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Landing Page Optimization tips: analysis of 50+ sites to find out what increases sales and conversions

Last week I offered free conversion rate optimization advice on a popular forum (known as Hacker News). Within a single day I got 50+ requests for help. It was definitely an enriching experience analyzing and dissecting all those websites and landing pages. As I was replying and providing my feedback to those 50+ sites, I started sensing a few common issues that affected conversion rates of all those pages. Without naming any specific URL or site, in this post I will detail where those sites lacked and what you can learn from my analysis to fix your homepage or landing page.

Four common issues with landing pages

According to my analysis, one of these four issues (if not all) were the most common causes of poor conversion rates. As you go through the list of issues below, try to relate them to your landing page (or homepage). Here are the four most common issues that affect conversion rate and sales:

  • Too-much text (without any apparent order and layout)
  • Headline that doesn’t tell what your product or service does (or, in other words, tangential headline)
  • Lack of a single prominent call-to-action (either there is none or there are too many)
  • Lack of social proof or ROI proof (who uses the service and what are the benefits)

Let’s analyze the issues one by one.

Issue #1: Too much text

Example of a homepage with too much text

I won’t be surprised about lack of sales and conversions if your page announces “Welcome to..” followed by a bunch of three paragraphs describing what the site is about. Nobody on the web has patience to read paragraphs after paragraphs about you are offering.
On the web, people scan for elements that catch their eye. And you get only first few seconds to answer two most important questions: a) what you are offering; b) why they may need it.

Example of a balanced webpage (text + images)

So, what you need is a proper balance between graphics and text. Some examples of how you can improve your landing page (by replacing some text):

  • Instead of extensive “How this works” (consisting of heaps of text), make a simple graphic detailing the process
  • Instead of writing “We make some of the best shoes in UK” followed by description of different kinds of shoes you make, show pictures of shoes you make
  • Instead of trying to stuff every piece of information from your site on one page, concentrate on a SINGLE objective (and replace most of the text by images, graphics, etc. – all neatly arranged).

Hiring a professional web designer will certainly help if you lack design skills. On a similar note, “visually appealing” pages are always seen as more credible than “crudely designed” pages. So, an investment in a good design will go a long way helping your sales and conversions.

Issue #2: Lack of descriptive headline

Example of confusing headline: “Changing how the world works”

As I hinted in the section above, visitors on your page are impatient. Within first 5 seconds, they want to know what your service does or you have lost a chance with him/her. As someone wise said: “Browser back button is your biggest enemy” (if you find the source of this quotation, please leave a comment). Never think that a visitor is going to spend minutes reading through all text on your page and then make his best guess of what you are offering. Instead, you should make the job easy for him. Have a big, bold descriptive headline as the first thing he should see.

Example of good headline: “Hire Online Workers to get the Job Done”

A descriptive headline also serves another important job: it *sticks* in the visitor’s brain as long as he stays on your website. Contrast this to the scenario where there is no helpful headline which a visitor can fall back on if your page gets too confusing (usually happens because we want to write about EVERY feature our site offers). Moreover, your visitor is usually distracted. Imagine a “busy-beaver” visitor chatting with friends on IM, doing a status update on Facebook/Twitter and on a call with his boss, all at once. Now imagine he stumbles on your website. Do you expect him to really understand what your site does without having a descriptive headline?

My advice is to avoid following kinds of headlines:

  • No-headline: no matter how bad it is, you should definitely have a headline of some kind
  • Visionary headline: avoid headlines such as “Welcome to the future of social media marketing”. Such headlines are usually vague and convey no information at all. And if you think it may excite visitors, read last section of this article (about social proof).
  • All focus on benefits: in the first version of Visual Website Optimizer homepage, we had a headline “Magical tool to convert visitors into customers”. While that headline tells about the benefits of the tool, it doesn’t talk about what the tool really is. So, we changed the headline to “World’s easiest A/B testing tool” and believe it is much better than the other one. (Can you come up with an even better one?)

In a nutshell, headlines should be short, concise and descriptive.

Issue #3: Lack of a single prominent call-to-action

Paradox of choice on a landing page. Out of three call-to-action buttons. which option to choose?

Call-to-action is a button or link that asks visitor to take a specific action. It may be a link to your signup form, plans and pricing page or the feature tour page. There are two specific issues related to call-to-action: a) either some sites don’t have any call to action button or b) some sites have too many call-to-action buttons. Once the visitor arrives on your page, thinks that you are credible (from your design), reads the descriptive headline and is finally convinced to spend some time on your site, what’s the next page you want him to see? That decision should not be left on visitor because only you know (and not him) which is the most relevant page that the visitor should be viewing next.

