In some cases, the links from your email will lead directly to product or content pages on your website. However, in a great number of cases, the links from your email will lead directly to your email landing page that you have developed specifically for the product, promotion, or special offer that you provide in your email. A good (or great) email landing page can make the difference between a successful email marketing campaign and a sub-par email campaign. How do you optimize your email landing pages? Here are some basic best practices to keep in mind.

The Three Second Scan

The first important best practice for a successful email landing page is to make sure that it passes what is known as the "three second scan." Most internet users will decide whether to stay on a page or abandon it in less than five seconds, so it's safe to say that you have three seconds to convince a user to stay on the page. What does that mean? It means all of the following:

  • Your page needs to load quickly!
  • Users need to be able to know what the offer is and what message you are conveying within seconds of landing on the page. How do you do this? By keeping it simple as we'll discuss in the following actions.
  • Users need to be visually compelled. No matter how great your offer or copy is, if a user isn't visually compelled immediately, he or she will lose interest in the page before you have a chance to sell to him or her.

The internet moves quickly, and so do its users. Even a loyal customer coming from a specific email promotion may not give your email landing page much time or attention if it doesn't impact him or her within the first three seconds.

Only One Action

Not unlike your sales conversion emails, you only want users to be able to do one thing when they get to your email landing page. That may be purchasing a product, signing up via a form, or even clicking through to another destination. No matter what the action that you want them to take is, it's important that you not distract them with other possible actions. Only present one promotion per landing page. It's actually recommended that you don't include your standard site navigation on email landing pages either. After all, if users start drilling down into your website, they may never return to complete the desired action on your email landing page. Remember the customer funnel that we discussed earlier? When you get a person to click through from your email to your email landing page, you've convinced them to move one step further in your funnel. However, the ultimate goal is to move them all the way through the funnel. Don't distract them from that desired path with other options or choices.

In short, your email landing page should only promote and encourage users to do one specific thing. It may seem counterintuitive, but years of marketing studies have proven that the most effective email landing pages simply tell people what to do and do not present them with other options.

Use Short Forms

In some cases, the action that you'll want users to complete on your email landing page will involve having them fill out a form. You may want them to join an email list, fill out a survey, or sign-up to receive a postal mailing. When you are asking users to fill out a form on a landing page, the most important to remember is to keep the form as short as possible. The more information that you ask users to provide, the less likely they will be to actually complete and submit your form. Only ask for the information that you absolutely, one hundred percent need in order to make the sign-up or form submission valuable to you. Every extra question that you ask or field of information that you require will actively reduce your conversion rate.

In short, if you have a form, keep the form short! Identify exactly what you need and only ask for that. The more information that you ask for, the lower your conversion rate will be.

Compelling Call-to-Action

It might go without saying, but your call to action must be strong. You have more freedom to use stronger and more compelling words on your email landing page than you would in an email because your landing page doesn't need to make it past the spam filters of email service providers. Keep your calls-to-action short and tell users exactly what you want them to do. "Buy now," "Sign-up," "Join Free" – each of these is a high converting call-to-action. Make them easy-to-read and find and don't leave any question in the user's mind as to what you want them to do. We covered some best practices for calls-to-action in emails earlier in this book, and many of them apply here as well.

It should be noted that there are some marketers who believe that using a softer call to action on an email landing page can be more effective. Calls to action like "Buy Now" may be more commitment than a user on a landing page is ready to make. "Learn More", for example, may work better. The only way you'll know what works best on your email landing page is to have your own email testing!

Visually Engage

You want to visually engage your users. You are not limited in the use of images, videos, or Flash technology on a webpage the way that you are in an email. With that said, you want to use images to further move your user though the experience of the email landing page, not to distract them. Again, you'll want to do some a/b tests, but here are some basic considerations.

  • If your Flash component causes the page to load slowly or browsers to crash, it's not worth having on your email landing page
  • Don't use so many images that the user is too distracted from the ultimate goal of the page.
  • While the data is mixed, a video that begins to play as soon as the page loads can cause abandonment from the page as much as they may cause conversions. Many people browse the internet from work where an auto-loading video with sound may cause them to immediately click away from the page.
  • You'll have options with images that you'll want to think through. What will work best with your target audience? Lifestyle images? Product images? Abstract images? There's no right or wrong answer, and a/b test of your email landing page is the best way to determine the answer.

What do you need to know? Your page needs to look professional and be visually compelling. As we noted, you won't have very much time to convince users to stay on your page or abandon it.

Use Lots of Whitespace

Or dark space! The best landing pages won't be crowded or busy. You want a great deal of open space around the margins of the page so that users are immediately drawn to your value proposition, sales graphics, and call-to-action. The less you distract them and the more you make the design elements related to your desired user action the focal point of the site, the better your email landing page will convert. A great deal of blank white (or background colored) space on the page will focus your users' attention and draw them immediately into the action that you want them to complete.

Design Above the Fold!

When design email template, "above the fold" means designing the email so that the most important things for your user to see and do are in the top three inches of the email. When you're designing an email landing page, the meaning is somewhat different. "Above the fold" in web-speak means everything that is visible on a standard web browser. In other words, you don't want users to have to scroll down the page to find your call-to-action or your value proposition or, certainly, the most compelling images.In general, you'll have 600 pixels worth of height to be above-the-fold in most web browser resolutions.

Above-the-fold design has become out-of-vogue with many web designers currently. The argument, of course, is that users have become more used to scrolling. However, if you want to be sure that your web pages convert at the highest possible standard, designing to have your message and call-to-action appear above the fold is still your best option.

Use Bold Buttons

Unlike in an email template, you'll have the option of using buttons and graphics to denote important calls-to-action. You won't be limited to experiencing the highest conversion rates through text links. In fact, your conversion rates will be higher if you use large and prominent buttons for your links and calls-to-action. Make your buttons easy-to-read, large, and easy-to-spot. Most importantly, make sure that they look "clickable." Scan the internet for examples of buttons that you like. Chances are that if you design something similar, you will get outstanding results.

Build Trust

You never know who will come to your email landing page. It may be a dedicated customer who already trusts and advocates for your brand. However, it may also be a completely new user who found your email landing page through a social network forward or an email forward. Be sure to build trust with your users on your email landing page. If you are collecting any information or requesting an email address, make users aware of your privacy policy and any online trust and privacy organizations that you belong to. In short, give your users the tools that they will need to trust you, but don't overdo it and clutter your email landing page.

Don't Overwhelm with Terms and Conditions

The chances are good that your offer or information request on your email landing page has some terms and conditions applied to it. You certainly want to make users aware of those terms and conditions on the landing page. If you do not, you risk a customer service nightmare at best and a press and social media nightmare at worst. How do you accomplish this? You have several options. The first is to make the terms and conditions small and near the bottom of the page. The second, and the more common, is to simply note that "Terms and Conditions apply" and then have users click to generate a pop-up window or text drop-down that reveals the full terms and conditions.

Test!

Finally, the most important best practice for landing pages is to test them, test them, and test them. Google Website Optimizer is a great free tool to set up basic a/b tests of landing pages so that you can see which graphics, calls-to-action, background colors and headlines work the best for converting users. As you compile data, you'll be able to build your own in-house best practices list for landing pages specific to your company!

While there were many best practices presented in this section, if you only remember one of them, remember that the best email landing pages keep their design and their user requirements incredibly simple!

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