Marketing FAIL – 7 Newbie Landing Page Mistakes

marketing fail rubber stamp
Avoid getting the FAIL stamp on your landing pages

In our free marketing eBook “101 Landing Page Optimization Tips“, I discussed building good habits by creating a best practices checklist for your landing pages. It can be a great way to ensure you don’t repeat your mistakes.

However, best practices are only as good as your understanding of them, and sometimes the way to become a better marketer or designer is simply to learn what not to do.

Our list of classic landing page blunders will help you avoid stepping in what can be considered the advertising equivalent of doggy doo.

Or – 7 ways you can step in landing page poop and come out smelling of conversions (that’s supposed to sound like a flower – nasturtiums perhaps).

FAIL #1 – Message Mismatch

If you’re going to do only 1 thing wrong to screw up a marketing campaign this would be it. It’s so fundamental that it blows my mind how frequently this fail occurs. Message match is when the offer/copy/messaging in your advertisement maintains momentum throughout the conversion funnel. In other words, there is consistency from AdWords/banner ad, through to the landing page, and on to the confirmation page or destination website (depending on the purpose of your campaign).

Whenever you break the conversion momentum you are giving your visitor a slap in the face and telling them they may as well go elsewhere. If you can’t maintain your message across every campaign touch-point you are failing in a big way.

The problem can often arise when different departments handle different aspects of a campaign (the email guy doesn’t speak to the campaign manager who doesn’t even know about the PPC team). If this is the case, get everyone in the room – or ask the marketing manager to do it – and open a can of conversion marketing whoop-ass on them. Then sketch the campaign flow on a whiteboard to ensure the message transfers without changing direction.

Warning – if you failed #1, proceeding past this point could be painful…

FAIL #2 – Broken Lead Generation Forms

You spent 3 days designing and creating the perfect landing page, your software guy put a form in it for lead generation and you’re good to go. You’re daydreaming about all the great leads that will come flooding into your inbox or account. Then you head out for beers on Friday after work.

Monday rolls around and your boss asks for a report. Sweet, time to blow his head off with the super low cost-per-lead you got from your $2,000 PPC spend over the weekend.

But wait, there’s not a single lead or email, and the PPC funds have been drained.

“WTF happened?
You tested it right?
Umm, well no, it worked on Dave’s computer so I just figured…”

The lesson: always test your landing pages to ensure anything interactive works perfectly. Try out the form on different browsers and make sure it’s bulletproof before you spend money driving traffic to it.

FAIL #3 – Advertising Something Other than your Primary Objective

I’ve seen genuine landing pages that had a single objective, such as taking advantage of a 50% coupon or a lead gen form. And then at the top and right-hand side of the page there are… wait for it… Google AdSense advertisements. Seriously? Think about it. You just paid $2 to get someone to your landing page via PPC, and you’re serving up more of the same to take them away from your page.

Ok, so that’s the worst case scenario. What else shouldn’t you do?

It’s been proven time and again that landing pages with a singular focus are more effective than a homepage. The reason being that you are providing a targeted message for targeted traffic and your visitors can focus their attention on the task at hand.

On a homepage there are too many distractions and multiple pathways that can lead people away from the all-important shiny button.

With this in mind, try to avoid the following things on your landing pages:

  • Global navigation to your entire website
  • Banners for other offers you are running
  • Google AdSense – we already covered why it doesn’t make fiscal sense, but it also makes most pages seem cheap and spammy

FAIL #4 – Leaving Watermarks on Stolen Stock Photos

Tsk, tsk, tsk. My finger is wagging in your face right now. For starters you shouldn’t be ripping off photos. There are plenty of good alternatives such as wiki commons and cheap stock agencies where you can get a picture for a couple of bucks. There are also a ton of freely available icons and social media illustrations that you can use (this blog uses a fair number) so you can get decent design assets quite easily. For the record, I designed the FAIL stamp myself (thanks to this technique).

Nothing screams cheap and untrustworthy like a 5 dollar photo you didn’t pay for.

FAIL #5 – Asking if I Really Want to Leave this Page

You know what I’m talking about right? A spammy page that throws up a dialog box “confirming” whether or not I am “sure” that I want to leave the page. Usually presented in complicated double negatives that make it hard to know if OK will make you stay or leave, and if Cancel will make you stay or leave.

