What are landing pages? A landing page is the page a visitor arrives at on your website after clicking an ad (for example, a Google text ad or display ad). Inexperienced marketers often direct all of their PPC traffic to their homepage, but this can be a big mistake. Specific landing pages tailored to different offers are essential for providing a quality experience for visitors and driving conversions with a targeted message that matches each user’s need.
But don’t just check off received best practices. What makes a great landing page? How can you make awesome landing pages  that boast off-the-chart conversion rates? We’ll walk you through what you need to know to make it happen.
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Before You Build a Landing Page
Before creating your landing page , first ask yourself…
1. What is the goal? In an ideal world, what would visitors do upon reaching your landing page? Would they buy something? Fill out a form? Sign up for a newsletter? Download an ebook? Toss aside their keyboard, break out a harmonica, and play a sweet blues rift? The first step for any strategy is determining goals. (You have to define conversions before you can track conversions .)
2. Who am I competing against? Really it’s three questions: Who am I competing against, how are they succeeding, and how can I copy their success? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so if your competitors are doing something that works, you should go ahead and follow likewise. They’ll thank you for it (although that’s not a promise…)!
You can try Kirby. You can try.
3. Who is my audience? And what are their hopes, dreams, and aspirations? As silly as that sounds, it’s true to some degree – the better you understand your audience, the more you can cater to their wants and needs. Unless you know who your ideal customers are, it will be very difficult to write persuasive copy in the voice of the customer . So get in your audience’s head, Hannibal Lecter-style.
4. How did they get to my landing page? Consider changing your message depending on where your users come from – a different message might be appropriate for users who arrived at your landing page coming from Google vs. from Twitter or Facebook. Businesses with more landing pages (30+) generate 7x more leads  than those with only a handful, so there’s no denying their value. Ideally you want a tailored landing page for each ad group, but that’s a pretty hefty operation, so start where you can. Try beginning with one custom landing page per campaign, and add from there for individual ad groups when resources allow.
How to Make Great Landing Pages That Convert
Now that we’ve covered the fundamental pre-landing page questions, let’s discuss how you can make awesome landing pages. Great landing pages…
Are short, sweet, and uncluttered. A landing page should offer all the necessary information, but not so much as to overwhelm (and as a result, drive away) the visitor. Provide the essential info that will interest your audience and nothing more.
Provide high-quality content that inspires confidence. We just discussed how you don’t want to information-smother visitors, but this isn’t to say you should be cheap with your content – on the contrary, provide rich, useful content, so long as it is relevant. Good, confident content inspires trust.
Have all roads lead to Rome. Great landing pages keep careful note of all pathways entering and leaving their page. It’s important that you limit exit points (in this case, hyperlinks) leaving your page. The goal is to funnel visitors down a desired pathway, and if links serve as points of departure from the funnel, they should be used sparingly.
A different, more delicious kind of funnel.(Image from Holder Concessions )
Make it easy to convert. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for visitors to convert, providing as little distance and as few barriers as possible between points A and B. The next step should always be obvious. This strategy varies depending on what your desired conversion is. If it’s form submissions, make that form a piece of irresistible eye candy. If it’s downloads, make a button that is begging to be clicked.
Have a flawless design. Information architecture  comes into play here, as it’s important for a landing page to have a clear, crisp design that leaves all questions answered without inspiring any new ones. Navigation should be obvious and simple, all required information should be provided, and nothing should come between the visitor and the conversion (aka no pop ups!) If at all possible, visitors should be able to convert in one click. Let every additional click weigh on your conscience like a heart beating beneath a floorboard.
Very cool Tell-Tale Heart illustration by Daniel Horowitz .
Have a clear call to action. Call to actions can be present in the headline text as well as the button text (example: “submit” vs. “download your free marketing guide”). There should be no question as to what next steps are necessary – tell your visitors exactly what you want them to do in big, bold text. For Kajabi, changing their button text from “See Plans and Pricing” to “Get Started Today” increased conversions by 252%! 
Create eye catching headlines. Most good landing pages  use the main headline to confirm the offer and use a sub heading for more explanation or value proposition (aka why your offer is awesome). An example might be, “Free Facebook Marketing Ebook (headline), Learn how to get more Facebook followers, likes, and engagement from our marketing gurus (sub heading).” You’ll see plenty of great landing page headlines in our examples below, and you’ll see that some invert this so that the value proposition is the headline.
