Over a year ago I did a live critique of DigitalMarketer Lab member landing pages on our weekly Office Hours webinar training. During that Office Hours segment I identified 4 main landing page criteria that every landing page must consider.
Today I’m expanding that list with a 15-Point Audit across those 4 categories that will tell you if your landing page stacks up.
(NOTE: You’ll get a downloadable version of the 15-Point Landing Page Audit at the end of this article.)
The Landing Page Audit worksheet has five components (labeled above):
With all of the Landing Page editors or themes you can use out there it is REALLY easy to create a kind of Frankenstein’s monster without even knowing it — this will give you the process you need to avoid doing that entirely.
As you start grading your pages (or other people’s pages) you’ll go from the abstract feeling of ‘Man, that page pops’ to knowing exactly WHY it ‘pops’ (sorry, designer friends, I know you hate that term).
The four landing page categories are:
There are 15 elements to a landing page audit within those categories:
In this post you’ll learn to evaluate and improve each of these elements. Then, you’ll get access to our Landing Page Audit spreadsheet.
Here’s how to put this audit to work:
Today, I’m going to critique the landing pages of some big brands with you in this article — but first let’s look at each of these important landing page elements in a bit more detail.
The offer is probably the most critical part of any landing page.
No matter how well designed your landing page actually is, it won’t mean a darn thing if you have a crappy offer.
When scoring your offer, you need to pay attention to 4 main points:
All four of these points work together. You need to have a clear offer, meet your user’s expectations (scent/relevance), and attractively depict the offer and benefits.
You’ll find that you want your offer to be as well rounded as possible, so if you see a dip in the numbers here, definitely start working here.
Most landing pages have some kind of form on them, unless they are a clickthrough landing page that leads directly to some kind of checkout.
If your landing page is the latter, then make sure that CTA button is noticeable and that your cart page actually makes sense.
For pages with forms, you want to make sure your form is understandable and that people are willing to fill it out. The length of your form is contingent upon the offer’s perceived value.
If there is low value, then you can only ask for an email. If there is high value, you can start asking for more information.
This section break down is pretty straightforward.
First, if a visitor can’t see the form then they aren’t going to fill it in. That’s why this is the first ‘all or nothing’ score. They either see it or they don’t.
Earlier I explained how important it is to have an appropriate number of form fields for the perceived value of the offer. A form with a lot of fields should have a high-perceived value.
If people are going to give up their information, they need a good reason to do so.
It’s also important to use a solid form headline! Don’t just reiterate something said on the page already or use a generic ‘Fill in this form’ headline.
Try to draw their attention and speak to the desired end result.
If you have a form or just a simple CTA, you need to make sure the copy is clear and actionable, and that the CTA stands out. Lyft does an amazing job with this (while still using their brand colors).
I can’t help but look at the button.
Face it, people have trust issues online!
It’s your job to ease your visitor’s anxiety and convince them to convert. In order to develop trust, you are going to need a few things:
I didn’t include ‘Professional Design’ in the list here because I wanted to talk about it at length.
At DigitalMarketer, we’ve gone on record saying ‘What is beautiful doesn’t always convert’, and while that is true it is still important to put effort into your design because people will judge your credibility based on the design.
Let’s play a game!
Which mode of transportation would you take to Hogwarts? (Let’s assume there is a speed charm on the van so either mode of transportation will get you there at the same time.)
Now if you are a consumer online and you were choosing to buy the same product from two different sites where the design differed in the same way, who would you buy from (assuming they have the same product and messaging remains consistent)?
…yeah, I thought so.
This might be the least important of the four landing page pillars, but it is still important.
Your page layout not only helps develop trust, but it is a representation of your brand and also dictates eye flow.
The latter is very important because you want to make sure people are looking in locations that actually matter. An unbalanced landing page that lacks any visual hierarchy will confuse your visitors, and a confused visitor does not convert.
Here are a few things to ask when looking at your page’s visual hierarchy:
Okay, so designing a great landing page requires a lot of attention to detail, but if you successfully incorporate these four pillars you should be good to go.
Editors note – the pages by Shopify, Square, Fiverr, ExtraSpace Storage, Hootsuite, & ResumeHelp were all critiqued based off of the rubric below. The next batch following these examples will use the 15-point methodology.
Just for fun, I decided to take a look at some top brands and evaluate their landing pages. I found some really great examples, but I also found some pages that…well…left something to be desired.
