Writing landing pages is like no other skill on the planet. It’s a mashup of other skills: master salesperson, UX designer, copywriter, conversion optimizer, SEO, psychologist, sales analyst, marketing researcher and circus entertainer.
That’s a lot of skills to pack into writing a single landing page. (And I’m pretty certain about the circus entertainer being a critical component in the whole mix.)
Are all these skills really necessary? Actually, yes.
Landing pages are some of the most important pages in the world of online marketing. You’re paying for every user who puts their eyeballs on the page. You want more than anything to get them to convert. Landing pages matter. They really, really matter.
So, you have to deliver. Since achieving expertise in all the requisite areas would take at least nine lifetimes, I’ve assembled the most salient issues into a 11-point list. This article is long, but not 11 lifetimes long.
Hang on to your office chair. You’re about to get some of the most money-smart, time-saving, mind-blowing landing page copywriting advice that you’ve ever received.
Your landing pages are going to love you.
1. Headline: The headline is the most important thing in the whole universe.
Think about all that’s involved in a landing page.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
But there can only be one most important element. It’s the headline. Everything else is nothing in comparison to the headline.
The main purpose of the headline is to attract attention. Your goal is to get the user to stay on the page. The headline, as the first thing they see, is also the first thing that will affect their willingness to stay on the page. Attention is paramount.
Alter that, a good headline fulfills the following roles:
- The headline sets the stage for the entire page.
- The headline asserts the value.
- The headline tells the user what the page is all about.
- The headline shows why the page is important.
- The headline begins to persuade the user.
- The headline addresses the customer directly.
- The headline inspires a story.
- The headline asserts the brand’s differentiation factor.
- The headline complements the page’s images.
- The headline delivers benefits.
- The headline creates a sense of anticipation.
- The headline inspires curiosity.
- The headline prompts desire.
This is a powerful line of text, and you should not take it lightly.
Let’s see how some of the great landing pages have created compelling headlines.
StoryWorth is the pinnacle of perfection when it comes to landing page copy. This headline is simple. One might even accuse it of being boring, but it accomplishes the goal of communicating information in a compelling way for the target audience.
Wistia has a powerful, short headline. It gets the point across, and makes me want to play that video. If I’m in need of video hosting, and I’m a business, I’m hooked.
Pardon the design, but I think these guys nailed it with the headline. It has everything you need: short, powerful, informative, curiosity-creating and plenty of other goodness.
2. Subheadline: The other headline is the other most important thing in the whole universe.
Every good headline is followed up by a subheadline.
I feel sorry for subheadlines. They are often overlooked or neglected in the process of explaining landing page elements.
Subheadlines are important. After the main headline, they are the next most-read element on a landing page. Thus, they have the potential to stall a sale or to encourage dwell time.
What should the subheadline do for you?
- The subheadline should support the headline. Taken together, they are like a coin — two sides; one coin.
- The subheadline should advance the information provided in the headline. You don’t have a whole lot of room in the headline to explain things. That’s what the subheadline is for.
- The subheadline should begin to tighten your persuasive power. A landing page is designed to persuade users. That starts to happen in the subheadline.
Look at how this landing page uses the headline to increase the buy-in factor, and then makes the text smaller and more focused for the subheadline.
MightySignal does a masterful job with their headline + subheadline formula here:
3. Design: What you write doesn’t matter unless the design is killer.
Now, after gushing all over these two powerful elements, I’m going to switch my whole approach and tell you how it’s all supported.
One word: Design.
Your design matters. It matters so much, in fact, that without a great design, no one is going to read your headline and subheadline to begin with.
The page’s design gives it an overall feel.
Sure, the user isn’t paying attention to the feel, but they are plugged into the overall milieu of the page. In subtle ways, they are responding and being drawn in or put off by what they see.
Some copywriters may object: “But I’m a writer, not a designer.”
I totally get that. That’s why you need to work with the designer to create an outstanding design in which the landing page copy is strengthened by the design and vice versa.
Talk through layout, elements, placement, color, sizing, and all the other features.
It’s important. Because all that copy is going to fall flat unless it’s supported by the infrastructure of a powerful design.
Let’s take a look. I have no doubt that some copywriter spent some time writing out a few words for this landing page below. But then a designer came along and screwed it up. Would you believe that in the live version of this landing page that green box is actually bouncing back and forth from side to side?
