Listen. We both know that “best practices” don’t mean much.
If you aren’t A/B testing, you are leaving a ton of money on the table.
BUT here’s the deal.
A/B testing is a time-consuming method of optimization. It’s effective, but if you can simply click “edit” and make an obvious improvement, start there.
This is why “best practices” can be so powerful. They let you apply what others have learned and get quick wins when nothing is working. Plus, when you begin implementing a solid A/B testing framework, best practices can give you some great hypotheses for your first round of tests.
In today’s post, we’ll cover 21 proven best practices, backed up by case studies, statistics, and data.
#1: Start with a great headline to boost conversions 41%
The headline is perhaps the most crucial element of your entire landing page. Why? Let’s ask David Ogilvy, famous advertising revolutionary, his thoughts on headlines:
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
If this has changed in the digital age, it has only gotten worse. Now, let me hammer it home with a case study…
BettingExpert is an online betting forum where tipsters can share their experience and tips. They ran an a/b test on their headlines with three variations: One with a question, one with a benefit, and one utilizing loss aversion.
As you can see, the benefit headline (which spoke directly to it’s target reader’s dreams and aspirations) boosted conversions by 41.14%.
The takeaway here? Focus on the benefit and writing amazing headlines.
#2: Add strong testimonials and social proof to be 12X more trusted
Have you ever seen a testimonial like this:
“Awesome service! Definitely recommend!” – Jane Dough
You may even have used something like that in the past.
The thing is, social proof works. Studies show nearly 70 percent of online consumers look at a review prior to making a purchase and reviews are 12-times more trusted than product descriptions and sales copy from manufacturers.
But, weak social proof can harm your conversion rates.
Frankly, most customers will write a poor review or testimonial, though they mean well. Derek Halpern from Social Triggers actually increased conversion rates by 102% by removing social proof.
So, use social proof. But, you’re probably better off writing a strong testimonial yourself. Then getting permission from your customer to say it matches their experience. This ensures it will work more in your favor.
Pro Tip: Use exact numbers in your testimonials if you can. This works due to a principle in psychology known as Ambiguity Aversion, which states that humans prefer known risks over unknown risks (i.e. we like to know what we’re getting into). Robbie Richards does this well on his blog.
#3: Write action-oriented copy to increase clicks by 93%
If you’ve ever written a paper in high school, your English teacher probably told you to write in “active” voice, not “passive” voice. Why?
Because passive voice has a weak quality, is bland, and can be boring. Active language excites, energizes, and drives action. See what I did with the previous two sentences?
It turns out that your English teacher was right. Here’s why.
The company L’Axelle sells underarm sweat pads, and ran an A/B test on the product landing page. Their original page used passive headline attempting to integrate the benefit, “Feel fresh.” The second used direct language and strong verb “Put an end to sweat marks!” With language like this, the exclamation point is probably redundant.
That simple change in copy lead to a 93% increase in clicks, for a total conversion rate of 38.3%.
It goes to show – landing page copy matters. Make your copy action-oriented.
#4: Use contrasting CTA colors to grow sales 35.81%
This seems so mundane and simple (and sometimes, it is). However, a simple change in the CTA button color can have surprisingly large effects on landing page conversion rates.
Wanna know how? Here’s a case study:
A major eCommerce site that sells hand-painted porcelain wanted to grow their business (who doesn’t?). They decided to get Unbounce to help them out.
Unbounce came in and made one super simple change: They made the “ADD TO CART” button green instead of blue. The result?
A 35.81% increase in sales (yes, sales, not just clicks).
Now, why did this work? I don’t think it’s because green is a particularly compelling color.
Changing the CTA color worked because the green gave the button some contrast.
The blue didn’t stand out at all, whereas the green pops. Our focus, then, is not on particular colors being better for CTAs than others, but on ensuring a color contrast to draw the eye.
Wondering what color to use? Try picking the opposite color (from your brand’s or landing page’s main color) on this color wheel:
In other words, if your main color is yellow, try a blue or purple CTA. If your main color is green, try a purple or red CTA.
#5: Command 31.03% more people to click with actionable CTA copy
You had to have seen this coming – if action-oriented copy in your headlines and body increase click-thru rates, of course they’d work in your call to action (CTA) copy as well. The CTA is usually located on the button or link on which the visitor must click.
