Why the best landing page is no landing page at all

If the term “devil’s advocate” didn’t already exist, it would need to be invented to describe Ron, my esteemed — and admittedly cranky — colleague to the east. In my last post I wrote that a landing page is an extension of the ad(s) pointing to it. He called me on it, and in doing so reminded me that not everyone shares this perception. Here’s my clarification, Ron. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

I’ll explain why it is true that a land page is an extension of its referring ad, but also, the landing page should ideally be planned well before any type of ad is ever constructed.

And finally, I’ll explain why, as the title of this states, the best landing page is no page whatsoever.

So what do I mean when I say the landing page should be built first? Frankly, the entire process should be built backwards. It should start with the objective — namely, the action you want your audience to take. Desired actions can include the following:

  • Subscribe to an e-newsletter
  • Register to download a whitepaper
  • Commit to a purchase

Thus, each landing page should have a call to action. What’s the ideal number of calls-to-action per landing page? Exactly one. Any more can diffuse the power of the page.

All efforts should focus on qualifying the prospect and leading that person to a speedy “close.” Although you won’t be able to close every interaction — or even most interactions — your goal is always to maximize the close rate.

My friend Ron used the analogy of a car dealership that serves customers who arrive thanks to an ad. As a way to test my assertion, he said this makes the dealership “an extension of the ad.”

Not quite, because, as he muses later in the comment, entering the dealership “marks the transition from advertising to selling.” The dealership is not an extension of the newspaper ad (let’s say) because the ad already elicited the desired commitment. It brought in the consumer. Mission accomplished.

But this got me thinking: What if the car dealership ad appeared on a web page instead of on newsprint, or in the pages of a magazine? Actually, little changes. If its objective is to simply get someone to come into a dealership (not usually the case in online automotive ads), I could imagine an interstitial or rich-media web ad that provides enough information to get a commitment without ever clicking through to a landing page.

Here’s what I mean by a rich media ad. It’s a fun ad for the Nissan Quest. This one, like most, sends folks to a microsite. But if all you want is to cause a visit to a dealership, I could see a rich media ad that asks for a zip code and returns the nearest dealership information — perhaps even offering a map and driving instructions. This would all be done within the ad, on the web page where the ad appears.

In this way, like its print counterpart, the online ad gets the commitment with the least amount of “friction” by never referring to a landing page at all.

In a perfect world, all banner ads would work this hard. But because most calls-to-action need more information delivered before a commitment can be generated, the friction of landing pages (and yes, also microsites) are necessary. They are essential extensions of online ads.

4 Replies to “Why the best landing page is no landing page at all”

  1. Good point, James. One quibble — Wells Fargo’s developed its approach to designing its home page long before Seth Godin’s blog post. I wouldn’t conclude that WF “followed Seth’s advice”.

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