Example of single, prominent call-to-action: “Download WordPress”

If you don’t have a single call-to-action or have far too many call-to-action, visitor is likely to get confused what to next (since all links from your landing page/homepage seem to be of equal importance). Even if you have two prominent buttons (e.g. one of Learn More and other for the signup), try reducing it to one button. There is even a book titled: “Don’t make me think!” and that’s precisely the point I’m trying to make here. Don’t force your visitor to make a choice. By placing relevant call-to-action buttons on different pages of your site, you should gently guide him to the final goal (be it a signup, purchase, download, etc.)

Issue #4: Lack of social proof or ROI proof

Example of no social proof. Why should I bother about Twhirl?

So you make bold claims on your site. Of course, you think you are the “Best Twitter client ever”. But, unfortunately, making claims is easy. Any site can claim to be the “best” or “revolutionary” because those words are abstract. You may think your product is the best but if you are the only one in this world with that viewpoint, you are not going to convince anyone to try it out.

Humans crave for social proof. They want to know whole else is using this thing and how beneficial was it for them. Even if you design the most beautiful landing page but fail to include any social proof, your sales and conversions are going to suffer. Social proof can be shown in terms of testimonials, company logos, customer photos or case studies.

Example of social proof: we know Facebook, LA Times, etc. use Hootsuite. So it must be good, no?

It is understandable that if your site is just getting started, it may be hard to get any social proof because you may not have any customers. In that case, you need to have a convincing return-on-investment proof on your site. I’m not just talking about justifying investment of money but you also need to convince a visitor to invest time trying out your service or product. People crave for statistics and validation. So, you can perhaps do a small study or research on Internet to come up with metric of some kind highlighting usefulness of your service. (Example if you have a new social media monitoring service: 95% of business are talked about on the Internet, use MyShinyNewTool to talk to those invisible customers).

Another key point with regards to social proof is human emotions. People respond to concrete representations (say a customer video testimonial) in a much engaging way as compared to an abstract fact (say, 50+ companies from Life Sciences and Biotechnology industry use our software). This is not to say that facts in your social proof don’t work. They do. But you can always augment them with stories of individual customers and what your service did to them. (Case studies are a great way about doing that).


To re-iterate, if you want to increase sales and conversions on your landing page or homepage, you need to concentrate on fixing following issues:

  • Too-much text (without any apparent order and layout)
  • Headline that doesn’t tell what your product or service does (or, in other words, tangential headline)
  • Lack of a single prominent call-to-action (either there is none or there are too many)
  • Lack of social proof or ROI proof (who uses the service and what are the benefits)

We also have a FREE automated diagnostic tool, called Landing Page Analyzer, which will point these (and many more) deficiencies on your page. Click here to start analyzing your landing pages.

Founder and Chairman of Wingify.

Comments (68)

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  1. I just tested the landing page analyzer on a new site that was recently soft launched. Not only is it a nice automated tool that takes the user through a useful checklist, but it helped me realize that my call to action badly needed beefing up. This tool is not going to put pro’s out of work, but it is a well thought out tool that is definitley worth using. Thank you for creating this ap.

    1. @Randy: I am glad you like the tool! Yep, tools will not replace pros anytime soon but they definitely help one in going towards the right direction.

  2. Great post. Though I’m a Japanese webmaster, all you are pointing out here are very useful to my Japanese sites, too.
    Would you allow me to introduce this article to my readers on my blog? I’ll promise mention you and give you a link from my post.

  3. Thanks for the tips, our problem is our product and limited market for both our location and endusers. We dont have a headline however we are trying an animated video that shows the difference between our product and our compeditors. Please take a look when you have a moment. Thanks

  4. I WAS bored and the first thing i read after installing the boredmbuttom was this article.

    I know i could go work on my co. but i need i’m unmotivated a.t.m. Plus its Sat nite.

    Great article esp. the LP analyzer! will be making those improvements shortly!

  5. “World’s easiest A/B testing tool”
    I understand using A/B is more impressive, academic lingo for multivariant testing. . .
    BUT, eventhough I have a few extra letters after my name myself, this is not an academically inclined industry and it seems to me “World’s easiest Split Testing Tool” is more descriptive and clear for more of your demographic.

  6. Thank you for posting such an informative article!
    I know I always appreciate it when experts take the time to go through their process in such an easy, simple way.

    So thanks again!

  7. I’ve already changed the h1 and h2 titles on my home page, I also tried the Landing Page Analyzer which was ineteresting. I have 4 call to actions so it looks like I need to drop 3 of them!

