The days of random people showing up at your digital doors — your website — are long gone. Nowadays, no one will just type your domain name out of the blue if they haven’t heard about your firm before. Those who had come, always have a goal.
New visitors would typically access your company website through one of the following entry points: direct emails, paid online ads, external links or organic search. As a business leader or a manager, you might not have a total control over all of the entry points, but what happens next, once people have decided to pay your website a visit, is entirely in your hands.
Depending on the point of entry, the landing spots might vary. More often than not, the most frequently visited locations are the home page and landing pages. The home page is generic by design and it tends to get most of the incoming direct and organic traffic. Landing pages, however, are designed for specific target audience’s segments with specific objectives in mind and therefore have a fair amount of targeted traffic.
The visitors of the website have needs and goals; firms have business objectives. Whenever a user visits a website, these objectives manifest themselves in the form of call-to-action buttons, pop-ups, notifications, sounds and other attention-grabbers. Unfortunately, on most websites these objectives do not concord with visitors’ goals.
The question is — how do you align your business objectives with users’ needs & wants whilst having variable entry points and landing spots?
What is the reason behind this conversion optimization guide?
Having asked ourselves the above question on alignment, we had decided to examine home & landing pages of random professional services firms from different industries: engineering, legal, accounting, tech, construction, entertainment, recruitment and marketing. Though not entirely unexpected, to our surprise, the current state of affairs is rather dismal — the conversion rates reported by several studies aren’t impressive and in some industries are as low as 3% for their landing pages.
As a side note — a typical home page usually has more generic content, intent and many competing objectives and so the conversion rates are expected to be lower than that of specific, goal-oriented landing pages.
Creating websites, polishing home pages and crafting landing pages is a time-consuming, resource-demanding endeavour — unless you’re into procuring a this-will-do, free-for-all template for your business — thus, it would seem obvious to want to have a reasonable return on investment. Anything below 10% conversion rate is a cry for improvement.
It is not unusual for a typical brick & mortar retail store, for example, to have a conversion rate above 20% — something online stores should strive to attain. So, when 10 people walk into your brick & mortar store (read — visit your website) you would want to expect at least one of them to complete a transaction. If other retailers can do it, why shouldn’t you?
We think there is a tremendous opportunity that most professional services firms aren’t taking seriously enough. The reason, of course, is quite simple — everyone is “copycating” the average.
Who is this landing page optimization checklist for?
These are the best practices of conversion rate optimization that are meant for principals, executives and key stakeholders of professional services firms who are somewhat experienced in digital marketing. This checklist serves as a guide towards understanding the process behind the creation of conversion optimization strategies using the techniques and principles outlined further.
This guide is thorough, yet might not be complete. It contains thought-provoking concepts that require experience and patience; it will transform along with our knowledge about the facilitation of the conversion.
Those who are looking for a quick show-me-how-in-a-minute solution would probably find this guide to be intimidating. All the remaining astute risktakers, courageous wayfinders and valiant captains — let’s dive right in!
W.T.F. Web principles
WTF Web principles are a series of questions or problems that has to be addressed, if not solved, in order to maximize the effects of conversion rate optimization. Understanding these principles will allow you to compose a landing page that both speaks to the target audience and follows through with your business objectives. In other words — achieve alignment.
It makes it much easier to explain why professional services firms need to increase conversion rates on their landing pages rather than any other web page, because landing pages are typically viewed as a separate job with separate metrics and expectations. The principles outlined here, however, can be applied to every single page on the company website.
In order to find an alignment between the target audience and business, we need to keep both perspectives in mind — the user perspective and the company perspective. We will exert empathy. We shall put their spectacles on to see the world through their lenses. We will step into their shoes.
We shall examine the landing page from the user’s perspective first.
W.T.F. Web — user’s perspective
Where am I? This is the first question that pops into user’s mind. I was in one place and now I am somewhere else; what is this place? The landing page should be able to address this question immediately. An image, a video or a concise headline should answer this question fast, on the first screen the user will see, typically — in the “hero section”, but not necessarily. If it’s a dental service, the user should probably see some happy teeth or non-intimidating doctors. If it’s a legal advice, the user should probably see an experienced lawyer who is ready to start a conversation.
