DON’T: “Treat Every Page Like a Landing Page”

Landing Pages, Hammer with Nails
When I saw a tweet with the post “Every Page is a Landing Page,” I knew I'll have to put in my 2 cents.

The post by Nicholas Scalice at EarnWorth is a good post about effective landing pages, but I strongly disagree with the main premise of his post.

When you have a hammer mindset, everything looks like a nail. When in actuality, visitors to your website are best described as a box of random screws. You got to put some elbow grease to screw them in.

A landing page, in marketing, isn't an entry page where visitors land on your website. According to Unbound, “When discussing landing pages within the realm of marketing and advertising, it’s more common to refer to a landing page as being a standalone web page distinct from your main website that has been designed for a single focused objective.”

That single focused objective is exactly why it is detrimental to your marketing to treat every page like a landing page.  Let me break this down.

Your Homepage Is Not a Landing Page

When you offer more than one thing (products or services), your homepage should direct visitors to the information they are looking for quickly. You don't know what the visitor is looking for, you know there's an IP address on your homepage. That's why you need to help them get to the right information they need quickly. Your homepage is your “virtual receptionist” that sends visitors to the relevant information.

You don't want to give them too many options, 3-5 primary options at most. When people have too many options, they get confused and end up choosing none. Research backs this up.

When customers at a gourmet store were presented a selection of 24 jams, 60% were drawn to the selection but only 3% bought actual jam. On the other hand, customers who were only exposed to a selection of 6 jams were less drawn to it (40%) but 30% bought jam.

The point is, you don't know who's visiting your homepage so don't overwhelm them with too many options but also don't give them one option either as if it's a landing page. When you present a few options to your visitors on the homepage what you're doing is allowing visitors to segment themselves when they pick an option.

There are different ways to segment your visitors using your homepage:

  • Demographics (men, women, parents, etc.)
  • By pain (if you're a plumber – clogged toilet, emergency plumbing/flooding, etc.)
  • By function (CEO, CTO, etc.)
  • By product/service
  • By whatever makes sense to your customers and your business

Every segment has very unique needs, a CEO shopping for a mobile SaaS platform will not care about all the technicalities that a CTO will care about.

The job of a homepage is to get your visitor to the appropriate landing page. As Flint McGlaughlin at MECLABS says, “Clarity trumps persuasion.” When things are clear, action is clear. I'll go a step further – clarity drives action.

Here's what MECLABS says about homepages:

If you have more than one offer (even if it’s one product, but one with options), your homepage cannot look like a “sell” landing page; its job is to direct the visitor to the right product as quickly and efficiently as possible…and then let the subsequent page(s) do the selling.

When you allow visitors to do segmenting, to pick their journey, you increasing the quality of traffic that ends up on the landing page. This increases your conversion rates.

People Are Selfish

People do things for their reasons, not your reasonsI hate to break it to you, nobody gives a shit about your business but you. If you pick your most loyal customer, most vocal brand advocate and see what they do when you shut your business down. Nothing. They'll move on.

Unfortunately, this is not how the world works (source):

Oasis

Wouldn't it be nice if you could tell your customers “We really need sales, buy from us” and that actually worked?

Landing pages work really well because they do narrow the path to a single action, but they will only convert if the offer is relevant to them. When you have multiple offers on one page, multiple calls to action on one page, when it is not clear what I need to do – by definition – it is not a landing page.

There is a big difference between conversion rate optimization (CRO) and user experience (UX), both are needed and should be balanced. Here's how I like to think of CRO and UX.

  • CRO: What do we want users to do?
  • UX: What do users want to do?

That distinction is critical, yet not exclusive. You need to consider both when designing a website or creating a landing page. You need to figure out how to get a user to do what you want them to do by understanding what they want to do. With a landing page we say “we know what you need and this is the only thing you need.” That's why it's critical that you do not treat your visitors like nails. Some visitors need a Philips head screwdriver, some flat head, and some hexagonal screwdriver.

Not Everyone Is Ready to Convert

This falls back on previous point. People do things for their reasons, not your reasons. Not everyone is ready to convert, and if they are ready to convert, what type of conversion are they ready for?96% of visitors are not ready to buy.

The ultimate conversion is a sale, and 96% of visitors are not ready to buy. If 96% of visitors are not ready to buy, you bet your ass a huge portion of visitors is not ready to convert either. I'm not saying you should not include ways to capture those leads, you should and must, but you can't be simpleminded and try to drag visitors down the conversion abyss.

Josh Bernoff's rant about popups actually speaks the truth about all marketing activities:

Marketers must use these [popups] intrusive approaches because they're working. But if they piss off ten people for every one they suck in, maybe you're not measuring what “working” means properly. If you sucker a visitor into asking for something they don't want, are they really a lead?

It's More Than Just the Homepage

It's not just the homepage, it's just the easiest example to show you why treating every page like a landing page will backfire.

  • Category pages can't be treated like landing pages, they direct visitors to appropriate pages and landing pages.
  • Blog posts can be treated like landing pages but the problem is you don't know who's reading it and you need to present them with options – sidebar CTAs, below the post subscription, social media follow buttons, content upgrades, etc. – and by definition that's not a landing page with multiple conversion goals, distracting elements, etc.

Visitors on your website have different needs and pains, they are in different buying stages. You can't treat them the same. Landing pages are effective because they follow a very specific formula, a formula that will destroy good user experience if applied to all pages on the website.

Part of why landing pages work well is the segmented nature of traffic you send to them. When you send traffic to a landing page using PPC ad, social media update, email, banner ad, etc., you allow user to pre-qualify themselves. When they click on the link to go to the landing page they raise their hand and say I'm interested in the value you're promising me. There are a lot of different elements that will prevent them from converting, but when they do initially come to a landing page you piqued their curiosity with your value proposition.

To Summarize

  • Not every page is a landing page.
  • Your homepage is your virtual receptionist.
  • People do things for their reasons, not your reasons.
  • Not everyone is ready to convert, give them options.
  • Clarity drives action.

That's my 2 cents. Agree? Disagree? I won't know unless you leave a comment.

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Elisa Planellas
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Elisa Planellas

Although I agree that not every page is a landing page or should be treated like one, I couldn’t help but to point out that your own home page looks just like a landing page except for the list of blog posts at the bottom

Jon Sarta
Guest

Hi Victor, great article. I have been searching for an answer on the best approach for my Music site that offers different styles of music. One site, many areas or multiple websites? This post gives some great advice and points to think about.Thanks!

Shelby
Guest

As always, another great article to stash into my “viktor” bookmark folder 🙂

Rico
Guest

I read both posts and got great value out of both. There was enough insight that I will go back and have another deep look at my hatching business site. We sometimes just get carried away with the design options of short codes, sliders and parallax effects. Thank you both for sharing such valuable knowledge.

Nicholas Scalice
Guest

Viktor, this is a very insightful post, seriously. I know you wrote it in response to my article, but I picked up some great tips. This kind of healthy debate is what I love about marketing. It’s not every day we can have an educated discussion about a subject such as inbound marketing or landing page optimization. To address the points you brought up, yes, I’d agree, a homepage is a special place. It is where we want to present several choices to our visitors, and help them choose the best one for them. So I’m with you on that.… Read more »

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Viktor Nagornyy

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