But, don’t take my word for it. Let’s take a look at a case study:
WriteWork offers essays and writing guides for students. Their original checkout page CTA (shown below) simply said “Create My Account”. Who wants to create another account?
However, when they changed the text to say “Create Account & Get Started”, they saw a nice 31.03% increase in conversions. Not too shabby, eh?
The verdict? Make your CTA copy actionable, and tell your customer exactly what will happen when they click it.
#6: Use faces, but not near a CTA (unless they’re a top industry influencer)
The human brain is very drawn to faces and eyes. We have a tendency to look at faces before anything else on a web page. This can be a good thing… or it can hurt conversions.
When it comes to using faces on a landing page, they can add credibility and trust. However, they can also distract the reader from a message or CTA.
To get around this, only use faces of people the user is bound to recognize and trust (such as an authority in your industry) near CTAs. For maximum effect, have them looking at, and potentially even pointing to, your CTA.
Of course, you still want to put pictures of you and your team to help build trust – just don’t place them near the call-to-action.
In a case study, Medalia Art was able to boost clicks 95.4% by replacing the images of art on their home page to images of the artists.
#7: Format like a boss
Just as formatting makes your blog posts more engaging, so too does formatting make your landing pages easier to navigate and understand.
What do I mean by formatting?
- Use bulleted lists to state your key benefits.
- Use images to give the eyes a rest from reading text.
- Utilize white space to avoid extra noise and distraction.
- Include headings and subheadings to break up your page.
- Use directional cues (like arrows) to point the viewer’s eyes to your CTA.
Great formatting makes your landing page easier to skim–and you know most of your visitors are only going to skim–making the most important points immediately apparent.
Just as people prefer better-looking people, people prefer better-looking websites because they associate beauty with perceived trust and credibility.
Want an example? Basecamp redesigned their landing page and found a 14% increase in conversions.
Here’s one more example, for good measure: Swedish company Unionen saw a 15.8% click-through boost when they bullet-pointed their benefits:
Version B (15.9% Increase):
#8: This is 2017… use spellchecker already
Having grammatical or spelling errors in your copy can seriously hurt conversion rates. It makes you appear unprofessional at best, and like a scam at worst.
Want a real-life example of how badly a small mistake can harm your business? Take a look at this case study from Practical Ecommerce on a website selling tights – correcting their spelling from “tihgts” to “tights” on their product category page shot conversions up 80%.
In a world where tools like Grammarly and built-in spell checkers exist, there’s just no excuse not to have immaculate grammar and spelling. Take an extra ten minutes to read through your page to ensure no errors get though.
Pro Tip: I actually like to read my writing out loud at least once. This helps me catch any errors and get a better idea of the flow and overall sound of things.
#9: Consider adding multiple CTAs
Multiple CTAs?! Are you crazy?
Before you scroll down and leave me a nasty comment, hear me out. I’m not talking about having a variety of buttons and forms leading to different places.
Rather, on longer pages, you should have multiple buttons and/or opt in forms that lead to the same outcome.
Having more than one chance for the customer to opt in allows them to scroll through and click at their own pace. If they don’t click your above-the-fold CTA, for example, they’ll have another chance in the middle or at the end of the article.
That said, too many buttons can cause your visitors to get decision fatigue, becoming tired of too many choices and leaving the page.
So, short rule of thumb? Place multiple CTAs on long pages, and a single one on short pages.
#10: Ditch the sharing buttons (unless you only have one other option)
One of the 21 persuasion techniques for conversion optimization was something called the “Hobson’s +1 choice effect”. This effect essentially states that having over two choices can cause anxiety and negative feelings, but we also want to have the choice to choose.
As such, if you only have one option on your landing page (the CTA), adding a “Tweet this” button can help, according the the choice effect. However, if you already have multiple offers, CTAs, or links in your offer, social buttons can add to the noise and reduce conversions.
In one case from Taloon.com, removing social sharing buttons from their product pages increased conversions by 11.9%.
However, I’d like to point out two key elements here:
- They had four social sharing buttons instead of one (like “Share this product” or “Tweet this”), creating too many distractions.
- They also have many other choices on these pages, like clicking to a separate category or page on the website, putting them well above that ideal two-choice limit.
I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again: you have to test these things to find out exactly what works for your product, audience, and business.
#11: Highlight your guarantees to build trust
Purchasing is an emotional decision, which is then backed by logic. Therefore, once you’ve sold someone emotionally on your product or service, you must then provide them with logical reasons to actually get through the checkout page.
