The Most Entertaining Guide to Landing Page Optimization You’ll Ever Read

Landing pages rule. Blah.

Homepages suck. Blah.

Do some A/B testing. Blah.

Base your optimization strategy on customer feedback. Blah.

All of those statements are true. But they sound boring and being boring is lame. It’s twenty fifteen and I refuse to be lame.

If you want to be a non-lame marketer, it’s really easy. Read this post, have a laugh, and treat everything I say as gospel.

Be warned, however, that I may descend into telling dad jokes in the absence of witty metaphor and charming anecdotal rhetoric.

The experienced adult readers amongst you might remember that “Shit. The condom broke!” moment. Yeah you do. You might also remember that it felt like a good time to run a test. #STDsArentFunny. Perhaps. But, as we go through this epic journey together today, I’ll show you exactly when and how you should really be testing.

But first. The best seven-part list of bullet points you’ll ever read.

The start of the best part of your day begins now with this table of contents:

  • First I’ll give you the only rationale you’ll ever need to explain why landing pages are to marketers, what Imodium is to an astronaut with diarrhea. Essential.
  • I’ll prove why context – not content – is king when it comes to conversion.
  • Following that, I will make you fall in love with forms. FYI, it’s really, really hard to make form love a “thing”.
    Mid way through we’ll sip some Canadian Club, get our Don Draper on, and learn how to write copy like the Mad Men (and Women).
  • “Paint me a pretty picture Johnny!” “Screw you mommy. Design is not just rainbows and unicorns!”
  • Is it greedy to want a second helping when you’re an orphan? Not if you have my name. (It’s Oliver in case you’re confused). Always ask for more when it comes to conversion.
  • And finally, I’ll put my art critic hat on and rip into some landing page examples, both good and bad.
    Challenge laid down. Challenge accepted (on your behalf).

If I’ve got your attention thus far, it’s probably because you can’t bear to tear your eyes away from my enchanting prose.

The only important word in that sentence is ATTENTION.

Attention is a state of mind that you can’t assume your visitors will even enter if you don’t give them the right conversion experience.

A good conversion experience is one in which your visitors are compelled to pay attention and ultimately interact with your conversion goal – clicking the call to action (CTA).

A bad conversion experience is one in which your visitor is compelled to run away.

There are three sides to attention that we need to consider:

  • Capturing your visitor’s attention
  • Maintaining your visitor’s attention
  • Focusing your visitor’s attention

Your ad covers point #1, and landing pages are the answer to solve numbers 2 and 3, so let’s start with number 2.

Genius insight #1 – Attention ratio
Pay attention as I set the scene.

*I’m claiming a ™ on that brilliant piece of branding.

Got your attention, right?

Well, let’s see. What is attention ratio?

With that in mind, consider the two diagrams below. The first is a typical homepage, and the second is a campaign-specific landing page.

The homepage
On this homepage, your Twerkout campaign is represented by “promo 2” highlighted by the red circle.

The rest of the page is comprised of a few other Miley promotions, some tour dates, navigation, a general brand proposition about how Hanna Montana is no longer a thing, a photo slider, footer navigation and many other page “leaks.”

If you send people to your homepage – from a paid ad, email or social media – the intended campaign conversion goal has to fight to get their attention with all of the other interactive elements on the page.

A typical homepage has approximately 40 links.

In the example opposite there is actually a total of 56 links, therefore the attention ratio is 56:1.


Hey, don’t just take my word for it. This overstimulus has impacted many other people’s lives according to Princeton University wuuut!

Princeton neuroscientists found out, the more stuff you have around you, the more each piece of stimulation competes for “neural representation”–that is, your attention.

Back to our scientific marketing experiment. Let’s now consider the Twerkout promotion on a dedicated, campaign-specific landing page.

The landing page
On a campaign-specific landing page, the entire page is focused on only one thing, the Twerkout DVD campaign.

