Landing Pages
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This is page two of a handbook on Startup Growth.

Great landing pages are not complicated

Learn how to write high-conversion pages. This is dry material, so I recommend skipping this page until you're in the process of (re-)designing your site.

A great landing page isn’t a nicety. It’s often your first impression. The better your first impression, the better all your user acquisition efforts perform.

If you throw together a pretty or serviceable landing page then call it a day, you’re missing out on drastically improving your conversion rate.

Remember: You’re not optimizing for pretty. You’re optimizing for conversions: signups, purchases, newsletter subscriptions — whatever actions you care about.

Landing page optimization is responsible for the biggest ROI impact in your growth funnel. For my growth agency clients, it matters more than the quality of the ads we run for them — and more than their products' pricing.

Landing page variants

There are three types of landing pages: 

These three types are structured identically. Frankly, there aren't many ways to design a compelling page. They differ in just one way: their focus on value propositions.

Let’s learn how to thoughtfully write and design them!

Landing page strategy

I want you to think of landing page design from the perspective of a visitor’s desire:

Conversion = Desire (Increase this) - Labor (Decrease this) - Confusion (Decrease this)

Critically, it's less work to reduce a visitor's labor and confusion than to increase desire:

Hence, the first step in creating a landing page is not to design it. The first step is to hone your message.

You need to answer the question: What value can I deliver? Figure out what copy (text) and creative (images, graphs, animations, videos) convey that value. Then the design of your landing page simply serves to clearly present this value.

To identify the messaging of each of the three page types (homepage, product, and ad), we're going to follow the foolproof universal landing page structure. 

Here we go!

Landing page copy

("Copy" is just a fancy word for text.)

Before we design our landing pages, let's familiarize ourselves with two critically overlooked aspects of landing page copy: information density and voice consistency.

These help decrease labor and confusion — two ingredients in the conversion formula.

Information density

♖ "Succinct doesn’t mean short. It means a high ratio of ideas to words."

— Paul Graham

As you can see, the principle of information density is in service of decreasing labor.

Voice consistency

Writing with a consistent voice is in service of decreasing confusion. Check this out...

All your copy and creative choices are subtly influenced by a brand personality you have in your head. Whether you realize it or not. 

The more conscious you are about your intended personality, the more consistent you’ll be when writing text. Consistency in your messaging increases perceived authenticity and reliability. 

Specifically, brand personality arises from the intersection of brand persona, brand tone, and your objective:

Decide which direction is most appropriate for your product and your market. (What would your ideal customer most respond to?) 

Then be sure your grammar (exclamation marks! emojis 😃) and word choice (complicated jargon or grade-four vocabulary?) consistently support this personality. 

Have this personality pervade your messaging everywhere — from your homepage, to your product dashboard, to your support emails, to your social media presence.

That's all the copywriting advice we're going to cover for this page. I teach copywriting on the upcoming Copy page. So hold tight! For now, let's get back to what you came here for: designing your landing page elements.
Your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room.
– Jeff Bezos

Landing page elements

Now you have an idea of how to write. It's time to learn what to write.

Start with the following page structure and only test variations of it once you've nailed this implementation:

  1. Navbar: The very top of the page — where your company logo and site links reside.
  2. Hero: The big section at the top of the page that includes your header text, subheader text, and most enticing imagery.
  3. Social proof: Logos of your press coverage or best-known clients.
  4. Call-to-action (CTA): Your signup button and a concise incentivize to click it.
  5. Features and objections: Your key value propositions. Why people would use you.
  6. Repeat your call-to-action
  7. Team info (Optional): Increase your perceived credibility by highlighting your team.
  8. Footer: Miscellaneous company links.

Let's start simple: All your navbar needs is your logo, links to key sections of your page plus links to the other pages on your site, and a call-to-action button (e.g. signup).

The fewer links you have, the more your CTA stands out. This is a good thing. You want few distractions between your users and the CTA.

In fact, if you're feeling bold, you can drop all links except for the CTA. This prevents visitors from being pulled away from your conversion rate-optimized landing page.

Element: Hero

"Hero" is designer jargon for the big section at the top of your page. It consists of your header text, subheader text, and an optional image.

By the way, I'm working on new guides that teach you to speak Chinese and play Piano. Sign up if you're interested in being alerted when they're out:

And, in case you missed it, I have another guide published on Building Muscle

Hero: Image

Let's start with the image component of your hero section.

The purpose of your hero image is to complement your hero's copy, which is tasked with explaining what the product does (and teasing the visitor to keep scrolling).

Therefore, your image must show off the product. Look at how the example above uses a literal screenshot of the product. That's what you want.

In contrast, do not use vague, stock imagery of, say, people using their laptops at coffee shops. This conveys nothing other than your intended demographic, and wastes precious space.

