Landing Pages

This is page two of a Growth Marketing guide. Start with page one to understand what you need to learn for your business model.

There's a template. Try to follow it.

This page teaches you to write and design modern sites that convert.

I walk you through the template I use for today's largest startups at my agency.

I cover how to structure your page, write copy, incorporate design, and maximize purchase conversion. It's everything you'd want to know.

Why this is important

If you read only three pages in this guide, make it this one, A/B testing, and channels.

A great homepage isn’t a nicety. It’s your first impression. The better your first impression, the better your customer acquisition efforts perform.

So treat it as diligently as you do your product itself.

Consider how around 75% of your site traffic will leave after only seeing your homepage.

That's what I mean by "first impression." So, don't waste it.

Not wasting it means following the proven template. Don't do something unique unless you have a good reason to. The more you detour from this template, the more confused the average visitor will be: You'll make it more laborious for them to identify what your company does and why they should care about it.

In other words, the template makes what your company does self-evident. It prioritizes clarity, brevity, and directness.

What it doesn't care about is design innovation. Instead, you should be innovative in the other areas of your growth funnel — like your ads and your product features. But not your homepage. Typically, people just want information quickly.

So don't stand in their way.

Landing page variants

Let's start by identifying three types of landing pages: 

These three pages can be structured identically; they share the template below. They differ only in what is being pitched and which words and images are used to pitch.

My focus will be on your homepage. Where it all begins.

Homepage approach

Think of a landing page's creation from the perspective of a visitor's likelihood to convert. (Conversion is the term for proceeding to the next step in a growth funnel.)

We can think about conversion as an equation:

Conversion Rate = Desire - Labor - Confusion

In other words, to increase the rate of conversion, we increase the visitor's desire while decreasing their labor and confusion.

Here's what that looks like:

The implication is that the first step in creating a landing page is not actually to design the page. Instead, it's to first hone your message. You then back out from that message to what it is you should say and, only at the end, what it should look like.

In other words, growth is not a design-first process. It's almost always messaging-first.

Landing page ideation process

A messaging-first approach to landing pages embraces the conversion equation:

  1. First, identify the selling points that are most desirable about your product.
  2. Next, identify the text and media that convey those points clearly and concisely.
  3. Finally, design your page in a way that enhances the clarity and impact of #2.

So, let's begin by identifying and conveying your selling points. In marketing jargon, selling points are called "value propositions."

After this value prop creation exercise, I'll introduce my landing page template.

Value propositions

One more marketing term before we dive into value props: "copy" is the marketing jargon for text. I'll be using it going forward.

Creating value props

A value proposition is a quality of your product that is matched with a benefit.

For example, your product may have the qualities of fast and secure. Below, I match fast with three resulting benefits to create distinct value propositions:

Each variation shares the same core quality — speed — but each articulates a unique outcome of speed. In other words, a unique benefit.

Take a moment to chew on that before moving on.

One more example to make sure we got it. Let's take the quality of secure this time. And let's say the product we're marketing is a messaging app:

It's a straightforward process. But, for some reason, most people don't do it. Almost every client my agency has worked with simply wings their copy.

They don't dig to find the very best value props that motivates visitors to convert 3x better than the next.

To harden yourself against this laziness, below is my process for systematically generating compelling value props. Put another way, it's a process for coming up with the qualities and benefits you should be focusing on.

Use this process whenever you're pitching anything.

Value prop generation

Let's use a live chat app (example) as our sample product.

As you follow these four steps to generating your props, refer to the green chart further down for specific examples:

  1. In column one, list all the non-desirable alternatives people resort to when they don't have your product at all. Next, describe what makes each alternative bad. (Now scroll down to see the examples below before continuing to the next point.)
  2. Your list of what makes each alternative bad is now your starting point for generating value propositions: In column two, write out how and why your product is better than the bad alternative. (Scroll down for examples.)
  3. In the third column, which is a separate brainstorming exercise from the first two columns, simply list your most valuable customer personas. (Most valuable means they pay you the most.) This third column is to remind you what audience you're pitching to. For each persona, list the two product benefits they care most about. 
  4. Now, reduce the second column's list of value props down to just those that satisfy what the top customer personas care about. In other words, use the third column to filter the second column to your most valuable value props.

