How to make every page convert like a landing page

Driving web traffic to specific landing pages is a pillar of digital marketing. It’s an industry best practice that is widely used because it normally works well and its performance is easy to measure. But what about people who get to your site through a more circuitous, less predictable route than a traffic campaign for which you have created landing pages? Are you maximizing conversion of that “random” traffic? In test after test I have seen that giving this traffic some special attention reduces bounce rates and increases conversion.

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Suppose you are promoting a new hotel property. You send out an email to several opt-in lists, and you promise One extra night free if you book now.” The email has an enticing “Book Now” button that sends traffic to a dedicated, optimized landing page that matches the look and feel of the email, featuring that same “Book Now” button. This is a sound approach, and you will be getting plenty of metrics about how well it works — metrics on how many people open the email, what percentage click through to the landing page, and how many bookings the campaign generates.

Use variable content to your advantage
However, think about the entire universe of people who might be interested in that same hotel property (electronic product, media subscription, or other conversion event that you are marketing). Are they all on your mailing list? Probably not. That’s why you use multiple traffic acquisition strategies — like pay-per-click, display ads, and affiliates — to reach a wider audience and bring in more traffic. Yet you are still not reaching everyone. And not everyone that you do reach is going to click through in the dream scenario described above.

That is why it pays to make every page on your site a landing page, a page that displays variable content based on what you know about the person viewing it. The amount of what you know might surprise you. For a start there is the person’s physical location, based on IP lookup (which also informs you on the median income in that location); the distance from your nearest shipping point, store, or competitor’s store; and even the weather. You can also know the type of device that the visitor is using to view the page and whether or not there’s room for a fly-out panel above the fold.

If you are smart, you can also tell if a visitor is new or returning and whether or he or she is on your email list. I have seen all of these variables used to craft successful conversion-lifting campaigns, from special offers on snow boots, to wildly successful email-signup campaigns, to the enticing “items recently on air” box you might have noticed on the right of the homepage at if you have a wide enough screen.

Take into account social media
Unless you’ve been abstaining from all marketing blogs, feeds, sites, and newsletters for the past six months, you will know that social media and mobile are the hot marketing trends of the day. But most of the activity in those areas is still about driving traffic to your site where it can then be converted. Some of that mobile- and social media-generated traffic will come through controlled channels and hit the intended landing pages, but some of it will be random. So all of your pages need to be ready to turn on the charm and act as conversion-savvy landing pages.

Consider this increasingly common scenario: Someone tweets about how much he or she loves one of your products, and that person includes a link to the product detail page (or the hotel photo gallery or a piece of content deep within your site). This is social media “buzz” in action, and it can be good news for your website. It’s even better news when a bunch of people retweet that link. You can think of this social media traffic as a gift or the result of having great products and a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter. Either way, you need to ask, “Are we doing enough to make the most of this traffic?”

Acknowledge your customer
You might start with some basic segmentation. If the new arrival on your site is truly new — that is, a new visitor, as determined by Google Analytics or similar technology — you could start by saying “Welcome!” You could also say “Welcome back!” if your cookie-sense says the person is a returning visitor.

In the case of a new visitor, think about the three most important things you would like that person to know about you, your business, your website, your products, how trustworthy you are, and so on. The technology exists to customize pages on the fly to provide that information (or links to it). If you use that technology to make new visitors feel welcome, they are much more likely to become customers.

The same is true if you add some local flavor to the page. Suppose that hotel you are promoting is in the Bahamas and your website visitor is from Chicago. You might display a message that says, “Chicago’s favorite place to stay in the Bahamas!”

Test your efforts
Of course, when you do this sort of thing, you should start out in test mode; for example, show the message to half of the Chicago area visitors but hide it from the other half. When you see which half is converting at a higher rate, you will know whether or not to expand the messaging to all Chicago visitors. (I’m pretty sure that a message like that would increase conversion, and you might agree, but only testing shows if we are right.)

Here are five tips for creating efficient landing pages:

  1. Be prepared to customize content on all pages of your site, not just the landing pages you create for specific traffic acquisition campaigns.
  2. Enable the display of different content to new and returning visitors.
  3. Enable the display of geo-targeted content to encourage conversion (for example, localized content, or shipping and tax-free offers based on location).
  4. Always measure the effects of all content changes by initially running them as tests. Convert successful content to default content if tests show positive impact on conversion.
  5. To calculate potential ROI for this strategy, use your analytics software to review your site’s traffic sources and determine how much of your traffic comes from sources you do not control; compare how the conversion rate of that traffic compares to the average for all traffic to the site.