Landing pages support content marketing.
The tricky thing is … landing pages are not home pages. They’re not blog posts, cornerstone content, white papers, case studies, product description pages, or even sales pages.
And you can’t treat them like they are.
High-converting landing pages consist of three action-driving stages: before, during, and after.
Tragically, when many content marketers build landing pages, they focus on just one stage: during.
But if you don’t invest effort into what happens before and after you present your landing page, it doesn’t stand a chance of achieving the results you want.
1. The “before” of landing pages
While landing pages are not about you — your company, your product, or your service — the “before” stage is because you first have to establish your goal.
As Demian Farnworth said:
“[Landing pages] force readers to focus on one thing — and one thing only.”
Determining that one thing is the only time you get to be self-centered in this process. The best way to set your goal is to complete this sentence:
I want my visitor to …
- Like my Facebook page
- Subscribe to my email newsletter
- Watch my demo video
- Register for my content library
- Make an appointment
Naturally, there are plenty of other actions that might be the goal of your landing page. Whatever you select, your goal should be singular: the one desired action will guide everything else.
For example, let’s look at InvestorCarrot’s landing page for their SEO Keyword Bible.
The crucial thing to notice isn’t what’s on the page, but what’s left off the page.
There’s no header navigation, no footer, no social media icons, and even their logo in the top left corner isn’t clickable.
Essentially, there are two roads out from this landing page: “Get My Free Report Now” or “No thanks, I’ll pass on this opportunity.”
InvestorCarrot knows exactly what they want their visitor to do and they eliminate every other navigation option.
The result of this singularity — along with other factors I’ll address in the next two stages — is a whopping 45.89 percent conversion rate.
Take heed: when it comes to planning your landing page — the before stage — select one goal. Remove anything that doesn’t support that goal.
2. The “during” of landing pages
The “during” stage of your landing page consists of five on-page elements.
The headline of your landing page is arguably the most crucial on-page element. Why?
Because while 8 out of 10 people read the headline, only 2 out of 10 will read the content that follows.
So, how do you create a headline that grabs, compels, and drives action?
Easy. You don’t.
Instead of trying to create the perfect headline, steal it.
First, steal the heart of your headline by building it around your audience’s own keywords.
Whether you drive visitors to your landing page with paid advertising (PPC) or organic search, your headline must include the words your audience uses.
This is precisely what makes our previous example so compelling. Instead of including vague keywords about SEO, the headline targets a specific audience: Simple SEO ‘Hacks’ To Help Real Estate Investors Get More Traffic & Leads.
Next, steal successful headline templates.
Copyblogger’s How to Write Magnetic Headlines ebook is a great place to start.
You can also steal from my own 25 heaven-and-hell-themed headline formulas or go even more in depth by diagnosing your audience’s “state of awareness” and then systematically crafting breakthrough headlines from inside your market’s mind.
For instance, Yoobly’s webinar landing page — “The $100K Case Study: How to Generate New Rockstar Prospects & Explode Your Downline Without Selling Friends & Family” — leverages a host of proven headline ingredients:
The landing page:
- States the big benefit (“$100k Case Study”)
- Appeals to those who want to learn (“How to”)
- Offers useful information enlivened by verbs (“Generate” and “Explode”)
- Uses direct language (“Your”)
- Makes contrasting statements against common approaches (“Without Selling Friends & Family”)
With all the information that bombards us on a daily basis, most of us scan content.
Enter the subhead.
The subheads on your landing page should not only structurally guide your reader through your major points, they should stand alone and relentlessly focus on the benefits of your call to action.
Remember that what the headline does for the page itself, subheads do for each section.
This means making your subheads enticing, bite-sized nuggets of “I just gotta keep reading” copy.
A fantastic strategy for building compelling subheads is to make a list of all your product or service’s features … and then transform those features into audience-centered benefits.