What should be left in column two are the value props you'll be using to pitch.

To recap, you identified them by finding the market pain points that resonate most strongly with the personas most valuable to you.

Many readers find they need to re-read this section a couple times before they get it. Take your time — it's important!

Bad alternatives

Visitors leave the site
•  Lost sales opportunities

Visitors read FAQ's
•  They're long, boring

Visitors email support
•  Most don't bother

How you do it better

Help more visitors get more questions answered by immediately handling objections via live chat.

Address objections proactively so you can better satisfy visitors and close more deals.

Best customers

Head of marketing
•  Conversion rates
•  Traffic volume

Chief revenue officer
•  Reduce churn
•  Increase ARPU/LTV

Head of sales
•  Increase qualified leads
•  Qualify leads accurately

The cleverness of this process is in ideating value props by comparing your product to the bad alternatives customers would have been stuck with if they didn't have you. Doing this ensures you remain focused on the benefits that resonate with customers— instead of on those that customers don't actually experience in the real world.

Perhaps more importantly, following this process ensures you're exhaustive in your value prop brainstorming. You want to dig up the diamonds in the rough.

You'll learn to master copywriting on the upcoming Making Ads page.

Where to use value props

Think of value props as the ammunition that you collect to later disperse across a page. Specifically, value props form your header, subheader, and feature paragraphs.

In short, value props are the selling points that increase a visitor's conversion desire

You can of course also use your value props everywhere else you pitch your product:

Try to be consistent with your use across those channels. Value prop consistency breeds familiarity.

Articulating value propositions

With value props in hand, you have to fully write them out before you can use them.

The trick to writing out value props is to say a lot with a little. This is the principle of information density, which aims to avoid giving the visitor surplus labor in the form of too many words to read.

Here's how to write value props with high information density:

Keep your refined value props on hand. You're going to be using them shortly throughout your page.

Counterintuitively, concise doesn't mean short

Every client I work with at some point asks, “Why is the landing page you made for us so long?” My answer: So long as every word provides unique and compelling value, it's okay to err on the longer side. Length provides more surface area so that you can appeal to more customer types.

I don't use length to be redundant. I use length to be holistic.

Succinct doesn’t mean short. It means a high ratio of ideas to words.
– Paul Graham

If you want professional training

My team and I will train your company to become growth marketing professionals. Check out Demand Curve.

We also help companies hire marketers and find ad agencies.

Landing page template

Finally, we've arrived at the landing page template. Sorry I took so long to get here.

Start with the following template and only detour away from if you've already nailed its implementation and want to A/B test variations:

  1. Navbar: The top of the page — where your logo and navigation links are.
  2. Hero: The main section at the top of the page, which includes your header text, subheader text, and captivating imagery.
  3. Social proof: Logos of press coverage or your well-known customers.
  4. Call-to-action (CTA): Your signup button and a concise incentive to click it.
  5. Features and objections: Your key value propositions fully written out.
  6. Repeat your call-to-action
  7. Footer: Miscellaneous links.

Here it is visualized:

All your navbar needs is:

The fewer links you have, the more your primary CTA stands out. So be selective.

In fact, if you're feeling bold, you can drop all links except for the CTA. This prevents visitors from being pulled away to other pages that may not help them convert.

Element — Hero

"Hero" is designer jargon for the big section at the top of your page — what visitors first see before they scroll down.

Your hero consists of your header text, subheader text, and often an image.

You must put a lot of thought into each of these. Nailing header copy has the highest impact on whether people continue scrolling and reading. And it's the first place we put our value props to work.

But, before we do that, let's explore the hero's image.

Hero — Image

Let's start with hero's image.

website hero section

The purpose of your image is to visualize the value prop described in the header and subheader.

The imagery should always reinforce the copy. It doesn't distract from it. Remember, messaging-first — not design-first.

