Having a well-optimized landing page can make or break a business, especially a business that relies heavily on customers self-serving themselves a digital product.
When it comes to planning, designing, and building a landing page, there is a well-established playbook that we will go through in this guide, that will help you understand the thinking behind how we design website pages.
The key point that we would like to get across is that building a high-conversion website is a combination of great value propositions, a key goal, a clear target market, clear design, and great copywriting. All these elements need to work together to create a compelling reason for our website visitors to take the actions we want them to take.
If you're an existing client of ours, this will provide you with the framework and context required to give great feedback to our work, and if you're not our client, you can use this guide as a launchpad to optimize your own landing pages.
Your website (and business) cannot target absolutely everyone. The more you niche down, the easier it will be to speak directly to your target market. You need to have a clear understanding of who your target audience will be and constantly refer back to how they think as you are doing all your optimization work.
Value propositions are, quite literally, the proposed value that you will provide to the target audience. The reason why you need to have these in place is that they will inform the precise content of all the various pages of your website, especially key landing pages such as your home page.
The most important point, before ever starting to optimize, is to have a clear goal in mind. This is because, without a goal for your landing page, you cannot possibly optimize.
Here are some examples of good goals:
All great landing pages have a variation on the following layout:
Let's dig a little deeper.
Our recommendation is not to deviate from this tried-and-proven model unless you have a very good reason for doing so and you've tested things out extensively.
As an example, the Mäd home page completely breaks all the rules, and yet it works for us on many levels.
Our key goal online is to showcase our expertise and brand. The way that potential clients of ours can understand our expertise is by engaging with our website and reading our content, including case studies, service offerings, and insights like the one that you are reading right now.
We also like the fact that our home page is very different from all other websites, and this again calls back to the brand and the fact that we are unique. However, this is the fifth version of our website in five years, so we've had time to understand what works and what doesn't for our specific use case.
The first time that someone visits your website is a key moment. They will spend approximately 3 seconds or less to decide if they want to invest any more time on your website, or if they will hit the back button and go back to doing whatever else they were doing before.
This means that the initial content that they see needs to be highly optimized to ensure that they will scroll down and learn more.
The hero section is what users will see first, and this should contain:
Let us give you an example from our very own project management software-as-a-service tool Blue:
The header text does a lot in one short phrase:
Then, the subheader text goes on further to show how this is the case:
The Contact Sales button is extremely straightforward, and (below the visual) we have social proof in the form of a 5/5 star rating from a well-known software review website.
Finally, we show a partially cut screen record of the actual software, but if the website visitor wants to see the entire thing, they are going to have to engage with the website and actually scroll down to see the full image.
Mercury is a modern online bank based out of the USA. Coincidentally, it's the bank of choice for Mäd in our backend technology stack.
Their landing page hero looks like this:
You can immediately notice a similar pattern here, and you can spot that the navigation menu, very much like our previous example of Blue, is kept very minimalist. Only 4 links (with drop downs) and then a login button and a CTA to open an account, with an option to contact sales.
This is not a mistake or a coincidence. The less clutter on your navigation bar, the more your CTA stands out and the more often it will be clicked on.
The subheader also speaks directly to founders of tech startups, literally using the words "startups of all sizes " followed by the words "the next great companies", which is what every startup is trying to do. This ensures that Mercury is perceived in the right manner.
Finally, we get to the product sneak peek, which instantly gives you an idea that Mercury is unlike most banks: the interface itself is beautiful and minimalist, and you almost cannot wait to try the product already.
The product mockup is also quite clever because it shows precisely the type of things that technology startups would likely be keeping track of, and so it makes it feel that much more real and relatable.
What's incredible, is that all of this is just to try and get past the 3-second test, and ensure that visitors do not bounce away immediately once they land on the website.
Now that we have intrigued the visitor, we have bought ourselves some time, and the next objective that we need to handle is with regard to trust:
Why should visitors trust us?
The way we handle this is by showing what's called social proof. Typically, this means showcasing your existing client base, publications where your organization has been featured, or key statistics such as the number of customers or users.
See below two examples showcasing different methods:
Now that we have shown the visitor that they can trust our product or service, we can hit them with a Call To Action to try and convert them into one of our desired goals.
However, it is also likely that by this stage they are highly engaged and want to read more about the types of problems that you solve.
If you can position yourself as understanding the problem of your target audience even better than they do, your proposed solution will automatically appear in a positive light. You've now become the expert.
One way to clearly showcase that you are an expert is to define, in the clearest possible manner, the problem at hand. Describe it in a nutshell, and showcase why it's a pressing problem. Show the downstream effects of the problem.
For instance, for a project management application, one key problem that business owners face is getting their teams to actually use the software in the first place. While this is problematic, the real problem is that the business owner will not have a clear picture and status of key project initiatives, things will slip through the cracks, and work will be late and of poor quality, which costs money and creates headaches.
Once you prove that the problem is clearly serious and urgent, you then come in with your offering.
Every business should have unique value propositions. These are "features" that make the business unique in the eye of the customers. You need to find yours, and then present each feature as a benefit to your potential customer.
So for instance, we can analyze some of Mäd's value propositions to our target audience, and see how we take some of our "features" and turn them around and showcase them as benefits.
Let's take a few examples from Blue to further cement this idea of flipping your "features" into benefits. In Blue's case, it quite literally has features that can be presented as a benefit:
So the above feature is that the software is easy to use. The perceived benefit is that there is no training required for end customers. This hits at one of the key pain points in the project management space.
A second example is that Blue has various different applications for different platforms.
Instead of just saying that we have applications, we turn this into the benefit of being able to work anywhere.
At the end of this section explaining why you are well positioned to solve the problem with all the benefits you offer, you will most likely want to have a Call to action as this will convert well.
This is an optional component of a great landing page. Finish with testimonials and, where applicable, case studies. This gives anyone who wants to dig deeper into how you help your customers the chance to do so, and it serves as a final reassurance point before website visitors are ready to commit.
Where possible, use real photos of your customers when having testimonials, as this makes it feel a lot more real and engaging.
With regards to social proof, there are quite a few overall tactics that you can look at:
Following these rules as a foundation, high-conversion landing pages can be built that will reliably convert website visitors to take the next step in your marketing and sales funnel.
That said, you also need to understand where your situation is unique, and continuously test out landing page variations to gain better and better results. As mentioned previously, at Mäd our current website home page breaks all the rules, but this has been done as a conscious choice, not due to a lack of thinking.
If you have any questions or queries, we encourage you to reach out to our team.