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How to design landing pages that convert

You’ve got a killer product or service. But without a great landing page, no one will ever know it.

Neal O’Grady
July 30, 2015
Web design

You’ve done it. Months spent hunched in front of the computer have finally culminated in a minimum viable product. Phew. Time to unleash it on the world.

You launch the site and fire up the marketing machine. You tweet. You share. You email “influencers.” You set up ads for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Adwords.

And nothing. Crickets. Your analytics app shows a dismal conversion rate: 5 new users from 10,000 visitors.

What happened, you wonder. People could definitely benefit from your product, but they aren’t signing up.

The answer’s in your landing page. Maybe it’s confusing, or boring, or downright scary. Whatever the cause, it’s broken. Let’s see how you can fix it.

7 elements of successful landing pages

If no one’s signing up for your killer product, the problem lies in your landing page. Thankfully, millions of landing pages built by thousands of companies—paired with careful analysis—have led to something of a formula for success.

Here are the elements of high-converting landing pages:

1. Detailed, but concise copy – be specific about what your product is, does, why it matters, and how it will help your visitors. People won't pay for something they don't understand. But they don’t want to have to read an essay first.

2. Clear calls to action (CTAs) – your calls to action (buttons and links) should be both visually prominent and clear in meaning, so people know what you expect them to do.

3. Genuine tone – sounding like a keyword-spewing robot can scare people away and make your product sound cheap. Write like you speak.

4. Engaging content – people get bored and intimidated by large blocks of text. Keep their attention with engaging and easy-to-read copy, lists, imagery, and data visualizations.

5. Social proof – have big-name or really happy customers? Show them off. Nobody wants to use an app nobody else uses.

6. Carefully considered pricing – the right pricing display can sway people’s decision-making.

7. Logical progression – the most convincing arguments rely on precise timing. If you dive into price before covering the benefits, you could intimidate people. That said, if you have a free trial or price is a big differentiator from your competition, it’s worth mentioning early.

It doesn’t matter how many visitors hit your landing pages if they don’t convert. So let’s dive deeper into each of these elements of a killer landing page so you can start capitalizing on all the traffic you’re breaking the bank to get.

1. Tell people what you offer

‍I just love how I know exactly what Acorn does after reading one sentence.

Too many landing pages make it impossible to figure out exactly what the product does. They’re filled with pithy, generic statements that emphasize emotion over clarity.

How many times have you seen a headline like, “Fakia will revolutionize how you do business!” and thought:

Cool. How?

You never want visitors to ask that question. You know what your business is and does, but your customers have no idea. So explain:

- What your product/service is: is it a desktop app, a mobile app, a social network?

- What it does: and be specific, even if it is revolutionary.

- Who it’s for: designers, lawyers, hungry people, CPAs?

- Why it matters: what sets it apart from similar products?

Be clear, descriptive, and concise. Write as if you’re speaking to someone who has no idea what your product does—because 99% of the time, you are.

A word on jargon

In most cases, you want to explain your product as simply as possible, using everyday language. But it’s okay to use industry-specific terms if you’re selling to a niche audience. Just don’t assume every person who visits your page will know what you’re talking about.

For example, rather than saying you offer a “natural language search-optimization platform,” you could say: “Bring more people to your website by using the search terms they’re actually using.”

2. Use prominent and clear calls to action. Often.

‍One screen, two ways to sign up.

Whether you want people to sign up for your newsletter or to buy your product, you need to give them a clear path to that next step.

So make sure your calls to action (CTAs) stand out from the rest of the page. Instead of a plain text link, use a button. Then make it pop with a strong, high-contrast color.

And be sure to spread your calls to action throughout the page. After all, some people will want to dive right in, while others might need to scroll through the entire page. Some will even check out your page, then leave to look for reviews or social media chatter, only to return and convert later. So feature at least two calls to action—one “above the fold” and another at the bottom of the page. You could also try making a “sticky” CTA that follows people as they scroll down the page, so they’re never without an easy way to convert.

3. Don’t be an infomercial

‍Dollar Shave Club may not be winning any design awards, but they sure sound like a regular guy.

Avoid being spammy, or you’ll scare people off and make your brand and product look cheap. What’s “spammy?” Sounding like a used car salesman. Or an infomercial.

So don’t shout at people. Don’t randomly all-caps copy (especially the word “free”) or promise things you can’t deliver. Be real. Talk like a person. Write as if you were explaining your product to your mother, significant other, or best friend. If you’re real with people, they’ll be much more likely to trust you and what you’re telling them.

And please, no pop-ups, takeovers, or strobe lights. Those just infuriate people. And angry people don’t become customers.