In practice, this means your image should typically show off the product.

Look at how the example above uses a literal screenshot of the product. That's typically what you want.

If you're instead selling a physical good, show a picture of it. If you're selling services, perhaps an illustration could be effective.

As another example, here's how Slack uses illustrations to show employees using their app:

In contrast, what you don't want is random stock photography of, say, a smiling woman at her desk. There's zero value in that. People reflexively ignore generic imagery. So it just takes up precious space in your hero. A wasted opportunity.

Note that this isn't just my subjective philosophy on page design. Extensive experimentation shows conversion increases when visitors have an immediate visual understanding of what you're selling them. Only makes sense, right?

Then do what makes sense — instead of just copying others' bad design habits.

That's actually the theme of this handbook: be literal, be specific, and be clear. There's so much fluff on the web that you stand out simply by getting to the point.

In advertising, the greatest thing to be achieved is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself.
– Leo Burnett

Hero — Header

Your hero section has two pieces of text: its header (the primary text) and its subheader.

Let's start with the header.

The header must be fully descriptive of what you're selling. Because, if the visitor doesn't understand exactly what you do immediately upon landing, they'll either bounce out of laziness or skim-read the rest of the page until they get the gist. Once they get that gist, they'll likely bounce anyway because they're still too lazy to re-read the page from the beginning.

So, start with a good first impression. And that begins with the top of your page. Which means your header text must be fantastic.

Here's the litmus test for whether your header is sufficiently descriptive: If the visitor reads only this text on your page, will they know exactly what you sell

The subheader, which I cover soon, must satisfy a related litmus test: If the visitor reads only the subheader, will they know why they should care about what you sell?

Hero — Header — Be specific

Bad headers — found all over the web — are those that read like slogans instead of descriptions. For example, "Improve your workflow!" or "Supercharge your collaboration!" are useless slogans. If that's all I read on your page, I'd have no idea what the product actually is.

As in, I wouldn't know how the product accomplishes those vague aspirations.

And people critically want to know the how. And they want to know it immediately.

What does a good, descriptive header look like? Like this:

Ahh. Now those help me understand what you're selling! I don't have to dig deeper.

And so I can immediately self-identify as someone who does in fact want this thing you're advertising, which means I'll have patience to read through the rest of the site to gleam the juicy details.

Hero — Header — Writing it out

In summary, a header is written to hook visitors into your product through a description that explains how you solve a problem people care about.

But you can't just throw in a value prop and call it a day. There's a specific way to write a great header.

Let's introduce the two-step copywriting process for writing headers:

I. Identify a value prop that conveys the product's core purpose

Find your product's representative value prop that's also the most compelling thing to talk about when pitched by itself.

For example, here are some value props a video chat app may have:

Most of these are standard to many video chat apps. And your header is too valuable of a place to highlight something generic. Instead, we’re looking for the value prop that’s the most compelling, yet still fairly represents our product’s core value. 

Personally, I think the auto-translate feature is amazing. Not only is that value prop differentiating the product within a saturated chat app market, it's also representing the app's core purpose: the ability to chat with anyone. 

Turning this value prop into a header may look like: "Have auto-translated video chats with absolutely anyone in the world."

In contrast, a value prop that doesn't represent the core purpose of the product would be "get emailed transcripts." Is this a transcriptions service? No, it's a chat app. So don't put this value prop in your header.

One more example of a bad value prop to highlight: "Chat with anyone quickly." A header for this may read as follows: "Find someone to video chat with in less than 30 seconds."

This is not a good header because the product quality of speed isn't likely why people actually like one chat app over another. Meaning, it's not compelling.

So let's revisit the good header examples from earlier. Notice how we highlight a representative value prop in the first sentence of each:

To summarize: Identify one product value prop that you can call out in your header to represent 1) what makes you unique and 2) what you fundamentally offer.

This serves the dual purpose of generating intrigue while also being clear. In other words, it increases desire and decreases labor.

Let that soak in before you continue reading. Most people overlook their headers.

