10 Tips for Increasing Landing Page Conversion Rates
By Robert W. Bly

There's lots of buzz about blogging, viral marketing, social networking, and other new methods of generating eyeballs and traffic online. But all that traffic won't make you any money unless you can convert those unique visitors to leads or customers.

Depending on whether you are selling a product directly from your landing page, asking visitors to download a free white paper, or promoting a Webinar or demonstration, conversion rates can range from as low as one percent or less to as much as 50 percent or more. Here are 10 keys to writing landing pages that maximize online conversion rates:

1-Build credibility early. People have always been skeptical of advertising, and with the proliferation of spam and shady operators, they are even more skeptical of what they read online. Therefore, your landing page copy must immediately overcome that skepticism.

One way to do that is to make sure one or more "credibility builders" is clearly displayed on the first screen the visitor sees. In the banner at the top of the page, use your logo and company name if you are well known; universities, associations, and other institutions can place their official seal in the upper left of the screen.

Within or immediately under the banner, put a strong testimonial or three above the headline on the first screen. Consider adding a pre-head or subhead which summarizes the company's mission statement or credentials. At www.bnasoftware.com, the positioning statement is: "The nation's definitive income tax management solution."

2-Capture the e-mail addresses of non-buyers. There are a number of mechanisms available for capturing the e-mail address of visitors who click on your landing page but do not buy the product. One is to use a window with copy offering a free report or e-course in exchange for submitting e-mail address. This window can be served to the visitor as a pop-up (it appears when the visitor arrives at the landing page) or a pop-under (a window that appears when the visitor attempts to leave the landing page without making an inquiry or purchase). These are both blocked by pop-up blockers. A "floater" is a window that slides onto the screen from the side or top. Unlike the pop-up and pop-under, the floater is part of the Web site HTML code, so it is not stopped by the pop-up blocker.

3-Use lots of testimonials. Testimonials build credibility and overcome skepticism, as do case studies and white papers posted on the Web site. If you invite customers to a live event, ask if they would be willing to give you a brief testimonial recorded on video. Have a professional videographer tape it, get a signed release from the customer, and post the testimonial on your Web site as streaming video. Require the customer to click a button to hear the testimonial, rather than have the video play automatically when the visitor clicks on the page.

For written testimonials, customers may suggest that you write what you want them to say and just run it by them for approval. Politely ask that they give you their opinion of your product in their own words instead of having you do it. Reason: what they come up with will likely be more specific, believable, and detailed than your version, which might smack of puffery and promotion.

4-Use lots of bullets. Highlight key features and benefits in a list of short, easy-to-read bulleted items. I often use a format where the first part of the bullet is the feature, and after a dash comes the benefit; e.g., "Quick-release adhesive system - your graphics stay clean and - don't stick together." Online buyers like to think they are getting a lot for their money, so when selling a product directly from your landing page, be sure all major features and important benefits are covered in a comprehensive bullet list appearing on your landing page.

When generating leads by giving away white papers, you don't need a huge list of bulleted features and benefits. But using bullets to describe the contents of the paper and the benefits that information delivers can raise conversion rates for download requests.

5-Arouse curiosity in the headline. The headline should either arouse curiosity, make a powerful promise, or otherwise grab the reader's attention so he has no choice but to keep reading. The headline for a landing page selling a training program on how to become a professional property locator makes a big promise: "Become a Property Locator Today - and Make $100,000 a Year in the Greatest Real Estate Career That Only a Few Insiders Know About."

6-Use a conversational copy style. Most corporate Web sites are unemotional and sterile: just "information." But a landing page is a letter from one human being to another. Make it sound that way. Even if your product is highly technical and you are selling it to techies, remember that they are still human beings, and you cannot sell something by boring people to death.

7-Incorporate an emotional hook in the headline and lead paragraph. Logical selling can work, but tapping into the prospect's emotions is much stronger - especially when you correctly assess how the prospect is feeling about your product or the problem is solves right now.

Another effective tactic for lead-generation landing pages is to stress your free offer in the headline and lead. Example: Kaydon's landing page shows a picture of its catalog with the bold heading above it reading, "FREE Ceramic Bearings Product Selection Guide."

8-Solve the reader's problem. Once you hook the reader with emotional copy dramatizing her problem or a powerful free offer, show how your product - or your free information - can help solve their problem. For example: "Now there is a better, easier, and more effective solution to wobbly restaurant tables that can irritate customers and ruin their dining experience: Table Shox, the world's smallest shock absorber."

To maximize landing page conversion rates, you have to convince the visitor that the quickest route to solving his problem is taking the action indicated on the landing page, and not - as you might be tempted to let him do - surfing your site. That's why I prefer landing pages to appear with no navigation, so the reader's only choice is to respond or not respond; there's no menu of click buttons and hyperlinks to other interesting pages to distract him.

9-Make it timely and current. The more your online copy ties in with current events and news, the higher your response rates. This is especially critical when selling financial and investment information as well as regulatory compliance products in fields where laws and rules change frequently. Periodically update your landing page copy to reflect current business and economic conditions, challenges, and trends. This shows your visitor that your company is current with and on top of what's happening in your industry today.

10-Stress the money-back guarantee or lack of commitment on the part of the user. If you allow customers to order products directly from the landing page, make sure you have a money-back guarantee clearly stated on that page. All your competitors give strong money-back-guarantees. So you can't get away without doing the same. If your product is good and your copy truthful, your refund rates can be as low as 1 percent or even less.

If you are generating leads, stress that your offer - which might be a white paper, online demonstration, or Webinar - is free. Say there is no obligation to buy and that no salesperson will visit.

About the author:
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of more than 70 books including The White Paper Marketing Handbook (Racom). His Web site is www.bly.com, or e-mail him at rwbly@bly.com, or phone 201-385-1220.