Seal the Deal, Part II: 5 Tips for Designing the Ultimate Landing Page

Image of Landing Page graphic

In my first post on the subject for Copyblogger, Seal the Deal: 10 Tips for Writing the Ultimate Landing Page, I devoted most of my time to copywriting tips since, well, I’m a copywriter. I craft the words.

Unlike direct mail, however, the web is a strongly visual medium. Good design helps support the content, leading the visitor’s eye from here to there and directing them through your message layer by layer, step by step.

This is especially so in the formatting of an effective landing page. That’s why I’ll devote myself to the overall look, feel, and formatting of effective landing pages for this post.

Copywriters don’t have to be designers. But copywriters who understand effective landing design fundamentals – what works and what doesn’t – will be better able to work and share ideas with designers. That means you and your entire creative team will be on board and working toward the common goal of capturing more conversions.

Omniture recently released a white paper called, Best Practices for Conversion: The New Engagement Funnel in 7 Steps. Their Step #3: Organize and Optimize Site Structure does a nice job of laying out some basic guidelines that will help you organize and format your copy for maximum results:

  • Scrutinize your competition’s design and organization flow of their landing pages: Go through their conversation process and note the places where you feel a bit stumped or put off. Then go back to your own landing page and compare. Consider what you could revise or eliminate for better effect.
  • Put your most critical landing page elements in the upper 300 pixels of the page: Usability research shows over half of your site visitors will NOT scroll “below the fold.” So forget the warm-up copy, get right to the point, and keep your value proposition at first screen view.
  • Think simple: Use a one-column format with ample margins and white space to increase reading comprehension. Break up big paragraphs into smaller paragraphs — and no more than 5 lines per. You want to encourage visitors to read and engage with your message. Dense-looking copy doesn’t get read, period.
  • Be obvious and use standard usage conventions: Underline your links, be clear. descriptive and specific when describing them. No visitor should have to work to use your page or understand your message.
  • Make sure your page loads quickly: There are still millions of people using dial-up. Depending on your marketing and your product/service mix, strive for an 8-second or less page load. Don’t plump your page with unnecessary graphics. Optimize essential graphics to reduce file size and load time.

But wait, there’s more! Here are 5 more tips you’ll want to review and keep handy:

  • Format your page according to the F-Pattern Eye-Tracking Principle: Web readers tend to track through content in a rough F-shaped pattern. So format important images flush left. (For more on this, see Jakob Nielsen’s eyetracking research.
  • Use the same color palette/visual elements from your ads on your landing page: There should be a smooth, consistent flow to help keep your prospect oriented and assured that they are indeed “landed” in the right place.
  • No clipart! Choose a single dominant photo image to be your hero shot: Use a product photo or, in the case of a service, you could use your logo or even a photo of your location. Make it clickable and don’t forget to add a benefit-rich caption.
  • Put your message, copy or image, close to the middle of your page. Less critical elements can be placed in sidebars or perhaps even eliminated.
  • Make it easy to complete your input form: For example, have the input cursor hop instantly from field to field upon completion. Let your user tab around fields. No drop-down menus, require only a checkbox action. And my personal favorite — auto-populate any fields you can.

Remember, your landing page is your visitor’s last stop to buy something outright or Step 2 if lead generation is your goal. Whether it’s one step or one of many, your copy and design has to focus on firing-up your visitor’s self-interest as well as build confidence and trust in your product/service and in you/your company.

So be honest, forthright and leave the “cheese” behind.

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

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  1. Great summary Roberta! I recently had to write a landing page for a web event that didn’t have a good headshot of the speaker. I used a stock photo of a happy-looking guy. It still worked well.

    I also find myself constantly checking to make sure that branding and language are the same from ad creative, to landing page, to registration form. Sometimes when different people create different campaign components, it’s easy for small differences to sneak in.

  2. Good post! Copywriters aren’t typically designers, but you’d better be able to speak the language. Most designers aren’t much involved in the “selling” end of the gig, and often make fundamental errors in the layout — mistakes that can cost you the ballgame in direct response.

    The ability to explain what’s needed and why it needs to be that way is critical to the success of a project.

  3. I guess the one common thing that ties all your tips together is “make it easy for the potential customer.”

  4. Hi Roberta,

    Excellent post. I am a designer and also write copy for our website and I find it very difficult to balance the two aspects.

    I used to believe that since we are in the design field, our landing pages should be “design rich” and less words. Sort of like “let our work speak for itself”.

    Over time I have come to realize, the portfolio, the overall design of the site only helps so much. These two aspects must be supported by usuability features such as the one you have decribed above.

    We are in the middle of a massive redesign of our website (the new design is now live in our blog) which will hopefully focus more on usability and less on dense graphic rich page layouts.

    Jeff Marsh

  5. Great post, Roberta. I was wondering with your second tip on placing important content in the first 300 pixels, how that relates to copy length. Do you like long sales letters?

    John

  6. It’s also important to think of your landing pages in terms of the overall customer experience. It’s all about helping people buy. Online, the challenge is to make that experience as real as it is if I walk into your ice cream store and order two scoops.

