What Is A Landing Page
To Google Analytics, a landing page is the first page viewed in a session. In other words, a landing page is the start of a visitor’s journey on your website – the first page that they see.
Now that’s out of the way, what is landing page optimisation? Optimising a landing page ensures that you achieve the highest possible conversion rate from the visitors who arrive on it.
Landing page optimisation is a subset of conversion optimisation, where the goal is to improve the conversion goals of your entrance pages.
100% of your web traffic starts on a landing page somewhere. Landing page optimisation can help you lower your customer acquisitions costs, acquire more customers, and maximise the value of your ad spend.
It’s crucial to recognise that most websites have a ‘landing page longtail’ – meaning that people enter your site on different pages (not just the homepage!). For ecommerce websites, this is often the product list pages, product pages and blog pages.
Why a blog article about landing page analysis? Because many marketers jump straight into making content and design changes of their landing pages. That’s suboptimal. A better approach is to analyse your landing pages first, so that your changes have a bigger impact.
And let’s draw a distinction between ‘data’ and ‘analysis. Data is easy, analysis is hard. I have written about turning data into profit in this blog article.
This article focuses on how to analyse a landing page.
Why Landing Pages Matter
Why do first impressions matter so much?
Our conscious minds can only handle so much information at once (around 40 bits per second). But our unconscious minds can process up to 11 million bits a second.
In other words, we process much more information than we’re aware of – in milliseconds! It’s a biological necessity to stop our conscious minds from overloading, and it’s why we assess so many things unconsciously.
What’s frightening is NOT that we form our impressions without intention and without conscious thought. It’s that those first impressions linger.
How does the ‘first-impression’ psychology apply to landing pages?
✔ Professional design endorses credibility.
✔ Images draw the eye (and image selection is critical).
✔ Intuitive layout reduces cognitive effort.
✔ Relevant, well-written headlines anchor the user.
Meclabs have written extensively about the merits of ‘clarity over persuasion’
For a visitor, the first seconds on your landing page are a moment of orientation. They have just arrived on a new website from another website. Above all else, the above-the-fold experience should be extremely clear so as to anchor the visitor. In other words, as the excellent Flint McGlaughlin says, ‘clarity trumps persuasion’.
After the initial seconds, you have more time and space to persuade the visitor to your desired action. This is your chance to persuade with longer form copy so that users perform the desired action.
In the industry, this is why we talk about landing pages being “two-speed”. The “first speed” addresses the ‘lizard brain’ – that part of the visitor’s brain that is unconsciously processing information. The “second speed” addresses the conscious part of the brain which is more analytical.
Landing Page Analytics
Google Analytics Landing Page Analysis
What are the techniques for landing page analysis? Let’s start with Google Analytics.
An overlooked aspect of Google Analytics is the graph feature. In the Landing Page report, click on any landing page and toggle the graph metric to track performance over time.
This data is showing the ecommerce conversion rate of the homepage for the month of November
Multiple landing pages? For many websites, the ‘frontpage’ of your website is no longer the homepage. The reality is that visitors enter your website at different entry points.
For this reason, analysing and understanding Google Analytics landing page reports can be a tedious task.
Google Analytics displays pages as individual line items. This isn’t helpful for meaningful analysis.
To make this data more actionable, set up Content Groups.
Content Grouping lets you group content into a logical structure. For example, you could aggregate the number of pageviews for all landing pages in a group like “Furniture”. You could go even further and create subgroups like “sofas”, “beds”, etc. You can then drill in to see each URL or page title.
Content Groups aggregate your pages into meaningful line items for more insightful reporting.
With Content Groups, your web pages are grouped based on shared characteristics. Hundreds of pages can appear as a single line item.
This makes analysis considerably easier. How are your product pages performing? How are product list pages performing? Blog pages? Etc.!
To set up Content Groups, you need to ‘tell’ Google Analytics how you want to group your pages. You should group them in a way that will make sense in analysis. There are three ways to do this:
1. Modify the tracking code on each page you want to group
2. Extract pages with regex capture groups
3. Create rules to include pages in a group
As a ‘quick and dirty’ alternative to Content Groups, you can simply filter your reports using Google Analytics’ built-in filter:
You can use Google Analytics’ built-in filter option to filter the landing page report.
