The importance of landing-page design in modern marketing

Adam Powell

“Never start a marketing campaign without a dedicated landing page.” This is the opinion of Oli Gardner, co-founder of Unbounce Marketing Solutions Inc.

A landing page is the first webpage visited by a website user and is also known as an entry point to a website. As an entry point, the landing page context clarity, and congruence are critical for generating conversions (someone who returns to the site, buys products and interacts with posts). Surprisingly, this is a point along the path to conversion at which many marketing campaigns fail — digital or not.

Why are landing pages so important? Marketing campaigns vary in their scope and objectives, but they often incorporate some online component. Companies have traditionally promoted their products and services through paid media, and with the advent of the internet, this paid media includes online paid search and display advertising. Two other types of media are typically used alongside these paid promotional efforts: earned and owned media.

Earned media is unpaid promotions through social media or traditional media outlets. Owned media is owned by the company and might include social media profiles and the company’s own website. The paid, earned, owned perspective in digital marketing states that the purpose of paid and earned media is to direct prospective customers to view and consume owned media. Thus, landing pages are the gateway through which paid and earned media engages prospective customers in receiving the promotion. In other words, even the most well executed promotions will fail if they are not supported by a landing page that delivers on the promotion. Promotion delivery should be contextually consistent, clear, and congruent on the landing page.

The context of the landing page refers to the expectations of the customer upon arriving on the landing page. If the customer clicked on a link in an email that promised 20% off jackets, the landing page should mirror this promotion, as well as the visual design used in the email. If the customer clicked on a paid search ad that offered free shipping, this same free shipping message should be apparent on the landing page. If a customer clicks on a link found in a friend’s social media feed, the same message and visual design should follow the customer. In other words, the transition from paid or earned media to owned media should not be noticeable to the customer; the transition should be seamless.

Landing page clarity is as it sounds. How clear is the landing page, or in other words is it obvious: “What are you offering,” “why should I pick you,” and “what do you want me to do next?” These are the three questions of web design, as outlined in Digital Marketing Essentials by Larson & Draper (2019). After just a glance at the landing page, can a visitor tell what is being offered? How is the offering special? And what action is desired? Design elements such as visual and information hierarchy are crucial to clarity, but almost as important to clarity is to avoid clutter. The highest converting landing pages have very low attention ratios, meaning that the number of things that a webpage visitor can do is very small compared to the primary thing that the marketing campaign wants them to do. Obviously, ideally this ratio would be one-to-one, but too often landing pages are not designed for the marketing campaign at hand, and visitors are presented with many things that they could do on the landing page. This distraction of other things to do reduces customer conversions and the effectiveness of the landing page.

Finally, landing page congruence is the extent to which all of the elements on the landing page support and direct visitors to perform that one action that the marketing campaign hopes visitors will take. The landing page might include a simple sign-up form or a button to click, or a link to follow, with any of these taking the visitor toward full conversion, such as purchasing, signing up, or visiting in person. If any element of the landing page detracts or does not engage the webpage visitor in completing the task at hand, then it is not congruent with the purpose of the landing page. After all, promotions and marketing campaigns are only successful if they elicit behavior. In the case of the landing page, this behavior should be apparent and supported.

In a way, the landing page is the new foyer to your office or retail space, it is the new face of the salesperson who makes initial contact with the customer, it is the new voice on the other end of the toll-free number. With the vast use of online and social media advertising today, the importance of the landing page experience cannot be overstated. Go ahead and check now! When prospective customers visit your owned media from a promotion, is the attention ratio low and is the landing page contextually consistent, clear, and congruent? If not, you may realize higher rates of conversion with a better designed, dedicated landing page.

Adam Powell is associate professor of marketing in the Department of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the John L. Grove College of Business at Shippensburg University.