I was only half serious about the circus performance. They didn’t need to take me literally. Sheesh.
Like I said, design matters. And no matter how good the copy on this page, the design lost me.
Notice how design and copy come together in a perfect marriage with this divorce website landing page.
4. Clarity: Light, quick, easy, strong copy wins the day.
Your goal in landing page copywriting is to communicate a lot in as few words as possible.
Landing page readers are people of little patience. They aren’t settling in with a cup of coffee, eager to read all those beautiful lines of prose that you so laboriously wrote.
Instead, they want to get the information as quickly as possible, digest it and make a decision.
Here are a few tips that will guide you.
- Use short words. Save your fifty-dollar words for technical articles or writing in your diary. Users will stumble over sesquipedalian verbiage.
- Use short sentences. People who are reading in a rush will get bogged down in long sentences. Short and sweet. That’s all.
- Use short lines. Lots of lines all stuck together look like the dreaded wall of text. Don’t do that to anyone.
Short, short, short. That’s the key.
Now, does this mean that you should keep your entire landing page short? Absolutely not. You can have a lot of copy — thousands of words, if you want. But just keep the words, sentences and lines short.
Let’s see how Tylenol eases the pain. Yep. Nice short words, sentences and lines.
5. Layout: You must break up your text.
I alluded to this in the point above, and I have broken it out into a separate point because it’s that important. (See what I did there?)
You have to break up your text. There must be sections, each defined as such both by design that creates distinct copy blocks.
Eye tracking studies show that people prefer to move their eyes in a sequential motion — from one major design element to the next. Your design and copy should cater to this reading preference, allowing your readers to easily scan or digest your text.
GetResponse has a great example of this on their landing page, which is nicely divided up into different sections.
6. Testimonials: Shut up and let someone else talk.
Sometimes, the best landing page copy is the stuff that you don’t even write.
Testimonials are one of your most powerful sources of persuasion. The irony of it is that you could never write anything half as powerfully persuasive as the stuff found in testimonials.
There’s not much that you can do to improve your copywriting skills, but you can certainly make it a point to get testimonials. Your landing page success depends on it.
Let me give a fist bump to Help Scout. They’ve plastered some pretty cool testimonials on their landing page. Those testimonials, more than any copywriter’s sizzling headline, are going to make me convert.
Maybe that’s why really good CROs know to put the CTA right after the testimonials …
Something to ponder.
7. Shocking is good.
There is some value in shocking your readers.
Whenever possible, make a surprising move with your copy. Do something unexpected, irreverent, unconventional or altogether breathtaking.
Your readers have seen a million landing pages. What makes you think that they’re going to be persuaded by yet another same-ol’ landing page? It’s not going to cut it, and they’re going to be clicking outta there as fast as they can.
If you buy wine from VinoMofo, you may not want to explain to your mom what their company name means. But, hey, can we say shocking?
Shocking doesn’t have to be borderline offensive. It can be simple, like Teuxdeux. They have a few words that are unconventional — like “teuxduex” and “designy.”
It’s intriguing, if not world-shattering shocking.
Coffices used a totally new way to shock me. They displayed a map on their landing page with my exact location!
I had to blur it out, so you won’t be able to find me and kill me in my sleep or something. But you get the idea. It was mildly disturbing, but it sure got my attention.
Shock on, Coffices. Shock on.
8. Persuasion I: Do the data-driven dance.
A landing page should be persuasive. I don’t care how many boring, bland, mind-numbing, bone-chilling, eye-glazing corporate landing pages you’ve seen. Yours needs to be different.
I’m sorry. With all due respect to Marketo, this landing page is agony. It has been all but eviscerated of persuasion and personality.
Let’s talk about the importance of persuasion for a minute, mkay?
An effective public speaker is attempting to persuade his audience to his point of view. A successful work of nonfiction persuades you into a way of thinking. A competent politician attempts to persuade his listeners. Any quality lawyer works hard to persuade others of his viewpoint or case.
Any mom or dad knows the power of persuasion. Kids — heck, they are masters of persuasion!
Advertisements on TV are multi-million-dollar persuasion sessions.
Your landing page copywriting needs to be about persuasion, too.
You’re spending all this money, all these resources and all this effort to present a solution or product — something that you want people to buy. It’s now up to you to persuade them.
