December 04, 2007
Find out what 4,213 marketers revealed about landing pages. Highlights include:
-> How to lift landing page conversions 48.35%
-> What landing page tests work best
-> Tips on copy, graphics and layout
-> The best tests to get the highest ROI
Plus, new research that will make any marketer cringe.
This is your downloadable version of a presentation conducted Nov. 28, 2007, by:
Anne Holland, Founder & Content Director
Tim McAtee, Senior Analyst
#1. Click this link to download the PowerPoint presentation PDF including eight new data charts (yes, you may share with colleagues):
#2. Click this link to download the MP3 audio file:
(Audio download note: This is in MP3, which almost anyone with a PC or Mac can play. If you'd like to listen now, just do a regular mouse click (left side) and it will start playing fairly quickly. If you'd like to download and save to listen later, just do a right-click with your mouse.)
#3. Here is the transcript of the teleconference:
Anne Holland: Good afternoon. I’m Anne Holland of MarketingSherpa. I want to apologize for what might be a slightly fuzzy audio today. I’m actually calling on a landline from my home office in Nepal. How exciting is that? I am out here joined, virtually at least, from our New York research office by Tim McAtee, our senior analyst. Hey, Tim, how are you doing?
Tim McAtee: Hi, everyone. Hi, Anne. I’m doing great.
Anne Holland: We’re going to discuss some new research that you guys conducted in conjunction with our new 2008 Landing Page Handbook, a lot of which MarketingSherpa readers helped us with. We’re really psyched to share the data with you today. By the way, you should have received a download, along with this phone number when you got it.
So, you should have a hotlink to download the presentation. You can take that presentation and share it with your colleagues in your office, no problem. But, please, do keep it all together as one presentation. Thank you, very much. If you did not get that hotlink or it’s not working, just call Customer Service or email service(at)marketingsherpa(dot)com and they’ll get you a copy of that right away.
Now, Tim, if we can go to page two of the presentation. Could you talk us through where some of the data came from?
Tim McAtee: Sure. As with most of our books, we do a lot of primary research that is exclusive to us. What we do is, we actually go out and talk to thousands of real-life marketers and get, sort of, both their quantitative -- what they’re doing out there in survey format -- as well as what they think in sort of a more qualitative format.
Anne Holland: Cool. Now, on page three of our presentation, Tim, you put one of your favorite charts from this year’s research. This was research you guys conducted in September.
Tim McAtee: Yes, this is true. This is, again, from the survey we did for this. We had, I think, 4,213 answers from real-life marketers. What this was, was just seeing how things were going, better or worse. And then, right off the bat, we’re seeing that a lot of conversions are actually getting better. So, it looks like people are doing the right thing.
Anne Holland: It’s very exciting to see that these are the top five types of tests that you can conduct for landing pages that are really worth the money. I know that with the landing page, you can conduct a test about almost anything and, sometimes, it can be hard to even figure out what to test. If you are going to be investing in landing page tests, these would be the top five that our readers said really move the needle in terms of making conversions significantly better.
Why don’t we go through each one of these kinds of tests? This would be the PPC search dynamic changes, registration form tweaks, creative elements, search optimization landing pages and mobile email clicks. We can kind of briefly show you -- we’re going to show you some real-life examples of tests that work for each one of them.
Why don’t we go on to page number four of the presentation? The first one is dynamic search copy tests. There are a lot of different ways that you can have your site, your page, dynamically changed based on search. By dynamic change, that’s actually a programming term. That means that if someone clicks on a search ad or a search link and comes to your landing page -- your page alters. Maybe the headline changes a little bit based on what landing page term or ad they clicked on so they get an ad, a landing page headline, or something on the page that reflects completely where they came from.
Now, this actually is a real-life test from a website called musiciansfriend.com, which was conducted by their agency OTTO Digital. The cool thing about this test is, if you’ll look down there, it looks like a regular Web page, except kind of in the upper left corner there it says, “You searched for Stratocaster the guitar on Google.” That little line that says, “You searched for Stratocaster guitar on Google,” they dynamically stick that line in there and actually dynamically change the word “Stratocaster the guitar” to whatever the person actually searched for, and they even dynamically tested Google, Yahoo!, wherever the person came from.
