5 Tips for Improving Your Product Landing Pages

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

It is important for online marketers to create fully optimized landing pages so that users clicking on advertisements are directed to compelling, relevant information that encourages them to interact with the brand.

Mashable interviewed Zach Morrison, vice president of strategy at Elite SEM on best practices for creating landing pages that convert.

Take a look at his thoughts below, and let us know in the comments if you have any questions on improving landing pages.

1. Optimize the Layout & Design for Web Reading

“Eyetracking research studies have shown that there’s an actual science and method to users’ online behavior and how their brains and eyes digest what they’re seeing on the page,” says Morrison. “What this means is that a web user is first drawn to look at the top left of the page and then their eyes follow a diagonal line across the center to the bottom right of the page.”

Morrison suggests placing the company’s logo and the key messages in prime locations so that readers are digesting information in the best order possible.

Morrison also points toward three design tips for creating user-friendly landing pages:

  • “Always match the colors of your landing pages with the overall look and theme of your website. If users move between your landing pages and your site’s home page, it should feel like a natural progression and be synergistic with your brand’s values.”
  • “When creating a landing page for mobile devices, make sure to consolidate all of the content, images and copy that’s usually designated to the left and right sides of a page [on a computer] and migrate them to the center of your mobile page. For example, place your company logo at the top, followed by phone number, call to action and submit button. … Create a mobile landing page that asks the user to do less than they would if they were on a computer.”
  • “Social is also great to include on landing pages. If integrated as a social widget, the user can get real-time feedback from other customers. The “thank you” page is a great opportunity to ask for additional engagements from your customers and then track and see what they are interested in.”

2. Write Copy With Search in Mind

“From an SEM perspective, good copy is important for quality score purposes,” says Morrison. “The more copy you use related to keywords and ad copy you’re showing on your ads, the less you’ll have to pay for paid search ads. Good copy is also important to give the user a positive user experience, and it’s also a key factor that Google uses in its search algorithm to rank and list companies in search results.”

Morrison adds, “Web users essentially want to be told what to do and where to go. By nature, users look at websites and tend to ask, ‘What’s in it for me?’ If your copy takes the guesswork out of the equation, your customers will be happier and click on ‘buy’ or ‘purchase’ or ‘get a free inspection’ much faster.”

Lastly, it’s important to maintain a consistent message from your display or search ads to your landing pages. “From the perspective of search marketers and brands, try to match the paid search advertisement to the landing page as much as possible,” advises Morrison. “If you state ’100% satisfaction guaranteed’ in your advertisement, that exact copy should be used on the landing page, too.”

3. Be Strategic With Images & Video

“Images and video are important to a certain degree, because they can increase user engagement and create a personal connection with users,” says Morrison. “But you shouldn’t use images and videos on your landing pages just for the sake of it, or clutter your landing pages with excess images and videos. It should be part of your landing page strategy, not the whole focus.”

When it comes to product photos, there’s no shame in going traditional. Morrison says:

“Use white backgrounds for product photos. Don’t show corners in your images so that it looks like the walls curve and you don’t see anything in the background of the image. Diapers.com and Soap.com are examples of websites that use high-quality production standards in their images.

“Having a wide variety of product images is just as important as showing multiple angles and 360-degree views of those products. How-to videos can also be helpful to users and reinforce user engagement with a brand or product. Americanmuscle.com is a great example of this — the site allows customers to upload their own images of products as user-generated content. Customers tend to trust and value comments and feedback from like-minded buyers.

“If you don’t have a production lab or can’t afford to hire a professional photographer or studio every time you want to promote a product, you can use stock photography sites like istockphoto.com, gettyimages.com or shutterbox.com. With sites like these, there’s always the chance of running into the same images. So if possible, pull images from exclusive corporate libraries. Try to match your photography subject to your audience’s demographics and needs/wants, and even better, create multiple pages that match different market segments.”

4. Highlight the Call to Action

“A call to action is a header image, offer or slogan that is asking for some form of action from customers,” Morrison explains. “The call to action tells the customer what they need to know, what they need to do and where they need to go.

Morrison names a few calls to action that seem to catch users’ attention: “free shipping, guaranteed 100% satisfaction, free returns, free inspections, no obligation, X% off, X dollars off.”

A call to action should be initiated within an ad unit, and it should be reiterated on the corresponding landing page. Morrison says, “Users should be taken to a specific page that will follow through on the already promised CTA [call to action]. If a user was given a call to action about a ‘free trial,’ they should be taken to the page where they can sign up for it. Follow through on the promise!”

Furthermore, a landing page should be transparent about pricing to prevent users from exiting or bouncing off the page, says Morrison.

Morrison advises to keep your goals in mind and form a call to action that revolves around your key goal:

“If your goal is to capture a person’s contact info so that you can follow up with him about his satisfaction with a product or send him future promotions and discounts, you should include a form on your landing page. It’s important for ecommerce sites to allow people to enter their contact info so they can be contacted at a later time.”

And finally, a call to action is often accompanies by a button that users click to begin the process. Morrison explains, “CTA buttons need to describe the action you want the user to take. Some examples include: ‘Schedule Inspection Now,’ ‘Join,’ ‘Submit’ and ‘Request a Call Back.’ The color of the button should be the bolder of your color palette to create some hierarchy. Red and green are typically good choices that can be easily seen by users. CTA button size and placement should also be tested to maximize your conversion opportunity.”

5. Test & Track Landing Pages

“Multi-variate testing is the process of testing many variations against one another in order to find the best combination for higher results,” says Morrison. “When it comes to landing pages, you need to see what works and what doesn’t work if you want to improve conversion rates.”

Morrison recommends free tools, such as Live Ball, Website Optimizer and Google Analytics, for testing landing pages.

“For a business, you’re always looking to increase your conversion rates and testing can easily mean the difference between a 10% conversion rate and 20% conversion rate,” Morrison says.

What tools and best practices does your business use for optimizing its landing pages? Let us know in the comments below.

More Small Business Resources From OPEN Forum:

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5 Services For Building Websites On A Budget
10 Accessories To Boost Office Morale
Top 5 Foursquare Mistakes Committed By Small Businesses
How To Use Social Media For Recruiting

Photos courtesy of iStockphoto, fotosipsak & Flickr, killyourcar, Leo Reynolds

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