How to Craft Effective Landing Pages and Common Mistakes to Avoid [Letter#21]

Hi there!

Last week we talked about deciding who your customers is as an entrepreneur. So assuming you have ideas for products/services that solve a problem for this group, how do you communicate those with your potential customers?

A landing page, sometimes known as a "lead capture page", "squeeze page" or a "destination page", is a single web page that appears in response to clicking on a search result, marketing email or an online advertisement.

We've all interacted with landing pages — for digital products, for ebooks, for online courses, for newsletters, etc. There is a lot of advice and opinions about what makes a good landing page and there are also many bad landing pages out there (including mine). I wanted to dig into this advice and find some objective truths and what logically makes sense.

In this issue I share the result of my research about landing pages, what makes an effective one and common mistakes to avoid. I also share my notes from an IndieHackers podcast episode.


How Stuff Works: Landing Pages

I consumed the following resources:

  1. 6 Landing Page Mistakes article from Stacking the Bricks.
  2. Landing Page Checklist by Louis Nicholla
  3. IndieHackers post from someone who analyzed landing pages for one year.

My reading time: 2.5 hours, Your reading time: < 10 minutes hopefully!

Why Learn to Make Good Landing Pages?

I wanted to learn how to objectively evaluate landing pages, instead of thinking "I guess this seems good?",  "Is it missing anything?", or  "Do I need to make the design a bit fancier or is basic okay" etc.

But why get good at crafting landing pages? Here's why it's important: until we find the right product idea for our potential customers, we have to test out many different ideas, do experiments to learn what resonates and what doesn't. For each idea that we're testing, there are two possibilities — either the idea is good or it isn't. If the idea is good, then it's in our interest to communicate it in a way that the customer 'gets it'. It would be a shame if a good idea doesn't get traction because we didn't convey it clearly, because of poor landing page copy.

The other possibility is that the idea is not a good one. In this case, we'll realize this while making a landing page if we know the key ingredients of an effective landing page. For example, if we can't express what problem our product solves or illustrate how the product will benefit the customer in vivid detail, it could be because it's not a very good idea. It may be that our idea is not really a solution to a problem, to a real pain point that customers are willing to pay to solve.

Either way, being skilled at crafting effective landing page copy and design is valuable. This way we can separate the testing of our idea from testing our ability to communicate about the idea. We don't want to confound the two. If our landing page is well designed, then we can remove that variable. If a well crafted landing page doesn't get traction, it's more likely that the idea is not a good one (and not because we are poorly communicating it).

Okay with that, here's what makes an effective landing page.

Ingredients of an Effective Landing Page

It helps to think about it from our own experience as a customer: as a user/customer what is my thinking process for when I visit a landing page? I'm subconsciously looking for answers to the following questions.

What is the thing? Is it for me? What problem does it solve? Do I have that problem? What does it cost? Who made it? Do I know/trust them? Do I believe that this thing is legit, will actually do what it says? This can be a checklist to go through and make sure you've answered all of these questions in a clear way. All landing pages need to have:

A single clear offer - what is the thing? A SaaS app, an ebook, an online course, a newsletter, an online community. Offer one thing per landing page.

Call-to-action (CTA) - a button to click to sign-up/login, an input field for email address. One action that you want the reader take.

A reason to take action - how does it solve a pain point for the user. How will the user benefit exactly.

Landing Page Mistakes to Avoid

All three of the resources above had their own list of common mistakes to avoid. Here's a consolidated list that covers all three resources.