Landing Page Funnel
A landing page funnel is the journey that a user takes from the referring source (before they get to your website) to the landing page and onwards as they navigate your site (hopefully finally converting to a sale).
Visualising your funnel is another way to understand how your landing page is performing. This is a deeper form of landing page analysis.
Understanding funnels is an intuitive way to track how people move through your site and analyse visitors’ behaviour. A funnel might look something like this:
Funnel visualisation of the path to purchase from landing page to purchase page
Funnel visualisation of the path to email capture from the landing page to ‘Thank You’ pager
The above images are just two funnel examples. In these examples, I have extracted data out of Google Analytics and visualised them using Google Data Studio.
Enhanced Ecommerce Funnels
Insightful funnels that are native to Google Analytics include:
- Enhanced Ecommerce “Shopping Behaviour Analysis” Funnel
- Enhanced Ecommerce “Checkout Behaviour Analysis” Funnel
The Shopping Behaviour Analysis funnel is a macro funnel. It shows the “10,000 foot view” of all site visitors and purchases.
“Shopping Behaviour Analysis” funnel showing abandonment rates for an ecommerce website.
In the above example, you can see that 15% of sessions click the ‘add to cart’ button when they’re on the Product Page.
Typically, the Shopping Behavior Funnel is useful as an executive-level overview. But it’s not generally actionable without deeper analysis and segmentation. For example, if the progress rate from the Product Page is 15%, it would be helpful to compare mobile versus desktop, traffic sources, and so on. I recommend segmenting all your funnels when running your analyses (which you can do in Google Analytics).
The Checkout Behaviour Funnel focuses on the checkout. It’s more ‘zoomed in’ than the Shopping Behaviour Funnel. Typical checkout experiences consist of the shopping cart, the checkout pages and the Thank You page.
A typical checkout behaviour funnel. In this example, the largest drop-off is between the ‘Payment’ and ‘Review’ steps.
Two important notes about these Enhanced Ecommerce funnels:
- They count ‘sessions’ rather than ‘users’. This matters because one user can generate multiple sessions (if they visit the website multiple times). Therefore, counting ‘sessions’ is actually less accurate than counting ‘users’. For this reason, I always compare these funnels against user-based funnels. Unfortunately, in Google Analytics there is no native way to build funnels that count a ‘user’ metric – you have to extract the data and visualise it somewhere else – like in Google Data Studio.
Another way to measure your landing page funnels in Google Analytics is using a Goal Funnel.
Example of a Goal Funnel
However, I don’t recommend using Goal Funnels to build ecommerce-type funnels. You’re better off using Enhanced Ecommerce funnels as described in the above section. You get a lot more granularity of data in Enhanced Ecommerce reports, such as Product Performance and Sales Performance – all in one place. Most importantly, you can segment Enhanced Ecommerce funnels (not the case with Goal Funnels).
However, the Goal Funnel report is useful for tracking micro funnels. Such as newsletter signups. To set up a goal funnel, navigate to your Google Analytics admin area. Under your View, click on Goals.
Limitations of goal funnels
1.Goals aren’t retroactive
The Funnel Visualization report only reflects data going forward and doesn’t show retroactive data. This means that you’ll only be able to view data from the date that the goals were set up.
2. You can’t segment goals
You cannot apply custom segments to goals e.g. understand how organic search traffic or Facebook traffic or mobile traffic move through the funnel. Needless to say, this is extremely limiting.
3. Goal Funnels can’t be triggered twice in a session
Since goal funnels measure unique pageviews, you’re likely to find less recorded goals (in your goal reports) than transactions (in your ecommerce reports). This is because a goal can only be triggered once per session whilst transactions can be triggered multiple times.
4. Goal Funnels register unique pageviews NOT users
A unique pageview is the number of sessions during which a page was viewed one or more times. So a user who visited a page in a funnel step multiple times across multiple sessions would be incremented in the goal funnel.
5. Goal Funnel Conversion Rate and the Goal Completion Rate are not the same thing
The funnel conversion rate relates to people who entered the funnel (and completed the goal). The goal conversion rate relates to people who entered the site (and completed the goal).
