Five Layout Tips for Maximizing Landing Page Conversion Rates

June 13, 2012 by

When you're trying to generate leads with a white paper or other free information offer, you need a landing page that works hard. To get your prospect to make the decision and register, all the elements of that landing page have to work well together.

And that goes for the design, as well as the copy. Tests prove that mistakes in the design of a landing page can have a big impact on its conversion rate – that is, the percentage of visitors who actually take action and register for your download.

Now, I'm not a graphic designer, so I'm not going to attempt to suggest how your landing pages should be designed. Instead, I'm going to offer you a few tips for the layout of your landing pages that have been proven through testing to provide superior conversion results.

Here we go…

Layout Tip #1: Layout your landing pages in a single column.

On most of your website, a two- or three-column format generally works to your advantage. You can put a navigation bar in the left column, the page content in the center, and links to related content, news and special offers on the right.

But multiple columns generally have the opposite effect when it comes to landing pages. In their Landing Page Handbook, Marketing Sherpa states:

"Fewer columns generally outperform more, with one single main column being the best design. Eliminate your navigation bar entirely unless it's a microsite and navigation is critical to the conversion path and contains no extraneous links."

Why does a single column work best? Well, the purpose of your landing page is to "sell" a particular offer, be it a white paper, case study, free webinar, or whatever. You want prospects to start at the top of your page, read from top to bottom, fill out your registration form, and click on your call-to-action button. You don't want them exploring other parts of your website, as you do from most of your other pages. If they wander off, they may never come back to register for your offer.

Always remember: your objective is to capture that visitor's contact data.

You must eliminate anything that might distract the reader from your purpose. That means navigation bars, sidebars, banners and any links to other pages or sites. As web copywriting expert Nick Usborne, author of Net Words, says:

"A landing page will only work if you succeed in grabbing the reader's complete attention and holding that attention from the top of the page all the way to the bottom. The last thing you want to do is give the reader any reason – or any means – to leave and go to a different page."

What if your website is built on a platform using templates that only allow 2- or 3-column pages?

You have a couple of options. First, you could simply leave the side columns blank. If that's not possible, or results in a look that's unacceptable, your other option is to build your landing page on a separate site using a different platform. Visitors can be returned to a thank-you page on your main site once they complete the registration form.

Layout Tip #2: Use a hero shot.

The presence and position of a hero shot tend to make a huge difference in landing page response.

A "hero shot" is an image of your offer or a representation of its primary benefit. For a white paper, case study or other information offer, your hero shot will likely be a picture of the front cover. A software download can be represented by a software box. For a webinar, you might use a photo of the principal speaker.

The idea is to give your offer some substance. Prospects don't seem to mind if a 35-page e-book in PDF is shown as a hardcover book, or if download-only demo software is represented by a retail box. They like to see what they're registering for and to see that it has some weight, even if that "weight" is only figurative.

Also, be sure to have your graphic designer create the cover for the web. The title must be readable when reduced to a thumbnail. Use large type and don't let graphics dominate the design.

Layout Tip #3: Place your hero shot and other images on the left.

Hundreds of test results have proven it: placing the hero shot on the left improves landing page conversion.

The reason is eye path.

Images attract attention. We read left to right. Placing images on the left side of the page helps draw readers' eyes to the start of the next line of text. So they keep reading. Images on the right side of the page have the opposite effect.

Place your hero shot just below your headline, tight against the left margin. Surround it on the right with your opening body copy. Place other images along the left margin to draw attention to text and subheadings further down the page.

Graphic designers may resent the restriction on their artistic freedom, but insist on placing images on the left. It's what works best.

Layout Tip #4: Place an interesting caption under your hero shot.

Eye-tracking tests prove that captions get high readership. Pictures attract scanners and their eyes are naturally drawn to captions below them.

But don't just restate what can readily be seen in the picture. Use that high-value real estate to your advantage. Captions are a great place to:

  • Repeat key benefits of your offer
  • State an additional benefit
  • Provide a mini-list of features
  • Influence the prospect's decision in some way

Also, be sure to review your captions from a scanner's perspective. Remember, some prospects will scan your landing page before making a decision to read it. So look at your hero shot caption in the context of your headline, opening sentence, first subheading and other scannable elements. Do they work well together? Do they communicate your offer's big promise and key benefits? Do they grab readers' interest and entice them to find out more?

Layout Tip #5: Place a single call-to-action button at the bottom of the page.

You've probably seen long landing pages for consumer products with "buy now" buttons sprinkled every three or four paragraphs throughout the text. The reason is that different readers will need different amounts of information before they're ready to make a decision. Some may have heard of the product or even done business with the company before. Others haven't.

This technique is totally unnecessary in B2B lead generation. And potentially harmful.

It's unnecessary, because a lead-generation landing page ought to be fairly short. You're not asking prospects to part with their money right now. You're asking them to let you give them free information that could help them solve a problem. If they have that problem or think they might in the future, they won't need a lot of convincing.

It's potentially harmful, because continually bombarding your prospect with "Request Your FREE White Paper" or "Download FREE Demo Version" gives the impression you're behaving like a used car salesman. Your landing page feels like it's talking too loud – pushing too hard for the order.

So even if your visitors are arriving from a small banner ad, and you need to explain everything on your landing page, use only one call-to-action button at the bottom of the page.

Bonus tip: If your landing page seems too long, try removing the registration form from the landing page. Put it on a separate registration page or pop-up, which is brought up when the visitor clicks your call-to-action button.

Any thoughts on this article? I'd love to hear them. Please leave your comments below.

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