide of the mark, too. I was once writing some web copy for a small network management company. I’m nearly finished when the guy emails: “could you mention that my wife gives piano lessons?”

  3. Thanks for the tips. I’ve been trying to get my boss to start doing some testing on the landing pages of our websites, I hope we can do it soon.

  4. Thanks Roberta. This is a great article!

    Regarding #10, writing for the screen. Lately, I’ve been writing copy in HTML using the landing page CSS. It’s easier to see what’ll work best and I can send clients a screenshot during editing to help them visualize the final product.

    But Bill, like you, I still get piano lessons!

  5. Re: point 10, you’re definitely right, Janet. The way the copy actually *looks* on the page is something that isn’t always considered. A few times I’ve delivered stuff in a Word doc, then seen it on the client’s site and it looks bad – not just widows’n’orphans, but slightly wrong for reasons I can’t put my finger on. As much as possible, I like to either write up the HTML direct or at least agree with the client that I can tweak a working draft of the copy that has the site stylesheet applied to it.

    It’s getting a little easier now that more clients are asking to have their copy poured right into a CMS – you can play around to your heart’s content!

  6. Crafting a landing page is very similar to designing an old-fashioned print ad because text flow, image placement, even choice of font has to work aesthetically — as well as conform to good landing page practices. The ability to work with the client’s own html or css style sheet would be a big plus.

  7. Great post Roberta.

    I just wrote a landing page for an ebook in the golf niche and I followed most of your advice.

    When I get time, I’ll now have a plan to go by for editing.

  8. That’s pretty helpful, especially the thing about the paragraph side. It applies to web copy in general and I can see that a lot of my blog posts need to be paragraphed better.

  9. Not going to the point is the problem of most writers. I’m certainly not interested in reading something if the main point is in the middle, especially if it’s not clear as to where the discusion is going.

  10. I have just received “my gift” today when I opened my email to this post. Suffice it to say that I woke up at 4:30 this a.m. to write and to think about how to create my first Landing Page. Thank you.

  11. Thanks for this great post. Now the fun part which is going to my site which I just edited the copy on and make changes based on people instead of the search engines.

  12. Those are useful tips. It’s true that people are first interested with the beginning. It’s important to stress out the main idea at the beginning to avoid boring the readers with all the minute details.

  13. Great stuff!

    Going to have to pass this onto some clients

  14. I agree that how copy looks on the page is a large part of the message. I usually work with a designer who takes suggestions from me, but if I’m working solely with the client, I insist on having the text lay out effectively. Every line in an ad can give an element of the overall message, so it’s vital to pay attention to this.

  15. #4 is easier said than done for me, but I’m in a very unusual position. Nonetheless, I try to balance both. It’s good to be reminded.

  16. Thanks for an excellent article. I have made some effective ads that send tons of visitors to my landing pages, but I have yet to create effective followup landing pages. This is absolutely the best article I have read on this subject.

  17. Very good insightful article. I would add one more point – frequently check your results (in addition to testing) and keep adjusting. The work is never done.

  18. Nice tips! A very comprehensive and useful list.

  19. I really enjoyed your article on writing the ultimate landing page. I thought I would offer a supplement to your ideas on what it takes to design the ultimate landing page, beyond just the words/text on the page. Web forms are one of the most important types of landing pages and many times I see vast opportunity for marketers to improve their sign up process. I have included in this supplement what I feel are important tips for the ultimate landing page containing a web form.

    (1)
    I agree, headlines are the first thing people read on your landing page and should be highly customized to each instance of marketing.

    (2)
    Form submission is one of the most critical factors of landing page success. In most cases your goal is to convince the visitor to sign up or complete a simple web form. Most marketers link to their sign forms and in almost every case its best to embed them into your landing page. If a form is your primary call to action, then you shouldn’t have more than one call to action. You should do your best to communicate everything necessary for signing up on a single page (or introduce richer media).

    (3)
    In my experience, I haven’t seen research supporting that writing in the second person improves landing page conversion, but I don’t doubt that its a good copywriting idea. Testing identical pages with first and second person would be interesting to evaluate. Has anyone done a similar test?

    (4)
    Creating simple landing pages that removes the traditional clutter from your website is important to moving the visitor through a simple process. Less is more. Be sure every word on your landing page serves a purpose.

    (5)
    Long copy has a place on the Internet, the blogosphere, but just not necessarily on your landing page. In my opinion, any landing page over 1 page in text should consider richer media as an alternative. Succinct landing pages that don’t scroll the page, have quick forms, and give the visitor everything they need to sign up historically have the highest response rates.

