11 Landing Page Optimization Tests for Subscription Websites [+ Video]

Landing page optimization begins with your headline and ends with the thank-you page of your order flow

When a visitor arrives at your website landing page, you have about five seconds to make a good impression and capture her attention. If you don’t succeed immediately, she’s likely to click away and you’re apt to lose her forever.

Your landing page needs to be a fast, effective messenger.

With a quick glance, visitors to your site should know exactly what your landing page is about and how it benefits them. Determine what image and message you want the customer to “get” in those first few seconds, and design your landing page toward that objective. Anything that distracts from the central message or image you wish to project should be eliminated.

Landing Page Test: Headlines

Write several forceful headlines that capture the interest of your customer and test them all against each other with no other variables.

Far too many landing pages fail almost immediately by offering up lackluster headlines and subheads. A good landing page delivers a compelling headline for a single product or service.

Think benefits and features when writing headlines. The visitor who is reading your landing page wants nothing more than the answer to this one question:

“What’s in this for me?”

Answer that question well and you’ll make a sale.

All the other messages about your corporate image, company background, brand, etc., are of little importance to your prospective customer at this stage. Stay focused on the site visitor’s interests. On your landing page, that process begins with a compelling headline.

A great headline is really an advertisement for an advertisement. It grabs the reader’s attention with such force that she can’t resist reading the next sentence.


Landing Page Test: Your Story

Buying decisions are largely emotional. Consumers buy what they want, not necessarily what they need. Compelling benefits (read reasons or rationalizations) provide the congruency required to justify a subconscious purchase decision. An engaging, believable story enhances this process.

And great products seldom stand on their own or sell themselves without someone creating a story. A great landing page is a sales letter that begins with a story that heightens desire for the product and prompts a purchase decision.

Think of one person and write (speak) directly to him personally.

For instance, suppose you write a landing page for people who work in the food service industry.

Do you think people who work in the food service industry think of themselves as “food service workers?” They do not. So, which lead for a specialty coffee ad is more pleasing to the targeted reader and creates better rapport?

“Food service industry workers like those of you who read this newsletter know good coffee.”


“If you’re a restaurant owner, executive chef, or specialty food buyer, you know excellent coffee even before you taste it. Its color, freshness and aroma tell you volumes about its quality.”

The first is impersonal, unfocused and lumps a whole group into one general category. The second identifies its target audience, gets rapport, and compliments them.

Note, also, that plain old “you” is a lot more personal and intimate than “those of you.” This is another place to test although the word “you” is widely tested to make a much better impression than “I” or “us.”

Landing Page Test: Webification

By “webification” we mean the most efficient use of all the multi-media and interactive technology available.

Many personal brands use an audio or video clip that speaks directly to their audience. This is one of the more effective ways of making a sale that is personal and requires trust.

If the product you’re selling could benefit from an interview, a demo, or a backstory, consider testing video or audio on the page.

However, technology should be used to enhance the sales message, not to replace it. Don’t let your readers be so dazzled by the bells and whistles that they forget to buy. If you’re using video, it should be focused on the sale, not on comic relief.


Landing Page Test: Email Capture

Once you’ve captured your prospect’s interest, it’s important to keep your name, product, and/or service in front of them. Offering a free newsletter or a free report is a handy, non-invasive way to accomplish that. These items have a high perceived value and are surprisingly cheap to produce and distribute.

Some different methods of capturing an email that you can test include the following:

  • Capturing their email before you allow them to see the price of your product
  • Testing pop-unders as a mechanism for capturing a prospect’s email address if they’ve decided to abandon your site before buying
  • Test the copy surrounding your email capture: Does it instill trust? After all, this might be the first time they’re meeting you.

Auto-responders can be very effective at getting your potential customers eager to buy more of your product or services.

Some publishers have built an entire business model using auto-responders. On one publisher’s website, once the user submits her email address, an auto-responder starts a series of “lessons” from the editors, delivered once a day for five consecutive days.

Landing Page Test: Testimonials

Buyers love having their purchase decisions validated. It comforts and reassures them to know that other customers—just like them—have bought and been very satisfied with your product or service.

The credibility of your product or service is invaluable. The authenticity of your user testimonials must likewise be completely believable. Good, credible testimonials are a vital element of any sales letter.

The most credible testimonial messages feature individuals who share similar demographics to your target prospects or their heroes. Testimonials should be an accurate transcription of your customer’s own words and ideally should include a full identification of the buyer by name, city, state and occupation.

When testing testimonials, try working with how you reveal the person giving the testimonial.

A statement of support for your financial newsletter from Tom S. in North Carolina is obviously less valuable than one from Tom Smith, Certified Financial Planner, from Boone, North Carolina.

In fact, under-identified testimonials can inspire suspicion and work against your sales message, sending your test results through the floor.

Landing Page Test: Order Flow Links

Links and buttons are the vehicles that allow a prospect to navigate your landing page. Your objective should be to make them as easy as possible to understand and use.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the links to the order flow. In regular text email promotions, some publishers want the whole story told before taking the user to the order page. In many cases, the user doesn’t even know the price of the product or service until taken there.

Guerilla marketers believe that in long copy, if the prospect “gets it” and is ready to order, then she should be taken immediately to the order page.

They argue that when the user is ready to buy, nothing should get in the way.

