We came. We saw. We Spoke.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Landing Page Bracketology

by Eric Fischer


In case you make a habit of avoiding really obvious news, the NCAA Basketball Tournament started this past week. Yes, once again, the Madness of March is upon us. I was struck by a tweet I saw early in the week, when the tournament’s “First Four” was beginning:

“While we’re all happy for the teams that are playing tonight, we all know the tournament doesn’t really begin ‘til Thursday.”

It’s true. The start to the tournament is really a second thought to most people. It’s nice enough, but they’re there for the meat of the tourney. The teams that will make deep runs and deliver the quality basketball they’re after. In a similar, closer-to-home way, I could put up a tweet of my own:

“While we’re all happy that websites have pretty homepages, we all know the websites don’t begin till we get to the content we’re after.”

A homepage is an afterthought to many people, and website designers are beginning to come around. Very few people visit your website to see the billboard that tells who and where you are. They’re after content, be it contact information, a product, or specific company info.

With the improvement of modern search engines, the advent of ubiquitous social media, and the growing capabilities of web apps to deliver a wide variety of media and web experiences, the homepage rarely contains anything that a visitor is hoping to find when they arrive at a website.

MoneyWatch’s Jeff Haden recounts some of the reasons people quickly leave a website, and what can be done about them:

Limit your scope. It's tempting to cram lots of information, resources, calls to action, and sign-up boxes onto each page. Too much clutter drives visitors away. Each page should have a clear, primary purpose. While you can include a few secondary purposes, make sure those are relatively discreet and do not distract from the main purpose.

Match the page purpose to the call to action. A product page should feature the product and make it easy to purchase that product. A newsletter page should highlight the benefits of the newsletter and make it easy to sign up to receive it. Visitors are satisfied when they can quickly meet their needs.

Raise your hand if you see a recurring trend here. “Each Page”. “A product page”. “A newsletter page”. Your website’s visitors aren’t there for your homepage. They are there for content, an app, a product or custom information. They aren’t watching to see the start of the tournament full of teams that aren’t delivering the basketball they want. They’re there for the meat.

“But we spent hours planning and designing that homepage! It’s art!”

Nobody is saying to scrap your website’s homepage. It’s still an important element for visitors who truly don’t know what you’re about, and to help search engines index your website more fully. Simply recognize that most of your visitors are there for specific content, not your company’s mission statement. Most of the NCAA tournament audience is keyed up for that Sweet 16 matchup with their favorite school, not that First Four matchup that finalizes the South Bracket. Recognize that you have content to deliver, and the faster you get it to the audience that wants it, the more satisfied they will be. Unbounce.com brings 101 tips for optimizing your landing page experience, helping you transition from a website for everyone to a web experience for each individual. We’ve identified our favorites below:

Send people to a relevant and targeted page
Your homepage is a mish-mash of goal oriented communication — and usually for good reason. With that in mind, resist the urge to send people there as itʼs better targeted at the curious explorer type rather than the person clicking through from a banner or AdWords link. Think one goal, one message, one action. And hence one page — generally a new one — a landing page.

Basic metrics
You should ensure you are recording the fundamental performance metrics for each [page]. These are campaign specific, but can include: conversion rate (broad term), bounce/abandonment rate, form completion rate. Store these results so that you have a basis for showing how your [landing pages are working], and [refine them further to best target your audience.]

In the end, it’s all about delivering what your visitors want, whether it’s a quality web experience or a fantastic basketball tournament. Make sure you deliver your visitors straight to the content they’re after.

Never forget, though, that the basketball tournament ends. Eventually, a champion has been crowned, and everyone has all of the content they’ve been after. For your website, there is no end. No championship. You’ve figured out how to deliver your visitors to the content they’re seeking. Now, how will you keep them coming back?

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