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Wednesday, Jun. 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

How to Analyze and Improve Your Landing Page

By Melissa Burdon
June 1st, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how the FutureNow methodology to improve website performance applies to all business models. Regardless of business model and type of site, we always start our work by focusing on improving the experience on a client’s site for their late stage visitor because these visitors are ready to take action today, and therefore should be the easiest to convert. By finding the stumbling blocks preventing these late stage visitors from taking action, and by improving their experiences, our clients realize increased leads and/or sales almost as soon as they start doing conversion rate optimization (CRO).

At the end of that post, I mentioned that although we always start our analysis of client sites by looking at their data, for the sake of showing you how to optimize late stage scenarios on your site, I would take a stab at analyzing a suggested late stage scenario sans data. I invited our readers to suggest an interesting late stage scent trail on their site they are willing to have me analyze. I asked them to provide a late stage keyword and the associated landing page to which the visitor is sent.

Understanding what makes a keyword “late stage”

One reader suggested his late stage scenario for baby sleeping bags. He mentioned that he wants to expand his current brand-specific campaigns to include late stage, non-brand keywords such as “babies sleeping bags.” The landing page for this type of keyword would be www.motherslove.com.au/babies-sleeping-bags.

It’s important to note that “babies sleeping bags” is not exactly a late stage keyword; it’s more of a middle stage keyword. If you’re feeling shaky on what makes a keyword one stage versus another, review the 3 buying stages before you read any further. To qualify as a late stage keyword, this phrase requires a descriptive element such as “babies sleeping bag with legs” or “babies sleeping bag pods.” The addition of increasingly descriptive factors to a keyword demonstrates the stronger intent to purchase typically associated with late stage buyers. However, for the sake of showing you how to go about analyzing your site using search terms, I’ll use the middle stage keyword that was sent in, “babies sleeping bags,” and the corresponding landing page.

Asking the 3 questions

The first question you want to ask yourself is, Who are you trying to persuade? What do we know about the intent of the person who types “babies sleeping bags” into their browswer? The answer to this comes from the keyword itself: this searcher is looking for sleeping bags for babies. She hasn’t identified a brand or even a specific type of sleeping bag she wants. She likely will want to see different types of sleeping bag options, so she can determine which type best fits her needs.

Next, answer the question, What action do you want them to take? Although, you ultimately want her to buy one of your products, a realistic indication that she is moving forward in her buying process is if she actually finds a category that suits her needs. The next objective is to help her find a product that she’s interested in, and only then will the desired action be to get her to add the item to her cart.

Lastly, you need to ask yourself, What will persuade this person to take that action? Remember, we’ve already determined that the most realistic next step for this visitor is to select a category. Therefore, in order to move this visitor forward in her buying process, you will need to show clear categories of baby sleeping bags on the landing page. This is the trickiest of the three questions to answer, and will constitute the majority of your analysis of any given scenario.

Analyzing the scent trail

Now, let’s start to walk through the scent trail. Let’s pretend the visitor’s name is Marie so that we can talk through the visitor’s experience with a more personal approach. Marie searched for “babies sleeping bags” and we already discussed her intent when she searched for this term. She clicks on the ad in the search engine results, and lands on http://www.motherslove.com.au/babies-sleeping-bags (see snapshot at right).

Now you need to ask yourself, “What will persuade Marie to move forward in her buying process and ultimately add an item to her cart?” To begin to answer this question, let’s talk through the top 3 problems on this landing page that prevent Marie from taking the action you want her to take:

  1. Marie only sees the description of two types of products you offer in the active window of this landing page. She isn’t sure if you only offer these two products, or if these are two types of categories. There are no easy category links that move her forward to the different categories from the active window.
  2. You’re main call to action is “view our sleeping bag range”, but why aren’t you showing her the sleeping bag range right on this page? This is also ineffective language to engage her to shop all of your sleeping bag options. You don’t give the visitor different ways to shop for different types of sleeping bags within the active window on this landing page. You don’t give Marie the ability to shop by different temperature ratings for sleeping bags. You don’t give Marie the option to shop by different styles of sleeping bags. You also don’t give Marie the option to shop by brand.
  3. You don’t feature the list of all baby sleeping bags directly on this page below the fold so that she can actually start searching through the list of products on this page.

