The 5 Characteristics of a Terrible Landing Page

05/10/2016 12:37 pm ET Updated May 11, 2017

As more and more businesses begin to rely on internet sales and conversions for a healthy portion of their revenues, it's becoming increasingly important for marketers to develop captivating and high-converting landing pages. Unfortunately, it seems like the majority of the industry is headed in the wrong direction and is actually designing landing pages that kill conversions.

What is a Landing Page?

With so many mistakes being made in landing page design, it's important that we take the time to discuss exactly what a landing page is. Somewhere along the way, the definition and purpose seems to have been lost.

To give an unofficial definition, a landing page is a dedicated page designed to expose visitors to a specific call-to-action and efficiently to push them through the conversion funnel from awareness to action. If you're designing landing pages that are doing anything more or less than this, then you're missing the point.

According to this landing page conversion course by experts Oli Gardner and Rand Fishkin, the purpose of every landing page is to do one of the following:

  • "to capture leads that enable you to market to people in the future," or
  • "to 'warm up' potential customers to the product you are trying to sell to them before sending them further into your sales funnel"
  • These are the foundational concepts and principles of any successful landing page; however, there's more to designing a high-converting landing page than just knowing the basics.

    The Five Mistakes That Marketers Make Consistently

    Spend enough time browsing different websites and reviewing what various marketers and brands are doing in their industries, and you'll notice the following pervasive mistakes - each of which significantly lowers the respective page's conversion rate.

    Let's take a look at why these mistakes are so debilitating and how you can avoid and overcome them.

    1. Cluttered Design

    The number one mistake that people make when designing landing pages is trying to do too much. This results in cluttered and complicated designs that stress out visitors and take away from calls-to-action.

    Just how common is a cluttered landing page? Consider that 48 percent of all pages contain more than one offer, despite the fact that pages with multiple offers obtain 226 percent fewer leads. So, chances are that you've designed at least one page in the past that's too cluttered.

    The key to decluttering landing page design is to think simple. Start with a specific call-to-action, and then design everything toward funneling visitors to this call. If an element doesn't relate directly to the call-to-action, remove it.

    For the perfect example of what a simple, yet effective landing page looks like, check out the Instapaper homepage. This no-frills page does an amazing job of capturing conversions without including any superfluous information. It's proof that you don't have to invest in complex design to garner good results.

    2. No Trust Signals

    Because internet users have been exposed to so many different scams, sleazy sales tactics, and bogus information in the past, they're naturally skeptical. As such, savvy customers are always looking for ways to establish trust with the brands and businesses with which they interact online. Unfortunately, this puts landing pages in a tough spot. Landing pages must establish trust quickly within the confines of a single page.

    The biggest mistake that marketers make when designing landing pages is failing to include any elements of social proof. There's ample opportunity to incorporate these trust signals, and it's foolish to leave them out.

    Let's take a look at an example of a landing page that does an effective job of leveraging social proof. This Coupon Lawn landing page for the Shopsta browser extension successfully incorporates two different trust signals (all while maintaining a simple design).

    Notice how the page says, "Shopsta covers over 4,000 popular online etailers and service providers," and then features a handful of recognizable logos. Then, if you scroll to the bottom of the page, you'll see three different testimonial quotes from actual users. These are simple components of social proof that go a long way in increasing trust. Leaving out these elements would be a big mistake.

    3. Poorly Optimized Conversions Forms

    For landing pages that are designed to collect information from a visitor - such as a name and email address - the biggest mistake that you can make is to complicate the conversion form. Too many brands get greedy when it comes to collecting information and unknowingly create more friction than there should be. You don't want to do this.

    Instead, your goal should be to simplify conversion forms and to make them as easy to fill out as possible. You never want to ask for more than two or three pieces of information. Ideally, you're only asking for one or two. Anything more, and you risk overwhelming the visitor and causing him or her to abandon the page before converting.

    4. Not Optimized for Mobile Traffic

    With the number of mobile-only users now surpassing the total volume of desktop-only users, it's more important than ever that you're optimizing your landing pages for mobile traffic. Unfortunately, far too many brands aren't.

    A failure to optimize for mobile traffic is dangerous on many levels. Primarily, it discounts a large portion of your traffic and delivers a poor user experience. Thankfully, it's now possible to create responsive landing pages with relative ease. Make sure that you're taking advantage of these tools so you don't miss out on potential conversions.

    5. Bad Image Selection

    In 2016, there's absolutely no excuse for using outdated stock photos. However, for some reason, thousands of brands insist on using these lifeless images on their landing pages.

    If you're using stock photos, you need to stop. Not only do stock photos lack personality, but they also take away from your call-to-action. Instead, it's time to focus on high quality, high resolution images.

    Take a look at this landing page from clothing brand O'Neill. The first thing that a visitor notices is the gorgeous picture of waves. It's a custom image that's been tactfully selected for this page. It's much more effective at pushing people through the conversion funnel than a generic picture of a wave would be.

    Thinking about your landing pages, how can you implement a better approach to image selection? Maybe it looks like taking your own photos or hiring a professional, or maybe you need to work with a freelance graphic designer to create one-of-a-kind visuals. Whatever it you do, make sure that you're steering clear of boring stock images.

    Stop Wasting Your Time

    If you're committing any of these egregious mistakes, then you're essentially wasting your time. Sure, you may see a handful of conversions, but in all likelihood, your rates are suffering dramatically as a result. Think about the examples and best practices referenced in this article, and remember that landing pages are designed to push visitors through the conversion funnel efficiently. If anything is affecting this efficiency, it needs to be removed.