Sometimes you can’t explain it.

It may appear suddenly or during an encounter with another individual. It’s that uncomfortable feeling we get in our gut that something isn’t right. It may turn out to be something seemingly minor but often trusting our instincts can work in our favour. We might get a feeling that there’s going to be traffic so we take a detour and later discover there was a huge accident on the highway.

“Go your gut” then is excellent advice except when it isn’t. There are times when it makes sense to follow your intuition and other times when it doesn’t. Optimizing landing pages is an example of the latter.

Landing pages are pages on your website that visitors “land” on. They’re typically designed with a single objective in mind such as getting visitors to purchase a product, download a free trial, or contact the company for more information. No matter how well designed your landing pages are, they can always be improved to drive even more conversions.

This is where A/B testing comes in.

A/B testing (also called split testing) means comparing two versions of a landing page, a control and a variation with a slight tweak. The version with the better conversion rate wins and the process starts over again.

 

 

With split testing you get concrete data on what works and what doesn’t. But you also can’t just make a few random changes here and there without a clear strategy in place. Whether you sell products online or offer services, you can benefit with landing page optimisation.

Here we look at what elements to test on your landing pages to get the most out of your efforts.

 

1. Headlines

David Ogilvy famously said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.”

He understood the importance of a strong headline. On landing pages it’s one of the most important elements in terms of copy. It can mean the difference between visitors staying on to read more about your offer or quickly bouncing out.

Your headline then is a great place to start your testing. Here is how to create more powerful headlines you can test on new variations:

Convey Benefits

Users tend to scan webpages rather than read each individual word. The headline then is the first thing they see right when they land on your pages. To “hook” visitors and keep them on your pages, test headlines that convey a clear benefit that resonates with your audience. Your headline is where you’ll state your value proposition. Here’s an example of how Dropbox conveys their value proposition with a value-centric headline:

 

 

Be Specific

Another effective way to test headlines is to be as specific as possible. Simply saying that your business is the most trusted in town doesn’t really say anything. But saying that over 100,000 people use your services is more specific and makes more of an impression. Here’s an excellent example of a headline that Shopify uses in one of its case studies:

 

 

Be Direct

Often the best headlines are those that are clear and direct. They don’t leave visitors confused about what your business offers. A case study from VWO tested several headlines and the one that clearly described the product led to a 90% increase in conversions over the original:

 

 

Test several variations of your headlines and measure the results.

 

2. Call to Action

A call to action (CTA) is simply a prompt—a button or line of text—that entices visitors to take action whether it be purchasing a product, downloading a free trial or signing up for a newsletter. It’s not uncommon to see a CTA accompanied with a headline.

Here’s an example of a call to action button on Shopify’s homepage:

 

 

When you ask visitors to do something, they have to go through your CTA first. The CTA then is another critical component of landing pages as it guides visitors through the conversion process. Test each of the following aspects of your CTA to drive even more conversions from your A/B tests:

Colour and Shape

As one of the most important elements on your landing page, the CTA needs to stand out from your website design with a contrasting colour to be noticeable. It may seem like a minor detail but in one case study, changing the colour and shape of a CTA button led to a 35.81% increase in conversions:

 

 

Positioning

Data from the Nielsen Norman Group shows that 80% of viewing time is spent above the fold (the upper portion of a website). It makes sense then to include the CTA where it’s clearly visible. But in one case study, conversions were significantly increased when the CTA was moved below the fold as seen in this website design example:

 

 

Copy

Test different variations of the copy used in your CTA. Instead of using a generic CTA like “Click Here”, be as specific as possible and communicate value to your visitors. Here’s another example of how changing the copy to something more relevant resulted in more conversions:

 

 

There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to improving conversions. Even a slight tweak can result more conversions but you won’t know unless you test it.

 

3. Images

The human brain is incredibly adept at recognizing images.

A team of neuroscientists from MIT found that the brain can process entire images in as little as 13 milliseconds, one of the first studies to demonstrate its rapid processing speed. Images then act as a powerful conversion tool as the right visuals can either engage visitors or cause them to click out.

One example is with stock images. Eye tracking studies show that online users tend to ignore stock photos especially those that are clearly generic.

In one case study, results were compared between a stock photo of a truck driver and another that showed a picture of an actual student:

 

Just this one single change led to a massive 161% increase in conversions, leading to more targeted leads for the company. The case study makes it clear that images can make a huge difference and lead more visitors to take action.

But like the rest of your landing page, you need to put some thought on the visuals you use. They need to have a clear purpose for being there. The company in the example above (160 Driving Academy) offers truck driving classes. The hypothesis then was that an image of an actual student that graduated from the academy would outperform the stock image which would later prove to be correct.

Here’s an example of a landing page from Square that effectively utilises a relevant image:

 

 

Not only are the visuals aesthetically pleasing, but it even shows potential customers what the actual product looks like. In contrast, a random stock image of a transaction would likely not have the same level of engagement as the one used here. So use relevant images and test them on your landing pages to see which resonate better with your audience.

 

4. Social Proof

Social proof is a powerful psychological phenomenon. It refers to our tendency of looking to our immediate environment to guide our own behaviour. This social phenomenon is especially prominent in marketing as brands use social proof as a persuasion tool.

Here’s an early example from McDonald’s:

 

 

The tagline “We have sold over 1 million” is an excellent example of social proof and it’s far more likely to get noticed than a generic tagline. The very same principle that makes social proof effective in traditional outlets also translates well to landing pages.

Here are the different types of social proof you can test:

Testimonials

Testimonials are essentially like reviews. They come from customers who have actually use your product or service. Highlighting testimonials from your customers is an incredibly effective way to transform your landing pages and boost conversions. Here’s an example from Basecamp:

 

 

Client Badges

Showcasing clients that your business has worked with is another effective way to display social proof on your landing pages. It also establishes credibility for your products or services. Here’s an example from Dropbox’s Business page:

 

 

Subscriber Counts

People feel comfortable knowing that they’re not the only ones. Your call to actions can also include specific numbers like customer or even subscriber counts. Here’s an example of how Social Media Examiner uses this tactic to get visitors to subscribe to their newsletter:

 

 

There is no doubt of the effectiveness of social proof but you’ll also want to test them on your landing pages.

 

Conclusion

Landing pages are perhaps the most important pages on your website. As we’ve seen here, even a single change can result in huge conversions for your business. You may have a gut feeling for what should work but often those assumptions may turn out to be wrong. And implementing them without any actual testing could be costly. This is what makes A/B testing so effective but you’ll also want to run each time over a period of time for greater confidence in your data.