They stuck that in there just to see whether that would make a difference on conversions from people who click through on search ads and, in fact, this particular -- this one little, small change -- gave them a 48.35% lift. I mean, that’s a 48.35% lift in conversions, plus a higher average order value per customer who ended up ordering from that page. So, it’s a very small thing, just acknowledging, “You came from Google on the landing page.” That made a huge, huge difference in results.
Now, we’ve actually seen this on other sites as well. I’ve seen other Case Studies. For example, Kayak, the travel site, got a 71% revenue lift from testing the exact same idea. I’ve also seen business-to-business websites do better for lead generation from the exact same idea. So it’s a clever little thing -- it isn’t actually that hard to program; it depends on your backend -- that can make a big difference.
Now, why don’t we move on to test number two, registration form tests. The funny thing about registration forms is that, really, they seem kind of boring to a lot of people. We do all this glamorous, creative marketing and then, oh, yes, get them to fill out the form. But, of course, if you’ve done registration form tests -- and this could be anything from an opt-in form to a full sort of “register here” or “sign up here” to get a white paper, a webinar, email, whatever -- people have found that registration form tests can make a huge difference in conversion. How many form fields you have, things like that.
But, Tim, you asked the marketers that you talked to … you asked them if they had too many questions on their registration forms because, of course, the number of questions you ask can make a real difference. How many said they had too many questions on their registration forms? Do you remember?
Tim McAtee: I don’t actually.
Anne Holland: It’s OK. I actually have the number right here -- 42%. That’s huge. If 42% of marketers said, “We have too many questions on our registration forms,” that means almost half of marketers really have to go in, maybe have a committee meeting and say, “Let’s get rid of some forms.”
Now, these two samples here -- and you can see bigger versions of these samples in the actual Landing Page Handbook itself -- these two samples are from an actual test where a marketer tested cutting out some of the questions they asked on their registration form, making it a shorter form. In this one, it went from 15 entry fields to seven entry fields, and the winning form, the shorter one, improved conversions 36.7%. That’s a lot more conversions, a lot more people filling out the whole form. Now, on the next page, you’ll see 22%. Tim, what’s that 22%?
Tim McAtee: That 22% -- it’s kind of an odd thing where, for whatever reason, people keep putting these “reset and clear form” buttons right next to their “submit forms.” There’s really just no reason to have that there, because it’s so easy for a customer to go in and just hit it accidentally. Frankly, there just isn’t any logical reason for it to be there, and yet it’s still there on 22% of people’s forms.
Anne Holland: That’s insane. Almost one out of every four marketers are admitting they have this button that can crush conversions.
Tim McAtee: Pretty much.
Anne Holland: That’s pretty scary. And the nice thing is that, hopefully, it’s your competitor that’s doing it -- not you.
Now, we move onto the one that I think a lot of people think is the most fun: creative elements of a landing page that can be tested.
I think a lot of people actually, when you think about testing a landing page, the first thing you think about is testing creative elements, but actually according to our readers, it was number three for effectiveness. When it comes to creative elements, again, there’s so much going on. You have graphics, you have copy, you have layout, you have design. What really will move the needle? What’s the thing you should test first?
What we actually found across more than 750 case studies was the creative element that made the difference really was eye flow -- anything you could do to simplify and clarify the page the better. There actually is only one marketplace in which that is not true -- it’s certain countries in Asia where they actually prefer a cluttered page, which is harder for the eye but, apparently, for their culture, it may work better. So, if you’re perhaps in Japan or Korea, you may want a more cluttered page. Anyone outside of there, you’re going to want to clarify and simplify.
Here’s a couple of ways; actually, here’s three ways. Number one, of course, is to reduce the number of columns on your page. A lot of people have multiple columns. In fact, now, Tim, this is data from an actual observational study that your team conducted this August. Can you talk us through it?
Tim McAtee: Sure. We went out and we actually went through 978 individual landing pages, across all sorts of industry verticals, from search and from email ads. We clicked on these links, checked them out, reported what we saw and, trust me, it was not as much fun as it sounds. Now, one thing on this graph here is that most of the people that we did look at, and we’re doing a pretty good job here with one or two columns. But there are quite a few here with three or more.