Contain engaging copy. Kiss Metrics suggests using specific “hypnotic” words  to entrance visitors. Using the word “you” makes your copy feel personal to visitors and allows for intimate conversation. The word “imagine” encourages readers to visualize using your product and increases desire. Including the word “because” explains to visitors why they should take a specific action. Try these mind-bending words on your landing page.
Make it about the visitor. Don’t bore the visitor by talking too much about yourself (this rule can apply to so many areas of life). The truth is, visitors don’t care about your goals or your aspirations. They’re only looking out for #1. Showcase what you can do for them and how you can improve their life. We are selfish creatures after all.
Have an awesome offer. The easiest way to get conversions is to simply have an offer that is incredible. Make sure your offer is enticing enough to users and that it is something they actually desire. Broadcast why your offer rocks and you’re good to go.
Are easy to scan at a quick glance. It’s absolutely vital that you visitors can capture the essence of your offer with a quick glance. It’s estimated that you have about 8 seconds to convince users  to stay on your page, so value proposition needs to be quick and convincing. When building a landing page , make it easy to scan by highlighting your main point in the headline while using sub headings and bullet points for added info. Use fonts and colors to indicate information hierarchy. As Jakob Nielsen notes , your page visitors are wild, frantic animals looking for a quick meal, so serve it up fast!
Contain relevant, quality images. Bright, eye-catching images make for a more attractive page and a better user experience overall. Consider adding visual cues to clue the visitor in to what they should do next. You can go the obvious route with arrows, or try something more subtle such as making a bright button the focal point of the page.
Look gorgeous and act classy. Looks may not be everything, but they do count for something in landing page design. Why is it that an attractive man can hit it off with a woman using the same line that might dub a less aesthetically pleasing guy a “creeper?” The truth is that, despite what we teach children, appearance alters perception. Your landing page should not come off creepy, it should come off super classy. If the visitor is a chick in a bar, you want to wow her and take her home…. for a riveting game of Scrabble!
Match the corresponding ad text. Great landing pages use the same keywords from the PPC ad text – the connection should be obvious and the continuity reassures visitors that they’re on the right path. Don’t send someone to a page about camping tents if your ad was about sleeping bags. And don’t send them to a generic page and make them search for the product they were looking for.
Only ask for the information they need. The more fields you ask visitors to fill out in your form, the less chance you have of them completing your offer. If your conversion requires a form, get the bare minimum of what you need – you can always ask for more info on the thank you page once the deed is done. While most users don’t have a problem providing their name and email address, asking for info about phone numbers and date of birth can cause your drop off rate to skyrocket to 50%.  The rule of thumb is not to include more than seven fields in your lead gen form.
Use color to their advantage. Any Intro to Art student can explain the power of color in swaying human perception. Picasso didn’t go through a blue phase because he was such a happy-go-lucky guy.
Does this look like a painting by someone who is loving life?
Interior design books will often suggest different colors for various rooms and moods – energizing red for a dining room to inspire dynamic conversation, yellow for a cheerful, relaxed kitchen. This same color theory should be implemented into your site design. Many marketers claim that certain button colors like green or red increase landing page conversions, but ultimately you want to focus on the contrast of the button color in relation to your background color. Paul Olyslager has a nice guide on CTA buttons  worth checking out. Test various colors, placements, and sizes to see what works!
Have clickable share buttons. Many people are more than happy to post about a recent purchase or share a resource they have found helpful. Adding share buttons increases your chances of getting your content shared across the social space, and great landing pages make generous use of these buttons. It’s also smart to add social buttons to the thank you page, since users will be more likely to share your great offer with others after they’ve signed up themselves. As an added bonus, showing your “likes” and follows can also serve as a word-of-mouth endorsement.
Show raving testimonials. Word-of-mouth has been and always will be a driving force of success. Virtual word-of-mouth comes in the form of Likes, +1s, and online testimonials (preferably from trusted sources like big brand names). If your business has received some shinning compliments in the past, be sure to showcase them.
Follow-up with a thank you page. The thank-you page is a great way to guide visitors to other related material on your website that they may be interested in. Providing this added info in the initial landing page would have been distracting and could have led visitors away from making a conversion. However, now that you’ve sealed the deal, the thank-you page is the perfect place to suggest related products, guides and information your audience may find helpful, or links to other parts of your site, such as your company blog.
