Landing Page Optimization #2 (Design, Writing, & Markup)

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In the first post, I discussed the high-level tenants for driving sales online, which should drive a landing page optimization campaign. This post is going to get more specific now about design, marketing copy, and implementation. The goal is to provide an actionable 4-step framework for evaluating and improving your landing pages:



When beginning a marketing campaign, you really need to know who your audience is and be clear on your goals, to align the efforts within your organization. A landing page optimization campaign is no different. A good first step might be to create a customer persona. A persona is a fictitious character that represents the ideal target customer. The exercise forces some basic research to answer the questions of who you’re trying to reach.

This can be extremely important, since culture, age, and gender can require profoundly different marketing copy and influence design decisions. It might also influence your defined goals for the campaign, and keywords that you bid on. For example, if you’re trying to reach seniors, an effective landing page might actually have a phone number, rather than a signup form.

I realize it is very tempting to skip over the research phase, but this level of understanding can make all the difference in setting a successful trajectory and authentically connecting with your customer. In the case of the seniors, the phone number alone likely would result in double-digit improvements in leads, but might do very little to improve leads generated for introverted teenagers. You really must know your audience to make effective decisions about how to communicate with them.


The goal of your marketing copy (aka content) is to describe your offering and connect with your prospect as quickly and efficiently as possible. Every word counts though since your prospect likely isn’t in the mood to read at this moment; they’re on a mission.

Consider what level of the conversion funnel your prospect is at. Have they already done their research on the offerings and they’re merely comparing providers now? If so, there’s really no value in explaining everything to them, and they’re probably not going to read it anyway. If you’re trying to establish longer-term B2B leads however, the opposite might be true, in which case you can offer a whitepaper as the incentive to encourage them to complete the requested action.

In either case, the landing page is not the place for overly verbose description. In fact, if you find yourself going in that direction, you’re probably focusing on the wrong points. Your goal should be to focus on solving a problem for them not describing features and positioning statements.

Focus on evoking the emotional pain of the problem they’re looking to solve, and provide a simple, easy solution to their problem. This is called tension and resolution. Despite what most people believe of themselves, decisions are first made emotionally and backed up with logical reasons to justify our decisions. So focus on connecting with your prospect, authentically commiserating the problem, and helping them to feel the emotion of success over that problem; the solution for which you provide!


Landing page design is a complex topic but is essentially just visual communication. To designers much of these points should be obvious if they think about it, but how many designers are actually thinking about the Psychology of the user and how to motivate them toward a goal? Conversely, how many marketers are aware of, or appreciate the significance of implicit non-verbal communication? In any case, effective use of color, layout, and images can have a surprising effect on the efficacy of a landing page. Here are the basics:

Color has a surprising ability to effect people emotionally. Some colors such as blue and green seem to have a natural ability to soothe nerves and probably are related to cues in nature. Animal instinct tells us that we need water and vegetation to survive and so we’re naturally drawn to these. Some hospitals never even begun painting walls light green because they’ve found it helps calm patients.

Some colors are more cultural. Red for example is a warm color and excellent for energizing emotion, but it can also be a “stop” color in Western culture, associated with taking notice but also of caution. In Japan, red is considered an angry color. In China though, red is a lucky color! White and black can be equally confusing culturally. Westerners regard black with authority and white with purity, whereas Eastern cultures associate these colors with funerals and death.

Orange is an interesting color and ubiquitously considered to be playful and radical. It is actually a great color for your call to action buttons, since it stands out, is warm, and doesn’t have the cultural issues of red.

According to research by KissMetrics, 85% of shoppers indicate color as a primary reason why they selected a specific product. So, if you consider trying to connect with your audience emotionally, you can see why choice of color, and knowing *who* your audience is, can be rather important. Generally speaking, green, red, and orange can be good colors for your call to action. The exact right color however can often be circumstantial.

Color Europe & USA China Japan Middle East




anger, danger

Danger, evil


calm, authority

Strength, power, immortality




Safe, Arousal, Go

Youth, growth

Future, youth, energy

Fertility, strength

Black Death, evil Evil Evil Mystery, evil


Purity, virtue

Mourning, humility

Death, mourning

Purity, mourning

Here’s a great infographic further illustrating color associations in Western culture:
Psychology of Color.

ii. Layout
Layout can be used quite effectively to focus your customer’s attention. Studies have shown that show too many choices can actually cause someone to defer a choice rather than proceeding. Moreover, too many unrelated details on a page can distract a user or remind them of something else they need to think about. If that happens, there’s a very good chance they’re not coming back. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to remove anything that might not be consistent with your goals, such as your website’s navigation bar.