    (6)
    It’s important to tell the visitor what will happen after they sign up for your offer. If you are expecting a prospect to fill out a lead form, you should inform them on the process after they fill out the form. What will happen next? Why will it benefit them to sign up? How will there information be used? Can they control their preferences? Will you abuse email communications and sell or rent your list? All of these questions and concerns are in your visitors mind when engaging in a marketing relationship.

    (7)
    Agreed. If you can symbolize your most important points as graphics, that is even better! People look at pictures and graphics significantly more often then thoroughly read your copy.

    (8)
    Yes, I agree. Bullet points and benefit-formatted copy helps make a convincing argument palpable.

    (9) Agreed. I would also suggest having a powerful footer that isnt prone to abandonment. Footers on the web have been increasing in utility and for those that maximize the space; I have seen a good footer drastically reduce landing page abandonment.

    (10)
    Not only should your most important copy be above the fold, but so should your sign up form. Don’t let your sign up form scroll the page, if its indeed too long, than break up the sign up process over multiple pages.

    (11)
    Most people try to create a landing page from their current web template. The challenge with this approach is the navigation, header, and footer design in almost all cases has superfluous links, content, and distractions when applied to the landing page. By removing the navigation and subsequent distractions, landing pages are much more successful. The trick is coming up with a landing page design that still supports the branding and upholds the integrity of the website design.

    (12)
    Along these lines, don’t ask for what you are not going to use. You may think you need some critical piece of information, but if you are not going to use it immediately, then don’t ask for it. So many times marketers ask someone where they came from when they should know that already. Every extra field on your web form reduces your submission rate.

    (13)
    Agreed. Testing is key. First you should establish a control. Then test one variable at a time. I recommend our landing page application, Outlandish for variable testing. You create, deploy, and track highly specific landing pages and get RSS feeds of the results. For marketers testing landing pages, Outlandish allows you to focus on the interpretation of the results, rather than creating the campaigns.

  20. Dear Lady Roberta,I must be the smallest ever business who ever contacted you, as I have the site for the last 6 weeks but no orders yet.I am asking you If I can make you a nice wallhanging, or anything else in exchange of you putting me/my site towards the right directions, to get some orders.I just been told you are mentioned on google 1/2 million times, now I am worried you wont even reply, must be very busy, still here is me hoping.Thank you very much, jozsef

  21. What a great article. Looking forward to implementing your ideas and suggestions.

  22. Wow! a big help for the 10k contest. Watch my entry!?

  23. Thankyou! this is great information
    clear and easy to understand
    I have been searching for the right way to write a landing page for an ebook

    :)

  24. Excellent post. Landing page is the most challenging part of marketing process.

  25. Hi folks…

    Where can I get free software that is easy to use to create my own landing page?

  26. awesome tips by author. :) really helpful. i am actuall consulting to one of client to increase sales via adwords. so part of the project is to redesign the landing page too and i am sure, your article will help a lot :)

    we run a blog for designer community too and i am seriously considering providing them access to your this post :)

    thanx again and keep posting.

    Aryan

  27. Thanks for the great info! Somebody finally boiled landing pages down to easy to understand steps. Most appreciated!

  28. Absolutely love the learning material on your site… I don’t get here enough to read, but I just subscribed so I won’t miss any more. The main reason I wanted to leave this comment is that The LP Handbook is now closer to $500. I wondered if you might like to update the price in this post. I’m working on my 1st LP now, wish me luck!

  29. Thanks Roberta. Now I have a few more useful bullets to add to the “to do list” for my site.

  30. Thanks for the tips! I am bidding on a job to write a landing page. These tips will come in handy. Thanks for the “user friendly” steps.

  31. Nice article. I have mostly similar ideas, and this confirms that I have to pay attention to details such as sort paragraphs, bullet points etc.

  32. Bless you! This is exactly what I was looking for! I am going to use these tips as an outline to get started. Thanks for the great post.

    blessings
    Wendy
    Twitter: WendyMerritt

  33. Useful info! Thanks guys!

  34. What a great set of tips here. As a graphic designer, I find that people often overlook the importance of the content, and how carefully it has to be chosen for any marketing piece, let alone a landing page. Of course, the layout has to be clean and directive too. I have a blog article with a concise set of guidelines for good landing page design here.

  35. Maybe I’m the exception but I think you should have one link off of a landing page either for info or contact. When I click from a google ad to a company I dont know asking me to fill in the form for a white paper or webinar, I want to know who the company is or where they are. I feel trapped with absolutely no links and them wanting info from me, then I abandon. I get no links to distract but none at all, I’m gone. Am I the only one?

