Folks have made a habit of emphasizing the home page of your Web site as the Sacred Portal through which your visitors enter the cyber-structure of your business. As if all other avenues of entry were blocked, and the process could only start at Square One.
Yeah, right. Everyone knows the process can start at any square that is readable by the search engines. And you can directly influence the starting square through pay-per-click advertisements and email campaigns. It is possible your visitors can arrive and start digging deeper into your conversion process without ever bothering over your home page.
They'll arrive on a landing page - something very much like a focused mini home page - and how successful you are at catching them will depend on what you do with that page.
Landing pages are always sales process pages. They always constitute a step in the conversion process of catching pre-qualified traffic and moving it along its way to taking action. That action might be a micro-action, yet another step in the conversion process. Or it could be the macro-action, the ultimate conversion goal you have for your visitors.
A sales process page actively persuades your visitor to accomplish some phase (and sometimes all phases) of the 5 step selling process . There aren't hard and fast rules I can give you for which pages need to be treated as sales process pages - that will be specific to your business and your objectives. For someone selling candles, the About Us page is probably not going to be a sales process page. However, for someone selling consulting services, the About Us page could easily be critical to the sales process.
A while ago, we discussed what needed to happen on your home page to satisfy the information folks really need when they land there. This holds broadly for your landing pages, too. If a landing page is the first interaction a visitor has with your Web site, it needs to accommodate the home page function:
Unlike any old page, your landing pages can and should be constructed to reinforce the reason your visitors landed there. When they come to you through your intentional online marketing strategies, either by pay-per-click or email, your visitors have a significantly higher degree of interest. You have given them a purpose to come. They see a pay-per-click about a specific MP3 player offer, you'd better make sure the landing page is obviously relevant to that offer (for heaven's sake, don't pay to qualify your traffic and then send them to your home page). They read a new book review in one of your email newsletters with a product link, that link had better take them to the relevant page.
On top of your own marketing strategies, you get traffic from Google, MSN, AOL, Overture, each of which suggests different usage characteristics and behavior. The folks who google tend to do X, while the folks who use MSN tend to prefer Y.
This raises the question of whether you should design different landing pages to serve the same overall function, but targeted to the different questions and motivations your visitor is likely to have.
I've got an answer: Yep. Conversion starts with a single click, even before a visitor lands on your Web site. If she gets what she wants, she'll click again. With each click, she's more convinced you have what she wants. Implement the conversation she expects, and she'll be delighted. She wants to buy from you. You make that possible every time you give her exactly what she wants.
Your overall online responsibility to this person is to figure out what she'll ask and where she'll ask it, then optimize your site based on that. Your landing pages must do a special job in motivating visitors who are more often than not specifically prequalified.
Just remember. If folks turn right around and leave, they didn't really land and they ain't caught!
Catch up and chew the fat with Bryan Eisenberg at Search Engine Strategies 2004 in Toronto on May 11th and 12th. Ask him what he thinks a "proprietary agile methodology" is and your next drink is on him!
Have you checked out the other places to meet us on our latest scheduled event?
We're thrilled to announce that Persuasive Online Copywriting is entering its second printing. So we'd like to offer a special discount to those purchasing 50 or more copies of the next edition. Call us for pricing details at 877-643-7244.
And finally, thanks to Santiago and Jaime of Infommersion and Xcelsius for all their help with our new interactive website conversion rate analytics calculators (in Flash) built with their amazing software. If you ever need to display any kind of spreadsheet in an interactive and attractive way, pay them a visit!
The other day, a guy comes up to me in the grocery store. "Hey, you're that Martian what's-it from GrokDotCom, aren't you?"
I plaster on my how-nice smile as I poke through the tomatoes. "That's me, alright."
He settles into a soap-box stance. "You know, I read that book on copywriting ... you know, the one with the picture of you on the cover? It was pretty good."
"Thanks, dude," I nod. "I'll convey your reactions to Bryan, Jeffrey and Lisa."
"Yeah, but ..."
Here it comes. I hate this. The moment when I'm going to have to justify something in the nicest way possible when what I really want to do is zap the guy with a lightening bolt (if only Martians could).
It seems my grocery store commentator really liked Persuasive Online Copywriting, so he decided to visit the Web site for this newsletter. It was there he determined that while we might understand the theory of writing persuasively, we were inept at putting it into practice for ourselves.
"I was wondering what I might learn about persuasive writing from evaluating your GrokDotCom Web site. I'm still wondering." I can still hear his toe tapping.
Every last one of my eyeballs was stuck rolled up in their sockets (but that how-nice smile was still plastered to my face), and then, suddenly, it dawned on me. He doesn't get it. And if this regular dude who looks very normal and speaks quite intelligently doesn't get it, then lots and lots of other folks aren't getting it either (which actually is pretty obvious).
Every little thing you do on your Web site must have a purpose - an objective. You must be clear about what that purpose is, so you can develop all the associated elements with that purpose in mind. Lose the focus of your purpose and you will no longer be able to even communicate, much less persuade, effectively. Your purpose may change over time - very little stays static - but the changes must always be considered and intentional, shaped within the context of the evolving purpose.
I said to my confrontational dude, "The purpose of GrokDotCom's copy is to inform and build long-term relationships with our readers by providing valuable content, not by selling them anything. Through this laid-back approach, we demonstrate our abilities, which, quite naturally, we hope will influence someone to contact us. But all this material is there for free, whether or not you ever contact us. And you can use it to perform large and small miracles on your Web site."
"Our strategy not only works for us, it works extraordinarily well. Over 40% of the folks who come to this Web site sign up for the newsletter. Not bad, eh dude?" I grin, plucking the perfect tomato from the pile. "Although it could be a lot better, I'll grant you that!" And I wink.
Keep this in mind as you puzzle over the many elements on your Web site. No one thing can be everything to all people. You'll go berserk thinking otherwise. That's why you need to think of any conversion system in larger terms - as a construction of Persuasion Architecture.
So think about what you need to accomplish, how you can best accomplish it, then head out and get it done. Webward Ho (with a purpose)!