II. State the high-level purpose

Now that we've intrigued visitors with a value prop, we need to finish the header text by also stating why the value prop even matters.

Here are two examples of extending a header with the why:

"Riley texts your real estate leads for you — to automatically qualify them."

"Have auto-translated chats with foreigners — to have fun learning any language."

Or, once again, our examples from earlier. Notice the purpose that the second sentence always serves: pointing out what makes the first sentence valuable.

Finally, for contrast, here are some bad header examples: 

Tip — Keep your header within 6-12 words so it reads quickly.
When I write an advertisement, I don't want you to tell me that you find it 'creative.' I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.
– David Ogilvy

Hero — Subheader

Now that your header explains what you do, use your subheader to describe how. People really like to know the how. (Millions read Wikipedia for a reason.) 

Specifically, how is critical to landing page conversion because it lifts the veil on what you do — to prove you have thoughtful solutions to the visitor's real problems.

Plus, when someone learns the how, they become further invested in your solution.

For example:

There are two exceptions to this "explain the how" rule: 

  1. Self-evident products — If your product's how is truly self-evident (e.g. your header is "We are a photography agency" or "We sell mattresses"), use your subheader to proactively address visitors' major concerns or to differentiate yourself from competitors. Do this in a single, concise sentence.
  2. Obscure products — If people don't yet know much about your product category, use your subheader to explain why what you sell is valuable to begin with.
Tip — Keep subheaders within 10-13 words. Otherwise they turn into paragraphs.

Off topic, to read handbooks (like the one you're reading now) a few months before I publish them, you can provide your email below. I'm releasing how to write fiction, think critically, and play piano. I only email once every three months.

I also have another handbook out now: The Science of Building Muscle.

Element — Social proof

Now that you've succinctly described what you do and why, it's time to convey the credibility of everything you do through social proof.

Your social proof section is a collage of logos showing off your press coverage and/or your most well-known customers. Or if you're an ecommerce product, you can state how many customers you have (if it’s an impressive amount).

Your goal is to make it seem like everyone in the world already knows about you, and to make the visitor feel left out of all the excitement. Foster dat FOMO, am i rite.

Effectively, that's the goal of social proof: creating intrigue by getting people wanting to be part of your elite club.

Tip — If you don’t yet have noteworthy customers, provide your product for free to people at well-known companies. Then place their company logos on your site if they wind up using you. 

Element — Call-to-action

Your call-to-action (CTA) section is what prompts a visitor to continue to the next event in your funnel — such as signing up or adding to cart.

Your CTA consist of at least two components: its header and its button.

CTA — Header

The CTA header summarizes what the visitor gets from signing up. 

You want to specifically state what they'll get by clicking your button. For example, "Get a new logo in 24 hours."

In contrast, don’t use something high-level like "Get started with your free trial." They've seen that copy so many times that they're programmed to gloss over it. It also doesn't actually remind them why they should sign up.

As you repeat your CTA section throughout the page, use a slightly different header each time. This way, if one header doesn't appeal to someone, the next might.

I talk more about how to write enticing copy on the upcoming Copy page.

CTA — Button text

In keeping with our approach of "remind people why they came," make the CTA section's button either a single action word, e.g. "Signup" or "Start," or use a verb phrase that describes what's about to happen next. 

Example verb phrases:

See dashboard →
Start trial →
Browse listings →
Don’t write sleazy "clickbait" CTA text like “Give me my free PDF!” That is, unless you're trying to attract idiots as customers. (Some businesses — usually seminar series — genuinely may be 😂)

Visual contrast 

While your CTA's copy is responsible for getting visitors to act, your CTA's design that's responsible for getting them to notice they can act in the first place.

When designing your CTA, follow two rules:

Element — Features and objections

If your hero section doesn't do enough on its own to get people to convert (it usually won't), it's the job of your Features and Objections to deliver your product's complete sales pitch.

That's the part of the template we're at now.

To put this objective back into visual context, see where Features is:

The Features section spans the bulk of your page. It's your opportunity to proactively address a visitor's concerns and skepticism about your value props.

