Landing Page Optimization Case Study: Step by Step Analysis of How I Got 75% More Conversions by Improving Design

Posted By Devesh Khanal | 6 Comments

This is going to sound like heresy, but I’m going to say it anyways:

If you want your site to convert better, you can’t just copy what worked for other sites and expect it to work for you.

I know, I know, that makes me sound like a hypocrite.

After all, I’ve published conversion optimization case studies, and co-published a massive list of hundreds of conversion rate optimization tactics – all in the name of helping others increase their conversions.

So do I mean there’s nothing to learn from these case studies? Or this landing page optimization case study you’re reading right now?

No.

What to Focus on When Reading Conversion Case Studies

What I mean is, instead of copying tactics, focus on the underlying reasons and strategy that led to the improvements:

Then, ask yourself this question:

What thought process did they go through to come up with the new, better, variation?

(Shoutout to Peep Laja for articulating this wonderfully at his recent ConversionXL conference.)

Bonus: I made a PDF checklist of how to get started with optimizing your landing page plus my 3 favorite landing page optimization guides and the exact layout and instructions I sent my designer to get this done. Click here to get them emailed to you.

Today’s Case Study: The Reasoning and Strategy Behind Optimizing Two Email Capture Landing Pages

It’s that last question (what was the thought process?) that I’m going to lay out step-by-step in today’s case study.

We re-designed an email capture landing page and got an increase in email opt-ins by 75%.

You can go ahead and just copy the page, and hell, it might work for you. But if it doesn’t, you can leave your complaint in the complaint box:

If instead you know our reasoning and strategy for coming up with winning variations, then you’ll be able to do similar things on your site, regardless of differences between your site and the example.

What I’m going to do in this article is walk you step by step through my logic and thinking:

  • How did I decide what should be changed?
  • What hypotheses did I make about how the users think and feel?
  • What did I decide not to spend time on?
  • What else could I have done better?

And as a free bonus I’m going to go even deeper into my process and show you how I worked with my designer on this:

  • I’ll show you my initial rough layouts
  • I’ll show you what I sent my designer

This will let non-designers and non-coders understand how much work you need to do even if you’re “not a designer” and what you can pass on to contract designers.

The 3 key hypotheses that got me a 75%+ increases in conversion rate for 2 different sites

1. Good Design Gives You Legitimacy

It’s like this cool new thing to say that spending a lot of time on design is a waste of time. I think it’s some bastardization of the Lean Startup idea that you need to just “ship” and “pivot” your way to millions:

Pivot Lean Startup

…or billions as the case may be.

Don’t get me wrong:

There’s nothing wrong about validating your product idea quickly. In fact, that’s the way to go. But don’t confuse this with some notion that focusing on good design is somehow always a waste of time.

At some point, when your product has been validated, having it be really well designed is going to get people to love it, trust it, buy it, stay loyal to it, and tell all their friends about it.

Here’s how I used this concept of better design to improve Valuewalk’s email newsletter landing page:

Valuewalk is a financial and business news site with millions of monthly readers. In my last case study, I showed how we increased clicks to their email newsletter landing page by 145% by optimizing their copy.

Here I’m going to show you how I optimized the page itself.

Here is the what the original page looked like:

Valuewalk landing page

They are offering an ebook on value investing.

Here was my main hypothesis:

Legitimacy and trust is really important or people who want investment literature. (I know, I’m really going out on a limb there.)

Let me elaborate: Their audience is people who read financial news and investing news. Think about the kind of materials (online and offline) they are used to seeing: well designed financial sites and documents, professional corporate earnings reports, and major media sites like Wall Street Journal.

Even if they don’t consciously know it, that customer base has a visual expectation of financial content: It’s professional and looks trustable.

But the existing design of the page didn’t fit that expectation. It’s an minimum viable product. And in that capacity, it served it’s purpose of validating the idea that people were willing to give away their email address for an ebook on value investing.

But now we wanted to do more than validate, we wanted to optimize.

So I made a bet (school of hard knock speak for “hypothesis”) that simply making this page professionally designed would help conversions.

Here is what the new design looked like:

landing page design

Strategy Lesson:

There’s nothing “magical” about the specific design above, or even the idea that I redesigned it. The lesson here is that I started with a hypothesis of what the customer was looking for (polished design), then concluded that we were definitely not providing that.

So, start by analyzing what your customer wants. Is your email capture landing page giving them that? Is your layout, design, and copy making your offer seem irresistible? What could you change to improve it?

2. I Added Social Proof to Further Add Trust

Social proof has been talked about over and over again as a way to persuade people and increase conversions.

So, I won’t go into too much detail here.

But you’ll notice in the ValueWalk re-design above, I added two quotes.

I chose each carefully, and here is my exact reasoning:

One was from Warren Buffet talking endorsing value investing. This makes the reader value value investing more (yes, I was waiting to drop that line), which is what the ebook is about. Second, his face is instantly recognizable to anyone scanning the page. That’s why I put him higher up on the page.

warren buffet social proof

The second quote is from a founder of an investment firm talking about how great Valuewalk’s newsletter is:

testimonial

Both serve to push the reader to want to opt-in by having experts endorse: (1) the subject of the ebook and (2) the value of the newsletter itself.

