Discover 5 Landing Page Design Changes that Build Authority and Boost Conversions

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PPC Hero - Landing Page Doctor
Welcome to day 1 of our PPC landing page optimization series. What better way to kick things off than to discuss landing page design and layout? For today’s topic, think of a landing page’s design and layout as the pieces of bread that keep the juicy calls-to-action, headlines and body content together for your customers to devour (landing page sandwich, yummy). The goal of today’s post is simple – offer up actionable items that will build authority and boost conversions on your PPC landing pages. The five topics below range from the uber-simple to the brain-scratchingly-complex, but all of them have the potential to greatly improve your PPC performance. Please remember that every element of your landing page is up for discussion, and that testing is the only sure way to prove out what works for your product, industry or niche!

TOPIC 1: Keep It Above the Fold, Stupid!

If you read many PPC blogs, you’re undoubtedly heard this mantra before: “Keep your calls-to-action, headlines, forms, buttons, images and everything else above the fold!” Excessive? Yes. Let me explain: Keeping important elements above the fold is a common tactic thrown around for optimizing landing pages, but for the uninformed it’s the impossible mission. From one level-headed marketer to another, let me lay it out… you can’t fit everything above the fold! What does that mean for you? You have to play it smart. Take stock of the design elements of your landing page and create a list of importance. Consider your target audience, and seriously think about what is most important to them. Taking the time to go through that process will guide you to an intelligent testing process.

All of that being said, the number one priority for your landing page’s design/layout is to have your call-to-action above the fold. This is a must. Your landing page will fail if visitors do not know what their next step is. If you do nothing else, this should be a priority. For some, this is contained in the headline. Simple. For others, your call-to-action is hiding within a button – so the physical button should be above the fold. When selling a specific product, I would strongly urge you to place the image above the fold. When running a strictly lead-generation campaign, I would strongly encourage you to test placing the lead form above the fold. I’ve tested this in a few industries, and it can certainly be a contributing factor in increasing lead-gen conversion rates.

TOPIC 2: Limit Navigation and Limit Confusion

This is probably one of the more debatable tactics for optimizing a PPC landing page. From personal experience, I can say that removing typical website navigation has increased conversion rates on my PPC landing pages. The idea is relatively simple. By removing navigation, you are creating a “sterile” conversion environment. In other words, you are in complete control of what the visitor sees, interacts with and hopefully this will lead them directly to the conversion. If your PPC landing page is just another page on your website – navigation and all – the visitor can browse the website as a whole. Which, in my experience, decreases the likelihood of conversion.

Like I said, this is a debatable tactic. So, in all fairness, I’ll present some of the counter-arguments. Some marketers say that if the website is created in such a way, it won’t matter if they stray from your landing page. The entire website should be designed for conversion, and the visitor will find their way regardless. Another argument is that by stripping a page of navigation, this can act as a deterrent to some visitors – almost leaning towards SPAM. In my experience, this hasn’t been the case, but it is certainly something that you should test.

As an alternative to both, you could create a conversion path. A conversion path gives the visitor options for navigation – all of which are under control in a more complex “sterile” conversion environment. Conversion paths are great for segmenting visitors into much more targeted landing page experiences that can have a truly positive effect on conversion rates.

TOPIC 3: Un-Clutter and Place Value on Whitespace

More times than not when I arrive at a landing page, I’m blown away by the amount of stuff on the page. Stuff is not only ambiguous, it’s bad for conversions. Take stock of the cacophony of design elements on your landing page and ask yourself what is truly important for the user and for the conversion. Chances are you’ll be able to remove a lot of stuff. Clutter on a landing page is confusing for the user and can keep them from finding relevant details and your calls-to-action. Additionally, PPC visitors are often times in a rapid-fire state-of-mind. This means that they’ve been searching through several of your competitor’s PPC ads and landing pages and have come to you for a second opinion (maybe you were #1, but just work with me here). If your landing page is a cluttered mess, they will only give you a few seconds of their time – if they don’t find what they’re searching for, they’re gone. Off to the next landing page.

Users scan the text and take away only certain elements that they use to make a decision if the page is relevant to their goal or not. Clean use of space allows users to scan and absorb key messages.

The design of your landing page should lend itself to quick and simple recognition of the “key messages.” If you have the perfect flash animation that you MUST put on your landing page – ask yourself, “Does this deter from the key message of my landing page?” If you answer yes, remove it and place a little more value on your newfound whitespace.

TOPIC 4: Barrier Scanning

What is barrier scanning? Simply put, the process of scanning your landing page for objects (design elements, videos, images, columns, text, etc.) that distract or lead users away from your conversion trigger. Barrier scanning goes hand-in-hand with my #3 topic, but it’s important enough to stand alone. The first instinct with barrier scanning is to merely remove the barriers from your landing page. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes, barriers are necessary to guide visitors to the conversion.

Think of it like rocks in a stream… if the rocks are large enough, or there happens to be too many of them, the water will change its natural course.

Rick Tobin, of Enquiro, says “Think of your page like a treasure map” when using barrier scanning to design a landing page. Use the design of your site to “lay clues or clear a path” to your conversion trigger!

TOPIC 5: Coherency of Design

I’ve already made mention of the fact that when a visitor comes to your page via PPC, you have a matter of seconds to convince them to stick around. In that short amount of time, the average visitor will have a clear perspective on your landing page – and it’s coherency. What is coherency?

