Can This Crazy Design Hack Help Make Your Landing Page Convert?

According to a study by Google, it takes between 1/50th and 1/20th of a second for a user to judge whether a web page is “beautiful” or not.

To put that in perspective, 1/50th of a second is about the same amount of time it takes for a popcorn kernel to pop.

Now, it’s clear that “beauty” (or beautiful design) plays a huge role in the landing page optimization process beauty has  been the subject of many existential debates across the centuries.

So how do you make your landing pages “more beautiful” when beauty is so subjective? It would be arrogant to claim I have the secret but my guest post landing pages do convert at over 15%, so I might be on to something.

Proof:

Proof

 

What it all comes down to is some smart research and a willingness to think beyond the immediate product offering.

I’m going to take you down the rabbit hole of my landing page design process. Stay with me. You’re going to come away with some super actionable steps for optimizing your landing page design.

What Are Your Customers Interested In, Really?

I have a theory: people look at their computer monitors the same way they look at their TV screens. What we’re interested in when consuming media for entertainment speaks to our interests as online
consumers.

For example, I have a sweet spot for Nintendo-era video games. So websites that appeal to my 8-bit sensibilities automatically have a chance of grabbing my attention. This product page on ThinkGeek is a no brainer:

cool retro stuff

 

But it’s not always so neat is it? Sure, a product page with 8-bit knick-knacks is cool, but how could you tap into my interest for retro gaming to sell something like software?

This gem of a campaign by the folks at Grasshopper does a brilliant job of marrying my love for 80′s nostalgia and business.

Now, sadly this video doesn’t exist on any sort of transactional landing page, but it begins to scratch the surface of how to package a pitch in a way that is unique and entertaining to its target audience.

What does this have to do with landing page design?

Well, when I approach landing page design, I ask questions like:

  1. What movies are my ideal buyers into?
  2. What kind of music do they like?
  3. What kind of stories do they read?
  4. What’s their favorite television show?

The answers to these questions all give perspective on the visual language and overall tone that’s necessary to grab and hold my visitor’s attention.

This allows me to go beyond standard landing page optimization and design techniques to build a landing page that’s both unique and familiar to my audience.

landing-page-design-displate

For example, if I were asked to design a landing page for this piece of art on Displate.com, I’d first ask who might be the most interested in this piece.

  • People who like Tim Burton films?
  • People who listen to Evanescence?
  • Twilight fans?
  • People who like the movie Coraline?

Using these pieces of media as a baseline, I could experiment with a visual style to present the offer in a unique way. Here are just a few images that may guide those design decisions:

vincent1982ye6

gothic-rose-_-glitterweddings.com_-1024x1024

tumblr_m9sqprWym51rtrlnwo1_500

When we design our landing pages, we get so caught up in the way to present our products, or what our competitors are doing, that we forget to design for the people who we’re trying to reach.

Let me show you how I’ve done it.

How I Get Over 15% Conversion Rates on My Guest Post Landing Pages

Here is a screenshot of the landing page that has the 15.35% conversion rate I was showing you earlier:

Coming From Unbounce

 

I know, I know. In many ways, it violates landing page best practices. The call to action is at the very bottom of the page , there are way more things to do than sign up via email, and there are lots of elements asking for your attention.

But, what this page does do right is it:

  • works within a color palette that I know Unbounce visitors will find appealing
  • uses imagery that I know visitors will find “interesting”
  • acknowledges that visitors are coming from Unbounce

Just to make sure you don’t think I’ve inflated my conversion numbers by tracking multiple conversion goals:

conversion goals

I know the screenshot doesn’t really prove anything, so I guess the next best option is just to tell you what kind of research I did to arrive at this design.

Enter Facebook’s Graph Search

Just a moment ago, I said the page used imagery I knew Unbounce visitors would find appealing. How could I possibly know that?

Well, I believe that a person’s movie preferences say a lot about them.

Think about it. You pay insane amounts of money to sit in a dark room and stare at a screen with a bunch of strangers while you all watch other adults play make believe for the duration of the film.

More importantly, each movie has a signature visual style, language and sound that had enough of an impact on you that you went home and “liked” it on Facebook.

Thanks to Facebook’s Graph Search, I can search for Movies Liked By People Who Like Unbounce:

Movies people who like Unbounce like

 

What does this have to do with landing page design? Well, scroll back up to the landing page from earlier, then take another look at the movies Unbounce fans (that’s you!) like in common.

Fight Club, Inception, The Matrix… each of these movies has a similar visual language. And they all have a certain “mind hacking” not-everything-is-as-it-seems aspect to them.

I know what you’re thinking. Whoa.