I graded all of these based on the four landing page pillars and this rubric:
16-20 = A
11-15 = B
16 – 10 = C
11-15 = D
6 – 10 = F
≤5 = L
Okay, let’s take a look!
Shopify has a pretty slick page and this is definitely a layout that should be emulated (with a few tweaks).
Here’s my grades for this page…
The offer is 100% clear ‘Create your ecommerce store with Shopify’. It meets a direct need for any company looking to sell products online. The offer is also consistent to the ad that was clicked to get to this page.
However, I would like to see more content focused around the simplicity since the ad’s content almost exclusively promoted that benefit.
The one low point on this offer is the 14-day trial. They aren’t accentuating that part of the offer, and I’m curious how well a 14-day trial converts.
When someone starts an online business, things come up. Sometimes 14-days might not be enough to truly evaluate the product. Ideally I’d love to see them test the trial offer and try to give it more visibility on the page.
I have never been a fan of the horizontal form, generally it breaks the user flow. We are conditioned to scroll down on websites, so making the most important part of your website counter intuitive from a usability standpoint can depress conversions.
Furthermore, the form doesn’t take center stage here. It is more or less the ‘belt’ of the page, which is generally reserved for trust indicators and testimonials.
I love that they said ‘Trusted by over 165,000 business world wide’ and then they reiterate that fact in the bullet copy. This is a huge selling point and they keep it top of mind. Shopify is also a well known brand, so keeping their logo front and center definitely helps build trust.
Where the page’s trust falls shorts are their icons below the video. I don’t know if these are ‘As seen in’ logos or ‘Used by’ logos. Since they are three publications, I assume that it is the former. This ambiguity could be cleared up with a simple line of text.
Overall this page has a coloration issue, from a visual hierarchy perspective. Everything element looks as if they are all of equal importance, which clearly they are not. The form doesn’t stand out and the trial portion of the offer is marginalized.
The page does a great job highlighting the content, but again the content is only what dictates the value, the converting action must stand out too.
What is done really well is the ratio of links to converting action. There are 3 links on the page: the form, the header image, and the log in link. You want to keep your link to converting action ratio as close to 1-1 as possible.
Square went with the long form landing page, and that makes sense for their product. Let’s see how this page stacks up!
Similar to Shopify, this landing page has their offer front and center with a compelling headline ‘Start Selling Today’. Other than the placement of the headline and first action point, the offer isn’t all that compelling.
The ad talks about a free reader, but that is only mentioned once as link text for their product video. Needless to say there isn’t a whole lot of follow up from the ad offer to the landing page offer.
This page is all about the click through, whether it be via self segmentation or clicks on the primary call to action. I love the call to action on the button, using ‘Get’ has historically increased conversions on buttons and saying ‘started’ frames that this is the start of a process that might take a little bit of time.
When you click the ‘Get Started’ button you are brought to this form:
This is a clean form, but the two-column form may cause some confusion. On top of this issue, I am not sure just how many steps it will take to complete this process. The copy on the button tells me there are more steps, but I would like to know how many steps I need to take upfront.
Square is a well-known brand, so using their logo and brand reach they are able to increase trust immediately.
The only other trust indicator is at the bottom of the page where they say ‘Join the millions of businesses signed on with Square’
The page has a wonderful layout that highlights the most important areas using visual queues. Since Square is multifaceted, the page utilizes self-segmentation to get visitors to the most relevant page.
Even though I like to keep the primary CTA to link ratio as close to 1:1 as possible, there are always some exceptions. As a click through landing page, the wide ratio here isn’t a major problem, because the content they promote moves prospects into more refined segments.
Fiverr decided to push more content below the fold, but also has the primary call to action front and center on the page.
Similar to the last two examples, Fiverr keeps the main CTA front and center with a simple headline and sub headline. What’s unfortunate is I don’t know exactly what I’m getting when I give them my email address. I know I can get some kind of project done at an ‘Unbelievable’ value, but that’s about it.
Simply put, the page lacks specificity and value. What’s worse is that the offer in the advertisement isn’t reiterated on the page. Instead of telling us we can get jobs done starting at $5, we are met with ambiguity.
Steal this layout! If you have a one form field form, try this basic inline form. It has [almost] everything you need in a good form. It has a headline, sub headline, evident form field, and a clean CTA.
The only thing that’s missing is some kind of privacy reassurance – if they had included one, this form would be perfect.
Fiverr is clearly depending on their brand and their service count (made evident when they say ‘Millions of services’ and ‘Over 3 million services’).