The messaging is very tightly related to the campaign goal and has only one interactive element – the CTA.

The attention ratio is 1:1.


Let’s look at an example of someone doing this right. Salesforce is a company with an incredibly complex product offering. Their website is a cacophony of possible pathways.

If you dig deep into the site, their primary goal seems to be to get you signed up for a product demo. Not surprising given the complexity of their software.

So what happens when you search for Salesforce in Google? The first organic result will take you to the homepage. But the first paid ad (right at the top of the page) takes you to a different page entirely. Presumable because you typed in their name and are showing a level of prior knowledge.

It’s a great landing page. Entirely focused on a single goal. To get you to watch a demo of any of their products. The headline and CTA could use a bit more mention of the purpose of the page (watching a demo). Also, take a look at the button. It’s the same color as the form container. DON’T DO THAT! Use some contrast Salesforce.

Aside from those things, it’s a really nicely designed, focused experience.

One last example. Where would you look/click in this situation?

Got it? Never feed your marketing traffic to a peacock, unless you’ve poked his eyes out.

The feather ones, not his actual eyeballs! Wow, you’re sick.

Genius insight #2 – Conversion coupling
You are now 50% of the way to being smarter than 98% of all marketers.

Synergy. That’s what I’m talking about. Uck. What a gross word.

Here’s the second piece of most of almost everything you need to know to be the cleverest person in the room at any marketing conference. Try saying that fast.

In more detail it’s comprised of one or more of the following:

Message match: Matching the copy of your ad to the headline of your landing page.
Design match: Matching the design of your display ad to the design on your landing page.
Let’s look at the good and the bad of them.

Message match
To expand, message match is the idea of matching the pre-click message to the post-click message on your landing page, with the goal of making people think they made a “good click”.

The messaging on the page reinforces the reason for their click, reducing/removing confusion.

Why shorten “management” to “mgmt” just to throw both Intuit AND Quickbase in there. To me that’s brand overload. I like to think of paid ads that are not based on a branded search as needing an application of “Message Before Brand.” Your brand experience will be introduced after they sign up or through the communication of your page copy. Throwing your name in the ad is wasting precious space with a name that people might not be familiar with.

Now I say this based on most companies that don’t have a pervasive brand that could benefit from this tactic, but if you are doing TV ads and a lot of other brand exposure work, then this could be a beneficial tactic to catch people’s eye. But I’d rather add 2-3 more value based words in the headline and relegate the brand name to the 2nd or 3rd row of the ad.

Sidenote: I would love to know some results of this level of branding in paid ads if someone has tested it.

I dare you to search for something that is of importance to your life and do a clickathon. The experiences are shockingly shocking.

So that’s message match!

Boom. Insights. You’re so lucky to be reading this. Next.

Design match
This is one of the easiest techniques to master. Take the design on your display (banner) ad and repeat it on your landing page.

Deep breath.

This time I’ll start with the good side of the force. Example courtesy of RBC Canada via Facebook.

Not only is the message match perfect (100% perfect – can perfect be less than 100%?), the design match also kicks ass. That little dude is following you around with his little sign, letting you know he cares.

HOWEVER. Take a look at the landing page in detail, the page does suffer from attention ratio deficiencies (7:1) and the CTA is horribly small. If you did a squint test (squint your eyes from a distance and see what stands out on the page) – you’d see the trust seal, not the CTA.

To improve this, the different options for applying for an account could be on the next page after the click has confirmed interest.

And the CTA would be a lot clearer if it was designed to be bigger with a strongly contrasting button color.

Brain break! Go smoke, pee, or text your life partner. I’ll wait ‘til you’re back.

The more testing I do the more I keep coming back to one central concept. Context. In this section I’ll show you a few examples of context in action.

But first, a couple of definitions with names that I invented. #yourewelcome #payattention.

2.1 Conversation momentum
The purpose of conversation momentum is to remove the break in communication that can occur when the click is made. If you’re wooing someone in an email or blog post, it makes sense to continue to do so on the landing page.

