The Landing Page Optimization Guide You Wish You’ve Always Had

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What follows is a list of resources that can be applied specifically to landing page optimization,  originally repurposed from ConversionXL and other great websites around the web.

We’ve organized everything to best simulate a visitor’s experience on a landing page from first click to final conversion.

To get the most out of this guide, please use each resource to focus on one area of your landing page experience at a time. Trust me, this will help you later on when you’re wondering what to test next.

I recommend you bookmark this page so you can come back to it when it’s time to create that next landing page.

Step Zero – Really Understand Your Target Market

Sketch Pad and PencilsImage credit:, used under CC license

Do This: Really get to know your market. Conduct surveys and interviews to understand your customer’s pain points. If you want extra credit, make a list of websites they’re exposed to, and build a picture of what their “typical” online experience is.

Questions like:

  • Who are you – your age, job, position in your company, etc.
  • What are you using our product for?
  • How is your life better thanks to it?
  • Do you consider any alternatives? Why?

(note: If you’re a start-up, you’ll want to use customer development questions for your page to resonate with future traffic)

These questions help you uncover trends within your market and tell you things analytics alone can not. All of this is to inform a landing page design that follows your target market expectations which plays a huge role in reducing the amount of friction it takes for them to convert.

The biggest problem I see in landing page design and optimization is the page has no understanding of who the visitor is or their level of online exposure.

Ask-MetaFilterScreenshot taken 01/30/2014 of

Surely, what’s “appeals” to a 54-year-old mother of 5 who goes online to check Facebook and Metafilter will be vastly different from a Google Glass wearing, 27-year-old power-user of social networks you haven’t even heard of yet.


Screenshot taken 01/1/2011 of the now defunct

Landing page design isn’t a game where you flex your own aesthetic prowess.

It’s about connecting with the viewer and communicating value as quickly as possible. The more you accept that connection is on their terms, not yours, the better your pages will be.

Step One – Set Up Actionable Analytics

Do This: Set up your conversion goals in Google Analytics.

Ask Peep Laja from ConversionXL about analytics, and he’ll tell you,

“Metrics are there to provide actionable insight. You need to look at a metric, ask “so what?” – and have an answer.” “Conversion rates for our top Adwords are way up. So what? We should increase our Adwords budget.”

Seems simple enough, and yet “Conversion” Analytics looks so intimidating that many of us skip this step so we can get straight to making money.

Stop it.

If you don’t have actionable analytics you’ll never get the full story on your landing page activity. You’ll end up throwing away money and guessing what to do next. Take the time. Learn to interpret your analytics data and make the most of it. Your marketing budget will thank you, I promise.

Recommended Reading:

GA lead tunnel conversion rateImage credit:

Step Two – Make Sure Your Ad’s Message Matches The Landing Page

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Do This: Check the bounce rates on the landing pages where you’d like to generate more business. If they’re too high and conversions are too low, you may have a message match problem.

To know for sure, look at the ads pointing to the page that receive the highest click-through rates.

Does your page use similar language to what’s in the ad? Do the images in display ads re-appear on the landing page?

If you miss the mark on this, your landing pages are destined to fail.


Nine times out of 10, messages in the ad don’t correspond directly to what’s on the page.

Ad images and headlines that don’t correspond to landing page headlines and the page, generally speaking, are not what the user expected when they clicked the ad.

They land on the page and feel ungrounded. Where’s the headline that grabbed their attention?  At the very least, have you inserted the keyword they were searching for in a prominent place on the page?


Lack of conversion is the result of lazy conversion optimization.

Instead of creating one page and throwing multiple, loosely targeted ads at it, create a handful of highly targeted landing pages that focus on tight-knit group of keywords. If your budget allows, experiment with a dynamic keyword insertion platform.

Recommended Reading:

Step Three – Evaluate Your Landing Page’s First Impression

emotional-design-how-to-make-things-work-betterScreenshot taken 01/30/2014 of

Do This: Search for your landing page’s primary keyword and click on the pages your primary competitors are creating.

The idea isn’t to copy what competitors are doing (many times, they don’t know what they are doing, either), but to get an idea of the first impression they’re trying to make.

See, it only takes 0.013 seconds for your brain to identify an image and 0.05 seconds for visitors to form an opinion about your landing page.

The opinion they’ve subconsciously formed in between 1/13th to 1/50th of a second will influence every decision they make on your page.

These strong first impressions are why it’s vital that your message match is strong. It’s also why you should be designing your pages with some degree of familiarity.

Is your page laid out in a way that’s intuitive to your user? Do your product shots meet the standards your target market has from their web browsing experience?

Because the brain registers information faster than your user can perceive, if these elements are even slightly “off”, it becomes an uphill battle all the way to conversion.

Recommended Reading:

Notable Examples Of Good First Impressions:

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First-Impression-3Screenshot taken 01/30/2014 of

Step Four – Does Your Page Have Emotional Resonance?


Do This: Use customer development techniques found in this post to build a profile of your ideal buyer personas.

Tommy Walker

Tommy Walker

Tommy Walker is the Editor of ConversionXL, a blog dedicated to giving actionable conversion rate optimization advice based on scientific research and in-depth industry knowledge.

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8 thoughts on “The Landing Page Optimization Guide You Wish You’ve Always Had

  1. I think one of the areas many sites fall off is really tracking the usage through multiple versions of a landing page. Sometimes the smallest change can make the biggest difference.

    1. You’re absolutely right Maciej, and I think the major issue here is a misunderstanding on how to run a proper test.

      For most people, the design process is a one and done deal. It’s unfortunate, and I think there’s a long way to go before the mindset of “always be testing” is adopted :-/

    2. How do you test multiple landing pages? From different sources, each with their own shortened link? Or automatically rotating designs? (As you can see I’m a LP testing newbie)

  2. Great question Kelsey!

    It all depends. The easiest way is to use Google’s content experiments, which will allow you to serve two different urls from the same traffic source.

    So if you were running an Adwords campaign and wanted to test say, a headline, you would create identical versions of the page (except the headline) on separate urls and enter both of those urls into Google’s content experiments.

    When you enter the main url into adwords, the content experiment will automatically split the traffic to send for example, 50% of your traffic to one page and 50% of the traffic to the other.

    After you’ve reached a minimum of 100 conversions, you will know which one is the winner.

    Of course, software like Optimizly or Visual Website Optimizer’s make this process a little easier, and if you’re a code weenie (like me) a tool like Unbounce will help expedite the process & give you easier to visualize the results of your campaign.

    There is a lot more that can go into running a test, of course, but as long as you’re measuring a minimum of 100 conversions (total) and you’re only driving traffic to that page from one source, you should get a very clear idea of what works “best” and you can iterate from there.

  3. Good post indeed, Tommy! :)

    This is really a definitive guide for landing page optimization. I’m pretty sure that this article would help both newbies and pro in marketing.

    I’ve found the tips you’ve shared valuable and effective. The lessons, the images, and the videos are truly exceptional.

    I must agree with all your points listed above, especially the last words you’ve said:
    “Landing page optimization is just a way to make the story better every time it’s told…”

    Your landing page has just a short time to grab your viewers’ attention and interest, so you should make it concise and engaging enough to effectively convert buyers.

    Thanks for the post!

    P.S. I’ve found this post shared on and leave this comment there.