When a visitor arrives on your landing page, you have less than eight seconds to make a strong impression.

That’s the conclusion of a 2015 Microsoft study that surveyed 2,000 people and monitored the EEG activity of 112 more. In the year 2000, the average human had an attention span of twelve seconds, but that has since declined by 33%.

In contrast, the average goldfish has an attention span of nine seconds.

When your average prospect is that easily distracted, it’s absolutely critical to structure your landing pages for maximum impact. It’s not enough to just give them the information – you have to organize it in a way that grabs their attention and doesn’t let it go until they convert.

In this article, we’re going to look at the five most critical components of a landing page and how to design them for optimal conversions.

 

The Headline

Your headline is the very first thing that visitors see on your landing page, so you need to make it count.

Essentially, the job of the headline is to convey the big idea behind your product in a clear, appealing and concise way. It’s often supported by a sub-headline which elaborates on the core promise in more specific language.

Before sitting down to write your headline, think carefully about what makes your offering useful and valuable. At the most fundamental level, what core benefit are your customers looking to gain by purchasing your solution?

Here is Codecademy’s headline:

Here is Codecademy’s headline

What makes this headline so good is that it encapsulates the big idea behind Codecademy’s service in a short, punchy phrase. The sub-headline then explains in more literal terms exactly how subscribers will benefit from the service.

 

Hero Header

While the headline is the first text that your visitors read, the hero header is the first visual element they see. And just like the headline, the hero header should tell a story about your offering and how it can help your customers.

Hero headers typically contain either an image or a video. Both can be very effective from a conversion standpoint, and the only way to know which one works better for your business is to test them.

AirBnB experiments with many different hero images, and this one is a standout example:

AirBnB experiments with many different hero images

There are a number of reasons why this hero image is memorable. It juxtaposes the iconic Eiffel Tower against the headline “Welcome Home”, highlighting the central benefit of AirBnB’s service – the ability to have a home-like experience in any country you travel to. The travelling couple in the foreground reinforces this message and makes the image even more eye-catching.

For a strong hero video, look no further than LeadQuizzes:

For a strong hero video, look no further than LeadQuizzes:

LeadQuizzes has a very well-produced explainer video right below their headline, which answers all the key questions a prospective customer would want to know:

  • What does this software do?
  • What are the benefits of using this software?
  • Does it solve my problem?

The labelled arrow pointing at the “play” button is a nice touch that further compels visitors to start the video.

 

Product Benefits & Features

Now that your headline and hero header have won your visitor’s attention, you should take advantage of that to provide more details on how your product can help him.

You might have heard the advice to “talk about benefits, not features”, but that isn’t always the best policy. While it’s certainly wise to focus more on benefits than features, you also need to explain how your product actually works – especially if you sell a complex technical solution.

At the same time, you want to strike a balance so that you’re not providing too much detail and causing your landing page to become too long or overcomplicated. There is no perfect length for landing pages, so as always, make sure to test several variations.

Recipe ingredient delivery service Plated offers an excellent example of this balance:

Recipe ingredient delivery service Plated offers an excellent example of this balance

Plated provides a very quick four-point summary of the main benefits near the top of the page. After that comes several lengthy sections describing the many additional benefits of the service in more depth. And for customers who want the specific details on how various aspects of the service work, there are links leading to specialized resource pages.

This smart design allows Plated to provide just the right amount of information for each type of customer.

 

Social Proof

Social proof refers to a range of indicators that illustrate how other people have purchased your solution and benefited from it. The idea is that humans are social creatures who are a lot more likely to trust products their peers have already tested and approved.

Common examples of social proof include:

  • Customer and user testimonials
  • Awards from well-known organizations
  • Social media engagement and follower count
  • Independent professional reviews
  • Customer reviews on 3rd-party sites (e.g. Yelp, Google, Amazon)

Social proof is typically positioned after the product benefits and features, as it provides strong evidence for your claims in the former section. It should also be as close to the end of the page as possible, due to its powerful effect on conversions.

Here’s how Khan Academy uses social proof on its “Stories” page:

Here’s how Khan Academy uses social proof on its “Stories” page

There are a number of social proof elements here, and all of them are presented in a very compelling fashion. First, the headline mentions the user count of 10 million, but framed in a way that directly speaks to Khan Academy’s mission: impacting lives around the world. These are backed up by personal testimonials from real users.

Finally, there is the bright green call-to-action encouraging the visitor to share their own story. Not only does this make it easy for Khan Academy to collect more testimonials, it also gives more legitimacy to the testimonials already on the page. That’s because it’s clear they were obtained from people who voluntarily submitted their stories, not from the cherry-picked experiences of a select few.

 

Call to Action

Last but certainly not least, you need an effective call-to-action (CTA).

Or more precisely, you need several calls-to-action. Customers often scroll through your landing page very quickly, and ensuring that a CTA is never far from reach has been shown to improve conversions. At the very least, you should have one CTA at the top of the page, and another one at the very bottom.

Make sure that your CTAs are attention-grabbing and specific. This can be done by marking CTA buttons in a different color, and using more precise descriptors such as “sign up” or “download white paper”, rather than the generic “submit”.

Mailchimp provides a great example of CTAs done right:

Mailchimp provides a great example of CTAs done right

Mailchimp’s landing page has CTAs at three locations:

  • Above the fold, right below the headline
  • In the navigation bar, which follows the user as he scrolls through the page
  • Once more right at the bottom of the page

It's pretty hard to miss mailchimp's CTAs

This ensures that no matter where the user is on the page, there is always a CTA on his screen, marked out in a bright blue button that is not used anywhere else. There is no way a customer could miss these CTAs.

 

Captivate and Convert

Given the short attention span of today’s average online prospect, it’s essential to organize and present your strongest selling points in a way that will attract and hold their interest. By structuring your landing page around these five key elements, you will be able to truly captivate your visitors and convert them into paying customers.