20 Landing Pages Torn Apart by Rand Fishkin, Oli Gardner and Peep Laja

You don’t need an epic mustache to be a CRO expert (but it doesn’t hurt).

In the world of landing page critiques, there is no gain without pain.

After all, a little public humiliation is a small price to pay for free advice from three conversion marketing heavyweights.

And that is exactly why 300 people dared submit their landing pages to be torn apart by our judges on the latest episode of Page Fights. This time, CRO veterans Oli Gardner and Peep Laja were joined by a special guest: Rand Fishkin of Moz, looking dapper as always.

With 20 hand-selected finalists and plenty of material to work with, there was sure to be lots of blood, sweat and glory. And plenty of actionable takeaways for viewers. Here’s the full episode for your viewing pleasure…

We’ve distilled Rand, Oli and Peep’s advice so you can see how your landing pages fare in comparison. Before you submit your page for participation in the next episode, make sure you’re not making any of these all-too-common conversion rate mistakes…

5 Common Mistakes That Will Get You Disqualified

Though many of the contestants’ pages showed great potential, each was guilty of common LPO mistakes. As the judges made their way through the landing pages, they saw many amateur mistakes that they’d seen many times before.

1. The social proof doesn’t prove anything

It was clear that many Page Fights competitors understood the importance of incorporating an element of social proof on a landing page, but in many cases, their execution fell short.

Linode’s landing page boasted a beautiful design that the judges raved about, but the social proof had room for improvement.

Social proof: Linode example

The Twitter icons showed that the testimonials were pulled from tweets, but Oli pointed out that visitors could potentially confuse them for clickable links.

Rand suggested switching the icons for pictures of the people who gave the testimonials. Not only would this solve Oli’s issue with potential confusion, but it’d also add credibility and make the testimonials more relatable. As Rand explained, the presence of a human face on a landing page enhances trust.

Salesforce’s landing page suffered from a different social proof problem. When you squint at their page, which elements stand out most?


Oli pointed out that the Gumtree logo overpowers the Salesforce logo, and causes confusion about the what the advertised service is.

He explained that every element on the page should work cohesively together to tell a story. This page’s visual hierarchy makes that story confusing.

Though Salesforce should reconsider the size of their testimonial logo, at least they bothered to get a quote from a third party. Oli called out Insperity for including a testimonial from their own employee on their landing page…


This one should go without saying, but the judges agreed that adding a testimonial from someone employed by the company is tacky and actually hurts the credibility of your landing page. It’s a rule of thumb neatly summed up on Twitter by a viewer:

2. The design distracts from the goal

The marketer behind Storypark’s landing page clearly put a lot of thought into the design of the page, breaking up the text into digestible chunks and leaving lots of whitespace to emphasize the important elements on the page. Beyond these functional design elements, they also incorporated a video background behind their optin form, which, at first glance, is an interesting touch.

Check out Storypark’s landing page for the background video in action.

The video background may make the page feel modern and dynamic, but Peep explained that a video which doesn’t add value works against the conversion goal:

Up next, Conquer the College Essay’s landing page did a lot of things right on the design front, but their hero shot didn’t cut it for the judges.

Amongst other things, Oli said the slanted text on Conquer the College Essay’s hero shot made the text hard to read.

Though the opt in form references an essay guide, the hero shot is of a full-sized book. As Oli explained, misrepresenting the offer creates confusion about what the visitor will get in exchange for their email address, and ultimately causes friction. With hero shots, Oli suggests keeping it simple: “Advertise what you’re giving away.”

Finally, BITAM’s landing page is another great example of beautiful design with one unfortunate element throwing everything out of whack.


The design has many of the principles of conversion centered design, but something was off about the chat box in the lower right: it was in Spanish though the visitor was clearly on the English version of the page. Oops! I mean, ¡Ups!

Do live chats distract from the main goal of a page?

As a design element, Peep vouched for the efficacy of live chats, provided there is an operator online to answer the visitors’ questions. He suggests hiding the chat box when you’re unable to have a support person standing by.

In Rand’s experience, live chats don’t work well on every type of page. When he tested a chat box on a landing page for a free trial, he found that stats weren’t particularly compelling. But when he moved the chat box after the credit card capture to the campaign setup page, he found the chat made a marked difference.

The moral of the story? #alwaysbetesting

3. The call to action jumps the gun

Linode’s landing page hit a nerve with Peep as he felt their CTA jumped the gun.


Peep explained that the placement of your CTA should depend on the value of your offer. If you’re offering something for free, you can justify having the CTA above the fold, as in the case of Conquer the College Essay‘s free report.