One way you can do that is to highlight your guarantees.
A money-back guarantee is an amazing way to get people to commit. It’s truly risk-free. If they don’t like it, they can get their money back.
Neil Patel increased sales of his Traffic System course by 21% when he highlighted a 30-day money back guarantee.
It doesn’t have to be money back, either. Other guarantees you can try include:
- A risk-free trial period.
- A low-price guarantee (where you’ll refund them if they find a higher price).
- A forever guarantee (where you’ll replace the product for life).
Don’t be afraid to test different guarantees, just as you we talked about testing different offers. You may find a free trial–a $1 trial to avoid credit card complications–converts better than the money back guarantee.
Pro Tip: Another way to build trust is by adding an SSL certificate to your site. That’s the green lock that says “secure” next to it. This shows your visitors their information is safe.
#12: Use the inverted pyramid method (keep the most important stuff at the top of the page)
The inverted pyramid is a writing style coined by journalists. It means keeping all of the key benefits and most important takeaways at the top of the page, then getting into the details as you get further down the page.
It looks like this:
So, your attention-grabbing claims and statistics should be used at the top of the page to get visitors engaged, then your body copy, as you go down the page, should build anticipation for your product, at which point you give your CTA.
Of course, not all landing pages will be long enough to use the inverted pyramid method, but for longer pages it works wonders. Afterall, only about half of all your visitors will ever even reach the bottom of your account – you need to entice them.
Use the other best practices mentioned in this post, like formatting and imagery, to ensure you have the most important stuff first.
#13: Add related imagery and videos for 80% more conversions
Images aren’t just for formatting. They can be used to convey your main benefits and to help users understand what your product or service is about.
When it comes to images and video, however, there are two things to keep in mind:
- Don’t overuse them. White space is your friend.
- Make the images relevant. Stock photos usually work against you.
Check out KISSmetric’s guide to creating unique landing page videos for more help on the video side of things.
#14: Remove any extra links
You’ve probably heard this tip before. “Remove navigation links so your visitors have to make a decision.”
However, with only 16% of all landing pages following this practice, does it really work?
HubSpot tested it to find out. They created two landing pages: One with a navbar, social sharing links, and footer, and one without any of the three.
The results? Up to a 28% increase in conversions. They even tracked every change and put the results in a nice little chart:
In other words, it’s worth a shot to remove extra links. It may not always work, and it may not be worth losing the clicks to other parts of your website, but it had potential to increase sign-ups.
#15: Keep your landing page consistent with your brand and ads
The first job of the landing page is to keep the promise made in an ad, email, social post or link. Any variation can cost you conversions.
Consistency is key to a great many things, from blogging to getting fit. It’s necessary to succeed, and people love seeing it.
Especially on landing pages.
I can think of no better example than Optimizely’s case study on their PPC ads. They ran two tests:
In the first one, the Headline was kept the same, regardless of the ad copy they used. In the second test, they matched the landing page headline to the ad copy.
The results? A 39.1% increase in conversions.
Of course, the headline isn’t the only thing you should keep consistent. Also try to:
- Match the colors of your ad/brand with your landing page.
- Use similar images and design.
- Use similar (and even an exact match) of your ad copy on your landing page.
Keeping things consistent ensures people aren’t confused when navigating your site, and they know get what they expected to get when they click your ads.
#16: Achieve a 214% increase in conversion rate by asking for more information
One of the landing page best practices you often hear is to reduce the number of form fields as much as possible. It’s true, this reduces friction for the customer and has been shown to increase conversion rates.
BUT (there’s always a catch, isn’t there?), asking for more information better qualifies your leads and, in many cases, shows them you’re actually capturing the information needed.
Let me give you an example.
Advanced Grass is an artificial grass solution. They were able to achieve a 214% increase in conversions by splitting up their lengthy opt-in form into two parts: contact information and qualifying information.
By simply splitting their form into two parts, they are taking advantage of the psychological principle of commitment and consistency, well known in the marketing world thanks to Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
Basically, Cialdini found that people are more likely to take additional steps towards something if they’ve already committed to the first step. In the case of advanced grass, they already committed to entering their contact info, so they’re more likely to enter the few extra details.
Additionally, asking for the right information builds trust. How could you give an accurate quote for your artificial grass if the company didn’t know how many square feet you need or what kind of project it is?
