Your Landing Page Needs You! 4 Techniques to Develop a Real Test Hypothesis

By , December 10th, 2012 in A/B Testing | 3 comments
A/B testing is good - even better with a real hypothesis
Let the crowd decide by testing your hypothesis on your target audience. (Image source)

One of the most common questions I get, when I teach Landing Page Optimization is: “How do I figure out what to test?” If you’re new to LPO, chances are that you’ve asked yourself that very question more than a few times. In this post I’ll give you 4 very effective techniques for finding out what to test on your landing page.

This post is not about digging around analytics data and finding out which landing pages to test. It’s all about finding out what to test, once you’ve identified which pages need work.

1. Ask Why, What, and How

Asking the right questions gets the right answers (cliché, but true). But when it comes to LPO, asking what, why, and how – in that order – is in fact a super effective way of getting the right answers to the question, “What should I test?”

The reason I emphasize the order in which you ask these questions is that I see a lot of marketers jump to the ‘How’ too soon. They go straight to asking questions like, “How can I improve this landing page?” or “How can I make a better converting landing page?”

However, you can easily be misled by asking ‘How’ questions too soon and end up missing crucial steps and focusing on the wrong aspects. The point of LPO is not to give the landing page a makeover – the point is to optimize the decision-making process of your prospects so you can increase conversions. And in order to optimize the decisions of your prospects, you need to understand what motivates them and impacts their choices.

So instead of going straight to “How can I improve this landing page?” ask yourself a series of ‘Why’ and ‘What’ questions. Make sure you are completely clear on what the purpose of your landing page and ask yourself:

“Why would prospects choose to do what I want them to do on the landing page?”

“Why would they choose not to do what I want them to do?”

The answers to these ‘Why’ questions will give you a clear set of hypotheses on the motivations of your customers as well as barriers that might keep them from performing the desired action. With this information in place, you can move on to the ‘What’ questions:

“What do my prospects need to know in order to do what I want them to do?”

“What information do they need – and in which order do they need it – in order to do what I want them to do?”

“What should I add to/remove from the landing page to get them to do what I want them to do?”

The answers to these questions will give you a set of hypotheses on what content you need on your landing page as well as how to structure it. Moreover, the answers to these questions should give you a clear idea about the current state of your landing page.

Only after asking all these initial questions should you move on to the ‘How’ questions.

Essentially, there is only one ‘How’ question you need to ask at this point:

“How can I tweak/change this landing page in order to optimize the decisions of my prospects and get more conversions?”

The answer here should be an accumulation of the answers you’ve gotten by asking the previous questions on the list, and it will lead to an overall hypothesis – or a number of hypotheses – on what you should test on your landing page.

The overall hypothesis might be:
“The page fails to clearly communicate the value of the offer, and prospects struggle to understand how they will benefit from accepting it. By clarifying the value proposition more prospects will understand the value of the offer and perform the desired action on the landing page.”

It could also be:
“The page does not have a clear call-to-action, and prospects spend too long trying to understand what to do next. Adding a large orange button right under the main benefits will help prospects identify the CTA and get more of them to perform the desired action.”

Once you have a clear hypothesis, you’re ready to create a treatment that you can test against the control variant of your landing page.

2. Perform an Analysis Focusing on Clarity and Relevance

The decision-making process of your potential customers is likely to be over in just a few seconds, and lack of clarity and relevance are some of the biggest conversion killers out there.

The more time and brain power your potential customers have to invest in understanding your offer and how they will benefit from it, the more likely they are to bounce from your landing page and check out what your competitors have to offer.

The more clearly you communicate the value of your offer, and the better you are at showing them that your offer is relevant to their needs or motivations, the more likely they are to accept what you’re offering them.

Clarity has to do with how clearly the content/copy on your landing page conveys the value of your offer and the details surrounding it.

Relevance has to do with the motivations and needs of your potential customers. Does your landing page make it obvious that they have landed on a relevant page that matches whatever motivated them? Does your landing page show them that your offer is relevant to their needs and motivations?

Here’s a an example from a case study where adding clarity and relevance increased conversion by 99.4% and cut cost-per-conversion by 48.2%

The client here is Denmark-based online investment bank Saxo Bank, and the product is an award-winning online currency-trading platform sold via their sister site Forextrading.com. We’re dealing with a PPC landing page that pitches a free trial version of the currency-trading platform, and the optimization goals to increase the number of trial account sign-ups and reduce the cost-per-conversion.

control-treatment

The most important finding revealed in the analysis was a serious lack of clarity and relevance. This created a high level of friction causing prospects to bounce rather than engage in the subject matter. In order to increase clarity and relevance I focused two elements: the copy and the image used on the landing page.

Copy:

First of all, the control had no clear value proposition – in fact, it didn’t even really have a headline. Also, the copy didn’t say much about the trial version that potential customers were supposed to sign up for.

Because every single visitor had to click an ad to get to the page, we could be certain that it was the ad copy that motivated them to click through to the landing page. However, the copy in the control version didn’t follow up on the value promised in the PPC ads, which actually did a great job of emphasizing the selling points and value of the Forex Trading demo: free, no risk, no obligations, $100,000 demo account.

control-treatment-copy

If you compare the two versions, you’ll see that the treatment is super focused on clearly conveying the value of the offer. Where the control asks a question, “Why trade Forex with Forextrading.com?” the treatment actually answers that question by giving prospects relevant information and solid, credible arguments why they should sign up for the trial.

Furthermore, in the treatment, we made sure to follow up on all the selling points, benefits and features mentioned in the PPC ads so the landing page is 100% relevant to the visitor.