That’s right. Using what I know about Unbounce fan’s movie preferences, I used the color schemes that tie these movies together to design my guest posting landing page.

I also deliberately included links to other posts that allude to the world not being exactly as it seems (guest blogging myths, unconventional landing page strategies, etc).

If I wanted to go deeper I could discover the music that Unbounce fans like and use it to score the video on my landing page.

Musicians liked by people who like Unbounce

 

Daft Punk, deadmau5, Girl Talk. Looks like an upbeat, electronic soundtrack would probably resonate with y’all.

Why I Believe This Works

According to research in the area of memory formation, when new information enters your brain, your brain essentially asks, “Do I already have some information on this?”

If the answer is “no”, your brain has to make a conscious decision to make room for the new memory and that’s best done through repetition and associating it with other familiar elements in the brain. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

By incorporating familiar movies, music and other relevant elements into my landing pages, I’m laying the groundwork for my customers to be open and receptive to my offer.

But honestly, this isn’t anything new. Hollywood’s been doing it for years:

landing-page-design-hollywood

 

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Yeah, but that’s for a guest post landing page, what about my landing page? while I’m not at liberty to share my clients’ results, I can tell you that this works just as well for PPC marketers with conversion-oriented landing pages.

Action steps

  1. Go to Facebook Graph search and type in “Movies people who like [your or your client's Facebook page]” Like. Do this with your competitor’s pages as well to try and get a sense of the overall market. Also search for music, books and TV shows to get as complete a picture of your customers’ consumption habits as possible.
  2. Try and find a common theme. In my example found a trend toward mind-bending action movies and electronic music. You may find that your customers are health conscious or politically minded or into dumb humor. It’s different for everyone, but finding the theme once all that information is in front of you is easier than you’d think.
  3. 3. Look for outside inspiration. Once you find your themes from mainstream media interests (movies, music, books, etc) use Google to find additional sources of visual inspiration that share the same theme. Searches such as “Movies Like ____” or “Artists like___” in Google Image search will yield all sorts of fun inspiration.

Pretty cool, right? Or do you think I’m crazy? Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll be sure to answer them in the comments below :-)

– Tommy Walker


About The Author

Photo of Tommy Walker

Tommy Walker is an online marketing strategist, show host, and prolific guest blogger for sites like Unbounce, ConversionXL, Smashing Magazine & more. He specializes in highly effective, counter-intuitive approaches to online marketing, and seeks to expand your thinking on what's possible with online content. Check out his approach on guest post landing pages, and get a free copy of The Top Ten Content Marketing Strategy Mistakes by clicking here.
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Comments

  1. Great article! :)

  2. Interesting approach Tommy. My concern would be that popular movies that have millions of likes on FB will show up as being relevant to nearly any company. For example, people who like Viewbix.com also like Fight Club, Star Wars, Godfather, etc.

    On second thought, I guess maybe it shouldn’t make a difference. Popular movies provide imagery that should be recognizable and comfortable to almost anybody. I guess I’ll need to give this theory a test.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Thanks Aaron, and you have a good point about what you see being skewed due to the popularity of the medium.

      Sometimes it’s not as straight forward as the imagery. What’s more important is to see thematically what the similarities are.

      For instance, Fight Club, Star Wars & The Godfather have very different visual styles, but thematically, there’s a very strong story about lightness vs darkness. Order vs Chaos. Life vs Death.

      Thematically, that is certainly something Viewbix could work into the copy or overall tone of the page.

      Also, looking at things like Artists people who like viewbix like, books liked by people who like viewbix, music liked by people who like viewbix etc…

      The more you can dig in, the clearer picture you’ll get of what stands out to them. Not just visually, but all around & on deep deep levels.

  3. Kyle says:

    This is mighty intriguing and insightful. Couple thoughts:
    1. The true test of this logic would be to do a split A/B test using the EXACT same language and text with different links. In other words, leave the layout the same, the structure the same, but change only the visuals and the “flavor” of the page to something random.
    2. As it relates to #1, I suspect you might just be selling yourself a little short. I believe the words on the page are compelling to convert, and not just the “flavor.”

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Ah yes, I see what you’re saying.

      1. I have ;-)

      2. using a more “standard” layout with the exact same text converted less. (by like 10% actually – see the page with the 5.77% conversion. That was the exact test you’re talking about)

      I believe this is because we don’t consciously engage pages – at least not at first. The research shows that “first impressions” are made in 1/50th of a second.

      Other research, as it relates to banner blindness, language, and prototypical design, all show that when something looks “standard” it’s just not seen.

      Myself and another writer covered the language choice & interactive storytelling aspect of conversion rate optimization of this quite extensively here (http://bit.ly/1gFSdBR)

      Emotional design here (http://bit.ly/K2DH8z)

      & Prototypical design here (http://bit.ly/1loTjEh)

      Trust me, I wouldn’t present this concept if it wasn’t already tested.

