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.