by Stacey Crisler
We have done a number of projects lately with sites that need to look at how they greet customers when coming to their site and this got us thinking about landing pages. Very often, users are not entering your site through the home page any longer. Ads, emails and searches are often driving users to your site. With over 1 billion searches per day on Google alone, you should be giving serious thought to the way users are entering your site and whether or not you are putting your best foot forward when they do. If you don’t greet visitors in the best possible way, your goal - conversion - will not be met.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the different ways a user may be entering your site and best practices for these entry points.
The most obvious entry point is your home page. A user may be familiar with your site, may have seen your URL somewhere, or searched for your site and ended up on your home page. The best home pages:
- Make it clear that they are home pages - a user should never have to guess
- Provide access to main navigation, not only to allow for easy access to information, but also to provide an indication of what your site offers
- Indicate the site’s value proposition or benefits - identify yourself to new users
- Offer a clear path for returning visitors to access their account or personalized information
- Entice users into the site - with images, topics of interest, etc. to encourage further interaction with the site
Today, we want to focus more on the pages users reach when they enter your site via a campaign or search. This may be a page specifically designed to be a landing page or simply a page on your site that is a default landing page because of the amount of search traffic driven to it. There are a number of things that should be done whichever type of page users are landing on to greet them to your site. The tips for home pages above apply, as do the following:
- Ensure consistent branding
- Your logo should be visible and look like your company’s logo - a user should never have to guess whether or not they are in the right place
- The rest of the branding - look, feel and design - should be consistent with the feel of the rest of your website. This doesn’t mean a campaign or page cannot use different elements than the rest of your site, but the overall look and feel should not be so different that users are again left guessing where they are or are confused if they navigate to the rest of the site
- Provide a clear value proposition that is consistent with both how the user entered the page and the breadth of content, products or services your site offers
- You want to be sure you are delivering on the specific promise you made in your campaign or search result; the page that users enter should match any expectations you have set for them
- But, you also want to be sure you do not miss an opportunity for users to understand all of what you have to offer, as something else you offer may pique their interest
- Provide a clear call-to-action
- This is true whether you are requesting interaction, such as registration from a user, or if you simply want them to explore your site further
- You want to provide clear avenues to interaction and highlight them with clear instructions to users, so employ action-oriented terms: “Get Your Free Quote”, “Learn More”, “Contact Us”, etc.
- Keep your design clean
- While you want to make sure you are providing options to users, you do not want to overwhelm them or distract them from your message
- Include links to key pages or navigation (this page should not be a trap), but do not include every offer or marketing message you want a user to see on this one page
- Focus on the expectations set and deliver on those on this page using bulleted, easy to scan benefits or value proposition information
- Be aware of the fold
- Key content and call-to-action messaging needs to be immediately visible to users
- If users have to scroll for a payoff, you have lost them, so consider who is coming to your site and on what devices / screen resolutions and design to make sure they do not have to scroll to see key information
Below, we will look at some of the best practices specific to different types of landing pages, as well as examples of what to do and what not to do when welcoming a visitor to your site.
CAMPAIGN-SPECIFIC LANDING PAGES
1. While I mentioned it above, I will mention it again here, because this is so important for campaign-specific landing pages: You must deliver on the expectations set by whatever it is that sent a user to the page.
- In the example below, a search for Best Buy, offers a link to what it says is Best Buy’s official site. However, the link actually takes visitors to a landing page specific to Best Buy’s deals and weekly ad. The effect is disorienting for a visitor looking to access the Best Buy site because the set-up does not meet expectations.
- On the other hand, this AT&T ad on CNN.com provides access to the content that was specifically detailed in the ad, while also providing access to a wider range of options if a user is interested in other products or services. This means the page delivers on both the specific user need and a wider range of interests they may have.
2. If you are requesting information from users – to fulfill an offer, get them started using your site, or provide them with customized information, your task with a landing page is even harder. You may lose people as soon as they see a form to be completed. To counteract this:
- Your page should load quickly so users see the whole picture very quickly
- That whole picture should include a clear statement of benefits: what is the value exchange you are offering? You are asking for their time and personal data - what are they getting from you in return?
- What type of time commitment are you asking of them? Is all the information you are seeking on one page or is this a multi-step process?
- What will the payoff be? You need to set specific and accurate expectations for what will happen at the end of the registration process or form.
3. Additionally, any forms provided on campaign-specific landing pages should adhere to form best practices (see more about best practices for forms here). Some highlights:
- Be specific about what you are asking for and WHY you are asking for it
- Ask for only the most important information, focusing on things that are least invasive, i.e., if you can use only a zip code for location, do not request exact street address. You can request that information once you have deepened the relationship with the customer
- Include logos or icons that highlight security of information. Logos like Verisign, Truste and the Better Business Bureau, as well as icons, such as a picture of a lock, reassure users that they are using a secure site and that the information provided will be safe
4. Examples in the auto quote space provide an interesting contrast in what works and what doesn’t:
- Progressive provides a focused page that directs users to a call to action, while addressing critical user information needs:
- Geico, on the other hand, overwhelms users with information. This takes focus away from the purpose of the page and does not address user information in a concise way, making it less likely for users to convert.
DEEP LINKED PAGES
1. For pages on your site that become landing pages because the content is often searched for and makes it a key entry page to your site, it is important to let users know where they are on your site
- Many times, breadcrumbing can be used to help orient a visitor (for some sites, like those with a lot of dynamic content, breadcrumbing may not be the best option. For more information on breadcrumbing best practices, see our blog on breadcrumbing)
- Additionally, clear highlighting within the navigation can be used to indicate position
- This example from CNET shows that a search for “best tablet computers” delivers users to the specific content requested, but also provides good insight into where a user is and what else might be available
2. Access to full site content, especially the home page, is even more important
- Even though the page delivered may match users’ expectations exactly, you want to be sure they can move up in your site’s hierarchy easily to get a wider view
- Ensure access not only to the full navigation, but also link to other information related to that specific page so users can move easily to other content they might find interesting
- Even with these additional links, remember to initiate a clear call-to-action on the page a user reaches
- In this example, searching for “hotel Rome” leads users to a specific hotel property, which offers a clear explanation of how they got to the page and how they could explore the hotel information or other destinations. It also has an immediate call to action above the fold:
Using what works and what doesn’t from these best practices and examples, you can improve your landing pages and make sure your site is a landing page best practice, putting your best foot forward when visitors arrive. For more best practice information, visit our other blog entries and our newsletter.