What does this firm do? The answer to this question can come through the headline or subheading; images and video can reinforce this. The user wants to know what is being offered. A concise and to-the-point answer is very helpful.
Expert legal advice in divorce, real estate and child custody.
Who is this for? Am I the right person, can I afford it, is this for me? The copy, images, taglines, messaging — these things have to speak to the particular target audience. If the ad had a price tag in the title, the user should be able to find the exact price on the landing page. If the service is for the dog owners, perhaps it isn’t prudent to display cats even though you might be fond of a particular kitten.
Why should it matter? This has to be more about the problem the product or service is supposed to solve. What are the benefits of this offer to this particular visitor? What are the pain points that could be soothed by the service or product?
What do I have to do? A call to action (CTA) buttons that stand out is a good way to let the user know exactly what you want them to do. Another important thing is to make sure the user understands what is going to happen when they take that action. What happens afterwards is very important indeed. People want to be aware of what’s coming next. The fear of the unknown could prevent them from taking action.
When do I need to act? When is the best time to take action and why? There has to be a genuine urgency — maybe the stock is limited or, perhaps, due to a low season, the prices are reduced for a certain period of time. Make sure the rush isn’t artificial. Counters that tick seconds before the deal expires are ridiculous and harmful if after reloading the page they reset. Now, the problem is — where exactly do you place the answers to these questions on the landing page? Vendors that sell templates will tell you that there is only one way of doing it right — their way, using their templates. I am sure, that if you have experience in business, you know that there are always multiple ways of getting similar results.
Sometimes a template could work well. Sometimes you might get lucky — turn up at the right place and at the right time. For us to increase your chances of success, you’d want to invest time and effort into thinking these questions through: rigorously, thoroughly, prudently.
Knowing your target audience well, understanding their pain points, will allow you to emphasize the most crucial parts first and put them at the most prominent places. Bear in mind that you can make users land on a particular spot on the landing page and not necessarily at the top of it.
W.T.F. Web — user’s perspective
Time — how long does it take for the landing page to load? When it comes to time — no one wants to wait. This applies to every page on the website. The studies have shown that there is a three second threshold. After this threshold, users start to leave without seeing the contents of the page. Our job is to make sure the pages are loading fast. Here is an article that investigates the importance of optimizing page speeds.
Trust — how trustworthy is this company? Are there any reliable reviews? Not some random, unsubstantiated numbers, but real, honest reviews. Users want to see social proof, number of customers, testimonials, endorsements or references. Our job is to portray the company, the service and the product as the ones deserving people’s trust. A solid, clean web design will help to achieve this. Consistency is a must. Security — when it comes to payments. Pleasant, thought-through user experience would never go amiss either.
Trouble — is this going to be troublesome? We should address the question of how difficult it is going to be to work with your product and your team. Users can get a gist of it by going through the content, scrolling and clicking buttons — if it is challenging to find the information they seek, it’s probably going to be too much of a trouble to start working with the company as well. User experience should be seamless. The issues potential troubles should be addresses in the copy. Thorough video tutorials are of great help as well.
Transformation — how will it make me better? This one’s super important. People buy products and services because they want to become a better version of selves. Customers will select the product that they feel can do a better job of making this transformation happen.
The summer is coming and I’m looking for a date; the beach is where I can examine my options better. I will need to make an impression. But I am embarrassed to go to the beach, because my toenails have fungus. What should I do; can anyone help?
Following this user’s thought process, companies can craft landing pages that will address the pain points and increase conversion rates.
Thoroughness — how thorough is this company with their work? This is the question of expertise, experience and approach with regards to the product or service. But it’s also a marker of attitude towards the potential client. Visitors want to be sure you know what you are doing and you will follow through with your promise. Description of a step-by-step process will help with addressing this issue.
Totality — how complete is the product or service? This one is an extension of the Thoroughness, of course. Users want to know that they’re not going to be on their own, face-to-face with the unknown. What kind of customer support can they expect? Visitors want to have access to additional information, tutorials, demos, etc.
