The Sweet Science of Landing Page Practices And Why They Work

By , August 28th, 2013 in Landing Pages | 16 comments
it's not rocket science - it's landing page science
It’s not rocket science, it’s landing page science. (Image Source)

We’ve all done it.

Spent time and money designing a beautiful landing page. Obsess over every word, the location of every image, poking and prodding until it’s just right.

After countless hours, you finally hit publish. And you wait.

You leave your analytics dashboard open, hitting refresh every minute to get updates in real time. After an hour, you know something is wrong. Traffic is landing on your page, but no one is taking action.

Could it be that you didn’t quite understand the science behind creating a highly effective landing page?

Sure you’ve heard all of the best practices on how to build a great landing page. But I wanted to find out why these tactics work.

By fully understanding the science behind why certain landing page practices work, you’ll pay closer attention to the nitty gritty details the next time you create a landing page.

Let’s take a look…

Social Proof

5 Common Landing Page Tactics And The Science Behind Why They Work - Social Proof

Most marketers know that having testimonials on landing pages will increase conversions. In fact, according to a recent study:

  • 70% of consumers will check out product reviews or ratings before making a purchase.
  • 63% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a site that has product ratings and reviews.

The results are staggering, but why exactly is this?

According to noted psychologist Robert Cialdini, the principle of social proof states that “we determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”

It’s no surprise then that some of the most powerful headlines in marketing read something like “50 Million American’s Can’t be wrong” or “Join the 10,000 people who are using our product”.

If you’re launching a new business or product and don’t have customers yet, then you can get social proof by offering free trials.

To make these testimonials even more credible, add a picture of the person who benefited from your product or service. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Wellington in New Zealand showed that pictures added to the feelings of truth conducted on participants.

Form Placement

Landing page 101 dictates that you should always place your form above the fold. Most of the time, readers aren’t going to spend enough time on your page to scroll through looking for the webform.

But did you know there’s even more to the story?

A study done by Neilson Group a few years ago with 232 participants reading thousands of websites show that the dominant reading pattern is in the shape of an F.

Look at the eye charts from the study to see exactly what I mean. The areas where readers looked the most are colored in red. Yellow indicates fewer views. And the blue indicates the least amount of views.

5 Common Landing Page Tactics and the Science behind why they Work - Form Placement

Typically, a reader starts at the upper left hand corner of the page and their eyes will horizontally scan the entire width of the text.

Next the reader will move down the page a little bit and their eyes will horizontally scan again.

Finally, the readers will scan the left side of the page from the top to the bottom.

Take notice a few things.

  1. Readers spend a majority of their time looking at the left hand side of a page.
  2. To no one’s surprise, most of the views come at the top of the page.
  3. What I found most interesting is the second horizontal scan that the readers make.
  4. This could be an opportunity to place a second, smaller, web form in the middle of the page, increasing your chances of allowing the prospect to give you their name and email address.

Is having two forms on a page in plain view of your readers’ eye scan patterns all that crazy? It could potentially increase the number of conversions on your page.

Eliminate Choices

When a person is confronted by too many choices, many times they succumb to analysis paralysis.

One Saturday, Sheena Iyengar, a researcher at Columbia University set up a free tasting booth to allow customers to try jam. She had 24 flavors available for tasting.

The next Saturday, she set up six flavors available for tasting.

According to her book The Art of Choosing, when she had 24 flavors, 60% of the customers stopped by to taste, but only 3% bought something. When she had six flavors, 40% of the customers stopped by, but 30% bought something. This turned out to be an increase in sales of 600%.

Unfortunately, most landing pages have far too many options. Marketers and business owners are reluctant to eliminate the choices they give their readers.

Features like the navigation bar, side bar, and links to internal pages are distractions from the main focus of your landing page.

On your landing page, decide on the one thing you want your reader to do and eliminate all other deterrents.

If a person wants to leave your page, they can always hit the back button.

5 Common Landing Page Tactics and the Science behind why they Work - Eliminate Choices
One choice. No navigation bar. No side bar, and no links to internal pages.

Ask for Less information

A popular refrain from the experts is “ask only for the information you need right now to move the transaction forward.”

But why is that?

Dan Zarrella at Hubspot researched 40,000 web forms from their customers and discovered that the conversion rate increased by 50% simply by reducing the number of form field from four to three.

5 Common Landing Page Tactics and the Science behind why they Work - Ask For Less Information
As the number of form fields increases, conversion rates decrease slightly.

Use the Contrast Principle

In his book, Influence, Robert Cialdini describes how the Contrast Principle students. Each student takes turns sitting in front of three buckets of water – one cold, one hot, and one at room temperature.

After placing one hand in the cold water and one hand in the hot water, the student will then place both hands in the room-temperature water simultaneously.

Even though both hands are in the same bucket, the hand that was in the cold water now feels like it’s in hot water, and the hand that was in hot water now feels like it’s in cold water.

The contrast principle states that you can make an event seem different based on the context that surrounds it.

You’ve probably seen marketers and entrepreneurs use the contrast principle to sell their products many times.

Have you ever noticed that car salesmen won’t talk about options until after the price of the car has been negotiated? That’s because after spending $25,000 on a brand new car, a few hundred dollars for better tires or sporty headlights seems trivial in comparison. And before you know it, you’ve spent $3,000 in options alone.

You can use the contrast principle on your landing pages too.

For example, let’s say you have a product that promises to save your customers $500 per month. You offer them a free trial, coach them on how to use the product, and after 30 days, they’ve saved $500.

Compared to their $500 per month savings, a $50 per month subscription to use the product is a no brainer.

Contrasting the huge benefit of using your product to the relatively low cost of purchasing it.