What kind of persuasion works best? The method of persuasion that I recommend first is data.
Show them the facts. Give them the information. Facts and information are essential not only to explain what your product is all about, but also to compel those who consider each purchase carefully and analytically.
You will face some customers who will be unfazed by powerful design and dazzlingly beautiful prose. They only care about the numbers. Feel free to unleash your detailed explanation, pie charts and percentages with decimal points. This will help them.
But this level of persuasion doesn’t need to be complicated. VinoMofo dumbs it down, but still delivers the persuasive power that landing page data ought to.
It’s persuasion via facts. And it works.
Wistia totally gets this. There’s data all over this landing page.
9. Persuasion II: Do the heartstring tug.
The second method of persuasion is emotional persuasion.
I can feel you losing me. You’re rolling your eyes. Emotion? Emotion is for wimps. Emotion is for weaklings.
No, actually, you’re pretty much wrong there.
Emotion is for humans. Every human has emotion. Every human operates under the influence of emotion. Every human makes decisions based, in part, on the way that emotions influence and operate in the human mind.
Emotional argumentation is your ally. Pain is one form of emotional persuasion. If you can cause your user to feel the pain of not having the product or service, then you’ve scored an emotional argumentative point.
Pleasure is another basic emotional hot spot. If you can signal the brain’s pleasure centers in conjunction with your product or service, you are dialing them closer by means of persuasive power.
This is precisely the kind of emotional connection that you want to establish.
I love the way that Beepi did it. They got emotional simply by telling me how to feel — “relax.”
10. Reassurance: Learn to reassure them.
You may be a landing page copywriter, but you’re also a counselor. You need to put your arm around the reader, and tell them “It’s going to be okay.”
A lot of people have their guard up when they’re checking out your landing. They don’t want you to scam them, scare them, steal their information, or use their email address for nefarious purposes.
And it’s up to you to reassure them that everything’s going to work out okay. Here’s how:
- Write privacy statements. Some people just want privacy. I have a friend who refuses to buy a smartphone, because he feels like it will compromise his privacy. That’s okay. He can live his life devoid of the pleasures of an iPhone. And he might also be ready to buy something on your site if you assure him that you respect his privacy.
- Tell them that you won’t spam them. Spam is awful, and no one wants to deal with it. Assure your readers that nothing remotely related to spam would ever emanate from your servers.
- Write awesome guarantees. Everyone loves a good guarantee. Whip up the greatest guarantee you can, and place it prominently on the page.
- Weave reassurance into everything else. The entire feel and vibe of your company must be reassuring. There’s a way to write copy that just feels right — it feels strong, secure and confident. This is the kind of attitude that you want to emphasize throughout your copy.
Remember, each of these things doesn’t need whole paragraphs to explain them. Many times, a well-placed phrase does just as well (or better) than a ton of verbiage.
Take a look at this wine e-commerce site. They get in their guarantee using 10 words. And two of those words are numbers. Win.
LeadPages drums up some sweet reassurance with this bit of copy on their landing page:
11. CTA: Call-to-action copy makes or breaks the landing page.
We’ve come to the climax — the point at which your landing page either succeeds or fails.
Every landing page has calls to action. The success of your landing page depends on how strong that call to action is.
When we talk about CTAs, we can’t help but lurch uncontrollably into a discussion of design (again). Successful CTAs are big, bold, beautiful and prominent.
But the text is just as important. Let me draw your attention to five points:
- Use action-oriented words in the button copy.
- Use the word “get.” It’s proven to boost conversion.
- Surround the CTA button with additional bits of copy that enhance it and augment the button copy.
- Use me-centered language. At the final point of the CTA, the user only cares about themselves.
- Try the word “try.” It sometimes helps persuade users more than “Buy,” or another strong word.
Again, with apologies for their unpleasant design, these guys at least know how to create a button:
Beepi is doing a lot better. Check out the size of the “buy” button.
Writing copy for a landing page is an entirely new breed of writing. If you can do it right, you will position yourself and your company for success.
(You may also want to sell your services at top dollar to huge multi-billion-dollar corporations.)
Someone who can write great copy for landing pages is like a money-generating machine. You have the power to create content that will produce floods of conversions and buckets of money.
It’s a great feeling, but it also takes a great deal of practice.
Let me know how you succeed (or fail) in your landing page copywriting.