Time to read: 9 minutes
You launched a landing page for your startup and…
No email signups, no sales, no conversions whatsoever.
And then you start beating yourself up:
Is my idea worthless?
Is the design bad?
Is it that I can’t explain what the product does?
Yeah, I hear you. So many things can be wrong with a landing page that you have no idea where to start optimizing.
Well, you can start by checking your landing page against the basic DOs and DON’Ts.
I gathered them here, in this post. To help you get a better idea about each point, I also added examples.
DON’T talk about your product
The purpose of your landing page is not to explain what the product does.
- People don’t care about your ideas.
- People are too busy dealing with their own issues and chasing their own desires.
- People are overwhelmed by the amount of the information that they have to process each day.
That’s why attention is the most expensive currency.
On your landing page, you have about 8 seconds to get a stranger’s attention or they leave. 8 seconds! That’s less than the attention span of a gold fish…
And right now you’re probably trying to impress these people with something like:
Here’s the most amazing and innovative software for remote cattle feeding!
Try it free now!
To which they react like this:
Yeeeaaahh, rright… I’m using Digital Shepherd to feed my cattle and I don’t see any reason to switch. I don’t have the time for this. *closes browser tab*
But if you said something like this:
Do you spend your whole day planning how to feed your cattle with complicated software?
What if you could make sure their meals were optimized, scheduled and prepared automatically without you ever touching the computer? You wouldn’t worry about your cattle and you could spend this time growing your business.
the reaction would be different. You’d be addressing specific issues (current software is complicated and it takes a lot of time to set up) and desires (save time and grow their business) of your potential customer.
That’s the way to get them to stay more than 8 seconds. Talk about their issues and desires.
Let me illustrate the whole point with 2 examples.
This website is talking about the product. What does it tell you?
That there is some platform perfect for telling stories.
I, for one, will pass on this. I already have a Medium account.
But this website is talking about things you can do with the product and the positive effect of using it:
Sell software? Lower fees? Yes, I want to sell software! Tell me more.
Now, let’s start optimizing your landing page and make it send the right message.
I’ll go through DOs and DON’Ts for the 3 key elements:
- The headline
- The call to action
- The benefits and features
The purpose of the headline is draw in the visitor and make them read the rest of the page.
You don’t need to get fancy and clever. You need to be as specific as possible.
Let’s see some headline DON’Ts first:
DON’T use these words and expressions
- made simple
- made easy
- the future of
- a new way to
You can continue the list.
These words are so overused that any sentence that contains them sounds fishy.
People’s BS detectors are always on. Keep that in mind.
“File sharing made simple”? This sounds so familiar…
DON’T be vague
What does this headline tell you?
Track anything anywhere? Like my stolen phone? Like my teenage daughter?
Oh, it’s about tracking my fitness progress. Duh!
Here’s another one:
This headline attempts to be loud, impactful and… ends up being awkward.
I create. So?
It’s not a bad headline altogether, but it doesn’t work on its own. It got my attention and left me hanging. A sub-headline is very necessary in this case.
DON’T use jargon
Unless you’re absolutely sure that you’re using the jargon of your target customer, you’re better off not using any jargon at all.
Do business owners know what a “bug bounty” is? Startup business owners perhaps do. If that’s their target customer, the headline is acceptable.
But “the global security researcher community”?
Clear as mud. I barely get an idea what this means.
The way to improve this sort of headline is to ask “Why?”
Why would business owners want to connect to the global blah blah blah community? What’s in it for them?
Now let’s take a look at some headline DOs:
DO make a clear promise
Spendee does a wonderful job with their headline:
This headline works because:
- it’s concise
- it explains how the customer benefits from using the app
- it refers to the main problem that it solves for the customer (“Where the hell did I spend so much money this month?”)
Compare this to “Personal expense tracking made easy” or “A new way to track personal expenses”.
Do what they did. Don’t settle for a fishy lame headline like “X made easy”.
People respond to benefit-oriented headlines.
DO quantify your promise
Look at this landing page:
It doesn’t say “Deploy an SSD cloud server super fast” or “The fastest way to deploy a cloud server”.
It says “Deploy an SSD cloud server in 55 seconds“.
Quantifying the promise makes it tangible. It makes it sound authentic.
If you claim that your service or app is “fast”, then say how fast exactly. Or say how much faster it is in comparison to existing services or apps.
I’ll repeat this: People’s BS detectors are on all the time. “The fastest”, “the cheapest”, “the best” bring no meaning.
DO stress the problem you’re solving
A great example of selling in a crowded market:
This headline could have said: “The time tracking app that will make you love time tracking”.
But instead, it’s using a quote from a real person. It’s talking about the issues that potential customers have.
That’s a way to get them to listen.
Try their approach: For your headline use a quote from a potential customer stating exactly the problem that you’re solving.
Do be very very specific
Unbounce’s landing page is a great example of copywriting in many aspects, but what I like most about it is how straight-to-the-point the headline is:
This headline is good because:
- it describes exactly what the software does
- it mentions the pain that it’s removing from the potential customer—”without I.T.” (marketers won’t need an entire team of designers, copywriters and developers to create a landing page)
DO talk about the desired outcomes
Note how Mint are talking about the desired outcomes of using their app.