    Holly Buchanan wrote a really good piece about “Hitting the Landing Page Optimization Brick Wall” over on GrokDotCom. It’s worth checking out.

  7. John, I don’t like or dislike long sales letters as I don’t like or dislike any specific promotional format. The trick is to match the right format with the right offer to the right audience. Long form sales letters have their place, but it isn’t everywhere :=)

    And do check out GrokDotCom.com – it’s a favorite of mine on conversion topics.

  8. Do you have a source for your below the fold statistic?

  9. Hi Ben, the source for the below the fold statistic comes from the Omniture white paper I cited. However, I did this article which discusses how the fold line changes depending on the viewer’s screen resolution. You can read it here.

  10. Awesome tips. I have been playing around with my page design for awhile now.. and it’s good to know these things…

  11. Does anyone have some examples of quality landing pages? I’d like to see this fleshed out.

  12. Thought I’d point out that more recent research has shown that users are a lot more happy to scroll down web pages than they previously were (study by NeilsonNorman group last year). Thats not to say that you have more time to grab their attention, just that its OK for important content to be below the fold.

  13. @Rory – I wouldn’t disagree except … your above the fold content has to have enough “oomph” to get folks to scroll for more message found below the fold. Thanks for your input!

  14. Nice one. The usability principles of Don’t Make Me Think.

  15. What a great article. I found the pieces on layout and usability most useful.

  16. What great tips! I will definitely have to take a second look at my website. Thanks Again!

  17. I’ve gotten to this series of posts rather later, but it’s very timely for me. After 2 years with my blog, I’m now conceptualizing a new one with tighter focus, more attention to building readership and new monetization strategies. This series really helps me understand how to utilize landing pages. THANKS.

  18. I have bookmarked this post. In my ‘absolutely have to do something with it’ folder.

    Once I finish my e-book take away I will come back and draft, re-draft and edit the be-jeseesus out of my landing page copy to get higher results.

    websitePROFITS: Profit Boosting Tips in 37 words or less!

  19. Wow, great tips! I guess there is tons of work for me now, redesigning all my landing pages. :-)

  20. Thanks for another great article, I’m enjoying all your posts and references. Great stuff.

  21. Great post, thanks! Never gave this much thought. Now I realize I should.

  22. Wow your sites rocks. You have so much good information about writing.

  23. I did it. check it out. http://marcymassura.com
    Any advice?

  24. Out of all tips I like the most“Scrutinize your competition’s design and organization flow of their landing pages” as it is all about your competitors. To stand out you do not have to make a perfect page(if it happens to be perfect it does not hurt either). All you need to do is to see what your competitors are doing and do just a little better.

  25. Yeah good post, I bookmark an obscene amount of sites that seem to get my attention from the off just for reference, then i can use the techniques in my sites. The only problem is being 2 steps ahead because once you start to do something on your site everyone follows suit so having a few great ideas will help for the future.

  26. There is so much junk and myths about landing pages.

    The myth of staying above the fold is based on faulty web research.

    Clicktale has an interesting article that discusses this.

    http://blog.clicktale.com/2006/12/23/unfolding-the-fold/

  27. Hi,
    I have been visual designer for 9+ years and we are so trained to work on deadlines,package that we loose the real focus of the design, ultimately the design or even copy has to work and bring results, else it will be waste. Above points are very basic point that a designer should know.

    But we are so accustomed in our own creative world that we loose the core of it and i been in same boat realized it sooner which amke me take u-turn in my approach and started focussing on not even Results!! but User Expereince- your target audience has certian way of experiencing your product, sefvice, website. It’s not always WYSIWYG, it how to engage them in the process and have them take action to it.

    BELIEVE me the shift in saw in client decision was amazing!! Get and learn your target sudience- How will they expereince and act on it and than Design or build your product.

    Everywebsite should have a landing page and when you do SEO for project- focus on the RESULTS and PROCESS – not the website. Website, Landing Page is the most effective marketing tool for your business.

    When you design website, Online promotional stuff, ask some basic question to your designer or developer before hiring them.

    http://www.57pixelmedia.com/2011/06/top-6-questions-to-ask/. Hope you will enjoy this article.

  28. Great post Roberta! Thanks for sharing the value, I will take these tips and run with them :) I’ll be testing them out with some of my LP’s. Thanks again, look forward to your next post!

  29. Great article glad the “F” pattern is still being discussed, i see many websites created that have not taken in to account how their users will actually respond to the content, can’t beat a good website that clearly guides you where they want you to go. Anyone agree?

  30. Am currently working on creating a Killing Landing page to increase my site page view ;)

  31. Hi Roberta. I’m researching how to write landing pages and I came across this article. Some great tips here.

    One of the nagging issue for me is how long or how short. What I get from your article is that it doesn’t matter how long or how short it is as long as the beginning and the end is very very tight and well written.

    What do you think about adding a navigation section at the beginning that will help readers go to the exact parts of the pages they want. Is it a good strategy or is it better to let them scan through from top to bottom?