      What I’ll be testing next is the impact of the testimonials I place at the bottom.

      Right now it’s Hunter Boyle of Aweber. I’ll be curious to know if I were to put Gia or Oli in this position if it would raise the conversion rates even more, as it’s even *more* relevant to the audience (all Unbounce readers)

  4. Bob Green says:

    Tommy, there is a lot of great information on this page. I’m going to dive deeper into Facebook Graph search and see what I can glean for my client’s clients interests.

    Question: Do you get any push back from your client if the post does not match their visual theme and/or what THEY think their client likes? Sure we could share the post with them as proof but, they are in the business of running their business and probably would not read it. Bob.

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Oh of course I do!

      But I simply remind them that this is a “test” and that we would never do anything that would be damaging to their brand.

      As I apply this to client work, I also go through a series of testing with a small sample of their customers before going live.

      The idea isn’t to change everything, but to allow these interests to influence your process. To what degree is going to be entirely subjective depending on what you find.

  5. This is an interesting concept and I believe in using social media as a tool to learn as much about your prospects as possible. Accessing “big data” (ie. Grooveshark’s Beluga) carries more value to me than the Facebook method you shared. Facebook’s results sorts the movies/bands etc by most popular overall. If it sorted the results by the most relevant based on the actual query it would hold more value.

    For example, we work with a Christian organization. As a test, I experimented with this and the top 3 bands included Stevie Wonder, Korn and AC/DC. Top movies returned were: Batman: The Dark Knight, The Godfather, Harry Potter, Enter The Dragon, Goodfellas, Casino. I am not even going to experiment with the idea of using copywriting influenced from a Martin Scorsese film for a Christian organization. The only common element in these films is “good storytelling”.

    It’s a nice theory and there is some value with your overall concept but I think the analysis and execution is purely subjective. It is very difficult to attribute your conversion rates due to this theory. We have PPC landing pages that produce 37.3% conversion rates. The secret is targeting the right audience (regardless of their music/film tastes), creating a strong value proposition and providing a compelling offer.

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Perhaps it’s because I have a degree in acting & with a strong focus on script analysis that permits me to see things very differently.

      As far as your movie choices go, there are much stronger themes than “good storytelling”

      With The Dark Knight, Harry Potter & Enter The Dragon for example, there are strong themes of Good vs Evil (these actually resonate through all of your choices)

      WIth The Godfather, Casino & Goodfellas there are strong tones of “whatever it takes for the good of the family” (also present in Harry Potter)

      If you were to look at Stevie Wonder vs Korn that’s a perfect representation of Light vs Dark and AC/DC tells me that at least a portion of your Christian Organization skews a little older (supported by movie choices such as The Godfather, Enter The Dragon, Goodfellas & Casino)

      Using these themes of family, good vs evil, older & younger and btw Rock & Roll (Korn & AC/DC) and knowing movies like Harry Potter and The Dark Knight are liked by people of both generations – I think there’s some really powerful stuff you could apply there ESPECIALLY for a Christian organization.

      Tell the story of how the Pope goes out at night in disguise to help the poor. Surly that level of badassary will resonate with people who like movies about anti-heros.

      Targeting the right audience is crucial – of course – but that’s level 1. What I’m talking about is taking the other things you know about that audience to make your stuff even more compelling because it speaks directly to their interests.

      (But no, too much Scorsese influenced copy would probably not be wise)

  6. Do you have an updated conversion number?
    In the first image of the results, 33 conversions is too early to come to a conclusion. Not enough statistical significance (something unbounce should think about adding)
    Who knows how the numbers will change when its tested up to 100 conversions.

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Good question.

      And I see your point. This test has been running (passively) for 4 months, so where 33 may be too early to draw a conclusion, given the amount of time this has been running along with the regularity of the traffic (which goes up pretty consistantly every time I guest post here once a month) the conversion rate stays the same.

      I just logged in to check, and it’s still pretty much the same as when I wrote the article.

  7. Lisa Thorell says:

    Awesomely intriguing idea. Your preliminary data looks promising and, as others expressed, it would be cool see if this holds up for a much larger sample size and/or
    time period. I plan to give it a go with a medical-health website I manage – because it’s too much fun to resist. ;-)

    Question: Have you tried any experiments with this concept more upfront in the funnel, using display ads and/or remarketing campaigns?

  8. Hi Tommy,

    Very interesting stuff indeed! Quite a lot of your cerebral cortex must have gone into those decisions along with some quality research so I applaud you for your effort! I’m not quite as advanced in this field yet, mostly because I am time critical with my penultimate year of University looming but it definitely adds food for thought. I also don’t think you shouldn’t beat yourself up on the CTA at the bottom because some strategies don’t always perform to rational design.

