Thursday, March 22, 2012

Lose the Landing Page, Redux

I while back I wrote a blog post titled Lose the Landing Page. Today, I posted a link to it on a mailing list of tech startup entrepreneurs and discovered that some people didn't understand what I was saying.

So... some clarification.

When you get a new visitor on your site, what you do with them has nothing to do with how they got there, whether it cost you money to get them there (through a paid ad or however).You should want to convert every new visitor to a customer or repeat visitor (depending on what type of business you have). You just look worse if you don't convert a visitor you paid for.

I am not saying you should not do anything special depending on the source of the user. This can be appropriate, for example, you could do something different if a user comes via a particular ad campaign or through a particular search or from a partner site. But every such page has the same goal -- get the new visitor to become a customer or repeat visitor.

Every thing you show a new visitor can do one of two things: give them a reason to stay or give them a reason to leave. You want to maximize reasons to stay for people who are potential customers (and, it's also a good idea to give people who are not potential customers reasons to leave, so you stop wasting time on them).

One of the best things you can do is provide immediate value and one of the worst things you can do is waste the visitor's time with irrelevant information. Guess what an awful lot of "landing pages" do?

To cite a recent example, it's undoubtedly true that pictures of families perform better  on a "landing page" than dancing squirrels, it is extremely likely that actually providing value to visitors would preform better. What is that value? Well, it depends on your business. Note the use of the word "business" there, not "site". You're running a business, right? Your web site is just a manifestation of your business -- it is not your business.

And what is the genesis of a typical landing page? It usually goes like this: "Gee, we don't know what to show people when they arrive at our site. Let's show them a page full of information." The process you should use goes like this "When somebody arrives at our site, what are they looking for? How can we provide value to them so that they turn into a customer of our business?" (again, notice the use of the word "business").

If you're building a landing page just because you think you're supposed to have one, stop debating between families and squirrels. Lose the page instead and focus on giving your visitors value.

Caveat: yes, there is a bit of oversimplification here. But not much.