Here’s the deal

Creating a killer landing page takes more than science. There’s definitely an art to it. The trick is to combine the two. The most effective landing pages make the science look beautiful.

But I’m guessing you already know that.

Your Turn

Right now, I’d love to hear from you

  • Which of these five landing page tactics have you most ignored?
  • And how will the science change the way you create your next landing page?

– Greg Digneo


About The Author

Photo of Greg Digneo

Greg Digneo is obsessed with helping marketing agencies, consultants, media companies, and PR firms sign up new clients. If this is you and you'd like to learn more about what it takes to generate new leads online, then check out his new video where he shows you how to sign up 5 clients per month.
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Comments

  1. Liudas says:

    Really good key practices for increasing conversions.

    Asking for too much information than needed is probably the most common mistake especially with squeeze pages.
    Most times marketers ask for “name”, but they never use personalization so, why bother, right?

  2. Greg says:

    Liudas,
    I agree. If you’re not going to personalize, then no need to ask for the name.

  3. Jack Josephy says:

    The F-shaped patter has been repeated in many eye tracking studies. however what you are saying doesn’t really make sense. Just because you see a web form twice doesn’t mean you will be more likely to fill it out. You would probably be better off filling the hots spots with value propositions and persuasive content. People won’t just fill out a form because they see it more. they have to be persuaded by the offering.

    • Greg says:

      Jack -

      Great point. I have seen it work on my own, but I’ve never done a formal test to back it up.

      However, I do like your suggestion a whole lot more. I wish I would have thought of it!

      Thanks!
      Greg

    • Actually, I think repeating call to actions on long pages will help conversion, especially among the undecided customers. When I say “conversion”, I don’t necessarily refer to it as the final action of buying/signing up/creating an account, but I refer to it as making progress.

      Think of a form separated into 5 pages, the first one being the long landing page. If you repeat the form, even if you don’t increase the total amount of sales, you still get more people on the next step. This is great, because you can now think why the same increase in conversion on the first step doesn’t translate into higher conversions on the next steps — then go ahead and tweak it.

      Of course, each page is different, so the best solution is to A/B test two forms vs a single form on the page.

  4. Andy Kuiper says:

    short and to the point – thanks Greg :-)

  5. Anuj Datta says:

    Hi Greg,

    Great article…very insightful. And like you said, it’s not as if we are not aware of all this already, it is just a matter of how much we’ve ignored.

    In my case the issues are slightly different. We are not selling anything, or giving free samples. Most of what is on the site is free to be consumed. We are a radio network website where ‘Content is king’.

    And yet there is a lot in the article that can come in handy. Less choice on LP definitely makes sense. For us it also means creating greater depth- ‘want to hear something really funny? Click a little’. Gets you more PVs.

    Thanx again

    Anuj

  6. Xavier Paz says:

    Nice article. However, I disagree with the third point, “Eliminate Choices”. Not with the point itself, but with the practice to remove everything except the primary action of the page.
    So you can raise conversion up to, say, 5% – good. But what happens with the other 95%? Are they wrong targets for the page? The ad is badly written? Are we getting tons of irrelevant traffic?
    Maybe many visitors in that 95% are not ready to buy now. They may need some thinking, or more information about the company, or to investigate a bit. Maybe they would buy if we have some patience. But with this criterion, you give them no more choice than buy now or leave.
    I have seen a stat (maybe even at Unbounce itself) stating that only 10% of website visitors are ready to buy on their first visit – so it is a bad strategy to ask them to buy or leave.
    I suggest a somewhat different approach: simplify choices (of course), but give them the option to know more about the company, to see more materials. And give them a very clear, easy and immediate way to go back to the landing page and complete the transaction, once they are ready. I.e. a footnote or a banner reminding them of the offer they came for in the first place.

  7. Ashley F says:

    Although simple in theory, landing pages are indeed complex beasts. I have only recently started dabbling in this complex artform and there is so much to learn. This post was a great eye opener for me and I really appreciate your thorough analysis. Now to go off and try some A/B testing!!

  8. Great Article, I am currently looking in to landing page design and this helps greatly.

    Thanks!

  9. Thanks for the post, Greg. I would dare to argue with the point “Ask for less information”. The matter is in the value you offer for the information. In case of a professional ebook, you may ask for more information. Moreover, with more specified information you will get the leads of a good quality, which is better for further conversions. However, it depends on the business goals of a company, and one should measure the results.

    I would love to know your opinion about that issue. Thanks!

    Kseniya
    Marketer at http://realtimeboard.com/

  10. Tom says:

    Very interesting, thanks to your articles I am learning to make some very pretty landige page. Thank you very much!

  11. jure says:

    Nice post but I did stumble upon something that caught my eye. You said in the Social section that according to a recent study having testimonials on landing pages will increase conversions. That study is 7 years old. In “internet” time thats really old.

    Do you still believe that having testimonials on site is a key converter?

    cheers!

    • I think social proof will always be of great importance. We’re social human beings by nature, and what others think will always impact how we think and act (like it or not, consciously or unconsciously).

      From my humble experience (about 3 years), people will always convert higher if you show social proof, as long as the information you’re showing is real and not fabricated. You can test user testimonials, numbers or statistics about the users, benefits of using your product/service as others stated it, etc.

  12. Nice article, thanks for the insights.

    Two comments:

    1) you have a typo at the top: “50 millions of american’s” should be “americans” (no apostrophe)

    2) The Nielson Group is actually Nielsen (no “O”). It comes from the founder, Jakon Nielsen. They’re super known and do great work, so I think it’s necessary to use their correct name.

    Anyway, thanks for all the great articles you guys are putting out, unbounce is one of the first sources I read when researching something related to landing pages optimisation.

  13. Katrina says:

    I will try to apply the instructions and advice contained in this interesting article on my website about article marketing. Thank you.

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