Anne Holland: That’s scary. The thing that scares me especially is -- you see here that the blue is the email landing pages. These are people, if you clicked from an offer or an email, and then red bar, of course, are the clicks from search advertising, because the search advertiser is more likely to have more columns. Often these are clicks you paid for, and you’re sending them to a page that’s too hard for the eye to figure out what to do to convert. That’s a real lost opportunity.
We have another data point to share at this time: Out of the more than 4,000 marketers that we surveyed, asking them about their own landing pages, 21% had an internal requirement that their landing pages matched their regular website layout. So, whatever your regular page layout is on your website, that’s what your landing page would look identical to.
There’s a real problem with that because, of course, your regular website layout probably has things like, perhaps, a left-hand navigation bar or, perhaps, all sorts of tabs going across the top, perhaps far right advertisements, or navigation of some type, and it may have, in other words, lots of columns and, of course, more columns, more confusion, harder eye flow. So, if you’re one of the marketers who absolutely requires pages to match your regular site layout, that may be a worse practice, as well. We do have an example of how you can change that in the Landing Page Handbook itself.
Why don’t we move on? The second thing that you can do to help with eye flow, of course, is typeface. If people can’t read your writing on your web page, they’re not going to convert. Obviously, the words matter. Even if it’s only a few words, they have to be able to read them. If they are under 10 years old or over 40, reading is even harder than it is for everybody else, especially on a computer screen.
You don’t want to have centered copy, especially multiple centered lines in a headline. You don’t want copy for body copy that is less than 10 or 12 points; 12 points being better, 14 being fabulous. It’s funny, actually, because all the Web 2.0 websites that are very fashionable right now have an extremely large typeface. Also, unless you have an unbearably good reason, you do not want knockout text, which would be white on black or any kind of color on any other color, really. Big, large black letters on white work the best. Make it easy on the eye so that they pay attention to your content.
And, of course, last but not least, buttons. We’ve talked about buttons before. I’m on page 10 of our presentation. We’ve talked a lot in the past about testing the wording of your button. That’s been a huge conversion test. It seems to have worked extremely well for a lot of marketers, but there’s something we haven’t talked about a lot that you need to talk about as well, and that is testing the size of your button.
Steve Krug, who is one of the smartest web designers I think, on the planet, told me that he does a test with all of his websites where he actually turns around, walks across the room, turns back and looks at the monitor from across the room and sees if he can see the button from there. Can he see the button from like six or 10 feet away. If he can’t see it, he goes back and he makes it bigger. Tim, do you have any input on this button thing?
Tim McAtee: Sure. Well, really just the way the human eye works, bigger is always going to be better. One thing that I’ve noticed after going through hundreds of analytics reports and ad effectiveness studies is with advertising, those buttons in larger graph core units, the bigger it is, the more clicks it’s going to get. It’s just kind of the way it works. The math always happens that way.
Anne Holland: Why don’t we move on to test number four, which is organic search landings optimized. Now, organic search, of course, is the clicks that you get from the organic listing. Those are the listings that are free; the regular, natural ones that show up in search engines. What we’re saying here is you can actually improve the conversions from the traffic you get from those clicks. Tim, what’s this chart?
Tim McAtee: This chart is actually from our own internal page where we’re looking at where searchers are actually winding up on the MarketingSherpa site. What we’re seeing is that 79% of people searching wind up on an interior page. What that really says is that for anybody who has a website, you need to be coherent, paying attention to the fact that people are coming to your internal pages and not necessarily sort of directly to your landing page or directly to your homepage in the way that you designed it to happen.
You really need to optimize those interior pages to act in some way as a landing page. And while that can be daunting both for sort of technological or political reasons, what you can do is look at a site report and just pick out sort of the top few pages that seem to be getting the lion’s share of that search traffic and figure out how can you affect just those pages if you do have to prioritize.
Anne Holland: Just because that traffic is free doesn’t mean you should waste it. It often converts as well or even better than the clicks you paid for, so you might as well see if you can optimize for them. We have some Case Studies in the book itself that show you how to do that and talk about real-life marketers who have done it. So, it’s totally worthwhile investing in.
