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What is a Landing Page?

By Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joe Laws, taken from en:wp, uploaded by Dorbie [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We spend a lot of time, here at Bold Type Design, talking about landing pages with our clients, and explaining how they are really the key to segmenting their web traffic and turning that traffic into customers. But the mention of landing pages can send people off into such different directions of thinking, that we also spend a lot of time clearing up misconceptions. For example, when we mentioned to one client, a marketing company, that a part of our process in working with them would be to define the initial set of landing pages for their site, they immediately thought of a Buy Now button and a shopping cart, and that this was definitely not what they were looking for. So this post is intended to explain what a landing page is, and why you need to be using them on your site.

First, here’s a simple definition of a landing page which anyone would find with a quick search query:

Not bad. But not very helpful either. This definition still leaves a lot of explaining for us to do. The term “landing page” is actually used quite differently by different people, all who are in the business of defining and designing landing pages, depending on their industry and on the nature of their website. This is fine, really, as the language needs to suit the use. For example, an ecommerce site that makes the bulk of their sales through promotional emails might consider a landing page to be a page containing an offer that is linked to from an email. An inbound marketing company might consider a landing page to be any page with a form on it and which has the sole purpose of collecting user information; while a company that does a lot of AdWords advertising might build specific pages to collect traffic from those ads.

For us, most of our clients are concerned with increasing the traffic to their site and converting that traffic into customers or leads, so we focus on using landing pages to collect traffic from very specific sets of search criteria. The page might have a form on it, depending on the buying cycle of the specific audience we are targeting, but the primary focus is to use the landing page like the opening of a funnel which brings visitors into a pathway through the site, leading them closer to a conversion.

How, then, is a landing page, by this definition, different to a homepage? It all comes down to how specific the content is. We consider a homepage as a place where visitors land, about whom you know absolutely nothing. They may have found your site by searching for your company name, so they may be looking for any one of your products or services, or none of them at all – they may not even know yet, that they have a need for what you offer. Your job on the homepage then, is to give your elevator pitch. Quickly tell your homepage visitors what your company is about, and provide a few options to dig deeper and learn more about your specific offerings. A landing page, on the other hand, caters to visitors with very narrowly-defined needs. Let’s think of a general sporting goods company as an example. The homepage will display a wide range of sports images – skiing, football, basketball, skateboarding, fishing, cycling, hunting, camping, and so on. But if someone conducts a Google search for girls’ softball bats, you don’t want them to have to look for a link from your homepage – you want the Google search result to bring them directly to a page on your site which shows them girls’ softball bats. No form required. No need to collect user information. We’re just helping people find exactly what they’re looking for. From here, we’ll direct them towards becoming a customer.

To give you an idea of how this might work for a service oriented company, let’s use a law firm website as an example. As you may be aware, there are many areas of practice within law, such as intellectual property, litigation, family law, and dozens of others. If a law firm attempted to optimize their homepage to capture search engine traffic for all of the practice areas they were engaged in, their homepage would most likely rank very poorly in search engine results pages. Furthermore, visitors would need to poke around on the homepage until they found what they were looking for – essentially, wasting their time. A better strategy would be to create specific landing pages for each practice area, and an even more effective approach would be to break that down into even smaller segments. For example, Intellectual Property could be divided into Copyright, Trademarks, Patents, Industrial Design Rights, Trade Dress and perhaps even Trade Secrets, with a dedicated landing page for each. While this may seem like a lot of unnecessary work, the benefits certainly pay for themselves. Firstly, by following this practice, our law firm website now has pages which rank very high for each of these very specific search terms, collecting traffic from many times more search queries. Instead of appearing on page 40 for “law firms” our law firm website has pages appearing on page 1 in the search results. Additionally, when a user arrives at our site from one of these searches, they find exactly what they were looking for, so they are less likely to hit the back button. This lowers our bounce rate and improves how Google sees our site in terms of relevance for each specific query. Lastly, since we know that visitors to our page about Industrial Design Rights are there because they searched for it, we know what some of their questions and concerns might be, and we can tailor our content so that it addresses those concerns, further improving our chances that our site visitors will choose to work with us (since all other law firm’s websites are crap and are not helpful in any way unless you’re interested in seeing what their office decor looks like).

So, that’s how landing pages work to collect more qualified traffic, and more of it. The next step is to continue the conversation. In our law firm website example, we would want to provide some case studies. Of course, we could have a link in our navigation that takes people to a generic case study page – or we could be super clever: from our Industrial Design Rights page, the Case Studies link in the navigation could take people to a page which only displays case studies in the area of Industrial Design Rights, with related testimonials. In this way, visitors are funneled along a pathway towards becoming a client, which has been designed according to what we know about each segment of our audience, the type of information they require, and how they make their purchasing decisions. To learn more about the process of converting your website’s visitors into leads, sign up for the free e-series, 12 Weeks of Leads. You’ll take your website from 0 to 100 in just a few weeks and start attracting a steady flow of leads from web traffic.

Do you have a question relating to your specific company that is not covered here? Drop us a line! We’d love to hear of a new, unique situation and will be happy to provide you with whatever information we can to help you out.