The Secret to an Effective Landing Page

by Nate Hoffelder

After a decade of running The Digital Reader, Nate is a veteran web publisher with experience in design, maintenance, recovery, and troubleshooting. What little he doesn't know, he can learn.

June 1, 2019

A mailing list is a great way for you to connect with your readers, but first you have to get them to sign up.

That’s where landing pages come in.

Landing pages get a fair share of attention in author circles, and they are a topic of intense interest in the greater business community. A high-converting landing page (one that convinces a significant number of visitors to sign up) means more sales, which is why marketers will carefully:

  • A/B test landing page designs,
  • analyze pages made by their competitors, and
  • read 3,000-word articles that explore the tiniest details.

A badly-written and poorly-designed landing page will silently cost you readers, while a well-made landing page can double or triple your conversion rate. The difference between a successful page and a failing page can be as simple as changing a few words, and I can tell you how to find the right ones.

In most industries you can expect a landing page to convert around 2% to 5% of visitors, but I have had considerably better luck. The landing page for The Digital Reader’s newsletter has a conversion rate of over 30%.

Yes, one in three people who visit the landing page ended up signing up for the mailing list. What’s more, that conversion rate is rising all the time because every so often I go back and tweak the language to make the page more effective. (The very first version of the page had a conversion rate of around 10%.)

And that brings me to the first secret I know about landing pages.

Try, Try, Try Again

Landing pages aren’t like books; you don’t have to get a landing page right the first time you publish it. Instead, you can improve your landing page’s effectiveness bit by bit, improving the conversion rate by tweaking:

  • the language
  • the layout
  • other details

In fact, I tweaked my landing page in the middle of working on this post. (Analyzing my landing page so I could explain my decisions made me realize how I could do better, and there’s no time like the present.)

I changed the text on my landing page because I realized that the very first thing on the old landing page was a controversial claim. I said that authors no longer need publishers, and while I believe that is true, not everyone would agree. Indie authors would be nodding their heads, but traditionally published authors and those who work in publishing would feel differently. They might even be offended.

As a rule, you should seriously consider avoiding political, social, and other controversial statements on your landing page. They’ll turn off your potential subscribers, and this will harm your conversion rate.

Shorter is Better

Here’s the current text for my landing page.

Sick of trying to keep up with the latest tech while also writing and marketing your books?

Stop trying. Sign up for my The Digital Writer newsletter, where I’ll do the heavy lifting. Join the tens of thousands of authors who are getting tips and resources to help grow their list, sell more books, and learn to bond with their readers.

The first thing you probably noticed is that it’s very short–65 words. You might think that a longer text would give me more room to make a better argument, and that’s certainly what I thought earlier this year.

I made a longer landing page with prettier formatting, links to past newsletters, and a more detailed pitch. When I checked on the page a few weeks ago, I found it had a conversion rate close to zero. (I could not delete that page fast enough.)

I have found that short and sweet works, and I can explain why.

The first thing I did in the text was ask my audience a question they would agree with. This built a rapport with the audience, which is great because once they agree with you on something, it will be easier to convince them they should sign up.

At the same time, I framed that truth as a problem, and then pitched my newsletter as a solution. This made it clear to my audience how they will benefit from my newsletter. Telling them how I will help them achieve their goals made it more likely they will sign up.

Freebies Matter (Except When They Don’t)

Over the past few years I have made several different guides to give away to new subscribers. I had a checklist on speeding up a WP site, another on site security, and I’ve put together a few infographics. I also turned one of my blog posts into a workbook on writing social media bios.

I do not offer the guides or the infographics because I’ve found that my preferred audience, authors, did not find them appealing at all. Whenever I offered either guide as a freebie on my landing page, my conversion rate dropped to around 5%.

Also, for the past few weeks I have offered that social media bio workbook as a freebie, but I don’t think it is as effective as I would like. My conversion rate for the last few weeks was 22%, and I know I can do better.

But if you don’t have a freebie to offer to mailing list subscribers, that is okay too. This will be regarded as heretical in may circles, but I have found that you can still have a high conversion rate without offering a freebie.

To put it another way, a poorly considered freebie is worse than none at all.

Final Thoughts

These tricks are just a few of the reasons why people are three times more likely to sign up for my mailing list as they are for other mailing lists.

If you are not satisfied with your conversion rate, you should see how many of these tricks you can apply in your landing page; with a little hard work you might be able to raise your conversion rate as high as mine.

That said, I don’t claim to know everything about landing pages, and I would love to hear about the tricks you have learned.

What makes your landing page effective?

What doesn’t work for you?

Hi, I'm Nate.

I build and fix websites for authors, and I am also a tech VA. I can build you a website that looks great and turns visitors into fans, and I can also fix your tech when it breaks. Let me fight with tech support so you don’t have to.

My blog has everything you need to know about websites and online services. Don’t see what you need. or want personalized help? Reach out.

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