This section contains multiple features. Usually 3 to 6. Each is simply a value prop paired with copy addressing objections that arise upon hearing that value prop.

Specifically, each feature subsection consists of three elements:

For example:

website feature section
Tip — If you’re having a hard time deciding which value props and objections to highlight, study your competitors' sites to learn how to differentiate yourself from what people already know about your space. 

Feature — Construct an ongoing narrative

The best feature sections carry a running narrative: Each feature ties back to the dominant value prop pitched in the hero section.

For example, if your hero value prop is “We help you put down your phone so you can focus on the rest of your life,” a description of your Push Notification Blocking feature could include a callback to the header such as this: “… so that you put an end to the habit of constantly looking at your phone for updates.”

Remember how back in school you wrote essays with this 5-paragraph format?

In the introduction, you made your claim. Then you highlighted three pieces of evidence to support that claim. Finally, your Closing summarized the argument.

Your landing page as a whole follows this very same structure:

You learn to write content marketing with narratives on this page.

Anyway, back to the Feature section: Let's dive into its three components.

Feature — Value prop header

Write a 3 to 5 word title describing the value prop. Don't use vague language like "Empower your sales" or "Revolutionize your workflow." No, just bluntly describe the value prop so visitors can quickly decide whether the value prop is relevant to them. And whether they should read the feature paragraph.

Here are feature headers for a product that sells a portable grill:

"Cooks and Sears"
"No Prep or Cleanup"
"Cooks More than Just Meat"

Feature — Paragraph

Either write a paragraph of three concise sentences or list a handful of bullet points.

Your goal is to concisely describe the feature and optionally address common objections if they're important ones that often prevent people from converting.

By the way, here's a trick for having these paragraphs carry the overall narrative: Consider how the end of every feature paragraph is a little break for the visitor to self-reflect: "Do I keep reading or leave the site?" 

You can circumvent that decision-making by concluding each feature with a hook that makes them curious to keep reading. For example, you can end a paragraph with:

Then pick up that thread in the next feature section.

When should you go really in-depth?

If this is a complex or unintuitive feature for which going into extreme detail is going to help materially improve conversion, either link to a separate page where visitors can learn much more or have a button they can click to reveal additional details. 

The latter is preferable because it keeps users in the flow of your current page.

Feature — Image

website feature section image

Features are paired with an image so that your page isn't a giant wall of text.

In your feature image, include a product screenshot or some relevant photography that demonstrates the feature in action. Remember, don't just include meaningless eye candy. Visualize the feature in a way that further reinforces the value prop.

Better yet, use an auto-playing GIF or SVG animation. It’s better to show than to tell. 

Tip — If you’re showing a screenshot of your SaaS dashboard, and it's too small to easily read all its text, recreate the screenshot in Sketch and exclude the non-essential UI elements and text. 

Should I include a video?+

Most explainer videos are terrible. They take too long to get to the point, they have derivative visuals that people are numb to, and clichéd voiceovers. 

So, visitors don’t finish watching them. This is a problem because visitors watch videos at the expense of spending time reading more of your page. 

Think about that: Remember, visitors only have so much attention to go around. So don't distract them with something that converts worse than the rest of your page.

For most products and services, this means you're better off skipping a video.

The one foolproof reason, however, to include a good video is when you’re selling a physical or visual product that's genuinely intriguing to see in action. 

If your product qualifies, follow these rules:

You can feature your video anywhere. For example, it can stand alone in the hero or, my preference, it can complement a feature paragraph instead of an image.

Tip — To find video ideas worth stealing, watch the promo videos for the top-performing Kickstarter and Indiegogo crowdfunding campaigns.

Diagrams instead of videos

If you don’t have a good reason to produce a video but do need to visualize something, diagrams are a powerful alternative. A well-designed diagram can say in 5 seconds what took your video 2 minutes. 

Getting feedback on your page

Once you have your landing page draft, pass it by two types of reviewers: 

For both of these audiences, ask them to assess these six criteria for you:

Copy paste the above criteria into an email and ask as many people as you can.

