Last updated Jun 18 2021
Landing page optimization: applying the 3-step CRO plan to landing pages
The best way to approach conversion rate optimization (CRO) is with a user-centric CRO method that takes a big-picture look at your website pages and their users before drilling down into concrete actions that increase each page’s effectiveness.
In this chapter, we’ll showcase how one conversion expert used Hotjar in combination with analytics to optimize a landing page and make sure users would follow the path laid out for them.
What is landing page optimization?
Landing page optimization is the process of analyzing landing pages and implementing changes to improve the user experience and ultimately increase conversions. Landing page optimization involves analyzing quantitative and qualitative behavioral data to see how users interact with the page, redesigning or A/B testing page elements, SEO optimization to improve performance in search engines, updating content or CTAs, and more
Why should you focus on landing page optimization?
Landing pages are often the first, and sometimes the only, page on your website that a visitor sees—which means they are your most powerful chance to make a pitch for your goods or services.
Unlike a homepage, landing pages exist specifically to convert traffic into customers or repeat users; they are designed to either capture sales leads or directly sell a product.
A highly optimized landing page can be extremely effective at converting visitors, but one that misses the mark is a huge wasted opportunity.
Common landing page goals
A ‘successful’ landing page can look very different depending on your business model. Common landing page conversion goals include convincing users via a call-to-action to:
- Sign up for a newsletter (or some other sort of email capture)
- Sign up for a free trial
- Purchase a product
- Contact the sales team via chat or by filling out a form
Using the 3-step CRO plan to optimize landing pages
The internet is full of conversion rate optimization rules and best practices, but in reality, there is no one-size-fits-all optimization approach because every website has unique users, products, and business models to account for.
We believe that the best way to improve your landing page performance is by getting to know and understand your customers. It's not rocket science, and you can do it by following the 3-step program to increase conversion rate we outlined in the previous chapter:
- Find the DRIVERS that lead people to your website
- Find the BARRIERS that might stop them
- Find the HOOKS that persuade them to act
By fully understanding what’s driving, convincing, and persuading your users to take action, you should be able to come up with your own unique plan for optimization.
We’ve created a chart to help you organize this information:
Landing page optimization: a practical case study
Focusing your efforts on optimizing your landing pages, as opposed to your entire site, can help you quickly improve conversions and increase revenue. To illustrate this point, we’re going to use a real example of a company who boosted their revenue by $14,000 a month through landing page CRO.
Divorce Online is a leading online divorce facilitator in the UK that helps couples arrange amicable divorces. They’ve been offering affordable legal services online since 1999 and, by their own estimation, they are the largest filer of divorce cases in England and Wales.
While Divorce Online is already doing very well in the online legal services space, new competitors pop up all the time, and competition is fierce. To maintain their edge, they brought in a conversion-focused strategist, Joel Klettke, to help optimize their conversion rates.
They wanted to increase conversions on the landing pages of popular products and generate more sales and sign-ups from first-touch customers. They asked Joel to audit the homepage, as well as some of their major landing pages, most notably the Managed Divorce Service page.
Step 1: identify the landing page drivers
The first step of the CRO action plan is identifying what brings people to your landing page and what they are hoping to take away from your website.
To do this, marketers need to learn about who is coming to their landing page and why. A standard option is to dig into website analytics to help determine who is visiting a website; a companion option is setting up an on-page survey to ask users who they are and why they’re here.
When Joel started digging through Google Analytics data, he found that:
- The Managed Divorce Services page received a lot of direct search traffic and a lot click-throughs from the Divorce Online homepage
- People who went from the homepage to this second page tended to convert the best of all homepage visitors to a significant margin
- Far more people were interested in this product than any other on the site, including the do-it-yourself options
Based on analytics data, Joel deduced that the Managed Divorce option was so popular because people did not want to navigate their divorce without some help: they wanted the peace of mind of having someone else take care of the process for them, without the hefty price of hiring a solicitor.
In other words: since the Managed Divorce option was the best one for people who wanted a speedy, straightforward divorce, but didn’t want to manage the process on their own, the primary drivers to the Managed Divorce Services page were:
From the data, Joel was able to gather that “our customer is busy, they're under pressure, they're tight on time, and they want to talk to a person because this is an emotional situation.”
➡ Using the 3-step CRO plan, this is where Joel’s information could be collected:
Pro tip: once you know why people are coming to a landing page and understand your target audience, you can use their motivations, along with demographic information, to create user profiles or personas. User personas are realistic representations of your visitors that help you get a better sense of who your users and customers are and what they need.