Image:

The control had no relevant image to visually support the offer. In fact, the only image in the control version was a generic chat lady… Our hypothesis was that she didn’t do much to provide clarity, support the decision-making process, and move potential customers closer to the conversion.

In the treatment, we chose to display the currency-trading platform in action on the different units that it can be used on, thus adding clarity and relevance.

control-treatment-image

Read the full case study here.

Tips for performing the analysis

The analysis itself is pretty simple – once you become aware of focusing actively on clarity and relevance it’s usually easy to spot areas that reduce the level of clarity and relevance of the landing page. However, asking yourself the following questions can be helpful:

  1. Does my landing page have a clear value proposition?
  2. Does it give the prospect a good reason to accept the offer?
  3. Does it make it clear to the prospects that they’ve come to a relevant page?

In my experience, the easiest way of increasing clarity and relevance is working with copy and images.

3. Identify Sources of Friction

MarketingExperiments define friction as a psychological resistance towards a given element in the sales process – in this case on the landing page. Although friction is spurred on by elements on the page, it takes place in the mind of your potential customer and comes to expression as irritation or confusion.

Under all circumstances, friction is something negative that tips the decision towards “bounce” rather than “conversion”. The less friction, the prospect encounters, the greater the chance that he or she will say “Yes please” to your offer. In my experience, reducing friction is a low-hanging fruit that can give you a significant return on time spent A/B testing.

Case study examples of friction and the results of reducing it

Friction in relation to a landing page can come in many different forms. Here are a couple examples from case studies where addressing and reducing friction have lead to significant conversion lifts.

Page length – too long / too short

One of the common forms of landing page friction is the length of the page i.e. the amount of content the page contains.

In some cases, adding more content/making the page longer is a way of reducing friction. In other cases, adding content will increase friction. Confused yet? Don’t be, it’s pretty logical. The more complicated your offer is and/or the more commitment you’re asking from your prospects, the more content you’ll most likely need in order to make the prospect feel comfortable enough to accept your offer. And vice versa with more simple, lower scrutiny products.

Here’s an example of a landing page with very simple low-scrutiny offer – buying a gym membership. In this case the shorter landing page with less content outperformed the longer variant. The amount of content was an element of friction that blocked the path to conversion. By removing content we could reduce friction and increase conversions.

control-treatment-2

Here’s an example of a landing page with a complex high-scrutiny offer – signing up for a home energy audit. In this case the long landing page with more content outperformed the shorter variant. Here, the lack of content was an element of friction that blocked the path to conversion. By adding content we could reduce friction and increase conversions.

Control-Treatment-3

Consider what type of product or offer your landing page pitches to your prospects. From here hypothesize on whether you have might have too much or too little content on your landing page. This basic exercise should give material for at least one test.

For more on landing page length, check out this post.

CTA placement – too high / too low

CTA placement is also a common source of friction that I come across often. The biggest mistake here is obviously not having a call-to-action at all. However, just having a CTA on the page is not enough – it needs to be placed in the right spot.

It’s often the case that you can reduce friction by making the CTA more visible and giving it a prominent placement on the page i.e. at the top of the page. However, this is also not a given. Much like the case was with the length of the page, the more complex your offer is and/or the more commitment you’re asking for, the longer you should wait with asking for the conversion.

Here’s an example from a case study where the top placement of the CTA was a source of friction. Moving the CTA all the way to the bottom helped reduce friction and contributed to an increase in conversions of 304%.

control-treatment-4

Read the full case study here.

Again, consider what type of product or offer your landing page pitches to your prospects. From here hypothesize on whether your CTA might be placed too high or too low on the landing page and try testing different placements too see which one facilitates the least amount of friction.

Lack of clarity and relevance

I know we just covered these aspects in the technique 2, but they are in fact serious sources of friction. The harder it is to understand what your offering, and the potential benefits of accepting it, the more irritated prospects will get, and the more likely they’ll be to let the friction get the best of me and bounce from your landing page.

For ways to overcome this aspect of friction check out technique 2 again.

Two other common sources of friction

A distorted eye path is another common source of friction. Review your landing page, and make sure that it’s structured logically so the eye moves from A to B to C and so on, instead of bouncing all over the place. This source of friction is obviously most effectively addressed via design and layout. For more on eye path, check out this post.

The button copy you use in your CTA

Believe it or not button copy can be a HUGE source of friction. Getting the right copy down can easily reduce friction and result in major lifts! For more on how to write CTA copy that converts, check out this post.

4. Talk to your customers

Instead of spending hours guesstimating what’s in the mind of your customers – why not get the answers “straight from the horses mouth”?

This technique is so obvious that many marketers forget about it. Your customers have already gone through the entire decision-making process and decided to accept your offer. So they are the most valuable source of information you have.

Doing surveys, phone interviews, and user tests are all excellent ways of getting insights and test ideas. For more on using surveys to get answers from your customers, check out this post.

For an in-depth look at talking to customers and asking the right questions, read Kristin Zhivago’s excellent book Roadmap to Revenue.


What you should do now

Alright, now you’ve got 4 simple yet very effective ways of finding out what to test on your landing page. Now all you have to do is use the techniques in real life and get cracking on your next test!

– Michael Aagaard

This is a guest post, all opinions are those of the author.

Michael Lykke Aagaard is a self-employed, self-confessed split test junkie and copywriting fanatic who’s obsessed with finding out what really works in online marketing. He’s Danish and hails from the fair city of Copenhagen. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or check out his newly launched international blog ContentVerve.com.

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  3. Dave says:

    All your post is long and …. very helpful . It’s deep to the problem . You show us how to fix that too . I’m the usual member of u right now ^^ . Thx for this post