If you’ve already set up Enhanced Ecommerce funnels, then goal funnels are an OK option to track additional micro funnels (such as newsletter signups). However, your analysis should take into account the limitations listed above.
As a general rule, I recommend creating your funnels in Google Data Studio so that they do not suffer from these limitations.
Behaviour flow report
You might also want to use Google Analytics to help you to understand what funnels to build. The reality is that your visitors take many different paths through your website, and it can be difficult to predict all the different paths.
Whilst it’s unnecessary to build a funnel for EVERY user journey, you can identify the most common ones with the Behavior Flow report. This will help you to answer the question: what is the onward journey that people take AFTER visiting the landing page?
This report shows the path that users take from one page or event to the next.
Tips for using the Behaviour Flow Report:
1. Select dimension e.g. landing page content group
2. Apply and compare segments like Mobile vs Desktop, Google vs Facebook traffic, New vs Returning visitors, etc.
3. Pan and zoom to explore the report
4. Hover over nodes and connections to show the number of pages or events, progress rates, exit rates, etc.
5. Highlight specific user journeys by clicking on a node and selecting “Highlight traffic through here”
Based on your analysis of common user journeys, you might then create additional custom funnels to track these journeys in more detail.
Landing Page Campaign Best Practices
A best practice for running landing page campaigns is tailoring the landing page experience based on traffic source. This is a powerful way of ’managing continuity’ throughout the user journey.
‘Maintaining the scent’, ‘conversion coupling’, ‘message continuity’, ‘message matching’ – whatever you call it, it’s crucial to ensure that ad and the landing page message are consistent
In practice, this means:
✔ SEO: your landing pages are based on different groups of keyword themes;
✔ PPC: your landing pages are consistent with your ad groups;
✔ Facebook Ads: your landing pages are consistent with your ad sets and creative;
✔ Email: your landing pages are based on the campaign and user segment
As an example, we optimised landing pages for our travel client, Ski-Lifts, based on holiday destination:
Example Google search engine result for our client, Ski-Lifts
Ski-Lifts serves hundreds of destinations. We adopted a phased rollout that prioritised the most popular landing pages.
The result was a 91.6% uplift on the progress rate to the checkout pages.
In this instance, the whole page was customised. However, just customising a few key elements on the page (such as the headline and image) might also have yielded positive results.
How can you analyse the traffic sources for different landing pages? In the landing page report, add “source/medium” as a secondary dimension:
This will reveal the traffic channel alongside individual landing pages:
Landing Page Marketing Strategy
Your landing page marketing strategy should take into account:
|Existing landing pages||Generating test hypotheses, creating the optimisation roadmap, applying statistics (KPI-setting, test duration, sample size, etc.),project management.|
|Traffic||Implementing/fixing Google Analytics, analysing quantitative data, creating insight-led reports|
|Conversion||Conversion rates based on your KPI metrics|
|Upside||Financial benefit of improving KPI metrics by 10% – based on ‘traffic’ and ‘conversion’ above|
As a general rule, the more granular your landing page strategy (meaning more landing pages tailored to smaller audiences), the better they are likely to perform. This is because you can tailor the user experience to specific need states.
If you have multiple landing pages e.g. lots of product pages, they are probably run from the same template. This is where segmentation becomes extremely important. Should you make changes to a single template that affects ALL the associated pages? Or should your strategy be more granular – like making custom changes to a subset of a page template?
Here’s an easy example: last year I had a client in the fashion space. They sold a lot of men’s shirts, and on all their product pages they had included a shirt size guide. The problem was that they also sold other products like suits, watches and bags. Obviously the shirt size guide was completely irrelevant on those pages!
This is a simple example of tailoring your template to context.
Your landing page marketing strategy should be strategic. If you run an ecommerce store selling bags, for example, it might be beneficial to have a different page template for “handbags” versus “purses” vs “clutches”, etc. This enables you to tailor the layout, messaging and copy to make the page more persuasive.