Step 2: identify barriers keeping people from converting
The second step in the CRO program is to focus on what’s preventing visitors to this specific landing page from converting. What turned them off, scared them, or annoyed them into moving on?
Session recordings and heatmaps are two powerful tools that can help you follow the specific actions of real (anonymized) visitors on your webpage, and pinpoint exactly when they navigate away. By looking at a series of these recordings, you will start to see patterns that indicate when and why people failed to convert.
By studying user behavior and combining it with analytics data, Joel was able to identify three major barriers that users frequently encountered during their time on the page:
- Barrier #1: Divorce Online provided a handy calculator to help users figure out the court fees they could owe. Instead of being helpful, interacting with the court fee calculator caused conversion rates to plummet. Joel reasoned that being confronted with potential fees made readers uncomfortable and nervous.
- Barrier #2: the website asked visitors to fill out a form to connect with a salesperson and receive more information about the service. Joel found that people were reluctant to fill out the form, and would instead scroll around, reading about the process, but not moving forward. Chat logs revealed that many users were looking for advice specific to their unique situation and didn’t feel confident enough to take action based on the text as written. They wanted more hand-holding.
- Barrier #3: lastly, Joel found that women were 10% less likely to convert than men. This was significant because analytics showed that more women visited the site than men, and in general women are more likely to initiate a divorce than men. So what was happening?
He dug a bit deeper, looking at the most common time of day for women to convert, and found a small spike in the evening. Chat logs showed that women were more fearful of their spouses than the other way around, and wanted reassurance that they would not have to interact with them during the process. They also showed that women were more likely to ask questions about children, financials, and the logistics of working multiple jobs than men. From this, Joel deduced that many women were simply too busy to talk to consultants about divorce during the workday. Since the live chat feature ended early in the evening, they didn’t have an opportunity to talk to a consultant and get the ball rolling.
➡ Using the 3-step CRO plan, this is how the information would be added:
Step 3: identify hooks persuading people to convert
The third and final step of the CRO program and landing page optimization involves polling your customer base to figure out what ‘hooks’ them or persuades them to take action. Knowing what is already working to draw in conversions can help you figure out what to double down on.
One way to do it is with post-conversion surveys or polls that specifically ask people what convinced them to convert; you can then simply analyze the results and categorize the main hooks based on how frequently they appear.
Another way to discover hooks is through reading website reviews and the transcripts of user chats. Joel followed this approach and, through his research, he discovered several features that were frequently mentioned by users:
- Hook #1: users loved the pop-up chat feature because it allowed them to talk to a real person about their options. Potential customers of Divorce Online are in a very vulnerable situation (emotionally, financially, and logistically) and thus require more hand-holding than they would for other online products
- Hook #2: many users appreciated copy that clearly explains the benefits of each product so that they can confidently select the right one
- Hook #3: having easy access to reviews by other users gave potential clients more confidence in the process
➡ With this information, you could easily complete a CRO Action Plan one-sheet:
Putting it all together
Identifying the most prevalent barriers and hooks that your users encounter should help bring major conversion issues and opportunities into focus. The next step is to come up with strategies to minimize the barriers to conversion and maximize the hooks, all while keeping in mind the unique concerns and desires of your key user personas.
Based on his findings, Joel recommended that Divorce Online do the following:
- Optimize the homepage with a prominent link to push people towards the Managed Divorce Service page, instead of leaning on comparison widgets to guide them there
- Remove the court fees calculator completely: it was more of a deterrent than a useful tool
- Rewrite the text on the Managed Divorce Services page based on common questions and concerns to explicitly spell out whom the service is ideal for, giving users all the information they might need upfront, near the top of the page (that includes the grey "Who is this service ideal for?" box you see in the screenshot above)
- Extend the chat service hours so that people who are busy during regular office hours (especially women) are still able to connect with a human being
- Amp up the visibility of, and emphasis on, the chat feature
- Encourage the sales team to stop presenting multiple options during live chats and start making stronger recommendations (“this is the product for you”)
Divorce Online immediately adopted a handful of Joel’s most easily implemented recommendations and has long-term plans to integrate others. Already, just a few months out, the site has seen its Revenue per Visitor increase by 50p per month—if this doesn’t seem like a lot, that’s an extra £132,000 or $168,000 USD per year.
Landing Page CRO is a moving target
Remember that optimizing your landing page is not something you do one time, then move on. Keep testing user experience and reiterating the 3-step process to improve conversion rate even further as your products and the needs of your users change.
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