We would recommend creating a variation of this page with guidance from this mockup (see snapshot at left). Test this variation against your original landing page with the success point being the cart page. Our hypothesis is that by more effectively laying out the page and featuring links that help the visitor move forward towards selecting the category or product that suits her interests and needs, she is more likely to move forward towards adding an item to her cart.

To effectively optimize every scent trail from this page for Marie, you need to click on each of the links from this page and go through the three questions exercise all over again. Make improvements to this scent trail one by one, and step by step, moving more and more visitors to take the action you want them to take.

Use this example to start making some improvements to your website. By going through this outlined process for your late stage scenarios on your site, you’re likely to get the highest possible impact, most quickly. And if you’re still struggling to do this on your own, learn about our OnTarget subscriptions to make your website better.  They use this same technique to help our clients see results quickly.

Add Your Comments

Comments (21)

  1. Greatly written, but I was actually hoping to read about landing page tools apart from Google Analytics…Are there any deeply analytical tools around?

  2. What is the best way to generate traffic on your websites?

  3. imrove your landing page through keyword optimization and ppc compain.

  4. Great perspective. Rather than thinking “What can I do to get the customer to buy”, asking yourself what you can do to avoid losing the customer instead to a different take that I will use in the future. Thanks!

  5. I’ve always wondered why my WP site and Analytics 360 always showed conflicting info, Is bounce rate anything to worry about?

  6. @Melissa – Sounds like a ton of work going through each page and fleshing out the answers to those questions. Any suggestions on where to start that will give me the biggest bang for my effort?

  7. Nice written article! However, sometimes, no matter what you do if your website is relatively new and you make everything right but choose high competition keywords, you’ll never make it through.

    It’s best to target long tail keywords, even if their getting 500 searches per month. Its better to have a guaranteed 400 visitors than targeting high competition and you’ll get none.

  8. Weird and Unique, theres some tools that generate heat maps, like click trail that show where users hover their mouses and click. This is useful.

  9. Well, in response to HGH’s comment, I think that a well written page will AUTOMATICALLY rank for a variety of long tails in addition to a centralized and targeted keyphrase.

  10. I agree with HGH. No matter what you do sometimes you won’t rank unless your trying to tackle the long tail keywords.

  11. Long tail keywords are an essential part of this process. What I find is that if you have the content and even if it covers a wide range of topics, you are still going to find that this helps your overall online presence.

    Great post and I am thankful for you taking the time to post this.

  12. Improve your landing page by -Important Elements Above the “Fold”

  13. Hi Melissa,

    Completely agree with this being a vital question;

    “What will persuade Marie to move forward in her buying process and ultimately add an item to her cart?”

    However, once she has added the item to her cart, it’s a whole other process ensuring she makes it through the process of payment and actually buys the item. COnversion optimisation on the checkout process is another massively important part.

    Great article here though and convincing, well put together thoughts.

  14. Solid advice thanks. We all know that a home page is key – but when designing it we sometimes forget the main question: what action do we want the viewer to take next.

  15. All these way seems a great way to optimize a landing page, apart from them I can even suggest selection of long tail keywords which are sure to increase the ROI of website.

  16. Been analyzing late stage scenario’s for about two years now for my shop, I just can’t wrap my head around it. CTR not increasing.. This article makes some sense though :) Cheers!

  17. Interesting. This has been a puzzle for me because the content of my website is so general, its focus being on helping people come up with ideas, rather than helping them refine those ideas. So in terms of your article, doesn’t that mean that there is no late stage conversion aspect to my site? This is the challenge for me: how to convert shoppers who are, by definition, early stage only. Perhaps only by adding late stage content, which is contrary and antithetical to the site’s raison d’etra. Hmmm… Well, thanks for the post.

  18. @Jennifer Gift-Gal – surely you have a way that you make money off of this site (possibly you get paid when someone clicks through to an affiliate site)? And there is an action your visitors take (the click-thru, or maybe an ultimate purchase on another site) that is associated with your ability to make money off of the site? Think of your late stage keywords in terms of your visitors’ readiness to take that revenue generating action.

  19. [...] they want before leaving a site. The truth is people will continue to click deeper into a site and move forward along their path as long as they feel like they’re getting closer to their [...]

  20. @Melissa This is quite deep research and requires lot of work, but if it helps that it is worth it. I agree landing page is very important for people to keep digging in ur site.

  21. Landing page is the most important page and the strongest keywords should go here to attract the customer to the website and like mentioned before some will click in to the website, possibly have featured products to make them click to those pages further etc.

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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