This page looks good. Fiverr reiterates the call to action for people who continue to scroll so the conversion action is always front and center.
I think what I loved the most was the use of face; the woman’s eyes are looking directly at the form. This type of visual queue prompts user to look at the form next and is a nice trick to try on your own pages.
Fair warning: if you are too egregious with your efforts visitors will see through this and it might have the opposite affect.
Note: this is just the landing page grade – it is a slick landing page. The offer is just awful – a slick landing page will never fix a bad offer!
ExtraSpace Storage takes a different approach on their landing page – they used geo targeting in their ad and on their landing page to provide a more personalized experience. This is not your standard ‘dedicated’ landing page, but the product page you’d expect to see while navigating the site.
For sites like ExtraSpace and most ecommerce sites, this tactic works well. Most dedicated pages are focused on a single product or offering – when you have a person searching for something at the category level, you need to provide them with categorical information.
Let’s get to the grades…
Free storage for a month? I’ll take it! Thankfully the ad and landing page had a congruent offer, well for the most part. I’m not seeing that 15% savings, so that could be a sticking point.
That said, you clearly know what you are getting – a mini storage pace in your city at an initial discount. Unlike the other pages we’ve looked at, this page has the actual price on the page for the respective units – so that is also a plus from the offer perspective.
This is a click through landing page, so let’s click and get a closer look at the form…
The form page leaves something to be desired. I like that they display your storage location – but how they do this feels awkward. This page also suffers from business porn, which is an unnecessary distraction on this page (the “If It Matters To You, It Matters To Us” quote and image.)
The form includes trust seals, makes it clear you don’t need your credit card, and requires minimal information. Similar to other critiques, the multi column form isn’t the best way to go from a usability standpoint – especially if there are multiple rows.
The page has a nice set of trust indicators, provides live chat, a phone number, and wants to help with space selection size. This is a trustworthy page.
They lost a point because of the form and lack of proof. The trust indicators on the form were just placed on the left hand side and could be strategically placed a little better. Also, ExtraSpace is banking on these seals getting the job done – sometimes a well placed testimonial about the service or facility will make all the difference.
Since this is a category page and not a dedicated landing page, the visual hierarchy suffers. There are a lot of links, top bar navigation, and a ton of distractions.
That said, the page does a good job highlighting the call to action buttons – but the unique offer kind of blends in with the rest of the page.
Note: this is not a traditional landing page – but this is a layout you’d expect to see when people search from a ‘category’ level.
Spoiler Alert: this is the best page on the list. Check out the breakdown to find out why.
The ad content is reflected right in the headline! This is the only page so far that has pulled this off. If you are running any PPC campaigns, make sure your ad content is congruent with your landing page content!
The offer is clear and enticing. Hootsuite uses a 30 day trial and has a clear CTA button. What’s better is that Hootsuite keeps the offer top of mind by repeating it in different sections as a user scrolls down.
This is a click through landing page, so the form is on the next page. The form is your standard order form and it looks great!…
This is the only form, so far, that is single column. The headline sets the time commitment, and the right hand content reassures the customer about their current purchase.
There is potential for sticker shock here, but Hootsuite handles this well. They prompt the visitor with a price in the subheadline and give different payment options in the form.
I’ve been a little too excited about this page, so let’s start with the negatives here. This checkout form doesn’t use any trust indicators at all. They have a text guarantee about the trial period, and that’s about it.
However, the landing page itself has a lot of social proof and leverages Hootsuite’s brand. By sharing the user count and prominent brands there is clear social proof at work on the page.
I’m just going to say it – I hate ghost buttons.
However, I was pleasantly surprised with how Hootsuite used the ghost button. Generally people use text links as the secondary call to action on a landing page, but the ghost button is an amazing way to show that it’s associated call to action is secondary to the main CTA.
The CTA stands out and use inclusive language. Even better, it is reiterated throughout the page, so visitors always have the chance to move to the next stage in the funnel.
The primary CTA to alternative link ratio is very good on this page. There are three instances of the primary CTA and 3 instances of alternative CTAs. That maintains the 1:1 ratio on the page!
Okay, so a lot of the pages I’ve shared were larger brands. The last two are smaller brands – do they have what it takes to pass the landing page inspection?
I think my biggest pet peeve is that the ad says this thing is free, but they don’t mention it ONCE on the page! That should be right in the headline to keep a consistent message from ad to landing page. All of the other content in the ad is shared in the bullets, so why omit the key conversion booster that is ‘free’
I know that this will help me build a resume, but I don’t know what it will cost or if these resume template are even relevant to me. The page just lacks that ‘value’ punch that could take it to the next level.
