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Simple Recipes for No-Fail Landing Page Copy [+ Free Downloadable Worksheet]

cake ingredients
Who knew landing pages and cake had so much in common? Image via Shutterstock.

In some ways, building a landing page is like baking a cake. Certain people prefer chocolate, and others like cream fillings, but there are some fundamental formulas (for both cakes and landing pages) that are tried and tested, and proven to produce positive results.

This post is a recipe for a solid vanilla sponge landing page. For advice on design (a.k.a. the buttercream frosting), check out these posts on user experience and essential design principles.

Here are the formulas we’ll cover in this post, using examples from great landing pages:

  • Action words + Product reference = Winning headline
  • Your exact offering + Promise of ease = Winning subheader
  • Your best offerings + Worded in the form of benefit statements + Appropriate sectioning = Winning body content
  • Active words + ‘I want to…’ + A/B testing = Winning call to action

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The header is always active — it wants you to do something. The header almost always directly references the product or service, as well. As Kurt Vonnegut said,

To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

What are active words?

In the same way that active voice makes a sentence stronger by shifting focus onto the subject, active words help to promote action and create urgency. Active words in headers are usually verbs like build, get, launch, unlock, pledge, invest and give.

Here are a few examples of effective, action-led landing page headlines.

Codecademy winning headline
Codecademy’s headline is about as close to perfect as it gets.
Lyft winning headline
Lyft doesn’t use the “Get started” CTA we’ll talk about, but that headline is a winner.
Pro tip: To maximize your conversion efforts, ensure there’s message match between your click-through ad and headline.

Your exact offering + Promise of ease = Winning subheader

Your header is an active statement, introducing your product. Your subheader is the second wave, there to support the header and give visitors a reason to continue reading. In the subheader, you tell your audience exactly what you have to offer, and highlight how incredibly easy the whole process will be.

Easy as pie

Online, all it takes is a few taps and a few clicks to make a potentially big decision, but if it’s not easy, a lot of us won’t bother doing it. That’s especially true of a landing page, which is essentially a 24/7 elevator pitch for your business.

As a visitor to your landing page, I need to know if what you’re offering is going to benefit me, and that by handing over my details, you’re going to do most of the heavy lifting for me (at least to begin with.)

In our model for the no-fail landing page copy, the relationship between header and subheader looks like this:

Header: Introduces the idea or service in an active way (inspire your audience to do something).

Subheader: Backs up the header by giving a reason for your visitor to read on.

Outbrain winning subheader
Ooo, easy setup — just what we all love to see.

This example from Outbrain might not have the prettiest header or subheader, but both illustrate exactly what we’ve been talking about. The header is active, and so is the subheader, which tells you exactly what the main benefits of using Outbrain are, along with the promise of an easy setup.

Your best offerings + worded in the form of benefit statements + appropriate sectioning = Winning body content

The bulk of your landing page copy does the same job as the header and the subheader: it presents the benefits of your product to the user, and encourages them to act.

It’s tempting to go off-piste in the body content, to talk about your values and how you donate half of your profits to charity, but hold off. You need to make sure that your product is one your audience wants first. Stick to the benefits, and expand on those.

Break up your content

You’ll probably have more than one point to make on your landing page, but even if you don’t, breaking content up with headers and bullet points increases the chances of something catching your reader’s eye. It’s the equivalent of a supermarket arranging its products into categories and shelves, rather than bundling everything together in a big bargain bin.

With your body content, just like with your subheader, focus on what you have to offer, why it’s better than the competition’s and how you’ll do most of the heavy lifting should your prospect hand over their valuable email address. Let’s take a look at how MuleSoft connects header, subheader and body content.

Mulesoft body copy

The header: In this case, the header is just what the product is, which is likely the most appropriate approach for this audience.

The subheader: The subheader — or supporting header — focuses on the main benefit of the handbook. Clearly, MuleSoft knows its audience, and is giving it to them straight.

The body: It’s still laser-focused on those main benefits, giving visitors ample opportunity to become engaged.

Pro tip: A landing page is a pitch, and like any pitch, your job is to put forward your best offerings and do your best to secure a follow-up. If you’re struggling to prioritize your offerings, consider the following:

  • What does your product do, and how does it make your prospect’s life easier?
  • What are your product’s most ground-breaking or useful features?
  • Who does your product help?
  • How easy it is to get started?
  • Who else uses your product?