You wouldn’t invite someone into your house then act like you had never met them would you?

A big portion of this concept is respect. Respecting the click, respecting the time you want your visitor to invest.

Imagine this line is in your email.

“Let me show you how our product/service can help.”

Sometimes a good way to preserve momentum is to express gratitude to your visitor for showing up.

“I’m glad you were interested in learning more about {words that were on the link}.”

Creating a delightful experience humanizes the relationship and shows you care.

It’s important to get to the point quickly (like a short email), but you should do so in a way that flows naturally.

“One of the important things to know about {words in the link} is that it can {establish the benefit}.”

Getting warmer.

“What our solution does is to make {words in link} much easier to do. If you want to take it for a spin, I’ll pay the first month for you. And I’m personally available if you fancy a chat about the best way to use it.”

How yummy is that?

Now consider the lame-o, commonplace and rude approach:

“Let me show you how our product/service can help.”

“We’re the best {what we do} in the world. Sign Up Now.”

What? You stopped caring about me, and now you sound generic and only interested in yourself.

Conversation momentum case study – Ecourse to landing page
To show how Conversation Momentum works in action, take a look at the CTA in the top-right corner of the page below.

This page is from an 11-part course about landing page optimization, primarily written by me. It’s driven by an email drip campaign where I speak to people in a very personal way. So anyone who is on a course page has received between 2-13 emails from me. My mugshot is also in the sidebar of every page.The changes were:

A co-branded header. The idea here is represent the before and after of the experience. You came from the ecourse, expressed interest in Unbounce, and are now having Unbounce presented to you.
A conversational headline that again connects with where you came from and introduces the purpose of the page.
A personal message from me (the familiar face of the ecourse).
The result? A 77% lift in conversions.

2.2 Context of use
Context of use can be defined as providing a visual demonstration of how your product or service will be used by a customer.

And I can’t underline strongly enough how important it is for conversion. Actually I can – how important it is for conversion << that’s not a link.

Here’s an example:

Think of that guy Vince from the Slap Chop and ShamWow commercials. Annoying? Definitely. A role model for your children? Absolutely not. Excellent illustrations of context of use? Mos def.

You know exactly how to use them and what the outcome and experience will be like.

That’s context of use. Check out this next case study:

Context of use case study – Landing page templates
We all know that research is key when beginning an A/B test. It can tell you when you’re delivering the wrong marketing message, and it provides insight into opportunities that could change your business.

So, I did some research.

Of course, that’s an exaggeration, you should at least spend 5% of your time writing the body copy of your landing page, but that grandiose statement should at least give you a sense of the relative importance of page elements when it comes to conversion rate optimization. For this reason, I’m going to stick to these two elements (headline and CTA) and try to get you outta here before the bell rings. You are still in school right?

Start with your headline
Chances are you’ve had to go for a job interview at some point. Either that, or you’re an entrepreneur begging to be heard by either potential customers or potential investors.

Regardless, the most and ONLY important thing when you start a conversation with someone, is to get your foot in the door.

That’s what your headline does.

If you can write a headline interesting and useful enough to hold someone’s attention, you’ve got your foot in the door of conversion. Now that you’re in the elevator, you have those precious extra seconds to communicate/pitch your idea.I can verify the part about clarity over clever. Whenever we A/B test email subject lines, the clear version beats the funny or clever one. Stupidly, we still carry on testing them. 😉

There’s an art to crafting an effective headline, but there are also some techniques and formulas you can lean on to help you get started.

To be very clear though. These are formulas for the construction of writing, not formulas for success – because there are no formulas for success. If there were, I’d be sitting behind a diamond studded Macbook Pro, eating beef jerky and telling stories about eating beef jerky while being successful…

Point being. Use these constructs to do exactly that. Construct your headline. The success depends entirely on your idea plus your will and enthusiasm.