Don't leave interested parties stranded on bad landing pages

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Whether your prospect or customer is using a PC or a mobile device to read your e-mail messages, the goal is to get them to take action—in many cases, by clicking through to a landing page. Yet according to several studies, marketers simply aren't making the most of their landing pages. For example, a 2007 review by e-mail service provider Silverpop of 150 e-mail campaign landing pages found that many were so poorly designed that visitors left after a only a cursory glance.

There are some things you can do, however, to help draw readers in and make the most of your landing pages. Here are some tips from Elaine O'Gorman, Silverpop VP-strategy.

  • Create a campaign-specific landing page. It seems like such a simple idea, but 17% of the campaigns Silverpop evaluated failed to do this. Links simply dumped prospects onto the marketer's home page.

    Creating a specific landing page is even more important for the mobile audience. If you direct a mobile user to your home page, they may see a text-only version of your site—not exactly the optimum selling opportunity. (Some PDAs render HTML, but not all do).

    Home pages, O'Gorman said, are information-dense, so it can be hard to find the offer or link you're looking for on a mobile device's screen. This is where a good landing page comes in.
  • Stick to a theme. Forty-one percent of e-mail landing pages that Silverpop studied didn't match the look and feel of the originating e-mail. While landing pages designed for the mobile market probably won't contain images, you can match your e-mail's design using subheads and text-only formatting. You can also carry over elements such as subject lines, greetings, author names and content. For example, if your e-mail touts a new product feature, make sure details about that feature are prominent on the landing page.

    "If you click on a link that offers free shipping, the first thing you should see on the landing page is, `We're really excited to offer you this free shipping opportunity,' " O'Gorman said.

    The bottom line? Make calls to action loud and clear. When the recipient does click through, remind them why they doing so and give them an obvious action to take.

  • Include an opt-out request. If a recipient doesn't want to receive your e-mails anymore, you are doing yourself and that person a disservice by keeping them on your list. Often, people looking to unsubscribe will click through to a landing page. Give them an obvious, clear way to opt out so you can keep them from reporting your message as spam. "You should always make it as easy as possible for someone to get off your mailing list," O'Gorman said. "That said, it's always important to give them the value proposition of why they should stay with your program."

  • Test and test again. Think about how a page looks on a mobile device, and check it against the top PDAs out there, O'Gorman said. "If you have sidebars, are they going to render first? You don't want the user to scroll forever to get to your content. Consider putting in indexing links that will be viewable first in the mobile environment."

    Wikipedia, O'Gorman said, does this well with its home page, providing an index link so mobile users can go directly to the search option.

    But testing involves more than just how a page renders, she said. You also need to think about how long that page takes to render on a mobile device. "You have to be very conscientious because mobile users are typically working on a slower connection," she said. "You can have a landing page that's not information-dense but still takes a long time to load."
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