Negative space (use of empty space around a focal object) can also be very effective to help center attention. Effective use of negative space however, means minimizing the elements on the page. Its good to have only have one image on the page, one call to action, and a small amount of descriptive text that doesn’t require much reading. You’ll also want your call to action to be large, clear, and above the fold. If you can, try using muted colors for everything on the page except your product image and the call to action, to help them stand out.

If you have a lot of content that must be on your page, framing and paths can be effective techniques to draw the eye to the call to action. A frame is a bold use of color or shape, to create space and emphasis around an object. Think of fancy frames around paintings on the wall at a museum. A path is a compositional element that guides the eye toward the object you want to emphasize. A path is often subtle and implicit as part of the layout. If appropriate however, you could instead use a more explicit red arrow that points to the button or action item.

Last and certainly not least, keep your significant design elements ‘above the fold’, so the user doesn’t need to scroll to see these important elements. Specifically the title, image, and call to action absolutely need to be above the bottom of the user’s browser (the “fold”). If you need more space for your content, consider placing only a few bullet points or highlights with the CTA above the fold (highlights), and provide the rest of the information below the fold, for those who choose to read further. This can be a nice way to satisfy both prerogatives.

iii. Imagery
A single well-chosen image can do wonders to help you connect emotionally with your prospect and provides a good extension of your efforts with marketing copy. But do not just show a picture of your product, unless you want to be thought of as a commodity to be comparison-shopped. Instead, focus on emotional value for the prospect.

You could try using a picture of someone that matches your persona definition (from the research above), and show that person experiencing positive emotion as a result of successful resolution of the problem. If your product is more technical in nature and the value truly does need to be explained more, a well-produced video can also be very effective in lieu of an image. Again though, the video needs to key off of the narrative of the marketing copy, and focus on connecting emotionally and selling the value of solving a problem, rather than explaining features.


If you are using your landing pages for paid search advertising, there are a few things you’ll want to consider when implementing your landing page(s). These tips are partly motivated by good usability, but are also motivated by keeping your AdWords Quality Score high:

i. Segmentation
Consider creating several variants of your landing page, that are targeted for the different segments of your market. You can revise your marketing copy and image to better match each segment you want to reach. Equally though, you can cluster smaller and tightly-related groups of keywords around each segmented landing page to improve relevance.

Google uses a metric known as a Quality Score to rate the relevance of a landing page to the keywords that an advertiser has been on. By keeping your keywords tightly clustered around relevant segmented landing pages, you not only increase continuity of the overall experience and thus likely increase conversion rates, you also help to keep your Cost Per click (CPC) rates low.

ii. SEO Matters
Believe it or not, On-page SEO factors matter when you create a landing page. Sure, your landing page is likely not a navigable page in your site, and is typically only reached by direct advertising campaigns, but if you’re using Google for paid search, they are parsing your content to try to determine relevance for the keywords you are bidding on, and that means your pages will be evaluated just like they would for the organic search results.

Thus, try to follow best-practices for marking up a page. Be mindful of your use of the title tag, and use H1 for your displayed title. Avoid using anything that might obscure your content from the search engines such as bitmapping the content (images), Flash or other embedded media. It is also not a bad idea to place a couple paragraphs of descriptive information below the fold, to provide more text describing your offering. You can use this text to work in more natural use of the phrases you want to rank for, without causing keyword density issues.

iii. Load Time
Load time for a landing page can be critical. When users are quickly cycling through a myriad of competitors, their tolerance for slow-loading pages is quite low. The user may click away in frustration or worse, you may have just soured a relationship emotionally. Look for opportunities to reduce image sizes, and cache any output that might require processing on your server.

Again when using Google AdWords, you need to carefully consider load time. It is primarily an issue with the only the most competitive key phrases, and so it may not effect everyone, but it is worth being aware that load time is considered in terms of quality score of your landing page and may impact your Cost Per Click (CPC), if you are not careful.


To summarize this post, any campaign needs to begin with proper research to truly understand your demographic and how to communicate more effectively with them. From there, write marketing copy that is concise but effective. Focus on connecting emotionally and selling the value of your solution, not features of a product. When selecting an image for your page, find someone that extends the narrative of your copy. When designing your page think about using color to set an emotional tone. Use layout to focus the user on the goal at hand. Removing any distracting or incongruent elements.

In the next and final post on this topic, we will take a look at iterative testing, an empirical method by which to systematically discover and revise your best landing page variations.

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Part 2 of a 3-part series on Landing Page Optimization