Coherency is an overall sense of your design “hanging together.” It’s a congruity and harmonious consistency in the relation of all landing page parts to the whole.

In layman’s terms, do you have obnoxious flash animations with pink bunnies juxtaposed to your well written, intelligent body content all under a goth-themed design (black, why is everything black)? That’s a ridiculous example, but it’s completely incoherent. It doesn’t matter how relevant your content is, if the page is incoherent, visitors will bounce and never become a customer. This can also happen if you make many, many tiny tweaks to your landing page (or website for that matter) and stray away from the core design. As you begin to test changes, remember that you aren’t only testing individual elements, but also how they work together! Solution to this problem? First, create a plan of action for your landing page testing. Secondly, remind yourself of your company’s design brief or the information found in your CSS! Visitors will know if your site is a mish-mash of random ideas and will react accordingly (i.e. NOT CONVERT!).

Creating the best PPC landing pages is truly an art form, but you must back it up with statistical analysis. As you read through these ideas and begin to work them into your own landing pages, remember that you must test. Testing is your path to conversion enlightenment. I hope these tips have been helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.

P.S. The Google Website Optimizer team is keen to help you test your PPC landing page optimization. If you haven’t already, drop us a line to get your free copy of Always be Testing by Bryan Eisenberg!

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18 thoughts on “Discover 5 Landing Page Design Changes that Build Authority and Boost Conversions

  1. Bryan Eisenberg

    Good tips! The key to having navigation in a landing page or not depends on the stage of the buying cycle the page is trying to address. If you have a simple goal (download a whitepaper, etc) then you can probably remove it. Test it though. If you are selling something more complex or your PPC terms are more in the early part of the purchase funnel you may need navigation.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series.

  2. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Bryan,

    Thanks for stopping by! I would agree that product/service complexity is certainly an important variable. And you bring up the ever-present buying cycle… a great point. Someone who arrives at your landing page from deep-down the long tail is likely ready to convert “right now!” Someone who pops in with an uber-general post would likely benefit from some additional information and navigation.

    As you said – TEST! Hope you enjoy the rest of this week’s posts.

  3. Joseph Lindsay

    I think the most crucial thing I see lacking on the design end of most web pages, especially landing pages, is good, fundamental design practices. Things that 2D print designers utilize everyday need to be applied to the web. This includes: hierachy of information (topic 1), grid arrangement (topic 5), and white space. It seems to me, coming from the print side to the online side of marketing, that most web designers are programmers first, designers second. Any designers who don’t have a print background/experience need to educate themselves on these principles.

    I adhere to this simple quote by Louis Sullivan, “Form follows Function”.

    Joseph Lindsay

  4. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Joseph,

    Great point. Programmers are typically very utilitarian in their approach to web design. And “Form follows Function” seems to be a mystery to them! Not all programmers are that way, but it would seem that the majority fit that mold.

    I think it would be wise for anyone who is working with websites to obtain (and practice) fundamental design practices. This goes for everyone from the SEMs, designers, and to the programmers.

  5. Newman

    Re: removing navigation

    What about the privacy statement, etc – if you remove it won’t you see a negative movement in your QS?


  6. JohnJohn Post author

    @ Newman,

    When looking at removing navigation from a landing page, typically I’m talking about primary navigation found on a website. In most cases, you could provide a link to a full privacy policy, but still adhere to a “limited navigation” landing page. Another tactic would be to have a privacy policy statement listed directly on the landing page (in text – no link or nav required).

  7. Pingback: Landing Juice » Blog Archive » Simplicity Sells: Landing Page Optimization

  8. Cheap Landing Page

    Thank you for this informative post. I really like it and would like to know more about the guide line to design the landing which prove helpful in conversion. Now I am going to share your this cute post with my US and UK clients.

    Regards and thanks


  9. Dennys Passeto

    I agree with everything said here about keeping the PPC landing page simple. I was wondering if you knew of any split tests where phone #’s were removed and only an opt-in form was left. I’m struggling to find a seamless solution for phone call tracking from PPC that works with my CRM and I was wondering if just removing the phone # all together would have a very negative effect on response.


  10. Joseph Lindsay


    Removing the phone number will have a negative effect on response from all the tracking I’ve seen, both external reports and internal. Your CRM should be able to set up unique RCF lines for each PPC landing page to track calls along with email leads. If your CRM didn’t think of that or they say they can’t do RCF lines, you should get a new CRM, perhaps here:

  11. David

    Good points here… I agree with previous posts that you need a phone number on your site. We added our number and the number of people who did not want to order on the net, rose quite a bit.

  12. Clicks Internet Marketing

    Nice post. I’m working on a landing page for a client now. I am wondering if there are any results about how many words to use per page? I see these REALLY long landing pages some times and think, does anyone READ that, plus it’s often very spammy. Any tips on number of words?

  13. Amber Coffman - Website Conversions

    So I just revamped my landing page on one of my ebook sites. I know that the golden rule is that you will always make more money on your sales than you adsense but my adsense just about doubles my sales. So whenever am optimizing for sales I feel that I am de-optimizing for adsense. Any advice? I do like the soft landing page lead in, where visitors decide to continue to the sale or navigate the site.

    BTW. been at SEM for quite sometime and one of my CTA on a sales page was below the fold. doh! Get back to basics! They work 🙂

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