Perhaps stock imagery would be valuable for brand marketing, but it doesn't incentivize conversions as much as a literal depiction of your product will.

And that's the recurring theme of this handbook: be specific when pitching. There's so much fluff on the web that you must stand out by transparently 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 has two pieces of text: your header (primary text) and subheader (secondary).

Let's start with your header. Like your navbar, keep it simple. 

Here’s the litmus test for having a sufficiently descriptive header: If the visitor reads nothing else on your page, they’d still know who you are and why they should use you.

Therefore, your hero's text should answer: What does this product do? Why?

Your hero text is the biggest potential source of confusion on your landing page. They're often written very vaguely (e.g. "Improve your workflow!"), which requires additional scrolling before the visitor understands your value.

But most visitors won't have the patience to scroll. So they'll just leave.

I can distill this into two rules for writing header text:

Here are good examples of header text:

And here are bad examples: 

Hero: Subheader

Now that people know what you do, use your subheader to:

This subheader should be at most one sentence. 

Now here are some bad and better examples of why you do what you do:

🎯 Referencing a product ideal customers already know, like Photoshop in the example above, is a handy shortcut for explaining what you’re similar to yet how you stand out. I encourage namedropping competing products whenever you’re a little-known upstart and need to quickly differentiate yourself.

Alternatively, if your product type's value prop is already well-known, you can use your subheader text to differentiate yourself through features and qualities:

"Half the cost of competing products. And significantly better quality."
"Requires half as much time as everything else. Because it’s dead simple."

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

Element: 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, simply state how many customers you have (if it’s an impressive amount).

Your goal is to make it seem like everyone already knows about you, and to make the visitor surprised that they haven't yet heard of you.

(In fact, that's kind of the goal of a lot of growth messaging.)

🎯 If you don’t yet have notable customers, provide your product for free to employees at well-known companies. Then place their logos on your page if they wind up continuing to use you. 

Testimonials

Contrary to popular advice, I’d skip testimonials — unless they're compelling, concise, and from well-known people. Otherwise, since many people don't read testimonials, spare your page from the additional clutter.

But there's a notable exception: If you’re an expensive B2B product needing to strongly convey your credibility to enterprise customers, you can go crazy on the testes. (That's what I like to call testimonials.) They act as shorthands for case studies.

Element: Call-to-action

You need to write your call-to-action (CTA) section like an ad. It has to be laser-focused on enticing people to convert. 

To this end, it should consist of two sections: its own header copy and a button.

CTA: Header

The CTA header summarizes what the visitor gets out of signing up. 

For example, "Get your logo designed in 24 hours" or "Start cooking like a pro." 

In contrast, don’t use something generic like "Get started with your free trial." They've seen that text so many times that they're programmed to gloss over it.

Remind them why they came here.

CTA: Button text

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

Example verb phrases:

See Dashboard →
Start trial →
Browse listings →

For a live example, check out the CTA text we use over at SigOpt.com.

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 

Your CTA's text is responsible for getting visitors to take action. It's your CTA's design that's responsible for getting them to notice they can take action in the first place.

When designing your CTA, follow two rules:

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 the next section — features and objections — to deliver your full sales pitch. Then, after they've read it, you hit them with the CTA section again.

Element: Features and objections

Pitching any product or service boils down into listing out the key values customers will receive once they purchase. In doing so, you want to portray yourself as uniquely valuable.

This is also an opportunity to proactively address their concerns and skepticism about your features. Hence, the name "Features and objections."

This section will span the bulk of your page. Each feature consists of three elements:

For example:

🎯 The more expensive or unintuitive your product is, the more objections you should address.

If you’re having a hard time deciding which objections to highlight, study your competitors' homepages to learn how to differentiate yourself from what people expect you to say. 

Let's dive into these three components:

Feature: Title

Write a three-to-five word title describing the specific feature or value. Don't use vague language like "Empower your life" or "Revolutionize your workflow." No, just bluntly describe what it is so visitors can decide whether it's relevant to them.

When you empower visitors to skip over sections they don't care about, you reduce their labor and improve their focus on the sections they do care about.

Here are feature header examples from the CinderGrill.com site:

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

Feature: Paragraph

I talk more about how to write enticing text ("copy") on the upcoming Copy page.

Construct an ongoing narrative

The best feature sections build a running narrative: They tie each feature paragraph back to the primary value prop being pitched in the hero section.

The consistency of your narrative makes your product more divisive and singular. 

You want people to think, “Yeah, you know what, after reading about this for 20s, I am tired of dealing with this problem!”

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,” then a description of your Push Notification Blocking feature should mention something such as this in its paragraph: “… so that you put an end to the habit of constantly looking at your phone for updates.”

The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.
– David Ogilvy

Feature: Image

For your feature's image, include a product screenshot or professional photography that demonstrates the feature in action. Remember, don't just include meaningless eye candy. Visualize the feature in a way that further educates the visitor.