  1. Words or copy is the most important tool you have to convince your readers. Don't make words hard to read. Don't add generic images or trendy design elements. Don't copy generic landing page templates, make yours uniquely recognizable.
  2. One of the classics mistake/advice is don't list product features, list benefits to the user. This makes sense, don't say this ebook has 16 chapters. Who cares? That is not useful to the reader. Tell them why reading this book will benefit them. Even going beyond the benefit, what pain will this book solve for the reader. For example: instead of  "16 chapters" something like "clear jargon free explanations of programming concepts so that you can develop an intuitive understanding of the fundamentals". (btw I'm picking on myself here, I did in fact say "16 chapters" at the top on landing page for an ebook last year). The article from Stacking The brick makes a strong case that you first need to remind the user of the pain so that they are prepared to receive the benefit. This is about focusing on the readers instead of the product.
  3. Don't include generic images or videos that are not directly relevant to your product. Include vivid details about your product. This means show screenshots of the actual product. Or even hand-drawn mock-ups. Whatever gives the user a better idea of what exactly they're buying. Important to remember for digital products. Vivid details also serve to build trust.
  4. Don't hide your call-to-action (CTA) or make the expectations of what happens after you click ambigous. Have a clear compelling single button, or a clear action that you want the reader to take. If you have more than one CTA, make sure the primary one is more prominent. For example, if you have a button for "order book" and another one for "read free chapter", make sure it is clear which one is primary. Don't make the user think and expand the effort to having to decide which one to click first (I made this mistake as well by having two equally prominent buttons)

PodNotes featuring IndieHackers Podcast

Here are my notes from one of the earlier episodes of the IndieHackers podcasts - Breaking into Bootstrapping.

Podcasts take an hour long commitment to consume. I can't justify that time so I had stopped listening to podcasts recently (and I can't listen to this particular one while walking or doing chores because I frequently have an urge to jot down notes). But if I share these notes, and they're useful to others, then I can justify the time and effort. So I'm (selfishly) hoping this is useful to some of you. Either to get a gist of the content or to decide whether it's relevant enough for you to give it a listen for yourself.

IndieHackers podcast is full of gems, insights for indieprenuears and is often inspiring. I will aim to share notes from one episode every week going forward.


Writing Out Loud

For this edition of my writing-out-loud series, the original writing is pg's post on writing advice. My reactions, or my writing-out-loud thoughts on this post are in brackets [] below. The previous one in this writing-out-loud series was about the challenge of shipping early work.

Below listing the various recommendations on how to write well. For each advice writing-out-loud my judgement on whether or not it will work for me or share my experience already trying that advice.

  • cut out everything unnecessary [yes, this is not always easy to do. Tools help.]
  • write in a conversational tone [reading out loud helps with this]
  • develop a nose for bad writing, so you can see and fix it in yours.
    imitate writers you like [I haven't applied this advice. I do try to read out loud good writers.]
  • if you can't get started, tell someone what you plan to write about, then write down what you said [that works or just talk out loud to yourself]
  • don't (always) make detailed outlines [I rarely make outlines.]
  • mull ideas over for a few days before writing [I write about ideas that keep coming back to me, so I have to write]
  • carry a small notebook or scrap paper with you [I don't do this, this is okay because I'm never too far from my desk these days]
  • use anaphora to knit sentences together [This apparently means repeating sequences of words at the beginning of clauses. Learned something new, read more about anaphora here]
  • read your essays out loud to see (a) where you stumble over awkward phrases and (b) which bits are boring (the paragraphs you dread reading) [reading out loud is how I find typos or awkward phrases and cut extraneous words]
  • when you restart, begin by rereading what you have so far; when you finish, leave yourself something easy to start with [this seems like it would help. I'm not very efficient about how I stop and start. Often takes a while to get back into it]
  • write for a reader who won't read the essay as carefully as you do [I assume most readers are skimming subheadings, bold text and quotes]
  • publish stuff online, because an audience makes you write more, and thus generate more ideas [indeed, hence here we are]
  • print out drafts instead of just looking at them on the screen [I like this idea, if I ever write a longer text like a book, I can imagine printing out paper copies for editing]

That's all for this one! I hope you've learned how to objectively evaluate your landing pages. And let me know if the podnotes are useful to you!

Until next time,

Bhumi

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