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It's an emotive debate this long vs short landing page one. I have read a lot of tirades against annoying sale pages that scroll and scroll forever.
However, I have seen enough of these long form pages (Here's Econsultancy's landing page) to know that people are using them for a reason. It can't be coincidence.
And some of the companies using long form are respected brands (e.g. Amazon) with digital pedigree, so why would they contravene the basic tenets of usability and user experience?
This blog looks at the approaches and tools you can use to optimise your landing pages and take the emotion out of design and decision making.
There is no right answer
Let's start with me putting my balls on the block and stating my professional opinion. There isn't a definitive answer. The optimum design and length of a landing page is dependent on several factors:
1. The audience you are trying to reach.
2. The products/services you are trying to promote.
3. The goals for that page.
4. Your brand and its reputation/heritage.
OK, that's not an exhaustive list but it covers the key influences. You should never start a landing page project with a fixed idea about what to build. Use your experience, intuition and opinion but be open to change because it should be an iterative process.
Why do long landing pages sometimes work?
There are many reasons but the most logical are:
1. You need to tackle potential objections that can't be done by face-to-face communication.
2. Some products and services are complicated sells, you need to give all relevant content to cater for a diverse audience.
3. Some people like detail and have time on their hands, leave them satisfied.
4. Your brand will be unknown to many visitors, you need to convey credibility and reliability and content can help achieve this by giving reassurances.
Getting the basics right - logical hypotheses
To help devise logical hypotheses (i.e. assumptions for what content you need to create to satisfy the needs of visitors) for your landing page, use the following indicators:
1. If it is product based, what are the most popular/fast-selling products in your catalogue that can be highlighted?
2. What are the current site search patterns related to the subject of the landing page?
3. What are the market search patterns related to the subject of the landing page.
4. What questions does your Customer Service team frequently get asked related to this subject (helps tackle barriers)?
5. What are your competitors doing in this area?
For example, re: 3. above, if you are creating a landing page for home fitness machines such as exercise bikes and rowers, use the free Google External Keyword Tool (or access it via your Adword account) and Google Insights to identify the most relevant trending keyword combinations. This will help you match content to popular searches to increase relevance.
This also helps identify keyword targets for SEO optimisation.
Visualising where people scroll to
Web analytics data will tell you which buttons and links visitors click on and the % of visits clicking on each on-page element, but it won't tell you how many people are viewing each section of the landing page.
This additional information is really helpful as it demonstrates the propensity to scroll and absorb your content.
If people are scrolling and seeing everything but engagement and clicks are low, your data is telling you that your landing page is not strong enough at driving action.
This can help you modify content to encourage greater engagement, such as testing stronger calls to action and more prominent visual signs.
I love the Crazy Egg scrollmap and confetti tool for visualising landing page activity. You can integrate with your GA account to refine the display based on traffic source, great for working out how landing pages cater for different audiences.
You can also get this sort of info from companies like Clicktale.
Testing short v long form
And this is the crux of it. Not even Smarties have the answer. If you want the best results, or at least to know that you have stuck with the optimum solution (that is the landing page that gives you the best set of results based on your KPIs), you need to test.
Testing often makes people look away to a far off happy place - its implied complexity hurts. However, A/B testing doesn't need to be complex or prohibitively expensive.
You can use tools like Google Website Optimizer to do this and create a few creative treatments for the landing page. Depending on traffic volumes, you can have readable data within a few days.
Testing doesn't have to be finite. Each time you find a winning page version, set-up another test for a specific component of the page (e.g. style of buttons for calls to action) and refine further. It's an iterative process reflecting the changing needs of your visitors.
There's a great case study from Conversion Rate Experts on Sunshine Holidays: "How we made an extra £14m a year for a travel company".
Detail via web analytics
The challenge with your testing is to find relevance. If you simply compare top-level KPIs for landing page versions based on all visits, you miss out on the golden nuggets.
For example, you may find that your search visitors behave differently to email visitors and within search, brand behaves differently to generic.
This type of analysis can reveal interesting patterns that might lead you to creating multiple versions of a landing page to suit different audiences. The marginal cost of doing this can help drive your ROI and give you pay-back.
If you're opting for the more straightforward A/B testing route, you can use web analytics tools like Google Analytics to measure this.
- Compare KPIs like page engagement and conversion based on traffic source.
- Compare performance for new v returning customers.
- For search traffic, drill down to keyword level to see how landing page performance varies at keyword level.
As far as I know, it's also possible to use GA to do this for MVT testing but it's more complicated and you would need to use custom variables. That's not my expertise so would welcome comments from those in the know.
Drilling down into the data will give you insight from which you can make decisions. You might find that short tail keyword traffic responds better to a long form page because the in-depth content satisfies the research needs.
You might not. But if you don't do the analysis, you might be missing something important and compromising results.
Simple techniques to encourage visitors to scroll
If you're opting for a long form landing page there are some cool tips for getting visitors to get past first base and go deep:
1. Ensure key selling points and calls to action are above the fold - yep obvious but not always adhered to.
2. Use links to other sections of the page to fast track people to content lower down the page.
3. Avoid horizontal blank space on or near the fold - this gives the impression there is nothing below and impacts scrolling.
4. Use levers in the content to encourage scrolling (Wiltshire Farm Foods found a neat solution for this - see bottom right of the page).
5. Use technology to surface deeper content without the need to scroll or open new pages e.g. product carousels.
The best article I've read on scrolling tips comes from Conversion Rate Experts: "How to make users scroll down your page" and its thanks to them that I found the Wiltshire Farm Foods example.
To check what content appears above the fold for different browsers, you can use the Foldtester.com free online tool (see below).
Via your web analytics you can identify what % of traffic comes from different browsers/resolutions (including mobile browsers) to determine how best to optimise display.
Still don't think long form landing pages can work?
I love a sceptic. If it really didn't work, then why would some of the most successful digital brands use oh so long product pages?
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying lets all rip up the concise approach and go nuts. There's a time and place for everything, just don't exclude long form because you have a personal issue against it.
It really can work and your landing page design should be based on what visitors want; let the data make the decision.
There's a neat visualisation of one of Amazon's product pages on the Conversion Rate Experts blog (see above link) using the Hoff as a scroll barometer. It's mighty big.
So what do you think? I'm pretty much agnostic when it comes to the question, "Should my landing page by short or long?" I don't really care. All I care about is finding the best solution to drive KPIs, provide good user experience and achieve the goals for that page.
Please drop by with comments to fuel the discussion.