  36. @Peter, the ideal landing page should give you enough information to be confident and secure about taking the next step. If the info is lacking, it makes sense that you’d want to look further, but in that one step away the momentum toward a specific action – the exchange of info for a white paper, for example – is blunted.

  37. I just revised my website..Your article was very informational and motivating….(Isn’t business exciting), now I going to re-revise my site. Thanks Steve Pineault

  38. Writing “you” instead of “we” or “me” is, I think, understandably common among copywriters.

    But I think “benefit to the reader” is the key umbrella principle. As long as the benefit to the reader is foremost in the content, the “you” does not matter.

    The “you” word can be a discipline to the writer. It can facilitate grammar lending itself to benefit. It can be awkward … depending.

    A call to action can even include the phrase “let us/let’s,” as in “let’s implement all the great advice on your post.”

    And heaven help us do so.

  39. Content writers put forth more effort to landing pages when in actuality, a landing page should give just enough information for the user to want more. It should be compeling to dig further into the website. A landing page is merely an introduction to more indepth content.

  40. Shouldn’t your landing pages look and feel be similar to the rest of your website. I’m always scared to remove the navigation bar, etc in fear of losing visitors (thinking they left my site and went to some sales page). What is the strategy on look and feel of the landing pages? Should they be the same? I’m going to browse around this site and see if I can find the answer.

  41. This is a great article about the importance of landing pages & building lists.

    BTW, amazing Internet Marketing blog you have here, have subscribed. Thank you

  42. Best article yet on creating a landing page. Will definitely be using your tips on my page.

  43. Great article, thanks!

    We have been testing for a few months now and most of what you suggested is very applicable. The only discrepancy is that we have found that long copy hurts conversions. Most of our customers have a tough time with long copy and are turned off by the sales letter format.

    As you said, testing is critical. Thanks!

  44. I’m in the process of reviewing ALL the material for landing pages here on Copyblogger. Bless me for I have time!

    Roberta, would you please take a look at my eBook site http://www.palletsforprofit.com and let me know what you think of the concept? Not necessarily of the product, but the horizontal scrolling instead of the typical vertical abyss method.

    I see promise in the product and landing page, but know it needs work still.

    Could I consult with you? If so, please email.

    Thank you much,
    Pete

  45. Just about to create another landing page, and your words of wisdom are always appreciated. Much love.
    Steve

  46. Steven, always glad to be the font of info and perspe … er, inspiration. :)

  47. :-) LOL. People usually say that about me…Cheers

  48. Landing page is extremely important for business owners.I reasearching the stuffs on how to write landing pages on the internet.But there are not many useful stuffs.Your article about landing page is very detailed,thanks.I’ll check the book ” Landing Page Handbook, How to Raise Conversions — Data & Design Guidelines”.It seems to be a little expensive. :)

  49. Great tips. i will keep it in my favorites :)

  50. This content is fantastic Roberta. Maybe you guys should package it as a course and sell it?

  51. I’m thinking about it, Simon. I’m thinking about it. :)

  52. Thanks Roberta. Your tips make so much sense.

  53. Great tips here! Be sure to check out Performable soon!

  54. Nice, I greatly appreciate all the free information. I was looking for some support to my landing page improvements ideas, and now they are confirmed.

    Thanks

  55. You’re welcome!

  56. This is all sound advice. Sometimes one has to keep their goals in check and consider the user. I sometimes get caught up in the keyword density trap. I end up having to rewrite since it can often not make any sense.

  57. Great advice that applies also to website development. Too often, new clients show up for website projects with visuals in mind but no sales plan in mind. Good clients appreciate the opportunity to re-think their business model from the perspective of web marketing. It takes more time, but it provides great value for the client. Thanks for the great post, Roberta.
    ~Jack Price

  58. Dwayne, Jack – thanks for the kind words. I always start every project with “What’s the goal?” and go from there. Very organic. :)

  59. Very helpful list. Thanks for this.

    Also, wanted to mention we just launched a gallery for well-designed landing pages and thought your readers might be interested – http://landing-page-gallery.com

    Let us know what you think. Would love to hear anyone’s thoughts.

    Thanks,
    David

  60. Thanks for this clear cut information Roberta. The true focus of landing pages and what info to include/not include often has a subjective opinion attached. Your article lays it out in a way that is easy to understand and confirms advice I have garnered from others on the subject.

  61. Surprisingly there are stil a lot of companies that are spending a fortune on online advertising and not using landing pages. We encourage all of our clients to create a value offing and implement a conversion strategy with landing pages.

    I especially agree with “Don’t ask for what you don’t need”. So many clients want to ask every question under the sun. We show them case studies from variable tests that shows that even one additional field can change your conversion rate drastically. They usually come around.

    Thanks for sharing!