When they say ‘Create Your Resume’ they aren’t kidding. This goes directly into their resume building wizard.
At Constant Contact they found that getting people to start creating their email campaign first instead of doing the banal task of importing their user list first increased conversions and customer retention. This landing page moves you from the promotion right in to the thick of it without giving one piece of information up.
This was a pleasant surprise and if the team at ResumeHelp really wants to boost conversions, this feature shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Likely you need to create an account after you finish your resume, but by that point they’ve provided value in advance and people will just hand over that information.
This page utilizes some top tier brands to help build social proof. That’s really the best use of trust indicators on the page.
The testimonials below the fold might as well be anonymous, they just have a first name and the images clearly aren’t of the people making the testimonials. Visitors will see through testimonials that look fishy – so if you’re going to have a testimonial make sure you can attribute to someone real!
The page, overall, looks good. The call to action stands out and there are multiple links that support the primary call to action. What’s odd is where people end up when they click the in-line links. It brings someone directly to the wizard, even though the text CTA is saying something completely different.
What really hurt this page was the CTAs that say one thing but lead to another, that there is no display of true value on the page, and that they don’t properly prime the user for the awesome experience of going through the wizard without giving up information.
This page could use little TLC, but with a few tweaks this page could go from a zero to a hero.
Simply put, there isn’t an offer. What’s worse is the ad says that they will teach me to grow tomatoes, but there is no mention of my favorite vegetable (or fruit?!) on the page.
The form doesn’t particularly stand out, even though it is in the most standard form location on a landing page
On top of the form not standing out, there are just too many options. Facebook, Google, or Email? This creates choice paralysis and looks clunky. Pick a way to sign up and stick to it.
The page is a bit of a mess – no section or piece of content is highlighted.
(Digital Marketer Lab Member Extra: Access your Landing Page Testing FormulaExecution Plan now! Split test your way to more leads and sales from your landing pages. Not a Lab member? Click here to learn more about DM Lab.)
… And here we are! As you’ve clearly noticed, the last few examples were based off of an old evaluation system. So I’m going to evaluate 3 more pages based off of the 15-point audit I described above! In fact, both Molly Pittman & I evaluated these on Facebook Live (you can watch the video below).
Don’t worry; I’ll do a written critique for each page, too! But first let’s lay down some ground rules…
In order to stay consistent, I will give these an A through L score, here’s how that breaks down:
92 – 100 = A
83 – 91 = B
74 – 82 = C
65-73 = D
40 – 64 = F
25 – 49 = L
Let’s see how these landing pages stack up against the audit…
The offer on this page is about as clear as it gets. The desired end result of the visitor is to find out what their home is worth, and this uses very direct copy to set expectations and activate the audience.
Since we aren’t looking at referring ads here, I automatically give this a 4 and will for all other pages (they shouldn’t be penalized because we don’t have ad creative to compare the pages to).
Trulia lost some points on relevance.
I understand that they are leveraging their brand recognition and the copy to show the visitor that the site is about buying/selling property. However, the end result isn’t depicted and the background image is more or less a generic placeholder.
I touched upon the visualization a bit when I discussed relevance, but there is no visualization of the product or service on the page.
Again, this is likely due to brand recognition since people equate Trulia with real estate.
This entire page is the start to their form, so it’s easy to see why they got a 4 for visualization.
On the surface it looks like they are severely under utilizing form fields when compared to the value they are providing. However, when you click through you are brought to a longer form that is an appropriate length for the perceived value.
I raved about the headline on the page already when I discussed the offer and since this page is just one big form my praise stands.
The CTA is one of the main focal points of the page. It stands out with its bold colors and doesn’t use generic copy which better primes the prospect to click.
This is a really slick design, despite it being so minimalistic.
Trulia used the mega image background to create a better overall aesthetic (a blank white page with a form on it wouldn’t have the same success).
Since all three of these pages are from major brands you’ll notice that they don’t spend a lot of time trying to build trust…the weight of their brand does that for them. Based on my rubric they will lose points here, but this score is subsidized by the name recognition.
On this page they didn’t tell you what they’d do with your information, why you should work with Trulia over Redfin (or other competition), or even share testimonials from happy Trulia users. They went minimalistic on the design and hoped their branding would take care of the rest.
Since this has been their control (with some slight variations in form fields numbers) since 2014, it’s safe to say they have seen success from this page.
