SEO

Landing Pages On A SMB Budget

Creating new landing pages for testing is getting cheaper. And scalable.

So there are fewer and fewer reasons for SMBs not to be testing their landing pages and sites to optimize conversion rates.

Testing landing pages has long been a preoccupation of mine, particularly because of the traditionally prohibitive costs.

Even if you use a design contest at a place like 99Designs.com, you’re still paying $300 – $500 for a good graphic look and feel. Plus you often need to pay about $100 for a competent graphics slicing shop to handle your job.

(Yes, others can do this for less, but you’re taking a few risks:

  • Unreliable people vanishing with your money
  • Getting crap code and being unable to evaluate that
  • Getting an ugly, non-functional design)

And that’s just the first landing page – you need alternatives so you can test! A simple A/B/C split test (eg with three variations) could thus run you $1,200 – $1,800 for graphics and code. (Assuming you start with completely different designs; if you just split test headlines or hero shots or calls to action, you’ll probably be able to do it for “just” $400.)

Oh, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You still need to buy traffic to send to those pages to test! All of a sudden, you’re paying $300 for the graphics, $100 for the code, maybe another $50 for finagling stuff and creating simple variations, plus traffic! This test is starting to sound like it’ll cost $1000, just to do a decent job of it!

Well, not necessarily. Here are some ideas and commentary on recent SMB landing pages I’ve seen.

1) Affiliate Theme – This is a WordPress theme that comes pre loaded with various layout and graphical options, such that you can mix and match to customize your design.

The idea is excellent. I was partly happy and partly disappointed when I saw this, because my friend Tyler Shears and I came up with roughly the same idea on our trip back from SMX West, and it was a potential business / revenue stream. Now I’d rather not be second to market, but I am glad that this is available, affordably.

A single Affiliate Theme license goes for $97, says my friend Dev Basu in his Affiliate Theme review (which I wish were a little more review and a little less description :P), while the top line one goes for $197.

The catch with Affiliate Theme, unfortunately, is that it’s Affiliate Theme.

Google hates affiliates (unless they’re Google Money affiliates or Eric Schmidt’s buddies…). Google is quicker to penalize affiliates in the organic results, and is more inclined to slap them in PPC.

Blackhats know that if their networks of sites show a footprint (a common pattern in the code), they’ll get banned more quickly.

If you want to use the same code as hundreds or thousands of other affiliates for serious projects… do yourself a favor and test things first. See how much of a leash Google gives you. I’m speaking theoretically, but this is a risk to be aware of.

2) You can use the following process.

  1. Buy these three books: (i) Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug; (ii) Web Design For ROI, by Lance Loveday and Sandra Niehaus; (iii) The Elements of User Experience Design, by Jesse James Garrett
  2. Read the books, and understand how to make usable sites that make money.
  3. Draw up a detailed wireframe for your site, based on “2)”.
  4. Get the graphics done cheap ($50 – $100) via a freelance site. With a wireframe, 99Designs is less valuable, because the graphic artists are just painting by numbers. It’s pretty hard to miscommunicate paint-by-numbers, even if your freelancer is a non-native English speaker imho.
  5. Go to the pros to have the graphics coded.

As a member of the Jewish community, I’m usually critical of my community’s associations for not making more use of testing and advanced landing page ideas and knowledge. Yet I saw an ad on Facebook that lead me to this very impressive page. I’m guessing something similar could be done with the above process.

masters degree israel Landing Pages On A SMB Budget

(Click to enlarge)

  • No distracting navigation,
  • Clear call to action,
  • The form fits entirely above the fold,
  • The features are explained in terms of the benefit provided (career, personal development)
  • Pictures act as a sample of the experience you can have
  • The only obvious issue is that their button is inconsistent with the form headline. I’m willing to bet the text “Get More Info” or some variant on that would beat “Submit Now,” in a split test.

3) If you do have a few hundred bucks for the design and then a few hundred more bucks for the traffic, you can do really impressive stuff.

An ad I recently saw on my favourite salsa site (which has some nice social media elements, especially for an SMB site…) lead me to a landing page for my salsa school, San Tropez.

salsa landing page Landing Pages On A SMB Budget

(Click to enlarge)

  • Headline targets needs / desires
  • Strong scent with logo, repeated “latin dance school in Montreal” phrasing etc.
  • Video parallels offline live demos, which make people want to learn and become great dancers
  • Video comes from national TV, and acts as social proof
  • Additional social proof in “Why Choose”
  • Bullets, headlines and short paragraphs for easy scanning.
  • Clear call to action
  • Simple form
  • Multiple ways to contact them

Even though San Tropez’s agency is a competitor in my city, I have to give props to Amauta Marketing for the sweet ass job they’ve done both with San Tropez’s SEO and PPC (assuming they didn’t only do the landing page). I actually signed up for the school back in January after finding them via Google a few times.

In short, making landing pages is getting a lot cheaper, with numerous options available. And for those with slightly larger budgets, you can do really impressive things. That’s one less excuse not to test!

Gab Goldenberg shares advanced seo tips on his seo blog.

[The opinions of SEJ Guest Bloggers are not necessarily those of Search Engine Journal or Search & Social.]

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8 thoughts on “Landing Pages On A SMB Budget

  1. Of course it depends on the price of your product, how much you can spend on landingpages. At webleadsB2B.com we have a tested and proved method for generating web leads and a brilliant design for landingpages.

  2. Great topic Gab. Landing pages are a very important tool in an online marketer’s arsenal. But they can also be resource intensive. As soon as you scale beyond 10 or so landing pages it becomes necessary to have tools & processes to manage them. And as a marketer’s adoption of landing pages grow, so does the desired level of sophistication. We’re very biased on this topic — we have a landing page management platform called LiveBall. And we’ve seen it help marketers launch many more landing pages with much fewer resources.

  3. Michael – that’s dependent on the business and the budget. There are as many ways to drive traffic online as there are minds thinking about it ;).

    @Anna – I’m familiar with the posts you guys have been writing about the topic – I subscribe to Ion’s blog :).

  4. Hi Gab,

    Thank you for talking about one of my PPC landing page in this article (Amauta). I find very kind of you as a competitor to talk about us.

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    Hernan Cespedes

  5. I’d be interested to know how promoting a landing page would be different to promoting a website (usually the home page). The main difference is that you can focus a landing page much more on the market/keywords etc you want to attract, whereas website home pages cannot. That’s why we prefer landing pages for lead generation and promos much more. Found interesting advise on this from a number of sources such as eloqua, webleadsb2b, liveball – mentioned in above replies. Thanks for your suggestions.