This post on the importance of an effective landing page is part of a larger series focused on building the best author website you can. Please see the rest of the series under the author’s BookWorks Expert page.
You’ve worked to make your website a thing of beauty. It has excellent photography, it’s laid out well and looks professionally crafted. So you put it out on the internet and… wait. And wait. And wait.
Nothing much is happening. People are visiting the site, whether from ads, your social media or referral sites, but they aren’t really doing anything. They aren’t signing up for your newsletter; they haven’t shared your content, and they certainly aren’t buying your books, from the site or from Amazon.
Don’t despair, dear authors. It may just be time to take your content to the next level—with the creation of custom landing pages.
What is a Landing Page?
It’s a term that gets thrown around a lot in web design, and some people use it interchangeably with “homepage.” For me, a landing page is any page that is designed and built to meet the specific needs of a user coming from a specific channel or channels.
In marketing speak, a “channel” is just a source that sends a user to your site. It could be a Facebook ad, Google organic search, or a referral site—such as an article on a blog that included your book, like this one, for instance.
When you start to get decent traffic from these great referral sources, but aren’t seeing the type of conversions that you expect (i.e. your goals for what you want users to do are not being met), it may simply be that you need to think a bit deeper about what their expectations are when they get to your site, and how you can give them just what they’re looking for.
Why Do Landing Pages Work?
Think about it: you’re a typical reader, browsing Facebook when an ad pops up in your sidebar for a new mystery novel from an author you haven’t heard of.
It looks interesting, so you click on the link. The ad promised pulse-pounding thrills and twists you won’t see coming. But when you are redirected to the site, you are sent to the general homepage. There’s information about the author and a big photo of them. You see a few bits and pieces about the books they’ve written. There a navigation at the top with a bunch of pages on it, and you’re sure you can find what you want, but now you’ve lost a bit of that excitement, and you think that maybe it’s just another mystery novel. You log off of the site and head back to Facebook.
This situation is a loss for that reader and a loss for the author.
Conversely, let’s see what happens if you have a custom page made for the ad that you’re buying on Facebook.
In this scenario, the user sees the ad, promising a thrill-a-minute mystery. She clicks the ad and immediately is hit with an exciting image of the book cover and an extended description or snippet of the book. She scrolls down to see the book trailer next and then calls-to-action to buy the book, followed by a few other books by the author that mystery lovers might be into.
What happens now? She gets exactly what she wants. Instant, exciting info about the book. Easy calls-to-action. More reading and books if she wants them. The result? She is much more likely to buy because you followed the number one rule in web design:
Don’t make users think.
Give them what they want, the first time, without stopping their flow. This is the heart of landing page design, and I've outlined the four major commandments below that you must follow to create effective author website landing pages.
I’ve also included at the end of the article further reading and resources for those who are ready to take action and build their own landing pages. Good luck!
The 4 Commandments of Author Landing Pages
Landing Page Commandment #1: Think Like Your User
The first rule is also the first rule of marketing, generally: the more you can think like your target, the better you can serve them what they’re looking for.
Look at the channels that they are coming from and the text or images they are seeing when they decide to click through to your site. Can you make the landing page reflect that imagery? How can it tangibly continue the user's journey, whether visually or through content and copy?
Taking a moment to think about the touchpoint where your user comes in contact with your brand or offer, and then tailoring the page that they click through to is an absolute in landing page design. Don’t assume your user wants so badly to learn about you and your book that they’ll fight an uphill battle to find the content they want. You’ll find them leaving your site without bothering, nearly every time.
Landing Page Commandment #2: Where Are They Coming From & What Do They Do?
Your analytics account is your best friend when planning your landing pages. An analytics setup like Google Analytics can show you what sites and campaigns are referring users to your site, and just as importantly, what they are doing when they get there.
Are they coming from a link on a blog, looking at the page for 13 seconds and then bouncing without clicking anywhere else, or reading anything? Chances are, you have a disconnect between the content on the post they were referred from, the content they’re seeing on your site.
Did they come from paid ads on Facebook, and look at the page for a while (clearly reading and interested) but don’t click through to Amazon to get the book? It may be that they can’t find the link to get there, or that the offer may not be compelling enough.
The stories that the analytics can tell you are many and using some common sense and a willingness to test, you can hugely improve your performance.
For a bit more about setting up and understanding author analytics, check out our previous post about Analytics for Author Websites.
Landing Page Commandment #3: Design to Reduce Attention Ratio
If your landing page has a million options that the user can potentially click, watch, or interact with, how are they ever going to find what you want them to find?
If you want them to click through to Amazon to buy the book, make that the only action they can take on the page, or at least make it the most obvious by far. Many users who are sent to landing pages are presented with multiple options—sign up for my newsletter! Buy my book! Learn more about me!
The truth is, the user came there with a possible goal in mind. Your commandment is to understand that goal (using commandments 1 and 2) and then design for that goal.
Make the buy button bigger and green, instead of small and black. Improve the content to match what they saw on the referring site. Lay the page out to lead them through the story, and the give them the benefit they get by owning the book (see commandment 4 for more).
Simple changes, not wholesale revisions are what win the landing page game. Start with a clean page (many even go with a page with no site navigation!) and you can more easily isolate and modify for user behavior.
Landing Page Commandment #4: Sell the Benefit!
This is another marketing basic: sell the benefits, not the features.
Think about it with reference to another product— a cell phone. Do you care what the processor speed is, how many pixels the display has or the amount of memory it has? NO! You want to know that you can play your favorite new game, video chat with your kids and scroll Pinterest ad nauseam. The former are, of course, all features. The latter are the benefits—what do I get from using this device.
A book is no different. What do they get from owning and reading it? Does it give them enlightenment and happiness? Do they get a pulse-pounding ride that will bring some color to a drab day? Can they live a day in the impossibly romantic life of a character, escaping their own for a few hours?
All of these are great reasons to own a book and are going to do a lot more than knowing about the author, reading about the charts, graphs, and illustrations, or hearing the reasons why you wrote it. We are inherently selfish, and all of that fluff will leave a reader wondering: what’s in it for me?
Using these simple commandments, you can go deep into your landing pages, creating new pages, updating existing pages, and optimizing, to capture and captivate your user.
For more, don’t stop here! Use the resources below to learn more about the art and science of effective landing pages, and find software that can make the whole process vastly easier and faster.
GOOD LUCK! Please share your questions or experiences in the comments section below.
Key Author Landing Page Resources
Must-Reads for Landing Page Success
- 12 Landing Page Tips that Are Practically Magic - Venture Harbor
- 9 Tips for Designing Landing Pages that Convert - Mailchimp
- 101 Landing Page Optimization Tips - Unbounce
Landing Page Software/Builders
Create your own landing pages easily, with great metrics and tools that help you optimize for your users' needs and wants:
If you aren’t already a member of BookWorks, please check us out for more great content like this and join our community of indie authors, editors, coaches, designers, marketers, bloggers and other self-publishing pros.