Beyond your product line, you might also tailor your landing pages to serve different audiences and channels. As an example, people searching for “[your company] + [product]” are more likely to have purchase intent. People searching for “[product]” are more likely to have research intent. So you could create a landing page template that addresses the concerns of purchase-intent users, and another for research-intent users. Perhaps the purchase-intent version would eliminate distraction (e.g. your global navigation) so as to focus users on buying.
Like all business activities, such decisions come down to effort vs. reward. Run a cost-benefit analysis to understand the balance of effort (resource, cost and time) versus reward (conversion upside based on current traffic and conversion levels).
To strike a balance between the right amount of effort and getting decent conversion rates – a phased approach can work well. By rolling out your landing page variants in phases, you don’t commit all your resources upfront; and you can quantify the impact of your changes before a bigger rollout.
A final words: these days we hear a lot of marketers talk about ‘personalisation’. Be wary of this concept, as it can create more problems than solutions. I have written about the perils of personalisation in my blog article “ A Perspective on Personalisation”.
Landing Page Audit & Performance
If visitors don’t get past your landing pages, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the website does! That’s why full landing page audits are so important.
Before you think about what adjustments to make (copy, images, layout, design or layout), your analysis should go as deep as possible.
Going beyond the Google Analytics reports listed above, an audit of your landing page should consider three things:
1. KPI performance
3. UX (user experience)
1. KPI Performance
This involves analysing Google Analytics data about your landing page and paying special attention to the bounce rates, progress rates and conversion rates. These metrics determine what visitors do after they end up on your landing page.
|Do they click off?||Bounce rate||Micro KPI|
|Do they take the desired next step towards conversion?||Progress rate||Micro KPI|
|Do they make a purchase?||Conversion rate||Macro KPI|
The first two metrics are micro-KPI’s. The third is a macro KPI.
Depending on your traffic levels, it may be necessary to focus on micro-KPI’s because there is more data to base your conclusions. Micro-KPI’s tend to be more actionable than macro-KPI’s which are often several steps removed from the landing page itself.
With that said, your macro KPI (final conversion rate) is the most important metric to consider. Having visitors continue on the user journey AND make a transaction is the main objective. This is what a high-performing landing page should do.
To review your micro and macro KPI’s, navigate to the Landing Pages report in Google Analytics and you’ll see the following report:
Landing Pages Report – accessing ‘Bounce Rate’ and ‘Ecommerce Conversion Rate’ data
Landing Pages Report – accessing your ‘Goals’ metrics
Landing Pages Report – goal metric applied to the report
Technical aspects of a landing page analysis include:
|Does the page load quickly?||Page load speed|
|Are all the links, forms, buttons and UI elements working correctly?||Functional issues|
|What does it look like when it is being viewed on different browsers? Different devices?||Responsiveness|
a) Page Load Speed
Multiple studies have shown the correlation of speed and bounce rate:
Source: Google/SOASTA Research, 2017
To check the page load speed of your landing pages, use the Site Speed Report in Google Analytics to determine how fast your landing pages loads.
The Site Speed report in Google Analytics
Your Google Analytics Site Speed report is based on users who actually visited your website. It measures real people on real devices. That’s why it should be your starting point for speed optimisation.
However, there are third party tools that offer additional metrics that aren’t available in Google Analytics.
The Google’s Page Insights tool tracks metrics such as:
|First Content Paint (FCP)||Metric that measures when a user sees a visual response from the page.|
|Speed Index (SI)||The average time at which visible parts of the page are displayed.|
|5s Time to Interactive (TTI)||Measures how long it takes a page to become interactive|
The performance data in PageSpeed Insights is benchmarked based on real users using the Chrome web browser and represents how users experience the web. Just like your Google Analytics site speed data, it reflects how real users experienced the website. However, you can’t slide and dice this data like in Google Analytics.
Another speed analysis tool is Google’s Test My Site. The drawbacks are that this applies to mobile only and only applies to your entire domain (rather than a specific web page). However, it’s still useful because it makes recommendations and provides benchmarks.
Bear in mind that page speed optimisation is not simply a matter of removing code and reducing file size. You can’t strip everything! Your developers will need to consider the tradeoffs for your platform. It’s one reason that optimising website speed can take substantial effort to implement, so the cost of making changes vs. the benefit should be evaluated.
The objective of your site speed analysis is simply to point out the opportunity.
