In the early days of the internet, companies could proudly proclaim “We have a website!” and it was genuinely new and exciting. Today, not only is it a broad assumption that a business will have a website, but development is now an ongoing process, which must take into account business requirements, legal requirements and visibility – through AdWords, social media and even content marketing.

Landing page development has become almost a specialized sub-niche of website development, due to its importance in the overall sales process and, in particular, its importance to the pay-per-click (PPC) conversion process. In fact, at this point, it’s probably fair to say that it’s impossible to make the most of PPC advertising without an effective landing page development strategy – gone are the days when it was enough just to direct all traffic to your homepage.

Page or Pages?

Each page on your website will generally have been optimised for a specific purpose, and updated as necessary for it to continue to serve that specific purpose. The process is no different for landing pages – for all but the most localised, single service/product businesses, simply creating one page to catch all of your prospective inbound sales traffic (paid or unpaid) is not going to be enough to truly shift the needle. Depending on your targeting, you may require variants that reflect different contact details for different locations, alternate product images, or perhaps completely new copy and structure if you’re targeting completely separate target audiences. To this end, each unique PPC advert set should ideally have its own landing page, and this should complement the content of the advert.

The same basic principle applies to each and every page on your website, in other words, the basic approach to website design should be one page equals one purpose and everything should lead the user towards that purpose. This starts with the visual layout of the page (working with people’s natural tendency to read left to right and top to bottom rather than trying to force them into unnatural behaviour patterns) and continues right down to the most basic elements on each page such as the appropriate choice of images, the effective use of colour and the right choice of fonts.

Choosing the Right Solution

More and more websites now leverage the power of CMS, with WordPress widely recognised as the most adopted solution. The sheer customisability of their templating system, and the wide array of affordable themes, make it a perfectly acceptable choice for developing the landing pages themselves – but many people still choose to plugin a 3rd party system to quickly throw together landing pages – or use a completely separate product such as LeadPages or Unbounce.

Whilst this can certainly provide a speed boost for non-developers, it’s important to consider your options. The overhead of drag-and-drop builders required to offer the infinite customisability options can sometimes be significant, which can lead to a lot of bloated code, and subsequent slow-down of site loading times (see our section on bounce rates for more on why this is a decidedly bad thing). Additionally, it’s important to make sure the solution is scalable in line with your budget; if it’s not free, how much will the software cost if you want to expand to 2, 5, 10 or more landing pages?

Making Your Website Mobile Friendly

The concept of mobile friendliness is now integral to web development in general and SEO in particular and is of huge importance to Google, again, because it is of huge importance to real-world internet users. While 21st century smartphones and tablets have vastly more power than early computers, many of them are still less powerful than modern PCs. They also have smaller screens (of various sizes), are generally used without keyboards in noisy environments on-the-go, and vastly reduced internet speed than wireless broadband; all this has to be taken into consideration when creating mobile-friendly sites. Page speed, user experience and direct, specific communication are key to keeping your user’s eyes on your page, amidst a hive of apps, notifications and of course, your competition.

Staying the Course – Avoiding the Bounce

It’s an oft-used statement (in offline salesmen circles) that the first 30 seconds of a sale are the most important. Online, that window for success can be a lot smaller! For example, a page with a load speed of 15 seconds will convert about 24% less effectively that one with half that loading speed (7 seconds). That’s nearly a quarter of your audience gone, before they’ve even properly made it through the front door! It’s not just a raw conversion metric either - Google measures how your customers interact with your website (for example it looks at how long a user spends on a page after their arrival), and uses these metrics as part of their ranking algorithm. This is, in simple terms, a basic quality rating of how well you’ve answered the original search query – has the user found something they find relevant to their search and/or generally interesting? Or have they left quickly, indicating a lack of engagement with the site? This is known as the “bounce rate”.

Optimizing load times

The speed with which your website can make or break pretty much everything you want to do with it. Load time is now an ever-important ranking factor for Google – users now live in an age of rich audio-visual content, and expect modern websites to load near instantly. Whilst this would have been unimaginable in the early days of text-based websites, today you either have to meet that expectation or accept the fact that your users will probably give up fast and go elsewhere.

There are too many technical aspects to on-page optimisation to go into in this article – but a great overview of your site from Google’s point of view can be found using their PageSpeed Tool. You can get an in-depth report (and suggestions) for any page on your website from here – ideal if you have a developer who can action some of the more critical points for you. Google will use your page speeds to help determine where your site should fall in their search indexes – so it’s certainly worth sitting up and taking attention of this useful feedback.

One of the most common factors affecting page load speed is the quality of the site hosting. If you have a website on an entry level, shared hosting package, and your code is not already well optimised for speed – chances are you’d see a huge improvement just by upgrading your hosting. This may be as simple as contacting your current web host and asking for prices on dedicated hosting – but for many of the services used specifically for landing page building, you will find self-hosted solutions are offered.

N.B. t is a huge plus to be able to use your own domain rather than a URL – it is certainly more likely to have you taken seriously if your landing page is on your own domain.

Split Testing

Speed is the first on-page factor affecting bounce, but certainly not the only one. The original ad copy, the landing page headline, the images used – even the way the testimonials are worded, or the colour of your BUY button – all affect user experience in different ways.

Whilst you’ll find a lot of great advice on using positive colour schemes, clearly legible fonts, and defining your call-to-action clearly, there are some areas where there aren’t always definitive ‘right’ answers.

Split testing is the process of testing variants of a landing page, in order to better deduce these answers, and edge your conversions in the right direction. Not sure which pain point to address? Try several different headlines, and see which keeps users on-page for the longest. Can’t decide how many testimonials to include? Try a few variations to your layout, and see if any version clearly performs better.

You won’t always get a definitive answer even after testing (and this can be frustrating at times) – but there’s no better way to get to know exactly what your potential customers want.

And Finally… SEO – The Unpaid Traffic Source

PPC advertising can deliver rapid results, but that speed can come at a high price and any business which is purely reliant on PPC has to accept that as competition for valuable keywords heats up, they will need to keep pace with increasing prices. SEO builds success slowly and needs to be viewed as an ongoing process, but the plus side of this is that once you have built up that momentum, you are both much less reliant on PPC and much less vulnerable to new competition simply coming along and buying their way into the top search results the way they can do with PPC advertising.

Whilst landing pages are often designed with traffic from AdWords and social media in mind, it is still well worth analysing the best keywords surrounding your landing page topic – you may well find you can develop some valuable, unpaid traffic streams with a little extra optimisation to your copy and page structure.