On our next page, we’re showing you an example of a real-life press release. Now, this is actually a search engine optimization marketing campaign that a marketer from Symmetricom did. This is a B-to-B campaign, but it’s pretty typical. A lot of marketers do this these days, where you’ll put out a press release on the wires, hoping that your press release shows up in places like Google News and Yahoo! News. Then, of course, you hope that when people see that press release and they click through the press release to learn more about your news, they will convert on your site and, of course, here you have this press release with very technical news and, indeed, lots of people who were in the target marketplace clicked through on it.
On the next page, that’s page 13, you’ll see an example of the actual landing page from the press release that they clicked through on. Again, these are people who clicked through from Yahoo! News or Google News and this is what they saw.
What I liked about this landing page for this optimized press release was the fact that the marketer did something very, very smart. Instead of just sort of saying, well -- posting the release on their regular website and “Here we are, here’s our regular website with all our crud and, by the way, here’s more news and information.” Instead, what they did was they took out the left-hand navigation bar and replaced it with a little lead generation form. So, people who click through to read more information not only got more information -- and you can see there it’s a lot of really useful information -- they got a little form for them to fill out.
Did it work? Absolutely. This is a very, very niche marketplace. They ended up, though, getting eight people to fill out that form. One of those eight people ended up being someone who was a $200 million order. So, yeah, even in B-to-B you can do some amazing stuff. That’s a great example of optimizing an internal site page for search engine leads and creating a real business case around that.
Now, let’s move on to number five, redesigning your landing pages and, perhaps, even your homepage for mobile. This is one of the top five tests of the year. Now, Tim, how many people are looking at web pages on mobile devices right now?
Tim McAtee: According to M:Metrics, there’s something like 9.3% of mobile phone users who are actually using that. But one thing that we do know is that within the B-to-B market, that’s a lot higher just because you’ve got a propensity of people using smartphones and mobile devices.
Anne Holland: And I’m assuming it’s going fast because there’s so many new iPhones and things out there right now?
Tim McAtee: Absolutely. The price is coming down, smartphones are getting more popular, the networks are getting better. While it’s still not to the extent that it is in Europe or Asia, the US is catching up very quickly.
Anne Holland: I think this holiday season, there’s going to be a huge push for a lot of these mobile devices and cell phones and iPhones and everything, and we’re going to see a real difference. So, if you’re getting things ready, maybe at least a goal of something people can land on for January when they first start using their new mobile device and they go to their favorite website and they want to see something, maybe now is the time to have an alternate landing page for mobile. It actually isn’t that tough. We give you some tips in the book on how to do that, plus a way to get certified. There’s some really good places out there that you can go and get more information on.
Here’s an example, though, of what the difference is for a regular homepage versus a mobile homepage. As you see here, this is a regular homepage from a company called Secrets of Success. If you go to the next page, which is page number 15, you’ll see the mobile version of this exact same page. These are both live on the Internet, so you can go look them up.
One of them is just the regular homepage and one of them is the mobile version. So, it’s very, very interesting. You can see they stripped off the graphics, they moved the hot links over to the, sort of, top left corner to make it very easy to navigate with your thumb. This is just a really great example, and I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of websites doing little mobile, stripped-down versions in the first quarter of 2008. I think this is going to be a huge, huge trend.
Now, a lot of us are budgeting this time of year. I don’t know about you, but we certainly are for our big 2008 push. If you have a fiscal year that ends on December 30th or 31st, this is probably what you’re doing right now. If you have not budgeted for a lot of testing or you’re not able to do a lot of landing page testing, we would urge you to at least budget for the analytics.
The first thing you have to do is say: Can you measure it? Because, of course, you can’t test it if you can’t measure it. So, at least get some analytics in here that you can use. You can do something fairly cheap. There’s even Google Analytics that are free if you’re starting out, if you want to prove to your boss that getting good analytics are worth it. Then you can upgrade. There are some really wonderful analytics packages out there that can help you do some significant testing.