Henneke’s A Simple Trick to Turn Features Into Benefits (and Seduce Readers to Buy!) makes this transformation process easy by asking one question, “So what?”
“The oven preheats quickly.
It’s quickly ready to start cooking your lasagna.
Your food is on the table sooner.
Life is less stressful. There’s less hanging around the kitchen waiting for the oven to get ready. And you don’t have to worry you might forget to preheat your oven.”
3. Body copy
Just like every other on-page element of your landing page, effective body copy does not come from you … it comes from your visitor.
Your aim should be to unearth the very words your audience already uses when they talk about your product or service.
How? By digging into user-generated content from:
- Amazon reviews
- Comments on blog posts
- Customer FAQs
- Email responses
- Social media posts
- Forum sites
- Question and answer sites
- Qualitative surveys
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “People buy with their hearts, then justify it with their heads.”
So while you must speak to the heart of your visitor, you also need to provide proof for their heads.
Testimonials are the primary way you provide that proof. Unfortunately, testimonials are often too general and fail at providing proof in one of two ways:
- They aren’t framed in a problem-then-solution format.
- They don’t highlight measurable results.
A shining example of the problem-then-solution format is Chris Brogan’s testimonial for the Rainmaker Platform:
Brogan’s testimonial nails exactly what’s wrong with most content management systems — the problem — and then explains exactly how the Rainmaker Platform addresses those deficiencies for him — the solution.
How do you generate your own proof-producing testimonials?
Ask for details.
Instead of just soliciting bland reviews (or waiting for them to roll in), reach out to your customers and clients and ask them to tell you about:
- The problem they were facing
- How you helped them find a solution
- The results (real data) that back up that win
5. Call to action
The call to action (CTA) is copy that asks your visitor to take your desired action. CTAs will commonly appear throughout your landing pages and at the very end.
To write your CTA buttons, you can follow Joanna Wiebe’s masterful advice.
Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes, and your call to action button should state how they’d finish the following sentence:
I want to _____.
That little trick is how we design buttons that say unique phrases like “Find Out How to Ride a Bike” and “Make Sense of My Finances Fast.”
3. The “after” of landing pages
So far, we’ve covered quite a bit of ground. However, we’re not done yet.
Because even if you create a high-converting landing page with all the right on-page elements relentlessly driven by your own all-consuming and singular goal … and even if people are actually taking the action you want them to take, the job of your landing page isn’t finished.
In fact, if you stop there, all your work could be for nothing.
The most neglected element of every landing page ironically isn’t even on your landing page itself.
It’s what comes next — the “after.”
When standard “Thanks for signing up” pages and “Click here to confirm” emails are off-putting, they squander the momentum you’ve worked so hard to create.
What should your follow-up look like? Here are two examples.
Let’s look at InvestorCarrot’s landing page again. After signing up for the SEO Keyword Bible, the new lead is redirected to the page featured below, which offers immediate access to the report itself.
Immediate access is vital to keep the landing page’s momentum rolling.
In addition to offering immediate access, the page also presents the user with two videos about the report as well as the opportunity to deepen her relationship with InvestorCarrot by signing up for a live webinar.
Your own follow-up doesn’t need to have as many options.
Whenever someone signs up for my Content Creation Checklist, I send him this conversational follow-up that includes tons of white space, one link to click, and ends with a question.
Whichever method you adopt for your own follow-up:
- Give your visitors immediate access to whatever they’ve just asked for.
- Write to them like one human communicating to another.
Don’t ignore these two landing-page stages
When you build landing pages with these three stages, they are hinges that transform visitors into actual leads: real people with real problems in search of real solutions.
Don’t make the mistake of just focusing on what’s on the page: the during.
Start by selecting one goal and one goal alone: the before.
Then, don’t drop the ball after all your hard work. Customize your follow-up and keep it rolling: the after.
Oh, and be sure to share in the comments if you’ve got a tip or landing page of your own you’d love for me to check out. However, be careful … I just might actually take a look.