But Linode’s offer isn’t free. Peep explained that you need to state your case before you ask for a commitment from your visitors. Generally, on landing pages, buyers are learning about your brand and offer for the first time, so there’s no room for vagueness. If a first time visitor lands on your page, odds are they’ve never been there and they don’t know what you’re offering.

4. The copywriting isn’t compelling

This episode of Page Fights saw its fair share of cringe-worthy copywriting (Rand declared the text on one page “Copywriting at its most disturbing.”)

But even pages with grammatically sound copy fell flat with the judges. With lines like, “View a CRM demo to learn more about Salesforce.com’s award-winning features,” Oli found Salesforce’s landing page copy self-centered.

Penalty Pros’ landing page started off with a killer headline that Rand called the “clearest headline we’ve seen thus far.”

Penalty Pros’ landing page headline is clear and speaks directly to the prospect’s pain, according to Rand Fishkin.

However, both the judges and the audience agreed that the copy that follows is lengthy and inconsistent:

The text also had inconsistencies which made the offer less believable: Oli pointed out that the top paragraph states that they’ve helped remove 300+ penalties, whereas the bottom cites 200+.

How long should a subhead be?

Throughout the episode, the judges shared some landing page copywriting tips to remedy the competitors’ copywriting woes. Oli explained that landing pages should always lead with a benefit-driven headline, but what about the subhead?

“The purpose of the subhead is to allow you to shorten your header. It allows you to make your header super succinct and clear, with your subheadline backing it up.” – Oli

“The shorter you can make something and still have it be clear and emotionally resonating, the better. I wouldn’t put a word limit on it.” – Rand

Optimize for clarity. Say what it is, what they get and how is it better than other offers. If it’s clear, people will buy it. Clarity trumps any psychological word tricks.” – Peep

5. The offer isn’t clear

If the offer on your landing page isn’t crystal-clear, it won’t resonate with prospects who need it. Yet the judges found that a surprising number of contestants didn’t clearly communicate their unique value proposition on their landing page.

For BITAM’s landing page, Rand found the design lovely and thought the software looked beautiful, but he couldn’t figure out what the product was: “The page is so broad that it could be for almost any analytics product.”


Similarly, the offer on GottaLiveOne’s page confused the judges. Rand didn’t realize the offer had anything to do with SEO until they had scrolled halfway down the page.

Even the guy in the stock photo is disappointed with the lack of clarity on this page.

Other landing page contenders clearly explained their offers, but did a poor job of communicating what distinguished the offer from that of the competition.

The way Food Juggler framed their UVP didn’t impress the judges.


The copy felt unoriginal to Peep: “It says exactly what all the competing products are saying.” Rand agreed that in today’s over-saturated health and fitness market, much more needs to be done to differentiate oneself.

You need to frame your offer in a way that resonates with your visitors and makes them feel as though they can’t get what they need anywhere else – that your service is the logical solution to their problem.

How can you determine what resonates with visitors?

So how exactly do you learn how to frame your offer so that it blows your prospects out of the water? Rand weighed in with the most effective CRO tactic he has in his arsenal:

“Hold surveys, in-person talks or phone calls with prospects who look like your current customers demographically and psychographically. If it’s pet owners, talk to 10 pet owners and ask, ‘What do you want to know about pet sitting? What do you need to know before you sign up?’

You’ll get the same 4-5 questions all the time and those questions are exactly what you should address on your landing page.”

The Conversion Killers that Squashed All Finalists But One…

As the pool was narrowed to five finalists, the conversation got heated and the critiques became even more brutal and in-depth. Here’s a breakdown of the main takeaways from each of the finalists’ critiques – are you making any of these embarrassing mistakes?

Finalist #1: Law Offices of Michael B. Taylor, LLC


The page lacks clarity

Though the page has solid design overall, Oli and Peep agreed that the copy lacked clarity. The headline, subhead and CTA text couldn’t stand on their own to tell a story, and the page wouldn’t pass the blink test.

The page lacks empathy and a sense of trust

As a quick fix, Rand suggested adding a photo to accompany the testimonial. He explained, “Faces are social proof.”

But there was a deeper-rooted issue that was bothering Rand: the language on the page lacks the empathy required for a subject as delicate as child custody disputes.

”This page presumes that you’re going to read one paragraph, a few bullet points and then send your info. With child custody issues, you want to find someone you really trust. The attorney you choose will either come from a trusted recommendation or the one that delivers the best information.

The judges agreed that the copy on the page could be reworked to be more empathetic and relatable to prospects.

