If you promote products or services, you’re probably using landing pages on your site. They are effective because they focus like a laser on getting visitors to take a particular action. That action might be to sign up for a newsletter, call for more information, register for a webinar, or make a purchase. The question is, how do you create an effective landing page? If providing information about your products and services were enough to spur people to take action, anyone could – and would – do it.

The truth is, design and structure matter. A lot.

In today’s post, we’ll give you a top-to-bottom blueprint on how to structure a landing page. Our goal is not to provide a list of landing page tips (though you’ll find several throughout). Instead, we want to explain the anatomy of a lander, and how each component engages the psychology of your site visitor.

One quick note before we start: consider what you’re about to learn a starting point. As with any type of marketing, you must test everything. That is the only way to improve your conversion ratio. With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Landing Page Main Headline

The first thing people see when they “land” on your page should be your headline. A good headline is large, positioned at the top of your page, and makes a compelling promise. Here are a few examples:

  • “See why 40 million drivers already trust us.” (State Farm Auto Insurance)
  • “Learn Secrets Most Men Will Never Know About Women And Dating” (doubleyourdating.com)
  • “How to achieve the retirement of your dreams…” (Motley Fool)
  • “Secure PCs Remotely with Windows Intune” (Microsoft Windows Intune)
  • “Online Collaboration Made Easy” (Onehub)
  • “Organize, edit, and share your photos” (Google Picassa)

Your headline has one job that it must perform flawlessly: pull your visitor further into your page.

Landing Page Sub-Headline

The subhead should be displayed just below your main headline. Its job is to flesh out the promise made in the header. It should provide a few more details about the promise, each of which will be explained in the rest of your lander’s content. Here’s a portion of the subhead found on the Motley Fool “Rule Your Retirement” landing page:

“Build a portfolio that will last… learn when to tap Social Security… whether to purchase an annuity… and everything else you need to know to make your transition to retirement as easy as possible..”

subheading

It’s simple enough to coax people further into the page. In other words, it gets the job done.

Benefits Of Taking Action

The next section of your landing page should list the benefits your visitor will enjoy by taking the action you recommend. Keep in mind, people are more likely to scan your page than read it. Make it easy on them. Put the benefits in bullet-point format – one benefit per bullet. Here’s an example of some solid bullet points from Naomi Dunford and Dave Navarro’s “How to Launch the **** Out of Your Ebook” Landing Page:

bullets

The Hero Shot

A hero shot is a photo of someone enjoying the benefits of your product or service. For example, a life insurance company might show a photo of a happy couple holding their young child (i.e. peace of mind about the future). An investment firm may show a picture of a older couple enjoying a stroll together on the beach (i.e. a financially-secure, worry-free retirement).

Be careful choosing a photo though. People have become wary of cheesy stock photos of beyond perfect people. In my opinion, it’s better to have a lower quality photo of a real person who benefited from your real product than a generic stock image.

The purpose of a hero shot is to give your visitor comfort that your product or service will improve his or her life in some way. It sends the message, “The people in the photograph are enjoying Product XYZ. You can, too!” The picture should be displayed directly above your bullet points, or to the side.

Call To Action

This is arguably the most important piece of your landing page. You must tell your visitor exactly what to do. That alone is often the lever that prompts her to take action. For example, have you ever held an object (a pen, piece of paper, etc.) out to a friend and said, “Here, hold this for a second.”? There’s a good chance your friend instinctively took the object without asking questions. Visitors to your landing page behave similarly, especially if you have gained their trust in your content. They’ll instinctively do what you instruct them to do.

What does a call to action look like? Here are examples taken from the sites referenced earlier:

  • “Get an Auto Quote” (zip code entry – State Farm)
  • “Get FREE Advice” (email entry – doubleyourdating.com)
  • “Get Free 30 Day Trial Now” (button – Microsoft Windows Intune)
  • “Please choose how you would like to get started today” (order selection – Motley Fool)
  • “Try for Free” (button – Onehub)
  • “Download Picassa” (button – Google Picassa)

Note that, with the exception of the Motley Fool CTA, each one is short and gives a single direction. The shorter, clearer, and more direct your call to action is, the more compelling it will be to your visitor.

Testimonials From Customers

Customer testimonials are a potent tool for building trust. They serve as a means of conveying social proof. People are more inclined to trust you and buy your products if they know others similar to themselves have already done so, and benefited from the experience.

Depending on the length of your landing page, you may only need one or two testimonials to get the response you want. On longer landers, you might need five or six to build trust with your visitors.

Final Thought: Test Every Piece Of Your Landing Page

The only way to know whether your conversion rate is as high as possible is to constantly test every variable. Test one item at a time to isolate the effect of any given change. For example, Google might have tested the following calls to action when promoting Picassa:

  • “Download Picassa”
  • “Download Picassa FREE”
  • “Get Picassa Free Today”
  • “Get Started With Picassa”
  • “Join The Picassa Revolution”

Each call to action delivers a different conversion ratio. Given Google’s access to an enormous amount of data, we can assume their current CTA has been tested rigorously to maximize their conversions (downloads).

So too should you test each component of your landers. From the number of bullet points and testimonials to the position of your hero shot, make simple changes, and track your results. Remember, small improvements add up over time to drive major boosts in sales and profits.

Your Turn!

There are countless ways to structure your landing pages. What types of small tests have you tried in the past, and how have they worked for you? Did your results improve? Share your experiences with us in the comments below!