They believe there should be “Convinced? Want to order right now?” buttons throughout the landing page. Why make the prospect read any more than she needs to before making the decision to buy?

We say it depends. Our testing shows that eight out of 10 times, response rates are neutral or higher when peppering order buttons and links throughout the copy.

What makes the difference? Here’s our best guess: If the product is well-known, easy-to-understand and cheap, the “pepper them everywhere” approach almost always wins.

But we also believe that for each unique combination of product, buyer and the hundreds of different elements on the landing page that may cause them to buy or click away, the only sure way to increase landing page conversion rates is to test the variations and go with the winners.


Landing Page Test: Labeling and Language

Experienced web surfers are familiar with what have become the traditional “road signs” of well-designed web pages. Violating these familiar navigation standards and you go against the norm, taking them out of their “comfort zone” and perhaps detracting from your website’s credibility.

For example:

  • Most of us have come to expect hypertext links (not graphic buttons) to move us from one page to another. Links connect to additional information.
  • We expect graphic buttons only to initiate processes, such as “Click here to join!” Buttons create action.
  • Traditionally, hypertext links are underlined.

These are our expectations after nearly 10 years of online experience with the best designed and most successful websites.

Testing your button copy is one of the most important tests you can run on your website. Some publishers see a drastic increase in conversions just by mixing words around on their buttons.

Landing Page Test: Content Density

Often someone involved with online marketing believes that “long copy doesn’t work on the Internet”—a myth we know to be patently false from extensive testing, but we welcome you to test it!

If a landing page is comfortable and easy to read, your prospects are far more likely to keep reading and respond to your sales message. The more expensive the product, the longer the copy should be. Rarely will someone read the whole page when you’ve packed in 3,000 or more words, but as long as you’ve provided every bit of information they need to make a purchasing decision, you’ve done a good job.

So, if you’re testing long and short copy, just be sure that you’ve given them the answers to everything they could possibly want to know.

Much of this is the responsibility of the copywriter, whose job it is to keep the message flowing in interesting and easily assimilated (bite-sized) chunks.

Test formatting, font size, fonts, and colors. Making your copy easy to read will make it easier for the reader to make a decision. The contrast in font sizes can also direct the attention of your potential customer, while some sizes and fonts get completely glossed over.

Seek out a designer who understands the online medium and won’t impose graphics on your site that overpower the sales message. Remember, it’s not creative unless it sells.

Landing Page Test: Content Freshness

Few things destroy the credibility of a sales letter landing page more quickly and effectively than content that’s out of date. How can you expect the prospect to take your message seriously if you’re not even interested enough in the content to keep it current?

Aim to convey a sense of freshness, excitement, timeliness or discovery.

Some of your potential customers will only visit your site once. If they don’t buy immediately, they may never return.

But if you offer a mouthwatering, gotta-have-it special premium that they will receive immediately upon buying, you can significantly increase your conversion rate.

Something as simple as displaying the current date on the site can help with content freshness. Or create urgency by letting the reader know that the price is a “market test” and may change soon. Alternatively, announce an expiration date for the offer—a deadline by which the user must respond to get the free bonuses.


Landing Page Test: Aesthetics

Beauty is relative, cultural, genetic and ever-changing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and aesthetic judgments are subjective. So how can you decide on the right design for your landing page?

This testing process can be endless. Buttons are a good start.

The answer is to know your target market and create an appearance that conforms to your visitors’ expectations. We call it the “user’s mental model.”

There are innumerable options here. So many, in fact, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose all direction. Before you settle on a design, take a good look around at other site designs.

As you consider designs, keep in mind your main objectives: a professional look, without clutter, that’s easy to navigate.

Landing Page Test: Order Options

Posting a landing page with a confusing or inadequate order mechanism is like opening a new WalMart, but forgetting to install cash registers. What’s the point?

In direct mail advertising, one of the two most important elements of the package is the order form (the other being the outer envelope). If you get everything else right and blow the order mechanism, your sales letter landing page will almost certainly fail.

Some points to test:

Your customers should be able to fill in the fields of an online screen and check boxes to select their preferences. Simplicity and brevity are priceless. Ask only for the information you need to process the order.

It’s unwise to offer more than three options or three price packages. Having three asserts value to each level so that fewer choose the bottom option.

Include alternate order options like  a toll-free number for phone orders and a printable order form for fax orders.

State your guarantee and return policy. In general, longer guarantees—the longer, the better—will increase sales and diminish the number of returns.

Remind your customers that their credit card information is protected by SSL. You can state this on your order form, and include the logo of your SSL provider.

In traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, there is a theory of management called MBWA. It stands for “management by walking around.” Getting out of the office and onto the work floor. Talking to people. Experiencing the business first hand, much like a customer would.

When’s the last time you tested your own order flow like a customer would?

Some tools that make it easy to test your landing pages include Google Content Optimizer (technical), Unbounce (less technical), and Five Second Test (asks users to judge you in five seconds).

Even more, we’re releasing our Landing Page Testing & Optimization webinar video for FREE that was hosted by Matt Humphrey, Chief Marketing Officer at Fortis Business Media, and Rafael Cardoso, the Senior Online Marketing Manager at Business and Legal Resources. You’ll be really impressed with what they tested and which changes made the biggest difference!


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