In terms of visuals Trulia did a good job working around a singular theme and hyper focusing on the key sections of the page. The fact that they didn’t use any other supporting imagery cost them a point, but overall the visuals are focused and work toward the page goals.
This is a very simple landing page that relied heavily on brand recognition. When you have simple pages like this, you don’t have time to inform or persuade, which could hurt their overall conversions if people are deciding to sell their property on Trulia or their competition.
First and foremost, I want to say that an ebook is a terrible way to capture leads. Books sound time consuming and aren’t immediately useful/valuable. Busy professionals likely don’t have a time to go through that book and it is just adding more to their ‘to-do’ list!
Further, the offer isn’t all that clear! It’s an ebook, but I’m only going to have 7 takeaways? The 7 takeaways sounds more like a blog post, not an ebook! So the offer is muddled and is also not attractive.
I might be overly critical because I’m not their target audience, but there has to be a better way to articulate this offer and make it seem immediately applicable and thus more relevant to the consumer’s needs.
This form cuts me deep (if you watch the Facebook Live video…watch to see how I react to this one!).
Yes, the form is visible but that’s really the only thing it has going for it! They are asking for WAY too much information for a convoluted offer. They are asking for 6 pieces of information and one of these pieces is a high friction form field: the phone number.
Furthermore, they shouldn’t have to ask for the country if they have the phone number, a country code can take care of that for you! If you can gather information from things like GEO-IP or have form fields that can answer the question: remove the extraneous field!
The CTA stands out, but it is in an awkward position.
Just like Trulia’s page, this page is banking on its brand authority. However, since they are asking for some high friction fields, the prospect might be a little curious as to what they are going to do with that information!
This is the perfect example of a ‘Frankenpage’. I realize that the team is likely stuck with a particular approved template and have to make due with that. I understand that, but this page has no logical flow to it.
Key copy areas are just identical headlines, it’s difficult to read the copy, and they don’t use any visual depictions of the deliverable (what the heck is that background image?!)
Sorry to say, but Microsoft had the worst page of this lot.
Remember that landing pages need to be more than just a storage place for headlines and filler copy, they need to follow a central theme that inspires the visitor to take an action through clear offers, clever persuasion (copy and visual), solid usability and reduced friction.
Lyft did a great job depicting their offer. They also used a secondary form to let visitors who weren’t sure if they wanted to drive for them see what they could potentially make each week.
This is a great way to get an ‘on the fence’ visitor to become an active page user and interested in making the main conversion action.
They clearly speak to a desired end result: ‘Make 35/Hour’ and use supporting content to drive this offer home.
This form really stands out on the page. I can’t help but look at this thing!
They are definitely asking for an appropriate number of form fields. What’s funny is they ask for the same number of form fields as Microsoft and they are actually offering to PAY the person who fills out the form!
Further down the page they reiterate their call to action. This is a great practice, because you don’t want your visitor to go looking for the CTA when they are finally convinced to convert.
Lyft did rely on their brand, but they also used below the fold content to educate and convince the visitor. There is some opportunity for Lyft to improve the page. They could have testimonials from drivers to further persuade the visitor.
This page just looks good and follows a very logical flow and each content section compliments it’s neighboring sections. There is a natural anchoring of the main content area above the fold (used with bright coloration).
This was the best page of the three I looked at today, so great work, Lyft!
I know this page is flashier than most, but I want to make it clear it isn’t the flashy page that always wins. They used solid design tactics but it was born out of solid page structure.
It is much easier to be a critic than a practitioner, so please take these tips and actually implement them on your own page rather than just praising the beautiful pages and pointing and laughing at the ugly pages.
The 15-page audit is a great starting point for your own page evaluation…so, get started so your page doesn’t end up on with a L score on my next list.
(DigitalMarketer Lab Member Extra: Access your Landing Page Testing FormulaExecution Plan now! Split test your way to more leads and sales from your landing pages. Not a Lab member? Click here to learn more about DM Lab.)
Justin Rondeau is the Director of Optimization at DigitalMarketer and runs all of the optimization efforts and split tests at DM and is active among our other properties. A top-rated domestic and international speaker, Rondeau has spent his entire career working on optimization campaigns and has helped train some of the leading optimization teams at Fortune 500 companies. Rondeau has run hundreds of tests for both B2B and eCommerce brands and has has analyzed 3,000+ tests across virtually every industry. Connect with Justin on Twitter.View all Posts by Justin Rondeau