Broadcast their trust signals. Trust signals, like logos of well-known companies you’ve done business with, awards you’ve won, and associations you are a member of, build trust in the mind of the visitor. A great landing page puts its best foot forward to comfort and reassure visitors so they can convert with confidence.
Are fast as Ferraris. Speed is essential, as loading times have a tremendous affect on bounce rates. An excellent landing page is built like a bullet, so get out your stop watch and get your landing page moving at a healthy clip. Reduce load times  by not making your images files any larger than they have to be, using cache tools, and using a speedy web host (some are a lot faster than other).
Photo by Jason Goulding 
Have been through many rounds of A/B testing. Testing and correction is how we learn and better ourselves. A/B testing  your landing page (tweaking individual elements and seeing how they perform against the previous setup) is probably the most powerful tool in creating excellent landing pages. Not sure where to start? Signal vs. Noise provides a nice example of good A/B testing  that’s an easy read. There are always things you can do to improve, so don’t ever stop testing!
Treat visitors like wild animals. It sounds crazy but it’s true – your page visitors are frantic creatures looking for a quick and easy meal. They key is to make your page easily scanable with your main point in your headline while using sub headings, bullet points, and various fonts and colors to indicate information hierarchy.
Have conversion tracking turned on. At WordStream we talk a lot about the importance of conversion tracking, and it’s one of the best practices we advocate in our new Landing Page Grader. Make sure you are properly set up to track how your pages are performing. Otherwise you’ll be spending money in the dark.
7 Examples of Awesome Landing Pages
We’ve got some examples of great landing pages to better illustrate what makes a successful landing page that drives conversions.
Short Stack helps companies organize and manage Facebook promotions and other custom Facebook content. Let’s see what looks good here.
- Colors are bright and work well together
- This page is clean and uncluttered with minimal text, while still explaining value proposition
- Contains clickable video for a longer explanation of Short Stack
Gift Rocket is another site with a strong landing page. What is Gift Rocket doing right?
- Strong graphic element grabs attention
- Header explains, in a few short words, what Gift Rocket is all about
- Smaller bulleted information pieces below header can be easily scanned
- Button CTA is clear and easy to click
- Social buttons are present
- More information can be found by scrolling below the fold
- Trust signals and testimonials exist below the fold
Kiss Metrics has a custom landing page for visitors interested in their marketing tools bundle. What’s working here?
- Clear heading that explains offer and value proposition
- Minimalist form only asking for email address
- Colorful bright button
- A host of trust signals 
Social Sprout (featured in our guide to social media management tools ) is another example of a powerful landing page. It has a few elements that are really working in its favor, such as:
- Strong heading that explains what Social Sprout is, with no nonsense.
- Visually attractive design that highlights the aesthetics present within the software itself via screen shots
- Testimonials present in the bottom green bar
- Green trial button is centered and dominates the page, with an enticing CTA and a “no credit card required” note below the button for added encouragement
With software similar to Social Sprout, HootSuite is another website that has a strong landing page, although takes a different approach. It works well because it:
- Promotes the ability to log in to HootSuite with other trusted networks, which means that visitors won’t have to fill out as many form fields, as most info is provided by logging in
- Highlights that the software is free to get started with
- It has trust signals and testimonials that are very obvious and noticeable
Pinterest’s approach is different in that they don’t spend much time explaining what Pinterest is, since they can assume most people have already heard of them. Instead, a different example of Pinterest’s value is shown with each visit to the site, with a broader explanation of Pinterest (find and save all the things that inspire you) that sits below the main headline. What is Pinterest doing right here?
- Easy to get started – just click one of two buttons
- Pinterest highlights how easy it is to sign up, saying that it takes only 45 seconds
- Uses user base as a trust factor. Any site with 25+ billion pieces of user-generated content  must be doing something right
Airbnb makes it easy to rent homes or rooms from people all over the world amidst an increasingly share-oriented economy. What looks good here?
- Alluring photos that immediately get visitors excited about the prospect of traveling
- Short, simple form inputs that let visitors immediately discover places to stay
- This page doesn’t have a lot going on besides the destination/check-in search function, so visitors won’t get lost or overwhelmed
Do you have any landing page best practices to suggest? Any examples of awesome landing pages doing it right? Let us know in the comments!