The scary thing is that out of all the marketers we talked to, 48% said they couldn’t do A/B testing on their landing pages. I mean, that is a scary number. It’s not necessarily just for analytics. It may have been because there was no one there to read the report. Often it’s staff, or they didn’t have the power or the time, the ability to get two different pages up to split the traffic and send them to the two different pages.
So, often it’s a staffing issue as much as it is a technology issue. If it means budgeting for an intern, if it means budgeting for a little Web development time. If it means trying to add an IT staffer to your budget, as I recommended a couple of weeks ago, anything that you can do to enable that A/B testing.
When you consider that 48% of the marketers we talked to could not do any A/B testing, that means that even just basic A/B testing is a huge competitive advantage for your company. You can go out there and win in the marketplace. That’s gargantuan. And these were not dumb marketers, these were not tiny little companies. These were regular marketers in corporate America who had an average of seven to nine landing pages live at this time, who were not able to A/B test them.
Again, you have a huge competitive advantage if you can go out there and actually just do some basic testing to improve your landing pages. And, of course, be sure if you are testing, share the results with your agency, because that’s the only way they’re going to be able to try to create better ads and, even if they’re doing landing pages, better landing pages. A lot of people actually, 16% in fact, just don’t even bother to share their test results, or may have an internal privacy reason why they’re not sharing test results with their agency. So the agency can’t do a better job. That must be very frustrating for the agency.
Last but not least, the scariest data point: 18% of our readers and survey takers said that no one in their entire organization even knows what their landing page results are. At the very least, you need to know what your landing page results are, you need to know your conversion rate, because until you know your conversion rate, you don’t have a baseline.
You can’t go to your boss, or the CEO, or the management team and say, “Look, our conversions are 2%, and I have a goal to get them to 2.5%. Let me have some money so I can go do it. Give me $20,000 or give me $5,000 or give me $50,000, so I can go out there and do this test. It’s going to make you this much money if we can just improve a little bit.” There’s no way you can get better if you don’t even know what your results are right now. It’s pretty basic.
When it comes to testing and getting that data, of course, the most important thing is not just how many people, perhaps, clicked on the button on that landing page. Often the landing page is not the final page in the order process. Maybe you’re generating a lead that then has to be acted on and educated, nurtured, cultured, sold. Maybe you’re dumping a name, an order from the shopping cart into a full cart and the person has to check out.
There’s probably a process after the landing page. When you are testing your landing page, make sure that the analytics, if humanly possible, follow that lead all the way through the process. Make it a closed loop. Otherwise, you’re going to think the page that won is the one that got the most clicks or the most immediate conversions. You don’t know if those immediate conversions were actually people who ended up ordering anything. So that’s going to be absolutely critical.
Now, this is actually an example of a real-life test from a company called SEOmoz. Tthey actually tested five different pages, but these are two of them. These are the winner and the second winner. One of them was a little shorter and had a kind of checklist and the other one was a very, very long copy. What was interesting was the final winner -- and if we go to the next page, you can see the final winner, the little grid there -- the checklist actually got higher clicks. More clicks came to that checklist or went through that checklist. So, they got a higher conversion rate on the checklist landing page than they did on the really, really long copy landing page.
These are still extremely good conversions, but on the second page, which is where they actually took the money and people had to type in their credit card, the positions were reversed and, in the end, the marketer actually ended up going with the landing page that got less clicks, less conversions initially because it did so much better on the second page.
Now, both of these landing pages had the exact same second page. What is interesting here is, don’t just base your winning landing page on immediate conversions. Base it on what actually ends up making more money for the company in the bottom line all the way down past the shopping cart, because it really matters there.
Well, Tim, thank you very much for joining me in today’s research. If anyone has questions about the data that we’ve presented today, you guys can certainly contact Tim. Tim is at timm(at)marketingsherpa(dot)com. Directly, he and the research team can answer questions.
Also, if you’ve got questions about their report as a whole, no problem. Contact Customer Service at service(at)marketingsherpa(dot)com. We’ve got hundreds of charts and real-life samples in there. So, there’s a lot of really useful data to help you. And good luck with this year’s budgeting and good luck with next year’s landing page tests. Thank you very much for joining us.