Pro Tip:

To really quantify how much each of these quotes affected the conversion rate, you would have to do further experiments where the variations removed each quote individually. We haven’t done that here, but you can see the overall affect of the new design on conversion rate below.

3. I kept the landing pages short since the offer was simple

If you Google “long or short landing page” you get 18 million results. Let me save you some time…

If your ask is big (a $2000 online course), chances are you need a long landing (or “sales”) page. But if your ask is small (an ebook for an email), short is likely better. Michael Aagaard breaks this down well.

And as always in conversion optimization, it should be tested for your particular situation.

We’re just asking for an email sign up here (a low level of “scrutiny” as Michael Aagard says), so I decided to go with a short page.

4. I Repeated the CTA

Don’t stress about where to put your CTA, it’s another “long or short” type of decision:

Most people say to put at least one CTA at the top of the page (above the fold), which is generally the most valuable real estate on a web page.

But, again, if you have a complex product, you will likely have to spend some time convincing the prospect they want it, so having a CTA below the fold has been shown to work better more than once.

We’re just asking for an email, so I placed the CTA above the fold, then once again below the fold.

Here is how the two CTAs performed vs. the original:

above or below the fold CTA

Of course, don’t think that if you removed the second, below the fold, CTA in the variation that you’d lose all of that 2.0% conversions. It’s more than likely that a good portion of those users would have scrolled back up to opt-in.

But this gives us some insight into how many opt-ins you get at various locations on a landing page like this one (simple offer, simple ask).

Things You Could Try That I Haven’t Tried (Yet)

1. The sexy grey list of logos

You’ve seen them everywhere, they are sexy, and they can always be tested for adding credibility via social proof. Here is the one on my site, a little excessive in number of logos, but you get the picture:

logos social proof

2. A longer page

Before you say “Ridiculous! You’re just asking for an email — use a short page”, here me out:

You can get fabulous results if you give away part of your opt-in bonus, then ask for an email for the rest.

This is unconventional, but can work extremely well when you are exchanging valuable content for an email address.

The best example of this is Brian Dean of Backlinko who gave away half of a valuable SEO strategy by video and asked for an email to see the second half. Instead of a squeeze page, he called it a “Social Squeeze Page,” and it converted at a whopping…

21.7%!

Valuewalk’s ebook has a lot of valuable information in it, so we could easily imagine putting an intro, and a few nuggets from the ebook itself on the page and, after whetting the reader’s appetite, ask for an email to get the full book.

3. All the small tweaks

“Wait, what about the button color?! Why didn’t you test that?!”

Yes, there are scores and scores of case studies that show all sorts of conversion lifts from tweaking:

  • CTA copy
  • Button colors
  • Body copy
  • Headlines

In my experience, small tweaks lead to small changes (or no changes). But there are many case studies that prove otherwise. So, if you have enough traffic, and you tackle the big wins first, and, finally, your hypotheses suggest you could get lifts from changing small elements, then go for it.

Here’s How You Can Increase Your Landing Page’s Conversion Rate…

As usual, I want to help you take action instead of just reading this and going back to refreshing your Twitter feed in hopes that something went viral.

So I’ve created a short one page checklist of steps you should take to redesign your landing page using the strategies I employed here. It covers the questions to walk through to form a hypothesis on what to change.

Then, as promised, I’ve also included screenshots of how I re-designed this landing page without doing the design myself. My rough layout changes and instructions to my designer. This will teach you how to outsource the actual design so you don’t get stuck on the mental barrier that you’re “not a designer”.

You can get all of these, for free, emailed from me to you by clicking here.

Questions? Let me know in the comments. I’ll do my best to answer every single one.

  • Sue Anne Dunlevie

    LOVE this post, Dev!

    I have LeadPages and creating polished landing pages has really worked for me in my “blogging” niche. I’m now going to try adding social proof and test that.

    Thanks for the great info,
    Sue

    • Yeah LeadPages can work wonders for landing pages. And they have ab testing if you want to see how adding elements like social proof affects things.

  • Nice Devesh. I know I’ve seen you mention the power of 2 step opt-in in the past. Is there a reason you decided to not get the page designed with 2 step opt-in for this client (or does that come later, under “small tweaks”)?

    • We didn’t really think much about it on this one. The previous version (original) had a single form on the page so we kept that and just tested the other changes I mentioned here.

  • Robin

    Thanks a lot for this breakdown Devesh, I should do some myself after I’ve finished working with clients. Really great insights. I wouldn’t have thought of using the credibility Warren Buffet conveys just by adding his picture and a quote, need to remember this! Can you tell us what happens if you get around to testing the grey bar?

    Cheers,

    Robin

    • Sounds good Robin, I’ll write it up or add to this if we test the grey bar.