We see clients regularly asking for a one-size-fits-all landing page template as if there is a magic formula that can be applied to all of their site’s pages. The reality, however, is that there is no such template.
Attempting to create a universal template would stifle your users because a landing page should be set up to solve a particular problem of the user. With this in mind, every landing page should be treated as a unique silo, answering a single question. Careful thought and research must be taken to ensure that your landing page strikes a cord with your audience and serves the intent behind their search query.
In this post, I’ll look at the best practices for creating landing pages that speak to your users, not just optimized to rank well in Google, because the ultimate goal is a conversion, not a page view.
How To Plan For Your Landing Page
Before even contemplating on-page optimization, content development, or conversion improvement plans for your landing page, take a step back and ask yourself three key questions that will help guide your landing page strategy.
- What is the purpose of this landing page?
- What is the goal of this landing page for the company?
- Who is the target audience?
The final question in that list is especially pertinent, too often do I see landing pages with no clear recognition of a user’s needs or desires – the page has been built only to appease search engines. Why does this strategy set your landing pages up for failure? Because a failure to understand and recognize your audience ultimately results in a landing page with on-page features and content that doesn’t connect with users.
This mashup of user intent and landing page content will drive users away and prevent the conversion of goals set up by the company.
Serve your audience, not the search engines.
How to Gather Audience Data
Form Submissions and Call Tracking
There’s no better way to understand your users than by listening to them. If you have a form submission or call tracking set up on your website, go through and monitor their interactions with your company. With this data you can identify what information is vital to prospective users, what information or terminology you aren’t considering on the landing page, and what selling points drive conversions.
The data gained here is incredibly insightful in identifying what information is important to users as well as giving you a clear indication of how well your landing page is satisfying their needs. If the landing page in question becomes the source of a significant number of site searches, this reveals that the content on the page needs to be improved to satisfy user requirements.
Studying The Search Engine Results Page (SERP)
Remember that Google’s results pages are designed to deliver the most finely tuned and relevant pages for a user’s given search query. Ultimately the result pages provide great insight into what people are looking for because they have been formulated to reflect the content that people will engage with for the search query. Understand your users by studying everything held within the SERPs – page titles, headings, content topics – to formulate a landing page strategy that will satisfy their needs. Take this sample results page as an example:
In the example above with a results page for the search query “ecommerce business,” we gain insight into the user intent behind the search when we take a close look at both the title tags and the sources that are ranking highest. The titles are advice related to setting up an ecommerce website and the sources are from respected business magazines. This indicates that the audience here is new to the ecommerce world and doesn’t have much practical experience in it.
Subsequently a landing page can be created that provides content geared towards providing informational advice and best practices for setting up an ecommerce website. This landing page can be further supplemented with testimonials and case studies that show the success to be gained from ecommerce solutions. This works to both reassure users about the benefits of ecommerce and establish trust with your brand to start a conversion funnel.
Analyzing Search Query Data
Use Webmaster Tools and PPC data to gauge what types of search queries are driving users to the landing page in question. What stage of the consumer search journey do these queries represent?
Conversion Path Data – under the multi-channel funnels reporting section in Google Analytics, you can use reports such as the top conversion path and path length to understand the nature of the user’s online search journey.
Longer paths to conversion may indicate that the product or service you are offering is a high consideration item and users are using multiple sessions on your site to reassure themselves over the quality of your product or service. With this in mind, you can equip your landing page with content that serves to reassure users such as reviews, testimonials and product/service comparisons.
Key Features of a User-Focused Landing Page
1. Compelling, User Intent Focused Title Tag: Utilize a page title that not only focuses on the user’s intent behind their search query but which is actually compelling enough for the user to click through to your site. Show understanding of your audience by having your title tag address the stage of their consumer search funnel. An example of this would be for problem recognition search queries such as “Can I sell my property with lien” or “how to build an online store” which can be addressed directly in the form of conversational Title Tags.
2. Concise Meta Description: Taking steps to ensure that the meta description is concise and not truncated in the search engine results. Creating unique and compelling meta descriptions can help distinguish you from other competitors on the search results page and help persuade users to click through to your page.
3. User Intent Focused Heading: With the H1 we not only want to create a heading that engages the user as soon as they land on the page but we also want it to match the intent behind their search. A heading that doesn’t represent or acknowledge this intent will fail to strike accord with the user and create dissatisfaction with their click through that could lead to them returning straight back to the search results page.
4. Topically Relevant and Engaging Content: Always think back to the 3 key questions you answered at the beginning of this process and use this to drive your content strategy. Once equipped with information about your target audience, you can start to formulate concise, relevant content on the landing page that fully addresses both the user’s intent and their place in the consumer purchase search funnel.
Example: Search Query – “ecommerce platform”
Firstly we understand that the product is a high consideration B2B purchase and secondly that the search query itself represents a user at the “solution awareness” stage of their consumer search journey. At this stage the user knows of the solution that will solve their problem or need and is seeking out information on the different offerings available to them in this market. Given the nature of this high consideration item, it is imperative that trust is established with users as they seek assurances over the quality of the solution being offered to them in order to make an informed final purchasing decision.
In our example, Magento do a good job of providing that quality assurance and keeps the user thoroughly engaged with their brand by incorporating the following into their landing pages.
Testimonials / Case Studies / Reviews
The key to satisfying the user’s need for reinforcement and comfort over the quality of the product.
Related topics helps to establish Magento as an authoritative voice and maintain engagement with the product as users are offered content that fully satisfies their need for gathering information about an ecommerce platform.
Acknowledge your unique selling points compared to competitors.
Showing how the product will provide their solution (Demos, videos of the software, images).
5. Thoughtful Page Layout: Allow users to quickly scan and find the information they require by laying out your content in an organized manner on the page. Breaking up content with headings and images to make key pieces of information easily accessible will help keep users engaged.
6. Clear Path to Goal Conversion: Think back to the goal you set out for this landing page and ensure that the user has a clear path to achieve it. This means that the same way in which we focused on delivering key content to users in our copy, we must also focus on the main call to action. Producing landing pages that are uncluttered and do not overwhelm the user is key to ensuring that they do not become paralyzed by over-stimulus of multiple calls to action – this helps clear their path to conversion.
Serve your audience, not the search engines.
When I say don’t write for search engines, I’m not asking fellow webmasters to completely ignore them, I am merely stating that the focus needs to be shifted onto the end user. At face value our industry is ever-changing, but then it really isn’t at all when you get to the bare bones of SEO. Technical rules for search engines and updates to the algorithm come and go, but the one true constant that remains is always that of user experience. The algorithm updates themselves are constantly pursuing this destination of a better user experience with search and it is, of course, greatly alluded to in Google’s own mission statement. “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
It follows that creating landing pages with a focus on users itself lends to a better form of SEO. SEO that directly addresses the user’s needs, that users are more likely to engage with, that users are more likely to share, and SEO that is far likelier to positively affect search engine rankings and organic performance. It is SEO that leads to great marketing.