Here’s a great example from Startup Weekend. The body content answers all of the main questions, with no BS:

Startup Weekend landing page copy

Active words + “I want to…” + A/B testing = Winning CTA

Since we’re talking about no-fail copy, like blueprints for you to riff from, we’ll tell you straight up that the most common call to action phrase that makes it to live landing pages, is “Get started”. That’s followed closely by anything with the word “get” in it.

Why does ‘Get started’ work?

It needs to be clear that your call to action is where the next step happens. If you want serious leads, then the call to action button is not the place to test out your funniest one-liners. Just like the header and subheader, the call to action is active, it’s job is to create momentum.

“Get started” suggests a journey, it suggests self-improvement, which is probably why it works better than “Submit” or “Subscribe.” It could also be that “Get started” works because it finishes the sentence we’re thinking when a sign-up is close: “I want to… get started.”

Pro-tip: Best practices are best practices for a reason, but don’t use a “Get” CTA just because I suggested it. Do some research, craft a sound hypothesis and A/B test your button copy for maximum conversions.
Fluidsurveys CTA copy
FluidSurveys‘s button copy is active and timely.
Cheez burger CTA copy
Cheezburger pairs tried and true button copy with another one of our favorite words: free.
blab cake CTA copy
BlabCake uses a slightly different version of the “Get” formula for their coming soon page.

Conclusion

Let’s look at all of the formulas together:

  • Action words + Product reference = Winning headline
  • Your exact offering + Promise of ease = Winning subheader
  • Your best offerings + Worded in the form of benefit statements + Appropriate sectioning = Winning body content
  • Active words + ‘I want to…’ + A/B testing = Winning call to action

What you’ve got in these formulas, is the recipe for a basic vanilla sponge — the foundations of a successful landing page. Put them together and then — like any good marketer — your job becomes testing that landing page to see what works best for your audience.

What are your favorite copywriting formulas? Share ’em in the comments!

About Graeme Keeton
Graeme is a creative and technical copywriter from Cambridge. He has worked with world-famous universities, education and finance companies, as well as independents in fitness, food, health and beauty. His favourite things are short stories and anything to do with space. Find him online, on Facebook and on Twitter.
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  • Interesting and useful article.

    Appreciate your efforts to craft it with examples.

  • Kirsten Muir

    Excellent detailed article with insightful and actionable advice. Thank you very much.

  • It’s just after 2.00am but now I know I’ll spend half of tomorrow morning studying my headline and trying to come up with something better.

    I’ve learned a lot reading articles here at Unbounce and I keep fine-tuning my offer, but I’m now asking myself whether my time is well spent continuing to concentrate on conversion or if I should move on and concentrate more on driving traffic. Like most things there is probably a happy balance somewhere.

  • really boost-up inforormation.
    i liked this information, i will follow these….thank you.

  • I agree, most of the same concepts are used over and over, if you don’t know the concepts, you are born to fail, and if you do, and you have a designer who also knows them, then you are born to win.

  • You’ve written nice post, I am gonna bookmark this page, thanks for info. I actually appreciate your own position and I will be sure to come back here.

  • Hey Graeme, thanks for this nice post. I read it and found that writing a good heading is an art. I was not applying any techniques while writing headings and just use keywords as headings but now after reading this article, I found that I should consider heading as one of the most important factor for conversion. I think I need to rethink about how to write headings. Thanks for the examples because without them it is not easy to understand what kind of headings are good one.

  • Let’s not forget to sell the benefits of the benefits.

    It’s not enough to say that “Lyft let’s you earn $35 per hour” (feature)… or that it “lets you make your own schedule” (obvious benefit).

    The “benefit-of-the-benefit” would be having the time to go to University, sleeping in as late as you want, or being a “boss”… which comes with a plethora of possible emotional benefits around “status”.

    If you combine this with the amazing landing page formula discussed by Graeme above, you’ll attract customers like bees to my perfectly planned BBQ this past weekend :(

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    Love the CTA box. It goes extra blue on hover and the piece of paper really looks nice. It makes this digital product more real. Great job!

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