Do you not understand why it’s totally not un-bad practice to generally or falsely re-ask for confirmation about whether or not you don’t want to not be elsewhere? OK or CANCEL? Hurry up and answer?

Hard to read right? Don’t do it. Ever.

FAIL #6 – Playing Hide & Seek with the Call To Action (CTA)

You want to avoid eliciting the “What am I supposed to do here?” response at all costs. In the first 5 seconds of arriving on your landing page the visitor should be able to discern the purpose of the page and the method by which they interact with it. Typically this is a big shiny button. Put it above the fold so that they can get their bearings as soon as they show up.

A good way to think of this can be illustrated by catching a plane. When passengers get through the ticket area in an airport – especially if they are late – they need to know 3 things:

  1. Where am I?
  2. Where do I need to go?
  3. Do I have time for a beer before I get on the plane?

To resolve this momentary period of panic they look around for information. The “Departures TV” to see what time the plane leaves and from which gate, and the map that shows the “You are Here” dot and the departure gate. Having established where they are, where and how they are going to get there, they relax into shopping mode. This is what you want on your landing page. Explain in a succinct manner what the page is about, and show them how to complete the transaction. Then they can sit back and explore your page with no fear of confusion.

FAIL #7 – Recreating War And Peace

You’re not trying to make people fall asleep are you? With too much copy on the page you risk a couple of reactions:

  1. Your visitor sees reams and reams of text, balks at the prospect of being asked to work (we had enough of that in school) and clicks the back button.
  2. They literally fall asleep from boredom and hit the backspace key with their head (you never know).

Either way, you’ve lost them.

Steve Krug (author of the classic web usability gem – Don’t Make Me Think) coined a phrase which holds especially true for landing pages. To paraphrase what he says in the book regarding web page copy, you should “cut it in half, then throw away 50% of what’s left”. Great advice.

So, now that we’ve made you poop-proof, you can get started on your next epic landing page. You might find some inspiration from our landing page templates.

Good luck and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Oli Gardner

Unbounce Challenge

Critique Your Landing Pages

Take a look back over your last landing page (or the next one your designer produces) and see how many of the classic goofs you are unwittingly administering to your audience.

About Oli Gardner
Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet. He’s obsessed with identifying and reversing bad marketing practices, and his disdain for marketers who send campaign traffic to their homepage is legendary, resulting in landing page rants that can peel paint off an unpainted wall. A prolific international keynote speaker, Oli is on a mission to rid the world of marketing mediocrity by using data-informed copywriting, design, interaction, and psychology to create a more delightful experience for marketers and customers alike. He was recently named the "The 2018 Marketer to Watch," in the under 46 category, by his mother.
» More blog posts by Oli Gardner


  1. R. Snyder

    I love the post, but I think you should clarify within #3, having Google AdSense (not Google AdWords) can detract from your site.

  2. Matt Shaw


    Loved this article so much I adapted the theme for a blog post of my own. Check it out:

    Great stuff! I’ll be sharing this one.


  3. aaranged (Aaron Bradley)

    RT @unbounce Marketing FAIL – 7 Newbie Landing Page Mistakes – < Nice pice, Oli :)

  4. Julie Weishaar

    This is my kind of post – great info with a sense of humor. Playing hide and seek with calls to action is great. How do you feel about those that have the call to action fade in while you are trying to read what is behind it? That irritates me. If you do that – sorry :)

  5. Adrian North

    Nice article – thanks for the info.

    One thing with regard to point #4 (OK I have a vested interest as a photographer) but stealing photos is illegal. The copyright belongs to someone else and may be their main way of putting food on the table for their families. Since you were describing usage on a commercial website my view is that you want the image you pay for it. There are (as you rightly stated) plenty of agency websites where there are images for not much money.

    • Oli Gardner

      I agree 100% Adrian – thanks for joining the discussion.

      With reference to my airbrushing comment – this is just a tongue-in-cheek jab at someone foolish enough to follow this route.

  6. 13 Epic Marketing Fails | Joe The Flow

    […] off this week with a look at the world of bad marketing. A few weeks ago I posted an article called Marketing FAIL – 7 Newbie Landing Page Mistakes. Today’s post points the finger at some of the people who clearly didn’t heed those little […]

  7. Adam

    Number 5 raises a moral issue.

