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Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 at 12:50 am

Problems with Landing Page Optimization?

By Howard Kaplan
January 18th, 2007

Every time I read a “best practices” guide to optimizing landing pages, I cringe. I know full well the limitations and the biases inherent in what the teacher is about to dispel to the pupil. Even worse, I know full well the pupil is likely to accept the teachings as gospel, and run off to begin implementation. Honestly, I don’t blame them- implementation led by a methodology will inevitably outperform pure talent or intuition. However, the assumption in that last statement is that the methodology is based upon a framework that has been well thought out and proven successful. How many methodologies do you know that live up to that assumption?

Given this, you can imagine my thoughts when I saw “10 Landing Page Optimization Tactics” from Larry Chase arrive in my inbox. In my experience Larry’s stuff is fantastic, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt, even with my low expectations given the topic. You know what I discovered? His tactics were really just principles, and in them were some excellent words of wisdom, as always. Experiment with registration forms, and test multiple landing pages (see a theme here?) were just two of his stratagems. To his credit, he also added *sample* tactics (following through on his chosen title), but more as clarification and inspiration than as implementation orders.

It’s not all a love fest here this morning however, Larry did present what I’d consider to be the cardinal sin of Landing Page Optimization- keep them in the funnel. Don’t offer escape routes, as he called it. Hmm, escape routes. I don’t know about you, but I’m hard pressed to think of a positive mental image involving escape routes. Burning building. Bank Robbery. Painful (and long) first date? Why do we assume eliminating the “escape route” is sufficient for visitors continuing the process? Doesn’t the X button at the upper right corner of the browser offer the ultimate escape route?

Larry’s not the first person to suggest this of course, and he won’t be the last. It comes from thinking about where you drop the visitor who clicks through your email or PPC ad as a page, rather than an event within a scenario. You want one principle to improve your landing pages?- Don’t do that. Don’t assume you can stuff your visitors into a linear funnel, and because there’s no way out, gravity will pull them through. Stop waiting for your cat to bark. The online world is one without gravity. In the online world, visitors control their own momentum.

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Comments (8)

  1. That is EXACTLY what I thought when I read that same e-mail yesterday! I thought the defense against the justification that you want the landing page to maintain the same look as the rest of the site was weak, too.

    I say keep the nav on your landing pages. Visitors might find something that interests them more and buy that. Consistency is better than confusing them if/when they find another page on your site.

    Maybe remove the nav (or just change them sitewide!) if it consists of flashing buttons that scream “Don’t read the page, just click here!”

    If your copy isn’t already compelling enough that visitors can’t click around but must be forced through the funnel, or clear enough that they know what to do next, removing the nav won’t fix the underlying problem.

    The other techniques, as you say, were pretty good, though.

  2. Keep nav? Lose nav? I don’t know that there is such thing as a universal rule.

    However, a few years of testing leads to the conclusion that regardless of where you are in the funnel, you should likely eliminate any links that aren’t relevant. If navigation falls into that category, then be gone.

    Offlinking on a cart or application can definitely be valuable, however, if it helps to resolve open questions in the conversion funnel. In that case, it is relevant, and I would agree 200% with Jordan.

    Matt

  3. Most of the time you do want to remove the navigation, that is a principle not a rule. Matt is spot on. I spoke with Larry Chase about this today and he agrees. Larry is a real pro.

  4. I haven’t tested lately, so my data are a few years old. In the past I’ve tested landing pages with and w/o nav off the page, and every time no-nav lifted conversions.

    In the preceeding entries, it’s not clear anyone is presenting quantifiable data from tests to refute the no-nav principle, while acknowledging the obvious importance of testing. The arguments are intriguing and thought-provoking, but where’s the data?

    In my past tests, maybe the results were related to the product. I was then dealing with paid magazine subscriptions, and there were no alternative sales that I wanted. Regardless, there was no ambiguity in the test results.

    Now I’m dealing with free e-newsletters, and I suspect the principle will still hold. We’ll test to confirm.

    But as of now, I am on the Larry Chase team, unless proven otherwise.

  5. Arthur,

    Magazine subscriptions and fre e-newsletters should probably work best with minimal to no navigation. One of the main factors here is the complexity of the sale. A magazine or something for free is a low consideration purchase and something every one gets. Therefore, adding navigation only adds complexity to what should be a simple decision.

    Both Matt and we are not releasing clients test data, just our learnings.

  6. So true! Why try to trap what cannot be trapped. Give them options, and good ones at that, and hope they keep coming back. A poor user experience is not just meant by them liking your site, but what you link to as well.

  7. Wonderful post, numerous interesting points. I recall five of days ago, I have viewed a similar blog.

  8. i agree larry is awesome

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