Treatment — how will they treat me; how do they treat their customers? People want to feel special, because they know they are unique. No one wants to feel they’ve been taken advantage of — yet another victory of clever marketers. Our job on the landing page is to convince the visitor that the company actually cares about them.
Transactions — how easy it is to make simple transactions? If it is challenging for the user to perform simple tasks on the landing page, then maybe the whole process isn’t worth going through. If the application form has too many fields or has some irrelevant questions in it, people might want to ditch the page.
W.T.F. Web — user’s perspective
Focus — what should I focus on? The landing page has to have one objective that is easy to understand and act upon. Users have to intuitively grasp what needs done — which form to fill in, which button to click or which phone number to dial. Our job is to remove distractions that obscure the focus and implement visual hierarchy along with contrast to draw attention towards the most important elements.
Feasibility – is this offer affordable and attainable? This goes back to the “Who is this for?” question. We need to help the user figure out whether they can afford this product or service. It is important to be clear and specific about prices. When prices are subject to further communication, the user has to become aware of that. Neither your business, nor the prospect customer is going to benefit from spending time talking about the product or service when it’s not attainable.
Finesse — how competent are they? If your company has an expertise in a certain field, it should be conveyed to the users on the landing page. Every subject has a layered structure to it. It would be great to show the visitor how deep your knowledge of the subject goes. People prefer to have an expert opinion and best value for their money. Our goal is to make sure this is communicated to the potential customer on the landing page.
Fears — how will it all turn out? There are common and industry specific fears we’d have to contend with. For instance, a potential customer might have a fear of regret — they’ve already dealt with another vendor and the outcome was terrible. Your company has to know these pain points and address them. To mitigate the fears, your business can offer money-back guarantees, warranties, customer support, replacements, refunds, insurances, etc. Description of use cases where other customers had done something in a wrong way and how the problem had been solved would show the visitor that you are aware of the potential problems and you don’t shy away from challenges.
Failure — what if something goes wrong? The user might feel uncomfortable for numerous reasons. They might be bad at something or clumsy, they might have very limited budget and will not be able to afford a redo, they might be afraid of the social pressure and so on. It is our responsibility to let the user know that we understand their concerns and that we are here to help, support and make things work no matter what.
Feelings — can you feel my pain? This is a subtle area that requires particular attention in order not to mess it up. A good copy with storytelling techniques works best.
Friday night. Rain. Empty street. Cold. Loneliness. Bar. Why not? Brand Beer. Better. Another Brand beer. Laughs. Party. New friends. Sunny Saturday.
Fickleness — are they consistent? So many companies fail on this one. It’s not uncommon to click on the add promising a 35% discount only to find yourself on the landing page that offers a 30% discount, but then discover a page title up there — in the browser tab — saying that there is a “45% discount, congrats”. Seeing things like that will drop the level of trust below the absolute zero and will make that company look ridiculous. Being consistent is hard but very important.
Faces — are there any real people? Some services, more than products, require to have real people to back up the offer. This is especially true for dentists and lawyers. The problem, of course, is that the visitor might not like the person they see. A solution is to have pictures of different people, keeping in mind the preferences of the target audience. It is best to refrain from using stock photos and show the employees of the company. It is even better if the people could be traced through social media. The potential customer would want to know whether they like the people they see.
Features and Benefits — how are you better? This one is rather obvious, of course. Everyone would pour a ton of benefits and features on the visitor. The job of a prudent business manager is to figure out what matters most for the specific segment of the target audience and concentrate on that. Features should be easy to understand and relate to. For example, talking about the number of songs the device can play is better than boasting about the number of megabytes. Benefits should be enticing.
This device has a 10 megapixel camera, unique filters and after-effects that will allow you to take stunning photos everywhere you go. Your friends will keep your photos on their profile. Finally — with Y you can become a better photographer.
This is already a handful of questions and principles right there. Do you need to apply all of them? Probably not, but neither of them is irrelevant. Keeping in mind these principles, aimed at improving conversion rates on your web pages, will allow you to craft different variants of your landing pages to AB test against your specific target audience.
And now let us look at the WTF Web principles from the business perspective.