    This technic improves conversion rates, I don't think there's any debate about that.
    And after all, we all just want to make more money.

    While I'll never use it myself, because I'd feel dirty if I did – a lot of times I can't really give my partners a really good reason why not to, when so obviously it's an easy method to make more sales.

  8. incassobureau

    Haha, I really enjoyed this post, especially the adsense fail!

  9. Roberto Diveley

    Another thing I have really noticed is the fact for many people, a bad credit score is the response to circumstances past their control. By way of example they may have been saddled having an illness so they have substantial bills going to collections. It can be due to a job loss or maybe the inability to go to work. Sometimes divorce can really send the money in a downward direction. Many thanks for sharing your notions on this site.

  10.  Robert

    Fail #3 brought to mind this question: How do you design a landing page if the website will provide a service to two different categories of customers whose interests are at odds with the other and who won’t necessarily come to the site via two different channels (i.e. PPC, banners, etc.) (thus allowing you to have two separate landing pages)? Do you ask them which category they’re in before directing them to one of two different pages? Or perhaps create a tabbed landing page for each type of customer like


  11.  Robert

    Ooops. No need to respond if you don’t want. I just found your 101 landing page tips article where you advocate segmenting users. It looks like that would be your answer. Thanks again.

  12. Adam

    While phrased well – “With too much copy on the page” – I’m not sure #7 is giving the right impression.

    Long copy isn’t bad. Long copy can work very well – usability tests show that users are scrolling, and long sales letter are consistently bringing in amazing conversion rates for many marketers.

    A great example is Amazon’s Kindle landing page, which is about 13 “hasselhoff’s” high according to Conversion Rate Expert (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about check out their blog – it’s great).

    So I’s advise LP designers & copywriters to be careful from adding “too much”, but don’t leave anything necessary out, even if it means a very long page.

    And always test. Sometimes short copy will outperform long copy, and sometimes it won’t.

    • Oli Gardner

      Totally agree Adam. It also depends on the target demographic and the product/service being sold. And testing is the only way to figure it out.

      There’s also a big difference between having long copy and having a long page (one is lots to read, while the other is a design choice). I see a lot of long pages appearing right now – but more with an emphasis on vertical segmentation of content instead of having several pages.

      LOVE the “13 Hasslehoff’s high” quote – brilliant.

  13. incasso

    Good article, we will keep the tips in our mind when developing new landing pages.

  14. Lucy at Yantra Mat

    FAIL #5, this one is extremely annoying – “Do you really want to navigate away from our page and our wonderful offer, please reconsider, and blah, blah, blah.” Drives me nuts. It’s a 100% guarantee I’ll never do business with the #$@$s who use such a tactic. The other thing I can’t stand is when they use javascript to keep directing you back to their page when you hit your browser’s back button. Do they really think that kind of tactic will make you want to do business with them?

  15. Caroline Ply

    What’s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It absolutely helpful and it has aided me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid other users like its helped me. Great job.

  16. incasso

    very good post! Great job!

  17. Incassobureau

    Lol I was using a broken lead generation form….
    how stupid

  18. Bingocams

    Wow, some mistake are just hilarious ;) Great article, thanks!

  19. Incassobureau Maastricht

    Really good subject. I love this!

  20. Incassobureau

    Great article… I’m happy my mistakes are not written in it:)

  21. Incasso

    Very good post i really enjoyed reading it specially fail#2 keep up the good work!.


    Thank you for the verry helpfull post.

  23. voorwaarden opstellen

    like your post. it’s a good practice for newbies

  24. Algemene voorwaarden

    Saw your post by search for landing page tips. It’s worthy to read nicely written.

  25. Incassobureaqu

    Thanks for the heads up, I enjoyed reading your post very much!

  26. Deurwaarder

    Extremely usefull stuff, keep up pls!

  27. TrendStatic

    I totally agree with this post, specially on Fail#5. Most websites do this, and obviously can turn-off viewers

  28. incasso bureau

    Very usefull, great work!

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  32. RonD

    Good, funny thoughts. May I add that some of these things happen by the not-so-newbie as well.