    Thumbs up from me anyways!

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Thanks Jackson!

      To be honest, I’m a little surprised by the feedback so far, I thought for sure that more people would be doing this given the nature of the medium!

      It’s really cool to see feedback like yours though, and I hope that it serves you well. Good luck with University :-D

  9. Danny Cheng says:

    Tommy, I don’t think you’re crazy at all. A little too creative maybe (good thing of course,) but crazy? Anyway, this is extremely fascinating and 15% landing page conversion is no joke- something that I’d die for every time. The only problem I have with this is that it’ll take every iota of my super powers to figure out a design that best represents the movies, music that potential buyer likes… so the question begs- How long do you take to create your landing pages based on this approach anyway? Thanks for the great stuff. It’s clever.

  10. Dan Levy says:

    Just wanted to jump in here and say that I snuck in that “crazy” line at the end as blog editor to provoke some comments. It seems to have worked ;) For the record, I do think that Tommy’s a LITTLE crazy, but in a totally awesome way :)

  11. Taylor Aldredge says:

    Thanks for the shout-out for Grasshopper’s video. Just wanted to point out that the video does exist on our site now in its own page. Check it out – http://grasshopper.com/resources/videos/80s-entrepreneur-training-video/

  12. Brian says:

    Everything that you say may be completely accurate, but it makes me REALLY skeptical of your expertise when you’re touting a landing page that has only received 33 conversions.

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Totally understandable Brian,

      Unfortunately I’m unable to share client data, but have seen this methodology scale *very* nicely.

      That being said, whether you’re skeptical of my expertise or not, that has no bearing on what you test or on your own personal conversion rates.

      I put this out there to give you another perspective & give you something else to experiment with. (and hey, you might listen to some new music or watch new movies in the process)

      Whether it’s 33 conversions or 300, the choice is yours as to whether or not you test to see if this works for you.

      The only way you could really know for sure is if I ran a test for you.

      Short of that, you should only take anything you read on the internet with a gain of salt anyways & let your own instinct guide your decisions.

  13. Xen says:

    Thanks for sharing. I can see this is one possible way to create landing pages that resonates.

  14. Peter says:

    I think this really gives a deeper layer of understanding your buyer persona, especially with products, brands and personalities but how can I use this for seling services. I mean I have customer who sells bookkeeping services but nobody likes bookkeeping.

    Can you give me an angle on this?

    • Tommy Walker says:

      Ohh great question!

      So, basically, what you’re saying is that your bookkeeping client doesn’t really have a facebook page with a notable fan-base to pull this information from, right?

      That being the case, I would say your process is going to be a little longer, but INFINITELY more rewarding.

      Step 1 – Put together a respectable list of your clients customers so you can find them on Facebook later.

      Step 2 – Create a Facebook page & invite them to it. Put together a simple communication strategy for FB, something like Q&A video one day of the week & a content curation strategy where you share articles about saving money, tax incentives, and reducing business costs…

      There’s actually a lot of usefulness that could come from a bookkeeper w/ social, because you’re directly tied into my businesses money. The better stuff you find, the more valuable you are

      (google alerts, fresh web explorer, buffer, ifttt & feedly are your friends here)

      Step 3 – Send a PERSONAL email to each of your client’s clients, inviting them to the page & letting them know exactly what you’re planning to do with it.

      TOO many use the “invite friends” tool & that’s lazy. No context. Tell them exactly what you’re planning on doing & when you’re planning on sending.

      Ask in the email if there’s anything business finance related they’d like to know.

      Keep track of those interests in a spreadsheet & remember to send them follow up emails when you publish something related to that.

      Step 4 – Follow the steps in the article to find the trending interests, refine the pages voice as you go along.

      Step 5 – Eventually create a video for a landing page that uses those interests in a totally unexpected way, like the Jamie Casino Superbowl commercial:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr2gdPY-88w

    • Peter says:

      Thanks Tommy, your assumption is correct. So I need to have the Voice of customer and maybe fill in some other blanks of the buyer persona. Does it also make sense to dive into the social profile of the customers with SM research/listening tools?

      • Tommy Walker says:

        Probably not actually, because what we talk about & what appeals to us are two very different things.

        For example, I talk a lot about online marketing stuff on my Twitter, but you’d probably never know that I’m stoked about the new Ninja Turtles movie (even though I “liked” it from my FB page)

        See what I mean?

        This stuff is your “meta” information, and isn’t typically the stuff you just offer up.

  15. Amen Tammuz says:

    I think it’s brilliant. props to You