People who wonder where their money is going would surely want to “take control” and “spend smarter”.
Now let’s move on to the second most important element on your landing page:
The call to action
Your landing page has one goal—to convince visitors to take one single action.
This action could be filling a form, giving out their email, registering, starting a free trial and so on.
And whether they do what you want them to do depends a lot on what your call to action (CTA) says.
You have about 30 characters to tell your visitors why they should click on your CTA.
Those characters are your CTA copy. You have to choose wisely.
Let’s take a look at some call to action DOs and DON’Ts:
DON’T ever use these words in your CTA copy
- Go. Go where? What happens when I go there? This doesn’t say anything. It’s just there because the button has to be called something.
- Continue. Same problem. Continue to what?
- Subscribe. Okay, but what’s my motivation to subscribe? What if you’re a spammer?
- Register. Why? I have accounts in at least 100 websites. I don’t want more of these.
- Submit. That must be the worst of all. Why should I submit my data to you? What do I get in return?
These are all action verbs above which is good. Your CTA copy should imply that clicking it means doing something.
But these action verbs don’t give the visitor a reason to click. There is no motivation. The visitor doesn’t know exactly what will happen when they click. So, they prefer not to.
Don’t put a CTA somewhere on the page just because everyone has one
Bringing this as an example again.
The CTA is disconnected from the headline. It doesn’t make sense to have it there or to have it say what it does:
Should I notify you that I create or will you notify me that I create? Most importantly, WHY?
Whatever… closes browser tab
And now let’s take a look at some good CTA copy examples:
DO use a benefit-oriented CTA
The easiest way to motivate someone to click on your CTA is by promising them that they are going to get something they want in return.
Do I want a heatmap? Hell, yeah!
This button could have said “Start your free trial” because that’s exactly what it does. Instead, it makes a promise that you’ll get something in return.
Another great example:
They do note that you’re starting a free trial, but the button is promising you to create a store. That’s what you’d want out of this app.
DO use context-specific calls to action
“Get started” and “Start your free trial” will always work on any website.
But they are generic CTAs and they don’t tell you why you should start a free trial or why you should get started at all. Again, no clear motivation.
That’s why I’d encourage you to test a context-specific call to action on your landing page. Like this one:
These guys are selling a tool for designers. “Start designing” is a more appropriate and specific call to action than “Get started”.
“Start designing” describes an action that potential customers would want to take.
Nobody really wants to “start a free trial” of anything. That’s often something they have to do in order to do something else.
The features and benefits
Sidenote: What is the difference between features and benefits?
A feature is what your software does.
A benefit is the desired outcome of using a specific feature.
As you can see they are tightly connected which makes it so hard to determine which is which.
On to the benefits and features DOs and DON’Ts:
DON’T mistake features for benefits
Obviously. But that’s easier said than done.
Let’s take a look at the websites of two live chat apps to help you get a better idea.
These aren’t benefits of using the app. These are features.
And though I am their potential customer, I have a hard time understanding why I should choose their product.
I get a vague idea that chat commands and co-browsing could be useful, but I don’t know why I need these yet.
Its entire landing page is focused on benefits only:
Let me try to illustrate the power of benefits with a few quick questions:
- Do business owners want to build relationships with their customers? Of course! This means loyal customers, which means recurring revenue.
- Do business owners want to increase their sales?
- Do business owners want to provide personalized service? They do, because this sets them apart from the competition and turns customers into fans. Happy customers recommend the app to their friends.
Back to website #1:
- Do business owners want “powerful features”? Meh, sure, they do. Whatever that means…
DON’T talk about the features only
The entire page of the first live chat tool is about the features of the app:
According to this copy, their potential customers are thinking:
We want chat commands!!! We want APIs! We want a chat paneeeel! (whatever it iiiss)
But I am in their target market and I’m thinking something like:
I want to increase my sales. If someone answers pre-sales questions immediately will that help? I heard about these live chat tools and I think I’m going to try one, but which one do I pick…
People have a hard time figuring out how a specific feature helps them.
And they won’t spend much time thinking about it.
Benefits trigger an emotional response. Emotional responses are immediate.
That’s why the “Increase your sales” heading will get people to read the text below it and the “Powerful features” heading won’t.
DO reinforce benefits with the help of features
The guys at WPCurve are pulling this off incredibly well:
See their formula?
Benefit + feature that provides it.
This is something worth trying on your landing page.
- Don’t talk about your product. Talk about your potential customers’ issues and desires. What problems do you solve for them? Why would they want to use your product? What’s in it for them?
- Don’t try to get fancy or creative with your headline. Be specific and succinct.
- When naming your call to action (CTA) describe exactly what will happen after the customer clicks. Try answering the questions: “What’s in it for them?”, “What do they get in return to clicking?”
- A feature is what your software does. A benefit is the desired outcome of using a specific feature. Use mainly benefits or back them up with features but never use features only.