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

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

Element: Team (Optional)Expand

Include this section if you’re a boutique company with a niche or expensive product.

The more expensive you are and the lesser known you are, the more work you have to do to convey credibility that justifies your price. And the quickest shortcut to portraying credibility is providing transparency into who's behind your company.

The team section should include photos, noteworthy achievements, an optional hiring notice, and links to recent press.

Team photo

A group photo or individual headshots of your team.

If you don't have professional headshots — or at least headshots all have the same aesthetic (e.g. background, lighting) for each employee — then skip these altogether. Low quality headshots are worse than none at all.

Add credibility to your mission

Write a few sentences describing your non-salesy mission and justifying why you are the right team to be pursuing your mission.

For example:

"We're a team of food-loving engineers obsessed with cooking the perfect meal in our home kitchens. We’re chefs and material engineers with twelve patents and five national design awards among us." — CinderGrill.com.

Don't be humble here. Dive into your resumes to boast about your notable, relevant accomplishments.

Hiring notice

If you’re hiring, announce it here. This makes you look like a legitimate, growing company. It also shows that you're still in business in case no other portion of your site is timestamped!

If you're going to do this, don't half-ass it: Take time to pitch why someone would want to work with you and what the experience would be like.

Press

Link to any recent press coverage you’ve recently received. This shows visitors that, although you’re relatively small, you’re not unknown and insignificant.

Should I include a video?Expand

Most promo videos are terrible. They take too long to get to the point, they have derivative, uninspiring visuals, and wordy voiceovers. 

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

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.

However, a foolproof reason to include a (good or great) video is when you’re selling a physical or visual product that's intriguing to see in action. 

If your product qualifies, follow these rules:

🎯 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 qualify for a video, and if your intent was to use the video to illustrate how your product fits into its complex marketplace, instead diagram this relationship. 

A well-designed diagram can say in 10 seconds what your took your video 90. 

Landing page design

You want to expend at least some effort presenting your value props in a visually engaging way. 

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, beautiful imagery into the page’s surrounding white space. 

Your site has to look good enough so that:

This isn’t a design guide, so I’m going to suggest you hire a designer if you don't have one on staff.

I also suggest you read the best book ever written on landing pages.

Working with a designerExpand

I strongly recommend creating landing pages through a visual design tool like Webflow (very powerful) or Leadpages (much easier to use if you're not a web developer). They allow you to iterate quickly and make changes without coding. 

I’m an engineer myself, yet I prefer to use Webflow than code sites manually. There's just no point in wasting time on that. 

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

To find a designer, head to Dribbble and browse for someone whose aesthetics suit your brand. (I've pre-sorted that landing page link by new Dribbble users — since they haven't yet been flooded with work requests. Feel free to re-sort.)

Contact these designers and convey the following:

🎯 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.

Getting feedbackExpand

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

For both audiences, assess six factors:

🎯 These questions are appropriate for requesting feedback on anything you write — including your blog posts!

Homepage vs. persona page

Remember, 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 a few tweaks: 

  1. Rewrite the hero subheader to highlight the value prop most appropriate for why someone clicked on this in-depth product educational page.
  2. Make the hero section take up minimal height so it gets out of the way of point 3:
  3. Increase the length of the Features section from 3 or 4 features to 5 or 6. And go further in depth on each now that you know which specific product or feature set the visitor is most interested in learning about.

Persona pages

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

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

Persona pages are nearly identical to homepages, but with a few tweaks:

What I love about persona pages is they pull double duty as sales and content marketing collateral: We can handily link to these pages as pitch material when we're targeting well-defined audiences outside of paid ads.

Assessing conversion rates

You measure landing page performance by tracking a conversion event: a measurable action a visitor opts into taking. Common conversion events include signups, email submissions, and purchases.

🎯 You can also track which CTA's on your page are resulting in conversions. I recommend a free click tracking tool like HotJar. It'll reveal which of your CTA's are attracting clicks, and which elements visitors are falsely expecting to be CTA's.

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

Visits Containing Conversion Event / Total Visits

But it's actually not this simple. 

To meaningfully measure conversion, only count qualified visits. I define this as:

You can track these metrics with any web analytics tool. Most sites use Google Analytics. SaaS apps tend to also use a tool like Mixpanel.

Furthermore, track conversion over time from each separate traffic source:

If you don't track conversion on a per-source basis, then a big monthly traffic spike from a source with a particularly low conversion rate will skew your month-to-month conversion average and you might mistake that as business doing worse than normal.

Never let the total distribution of your traffic distract you from per-source conversion trends. Focus on improving them individually.

Continue to the next page

The next page reveals how to properly A/B any page to high conversion rates.

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———  Contents
——  Intro
——  Prep Week
——  The Program
——  Fat Loss
——  Cheat Sheets