Tip — These questions are relevant for requesting feedback on anything you write, including your blog posts.

Landing page design+

You want to expend some effort presenting your page in a visually appealing manner. It does help with landing page conversion — by showing you're not amateur.

For example, instead of just listing your features in a grid or line-by-line, you can stagger them (example). Or you can copy Intercom and blend unique imagery into the page’s surrounding white space. 

You can find more landing page inspiration over at GoodWeb.Design.

In short, your site has to look good enough that:

How to design your site

I strongly recommend creating landing pages through a visual design tool like Webflow (the best, but complex) or Leadpages (much easier to use if you're not already a developer). They allow you to iterate quickly and avoid coding.

I’m an engineer myself, yet I prefer Webflow over coding sites by hand. There's no point in wasting time on that. Not for a landing page with purely static functionality.

Better yet, if you have the budget, pay a professional designer to create a landing page mockup for you. Then recreate it pixel-for-pixel in Webflow. 

Working with a designer

To find a designer, head over to Dribbble and find someone whose aesthetics suit your brand. Contact your favorites and convey the following:

Tip — If you don’t have the budget to hire a designer and aren’t an experienced designer yourself, read this series on design basics before you take a stab at it.

Mobile-first

Most consumer ecommerce purchases happen on mobile web. So, hire designers who can build an amazing mobile-first website experience.

If dogs don't like your dog food, the packaging doesn’t matter.
– Stephen Denny

Landing page types+

As I laid out earlier, there are three types of landing pages: your homepage, your product pages, and your persona landing pages. 

Homepages are what we’ve covered so far. 

Product pages

If you sell multiple products, product pages supplement your homepage by going in-depth on each product you sell. (Or each grouping of features your product offers.)

They can be identical to your homepage, save for two tweaks: 

  1. Rewrite the hero subheader to highlight the value prop most appropriate for why someone would have clicked on this in-depth product page.
  2. Increase the length of the Features section from 3 or 4 features up to 5 or 6. Go further in depth on each now that you know which specific product or feature set the visitor is most interested in diving into.

Persona pages

Persona pages (e.g. company.com/salespeople) are the pages you send ad traffic to. 

Persona refers to the fact that ads are targeted to specific audiences, e.g. new mothers or young men, and how those audiences should be served landing page messaging that best suits their interests. 

Persona pages are nearly identical to homepages, save for two tweaks:

What I love about persona pages is they pull double duty as sales collateral: You can handily link to these pages as pitch material when you're targeting these same audiences outside of paid ads.

Assessing landing page conversion+

This is a quick primer on how to assess your page's conversion performance.

You assess performance by tracking a conversion event: an action a visitor takes on your site. Common landing page conversion events include signing up, buying, and submitting an email.

For any given period of time, measuring conversion rate is seemingly a matter of:

[# of Visits Containing the Conversion Event] / [Total Visits]

But it's not this simple. 

To meaningfully measure conversion, you should only count qualified visits:

You can track these performance metrics using Google Analytics. Many SaaS apps additionally use a tool like Mixpanel for more granular, event-based data.

One more thing. Note that you want to track conversion over time from each source:

If you don't track conversion on a per-source basis, then a big traffic spike from one with a particularly low conversion rate will deflate your conversion average and you might mistake that as your business doing worse than normal. When, in reality, one of your channels just needed optimizing.

In other words, never let the full distribution of your traffic distract you from per-source conversion performance. Optimize sources individually. 

On the next page, you'll learn to improve these conversion rates through A/B testing.

How to make your team better at growth

My agency team will train your company to be much better at growth marketing.

Here's how it works:

Go here to learn which growth topics we teach.

Or if you're looking to hire marketers or find an ad agency, we have you covered.

What to read next

This growth handbook teaches you to get people to your site and convince them to buy.

It's the best of its kind. Or, so my dad tells me.

Read the whole thing to learn growth to an expert level. Or bookmark this handbook and return later.

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