Written by John McElborough on 4 December, 2013
Landing page optimisation isn’t rocket science, yet to hear some experts talking about it you’d think they were planning for a moon landing. Here I want to share with you the one split-test which virtually any type of business can do to help improve the performance of their landing pages.
Why do most split tests fail?
The single biggest mistake I see companies making when testing and optimising their landing pages is underestimating the sample size they need to run a statistically valid test. For example they might split test the layout of their landing page between a 1 and 2 column design. A good test in theory, but because the sample size they test with isn’t big enough they end up picking a winning design based on inconclusive evidence. So lets say for example they test with 100 visitors, 50 land on version 1 and 50 land on version 2 of the design.
Version 1 has a 2% conversion rate, version 2 has a 4% conversion rate. Version 2 is clearly the winner, but the problem is that the sample is so small the winning page has only had 2 individual conversions – hardly a valid sample to base future decisions on.
For this reason I believe when you do test you need to test big and bold. Unless you’re getting millions of visitors and thousands of transactions you’re unlikely to get conclusive data by split testing subtle design changes. By testing big changes you need a smaller sample size to see conclusive results. Go big, make your split test pages radically different, choose the best one and refine later.
Long vs short pages
When deciding what to test the first thing I always recommend trying to clients is split testing long, content rich landing pages against short, action oriented promotional pages.
Here’s a typical longer landing page.
Compare that to a short, action orientated page like the one below.
Do short or long pages perform better?
The interesting thing about testing is that there is no set rule to what will work. Even within the same niche, on the same keywords the landing page style which converts better for one site won’t convert as well for another. So on that basis there’s no way of saying either long or short pages are better for your site, you have to test them.
Let me give a real world example of our own website at Inbound360. Our most popular and profitable offering is our paid search management service and the Google Adwords and LinkedIn advertising campaigns we run to promote our own company all land on the PPC management page of our site. In all several hundred prospects each week hit that page, more than any other page on our site so for us, its our biggest focus.
When we first set the page up and started promoting it, it was a fairly average length of page (400 words or so). Researching our competitors we saw that most had relatively short form copy on their landing pages and were trying to harvest leads using “callback” or info request forms. In some markets this approach can work very well. By giving limited information on your landing page you create a take it or leave it option for visitors. Most will bounce off that page but a % will always fill out the form and turn into a lead.
However my instinct is always to provide as much information to the visitor as possible and there’s plenty of case studies from others who have found this approach to convert better. I know when I use websites myself looking for B2B services I’ve almost always make my buying decision based on the information I can find online. If a company isn’t giving me this information, I don’t consider them as a supplier. So we got to work writing a long form landing page for our PPC service. We listed every feature of our service offering and every question prospective customers typically ask us at the proposal stage and laid it all out. The resulting page came in at nearly 2000 words and takes over 10 minutes to read in its entirety.
We tested these 3 pages against one another, short, medium and long form copy and as you can see our winning page is the long form version. In this instance though simply looking at the numbers doesn’t paint the full picture. The medium length page actually generated more leads than the long one, but the quality of leads we got from the long 2000 word page were far higher and converted beyond the lead. This is why I always say qualitative analysis is so much more valuable than quantitative analysis in lead generation campaigns as its usually the case that no two leads are worth the same. For us a qualified visitor who makes an enquiry is worth more than 10 lukewarm leads from people who haven’t bothered reading the entire page.
For another business it might be the end goal is just to get the visitor off the page and onto the phone so their sales people can take over.
If you’re running PPC, email marketing or any other campaigns where you have a high priority landing page that you direct prospects to I strongly recommend if you’re not going to test anything else, create a long and short version of your landing page and test them against one another. Its cheap, easy and could significantly improve the performance of your campaign.
This post was originally published on Search Engine People
Author: John McElborough
+John McElborough is co-founder and MD of Inbound360, a London based PPC agency. John has been building and marketing websites for over a decade and has consulted for some of the UK’s largest brands on PPC and digital strategy. His work has been published on leading industry sites including SearchEngineJournal, Social Media Today and Moz.com as well as his own Marketing For Growth” blog