Marketing – is it an art or a science? Depending on who you ask, it’s a question that can spark a lot of debate. I like to think that it’s a social science, one where creative initiatives can be combined with research to yield predictable, and hopefully profitable, outcomes.
One of the best arenas to explore this question is the landing page. As a critical component of marketing automation, the landing page feeds the prospect database, which in turn provides the sales department qualified leads. This input is all the more important nowadays as traditional lead generation sources such as trade-shows and personal sales calls are curtailed by world events. As a result the humble landing page is now more important than ever, and given our increasing dependency on it, it seems that the timing would be right to review best practices governing its optimization.
As marketers, we are fortunate in that we have numerous studies to guide us. But is it safe to rely on some else’s A/B trials as our guide? The answer is a qualified yes. If the study size is large enough, and the methodology is sound, we can start to draw inferences about what the ultimate landing page might look like. Let’s look at two key landing page considerations in the context of established studies and see how they might dictate the structure.
Having looked at the vertical axis, let’s turn our attention to the issue of right or left placement. I must admit that my initial bias was toward right-hand placement on the page. In general, our right visual field is processed by our left side, and that’s where tricky tasks like filling out form fields are best processed. Reasonable and scientific, or so I thought. The problem is that a number of A/B tests have found that left placed forms outperform their right sided counterparts. A thirty day form placement study by BabelQuest resulted in an increase of 6.73 percent in favour of forms placed on the left-hand side of the page. They attribute this to the interruption of the “F” style eye scanning pattern that the majority of web visitors use to glean page information. Eye tracking studies Norman Nielson, (as well as other researchers) have revealed that people use a “F” or “Z” shaped scanning pattern when looking at a page. Placing the form on the left hand side situates it in the area that is naturally being favoured with the greatest amount of attention. It’s possible that Contact Us style forms perform better in this location, and that offer related forms benefit from traditional right-hand side placement, as there is a greater opportunity to place the selling proposition in the more heavily viewed area. If anything definitive is to be said on the topic, it’s that you can’t go wrong with A/B testing as a means to discern what will perform best. Marketing Automation can prove to be extremely useful here as the majority of platforms offer the ability to quickly create landing pages suitable for such tests.
The general consensus around forms is that the shorter the form the higher the conversion rate. This is certainly true for basic sign up forms, such as newsletters, but the picture is not so straight forward for lead generation forms. Although the majority of studies show that conversion rates diminish in proportion to form length, the pattern is somewhat erratic. For example a study by Hubspot indicates that lead generation forms featuring only one or two fields convert poorly. Once a third field is added conversion rates can increase by 10%. Forms that feature four fields experience a comparative dip and then resume their strength when a fifth field is added. In general most lead generation forms can support approximately seven fields, beyond that an incentive of some sort should be offered to maintain engagement. A study by Oracle found that download related forms can support up to eleven fields before conversions start to drop off.
Interestingly enough, there are scenarios where people expect to see a certain set of questions, and conversion rates can drop in their absence. In one study an enterprising marketer reduced the number of fields expecting to see an increase in conversions. What they witnessed was a twenty percent drop in form fills. Only after reinstating a set of superfluous fields did the form return to its normal performance. Just as it is important to ask the questions that you need answers to, it is also valuable to set up forms, so that prospects may share the information that represents their perspective.
In reviewing the above, it’s tempting to conclude that rules are made to be broken, and while that may sound like a nice guerrilla marketing stance, I would instead say that most marketing related rules are there to serve us, and that if we observe their context they can serve us well. Once we have gathered enough data it is tempting to conclude that what we are doing is science, (or science-like). Marketing use-cases, however, tend to be doggedly unique and for that reason we will always need to keep the art-of-marketing in the mix.