The bottom line? Ask for more info, but split your form into two steps.
#17: 10X clicks by testing different offers.
Sometimes in our landing pages, we’re focusing on entirely the wrong offer. Maybe people don’t want a ‘free trial’ or ‘free consultation’. What about a free eBook or a free tool, instead?
I didn’t pull those examples out of my you-know-where. WordStream actually increased conversions 10 times over by changing their offer from a “Free Trial” of their software to giving away a free tool they created: The Google AdWords Performance Grader.
Of course, creating your own tool requires time, capital, and finding a good developer, unless you happen to be one. Here are some other offers you can try:
- A free ebook or video explaining how your software works (alongside a free trial, of course)
- A free case study detailing how others have used your software to maximize their business.
- A template or worksheet helping your visitors accomplish something specific.
The key is to offer something highly relevant to what your software does and that’s very valuable, meaning you didn’t slop it together in five minutes. Put some thought into it.
#18: Boost engagement by 102% using scarcity
If you’ve been building landing pages for any amount of time, you’ve surely heard of using scarcity as a tactic to increase sign ups.
Using scarcity means limiting resources in order to get your visitors to take action right away.
For example, putting an expiration date on a coupon, limiting an offer to a certain number of customers, and announcing that you only have a few items left in stock are all versions of scarcity.
Going back to Cialdini, scarcity is one of his psychological principles of persuasion. People place more value on that which is limited.
Let’s look at a case study by KISSmetrics:
Hiten Shah decided to reduce the free trial period from 30 days to 14 days – and he found a 102% boost in engagement. In other words, twice as many people took action and used the free trial during the 14 days than the 30 days.
So, use scarcity on your own pages by including a countdown timer on your page or offering a limited number of products.
19#: Pay attention to “the fold” to lift conversions 220%
You think I’m going to tell you to put your CTA above the fold, don’t you?
Well, you shouldn’t necessarily do that. This is one of the most common of landing page best practices.
Most engagement happens right at or just below the fold. Let me explain…
As you can see in the chart above, people view the topmost area of the page the least, and view the area “just above the fold” the most (i.e. right where you begin to need to scroll).
Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers and Airstory had this to say:
“Don’t cram everything above the fold. Countless tests and scroll- / click-tracking studies have shown that visitors are willing to scroll… as long as they know there’s something to scroll down for. (So don’t create a false-bottom.) Don’t prevent people from exploring your content by making assumptions about their use behaviors.” (via Copy Hackers)
So, where should you really place your opt-in form or CTA?
It depends on the complexity of your offer (and thus, the amount of information needed to explain it). This chart by KISSmetrics explains it perfectly:
Let me give you a more direct example. Marketing Experiments tested one of their client’s CTA placements above- and below-the-fold. Below-the-fold actually resulted in 220% more conversions, likely due to the complexity of their product.
What did we learn? Above-the-fold isn’t always best – test your CTA placement.
#20: Don’t rely on these landing page best practices. Test.
All of the best practices on this list can (and probably have) been broken with exceptions at one point or another. Like I said in the very beginning of this post – best practices make a lot of assumptions. Use them, but don’t be afraid to go against them.
In the words of Mark Twain:
“When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”
I’ll leave you with one final case study to prove just how important it is to a/b test your landing pages. Convert Verve, who’s examples you saw in some of the practices above, ran a simple test on the checkout page of one of their clients – removing the green arrow pointing to their CTA button.
As it turns out, removing that green arrow actually reduced conversion rates by 12.29%. Who would have thought? Of course, if you followed along above, it makes sense – removing the arrow reduces the chance for the button to draw the eye.
So, in parting: Always test your landing pages, and don’t be afraid to go against best practices once in awhile.
Landing page best practices are just that – best practices. We can take what’s worked for others and copy it for our own use, but ultimately, it comes down to trying different things.
As Mark Zuckerberg says, “Move fast and break things.” Follow expert advice to make your first page the best it can be, then start experimenting.
Now, what did I miss? There are surely more landing page tips & tricks out there I didn’t cover here. Drop me a comment and let me know.
And, if you found even one thing useful about this article, please take a moment to share it.
- 20 Landing Page Best Practices to Kickstart Your Conversion Lift - February 2, 2017
- 21 Fascinating Persuasion Techniques for Conversion Optimization - January 18, 2017
- 6 Highly Productive Ways To AB Test Content Marketing - October 18, 2016