Does the landing page behave correctly on all internet browser, operating systems and device combinations?
Does it display correctly?
Do all the links, forms, buttons and UI elements function properly?
With so many device/browser combinations, testing them all is nearly impossible. Safari browser on an iPhone 8? How about the Chrome Browser (v75) on a Windows 8.1. laptop? And the Firefox browser on MacOS?
Technical quality assurance of your website starts with creating a shortlist of devices/operating system/browser combinations. In other words, before you start device testing, you need to figure out WHICH devices to test.
Here is a simple process:
1) In Google Analytics, check which devices are used most by your website visitors. Unfortunately, the default reports in Google Analytics are muddled and inaccurate, so you’ll need to create custom segments. This video explains what do to do:
And you can download the cheatsheet to create super segments in Google Analytics here.
2) Analyse those segments against your desired metrics. This might require that you build a custom report, If you’re not sure how to customise a custom report from scratch, I suggest starting with Michael Aagaard’s custom landing page report (you’ll need to be logged into Google Analytics).
3) Are there glaring drop-offs for any of your device/browser experiences?
a) Go pick up that device/browser and try to find the issue.
b) Can’t get hold of the specific device/browser? Visit an Open Device Lab where you can use the real device for free.
3. User Experience (UX)
Lastly, it sounds obvious, but it’s time to review the UX of the landing page yourself. Picture yourself as a page visitor and ask yourself these questions:
✔ Is the page easy to navigate?
✔ Does the information sound convincing?
✔ Are there any distracting elements?
✔ Is it easy to recognise the CTA’s and forms?
The main limitation of reviewing your own landing page should be obvious. You’re conflicted, you’re too close to it, you’re human. Most of all, you have a vested interest.
That’s why you should use a heuristic framework. This is an objective method designed to guard against cognitive bias.
What’s a heuristic?
✔ Conversion heuristics are rules of thumb based on cognitive psychology and persuasion principles.
✔ They work because they are mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of making a decision.
✔ Heuristic analysis is an expert-based analysis that uses experience-based techniques for problem-solving, learning, and discovery.
✔ Not a replacement for user feedback
The advantage of using heuristics is that they are strategies derived from previous experiences with similar problems. They’re also quick to do.
If you’re looking for a heuristic framework, I recommend:
2. MECLABS Conversion Sequence
3. Transparent Marketing (for copywriting)
Broadly, each of these frameworks assesses the following criteria of a web page:
Relevancy: does the page meet user expectation – both in terms of content and design? How can it match what they want even more?
Clarity: Is the content / offer on this page as clear as possible? How can we make it clearer, simpler?
Value: is it communicating value to the user? Can we do better? Can we increase user motivation?
Friction: what on this page is causing doubts, hesitations and uncertainties? What makes the process difficult? How can we simplify? We can’t reduce friction entirely, we can only minimize it.
Distraction: what’s on the page that is not helping the user take action? Is anything unnecessarily drawing attention? If it’s not motivation, it’s friction – so it might be a good idea to get rid of it.
It’s easy to confuse heuristics with templates. Don’t! Heuristics are MUCH more powerful than templates!
Consider that a template for a product page might include:
✔ Business value propositions (free shipping, guarantees, etc.)
✔ Find in store
✔ Size guide
✔ Live chat
✔ Offer sorting options for reviews
✔ Social sharing
✔ Delivery price info
✔ Display shipping and return policy on product page
✔ Product details
✔ 360 degree view of products, or multiple photo angles
✔ Show estimated shipping time
✔ Payment options
✔ Add to wishlist
✔ Similar products, recommended products, etc.
✔ Recently viewed items
Templates & checklists don’t double conversion rates!
Here’s an important distinction: templates are tactical (UI) e.g. buttons, components; whereas heuristics are strategic (UX) e.g. messaging.
There is still value in using best practice templates – but only as starting points. Copy them, then improve them for YOUR specific use case!
Not using landing page analysis to inform your website optimisation activities? That’s like peeing into the wind, it could backfire. Robust analysis leads to more impactful changes and bigger online profits. You’ll lower your customer acquisitions costs, acquire more customers, and maximise the value of your ad spend.