4. Keep people engaged

KissMetrics effectively pairs nicely visualized stats with social proof, so their page isn't just a wall of text.

If people get bored or lost, they’ll bounce, off to check out cute kitten GIFs. Here’s a few ways to keep your audience engaged from page load to conversion:

Be clear. Make sure your content is clear and easy to read or people will get frustrated.

Use visual content. Long blocks of text can turn reading into a chore. So break up your copy into digestible chunks with bullet lists, images, and data visualizations like charts, graphs, and infographics. This will not only help keep people reading, but also engage those who learn better through visuals.

Be entertaining. People are more likely to keep reading if you make them smile. Throw out the odd joke. But not too odd.

Touch close to home. Speak to your audience’s challenges and goals. They’ll keep reading if it sounds like you’re not only aware of their problems, but aiming to solve them.

5. Don’t forget the social proof

‍HelpScout brings out the big gun—I mean, names—for its social proof.

Ever avoid a nice-looking restaurant just because it was empty? Or wander into a crowd just to see what they’re gawking at? We all have.

If other people have decided that something is entertaining or useful, we’re more likely to give it a try. Saves us having to do the homework ourselves.

So highlight people already enjoying your product with quotes, testimonials, Facebook likes, and even case studies. Show the real people behind the quotes to make them more impactful and credible. Include names, faces, and company logos (if you’re selling a business product). And choose testimonials that match your message so it’s not just you saying your product’s amazing.

Just make sure you get these people’s approval first. There’s little weirder than stumbling across your face or words on a website when you never approved it.

Lastly, if you have high-profile clients, such as Fortune 500 companies or celebrities, ask if you can highlight them. If Facebook or Barack Obama use your product, people will be more inclined to trust it.

6. Play with pricing

‍I wonder if UberConference has played with setting their price in a smaller font size than the other guys.

Pricing is key not only to the health of your business, but also your conversion rate. And it’s not just about what your prices are—how you display them matters too.

For example, you’re probably well aware of the $19.99 trick (it sounds smaller than $20!). But what about a price with fewer syllables? Believe it or not, a price you can say faster sounds cheaper.

Even the relative size and position of a price can influence people. A smaller font size makes the price seem smaller (opens PDF). Putting the price at the bottom left of a box rather than the top right affects perception too.

The psychology of pricing deserves a gigantic list, and luckily, someone else already put it together: check it out and craft your perfect pricing strategy.

Give people options

Ever head to a store because you saw an extremely low price on a product you’ve been itching for, then learn that for just a little more money, you could get so much more? Sometimes you end up spending twice what you meant to, but feel okay about it because you saved on the extras.

That’s exactly why so many startups and software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies offer free tiers and trials, but restrict the power features to premium tiers. The cheap option gets people in the door—and it’s a lot easier to upsell them when they’re already half-invested.

Plus, some people just like to have the best of the best. Offer a premium version and they’ll jump at the opportunity. Just don’t provide too many options, or you’ll leave people stuck with analysis paralysis (the inability to make a choice that stems from having too many things to choose from).

7. Do it all in the right order

If someone walked up to you right now and asked you to sign up for something called “Fakia,” and started with, “it only costs $5 per month,” would you do it?

No. Which is why your landing page not only needs to be informative, but also needs to inform in the right order. Selling something requires a well-crafted and perfectly timed plan of attack:

1. Set up the problem. People bounce if a page is slow to explain itself, just like they do if it’s slow to load. So hook them with an interesting headline and image combo that makes it clear what problem your product solves, and offers a solution.

2. Detail the solution. Explain exactly how your product or service fixes addresses the problem you set up.

3. Use your social proof. Sway the unsure with a few words from happy or famous customers.

4. Introduce pricing. Make people want your product before you involve money in the process.

5. Leave them thinking. If readers aren’t convinced yet, end on a point that’ll stick so they come back later.

Now go forth and convert

Now it’s time to put that knowledge to work. Fire up one of your landing pages and make just one change right now—don’t close the tab and tell yourself you’ll do it later.

To make the most of your landing pages, start running A/B tests to find the combination of words, images, colors, and layout that converts people best. I recommend Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer. They’re both powerful, easy to use, and don’t even require coding. Kinda like Webflow.

Finally, use analytics software to help you track your conversion rate and identify areas for improvement. I’d also recommend tracking the performance of each call to action to determine exactly where people convert.

Need inspiration? Check out Land Book for some beautiful examples.

Do you have a landing-page success story, or a great trick you’d love to share? Let us know in the comments!

Neal O’Grady

Freelance designer, traveler and all-around web guy.

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