Finalist #2: Thomas Pest Services


The headline isn’t too shabby

Oli praised Thomas Pest Services’ page for the effectiveness of the headline and image: “If you have bed bugs, ‘Get Rid Of Bed Bugs Fast!’ is exactly what you want to hear.”

When Rand was reviewing the page, his wife saw it and recoiled in horror: “Oh God, do we have bedbugs?” This immediate emotional response to the page works in the marketer’s favor. Rand explained that emotional and fear triggers can drive a lead to take action.

The copy could better resonate with prospects’ pain

Though Oli found the design ugly, he thought the emotional triggers and effective headline made this page work.

While Peep agreed, he saw room for improvement:

  • The word “fast” in the headline is less effective because it is a superlative. He suggested that the headline would work best with something more specific, like “in half an hour” – anything that feels more tangible to the person who is experiencing the pain.
  • Similarly, Peep suggested a picture of a bedbug showed under a microscope on a bed to resonate more closely with the pain that prospects feel.

To really drive the point home, Rand recommended incorporating a live calendar widget so that prospects can see when there are openings and tangibly feel that their needs are going to be met – as soon as possible.

Finalist #3: Best Vancouver Hikes

Click for full-length page.

The primary goal is unclear

Oli pointed out the multiple CTAs on the page and suggested that each page should have one – and only one. Clicking through to Amazon could result in a purchase of the book, but exposes the leads to other recommendations (the books of competitors).

He recommended focusing on getting the lead to buy the book straight from the source: the landing page.

What’s the key differentiator?

For Rand, the page fell short when the copy didn’t address why he should trust this source over competitors. Will the guide provide him with key things he needs to know? Will it point him to weather reports and break down what he needs to bring on each trail?

The poorly defined unique value proposition coupled with the quiet thumbnail photos made the offer unappealing for Peep. “I want huge, beautiful photos.”

Finalist #4: Realtor Social Media Club

Click for full-length page.

The copy lacks consistency

Though Oli thought the headline and subhead on this landing page did a great job of communicating benefits, he found the body copy inconsistent. It refers to the offer interchangeably as a course and a club, which makes the offer confusing and increases friction.

The offer isn’t credible

For Peep, the program felt speculative and didn’t show any proof that it worked. Rand suggested including a “sneak peek” of the program to impress prospects with the quality of the content, rather than just a promise that it’s good.

Moreover, Peep felt that the page didn’t do a sufficient job of making the case for its hefty price tag of $200. He suggested using the landing page to a different end  – perhaps getting the lead on a list to warm them for the big offer by getting them to make smaller commitments first, starting with their email.

Finalist #5: TLC Pet Pals

Landing Page example: Pet Pals

Where’s the unique value proposition?

Peep wasn’t impressed by the UVP on this page (or lack there of):

“There’s no unique value proposition – you do solve my problem but I can also google 1,000 other companies who can too.”

What’s the call to action?

Landing pages should inspire leads to take action. But for this page, the CTA seemed MIA – and it should go without saying that this is problematic.

There were elements that looked like buttons but weren’t clickable, sending the judges on a bit of a wild goose chase. The judges were eventually able to tease out that the goal of the page was to have the prospect place a call, but the CTA shouldn’t have to be “teased out.” It should be front and center.

A viewer (Google+ big shot Stephan Hovnanian) suggested a possible interactive CTA:

And the winner is…

In the end, close to 100 viewers cast their vote to determine the latest Page Fights champion. With the ballots in, it was time to crown the winner.

The latest Page Fights champion is…

Wait for it

Lobster Marketing Group’s Thomas Pest Services page!


How did our winner take the judges’ brutal honesty?

I reached out to the winner, Austin from Lobster Marketing Group (a marketing agency that works with pest control companies) to find out.

“Although our design received a good beating during your show, we loved hearing the feedback! It’s great to hear how others view our work (both the good and the bad), especially professionals of this caliber. You can bet we’ll be taking a second look at our designs and reflecting on the helpful advice provided during the show.”

How would your landing page fare if three no-nonsense conversion experts critiqued it? Would it be torn apart or praised?

Find out by submitting your page for the next episode of Page Fights, to air on August 8 with special guest judge Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers.

In the meantime, it’s time to fess up: Is your landing page guilty of any of these conversion rate killers? Let me know in the comments.

— Amanda Durepos

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About Amanda Durepos
As Unbounce’s former blog editor, Amanda Durepos curated and crafted content to help marketers be better at their jobs. When she wasn't managing the editorial calendar for the Unbounce Blog, she was wrangling internal and external subject matter experts, helping them educate other marketers in an entertaining and actionable way. You can follow her on Twitter but she’s mostly just making puns.
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