    Great post and I’m looking forward to the next one.


  8. Aren’t there cases where this advice would limit the effectiveness of your site? For instance, if you already have some credibility just by the fact that you have a site on the subject. If your page is to simplistic,can’t you lose credibilty by seeming like you have no real depth?

  9. Great tips! One thing though…I’ve read elsewhere that the more expensive the product you’re selling, the more text/copy/scrolling people will tolerate.. I agree with the previous commenter that there will likely be scenarios where things are “dumbed down” too much for the sake of design over substance.

  10. Great article!
    Although I have some doubts about the point concerning changing text for images/charts. If you have an e-commerce site, which already has product images, adding more images will make it much slower to load, won’t it?

  11. Nice article. Really interesting point – “Another key point with regards to social proof is human emotions. People respond to concrete representations (say a customer video testimonial) in a much engaging way as compared to an abstract fact (say, 50+ companies from Life Sciences and Biotechnology industry use our software).”

  12. Great points! I’ve written about this very subject just last week. Design, layout, copy – everything needs to work together to move the visitor on the path to your call to action.

    1. Focus on one objective for each page. Don’t offer multiple choices and throw in optional extras. Don’t talk about other products or services – you can use a different landing page and ad source for those. Define your objective and drive everything on the page to it.

    2. Web is a visual medium where the overall look, feel, and formatting matter strongly. Good design helps support the content, leading the visitor’s eye through your message and directing them towards the goal.

    3. Eliminate elements that may distract the visitor away from the goal. Whether it’s graphic elements or content that does not aid the visitor in their decision making process, get rid of it. This includes navigation bars, visual clutter, and links to other sections. You want the reader focused solely on your offer without being tempted to wander around the site.

    4. Open the page with a strong, benefit-rich headline that speaks directly to the reader’s self-interest. Remember, split-testing different headlines is relatively painless, and can bring you much higher conversions compared with multiple other tweaks.

    5. Write in the second person – You and Your. Your visitor only cares about how taking that step will benefit him or her. Make the copy personable but most importantly, make it about them!

    6. If you go long and have visitors scroll downward, make sure to repeat essential calls to action so no matter where your visitor is it will be clearly visible.

    There are more points that I could make but those are the basics, aside from what you’re already mentioning in the article.

  13. I liked this post and I totally agree with most of the items, my question is: what data do you have to claim that “these are the 4 most common issues that affect conversion rate and sales”?

  14. You’ve done an excellent job sharing these critical tips to have an effective landing page. I also agree that a well-designed squeeze page wins the game. It’s a good way to capture the attention of your prospects. In my experience, it’s also effective to have a video landing page, instead of an all text landing page.

  15. I’m an artist, not a business person (I know, I know, I still need to take care of business…) and enjoy reading “Good Experience.”

    This article is interesting in relation to artists’ blogs/websites, which are notoriously opaque.

    (I had to google “ROI”, since I couldn’t figure out what it meant from reading the article.)

  16. It’s interesting how you show the balance between social validation (people who endorse your product) and the content that appears on the landing page.

    Obviously great content and a strong call to action are the foundation. Interesting how social validation is evolving to be another major consideration as people decide if you content is credible.

    Buddy Scalera

  17. I didn’t realize the social proof component was so important – whenever I read cheesy customer testimonials it actually makes me devalue the site. I guess the trick is how to integrate it so it comes across as legitimate, rather than schmarmy.

  18. You are right with the headlines. If newbie would see it, they would get confused. Luckily odesk is already known in the web and most of the people that goes to their websites are from word of mouth. 🙂

  19. Interestingly, photographers typically use too much text on their landing or sales pages, but not enough text on the rest of the site (imagining that their photography will sell itself in those cases)!

  20. Interestingly, photographers typically use too much text on their landing or sales pages, but not enough text on the rest of the site (imagining that their photography will sell itself in those cases)!

    Your advice is spot on regarding text on landing pages, and I constantly have to reiterate this point with my photography coaching clients that they need to reverse their thinking somewhat!

  21. Nice 4 point checklist.
    Most business websites fail to do even one of these correctly.
    It is so true that “Nobody on the web has patience to read paragraphs”.
    If a site doesn’t have the info I need, front and center, I simply click away.
    After reading you article I fixed one glaring error on my home page. Sometimes it helps to view it through a new set of eyes.

  22. Thanks for this article. There are so many out there that go off on tangents explaining more than is needed. This boils it down and gives a structured approach to creating a landing page that just works! Saved in my bookmarks for the next time I build one.

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